Hancock: Cyprus Affairs – The Exportation of Cyprus Antiquities (1899)

Zwei in Zeitungsartikeln publizierte Briefwechsel zwischen einem Londoner Anwalt und zwei zyprischen Gelehrten geben Einblick in eine Debatte um die Ausfuhr von Antiken durch die Kolonialmacht Großbritannien um 1900. Der zentrale Streitpunkt ist ein von britischer Seite unterbundenes zyprisches Gesetz, welches ein Ausfuhrverbot für auf der Insel befindliche Antiken vorsieht. Vor diesem Hintergrund entfaltet sich eine intensive Diskussion um die Institution des Universalmuseums.

kommentiert von Luca Frepoli

Originaltext   Kommentar   Kurzbiographie   Literaturverweise

Cyprus Affairs

nach: The Manchester Guardian, 19. Juni 1899, S. 3.

To the Editor of the Manchester Guardian.

Sir, — Your journal of light and leading in this country has always taken so commendable an interest in the affairs of Cyprus that your readers may be interested, I venture to think, in a letter that has recently reached me from M. M. G. Frangoudis (editor of the Limasol »Alytheia« and an Athens avocat), in which my opinion was asked upon three questions closely relating to that island. I subjoin this letter—deleting all unnecessary verbiage in the way of mere compliment,— also my reply thereto. […]

2. The second question is that dealing with the antiquities of the island. Although the people of Cyprus have repeatedly complained and protested against the systematic excavations and exportations of antiquities from the island, the Government of Cyprus continues to grant permits to the British Museum, which continues to usurp our ancestral relics and riches. A law for the protection of antiquities was passed by the legislative Council of Cyprus; but Her Majesty, no doubt acting on the advice of the directors of the British Museum, was pleased not to give her assent thereto. How do you characterise this unlawful usurpation? […]

Aus Hancocks Antwort:

[…] 2. The second question is that dealing with the antiquities of the island. I must say I find it extremely difficult to approach this matter from any other than an Englishman’s point of view. I will ask you to re¬member that the British Museum is something infinitely more than even a national institution. It is a worldwide museum—as the Musée de Cluny in Paris and the Altes Museum in Berlin are,—open to all visitors alike, maintained out of the taxes of the country and not existing for the purposes of any pecuniary gain. It is, in fact, the storehouse of the world’s antiquities, and I would venture to suggest that the exhibition of objects of interest from various lands in such a building must have a reflex advantage upon the countries from which these treasures are derived. The most eminent men of all nations who visit England are attracted by the unique specimens of Greek art to be seen there, and are thus led to take a special interest in the countries possessing so great a wealth of these ancient relics of art and culture. I observe in your letter you state that, the people of Cyprus have ›repeatedly complained and protested against the systematic excavations and exportations of antiquities from the island.‹ I was not aware of this until you mentioned it; and if it can be shown that any great and material injury is being done to the island thereby, it is undoubtedly a legitimate cause of complaint and one which should receive the serious attention of the home Government. But considering—as I have already pointed out—that the sole object of the British Museum authorities is not pecuniary gain or exclusive advantage, but rather a matter of adding to the knowledge of the world as a whole in accumulating these incomparable ›works that remain‹ of past ages, I think, sir, it would be inadvisable to pronounce a definite opinion on this subject except in the face of a substantial grievance clearly made out. […]

Trusting, sir, you may be able to find space for these enclosures in an early issue, I am, &c.,

CHARLES HANCOCK, Barrister-at-Law. Reform Club, London, June 16.

The Exportation of Cyprus Antiquities

nach: The Manchester Guardian, 17. Juli 1899, S. 11.

To the Editor of the Manchester Guardian.

Sir, — As you were kind enough to publish the other day my replies addressed to a series of three questions from M. M. D. Frangoudis, editor of the Limasol ›Alytheia‹, relative to this and other matters, may I plead for a gracious extension of your courtesy in affording me space for some further correspondence on one of the points raised in the interrogatories referred to? It is evident that the feeling with regard to the exportation of antiquities from Cyprus and other territories of the Greek race is much deeper, much stronger than I had at first supposed — a fact which will be abundantly apparent from the subjoined letter I have received from M. Démétrios Bikélas, the well-known author of a series of lectures on the ›Byzantine Empire‹ delivered at Marseilles, and of numerous articles on Greek questions in European reviews. He has for many years lived in Paris, but is now, it seems, sojourning at Athens. I would appeal to your kindness to print his letter, and possibly — if you will do me that honour — my answer thereto. Writing from Athens under date the 1st July, Mr. Bikélas is good enough to say: —

›I have read with the greatest interest your letter on Cyprus affairs in the »Manchester Guardian« I have no quality giving me the right to express an opinion as to paragraphs Nos. 1 and 2. The question dealing with the antiquities of the island is of a more general character. You say you can only approach it from an Englishman’s point of view. If that means that an Englishman has only to think of the enrichment of the British Museum, without any regard for the wishes and rights of the country where the antiquities are taken, there is of course no possibilily of discussing the matter. But I think that the way — the really English way — to thoroughly judge a case is by placing oneself in the position of the other side. The Greeks of our time take such an interest in the remains of ancient art, they take such good care of them, that the excuse which might have been made use of in Lord Elgin’s time can no more hold good. There is no more need of taking away these relics to the British Museum in order to save them from destruction. The law of Greece and the law just promulgated, or rather about to be issued, in Crete — these laws do not permit the exportation of antiquities; they are considered as an exclusive national property, and it is only by breaking the law that such antiquities can find their way to your museums. Don’t you think it an abuse of power to take such treasures from Cyprus against the well-founded wishes of the islanders? I candidly think there is only one answer to be given to that question. As to the plea that the enrichment of the British Museum is »a matter of adding to the knowledge of the world,« I would take the liberty of suggesting that »the knowledge of the world« would be equally advanced if the antiquities of Greece were deposited at Paris or Berlin. Would it be the same to an Englishman if they were to enrich the museums of those towns? The »knowledge of the world« will decidedly gain by those relics being seen and studied on the places where they are, close to the environments they formed part of and to the sites they were meant to adorn. And, on the whole, I see no earthly reason for their being taken away from Cyprus or any other of the Grecian lands, especially those which are no more under the sway of the Turk — no earthly reason based, of course, on justice.‹

My reply of to-day’s date is as follows: —

›I am much obliged, Monsieur Bikélas, for the kind note you have addressed me in reply to my letter, and gladly acknowledge the able and forcible manner in which you deal with the question of the Cyprus antiquities, as well from the standpoint of the Cypriotes as from that of other Greek lands. But in the case of so distinguished a littérateur as yourself, whose valuable time must be fully occupied with many important matters, it is perhaps only natural that you should have read my letter — as you appear, to have done — rather hastily, and thus have imported into my words a meaning they do not, I submit, legitimately convey, and which, in fact, I should be most sorry to be understood to have expressed. For instance, you have represented me as having said that I can only approach this question from an Englishman’s point of view, and then you proceed to give your definition of an Englishman’s point of view as being this — »that an Englishman has only to think of the enrichment of the British Museum, without any regard for the wishes and rights of the country whence the antiquities are taken.« But what i said was that it was difficult for me to approach the matter from any other than an Englishman’s point of view, which is a very different thing from saying that I could only take that one view of the case. Then, again, I clearly stated that if it could be shown that any great and material injury was being done to the island thereby it is undoubtedly a legitimate cause of complaint, and one which should receive the serious attention of the home Government. Further, in using the argument referred to with regard to the gain of the worlds knowledge in accumulating these Kultur-relics, I distinctly mentioned the museums at Paris and Berlin as standing in exactly the same position with regard to this question as does the British Museum, so that on this ground, I submit, I have not treated the matter from a narrow English Chauvinist point of view. But, having said thus much in self-defence by way of explanation, I feel I should like to thank you for the new light you have brought to bear upon the matter in your eloquent advocacy of the national rights of the Cypriotes and other populations inhabiting the »isles of Greece« to the retention, when acquired, of these antiquities, in order, as you so happily phrase it, »that they may be seen and studied on the places where they are, close to the environments of which they formed part and to the sites they were meant to adorn.« This, indeed, is a most important proviso. I mean that, if restored, these relics should again be set up amid their original surroundings in situ ipso antiquo.

However, not content with my humble view of the matter, and recognising the great force and value of your own appreciation, I have consulted a Greek friend of eminence in this country, a gentleman whose mere name, if I were permitted to mention it, would, I feel sure, command the respect of the Hellenic world, and he suggests what I think is an excellent and a practical via media, to the effect that there should be an international understanding in these matters, so that when important relics are transported from the country of their origin an agreement similar to that which has been adopted by Germany in the case of the Olympia excavations, and under which, as I understand, only duplicates are allowed to be exported, should be arrived at with regard to all future »Fundstücke.« Obviously, with reference to the past, it could not be expected that England should follow a course not cordially endorsed and acted upon by other countries possessing similar relics.

As regards the principle of »placing oneself in the position of the other side« I may say, without fear of being charged with exaggeration, that I have for years tried, in dealing with Greek matters, to look at them »avec les lunettes de mes amis les Grecs, et surtout de ceux avec qui j’ai été en relations suivies.« At the same time I am reminded of what Rousseau somewhere says — I think it is in ›Emile‹ — in a similar case — »On (he asks) est la raison précise d’agir, étaut moi, comma si j’étais un autre?«

In conclusion. Monsieur, may I remind you that the question I am now on (question 2) was inserted, in fact »sandwiched« between two other issues that were evidently regarded by my correspondent M. Frangoudis as being of a more important character — issues on which you have, to my unfeigned regret be it said, declined to pass an opinion. And in my desire to do justice to those other difficult and most complicated questions to which I refer I may not, I frankly admit, have given sufficient consideration to the statement in the second question, emphasised »si magistralement« by you, namely that a law for the protection of antiquities which was passed by the Legislative Council for Cyprus had not been assented to by the home authorities. But I venture to submit that there would be a difficulty in practice in carrying out the rigorous view adumbrated in this matter, and that even if some of the antiquities were not allowed to be exported they could not always be left »on the sites they were meant to adorn.« although at the same time admiting, as I do very gladly, the desirability of this being done wherever and whenever practicable. Bref, nothing would give me greater pleasure if this correspondence — poor and halting, no doubt, on my part — should lead in any way to a better understanding in these matters not with England only but with other countries whose museums, as well as our own, have been so conspicuously »enriched« by these treasures of Hellenic art.‹ — Yours, &c.,

Charles Hancock, Barrister-at-Law. Reform Club, London, 15th July.


Die beiden Zeitungsartikel aus dem Manchester Guardian (Vorläufer des heutigen Guardian) stammen von dem Londoner Anwalt und Publizisten Charles Frederick Hancock (1849–1909), der sich im Laufe der 1890er Jahren vermehrt zu britisch-zyprischer Politik in der Presse äußerte (Hancock 1895). Im ersten der beiden Beiträge (19. Juni 1899) korrespondiert Hancock mit Menelaos D. Frankoudis (1871–1931), dem Herausgeber der zyprischen Zeitung Alitheia (1897–1931), die ebenfalls den hier zitierten Briefwechsel in griechischer Sprache herausgibt und kommentiert. Der Brief aus dem zweiten Zeitungsartikel (17. Juli 1899) stammt von Dimitrios Vikelas (1835–1908), einem in London ansässigen griechischen Geschäftsmann und Schriftsteller, der auch Präsident des Internationalen Olympischen Kommitees für die ersten modernen Olympischen Spiele 1896 war (Zachariou-Kaila 2009).

Kommentar – Kulturgutschutz zwischen Osmanischem Reich und britischem Empire

In seinem Brief an Charles Hancock fragt Menelaos D. Frankoudis diesen nach seiner Position zu drei tagespolitisch wichtigen Themen auf Zypern: der von dem griechischen Teil der multiethnischen Bevölkerung angestrebten Vereinigung der Insel mit Griechenland (Enosis), die noch immer an das Osmanische Reich zu zahlende Kopfsteuer und, dazwischen eingebettet, den unzureichenden Schutz der in Zypern ausgegrabenen Antiken vor Ausfuhr (Zachariou-Kaila 2009, 271; Hook 2015, 133–136).

Die britische Krone beherrschte Zypern seit 1878. In einem Geheimabkommen im Vorfeld des Berliner Kongresses im Juli 1878 war die Kontrolle über die Insel vom Osmanischen Reich an das Britische Empire übergeben worden, im Gegenzug für militärische Unterstützung bei einem eventuellen Angriff Russlands (Hook 2015, 16; Nikolaou 2013, 111). Formell bestand die Insel weiter als osmanische Kolonie, bis sie 1914 bei dem Eintritt des Osmanischen Reichs in den Ersten Weltkrieg von den Briten annektiert wurde. Dieser nominellen Zugehörigkeit der Insel zum Osmanischen Reich zum Trotz begann die Britische Verwaltung im Juli 1878 unmittelbar mit dem Aufbau einer weitreichenden kolonialen Infrastruktur: Durch die britische Verwaltung wurden Bodenbesitzverhältnisse umstrukturiert, Steuern erhoben und nicht zuletzt Gesetze erlassen (Nikolaou 2013, 113; Hook 2015, 278).

Die britische Macht über die Insel zeigte sich auch in der Haltung gegenüber der sich in der zweiten Hälfte des 19. Jahrhunderts verschärfenden osmanischen Antikengesetzgebung. Vier Jahre vor dem Beginn der britischen Besatzung auf Zypern, am 11. April 1874, trat im gesamten Osmanischen Reich ein in Sachen Ausfuhr vergleichsweise liberales Antikengesetz in Kraft. Anders als bei seinem Vorläufer (13. Februar 1869) und seinem Nachfolger (21. Februar 1884) beinhaltete das Gesetz von 1874 kein strenges Ausfuhrverbot, sondern lediglich ein Vorkaufsrecht des Staates, bei dessen Nichtwahrnehmung eine Ausfuhr bewilligt wurde (Osmanisches Gesetz vom 11. April 1874, § 32; Stanley-Price 2001, 267). Als die Novelle des osmanischen Antikengesetzes vom 21. Februar 1884 das ursprüngliche Ausfuhrverbot reaktiviert (Osmanisches Gesetz vom 21. Februar 1884, § 8: »Il est absolument défendu d’exporter à l’étranger des antiquités découvertes dans l’Empire ottoman«), wird dieses auf einem Vermerk der britischen Verwaltung ausdrücklich nicht anerkannt, da es erst nach der britischen Besatzung inkraftgetreten war (Stanley-Price 2001, 268; Zachariou-Kaila 2009, 272: »Exportation of Antiquities from Cyprus. Translation of Turkish Law of 21 February 1884. This law has no force in Cyprus«).

Wie Stanley-Price feststellt, hielt die britische Verwaltung weiterhin strikt an gewissen Vorgaben des osmanischen Antikengesetzes von 1874 fest – beispielsweise bei der Beschlagnahmung von illegal ausgegrabenen Antiken oder bei der Vergabe von Grabungslizenzen. Auf besonderen Beschluss des High Commissioner der Insel, Sir Henry Bulwer, wurden ab dem 16. Juni 1887 Grabungslizenzen nicht mehr an Privatpersonen, sondern ausschließlich an offizielle Institutionen erteilt, d. h. an das South Kensington Museum (heute Victoria and Albert Museum) und das British Museum. Unter diesen Bedingungen finden in den 1880er und 1890ern die Grabungen des Cyprus Exploration Fund und des British Museum Turner Trust statt, die Frankoudis in seinen Klagen gegenüber Hancock im Blick hat (Stanley-Price 2001, 269).

Die zweite von Frankoudis beklagte Entscheidung der Kolonialmacht betrifft das am 3. Juli 1896 vom Legislativrat der Insel verabschiedete Gesetz To regulate and place upon a better footing the Cyprus Museum. Das Gesetz, das unter anderem die Verwaltung des Museums und die Fundteilung regelte, sah ein Ausfuhrverbot für Antiken vor: »11. (2) that no object of antiquity shall be exported unless a similar object is already in the possession of the Museum« (zyprisches Gesetz vom 30. Juni 1896, § 11,2). Keine zwei Monate nach der Verabschiedung wurde das Gesetz im selben zyprischen Gesetzesblatt durch die britische Krone für ungültig erklärt (zyprisches Gesetz vom 28. August 1896).

Vor diesem kolonial- und antikenpolitischen Hintergrund entstand eine bemerkenswerte Debatte um das Konzept des Universalmuseums. Schon mehr als 100 Jahre vor der Veröffentlichung der Declaration on the Importance and Value of Universal Museums argumentiert Frederick Hancock für den über-nationalen Charakter dieser Institutionen. Sein zweiter Korrespondenzpartner, Dimitrios Vikelas, greift diesen Gedanken durch ein ausgefeiltes Gegenargument an: Ob es den Briten, wenn es ihnen lediglich um die »knowledge of the world« ginge, missfiele, wenn ›ihre‹ griechischen Antiken in Paris oder Berlin aufbewahrt wären? Die Universalmuseen des 19. Jahrhunderts, so lässt sich Vikelas Gedanken weiterführen, sind trotz, oder gerade wegen des universalen Anspruchs, immer auch nationale Prestigeobjekte.

Zudem, so Vikelas, bezeuge die verhinderte Gesetzesinitiative selbst, dass sich auf Zypern um die Antiken der Insel gesorgt werde. Die von Hancock nicht verwendete, aber ausgesprochen populäre »excuse which might have been made use of in Lord Elgin’s time« – nach der die örtliche Bevölkerung den Überresten der Antike ignorant und indifferent gegenüberstand – könne am Ende des 19. Jahrhunderts keinen Bestand mehr haben.

Luca Frepoli ist Studentischer Mitarbeiter an der Technischen Universität Berlin. Er arbeitet im Forschungscluster translocations für das Teilprojekt Nationales Kulturgut transnational. Gesetzliche Regelungen zum Kulturgüterschutz in historischer Perspektive.

Quellen- und Literaturverweise

Charles Hancock: »The Cyprus Debate«, in: The Speaker, 23. März 1895.

»Règlement sur les antiquités (Le 20 Séfer 1291 – 24 Mars 1874.)«, in: Aristarchi Bey, Demétrius Nicolaïdes (Hg.): Législation Ottomane, ou Recueil des lois, réglements, ordonnances, traités, cpaitulations et autre documents officiels De l’Empire Ottoman, Troisième Partie. Droit Administratif, Constantinople 1874, S. 162-167.

»Règlement sur les antiquités (Sanctionné par Iradé Impérial)«[21.02.1884], in: Alex. Bertrand, G. Perrot (Hg.): Revue Archéologique (Antiquité et Moyen Age), Troisième Série, Tome III, Janvier – Juin 1884, Paris 1884, S. 336-343.

»To regulate and place upon a better footing the Cyprus Museum«, in: The Cyprus Gazette, Supplement, July 3rd, 1896, S. 3100-3102.

»(No. 3437.) Legislative Council.«, in: The Cyprus Gazette, No. 525. Friday, 28th August, 1896, S. 3128.


Gail Ruth Hook, Protectorate Cyprus. British Imperial Power Before World War I, London 2015.

Polina Nikolaou, The Diaspora of Cypriot Antiquities and the British Museum (1860-1900), Univ. Diss., University of Exeter, 2013, online abrufbar [http://ethos.bl.uk/OrderDetails.do?uin=uk.bl.ethos.615531].

Nicholas Stanley-Price, »The Ottoman Law on Antiquities (1874) and the founding of the Cyprus Museum«, in: Veronica Tatton-Brown (Hg.): Cyprus in the 19th Century AD. Fact, Fancy and Fiction. Papers of the 22nd British Museum Classical Colloquium December 1998, Oxford 2001, S. 267-275.

Eftychia Zachariou-Kaila, »Die griechischen Gelehrten und der Schutz der zyprischen Altertümer am Ende des 19. Jahrhunderts«, in: Sabine Rogge (Hg.): Zypern und der Vordere Orient im 19. Jahrhundert. Die Levante im Fokus von Politik und Wissenschaft der europäischen Staaten. Symposium, Münster 27.-28. Oktober 2006, Münster/ New York/ München/ Berlin 2009, S. 271–293.

Empfohlene Zitierweise:
Hancock, Cyprus Affairs – The Exportation of Cyprus Antiquities (1899), kommentiert von Luca Frepoli, in: Translocations. Anthologie: Eine Sammlung kommentierter Quellentexte zu Kulturgutverlagerungen seit der Antike, https://translanth.hypotheses.org/ueber/hancock, veröffentlicht am 02.10.2018.

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