Protection and Repatriation of Cultural Treasures - The Acropolis Sculptures - by Maria Vergou

Protection and Repatriation
of Cultural Treasures
The Acropolis Sculptures


By Maria Vergou

Legal Assistant at the State Legal Council - Ministry of Culture and Sports

PhD Cand. National and Kapodistrian University of Athens

LLM Public International Law

LLM Civil Law

Ο Παρθενών σε επιστολικό δελτάριο των Πάλλη-Κοτζιά, που εστάλη το 1903.



States worldwide have used all possible legal instruments and diplomacy to show their belief that cultural treasures must be protected and returned to their country and people of origin who created them and consider them as a part of their proper identity.

Cultural Treasures have been victims of destruction and illicit trafficking during Wars and armed conflicts since the Antiquity. According to the official elements of UNESCO “…Together with the trafficking in drugs and arms, the black market of antiquities and culture constitutes one of the most persistent illegal trades in the world”.

From illegal excavation to final sale, the value of the most beautiful masterpieces increases 100 fold, a greater growth than that of drugs.

As for the online purchases, it is estimated that 80 percent of the 100,000 antiquities available online at any given moment have no recorded provenance—which means they are probably looted or fake. These objects have a combined total asking price of more than $10 million.

The ISIS looting across the Middle East in recent years, bringing a wave of illicit objects into the marketplace and the easy access to the antiquities through Facebook, WhatsApp, eBay, and Amazon, have contributed to the increase of fake and looted antiquities

The State practice on the Repatriation of Cultural Treasures is evident from the number of International and Bilateral Conventions and Protocols adopted, as completed by soft law rules and guidelines, the administrative acts or attitudes, in particular in the diplomatic field, the national legislations and the judicial acts. This practice, already stable and uniform, is confirmed by the explosion of the repatriation of antiquities during the last years.

The most famous and still pending case before the UNESCO’s Intergovernmental Committee for Promoting the Return of Cultural Property to its Countries of Origin or its Restitution in case of Illicit Appropriation (ICPRCP) concerns the Hellenic Government’s demand for the return by the United Kingdom of the Parthenon Sculptures.

According to international law there is:

·        Duty of Repatriation of cultural treasures – symbols of cultural and historic heritage

·        Duty of Unification of Monuments

·        Duty of Repatriation of Cultural Treasures wrongfully acquired during war, occupation or colonization.

These principles apply to the case of the Acropolis Sculptures that must be repatriated in the name of Justice and Truth.


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·        Vergou, M. 2019. Protection and repatriation of Cultural treasures under International and Hellenic Law. In Cypriot antiquities in Greece Historical and Legal Framework House of Cyprus 22.11.2019, under Publication

·        Vergou, M. 2019. The Repatriation of Cultural Treasures as an International Custom. The Reunification of Monuments and the Parthenon Sculptures. In the Repatriation of Cultural Treasures and the Parthenon Sculptures, Legal Council of the State, 7.6.2019, under Publication.

        Vergou, Μ. 2018. «The Repatriation of Cultural Treasures as an International Custom», masterthesis "Library of the Law School, National and Kapodistrian University of Athens".

·        Vergou, Μ. 2016. Protection of Cultural Property- International, European and Greek Law Nomiko Vima 2016 pp. 1058-1083.

        Waxman, S. 2008. Loot: The Battle over the Stolen Treasures of Ancient World. New YorkTimes Books.

        ΠΗΓΗ7th Balkan Symposium on Archaeometry, 22-25.9.2020. ΑΡΧΕΙΟΝ ΠΟΛΙΤΙΣΜΟΥ, 7.2.2021. see the full text here

        Βεργου, επαναπατρισμος, γλυπτα, Παρθενωνας, Παρθενων, Ακροπολις, Ακροπολη, Παλλης, Κοτζιας, 1903, καρτ ποσταλ Παρθενωνα, επιστολικο δελταριο Παρθενωνα

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