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The Weekend Neos Kosmos : 22 November 2014
26 SATURDAY 22 NOVEMBER 2014 DIATRIBE DEAN KALIMNIOU The Twelve Greek Apostles My octogenarian great-aunt, my grandmother's sister, is a most formidable woman. Possessed of a steely brow, piercing eyes and thick hair, carefully restrained within a plait the thickness of a handspan, that reaches all the way to her knees, she is renowned within the family and beyond for her practical, no-nonsense approach to life, an approach that can be likened to construction machinery, as she bulldozes through life's innumerable obstacles. Such an approach came to her in her youth where, back in the village, charged with administering injections for the local doctor at all hours of the night, she happened to be walking through the village in the darkness when she was accosted by a sleazy male, who made various lewd suggestions to her. Without a moment to lose she waylaid him, subjecting him to a beating so severe that no-one in the village ever so much as raised their eyebrows in her general direction ever again. Given that my aunt's forearms are twice the size of my own, such a beating was not inconsiderable. Aptitude for self-defence notwithstanding, my great aunt is also possessed of a religious temperament, and as a child I loved to sneak up the stairs of her creaky Victorian terrace home and gaze at her iconostasis, comprised of icons lovingly arranged upon a mantelpiece. At their centre was an extremely old icon of the Resurrection, executed in a baroque, manneristic style. Its triumphalism and deep passion would al- OPINION JOHN VOUKELATOS On loan to the Bendigo Museum A recent letter published in the Neos Kosmos English edition suggested that the ancient artefacts currently on loan to the Bendigo Museum from the British Museum should somehow be repatriated to Greece. I feel the author of this letter did not research the topic sufficiently before submitting his letter for publication. The artefacts on display include monumental sculpture, Greek vases, terracottas, bronze statues, gold jewellery and a single mosaic. Let us look at one of these groups of artefacts, the Greek vases. An understanding of the provenance and find places of these wonderful Greek vases on display will highlight the difficulties one would have in deciding where these vases should be repatriated if this situation ever were to arise. There are 54 vases on display; of these 53 are Attic or Athenian, the remaining vase was made in Southern Italy (Magna Graecia) and found in Ruvo, Italy. Of the 53 Attic vases, three were found in Kamiros, Rhodes; one was found in Tanagra, Boeotia, and a further one was found in Greece, exact site unspecified. There are 12 vases with an uncertain find spot. The remaining 36 vases had find spots in Italy. In fact, most were found in Etruria, with 25 having come from the ancient Etruscan city, Vulci. Any student of ancient Greek art will knows that the finest Attic vases were exported to Etruria, Italy and that most of the Attic vases that are to be found in the major European and American museum collections were in fact found in Italy and not Greece. Many of the finest Attic vases have been found on the Etruscan estate of the younger brother of Napoleon Bonaparte, Lucien (also known as the Prince of Canino). Therefore, if one were to consider on a moral ground whether to repatriate these vases, where should they go? To Italy or Greece? In fact, we know whenever an important Attic vase of uncertain provenance is suspected of having been acquired illegally, the Italian Cultural ministry and not Greece will generally claim this vase. The most obvious example is the Euphronios Krater (a red figure vase manufactured in the Ker- ameikos, Attica but exported in ancient times to Etruria) once in the Metropolitan Museum of Art and now in the Villa Giulia Museum, Rome. Even more problematic with the concept of repatriating the artefacts currently on loan to the Bendigo Museum is that a significant number of the remaining artefacts are in fact Roman (the wonderful marble Roman statues found in Hadrian's Villa, Tivoli, Italy) or have find spots that are neither Italian nor Greek. For example, the wonderful Laconian bronze statue of a running girl said to have been found in Kosovo. Should this statue be returned to Kosovo or a local Laconian museum? We then have to decide what to do with the objects with no find spot, given that ancient Greek artefacts are found throughout Europe and North Africa. Furthermore, there is the UNESCO convention of 1970 that deals with stolen cultural objects. All the artefacts on display were acquired long before this date by the British Museum, with most having been acquired in the first half of the 19th century. A bell krater made in Athens attrib- uted to the Dinos Painter was in fact acquired by the British Museum in 1772. On a legal basis there would be no legitimate way these objects could be considered for repatriation. The ownership of the past is a vexed and contentious issue, much has been and will continue to be written about this issue. It is important that we approach this issue in a rational way and do not make the mistake of considering all antiquities in the same way. To consider the artefacts in Bendigo in the same way at the Parthenon Marbles is wrong and unlikely to be helpful. I hope this letter contributes to a better understanding of the issues surrounding how ancient artefacts are dealt with by museums. I understand this is a very emotive issue, but it is important we approach this issue with some understanding of how these objects were acquired by museums such as the British Museum, including the laws of the land at the time they were acquired. We should also recognise that key international conventions such as the UNESCO and the UNIDROIT conventions pro- ways transfix me, until, that is, my aunt would materialise silently behind me and whisk me away so as to do no damage. My aunt's religiosity also is the cause of the mortal peril in which I happened to find myself one day, when in conversation, I casually remarked that Jesus Christ was a Jew. My remark was met with an ominous silence as I saw my aunt turn various stages of pink, red and then violet. "What?" she eventually snapped. "Who told you that?" "Well, everyone knows that he is a Jew," I replied, sensing I had committed a grievous error but not quite knowing just what that error was. "You do know that he is a Jew, don't you?" I continued, apprehensively. "Rubbish!" my aunt spat, as she threw her arms up into the air. "Absolute rubbish. Jesus was Greek. His mother was called Maria. She was Greek! Who teaches you this twaddle?" Carefully, I picked up her coffee cup, which, in her indignation, she had sent sprawling across the coffee table, and replaced it upon its saucer. I then opened her Bible, which always stood upon her sideboard, and turning to the first verses of the Gospel of St Matthew began to read aloud: "Book of the Genealogy of Jesus the Messiah - this is the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah the son of David, the son of Abraham: Abraham was the father of Isaac, Isaac the father of Jacob, Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers…" "What was Abraham, aunt?" I asked. "A Jew. What was Isaac? A Jew. Jacob? Judah in particular? All of them were Jews. How can you say that Jesus was Greek when even the Bible states that his ancestors were Jews?" "Give me that," my aunt said, snatching the Bible from my hands. She sat there, lips pursed, mouthing every syllable, as she attempted to absorb the information I had just given her, thick forefinger following the text in front of her. As she continued down the page, the furrows in her brow became ever more pronounced until finally she put the Bible down and looked up at me: "This Bible has been written by Communists and Jehovah's Witnesses," she shouted. "This is disgraceful. Now get out of here." This memory is germane to the recent attempts by the Greek tourism board to appropriate the Twelve Apostles, along Victoria's Great Ocean Road, in their advertising campaigns. Greece, of course, has no shortage of wondrous natural and manmade landmarks to offer to travellers for exploitation, for the purposes of extracting funds from them and thus, the appearance of the testament to the erosive properties of the Southern Ocean in a Greek tourism campaign can only be rendered explicable by a thought process akin to that of my aged aunt, to wit: if Jesus is Greek, it stands to reason that the Twelve Apostles are also Greek and therefore, the Greek ministry of tourism, headed by the western-educated Olga Kefaloyianni (whose name, tor- vide frameworks for museums and collectors in dealing with antiquities. *Dr John Voukelatos is a physician and cardiologist at the Melbourne Heart Centre.
15 November 2014
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