Dear Minister, dear President, dear General Director, dear Secretary General, ladies and gentlemen, dear friends. We are here today, on a very special occasion for Greece, for the Acropolis, for the Acropolis Museum, for global civilization.
Not only because ten fragments of the Parthenon Sculptures return to their natural environment, but also because this journey, itself, sends a strong message for the reunification of all parts of this unique monument of humanity.
As we heard from the best-suited experts, the fragments are parts of the marbles that adorned the frieze, the metopes and the pediments of the Parthenon. Among them stand out two heads of equal numbers of stones of the eastern and northern frieze and two more parts of sculptures of Poseidon and Athena, on the west and east pediment. All of them belong to the Parthenon’s sculptural decoration.
These precious fragments have been kept for decades in the National Archeological Museum. But now they are being repositioned where their creators and history have placed them. And this is yet another proof that the reunification of the Sculptures of the Acropolis, the Sculptures of the Parthenon is not a matter of distance. Because whether they are here in Athens or in any other place in the world, their only destination is the Holy Rock and this great Museum.
This is also indicated by the perspective of the ten sections, that as of today, along with the other treasures of the monument, they will become objects not only of global admiration, but also of international research.
In other words, the fragments return to their womb, precisely in order to address everyone and everywhere. But in a way that suits them; with the power of their unity and not the partiality of their fragmentation. Today’s development honors, in my view, the memory of the top archeologist, Georgos Despinis, who was the first to highlight the origins of these particular fragments.
At the same time, this development is the first but also a very important step in the effort to assemble here, at the Acropolis Museum, all smaller and larger parts of the Parthenon decoration that are scattered today in several museums around the world. The mission of the museums is to highlight in the most ideal way the history of the global, cultural heritage.
Therefore, museums must cooperate and not compete for a global good which, in the end, does not belong to them. In this respect, the National Archeological Museum shows a path of responsibility and scientific consistency. The same path is also followed by the Greek state, which elevates to the higher governmental level the return of the Parthenon Sculptures from the British Museum.
This is a request by UNESCO, a request now expressed by the majority of public opinion in the United Kingdom as well. But it is also an issue that I believe Prime Minister Boris Johnson personally comprehends, as I found out during our recent meeting.
Having completed classical studies, Mr Johnson is an enthusiast of ancient Greece and I am sure that he will not prevent any possible future agreement, lifting any possible political impediment. If it is necessary, he will even amend the British Law on Museums so that he can facilitate the reunification of the Parthenon Marbles.
This is a political and moral case, with global, cultural dimensions, not technical or strictly legal ones. Because, as a unique case, the restoration of a wound opened violently and illegally by Lord Elgin, I don’t believe that it will cause any substantial disturbance in the relations between the two museums.
On the other hand, as I have stated before, vindicated Greece will be willing to exhibit with more comfort and more ease, its rare treasures all over the world, starting with the British Museum.
There are no more substantial arguments to delay this major issue of the present and of the Greek – British relations. Besides, my friend Boris will be reminded of this necessity every single day by his own daughter, to whom he gave the name “Iris”.
Ladies and gentlemen, today is an important first step. This is just the beginning and, in a while, we will have the opportunity to witness the placement of two fragments in this unique work, about which Professor Pandermalis spoke so beautifully; the frieze of the Parthenon. A work that essentially illustrates the history of the first democratic society, in its heyday.
A society that can and does celebrate peacefully, with social solidarity, its coexistence through a unique work of cultural depiction, as we see it today in the frieze of the Parthenon.
This amazing frieze, especially these days when the importance of democracy is coming back to the fore, cannot remain fragmented. This is why the request for the return, the reunification of the Sculptures of Parthenon, especially at this special juncture for democracy in the world, gets a special meaning on its own.
So, let me end my speech with the wish that we will soon have more similar events. Because every single part of the Parthenon that returns here, to its sole natural environment, that is the Acropolis Museum, does not simply magnify the greatness of the monument, but also the virtue of modern civilization, when it honors its starting points. This will be definitively proven when all Sculptures finally return to their homeland, their home, which is none other than the Acropolis Museum.
Thank you very much. I wish you a great year.