Chaos, Mythology and Migration

The return of the Parthenon Marbles to their home in Greece

4 APRIL 2017,
The Acropolis in Athens
The Acropolis in Athens

Two of the most contested cultural issues in history are the Argos Inscription unearthed in 1906 and the Marbles purloined from the Acropolis in the nineteenth century. At the time of the latter, Greece was under the Ottoman yoke and had no say in the matter. The Argos Inscription etched in marble, tells of the first attempt to protect cultural heritage. It is a decree relating to making amends. By mediation, the City of Argos settled claims between two Cretan cities and asymmetrical powers, Knossos, Europe's oldest city and Tylissos where Linear A inscriptions have also been found.

In a most recent public debate in the Art Museum of Chicago, the mainly Greek-American audience recommended the return of the Parthenon Marbles to their home in Greece! A prestigious Court of Appeals Judge asserted that the marbles belong to the world and should remain in the British Museum where they have resided for 200 years. The “public trial” was organized by the newly established National Hellenic Museum of Chicago. Some decades ago, Melina Mercouri dreamt about an awe inspiring Museum where upon return the Acropolis Marbles could be displayed. Today, the Acropolis Museum is a reality but the status of the Marbles remains unmoved.

In the most marvellous of settings in the Acropolis Museum I had the privilege to chat with Europe’s leading experts in public health. My intention was to entertain them by taking them on an imaginative and thought provoking journey, over historical time and geological space, step by step into humanity, along trails of human chaos.

Melina Mercouri was a great supporter of public health in Greece, considering it part of cultural history. She was aware that the first attempt to organize public health was in 1828, after the Greek War of Independence; following on from an epidemic of cholera. She knew of the massive social and economic disruptions that have rocked Greece. Her grandfather was present at the inauguration of the Hellenic School of Public Health, Athens, which until today provides free studies as the first postgraduate institution in Greece.

The Hellenic School of Public Health, 1929, was placed under the aegis of the Ministry of Health, which this year celebrates it’s centennial. In 1933, the Hellenic School was considered an unsuccessful enterprise on which excessive funds had been wasted. Almost stillborn, it fortunately, survived!

My first stop then is...