Cradle of Civilization

A Blog about the Birth of Our Civilisation and Development

Shiping of stolen goods

Posted by Fredsvenn on December 7, 2014

RIA Novosti/Igor Russak

Stumbling block: Greeks offended by Brits lending ancient sculpture to Russia

The reclining marble sculpture of the river god Ilissos, which 25 centuries ago decorated the facade of Greece’s Parthenon temple, has now been moved for the first time in some 200 years – from London’s British Museum to Russia’s Hermitage in St. Petersburg.

The British Museum has ‘secretly’ sent a 2,500 years old Parthenon sculpture to St. Petersburg, where Russia’s Hermitage museum are going to celebrate an anniversary. The move infuriated Greeks, who have long tried to reclaim the ancient piece.

The headless Ilissos, which is considered to be one of the greatest works of ancient Greek art, is part of the so-called Elgin Marbles collection, which the British Museum acquired in the early 19th century. The artifacts were brought to the UK by British diplomat Thomas Bruce, the Earl of Elgin, who sold them to the Parliament in 1816, and the collection was then presented to the museum and given the earl’s name.

For decades, the Elgin Marbles have been rocks of offence for Greece and a source of one of the world’s longest-running cultural disputes. With Athens arguing that the art works were removed from their native land illegally, while the country was under Turkish occupation as part of the Ottoman Empire, London says there is no legitimate claim to the statues.

None of Greece’s several high-profile campaigns to have the “stolen” items returned – with UNESCO’s involvement and the recent participation of lawyer and activist Amal Clooney, the wife of actor George Clooney, have ended in Athens’ favor.

The British loan to Russia – with the sculpture having left Britain for the first time ever – only added fuel to the flames, with Greece reacting with fury. Calling the move a “provocation,” Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras said the sculpture was part of the country’s history and culture, which “cannot be cut up, borrowed and handed over.”

The minister’s statement also questioned one of the British arguments for keeping the marbles in London and not being moved – for being too fragile. “You see, they can be moved,” head of the New Acropolis museum, Dimitris Pantermalis, told Reuters, expressing hopes that the current loan could demonstrate the collection could one day be displayed in Greece.

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