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Clooney sparks controversy over Parthenon marbles row

US actor George Clooney could never have imagined that by saying Britain should return the Parthenon marbles to Greece he would have touched a chord, sparking a row between Athens and London. The result was that he was applauded by Greece and invited to spend a holiday in the country by Culture Minister Panos Panayiotopoulos. However, he outraged Mayor Boris Johnson of London - where the marbles have been kept, at the British Museum, since 1816 - who hit back saying ''someone urgently needs to restore George Clooney's marbles''.

Clooney sparks controversy over Parthenon marbles row
The Parthenon sculptures displayed at the British Museum
[Credit: WikiCommons]
The row was sparked by comments Saturday made by Clooney while publicizing at the Berlin Film Festival his new film 'Monuments men' which tells the story of men recuperating looted Nazi art. Responding to a question by a Greek journalist asking him whether he believed the 2,500-year-old Parthenon marbles taken by British diplomat Lord Elgin two centuries ago should be returned to Greece, the actor had responded saying it was ''probably the right thing to do''.

Clooney's words were immediately applauded by minister Panayiotopoulos who wrote a letter to thank him for his opinion and called him ''an active citizen and a creative artist who resolutely defends what is good and right''. He also invited him to spend a few days in Greece.

Johnson's reaction was quite different, accusing the actor of ''plugging a film about looted Nazi art without realizing that Goering himself had plans to plunder the British Museum''.

''And where were the Nazis going to send the Elgin marbles? To Athens! This Clooney is advocating is nothing else than the Hitlerian agenda for London's cultural treasures. He should stuff the Hollywood script and stick to history'', he concluded.

Athens has been asking for the marbles since 1981, when actress Melina Mercouri was culture minister. The marbles include 15 metope panels, 56 bas-reliefs and 12 statues (from the western part of the temple) as well as six caryatids from the Erechtheion Temple. The marbles from the temple for Athena Parthenos, an architectural jewel from the V century BC on the Acropolis, were taken from 1802 until 1811 by British diplomat Lord Thomas Bruce Elgin, and sold to the British Museum in 1816 for 35,000 gold pounds. Greece's pleas and international petitions included one from the British Committee for the Restitution of the Pantheon Marbles - which enjoys the support of leading British actors including Sean Connery, Judi Dench, Vanessa Redgrabe and Sir Ian McKellen. The British public opinion is also reportedly in favour of the marbles returning to Greece.

The main reason why many say the marbles should be handed back to Greece is that they belong to an historic building which is still standing. And Britain's longstanding claim that Greece would not preserve them properly is opposed by supporters of their restitution who say the country is not the same from which Lord Elgin took away the marbles and in 2009 a very modern museum already organized to host the marbles was inaugurated at the feet of the Acropolis.  

Editors Note

88% of people who took part in a recent poll held by the Guardian voted in favour of the Parthenon sculptures' return in Greece!

Source: ANSA [February 13, 2014]

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  1. Apsolute that is must return to their home to Greece -- because this is colonization by the barbarian english people --- Greetings from Bosnia and Herzegovina - from Illyria

  2. Small correction. Elgin took only one Karyatid. Her other five lovely sisters are waiting for her in their special spot in the new Acropolis Museum. - E. King


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