June 12, 2012

Should the Parthenon Marbles be returned to Greece?

I'm all for it, it is not just "classy" as Stephen Fry said recently in a TV debate but actually it was since the very beginning an act of imperialist looting that would be frowned upon also today (and was already back in the day considered quite questionable). 

By all accounts, the marbles were looted by the British ambassador in Constantinople Thomas Bruce (alias "Lord Elgin") without any sort of authorization by even the imperial authorities of the Ottoman Empire, then occupying power of Greece. 



The marbles, which date from Classical Greece, exposed since the early 19th century in the British Museum, suffered from the brutal pollution of London in much of all this time and have been damaged by primitive restorers.

Meanwhile the Parthenon in Greece stands as a naked ruin, largely deprived from its original fullness.


7 comments:

  1. While the British Museum has in general done a wonderful job as curator of the marbles for the last two hundred years, it is time for them to be placed back in the museum that has been built for them next to the Acropolis.

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  2. I understand only a few of them are at the British Museum. The vast majority were lost in a ship wreck, when the looters were trying to take them to Britain.
    Caz

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    Replies
    1. Wikipedia, which has an extensive article on them, says nothing of any shipwreck or loss in travel.

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    2. Some of the "Elgin marbles" were sunk in the harbour of Kythera, but were subsequently recovered by sponge divers. There is no evidence that any of these sunken "marbles" didn't ultimately make it to the British Museum.

      http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2011-08-08/team-explores-19th-century-parthenon-marble-shipwreck-in-greece.html

      Delete
  3. given the problems of Egyptian antiquities being looted after the revolution, I say wait a bit. Of course, the marbles weren't exactly safe in London blitz either...

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    Replies
    1. Actually there was almost no looting in Egyptian museums. There was one single attempt I know of and the people at Tahrir curtailed it quickly: the thieves had to flee with almost no damage.

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  4. The British do not own the marbles and therefore are in no position to decide where it is "safe" for them to be kept. The marbles have been misappropriated from the Hellenic people and properly should be returned. Heck, they could surely use them as collateral at the moment.

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