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


Memorandum submitted by the Committee on the Parthenon


  1.  We are tremendously pleased that the matter of the Elgin Marbles is to be considered by the Parliament as the legally competent body to decide their fate. We pledge our support for all efforts by the Committee to conduct a thorough, authoritative examination of all aspects of the issues of return. We offer this statement to contribute to a fresh and impartial proceeding as we continue to search for consensus on the appropriate stewardship of the Marbles.

  1.1.  The Committee on the Parthenon commends the Committee on Culture, Media and Sport and the entire Parliament for its role throughout the history of the Parthenon Marbles. In the example of Pericles opening the Funeral Oration, as recorded by Thucydides, "I shall speak first of our ancestors . . . "1

  1.2.  The Institute for Law and Culture is grateful to your ancestor, The Duke of Wellington, whose actions on behalf of the Allied occupationary forces in Paris in 18142 created some of the first modern ideas regarding the protection of cultural property in armed conflict (hereinafter "Wellington Principles", Paragraph 7 below).

  1.3.  The Committee on the Parthenon is grateful to your predecessors, the Parliament of 1816, for purchasing the Marbles from Lord Elgin. As stated in the Report and Debate of the House of Commons, (hereinafter "Report")3 there was great concern that, otherwise, Lord Elgin would of necessity sell the Marbles, in whole or in part, to the best offeror. In spite of the challenges raised to Lord Elgin's right to remove the sculptures, it was not demonstrated that Lord Elgin could not still sell them. Surely then, the Marbles might have been dispersed. The 1816 House of Commons ensured that the Parthenon Sculptures removed by Lord Elgin would remain together and in the public domain.

  1.4.  Today, the Committee on the Parthenon is grateful to you for your willingness to undertake this controversial matter of global interest and examine anew the ramifications of this unique issue.

1.5.  The Institute for Law and Culture

  1.5.  The Institute for Law and Culture is a non-profit organization,4 created for the ongoing study and advancement of the Law of Cultural Heritage and related subjects, for the in-depth study and legal analysis of issues such as art trade, art claims, art reparations, and cultural aspects of armed conflict.

  1.6.  The Institute's Articles of Incorporation are filed in the nation's capital, Washington, D.C., and includes the Committee on World War II Art Claims and the Committee on the Parthenon. The Committee on the Parthenon has separate Articles of Incorporation and enjoys not-for-profit legal status.

1.7.  The Committee on the Parthenon

  1.7.  The Committee on the Parthenon5 is a non-profit organization,6 which was founded to foster scholarship and public information on the Parthenon and for the ongoing study of the aesthetic and historical aspects of the Parthenon and related art, including historical and artistic analyses, and to operate as a research centre for the study of the Parthenon.

  1.8.  The Committee on the Parthenon is dedicated to the aesthetic integrity of the Parthenon and as a matter of public policy, works for the return of the Parthenon Marbles by public information, communicating with public policy makers, and other activities in the United States and in co-ordination with other Committees abroad. While other Committees (British, Australian, Canadian) were established solely for the purpose of the restitution of the Marbles, reunification of the Parthenon Marbles is one or our main interests.

  1.9.  The Committee on the Parthenon (also sometimes called "the US Committee") of the Institute for Law and Culture is to be distinguished from The British Committee for the Restitution of the Parthenon Marbles and/or the "[Australian] International Organizing Committee for the Restitution of the Parthenon Marbles". The Committee on the Parthenon, and its positions, are independent and distinct from other Committees which were formed solely for the purpose of return of the Marbles.

  1.10.  Membership of the Committee on the Parthenon is open to all interested persons in the United States and is not a Greek-American society. In addition to a general membership category, the Committee has Advisory Boards—one of which reflects the support of the Greek-American community in the United States for the cause of reunification of the Parthenon Marbles and for all aspects of scholarship on the Parthenon.

  1.11.  The Advisory Board of Hellenic American Organizations includes the leaders of the three prominent Hellenic-American societies, the American Hellenic Institute (AHI), the American Hellenic Educational Progressive Association (AHEPA), and the Hellenic American Women's Council (HAWC). The combined membership of those groups exceeds 20,000 persons. The Board of Authorities and Academics includes archaeologists, architects, artists, art historians, and authors. The Board of Eminent Persons was established by the former Archbishop Spyridon of North and South America to include public officials and public figures. We are in the process of reconstituting this group as well.


  2.  The matter of the Parthenon Marbles is not a Greek-British issue, but, rather, a question concerning the United Nations, the United States, and all the world's cultures. Since the European Renaissance, the Parthenon, including its marble sculptures, have become the international symbol for enlightened cultures and of democracy itself. From the major government buildings of all Western democracies, to the emblem of the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), the Parthenon is the recognized symbol of democracy and freedom. The international and US cultural community strongly supports the reunification of the Marbles by Great Britain to Greece.7 While the Committee on the Parthenon remains prepared to discuss all the elements of the original removal of the Marbles by Lord Elgin in the early 19th Century, we do not base our thesis for return on the issues of removal.

2.1.  The United States

  2.1.  The Committee on the Parthenon has served as the primary catalyst in building public awareness and governmental support for the restitution of the Marbles. In this effort, the Committee on the Parthenon co-ordinates closely with senior Congressional leaders and members of the Foreign Relations Committees, including Congressman Donald M Payne (D-NJ).

  2.2.  Congressman Payne has prepared legislation to express Congressional interest to the British Parliament that the Parthenon Marbles should be reunited with the Parthenon in time for the 2004 Olympics. Last year, Congressman Payne personally briefed President Clinton on this issue in great detail prior to the President's trip to Greece.8

  2.3.  In Greece last autumn, President Clinton stated his unequivocal support for the reunification of the Parthenon Marbles, and endorsed the international and US view that the Marbles should be reunited with the Parthenon temple. Shortly thereafter, a similar announcement was made by Prince Charles. The support of Prince Charles for the cause of the Parthenon Marbles is consistent with his well-recognized interest in protecting the architectural cultural heritage of London—among similar programmes. It appears that President Clinton's declaration has begun a new global momentum on behalf of the Parthenon.

  2.4.  A recent briefing memorandum9 supplied by the British Ministry of Culture alleged "Our Embassy in Athens was informed by the US Ambassador to Greece that the tour of the Parthenon by President Clinton and his daughter Chelsea, was intended to be a private affair. The Greek Minister of Culture just appeared out of the blue, gave the usual incorrect Greek version of events and bounced him with an unexpected question. Any views expressed by the President were personal and not the US Government line".10

  2.5.  First, as the statement submitted to you by Congressman Payne will confirm, Congressman Payne had personally advised the President, in more than one meeting, on the matter of the Parthenon and the Marbles. Second, it is therefore incorrect to suggest that the President of the United States was "bounced" by an unexpected question. The foreign policy authority of the President of the United States is granted by the US Constitution11 (Article II, Section 2, Clause 2) which is generally considered as the Treaty Power. We shall leave to the reader the weight given to statements, including those couched in personal terms, by the President of the United States and their implications to the official foreign policy of the nation.

2.6.  International

  2.6.  Global interest in the matter of the Parthenon Marbles has been widely known for many decades but has intensified in recent years. Over the years, UNESCO has worked to open a dialogue among the parties to work toward return of the Marbles.12 In January 1999, the European Parliament13 issued a strong declaration in support of the return of the Marbles. By an unprecedented margin the European Parliament supported a Declaration calling on the British Government to give positive consideration to Greece's request for the return of the Elgin Marbles to their natural site.14

2.7.  The United Kingdom

  2.7.  In the 184 years since the vote (hereinafter "Vote")15 for the purchase of the Marbles in 1816, British public opinion has mounted steadily toward the current support for reunification of the Parthenon Marbles.

  2.8.  When Alfred Lomas, a London Member of the European Parliament, presented the petition (see Paragraph 2.6. above) for signature, it was supported by 35 per cent of the British delegation to the European Parliament.16 Those results could be added to numerous other reports of support among the British people for return of the Marbles. The first was a 1996 BBC phone-in poll, after a documentary on the Marbles, and the result was 92.5 per cent of the 99,340 people who called in said they supported return of the Marbles to Greece.

  2.9.  The subsequent MORI poll in September 1998, brought a public response of 39 per cent pro-return and 15 per cent opposed while 28 per cent were undecided.17 Only 15 per cent of the British adult population recalled having seen the Parthenon Marbles at the British Museum.18 That result stands as a stunning denial of the British Museum's claim that the Parthenon Marbles (after 197 years in London out of their 2,430 years' history) have come to be regarded as an integral part of the British culture.

  2.10.  In Parliament, 112 Members of the House of Commons offered a position on the issue of the Parthenon Sculptures in an Early Day Motion (No. 212)19 of 19 January 1999. The Motion suggests that any possible precedential effect could be averted if the Marbles were returned as a "gesture of goodwill"20 [that is as a matter of public policy rather than law] and calls for the entry into "discussions with Greece on the restitution of the Parthenon Sculptures."21

  2.11.  Most recently, the Economist magazine published its own poll22 including Parliament. In the House of Commons, the results indicated support for return of the Marbles by a vote of 66 to 34.23 In the House of Lords, the results were 41 supporting and 59 opposed to reunification of the Parthenon Marbles.24 The most salient point in the detailed Economist report is "If there is to be any change in the present status of the Elgin Marbles, it will not be brought about . . . legal action . . ."25

  2.12.  The Parliament of the United Kingdom is now clearly recognized as the sole authority in this matter. Should Parliament believe it is faced with a dilemma? Parliament can look to its own history—as in the Wellington Principles (see paragraph 7 below) as well as to its future (see paragraph 10 below) for guidance in addressing this challenging question.


  3.  The matter of the Parthenon Marbles is unique on two levels. The first is the subject matter—the character and essence of the Parthenon itself and its value to the world. The second is the unique period of time in which the removal took place (see paragraph 4 below).

  3.1.  The Parthenon was built nearly 2,500 years ago by the original Periclean democracy commemorating the successful, free Greek defence from invasion by the Persian Empire. The preponderance of work written about the Parthenon and the Parthenon Marbles describes each as unique from every analysis.

  3.2.  Pericles, the leader of the Greek Government, commissioned the greatest Greek architect and sculptor of the time (Praxiteles and Phidias)26 to weave together the architectural and sculptural elements of the temple into an integrated whole. The completed temple was dedicated to Athena, goddess of Wisdom, in 439 BC. The Parthenon and the Marbles had remained intact (but for tourists and local vandalism) until they were removed by Lord Elgin (then British emissary to the occupying Ottoman Empire in Athens) to London over 2,240 years later, under circumstances of debatable legality.27

  3.3.  The Parthenon is the pre-eminent symbol of art and learning to the world as exemplified by UNESCO, and the symbol of democracy—as demonstrated by its adoption by design of other government and official buildings (especially in the United States, including the Lincoln Memorial and innumerable monuments). Over the centuries, the Parthenon has always been a place of worship including pre-Christian worship of Athena, Orthodox Christian, Catholic, and Muslim.28

  3.4.  "If there is one icon . . . that stands for ancient Greece and its leading city-state of the fifth century BC Athens, it is the Parthenon . . . It is seen as standing for purity, beauty, and even a form of moral and intellectual integrity. It is proclaimed as the crowning achievement of the society which founded Western civilization."29

  3.5.  The Parthenon Frieze is a unitary panel of sculpture depicting the Panathenaic Festival30. The Parthenon Marbles or Parthenon Sculptures refer to those parts of the Parthenon Frieze (situated on the inner row of columns) dismembered and removed to London by Lord Elgin31 over the period 1801-1816. The Sculptures originally numbered 115 panels in the Frieze, of which 94 are known to exist, in whole or in part. Thirty six (36) are in Athens and fifty six (56) are in London (one is in the Louvre)32.

  3.6.  This does not reflect the magnitude of the entire "Elgin Collection". A detailed inventory was conducted as part of the 1816 Report33 to Parliament. The Catalogue of the "Elgin Marbles" included the following inventories.34

    A.  Pediments of the Parthenon—17 items

    B.  The Metopes—14 items

    C-G.  The Frieze[s]—39 items

    H-K.  "Fragments" from the Parthenon and other Buildings, including the Erekthion—29 including a Charyatid

    L.  "Detached Heads"—13 items

    M.  "Detached Piece[s] of Sculpture"—34

    N.  Urns—all types—14

    O.  Altars—8

    P.  "Sepulchral Pillars"—13

    Q.  Casts—57 total

    R.  "Greek Inscriptions"—66

    S.  Drawings—5 (including series)35

  3.7.  "Time and chance have determined that the Parthenon and its sculptures are the most fully known . . . of all the monuments of Classical antiquity that have survived. Our view of Classical Greece is conditioned by them, [ . . . ] The architecture and sculpture are the best that were created [ . . . ]. It embraces the beginnings of organized religious life in Greece and of Greek religion. [ . . . ] the absorption into Greek life and thought of foreign ideas and arts; the history of architecture and sculpture; the development of the narrative and symbolic functions of myth; the physical, political, economic, social and military history of Athens itself."36

3.8.  A unique claim

  3.8.  The matter of the Parthenon Marbles is unique because (a) the removal was by a private individual, (b) not acting under colour of law, (c) outside the sphere of armed conflict, and whose acts (d) would not qualify as common theft. We have yet to know of a parallel case whose outcome could be influenced by resolution of the matter of the Parthenon Marbles. It is unique among all significant contemporary cultural property claims because the removal was not incidental to armed conflict or colonization as recognized by international law; or common theft as recognized by the laws of states. While the Ottoman Government in authority was a force of occupation, the rights of occupiers to cultural property (see paragraph 5.11 below) has only become a factor to be considered in recent years, most significantly with the 1954 Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property.37


  4.  The tragic timing of the removal of the Parthenon Sculptures has proven to be the most significant quality of the legal debate. At the time of the taking—in 1801-1816, the people of Greece were striving in earnest to regain their independence. The Parthenon Marbles were purchased from Lord Elgin by the British Government on the eve of the war for independence which was won by Greece in 1830. The following are the pertinent facts regarding the time of Lord Elgin's seizure of the Parthenon Sculptures. On both levels, the removal of the Parthenon Sculptures closely preceded international and national laws protecting cultural property.

4.1.  Unique issues and tragic irony

  4.1.  A critical aspect of the purchase of the Parthenon Sculptures by Parliament is that by so doing, Parliament preserved the Marbles from sale elsewhere and from being dispersed. Along with that claim is the more curious conjecture that Elgin's removal saved the Marbles from Napoleon's legions. Let us explore that question.

  4.2.  It is not likely that Napoleon would have received such a firman (see paragraph 5.8 below), as had Elgin, for political reasons. However, had Napoleon included Athens in his conquests, there is wide agreement (including on the part of this writer) that the Parthenon would have been an immediate target for the Louvre. In such a case, we can presume, or imagine, the following: (a) more programmatic removal of selected items or sections, (b) official, possibly more secure transport overland or in military frigate, and (c) encasement in the Louvre upon arrival. Those facts can be contrasted with the actual (a) amputating, rapacious axing, and hacking off of parts in the dismantling of the architectural sculptures by Elgin's men, (b) terrifying transport on the Mentor (a ship purchased by Lord Elgin when his request for the use of the British navy was rejected) which soon sank and only Greek sponge divers managed to recover most of the pieces, and (c) ignominious storage in a constructed shed and alley until the Marbles were finally transferred by the British Parliament.

  4.3.  Following the logical progression, we proceed to the Wellington Principles (see paragraph 7 below). In reliance on historical records about the position of the Allies in Paris, we know that Napoleon's plundered art was repatriated. So, as an exercise in irony we can wonder: if Lord Elgin had not "saved" the Marbles from Napoleon, if they would have been returned to the Acropolis that year by Wellington.


  5.  Ever since Greek liberation from the Ottoman Empire in 1830, Greeks and Hellenophiles around the world have been striving to secure the return of the Marbles. Yet where could they take their claim? It has always been clear that legal authority over the Elgin Marbles within the United Kingdom rests solely with Parliament. This was established in the first instance by the purchase of the Marbles by Parliament38 on behalf of the nation. Although Parliament then transferred the Sculptures to the British Museum, the bill clearly carried the authority of Parliament. Any doubts as to the legislative intent of that Act were addressed by the British Museum Act39 of 1963 which prohibited the Museum from alienating its holdings.

5.1.  Framing the Issue

  5.1.  On the level of legal precedent—for those in common law legal systems (as in the United Kingdom and the United States)—there must be a predicate legal decision, ie a ruling by a court of law and only thereafter could the decision present a legal precedent to the extent that future courts might admit. It necessarily follows, from the simple fact that the matter of the Parthenon Marbles, with the facts as are known to date, does not comprise a legal claim which can be presented in a court of law, that any settlement by Parliament of the claim, on a non-adjudicatory basis, cannot create a legal precedent.

  5.2.  In the era of World War II art restitution and replevin, there has been no credible objection on the basis of precedent. Even though many cases are resolved in the courts, they still cannot serve as precedent without the requisite nexus of facts and issues. The uniqueness of the matter of the Parthenon Marbles precludes such precedential value.

  5.3.  On the level of the court of public opinion, every return of cultural property has potential implications for other claims. However, there has been no hew and outcry that a dangerous precedent would follow recent returns of cultural properties sent back to countries of origin by museums in the United Kingdom, such as the return of the Stone of Scone to Scotland in 1999.40

5.4.  International Law

  5.4.  Historically, until the 19th Century, cultural property, monuments, and places of worship had been viewed as legitimate pawns of armed conflict.41 Treaties protecting cultural property did not enter the international arena until after Lord Elgin had transported the Parthenon Sculptures to England. The greatest single turning point in the treatment of cultural property under international law occurred upon the conclusion of the War of 1812 when the Duke of Wellington administered the first programme of post-conflict replevin of cultural property to nations of origin.42

  5.5.  An immediate problem arises in a legal analysis of the issue of the Parthenon Sculptures under British law because the United Kingdom has traditionally defined "cultural property" as movable cultural goods and primarily concerns questions for issuance of export licenses for works of art and cultural property as administered by the Department of National Heritage.43 The Parthenon Sculptures were never meant to be, nor were they constructed to allow them to be, movable decorative art. "The sculptures of the Parthenon were an integral part of the total design."44

5.6.  Legal analysis using legal principles of cultural property

  5.6.  International Law—The advent of contemporary concepts of the international legal status of cultural property came with the 1899 and 1907 Hague Laws of War,45 and became a settled theory of international law with the 1954 Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict46 (to which 95 countries are now parties, with the notable exception of the United States47 and the United Kingdom).48 Only in 1954, the Hague Cultural Property Convention first delineated the rights and duties of occupation forces vis-a"-vis cultural property in armed conflict.49

5.7.  Legal Analysis of the Legality of the Taking50

  5.7.  The issues regarding the removal of the Parthenon Sculptures by Lord Elgin concern three themes. The first is the firman51 (translated as "official letters of permission")52 which gave Lord Elgin access to the Parthenon to conduct his operations.

5.8.  The Firman[s] (Original and subsequent)

  5.8.  Although the only legally competent authority to interpret the firman[s] and to determine whether Lord Elgin had indeed exceeded the intent and licence of the documents, would be the successor government to the Ottoman Government of the time, (ie Turkey), Professor Merryman53 correctly points out that acquiescence of the local authorities during the execution of the enterprise would appear to indicate the extent to which the Ottoman authorities would allow interpretation of the firman. Even though Turkey54 has recently indicated a willingness to assist Greece in this matter, only a renunciation of the firman, with an explanation of the apparent acquiescence to Lord Elgin's implementation of it, could alter the current legal significance of the firman[s] in any meaningful way.

5.9.  The legal authority of the Ottoman Government

  5.9.  Claimants for return of the Parthenon Marbles may rightly offer that the Ottoman Empire was a force of occupation in Greece at the time and that, even as Lord Elgin was transporting the Marbles, Greeks were preparing to move once again for independence—which did succeed in 1830. The writer is not aware of any reputable authority who suggests that Lord Elgin would have been given any such permission by a Greek Government (see Firman, Paragraph 5.8 above). However, at the time of the removal of the Parthenon Sculptures by Lord Elgin, Great Britain and the Ottoman Empire had diplomatic recognition which legalized all official acts as between them and their legal systems, making questions regarding the occupier's rights55 a 20th Century concept inapplicable to a 19th Century event.

5.10.  Bribery

  5.10.  There has been extensive discussion of the potential legal implications of the bribes paid by Lord Elgin and his agents to local authorities. This is another example of applying 20th Century legal concepts from the common law to a 19th Century activity and a distinctly different legal culture. First, the "bribes" were open and accounted as expenses. This would go to the question of intent and the minds of the parties in the transaction. Such open accountancy would not reflect questions of irregularity such as if bribes were not accepted in the legal environment of the time (Ottoman-controlled Athens 1801-1816). The payment of bribes would be suggestive of the state of mind of Lord Elgin, that is his own perception of the quality of his acts. However, as the 1816 Parliamentary debate56 reveals, Lord Elgin had no compunctions about the payment of bribes as called for by the situations.

  5.11.  As Professor Merryman57 has repeatedly affirmed, while Lord Elgin's actions may be deemed immoral, they were not illegal under the national or international law of the time. Without a legal claim regarding the actions of Lord Elgin, all study of the matter leaves the courtroom and returns to the legal jurisdiction of the Parliament.

5.12.  The question of a legal precedent

  5.12.  As a unique claim, with unique subject matter, there can be no legal precedent. The most effective argument against reunification of the Parthenon Marbles has been the obfuscation perpetrated under the claim that a precedent would be established which would reverberate throughout the museums of the world and all museums would be emptied in rapid succession. None of the arguments against return is more insupportable, but even if taken at face value, this could be addressed in legislative language.

  5.13.  Finally, Parliament should explore means to avert any potential legal precedent created by return of the Parthenon Marbles by including exculpatory and advisory language in such implementing legislation. By establishing such a legislative history, the claims (however incorrect) that a legal precedent could result could be precluded within the document itself (see Early Day Motion, paragraph 2.8 above).

5.14.  The role of the British Government

  5.14.  Although Lord Elgin did seek pecuniary support from the British Government for this project prior to his trip to Greece, it was refused. Second, when Lord Elgin requested use of British naval command to ship the Parthenon Marbles (over 80 crates) it was refused as well.58 The 1816 investigation by the House of Commons59 reveals that while Lord Elgin tried to avoid any admission that he had been permitted by the Ottoman authorities to engage in this project because of his position as the British Ambassador, the debate and interrogation were intense on this issue. Lord Elgin did admit that no permission (even approaching the extent of the liberty granted him) had ever been given to anyone else. A reading of the questioning of Lord Elgin and his answers does support the view that the permission was given to Lord Elgin solely in the interest of enhancing British-Turkish relations vis-a"-vis France. Moreover, whenever Lord Elgin raised his assertion that his intentions were only the betterment of the Arts in England, it was roundly disputed and this is where discussions of involvement and/or participation of the British Government ended.


  6.  The British Museum and the British Museums and Galleries Commission61 have taken the position that the Museum does not have the legal right to return the Parthenon Marbles. Examination of the Acts 181662 and 1963,63 read together, support that assertion.

  6.1.  Any inquiry into the future of the Parthenon Sculptures requires a careful review of the Act of 181664 which purchased them from Lord Elgin. An examination of "An Act to vest the Elgin Collection of ancient Marbles and sculpture in the Trustees of the British Museum for the Use of the Public"65 suggests that Parliament did not award the Collection to the British Museum with all the rights of ownership but gave the Museum custody alone, albeit into the future.

  6.2.  Article III of the 1816 Act reads in part: "That the said Collection shall be preserved and kept together in the said British Museum whole and entire, and distinguished by the name or Appellation of `The Elgin Collection' [emphasis added]". Article II reads in part "the said Collection shall be vested in the Trustees for the time being of the said British Museum and their successors, in perpetuity, for the purposes of said Act . . . "66 Now that Parliament "vested" the Collection in the Trustees that the Collection be cared for and retained together, the necessary reading is that Parliament did not fully alienate the Marbles but retained legal authority over the Collection.

  6.3.  Any doubt about the legislative intent of the 1816 Parliament to retain control is allayed by the British Museum Act, 196367 which clearly prohibits the Museum from alienating any part of its holdings. "Section 5. Disposal of objects," establishes strict guidelines for the alienation of holdings. The language of the Section listing those conditions which must be met for an object to be "sell [sold], exchange[d], give[n] away or otherwise dispose[d]"68 appears to preclude "disposal" of the Elgin Collection by the British Museum. The Act does not address "disposal" by the awarding authority, which in this case would be Parliament alone.

6.4.  Interpretation of The Museums and Galleries Commission

  6.4.  Most recently, the British Museums and Galleries Commission stated in paragraph 19 of a memorandum69 "Primary legislation would be necessary merely to permit the Museum to return the sculptures permanently to Greece."70 By this statement, the Museum is affirming that Parliament alone holds the authority to direct the reunification of the Parthenon Marbles. The next statement does not follow a logical progression.

  6.5.  Once stating the sole legal authority of Parliament, the Commission warned, "However, even if we were to change the law in order to permit the Museum to dispose of the sculptures, the Museum could still refuse to return them to Greece."71 This does not conform to their earlier statement. First, it would not be the Commission ("we" above), acting independently, which would enact the legislation but Parliament. Second, Parliament is not shown to have any limits in that legislation, ie, could not only "permit" the Museum to dispose of the sculptures, but could certainly amend the British Museum Act of 1963 to effect the reunification of the Parthenon Marbles.

6.6.  The Cleaning Controversy

  6.6.  Recent press reports which detailed the British Museum cover-up of the improper cleaning and resulting irreparable damage done to the Marbles over 50 years ago, have placed the Museum on the defensive. In an effort to counteract increasing Parliamentary scrutiny, such as the current inquiry by the Committee on Culture Media and Sport, the British Museum conducted a symposium, "Cleaning the Parthenon Sculptures", 30 November-1 December 1999.

  6.7.  The subject of the British Museum Colloquium was the quality of stewardship, not the question of retention. Unfortunately, the conference fell into exchanges of aspersions and emotional claims. Clearly demonstrated, however, was lack of respect for the religious nature and cultural value of the Parthenon Marbles when the Museum used the Duveen Gallery for the luncheon, following shocking revelations on the marketing of the gallery for lavish costumed events. This is disturbing to all who respect the cultural heritage of other faiths.

  6.8.  The Parthenon Marbles are not mere "statuary" or movable decorative art, but integral, interdependent parts of a temple. The "sculptures" are allegorical and sacred. The Parthenon Sculptures are ideally viewed as the icon screen of Hellenic culture.


  7.  The United Kingdom as an army of occupation in Paris at the close of the Napoleonic Wars (1792-1815),72 presented an innovative approach to the treatment of cultural property both by an occupier and in peace treaties.

  7.1.  The Musée Napoleon (Louvre) built to house the plunder of Napoleon's conquests73 (celebrations of which were modelled on the Roman Triumph), began with the Fetes de Victoires in 1798.74 Napoleon's art programme to amass all noted art and a desire for respectability for the programme at the same time. To accomplish both his goals, he first designed his programme for art collecting with military precision, establishing working teams of experts with stipulated accounting and reporting procedures. Second, Napoleon presented a legal innovation to legitimize his programme by demanding official transfer documents from the conquered governments.75

  7.2.  "It was assumed to be offered the spoils of each country as it was overrun. This was to be carried out by teams of specialists sent out from Paris or recruited on the spot.76. . . (On 16 October 1794) the Commission Temporare des Arts had appointed a sub-committee of four members to compile full information concerning works of art and science to be found in countries which the republican armies were expected to invade."77 Napoleon's pattern of demanding the official transfer of art by conquered governments was fully implemented throughout his campaigns. An example was Napoleon's treaty with Italy, 6 May 1796,78 which stipulated the transfer of 20 paintings to be chosen by the commanders.

  7.3.  French public support was so great for Napoleon's Louvre project, that at the Convention of Paris on 3 July 1815,79 the French negotiators anticipated the restitution provisions and offered a clause "to guarantee the integrity of museums and libraries"80 attempting to secure their right to retain art seized in the Napoleonic Campaigns. The Allies roundly refused and proceeded to order the return of all items seized by Napoleon. The Duke of Wellington, speaking for the Allies affirmed that art looting violates the laws of war.81

  7.4.  "It was Wellington's opinion that the Allies could not do otherwise than restore them (Napoleon's plundered art) to the countries from which, contrary to the practice of civilized warfare, they had been torn during the disastrous period [ . . . ] the tyranny of Buonaparte."82

  7.5.  The allies then began a programme for restitution including a private agreement with Louis XVIII (whom the Peace treaty restored to the Throne)83 for return of all looted articles. Under Wellington's command in Paris, the Quadriga taken from the Brandenburg Gate was returned.84 1814 was a year of returned national treasures: the Pope regained his archives on 19 April; the Paris Archives returned documents and regalia to the Papal States on 27 April; the Dutch Ambassador demanded return of art seized from the Netherlands on 18 September; Metternich demanded return of Austrian and Venetian items on 5 August; and Austria, England and Prussia demanded all official property returned at once on 20 September.85


  8.  Having explored the important issues surrounding the question of the Parthenon Marbles, the question now before the Committee is how to resolve this dilemma—the rights of the possessor against the rights of the creators. Once again, we can say that the answer lies within the historical and legal principles of the United Kingdom.

8.1.  Historic and Legal Principles

  8.1.  The first are the historic Wellington Principles, (See paragraph 9 above). The second are standards for the future as issued by the UK Museum and Galleries Commission, Restitution and Repatriation: Guidelines for Good Practice,87 (hereinafter "Guidelines") and even the MGC Statement of Principles on Spoilation.88

  8.2.  By any reading, the Guidelines of the UK Museums and Galleries Commission lead to reunification of the Parthenon Marbles. Specifically, the following sections lead the analysis to the same inevitable conclusion. Most salient of the Guidelines are considerations of "Opportunities for comparative research at one central point".89 (In this case, that would be Athens) and "Need to move forward while acknowledging past history."90

  8.3.  Under "Arguments that Favour Return,"91 there are two sub-divisions pertinent to the matter of the Parthenon Marbles. They are "New approaches to professional practice in scientific research, archaeological excavation and museum activities, which recognise others' rights to control cultural material and knowledge,"92 and "Acknowledgment of past wrongful taking and/or misunderstandings of complex customary ownership concepts, and attempts to redress."93

  8.4.  The Parliament of 1816 could not return the Marbles to the Greek people, but they did agree on the best solution available to them at the time. Unfortunately, the Act did not include any options for the future and the future arrived very soon thereafter when Greece recovered her independence in 1830. Today the Parliament has the ability to accomplish what the Parliament of 1816 could not do—reunify the Parthenon Marbles in the custody of its only national heirs.

 8.5.  Quid pro quo—Will the Marbles be reunited?

  8.5.  During a 1998 conference in Washington, DC attended by this author, Professor Merryman94 asserted that the Marbles be returned to Greece and said all that remains would be the conditions. Professor Merryman opined that there might need to be a gesture by the Hellenic Republic—a quid pro quo. As a term of law, quid pro quo carries a connotation of equal value or comparable standing to verify the evenness of an exchange. The following are the two-part question which was posed by the author to Professor Merryman and his response.

  8.5.1.  First, is it your understanding that there is any part of the cultural patrimony of Great Britain currently being held by the Hellenic Republic? If so would you please indicate it so that the Government of the Hellenic Republic can return it forthwith?

  8.5.2.  Second, what is there of comparable artistic and historic value which Greece could donate to the British Museum as a like-kind-exchange?

  8.5.3.  Professor Merryman very graciously acknowledged that there most likely was a) neither British cultural property in the control and possession of the Hellenic Republic nor b) Greek cultural property which would be of sufficient artistic and historic value to reach the status of a quid pro quo. The question was left open what the Hellenic Republic could offer to fill the position of the Parthenon Sculptures.

  8.6.  The Committee on the Parthenon does not suggest that the Hellenic Republic should feel an obligation to contribute to the richness of the collections in the British Museum but does agree that such an endowment would be both desirable and productive (See paragraph 9.9 below).

9.  Dialogue and Negotiations

  9.  Clearly, the dialogue must be commenced before terms are presented. Then, it is up to the authority in possession to state its terms. If the British Museum believes it can make out a case that the Marbles would not be appropriately cared for by Greece, the Museum should be given an opportunity to prove their claim, including stating with specificity the criteria it believes the Greek Government should meet in order to receive the Marbles.

9.1.  The Guiding Principle should be the best interests of the Marbles

  9.1.  The only appropriate course for the Committee, if consensus for return of the Marbles is not clear as a result of this inquiry (if not before), is to carry on the tradition of the 1816 Parliament and conduct a separate inquiry. That inquiry should examine the principles outlined above from the MGC Guidelines as well as the Wellington Principles.

  9.2.  If possible, a commission should be appointed not only of the parties but, in the way UNESCO has offered to provide their own good offices in the past. The composition should be independent, that is dedicated only to the best interests of the Marbles, artistically, historically, philosophically, and physically. To the extent that economic interests are raised, a separate independent accountancy study should be completed to reach the proper economic solution. (see paragraph 9.7 below).

  9.3.  Each party must come to the negotiations prepared to state its terms and the first speaker on this issue must be the authority in possession (Parliament) after consultation with the custodian (the British Museum). In fact, if there is one aspect of the debate that has been the most fruitless it is the repetition of terms offered by the Greek Government in the absence of any pertinent negotiations.

9.4.  Factors to be Considered

  Models—Other recommendations have been presented including such as donation (or exchange) by the Hellenic Republic or providing exact replicas for the Marbles for the use of the British Museum. This is certainly a worthy idea, especially considering it is our understanding that the British Museum has already made casts and copies of a great many. Most important are issues of the physical dwelling and care which the Greek Government should have in place before a recommendation for return of the Marbles could be implemented.

9.5.  The Acropolis Museum

  Such a meeting would be the appropriate time and place for the British Museum to raise, and open to discussion by the deciding body, all the concerns the British Museum is alleged to hold about the design of the Museum being constructed in Athens to house all the Parthenon Sculptures and to display them in relation to the Parthenon structure and Acropolis.

9.6.  Economic Considerations

  Opponents to reunification of the Parthenon Marbles often raise an objection on economic grounds. For example, should the people of Great Britain be compensated for the price of purchase? If so, and this a credible position, the economic involvement of the British Museum should be gauged alongside and to include the amounts by which the Museum has been aggrandized as well as the damage done to the Marbles under its custody, if not during their removal. The Committee on the Parthenon is certainly not opposed to an economic analysis so long as all appropriate elements are taken into account in the process.

9.7.  Other Claims by Greece

  The Committee on the Parthenon strongly opposes any suggestions that the Hellenic Republic should agree to forego any and all other claims to cultural property within the United Kingdom for legal as well as ethical reasons, including the following.

  9.8.1.  If the decision to reunify the Marbles is made on the merits—as the Greek Government certainly has asserted all along—then there should be no reason to offer up other indeterminable property.

  9.8.2.  The Government can only pledge as to its own claims—not private claims of any other party, or a party outside the jurisdiction of the Hellenic Republic.

  9.8.3.  How can the Greek Government know what other claims may arise in the future and of what nature? Hence it would be an illusory promise.

Exchange(s) or Shares

  9.9.  In consideration of the breadth of the "Elgin Collection," (see paragraph 3.6) perhaps there could be some negotiated settlement among those parts of the aggregate outside the sacred frieze.

  9.10.  Once again, the recommendation of the Committee on the Parthenon is that the British Museum and Parliament are in the superior bargaining position and the sole position to state such terms.


  10.  It is critical for opponents of return to prove the merits of their position. Then, on balance, the Committee should weigh those principles of possession against those of repatriation. For example, the British Museum is often cited as believing it would be unfairly affected by de-accession of its primary attraction and profitable property. These concerns should be raised as part of the economic analysis described.

Essential elements of the Parthenon

  10.1.  The Parthenon is not just a symbol of Greek culture but is the world's cultural symbol. As the world's temple, its dismemberment must be corrected—it must be made whole again. Although the Marbles were removed from the Parthenon under questionable circumstances, we believe the Marbles should be replaced at the Parthenon on the merits, that is, based of the essence of the Parthenon.


  10.1.  How shall history view the treatment of the Parthenon Marbles by the United Kingdom? This Committee on the Parthenon has offered the preceding thorough analysis of the pertinent and legally significant aspects of the matter of the Parthenon Sculptures. Having explored the important issues surrounding the question of the Parthenon Marbles, the question now before the Committee is how to resolve this dilemma—the rights of the possessor against the rights of the creators. Once again, we can say that the answer lies within ourselves, that is within the historical and legal principles of the United Kingdom.

  10.2.  With the studied advice and counsel of the Committee on Culture, Media and Sport, The parliament of 2000 can accomplish what the Parliament of 1816 could not—reunify the Parthenon temple. When the world observes the return of the Olympics to Greece in 2004, so should the world be able to witness the Marbles restored to the Parthenon. More importantly, the Parthenon Marbles should be reunified at the Acropolis, at the latest, as soon as the Acropolis Museum is complete so as to safely transfer and house the Parthenon Marbles.

  10.3.  There is no force greater than an idea whose time has come.

  There could be no finer or more meaningful gesture on the part of the United Kingdom, as a world leader and forerunner of the modern, European Community and to the world cultural community, in the spirit of cultural unity, than to reunify the Parthenon Sculptures.


  10.4.  This is a fair and accurate research and analysis completed to the best of my knowledge and ability.


  1.  Pericles [494-429 BC], Thucydides, Book II Line 36, Loeb Library at Vol I, CF Smith, trans, The Loeb Classical Library, Harvard University Press, 1989.

  2.  Christopher Hibbert, Wellington, 1997, 199-201 infra.

  3.  III Reports from Committees Ch 161 (1816), Report from the Select Committee on the Earl of Elgin's Collection of Sculptured Marbles, [hereinafter "Report"], 3-77.

  4.  501(c)(3).

  5.  aka "The International Committee on the Parthenon".

  aka "The US Committee on the Parthenon".

  aka "The Committee for the Restitution of the Parthenon Marbles".

  6.  501(c)(3).

  7.  John Henry Merryman, Thinking About the Elgin Marbles, 83 Mich L Rev 1881, infra.

  8.  A separate statement by Congressman Payne confirms that there is no truth to allegations that the President was pressured by Hellenic-American organisations into his position on the Parthenon Marbles and Congressman Payne is prepared to respond to questions by the Committee regarding those communications.

  9.  Parthenon Sculptures, background (hereinafter "memorandum") [Briefing Memorandum submitted to Nine Network Australia for a 60 Minute programme on 27 February 2000], copy obtained by the Committee on the Parthenon. See also,

  10.  Id at paragraph 18.

  11.  US Const art II Sec 2 cl 2.

  12.  UNESCO Holds Conference on Return of Cultural Property ("topping the Committee's agenda is the controversy . . . ownership of the Parthenon Marbles."), Agence France Presse, 25 January 1999, International News.

  13.  Elgin Marbles "Now EU Issue," Birmingham Post, 19 January 1999,9.

  14.  Anthi Poulos, European Parliament declaration urges Great Britain to return the Parthenon Marbles,

  15.  34 Parl Deb HC (1st ser) 1027 (1816) at 1040 (hereinafter "Vote").

  16.  Greece Hopeful for Repatriating Art, United Press International, 19 January 1999, BC Cycle.

  17.  Id.

  18.  UK Opinion Poll backs return of Marbles to Greece, http://www,

  19.  Early Day Motion (hereinafter "EDM") No. 212: Parthenon Sculptures, 19 January 1999,

  20.  Id.

  21.  EDM, supra note 18.

  22.  Stones to Die For, The Economist, 18 March 2000, 86.

  23.  Id.

  24.  Id.

  25.  Id.

  26.  Robert Browning, The Parthenon in History, in the Elgin Marbles 7-9, 1-15 (Christopher Hitchens) 1997. Browning, supra note 10, at 4.

  27.  Id.

  28.  Browning, supra note 22, at 7-9.

  29.  Charles Freeman, The Greek Achievement, 1999, 1.

  30.  What are the Parthenon Marbles?

  31.  See Anthi Poulos, A Parthenon Chronology [Work in Progress, Available from the author].

  32.  Parthenon Marbles, supra note 30, infra.

  33.  Report, supra note 3.

  34.  Id, at 70-77.

  35.  56 George III, Ch XCIX (1816) An Act to vest the Elgin Collection of ancient Marbles and Sculpture in the Trustees of the British Museum for the Use of the Public (hereinafter "Act").

  36.  John Boardman, The Parthenon and its Sculptures, 1985, 7.

  37.  Anthi Poulos, The 1954 Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict, 28 Int'l J of Legal Inf 1 (2000).

  38.  Act, supra note 35.

  39.  Id.

  40.  PORTRAIT: THE TARTAN TORY'S DAY OF DESTINY; As the Stone of Scone, ancient symbol of Scottish independence, is formally returned to its homeland in a ceremony at Edinburgh Castle on the weekend, The Guardian (London), 27 November 1996, T-4.

  41.  Poulos, supra note 37, at 3 and infra.

  42.  Poulos, Id, at 14.

  43.  Cultural Property Division, Department of National Heritage, CULTURAL PROPERTY [Memorandum] 8 March 1996.

  44.  Donald Kagan, Pericles of Athens and the Birth of Democracy, 1991, 159.

  45.  Waldemar Solf, Cultural Property, Protection in Armed Conflict, 1 Encyclopedia of Public International Law, 62 (1992).

  46.  249 UNTS 240 (1954).

  47.  See Message from the President of the United States Transmitting the Hague Convention and the Hague Protocol, January 6, 1999, 106 Congress 1 Session, Treaty Doc 106-1.

  48.  UNESCO (last modified 14 January 1999),

  49.  Poulos, supra note 37, at 39.

  50.  David Rudenstine, The Legality of Elgin's Taking. 8 Int'l J Cultural Property, 356 (1999)(book review).

  51.  William St Clair, Lord Elgin & the Marbles, 1998, 86.

  52.  St Clair, Id. At 415 [Index] at 86.

  53.  Merryman, supra note 7, infra.

  54.  Foreign Minister Offers to Help Greece get back Elgin Marbles, BBC Summary of World Broadcasts, 8 February 2000, Sec 2.

  55.  Dalia N Osman, Occupier's Title to Cultural Property: Nineteenth Century, 37 Colum. J. Transnat'l L 969.

  56.  Report, supra note 3.

  57.  John Henry Merryman and Albert E Eisen, 1 Law, Ethics and the Visual Arts, 13 (1987).

  58.  Report, supra note 25.

  59.  Report, supra note 22, infra.

  60.  Id.

  61.  Id.

  62.  Act, supra note 34.

  63.  British Museum Act 1963 Ch 24, See also: Halisbury's Statutes of England and Wales (1998 re-issue), Libraries and Other Cultural and Scientific Institutions 198-200.

  64.  Act, supra note 35.

  65.  Id.

  66.  Act, supra note 35.

  67.  British Museum Act, supra 63.

  68.  Id.

  69.  Memorandum, supra note 9.

  70.  Id.

  71.  Id.

  72.  Jean Cooke et al, History's Timeline, 99-107 (1981).

  73.  Cecil Gould, Trophy of Conquest, The Musee Napoleon and the Creation of the Louvre, 1995.

  74.  Dorothy Mackay Quynn, The Art Confiscations of the Napoleonic Wars, 50 Am Hist Rev 437 (1945).

  75.  Merryman, supra note 57, at 16.

  76.  Merryman, supra note 57 at 15.

  77.  In this way, the perpetrator introduced an artifice of the law into a previously lawless practice and this would be the pattern of the future, greatest war against culture in history—World War II. See also Merryman, supra note 15, at 16.

  78.  Id.

  79.  Merryman, supra note 19, at 17.

  80.  Merryman, supra note 19, at 17.

  81.  Leonard D Duboff & Sally Holt Caplan, The Deskbook of Art Law, Booklet D: Art: the Victim of War, 288 (1996).

  82.  Christopher Hibbert, Wellington, 199 (1997).

  83.  DuBoff supra note 81, at 6.

  84.  Merryman, supra note 57, at 18.

  85.  Merryman, supra note 57, at 17.

  86.  Report, supra note 3, infra.



  89.  UK Museums and Galleries Commission, Restitution and Repatriation: Guidelines for Good Practice, See

  90.  Id.

  91.  Id.

  92.  Id.

March 2000

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