Tourists gathered outside the Acropolis Museum today to gave a warm welcome to Amal Alamuddin Clooney, the human rights lawyer who arrived Greece on Monday to help the Greek Government establish the proper legal framework to re-claim the Parthenon Marbles from the British Museum.
Alamuddin arrived at the museum just prior to noon. Earlier in the morning, she met with Prime Minister Antonis Samaras. Their meeting lasted approximately an hour.
Alamuddin, accompanied by Greek Culture Minister Costas Tasoulas, was received by Acropolis Museum Director Demitris Pantermalis, who gave her a tour around the exhibits. Asking many questions about the statues and the artwork, she appeared highly impressed by the museum’s exhibits. She paused for a brief moment in front of the “missing Caryatid,” now one of the exhibits housed in the British Museum, and even shook her head. She also expressed her admiration for the “Girl from Chios” statue (510 BC), though touching the hand of the sculpture aroused the disapproval of bystanders.
Immediately following her tour, Alamuddin gave a short press conference in which she reiterated her determination to find a means of returning the Parthenon Marbles to Greece. She did not, however, give any specifics on the strategy she plans to follow. When asked about the support her husband George Clooney has expressed for the repatriation of the Marbles, she said, “Although we are newlyweds, my husband George Clooney in on your side on this matter.”
Alamuddin was expected to visit the Acropolis itself, but her high-heels prevented her from making the journey.
Speaking exclusively to the Guardian, Alamuddin said that “repatriating the classical masterpieces to their original home would only be fair.”
“In my view returning the Parthenon Marbles to Greece is the just thing to do,” said the 36-year-old on her first day in Athens. “I hope that an amicable solution to this issue can be found, given the longstanding friendship between Greece and the UK,” she added.
“But I believe it is prudent for the Greek government to seek legal advice – including in relation to ongoing efforts to engage UNESCO – and of course it is for them to determine their next steps in light of this legal context.”
For nearly 40 years Athens has argued that the sculptures – part of a giant frieze which adorned the Parthenon until its removal by Lord Elgin, England’s ambassador to the Ottoman Empire – should be “reunited” with surviving pieces in Athens in the name of respect for a monument of universal importance.
In a preview of the arguments Greece could deploy, Geoffrey Robertson insisted that the Marbles posed a unique case and, as such, would not endanger the British Museum’s collections.
“The Parthenon friezes are an amazing and unique snapshot of human civilisation 2,500 years ago. They show not war but happy, well-liquored discourse between the first truly civilised peoples. Half of this snapshot is in Athens beneath the blue sky above the Acropolis. The other half is in a sterilised gallery as if on a hospital bed in a museum,” he told the Guardian.
Robertson further described the British Museum’s refusal to return the carvings to Greece as an act of “arrogant cultural vandalism.”
“It is a great project, not for Greece but for the world, to reunite the marbles so we can see them clearly where Phidias first carved them, to juxtapose the beginning of human civilisation with the threat to it posed today by Isis,” added the barrister, referring to the barbaric tactics employed by Islamist terrorists just east of Greece.
Robertson, who, along with Palmer, helped secure the return of Aboriginal artifacts to Australia from London’s Natural History Museum, denied that the repatriation of the Parthenon Marbles would open the floodgates to similar claims. “This case will not set a precedent, the British Museum can keep its mummies but not marbles that, united, belong to the world,” Robertson clarified.