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The Weekend Neos Kosmos : 6 October 2018
DIGITAL.NEOSKOSMOS.COM THE WEEKEND NEOS KOSMOS | SATURDAY 6 OCTOBER 2018 19 TRAVELOGUE Thomas Bruce, 7th Earl of Elgin. Elgin sold the Parthenon sculptures to the British government for 35,000 pounds - a sum that would be worth around 350,000 pounds today. Vice Admiral Horatio Nelson organised the transport of the Mentor’s salvaged cargo to Malta. 1809 letter from Lord Elgin’s secretary William Hamilton, appealing to Malta’s first de facto governor, Sir Alexander Ball, for assistance in transporting the Marbles to England. SOURCE: NATIONAL ARCHIVES OF MALTA taken to Britain. PHOTO: NATIONAL ARCHIVES OF MALTA on Kythera, Elgin, as Britain's former ambassador to the Ottoman empire, turned - through his trusty superintendent William Hamilton - to the British authorities on Malta for help, requesting a ship to collect the cargo. Hamilton appealed to the de facto British governor of Malta, Sir Alexander Ball, who went in turn to the Royal Navy and no other Vice Admiral Lord Nelson for help. In a letter dated September 2, 1804, one year before he was killed at the Battle of Trafalgar, the British admiral authorised two ships to sail to Kythera to pick up the sculptures. By 4 October 1804, all the pieces had been retrieved. They arrived in Malta in February 1805. And there they sat in a Valletta warehouse, their journey once more interrupted by the maritime dangers that Britain faced from the French. Meanwhile Elgin fumed. On his behalf, William Hamilton turned once more to Alexander Ball to find a way to finally prise the sculptures from the southern Mediterranean. His letter, written in the style of the British aristocracy, speaks volumes about the nature of the relationship. "Lord Elgin will be relieved from all his anxieties..." wrote Hamilton, before encouraging Ball to help realise "the very important object, which we hope is so near to completion." Hamilton writes of Elgin's "confidence in the continuation of your friendly office", and that in bringing the Marbles to Britain, "[Lord Elgin] will have secured the grateful memory of Britons to come." Before receiving the last of the Parthenon sculptures via the 'Malta pipeline', Elgin began negotiations with the British government for their sale. The hard-up Elgin had hoped to raise £73,000, but agreed to accept £35,000 - the value determined by the House of Commons. It was no small sum - one pound in the early 1800s was worth £100 pounds today. In 1816 the collection was given to the trustees of the British Museum in perpetuity. Two centuries on, how much longer they remain in their hands is the question. The Marbles and Brexit The Greek government today is in a strong position to demand the Marbles' return. Will 2019 be the year that finally sees them reunited with their homeland? Well, there's never been a better chance. Given the UK government's desperation for a deal with the EU on Brexit terms - terms that Greece as an EU member state must ratify - for once, Athens has a potent bargaining chip. Hardly surprising that as the first breezes of autumn were felt across the Aegean, Greek culture minister Lydia Koniordou invited The UK government’s position has consistently been that ownership of the sculptures is a matter solely for the trustees of the British Museum, but the winds are changing. UK officials to meet in Athens to discuss the sculptures' return. As the clock ticks down to Brexit in March next year, the British PM Theresa May has never been in more need of European friends. If the political storm over Brexit worsens in the UK's internal politics, and a general election is called, waiting in the wings is the Labour Party and its controversial leftist leader Jeremy Corbyn. Corbyn has vowed to strip the British Museum of the sculptures. Speaking in June this year he said: "As with anything stolen or taken from occupied or colonial possession – including artefacts looted from other countries in the past – we should be engaged in constructive talks with the Greek government about returning the sculptures". The UK government's position has consistently been that ownership of the sculptures is a matter solely for the trustees of the British Museum, but the winds are changing. As Britain struggles to cement an agreement with the European Union, there has never been a better time for Greece to exert its influence over 'Rule Britannia.'
29 September 2018
13 October 2018