Students Wave Greek Flag at British Museum

marmara1-300x173Fifteen-year-old students of the 2nd High School of Corinth accompanied by three teachers traveled to London and gave their own message of the Parthenon Marbles waving four Greek flags and shouting the slogan: BRING THEM BACK!

The students delivered 36 letters written in English to the director of the museum in which they explained the factual reasons why the British Museum should return the marbles stolen  by Lord Elgin to Greece.

Teachers of the school, C. Roumeliotis, Dimitra Paradisi and Despoina Micholia noted: “Our goal was to sensitize our students to this particular issue in order to embrace the need for the return of all Greek priceless treasures which decorate the Museums of Europe and especially the British Museum. These children have to struggle for the repatriation of our cultural heritage in the future.”

After this incident, the security of the Museum asked the teachers for an explanation. The teachers were ready to face the problem and ready to call the Greek Embassy in London. Finally after the explanations given, there was no problem and they continued their tour in London.


  1. Actually, the Elgin Marbles were not stolen. Greeks themselves took them and sold them to art dealers in England.

  2. Forget it, these pieces will never be returned, unfortunately. Imagine the whole “Pergamum Museum”, built in Berlin to hold all items pilled from Pergamum by the germans in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, being returned to its original location? Impossible!!

    Greece has other treasures, if not greater and most marvellous ones than the Acropolis Sculptures. Stand tall, Greece! “The Greek Soul”, the greatest heritage of all, can NEVER be taken from you!

  3. Let them try this cheap stunt in the Musée du Louvre. They might not get away with it quite so lightly.

  4. LMAO! Because the French are just so well-known for their balls… Give me a break. The Louvre, as well as the British Museum would be NOTHING was it not for the Greek, Egyptian and Italian exhibits. This wasn’t a cheap stunt. It was a way to bring awareness to a very important issue, after almost all else has failed. Shame on the British government for not returning the Marbles to their rightful place.

  5. Thank you for your kind words about the Greek Soul and heritage Karin! Perhaps I am being a bit naive, but there is a difference between the Elgin Marbles and the treasures of Pergamon in that there is a brand new Acropolis Museum to house them! One of the main arguments the British government has used to keep them at the British Museum is that Greece had no adequate place for the Elgin Marbles. Also, with regard to the Elgin Marbles, we are not talking about displacing an entire museum’s worth of artifacts, merely an exhibit! Is there any more appropriate place in the world for the marbles to be displayed than at the Acropolis itself? I think you agree with me Karin that there is not… I guess the future will tell what happens!

  6. The French are supremely well known for the arrogant self-assured Gallic shrug, saying – your wasting your time trying to mess with us, don’t even bother. Which is why the Greek government generally doesn’t.

    Talking of Italian exhibits; the marble fragment Elgin left behind in Palermo was loaned to Athens in 2008 and when the loan period was up it had to be returned, because the ordinary people of Sicily had the balls to defy self-righteous politicians and demand back what they regard as lawfully and rightfully theirs.

  7. What is lawfully and rightfully theirs? Come on Steve! That piece you speak of was “donated” to Palermo University by a British diplomat’s wife in the 1800’s. But regardless, I do respect the Italians who defy self-righteous politicians. You are also right about the French having an arrogant self-assured Garlic shrug. However, is it so bad for Greek authorities, and proud Greek students who feel very much attached to their culture to demand the return of an important piece of their heritage? This transcends simple laws of property! If Greece had important pieces of Italian heritage, I would whole-heartedly support their return! Finally, the fact that the Italian government did at least take a step to put the marble piece on loan for a few years, shows a sense of good will and cooperation. The British on the other hand have shown no such thing.

  8. “The (British Museum) Trustees have never been asked for a loan of the Parthenon sculptures, only for the permanent removal of all of the sculptures to Athens.

    The Trustees will consider … any request for any part of the collection to be borrowed and then returned. The simple precondition required by the Trustees before they will consider whether or not to lend an object in the collection is that the borrowing institution acknowledges the British Museum’s ownership of the object.” (Just as Greece acknowledges the Salinas Museum’s ownership of their Elgin marble)

    “Successive Greek governments have refused to recognise the Trustees’ unquestionable legal ownership of the Parthenon sculptures. This has made any meaningful discussion on the issue virtually impossible.”

  9. You are right about the precondition. But for the Greek government to recognize the British Museum’s ownership of the Elgin Marbles would be like relinquishing Greek rights to an important part of their history. Also, recognizing the legitimacy of such transactions would be a dangerous and quite ridiculous proposition, since they occurred while Greece was under occupation from the Ottoman Empire. It would be like legitimizing the taking of Egyptian treasures by Napoleon’s forces for example, or the looting of European treasures by Nazi Germany (although I am aware of differences between these situations…regardless, the principle is the same). I do not know of the conditions surrounding the Salinas Museum agreement, but I imagine they are quite different. I would offer that a better solution could be reached via an international treaty between the UK and Greece. The trustees of the British Museum should forego ownership rights, and agree on an exchange plan, whereby for all the time the Elgin marbles are in Greece, Greece can send some of its best artifacts to be exhibited for example. Or, another solution would be that proposed by Stephen Fry, where the British Museum could simply give them back, because “it would be the classy thing to do,” and in its place, put in a wonderful exhibit about the return of the marbles to the place of their birth, under the light of the aegean sun.

  10. Godwin’s law – “As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler (or even Napoleon) approaches 1.”

    It did not go according to plan, but by (oh so quietly) returning the Palermo fragment the Greek government has clearly recognized the Italian museum’s right of ownership. The Palermo marble was acquired and removed by Lord Elgin in exactly the same way as all the rest and therefore with equal legitimacy. In trying to make propaganda out of it the Greek authorities have unwittingly shot themselves in the foot.

    “The frieze was regularly purchased by the museum between 1818 and 1820 … the museum’s direction is strongly against any unspecified long-term loan” said Agata Villa, director of the classic archaeology department at the Salinas Museum in Palermo. The same goes for the British Museum in London.

  11. Well, Godwin’s law may be right, but to dismiss an educated comparison because of it would be frivolous to say the least.

    Now the Palermo piece, measuring roughly a 35cm square, was brought to Greece by President Giorgio Napolitano. The president himself said it was part of his own campaign to restore artifacts “torn from their context.” In addition, the Palermo piece was given to Greece on PERMANENT loan (and I still do not know why things did not go according to plan). But, while title to the piece was not transferred, you wrongfully assume Greek authorities have shot themselves in the foot. Greece does not create a legal precedent when it recognizes someone else’s title to an artifact in order to repatriate it, because the intent is permanent repatriation. Also, if you still insist on this argument, there are tons of other precedents whereby both the title and the artifact was returned to Greece. A prime example is that of the Getty museum, which returned artifacts stolen from Greece. I believe there is a strong case to be made that the Elgin marbles were in fact stolen, if simply by virtue of the fact that they were taken off a national monument.

    As far as Agata Villa is concerned, it would be unwise to recognize her as an authority on the issue. She may be the archaeology department’s director in Palermo, but again, President Napolitano presented the piece to Greece himself, as a permanent loan, in good faith. Also, the fact that the frieze was “regularly purchased” does not change the circumstances of its original acquisition, which was the furthest thing from a purchase. The museum would likely not be able to have the legal defense of “innocent owner”, due to the fact that the circumstances of how the marbles left Greece were very well known, especially since between 1818 and 1820, when the piece was acquired by the museum, Greece was still under Ottoman rule.
    Also, whatever the museum’s policy on long-term loans, treaty law and international law trump.

    Finally, was it really propaganda to say that Italy returned a part of the frieze, even if it was a permanent loan? You must understand how important this subject is to Greeks, so such news is huge regardless of how much the government plays it up.

  12. Quite clearly, there was no agreement for a permanent loan. It was not within the power of President Napolitano nor that paragon of moral and democratic rectitude Silvio Berlusconi to rashly promise so. Sicily has its own regional government and its own regional President and it is they who exercise authority over the regional archaeological museum collection. The museum directors were not happy and the local populace signed petitions to bring their piece of Parthenon sculpture back to Palermo. Democracy and the rule of law prevailed.

    The Elgin Marbles were not “stolen .. off a national monument”. They were at that time, lawfully salvaged from the decaying ruins of a bombed-out mosque.

    Having been “sensitized” into staging their anarchic little “BRING THEM BACK!” demo in London, perhaps the students of Corinth High School should write 36 letters to the New Acropolis Museum in Athens asking them to explain the factual reasons why they felt compelled to send a piece of Parthenon sculpture back to Italy.

  13. If it was not within the power of either the President or the Prime Minister, then you are bolstering my point even more. If the piece was presented as a permanent loan when in reality, it was not, then how can you blame the Greek government for accepting it?

    Now I’m all for Democracy, which I’m sure you know, was invented by Greeks. And I am happy the citizens of Palermo wanted a piece of the Parthenon so badly. But you must ask yourself why it is they, like the British museum would go so far as to go against what they know is the right thing to do. The answer is money. They spent money on it, even though they know it was stolen, and they make money off of it because it is priceless, and is a significant tourist attraction. If it was just some random marble piece without any particular historical significance, then neither you, nor the British government, nor the citizens of Palermo would be making a fuss over it, unless that piece was also worth a lot of money.

    As far as your argument that the marbles were not stolen, but rather “lawfully salvaged from the decaying ruins of a bombed-out mosque” makes me doubt very much your knowledge of the actual history. Greece, I will reiterate to you was under Ottoman Rule at the time, and had no right to give any foreigner (Elgin) the authorization to take away any indigenous artifact. The BBC itself said of Elgin: “His desire to preserve art for posterity does not sit with his original plans to house it in his private home, whilst his supposed obsession with art conflicts with his willingness to desecrate the ancient building.”

    Jules Dassin said: “I have one problem in having to believe Elgin was a lover of the arts, I simply cannot imagine a lover of the arts allowing saws to attack some of the greatest works ever made.”

    The method of the removal of the marbles are very well-known and recognized.

    As far as the letters you suggest the students of Corinth High School write: it is not the students themselves who sent the piece back. And even if it were in their power to keep it, the smart thing to do was to send it back. Why? For the same reason the Greek government has not taken the British Museum to court. The Greek people have class. We won’t stoop down to the level of the British. If this answer does not satisfy you, there is also another: Since Greece hopes to reunite all the marbles, then it had no choice but to return the piece. There are other missing pieces across Italy and across Europe. So, for the Greek government not to return it would quite clearly hinder efforts to bring back the other pieces. Pretty self-explanatory, no?

  14. It was always Elgin’s intention to take the marbles for public display in London. The story that he had planned to take them to his private residence in Scotland is without foundation or any supporting evidence whatever. Mr Dassin’s comments are his personal view, conveyed by the BBC and not that of the BBC itself.

    The British Museum is legally bound by the ‘British Museum Act 1963’ to conserve and display the collection for the benefit of the general public. It is prohibited by law from disposing of any core part of it. The Elgin Marbles form part of the museum’s collection by act of parliament, and only the democratic will of parliament could change that. Britain came under the rule of invading Normans in 1066. They’re still there, but I think the rule of Queen Elizabeth’s parliamentary government is generally regarded around the world as legitimate, as are the governments that through happenstance of history today rule over the lands of North America.

    The Greek Government have the option of negotiating loans from the British Museum under the same conditions that they apparently accepted (as far as we know) with the temporary loan from Palermo. Wouldn’t that be the classy thing to do? You never know, if that were to happen even the Louvre might take notice.

  15. And yet, even the New York Times reports that ” Originally, he [Elgin] had planned to use the marbles to decorate his private house in Scotland.”
    While Dassin’s comments are his own opinion, the BBC, I will repeat, said the following:
    “His desire to preserve art for posterity does not sit with his original plans to house it in his private home, whilst his supposed obsession with art conflicts with his willingness to desecrate the ancient building.”
    – That was their own opinion.

    The fact that the Elgin Marbles form part of the museum’s collection by act of parliament changes absolutely nothing. These marbles were not legally acquired, so as per international law on artifacts, any parliamentary act designed to keep them in Britain is meaningless. Proof of this is the many artifacts from different parts of the world that have already been returned. They’ve put up a big fight for the Elgin Marbles because they are a big money maker.

    As I mentioned before, there are very good reasons the Greek government is not negotiating with the British museum. It would give them legitimacy they frankly do not deserve. As discussed above, the Palermo piece was presented to Greece, and this was made under very different circumstances. Also, we are talking about a very small piece of a huge collection. So the context is completely different as well. I hope the Louvre does indeed take notice…we shall see.

  16. Thomas Harrison, architect of Broomhall House suggested to
    his patron that he should use a golden opportunity to try and take measurements and mouldings and make drawings of any classical Greek architectural features he could get access to, to see how they compared to the better known and more thoroughly studied buildings of Roman times. Elgin then employed Giovanni Battista Lusieri to do just that in Athens. It is a tragedy for art history that all Lusieri’s years of work on paper was subsequently lost at sea.

    Once the decision to remove actual marble pieces from the Acropolis was taken, the intention was from the outset to ship them to London for public display and never to Scotland for private pleasure. And yet, even the New York Times reported that ” Originally, he had planned to use the marbles to decorate his private house in Scotland.” So don’t believe every casual little thing you read in the New York Times.

    The New York Times, in common with the BBC also reported, without bothering to question, that the piece sent from Palermo represented the foot of Peitho, “goddess of persuasion and seduction”, when learned scholars had long agreed that it was in fact Artemis. A brilliant piece of dissemination in an on-going propaganda war, swallowed hook line and sinker by news media around the world, but it all went sour when Athens found itself unavoidably persuaded if not exactly seduced into returning the marble to its lawful rightful owners. Which was, you might think, a significant story in the on-going “restitution” saga, and yet strangely the New York Times chose not to report that part of the story at all.

    Perhaps the apparently deliberate misattribution unintentionally revealed a real truth, for in classic mythology the scheming goddess Peitho sought to exert power of persuasion over the unsuspecting by seducing them into a state of irrational desire through means of deception.


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