Professor Louis Godart recently gave this interview to Dimitra Pananou from Real News.
1) Some experts believe that the British Museum has made a “massive shift” in its policy regarding the loaning of the Parthenon Marbles to Greece. Do you believe so?
2) Do you think that is time for the first constructive discussions on the artefacts’ return after decades of dead-ends?
3) Do you believe that Greece and Italy showed the way to do it? I am referring to the recent cultural collaboration.
4) What Greece should do next?
5) If finally the sculptures return to Greece what will it mean for the civilizat ion?
1.The British Museum talking about “loan” did not make a “massive shift”. It would be crucial for the British Museum to recognise that the Parthenon marbles were stolen from the temple of Athena by a vile predator named Lord Elgin. A theft has been perpetrated and Greece is the injured party. The Parthenon sculptures that are in the British Museum are owned by Greece. Britain should be faithful to its democratic tradition by acknowledging that the marbles were not legally purchased and that they belong to Greece and only to Greece. Britain cannot therefore “lend” what is not his. After all, the British Prime Minister Boris Johnson in 1986 accused Lord Elgin of “wholesale pillage”. I repeat: the marbles of Phidias must be returned to Greece because th ey are in London at the end of an illicit operation.
2. I definitely believe that times have changed. All over the world, starting with England, millions of people who consider themselves children of Hellas, insist on the need to return to the country that forged the values of Western civilization, the marbles of Phidias. They do so because they learned from Greece that man is at the center of history and that democracy born in Athens in 508 B.C. is the only political regime that allows men to live free. These people will end up being heard by the British authorities. I find it important that the authoritative Times of London, the newspaper of the British establishment, has taken a stand in favour of returning Phidias’ sculptures to Greece.
3. Greece and Italy have opened a path that Britain will have to follow. The exchange between the foot of Artemis which has now returned to its place in the grandiose frieze of Phidias and a statue of Athena from the fifth century B.C. from the Acropolis is highly signi ficant. The Italian government, convinced that the marbles of Phidias are property of Greece, is perfecting some legislative aspects that will allow the fragment of Palermo to remain forever in Athens. All countries, including England, whose history is marked by classical civilization, should follow the example given by the authorities of the Palermo museum, of Sicily and all the Italian political world. In addition to the British Museum, there are some fragments of the frieze of Phidias that are scattered throughout Europe. It’s time for them to return to the wonderful Acropolis Museum.
4. I am convinced that the political action of the Greek Government is the right one. Following the path of “cultural diplomacy” is fundamental. I followed this path when he was Advisor to the Presidents of the Italian Republic Ciampi and Napolitano and this path has led to excellent results. It is a matter of proposing in exchange for the return of works stolen from the country of origin, loans of works from the reserves of our museums, so as not to deplete the rooms that housed the returned masterpieces. For example, the Tokyo Fuji Art Museum has returned the “Tavola Doria” by Leonardo da Vinci and we regularly send, for a limited time, masterpieces from our museums to replace the painting returned to Italy. The Japanese are delighted with this cooperation. I f the authorities of the British Museum were smart, they would understand that such an agreement would be beneficial to the museum.
5. It will be the victory of Civilization over Barbarism. Our world needs to win this battle.
Professor Louis Godart is the immediate past Chair of the International Association for the Reunification of the Partrhenon Marbles