DECLARATION FOR THE RETURN OF NIKE OF SAMOTHRACE
December 4, 2001
The Editors’ Association of Macedonia-Thrace Daily Newspapers (ESIEMTH) shatters the domain of silence and the shrine of confinement suffocating the Nike of Samothrace. Unveiling the establishment’s cloak of quiescence, ESIEMTH has appraised the facts in consideration to the following ascertainments and general principles:
The repatriation of all antiquities uprooted from their place of origin and acquired through means of illicit appropriation and looting is an ecumenical issue, albeit one rarely mentioned, which has been set forth both morally and historically.
The official claim hereby specifies not only the imperative obligation of the abductors to return the artifacts alienated from another civilization, but also decrees the duty behooving all nations and peoples who have been subjected to such acts in safeguarding their heritage by claiming the restitution of the said artifacts.
Greece symbolizes the cradle of civilization, given its nonpareil wealth of archaeological treasures, both qualitatively and quantitatively. The nation and its people have been subject to one of the world’s greatest acts of pillage, abduction and usurpation of artifacts, monuments and splendor, all of which lie at the core of their identity and culture. The Parthenon Sculptures is a supreme example of how disheartening it is to see a monument ripped out of its context. Even in Britain, enlightened and passionate voices are calling for the return of the Marbles to Athens. This support has been manifested ever since the British Museum acquired the Sculptures from Lord Elgin in 1816, a time when Greece lay docile as any protest was quickly and brutally suppressed by the Turks, and long before the Greek state formally appealed for their return. Of course there were indications that these noble people grieved for the uprooted treasures, as expressed through the myth that the Caryatids could be heard wailing at night for their missing sister.
Of no lesser significance is the issue of a) claiming all of our “expatriated” antiquities and b) especially, the Nike of Samothrace. This finest extant of Hellenic sculpture was crafted by Rhodian sculpor Pythocritus during the 3rd century BC to adorn a sanctuary in Samothrace. Remaining for centuries in the embrace of the Samothracian soil, this colossal work of virtuoso aesthetic resurfaced through archaeological excavations conducted by the French consul to Constantinople Charles Champoiseau in 1863, when the island was still under Turkish domination. The Nike of Samothrace was then transferred to the Palais du Louvre in Paris where it remains an imposing treasure on display to date.
She cannot wail, for she is truncated. Yet, with her wings lithely outstretched, her body thrust forward and her garments rippling in the wind, the Nike of Samothrace cogently conveys the longing for her soil and, with it, the brilliant sun that gilds it her only birthplace.
Possessed by her own flight, the Nike of Samothrace longs to return to her place of origin. The grandeur of the Louvre’s splendid halls, the admiration of the captivated art lovers cannot blunt the nostalgia. The Nike of Samothrace is a Hellene, one who belongs to the descendants of Alexander the Great. She belongs in Samothrace. With the Aegean rocks standing in vigil, she is ready to flee to her pedestal and hear the roar of the waves, standing under the transparent sky and gazing the deep blue sea. As the Karyatids, she too is entitled to return to her place of origin, to her natural surroundings. The mourning of an eternal and tempestuous abduction does not become her, as she is no Iphigenia. And even though she truly exemplifies the quintessence of Parisian finesse and grace, she is no Parisienne either, and will never be. She is an eternal Samothracian Hellene.
The role of pillager is not befitting to the French, a people of valiant deeds. And yet, their silence, derived from the inactivity of authorities and being tantamount to acquiescence by implication, is enigmatic; at the very least, it stands contrary to the axiomatic allegiance for the volitional and exultant return of the Nike of Samothrace to its place of origin. Their silence does not countenance argument, but employs every device of prejudice. Their silence is just as vociferous as the inactivity of the competent Greek authorities, in contrast to the mounting support and campaign for the return of the Parthenon Sculptures from the British Museum.
On the basis of the aforementioned principles and ascertainments, The Editors’ Association of Macedonia-Thrace Daily Newspapers, representing the journalists of Northern Greece, where Samothrace belongs, has resolved to break through the silence. The Board of Directors of ESIEMTH, which is an active member of the International Federation of Journalists, addresses this message to all the competent and sensitive authorities of Greece, the European Union, France and to the international public opinion makers, illuminating the vested need and duty for the return of the Nike of Samothrace to its natural environment. The return of the Winged Victory shall be a victory for civilization. ESIEMTH has undertaken this noble endeavor and will not cease until Samothrace, host to numerous international media conferences organized by ESIEMTH, becomes the world’s prominent pedestal for the Winged Victory.
This matter is hereby set forth before the Hellenic Parliament, the Ministries of Culture of Greece and France, the Directorate of the Louvre museum, as well as before all other competent authorities who are urged to take a stand on the issue.