New evidence debunks British Museum’s stance on Elgin Marbles

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New evidence debunks British Museum’s stance on Elgin MarblesThe seemingly endless battle for the reunification of the marbles is one of Europe’s longest-running cultural feuds

On June 20, 2009 the New Acropolis Museum opened its doors to the public, greekreporter.com notes in a recent report.

It was strongly implied and believed at the time that the state-of-the-art modern glass and concrete building would assist bring back the Parthenon Marbles from Britain.

Greece has campaigned for decades to reclaim the sculptures chipped away from the facade of the Parthenon in 1806 by Britain’s Lord Elgin. The seemingly endless battle for the reunification of the marbles is one of Europe’s longest-running cultural feuds.

The British Museum’s refusal to return the 2,500-year-old Parthenon Marbles to Greece is based on a single argument: the museum is the legal owner of the marbles since they were legally acquired at the beginning of the nineteenth century by Lord Elgin, according to a document provided by the Ottoman Empire.

The Ottomans were the occupying power in Greece at that time, even having used the Parthenon as their military headquarters.

The British Museum reiterated its position in the following statement, which was sent to the Greek Reporter. The statement lays out the Museum’s position, pointing out “Lord Elgin, the British diplomat who transported the sculptures to England, acted with the full knowledge and permission of the legal authorities of the day in both Athens and London.

“Elgin’s activities were thoroughly investigated by a Parliamentary Select Committee in 1816 and found to be entirely legal. Following a vote of Parliament, the British Museum was allocated funds to acquire the collection,” the Museum argues.

Human Rights lawyer George Bizos, who served as one of Nelson Mandela’s legal representatives, sees the situation very differently.

As he explained to the Greek Reporter, “Parliament in 1816 wanted to be sure that Lord Elgin had authority to remove the marbles, and insisted on the production of a document. One-third of them had very serious reservations about the legality or the morality of the taking of the marbles out of Greece and they insisted on a document. And a document called a firman was produced — in Italian.”

According to some experts, the document the British Museum refers to as a firman is not a real firman at all.

Professor Dr. Zeynep Aygen, the author of the book “International Heritage and Historic Building Conservation: Saving the World’s Past,” has stated publicly that “the letter in the Italian language is not a firman at all; there is no way that it can be accepted as a firman.”

She said to the Greek Reporter that “the Ottoman Court would not give a letter (written) in the Italian language… we do not know where the original of the letter is.

Dr. Aygen insists that “a firman is a royal document with a number of special signs. Therefore it is clear that the letter in the Italian language is not a firman approved by the Sultan and not a “buyruldu” by the Grand Vizier. In both cases the necessary format is missing from the aforementioned letter.”

Human rights attorney Bizos further points out to the Greek Reporter that “It must be emphasized that the Ottoman Empire was a theocracy. There was no legislative body and the law in force was sharia.

“The Sultan alone was authorized to interpret the sharia law to the extent that it was inadequately expressed, and to issue decrees to the extent that they were not inconsistent with sharia. This latter power was expressed in the issuance of firmans.”

RELATED TOPICS: GreeceGreek tourism newsTourism in GreeceGreek islandsHotels in GreeceTravel to GreeceGreek destinationsGreek travel marketGreek tourism statisticsGreek tourism report

Photo Source: Wikimedia Commons License: CC-BY-SA Copyright: Solipsist

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