Listed as "Amal Clooney" on the website for her London-based firm, Doughty Street Chambers, the new wife of George Clooney arrived in Athens, Greece, on Monday to meet with Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras and various culture officials throughout the week.
Her agenda: discussing Greece’s long-running, ill-fated bid to win back a collection of classical Greek marble sculptures variously known as the Parthenon Marbles or the Elgin Marbles from the British Museum in London.
The move comes amid mounting pressure on the British Museum to return the marble masterpieces lining the walls of its Duveen Gallery since British diplomat Thomas Bruce, the 7th Earl of Elgin, removed them from the Acropolis more than 200 years ago.
Earlier this month and after repeated pleas, UNESCO, the United Nations' culture organization, called on the British government to enter mediation talks with Greece to settle one of the world’s biggest cultural property disputes.
Clooney, 36, will advise the Greek government on its “legal options,” government officials said. She will be accompanied by a delegation of Doughty Street Chambers barristers led by Geoffrey Robertson, the human rights lawyer who successfully argued for the return of Tasmanian Aboriginal artifacts from Britain’s Natural History Museum.
Both were part of a legal team the Greek government approached four years ago in an initial consultation.
"Options," says Vassilis Tavonis, a senior culture ministry advisor handling the Parthenon Marbles dispute in Athens, “is the operative word dominating this week's meetings."
So is "hysteria," a Greek word gripping the country and international media as Clooney descends on the Greek capital.
Media FrenzyShe isn't expected to begin talks until Tuesday, but television crews already have been staked out around the airport for hours, with details of her visit dominating the news.
"The media frenzy and uproar alone will be beneficial [for Greece],” says a senior government official, speaking on condition of anonymity because of his proximity to the talks. “It will recast international attention on the case [of the Parthenon Marbles] and the injustice that has been done.”
Earlier this year, the other Clooney – George – waded into the the controversy with the stance that Britain should hand the Parthenon treasures back to Greece.
“I think you have a very good case to make about your artifacts,” he said during a February press conference for his latest film, The Monuments Men, in which an Allied team retrieved artwork looted by the Nazis. “It would be a very fair and nice thing to do."
It’s unclear whether Athens will hire Amal Clooney and her London-based firm for the mediation talks. By some accounts, cash-strapped Greece was unable to pay the legal team’s consultation fee four years ago, at the height of the country's fiscal crisis.
Now, though, Clooney is returning with one strict request: that the government in Athens stick to business alone, refraining from offering her – or her husband – even a token wedding gift.