Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


Memorandum submitted by the International Organising Committee—New Zealand—for the Restitution of the Parthenon Marbles

We are responding to the notice dated 10 February 2000 which calls for written evidence to be considered in your enquiry titled "Cultural Property: Return and Illicit Trade".

  Our organisation has only recently been formalised, although for many years Philhellenes in New Zealand have been gravely concerned regarding the fact that the Parthenon Marbles are still located in the British Museum. The membership of our organisation is growing rapidly.

  Our submission, which we ask you to treat with concern and respect, deals with the matter of the return of the Parthenon Marbles, presently located in the British Museum, which were taken by Lord Elgin from Athens in the early 1800's.

  The history and circumstances as to how the Marbles were taken from the Parthenon has been widely documented and publicised over the years. It is not our intention to go into the details of these.

  What is clear is that the Marble Sculptures were taken at the time when Greece was under the rule of the Ottoman Empire. The Greeks, had they been self-governing, would never have given permission for the Marbles to be removed from what is a unique national masterpiece of art and history. That the Marbles were actually cut from the structure of the Parthenon is painful to know.

  Great Britain has always been a world leader in matters of law and order and more importantly natural justice. The injustices which occurred, when the Marbles were taken by Lord Elgin from a people who had no say in the matter, dictates that these Marbles should be returned to from where they were taken.

  We know that the British Museum has held the Marbles in safe-keeping since the early 1800s. This is appreciated by Greeks worldwide and they now look forward to their safe return. We understand the return of the Marbles would be compensated for by the Greek Government and that they are prepared to enter into the following conditions:

  1.  The Marbles shall be returned only after the completion of the new Acropolis Museum being built to house them.

  2.  All costs for the return of the Marbles and the cost of a complete set of copies to remain in London should be met by Greece.

  3.  That Greece makes no other claims for the return of their ancient artefacts in the museums or collections in Great Britain.

  We trust that you will consider the above and make the proper decision to facilitate the return of the Marbles to their rightful place.

March 2000

previous page contents next page

House of Commons home page Parliament home page House of Lords home page search page enquiries index

© Parliamentary copyright 2000
Prepared 25 July 2000