Who Owns Antiquity?
The Verdict

The National Hellenic Museum Brought Famed Attorneys who Faced Off on March 16, 2017, at The Art Institute CHICAGO, IL .

Verdict: Jury ruled 8-4 in favor of the Return. Judges decision was 4-1 in favor of the Return of the Parthenon Marbles.

The Parthenon Marbles must return to their home in Greece! So ruled a majority of the audience, jury and judges hearing the National Hellenic Museum’s Trial of the Parthenon Marbles, Thursday night. The National Hellenic Museum (NHM) presented the fourth Trial in its acclaimed series before an audience of over 800 citizens, whose votes tilted the scales of justice in favor of Greece’s claim for the Marbles. The jury also ruled 8-4 for the Marbles’ return. Judge Richard Posner cast the sole dissenting vote in the 4-1 decision of the judges. He asserted that the sculptures created by the ancient Greeks belong to the world and should remain at the British Museum where they have resided for 200 years.

Courtesy: NHM-Trial-EliosPhoto©2017

On March 16, 2017, the National Hellenic Museum invited the public to weigh in on one the most highly contested international cases concerning cultural history. Following the extraordinary successes of The Trials of Socrates, Orestes, and Antigone, the NHM conducted its latest mock trial in front of a packed auditorium. Some of the nation’s best legal minds presented a fascinating debate to determine if the Parthenon Marbles should be returned to Greece or remain at the British Museum.

The Parthenon Marbles, also known as the Elgin Marbles, are half of the surviving statues that once decorated the exterior of the Parthenon. Between 1801 and 1803, Thomas Bruce, Lord Elgin and the British Ambassador to the Ottoman Empire, oversaw the removal of these priceless antiquities to London, where they were eventually acquired by the British Museum. Since obtaining its independence, Greece has pressed for the Marbles’ return on the grounds that the sculptures were never legally obtained. The British Museum has routinely denied this accusation and has advocated that the sculptures remain in place in its world class, encyclopedic museum setting.

Both teams offered compelling cases that asked the judges, jury and audience to consider the complexities of law, history, and heritage. The evening provided a robust debate on topics as diverse as the specific validity of Elgin’s Ottoman “firman” to broad questions surrounding cultural heritage and its preservation. Cultural universalism, nationalism, and symbolic representation were discussed. It was debated whether law, morality, or justice should be the applicable aspect for debating the case.

The Jury of twelve heard the arguments and voted 8-4 to return the Marbles’ to Greece. Some jurors suggested that the role of diplomacy in reestablishing the Marbles physical and narrative context was paramount in their decision to vote to return the Marbles to Athens.

As Konstantinos Armiros, NHM Trustee and Trial Planning Committee Chair, said, “This Trial was our most successful ever. The lawyer’s arguments were brilliant, giving many lay people a glimpse into what real life courtroom theatrics look like. A majority of the audience, jury and judges all ruled in favor of Greece’s claim for the Marbles’ return.”

The topics of the NHM Trial Series have always sparked passionate argument. No matter the outcome of the judge, jury and audience votes in these mock trials, raising awareness about issues of cultural heritage and historical memory continue to be the focus of the National Hellenic Museum. The NHM Trial of the Parthenon Marbles honored the Hellenic legacy through lively legal debate and democratic participation.

The NHM Trial of the Parthenon Marbles is a prime example of the kind of educational programming the National Hellenic Museum is proud to offer year-round. The Museum provides lifelong learning to thousands of school children and adults, bringing the Hellenic legacy to life every day.

Source NHM: The National Hellenic Museum (NHM)

Announcement of the Trial: The Trial of the Parthenon Marbles

Presiding over the proceedings were: Judges Richard A. Posner and William J. Bauer from the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals, Illinois Supreme Court Justice Anne M. Burke, US District Judge Charles P. Kocoras and Cook County Circuit Judge Anna H. Demacopoulos.

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