In a bit of a surprise announcement, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson says Britain is the legitimate owner of the Parthenon marbles. The statements to a Greek newspaper also expressed Johnson’s decision to never, ever, ever visit Greece again (I guess).
In an interview with Ta Nea newspaper released on Friday, Johnson, a former student of the Classics much given to quoting Latin and Greek, reiterated that the British people are the legitimate owners of the 2,500-year-old sculptures absconded by marbles.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson told a Greek newspaper, rebuffing Greece’s permanent request for the return of the 2,500-year-old sculptures British diplomat Lord Elgin absconded from the Parthenon temple in the 19th century.
Since independence in 1832, Greece has demanded the repatriation of the treasures taken from the Parthenon in Athens when Greece was under Ottoman rule. The British Museum in London has refused to return the sculptures, roughly half of a 160-meter (525-foot) frieze which adorned the 5th century BC monument, saying they were acquired by Elgin under a legal contract with the Ottoman Empire and are part of everyone’s “shared heritage”.
The international community has turned up the heat on the British to give over the priceless marbles, but apparently, Johnson intends to use the same reasoning that keeps Africa’s cultural heritage locked up in European museums, and the law of might makes right England has always leveraged. This CNN article opens the snake pit that is Britain’s colonial past. Reading today of all the stolen loot in the possession of world museums, it’s no small wonder Johnson feels empowered enough to rebuff the Greeks.
From Berlin to Moscow, Boston to Paris, the most fabulous spoils of war and greed accentuate American, German, British, French legacies. In Berlin and London, in particular, treasures of inestimable value were pirated. The Rosetta Stone is in the British Museum, Babylon’s Ishtar Gate is at the Pergamon Museum in Berlin, the Germans also have the bust of Egyptian Queen Nefertiti, and the 5,000-year-old 105-carat Koh-i-Noor diamond from India now sits in the Tower of London as part of the crown jewels. I could go on for pages.
I won’t get into how the British looped Greece into war with the Nazis in WW II, or how they managed to bill the Greek resistance £2 billion pounds sterling for supplying the partisans, thereby claiming Greece’s gold in London banks. No, the trail of blood and gold simply leads off in too many directions and is too thick for a story on a travel news site. Maybe Boris needs to be the villain in a new book? Greece will probably never see the Elgin Marbles returned, nor will any citizen of the west’s oldest democracy get repaid for Nazi atrocities. I guess Johnson’s advisors warned him against setting a precedent, lest the Queen Mother and her offspring be forced into abject poverty by giving up what’s been taken from other people.
No, Boris, don’t come to Greece anymore. Stay right there on those dewy, damp, dank British isles and glower at the wonders Greeks, Persians, Egyptians, and Nigerians carved or fashioned from their cultivated imaginations. Take pride in the fact that somebody else invented the airplane, the TV set, and built the pyramids. Oh, but do issue a “thank you” to the Greek people for helping preserve your empire. Thank God the Eiffel Tower was too big to haul off after the war.