The British Museum claims the friezes were taken from the ruins around the Parthenon


“Many of the Parthenon friezes removed by Lord Elgin’s agents were found ‘in the rubble’ around the building, they were not forcibly removed,” said Dr Jonathan Williams, Deputy Director of the British Museum, during the annual meeting of the intergovernmental group to promote the return of cultural heritage. UNESCO.

“Actually, most of the friezes were taken from the rubble around the Parthenon… These objects were not cut out of the building as expected,” Williams said during the meeting. “We did not forcibly seize them, they lay in rubble,” the British say, “There will never be a magical moment of reunion, since half of the Parthenon sculptures are lost forever. They were destroyed before Elgin came to Athens.”

Seeking to change the narrative, the British Museum, which was still opposed to the reunification of the Parthenon marbles, argues that what Elgin did was practically clearing debris of large and small pieces of marble and paving the way for future Parthenon visitors. Correctly?

Workers disassemble the friezes of the Parthenon. Figure MLENNY/GETTY IMAGES
Early on the morning of July 31, 1801, a ship’s carpenter, five crew members, and twenty Athenian workers dismantled the walls of the Parthenon, seizing one of the most important monuments of Greek history. This fact is now disputed in Britain.


Williams is reported to have told the group, among other things, that Greece’s desire to see a completed Parthenon was impossible to fulfill, as much of it had been destroyed long before Elgin’s arrival in Greece.

“There will never be a magical moment of reunion, as half of the Parthenon sculptures are lost forever. They were destroyed from the end of the 17th century before Elgin came to Athens,” he said, noting that now the sculptures are very well preserved.

The new announcement comes just days after UNESCO announced that Greece and the UK agree to hold official talks about the return of the sculptures of the Parthenon. In a statement published in the Guardian on Sunday, Greek Culture Minister Lina Mendoni denied this and accused Lord Elgin, then Britain’s ambassador to the Ottoman Empire, of committing serial theft.

“Over the years, the Greek authorities and the international scientific community, with unwavering arguments, have demonstrated the true events associated with the dismantling of the Parthenon sculptures,” said Mendoni.

“Lord Elgin used illegal and unfair means to confiscate and remove the Parthenon sculptures without real legal permission to do so, in a flagrant act of theft,” the minister stressed.

Lina Mendoni refers to a fact that has recently become known falsification of documents for the export of the friezes of the Parthenon on the part of Lord Elgin, when it turned out that a copy of the document, according to his research, masquerading as company with permissionis a forgery, probably concocted by Elgin’s private secretary.

“Actually, most of the friezes were taken from the rubble around the Parthenon… These objects were not cut out of the building as expected,” Williams said during the meeting. “We did not forcibly seize them, they lay in rubble,” the British say, “There will never be a magical moment of reunion, since half of the Parthenon sculptures are lost forever. They were destroyed before Elgin came to Athens.”



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