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The Weekend Neos Kosmos : 16 July 2016
20 THE WEEKEND NEOS KOSMOS | SATURDAY 16 JULY 2016 DIGITAL.NEOSKOSMOS.COM UK MPs introduce bill to return the Parthenon Marbles to Greece Led by Welsh Liberal Democrat MP Mark Wiliams, the motion might pave the way for a historic turn of events James Stavridis PHOTO: SUPREME HEADQUARTERS ALLIED POWERS EUROPE (SHAPE). A Greek on the Clinton ticket? Hillary Clinton’s campaign is currently vetting retired Admiral James Stavridis as potential vice-president candidate It's been almost 30 years since a Greek name appeared in association with the higher ranks of American politics. Then it was Michael Dukakis, who lost the 1988 presidential elections to George H. W. Bush. Now it's James Stavridis, who is said to have been vetted by the Hillary Clinton presidential campaign to be her running mate, as a candidate for vice president of the United States. The news was broken by a handful of major news organisations, among them The New York Times and NBC News, claiming sources inside the Clinton campaign confirmed Stavridis' name as a potential vice president. According to The New York Times, "sources close to Secretary Clinton say she was always likely to have someone with military experience on her vice-presidential shortlist, and Mr Stavridis [...] fits the description. James Stavridis is a retired four-star US Navy admiral who served as the 15th Commander, US European Command and NATO's 16th Supreme Allied Commander Europe. In that role he oversaw operations in the Middle East — Afghan- istan, Libya and Syria — as well as in the Balkans and piracy off the coast of Africa. He retired from the Navy in 2013 after 30 years of service; following that, he became Dean of the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University, the oldest school in the United States dedicated solely to graduate studies in international affairs. Stavridis himself earned a PhD and Master of Arts in Law and Diplomacy from the Fletcher School of International Relations in 1984, where he won the Gullion Prize”. If he gets his name on the Clinton ticket, James Stavridis would be the first naval officer to ride to the highest offices in the US, but also the first Greek American since Dukakis to seek such an office. If elected, he'd be the first Greek American VP since Spiro Agnew, who served under the Nixon presidency (1969-1973). Born in 1955 in West Palm Beach, Florida, he is the son of Shirley Schaffer and P. George Zafiris Stavridis. His grandparents were Pontian Greeks, raised in northeastern Anatolia, who emigrated to the United States. Stavridis himself offers a more detailed account of his Greek refugee origins in his 2008 book Destroyer Captain: Lessons of a First Command. "In the early 1920s, my grandfather, a short, stocky Greek schoolteacher named Dimitrios Stavridis, was expelled from Turkey as part of 'ethnic cleansing' (read pogrom) directed against Greeks living in the remains of the Ottoman Empire. He barely escaped with his life in a small boat crossing the Aegean Sea to Athens and thence to Ellis Island. His brother was not so lucky and was killed by the Turks as part of the violence directed at the Greek minority," he wrote. Further in the book, he describes a NATO exercise off the coast of modern Turkey as the "most amazing historical irony [he] could imagine," which prompted him to write of his grandfather: "His grandson, who speaks barely a few words of Greek, returns in command of a billion-dollar destroyer to the very city – Smyrna, now called İzmir – from which he sailed in a refugee craft all those years ago." A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE PARTHENON MARBLES LOOTING The ancient temple - arguably the most important standing monument of classical Greece - had stood intact as a functioning building for centuries, but was ruined during the siege of Athens in 1687, when Francesco Morosini, captain-general of the Venetian forces, used a cannon on the site, which was used as a munitions store by the Ottomans. The explosion caused the marble roof, most of the walls, 14 columns from the north and south peristyles and carved metopes and frieze blocks to collapse, scattering ruined artwork which could be easily grabbed by looters. Morosini himself tried to remove large sculptures, but the device used broke, dropping them downhill and breaking them into pieces. The most notorious looter was Thomas Bruce, 7th Earl of Elgin and 11th Earl of Kincardine, who served as ‘Ambassador Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary of His Britannic Majesty to the Sublime Porte of Selim III, Sultan of Turkey’ between 1799 and 1803. In this capacity, in 1800, he commissioned skilled artists and modellers to make drawings and casts of the ancient monuments of Athens. In 1801, Lord Elgin received a controversial firman from the Porte which allowed his agents not only to 'fix scaffolding round the ancient Temple of the Idols [the Parthenon] and to mould the ornamental sculpture and visible figures thereon in plaster and gypsum', but also 'to take away any pieces of stone with old inscriptions or figures thereon. Due to the loss of the original firman, it isn't sure that the translation is correct, though an existing original Italian translation dispels the claim that this is an official document by any means. It is now believed that Lord Elgin bribed local Ottoman authorities into permitting the removal of about half of the Parthenon frieze, 15 metopes, and 17 pedimental fragments, in addition to a caryatid and a column from the Erechtheion, upon his departure from the Ottoman Empire in 1803. Lord Elgin's agents performed excavations on the site, retrieving sculptures, but the actual removal was a decision taken on the spot by Philip Hunt, Elgin's chaplain (and temporary private secretary, i.e. representative, in Athens), who persuaded the voivode (governor of Athens) to interpret the terms of the firman very broadly. The excavation and removal went on after Lord Elgin's departure and was completed in 1812; it cost him about £70,000. At first, he used the antiquities to decorate his mansion in Scotland, but later on, as his fortune waned, he tried selling them to the British Museum, to no avail. Then, on 11 July, 1816, the House of Commons granted the purchase of the ‘Marbles’ by Great Britain for £35,000, considerably below their cost to Elgin, and deposited them in the British Museum. Many opposed the British parliament thus sanctioning the improper removal, not least among them Lord Byron, who deemed Lord Elgin a "vandal". Talks for the return of the ‘Parthenon Marbles’ to Greece began in the aftermath of the creation of the modern Greek state, to limited support. A consistent campaign for the return of the 'Parthenon Marbles' to its rightful place has been ongoing for decades, becoming the official Greek government stance since 1983, when then Minister of Culture Melina Mercouri committed to the cause. After the opening of the new and widely acclaimed Acropolis Museum in Athens, which hosts most of the original sculptures (they are replaced on site with high quality replicas, for fear of further corrosion), the campaign has gained momentum. Supporters of the cause seem to think that the time has come for the Parthenon Marbles to return to Greece - and the ongoing crisis has only augmented the voices of support, as this is regarded as something that would boost the economy. Welsh Liberal Democrat MP Mark Williams. PHOTO: THE WELSH SOCIALIST DEMOCRATIC PARTY.
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