Wednesday, 18 June 2008

Fresh call to return Parthenon Marbles to Athens

Part of the Parthenon frieze in the British Museum (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2008)

Patrick Comerford

The Greek-born British entrepreneur Sir Stelios Haji-Ioannou (41) – best known for his easyGroup, including easyJet and easyCruise – has taken out full-page ads in many newspapers this week as his way of publishing an open letter calling on the curators of the British Museum in London and the New Acropolis Museum in Athens to meet and discuss the repatriation of the Parthenon Marbles.

In his open letter, Stelios asks the two parties to engage in a constructive dialogue: “I think the time has come for the curators of the two museums to come to have a constructive dialogue about the Parthenon Marbles.

“Away from the politics and name-calling, I feel there is now a win-win situation for both museums in the form of a cultural exchange. Therefore, art lovers worldwide might get the once-in-a-lifetime chance to see these masterpieces reunited.”

As part of his campaign, Stelios is also planning to have an easyCruise ship sail throughout the Greek islands later this summer with the words “Reunite the Parthenon Marbles” emblazoned on it. In October, easyCruise Life plans a seven-day “Classical Greece” itinerary, taking passengers on a cultural tour of Greece.

The marbles adorned the interior of the Parthenon in Athens – the most iconic symbol of Greek civilisation. But about half of this great classical masterpiece was brutally hacked away and stolen by Thomas Bruce, the 7th Earl of Elgin, in 1801 and shipped to London. They were bought in 1816 by the British Museum, and remain there to this day. Stelios has been actively involved in the Parthenon campaign.

easyGroup sponsored a recent debate at the Cambridge Union on the motion of the return of the Parthenon marbles to the New Acropolis Museum, at the foot of the Acropolis. The debate was won by the supporters of the repatriation of the Parthenon Marbles.

Stelios Haji-Ioannou website: http://www.stelios.com/; International Campaign for the Return of the Parthenon Marbles to Athens: http://www.parthenoninternational.org/; Marbles Reunited: http://www.marblesreunited.org.uk/; for more information on easyCruise visit http://www.easycruise.com/.