The Parthenon Marbles Return to Greece – A “Revisionist” Historical Fiction by Billy Cotsis

When an Earl of Elgin visits the Acropolis with a Neapolitan artist, it triggers a chain of events that leads to the theft of monuments from the sacred Acropolis. Carried away, never to be seen again in Athens.

The Curse of the Stolen Marbles and Artifacts leads to a series of twists that seemingly bring the “Aegean Seven” together to help reunite the Artifacts with their homeland. The Aegean Seven are a composite group of Hellenes and Philhellenes such as Lord Byron.

New historical fiction from Billy Cotsis asks the questions, what would happen if the Aegean Seven attempted to take the Earl’s property, including his own personal marbles from his body? What if they enlisted Lord Byron to help bring the Marbles home?

Cotsis wrote the novel to draw attention to the fact that the Marbles were taken from Greece with a false Firman (a permit from the Sultan) and why the Marbles must return home.

Lord Byron. Image: Georgios Kolidas/Supplied

“One of the purposes of the book is to emphasize how unreal the Firman was. The sultan did not give orders to let the British ambassador take priceless artefacts from the Acropolis and other parts of Greece. The sultan had jurisdiction over ancient temples and ruins, these were treated as his personal property. You can call the Ottoman sultans whatever you want, many were ruthless, but they did not give their ” property” to appease the British. He simply did not issue a directive to give anything to the Scottish Earl of Elgin. On the contrary, he probably gave free rein to the ambassador to make busts and copies and take little bits of fragments. That’s it.”

Cotsis explains that the Earl, otherwise known as Thomas Bruce, the British Ambassador to the Ottoman Empire, acted in concert with others. “Bruce was not alone. He was funded by his wealthy first wife, who ended up cheating on him with her best friend. He was helped by his on-site supervisor, a famous artist from Naples, who died in mysterious circumstances in Athens a few years later. Then there is his reverend. This apparent holy man probably pushed Bruce to steal as much as he could!

Along the way, the Aegean Seven encounter an array of important historical figures in Europe as they pass through Greece, Alexandria, Cyrene, Romania, Italy, Geneva, France and London.

“This is a fast-paced comedy-drama, providing the reader with an entry point into a series of historical milestones in Europe between 1801 and 1817 and set against the backdrop of the impending Greek Revolution.” as the journey to retrieve the marbles unfolds, the reader will see a few points about the Filiki Eteria and how she came to be. I visited their headquarters in Odessa, Ukraine, which inspired me to draw to draw the impending Greek revolution in the novel.

The Aegean Seven is led by Alcibiades and Melina. Other characters include Eleftheria from the real Greek town of Galliciano in Calabria. This is important because the author is trying to draw the English-speaking reader’s attention to what and who the Greko and Griko are. There are many references to towns in Calabria and Puglia, including a chapter dedicated to the region.

Photo: Billy Cotsis

Other characters come from places such as the Greeks founded Alexandria and Cyrene in Africa, where Alcibiades and Melina visit, an apparition of the legendary Bouboulina on his ship and the brilliant poet Lord Byron. The poet, of course, was a sworn enemy of Thomas Bruce in real life and made sure all of Europe knew about what Thomas had done in Athens. “Byron knew Bruce stole the marbles. He was devastated and he made sure people were made aware of this betrayal. Don’t get me wrong, Bruce betrayed his position as ambassador and he betrayed the good people of “Scotland and England because of his appalling actions. Scots are known to be kind and fair, Bruce was the antithesis of Scotsman. He was a monster.”

The novel ultimately takes the Aegean Seven to London and a showdown for the Marbles. The writer describes it as An Ocean’s Eleven minus Brad Pitt meets Dan Brown, Byron and Thucydides. Its style is similar to Cotsis’ previous historical fiction, 1453: Constantinople & the Immortal Rulers.

The Acropolis Museum, built with a dedicated space intended for the return of the “Parthenon Marbles”. Photo: Billy Cotsis

For those who want to know more about this period and how the marbles were taken, although many characters are purely fictional, the novel tells what happened and how it happened on the eve of the Greek revolution and freedom. There is of course no freedom for the Marbles until they return.

Pressed to find out why the book is being independently published, Cotsis said Neos Cosmos, “I had two international offers to publish the book, including one from a global name. However, the wait would be too long and there was no guarantee that I would retain editorial control. I really need the message to get out . I really need people to read the book. This project, like all projects I’m involved in, is a money-losing exercise. If you can’t get a copy, mail it; we need the people are talking about the Marbles and we need the British Museum to reprimand the novel. More importantly, we need the marbles back. The museum, maybe they can keep some pieces as a show of goodwill, though, 95 % of items from Greece MUST come back. We have our differences with the Turkish government, but no government has ever agreed with the false Firman’s lies. Nothing.”

The writer goes on to explain that he hopes not to step on the toes of the committees around the world and in Australia who are working hard to push for the Marbles’ return. “I’m just a writer taking in a range of stories from the time. The Aegean Seven is a controversial novel because it involves reverse heist and some violence. I didn’t want the novel to be a burden on those working hard on the restoration committees.

the Aegean Seven takes over the “Elgin” marbles is available on Amazon, the bilingual Greek bookstore and everywhere else a good Greek book is sold on demand.

Image: Supplied/Billy Cotsis

*Billy Cotsis is the author of 1453: Constantinople & the Immortal Rulers

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