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Tuesday, 13 November, 2001, 16:57 GMT
'Cultural truce' plan for Elgin Marbles
Elgin Marbles
A Tschumi-designed museum is being built in Athens
One of Greece's foremost intellectuals has called for the return of the Elgin Marbles as part of a "cultural truce" in the build up to the 2004 Athens Olympics.

Poet Titos Patrikios is heading a global Cultural Olympiad which which runs from 2001 to 2004 as part of the Olympic celebrations.

Horse sculpture
The UK government position is unchanged
He said the Parthenon was "mutilated" without the marbles and that the "common sense" of the British would see the eventual return of the sculptures.

More than 70m is being spend on hundreds of art events around the world over the course of the next four years.

'Symbolic value'

"It is now a cultural and moral obligation of all of us to reconstruct the unity of important monuments in the world," said Mr Patrikios.

"We cannot continue living with mutilated monuments, especially those which have a symbolic value.

"There are some monuments which are sites of memory. We need historical monuments, not for nationalistic reasons, but for existentialist reasons.

"The Parthenon is a site of memory."

He said the problem was persuasion, and he did not want to "force anybody".

"The British will be persuaded because they have this talent of common sense," he added.

29m museum

Greece has long called for the return of the Parthenon sculptures.


The government consider that the Parthenon sculptures were legally acquired by Lord Elgin

DCMS spokesman
Fourteen British MPs, including former minister and chairman of the Commons works of art committee Tony Banks, have called on the UK Government to return the marbles.

A 29m museum is under construction in Athens for their return.

The 56 sculpted friezes are housed at the British Museum where they were sent after their removal from Greece during Ottoman Turkish rule

Known in Greece as the Parthenon sculptures, they date from between 447 and 432 BC and depict the most formal religious ceremonies of ancient Athens - the Panathenaea procession.

'No plans'

In 1799 the British ambassador to the Ottoman Empire, Lord Elgin, removed the friezes and brought them to the UK.

A spokesman for the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, told BBC News Online that the UK government's position on the sculptures was "unchanged".

He said: "The government consider that the Parthenon sculptures were legally acquired by Lord Elgin and have no plans to ask the British Museum to return them.

"Since they have been on display at the British Museum they have been kept in environmentally superb condition and have been seen by more people than if they had stayed or had been returned to Greece."

Speaking about the four-year Cultural Olympiad, Mr Patrikios said: "Through arts, poetry and culture we can unify the world.

'Universal meaning'

"We can establish a more profound communication between different cultures and countries, and different people.

"We want to promote and create cultural events that go beyond a provincial and local concept.

"It should have a universal meaning and structure."

The Cultural Olympiad encompasses events on:

  • Literature
  • Music
  • Visual arts
  • Architecture
  • Drama
  • Audiovisual arts
  • Dance
  • Arts and sports journalism

    "In common with the Olympics, the Cultural Olympiad will inspire us to go beyond our own limits," said Mr Patrikios.

  • See also:

    20 Nov 99 | Europe
    Clinton backs Elgin marbles claim
    28 Jul 99 | UK
    Elgin marbles 'stay in UK'
    09 Jun 98 | Europe
    Greece renews marbles demand
    22 Jun 01 | Arts
    Greece steps up marbles fight
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