A Gift for Athena by John Wade


Pallas Athena laid aside her fierce bronze helm,

Protectress of ancient Attica, her sea girt realm;

A maiden with flashing eyes and burnished hair,

Swooped to cloudy Britain, mortal lives to share;

I held the proof in my hand, time of arrival 16:07,

When the goddess of grace, landed from heaven.

The Acropolis

From her throne, sees her sacred rock, far below,

Where olive branch, overcame salty trident blow;

From harbour Faros or Pnyx, myth made manifest,

A gleaming citadel, fit place for an immortal guest,

Bearing a gift for Athena, came men and livestock,

Poets in stone, fused life and legend into the block.

The British Museum

Exiled Athenians, troop her peplos round noisy hall,

As brawling Lapiths and Centaurs, leap off the wall;

Alone in a room, a lovely Karyatid with braided hair,

In Greece, with her sisters, a porch lintel would bear;

Preservation for posterity; true, but at an awful price,

Byron felt a nation’s hurt, and paid a deadly sacrifice.

The Acropolis Museum

Hoplites at Marathon, ran to become an inspiration,

Yet, their temples are ruined, stripped of decoration;

Britannia steps down, dances peplos frieze on tiptoe,

Dances a Panathenaia, to Athens and back, to and fro;

Our little children, can teach government how to care,

Cultural glories of Greece, with Greece we must share!


John Christopher Wade

JW – I need an ally, to help and suggest ways of approaching the British Museum establishment, with a view, to opening up a dialogue, that doesn’t immediately threaten them, but allows them to see the possibilities of founding a quadrennial cultural exchange with the Acropolis Museum, that could involve a pan-europe, cultural festival. 
In short, a Panathenaia!
A by-product is that museums could then start being seen as custodians and conservators of artifacts, that are shared with the world. Not, as they are currently seen, as imperialist pilferers and jailers of often, misappropriated works of art and cultural significance.
Something to get our teeth into right? What do you say – to a meeting together, to consider that we are not just “barking” mad! 

JL – This contribution follows a very interesting and productive opening meeting on the issue. I might become an ally, but I would start off being someone, who is curious about the issues, in which I am interested, have a view, but on which I am rather uninformed – unlike your good self. I would be please to become better informed, however.

My starting point would be to try to specify the problem to which you appear to propose a solution – see above. Then to generate a range of solutions, albeit rather superficially. Next to select the promising solutions and to explore a small number of them in some depth. Then to select a final solution in the light of the specified problem. At that point, I would begin to think about the operationalisation of the solution, that is, how it could be implemented, as in ‘approaching the British Museum establishment’ – see above. In all this, I see myself as a ‘backroom’ boy in such a project, rather than as a ‘front-of-house’ participant. Would it be helpful to start engaging with you in this way as a start?

If so, what’s the problem…..? Over to you……

JW – What is the tipping point for a return of the Parthenon Marbles ? Good question, John. The only answer I have come up with so far, is building a coalition of the willing. The poem does seem to strike a chord with this community at least. And just maybe, the time is ripe.

JL – There have been encouraging coalition-of-the-willing noises from the Guardian and BBC Radio 4. Members of the British Museum trust have also ‘come out’ from time-to-time. Maybe we could get associated groups to adopt a ‘Gift for Athena’ in some form or another. Work in progress!