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Acropolis now?

Razia Iqbal | 17:25 UK time, Friday, 19 June 2009

acropolis_226_afp.jpgIs there is a difference between the ownership of culture and the ownership of particular artefacts? I have been mulling this over while thinking about the significance of the opening of the new Acropolis museum in Athens on Saturday.

The structure is Greece's answer to the British argument that there is nowhere in their country to house the Elgin marbles, the sculptures taken from the Parthenon's frieze and brought to the UK, two hundred years ago.

Architect Bernard Tschumi's glass and concrete building will house the stones Greece still has as its centrepiece, in a glass gallery which is angled to complement the angle of the Parthenon temple three hundred metres above it. And plaster replicas of the stones in the British museum will sit next to those Greece has in its possession.

The British Museum is willing to lend their bit of the Elgin marbles in theory, but the Greeks have to refused to acknowledge that the British museum is the legal owner of the artefacts. It is a controversy which matters because it forces us to debate the issue of culture and globalism - even though, in the case of the Elgin marbles, it sometimes feels as though it is more akin to a school playground spat.

Where do you stand on this issue? Should the Elgin marbles go back to Greece, or stay in the British Museum? Is that even the right question?

Shouldn't the question be how do we deal with culture in a globalised world; how do we deal with monuments that have global significance?

Comments

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  • Comment number 1.

    I completely agree with your assessment that this situation is more akin to a school playground spat. I personally think that the marbles should be next to the Acropolis, and that the Greeks have countered the old argument that there is nowhere to house them in Athens. However, it is fair to say they are one of the star attractions at the British museum, and that there a number of issues that would obviously make them rather foolish from a practical point of view to simply give the marbles away as a gesture of goodwill. What would replace them that would attract the same amount of visitors? What would they get in return for having looked after the marbles for so long?
    I've lived in Greece for a year, so I've heard the views of both Brits and Greeks on this matter. In Britain, apathy or ignorance dominates opinion: "I don't care" or a certain "finder's keepers" mentality. Playground. The British museum itself also has some rather interesting interpretations of why the marbles were lovingly cut up off the walls. One is that this protected them damage resulting from the Turkish occupation, debatable, but fair enough. The other is that this generously allows the public to see the treasures at eye-level (I wish I could remember the exact quote, but this sentiment genuinely appears in the museum's display). I'm surprised there aren't British museum officials cutting monuments down all over the world, and London, any that are at any sort of height.. this way, they would all be eye-level. Terrible argument and frankly insulting on all fronts.
    The Greeks take a much keener interest in the matter than us Brits, which in my opinion is a jolly good reason why they should get their toys back. Most people are passionate about this issue. Whether this would be the same if they had the marbles already.. who knows.. but I suspect it would. However, in many ways, they are just as childish as the British. If I ever suggested that there should be some sort of dialogue, or a minor concession given to the British public or museum, they would take this as an insult, and simply say that the marbles are there's by right, and they should be returned unconditionally. The stalemate is never going to end without a serious dialogue on looking at options that will at least give both sides something. I'm not an expert on the workings of museums. I suspect that the ideal of "sharing" the marbles, 6 months here, and 6 months there would simply be impractical.. but the fact that it hasn't even been discussed seems to strike me as rather petty.. Or perhaps the Greek government would invest in some lovely casts of the monuments, and perhaps even others, like those found in the V & A. But probably the British museum wouldn't like the step down, and the Greek government the expense. Regardless of how awful those two ideas are, there must be some good one's out there, and until both sides sit down and have an adult chat about how to solve the issue.. then frankly the marbles would be better in the Louvre.

  • Comment number 2.

    Some pretty fantastic "typos" in that. Whoops. my favourites are a missing "from" and the classic "there's". That's what happens when you spend a few years in other countries...

  • Comment number 3.

    Maybe in the past there was some justification in holding on to the marbles but certainly not any more and definitely not because of economic benefits. They should go back to where they came from. We look foolish by not returning them. How would we react if the Greeks had dragged Stonehenge up to the Acropolis?

  • Comment number 4.

    I have not seen the marbles in person, but have been aware of the fact that the Greeks want them back for some time. I believe that the British Museum should give them back, but for this to work properly it should be part of a celebrated 'sharing of culture/artwork' engagement between the Greek and British.

    I am also aware though that if the British Museum were to acquiesce to this request it may open the door for many other countries demanding things back that the 'enterprising' Brits confiscated during the centuries when we were dashing about the globe on a sort of interior decorating rampage, which could mean that a lot of the museums in London would become quite bare - not a nice thought.

    Perhaps the only way forward is for the Greek government to agree that the marbles rightly belong to the Brits and for the Brits to say 'thanks very much, now that we are all chums again would you like these marbles on a sort of permanent loan for your lovely new building?' - hurrah, everyone's happy. No doubt something in the basement of the museum could take their place to attract visitors.

  • Comment number 5.

    Having seen the Elgin Marbles at the British Museum I think they are a fantastic asset to the UK and we should try and keep them here. Yes the Greeks have an argument for their return but if they had no been taken by Elgin, there is no guarantee that they would still be in existence at all. The British museum has preserved these artefacts for nearly 200 years. Greece' history during that time has been much more turbulent and it has taken them until now to build somewhere to house the marbels.

    We should consider returning them to Greece on loan. So that the British museum is not depleted perhaps we could have an exchange whereby they send us some of the figures seen in the pictures and we send some of our artefacts.

  • Comment number 6.

    At the time of the removal of the Parthenon Freize and Metopes, the artefacts of Greece and Rome were hot property and status objects in British aristocratic society. They were acquired as lifestyle statements to adorn fashionable high class residences to show the owners had 'taste'. There was an collection industry which was massively destructive using influence (in the case of Greece) with corrupt officials of the then colonial power (Turkey) and often against the wishes of local people.

    The British museums collection was acquired when one of these 'philhellene' aristocrats got into financial difficulties otherwise they would be private property to this day.

    Finally, the Parthenon Marbles are from a religious building. The Temple of the Maiden (Pallas Athene) was built by the Athenians for the protectoress of their city. The temple was dedicated to her. We should respect the wishes of the builders and return them to her sanctuary.

    I believe we owe it to her.

    'wisdom you have learnt at last...' Eumenides

  • Comment number 7.

    The main reason I became a member at this blog is to comment on bryndlewindle's thoughts: thank you all for "helping us greeks to preserve these artefacts for nearly 200 years". Actually the fact that the rest of the Acropolis, not mentioning tne rest of the monuments of our, both greek and world, heritage remain "alive" for over 2,500 years is just a sign of greek arrogance.
    Please forgive my poor english.

  • Comment number 8.

    Thanks Razia for your blog which I'd like to contribute to by quoting from the now deceased Melina Mercouri (fromer Cultural Minister of Greece), delivered to the Oxford Union in June 1986.

    "...You must understand what the Parthenon Marbles mean to us. They are our pride. They are our sacrifices. They are our noblest symbol of excellence. They are a tribute to the democratic philosophy. They are our aspirations and our name. They are the essence of Greekness.
    We are ready to say that we rule the entire Elgin enterprise as irrelevant to the present.

    We say to the British government: you have kept those sculptures for almost two centuries. You have cared for them as well as you could, for which we thank you. But now in the name of fairness and morality, please give them back. I sincerely believe that such a gesture from Great Britain would ever honour your name."

    Thank you

  • Comment number 9.

    The Acropolis was a temple built to stand eternally. Goths and first christians' looting took its more mobile artifacts but the structure was partially destroyed during an Ottoman-Venecian war were the former used the lead of the column joints for canon balls and the latter bombarded the whole rock. Had it not been for that war incident the Acropole would be there as Iktinos and Kallikratis had built it.

    The last story of destruction was Lord Elgin himself. He came down to Ottoman Athens, talked to the local Pasha who showed indifference and gave permission. Then Elgin tried to find personnel but he could not find easily as local Greeks despite being tragically poor or illiterate considered it a sacrilege to touch the "ancient ones", they knew it was theirs and nobody elses. Hence, Elgin had to pay double and triple and bring workers from other places not telling them exactly what they had to do and do the job really quickly before locals (already getting cautious of the works up there) gathered and became aggressive.

    The result? You see in the museum and on the temple (no matter if technically concealed). The sculptures were torn and chopped and broken off the temple in haste to be packed in the ship and leave in the... night... Broken sculptures were left on the soil scattered in pieces and only what looked good was taken. Robbers and thieves of art pieces certainly respect more the piece they steal than Lord Elgin.

    That is the story behind Elgin. Go learn too the story behind the famous Aphrodite in Louvres. Even worse... the French had to kill people in the streets of the island town to get it. The hands of the statue are missing because the locals grabbed the statue from the French soldiers, the French had it tied in a rope and dropped it down (breaking the one hand) then the locals were dragging it from the other hand and one French officer mad broke the hand by hitting it with his sword. The French had to shoot at locals and kill some of them to get the statue on their ship. Still the scratches from that fight are visible.

    Its not merely a matter of national importance for Greeks, it is a matter of the basics of justice. Its a matter of common-law robbery and murder, beyond destruction of art.

    Read that so as to know what you are talking about...

  • Comment number 10.

    Please, visit the Acropolis Museum. You will then understand, all by yourself, why the marbles must be helped to reunite.
    You will have no doubts at all. Most of all you, the English people, one of the most sophisticated people of all. Thank you..

  • Comment number 11.

    Miss Iqbal, please take note that the whole controversy is about the "MARBLES OF PARTHENON" and certainly not about "the Elgin Marbles". Why don't you name them "Phedias marbles"? It would certainly be more accurate!
    Let's consider this: I'm a wealthy man and I decide to travel to Iraq or Afganistan. In cooperation with the american troops, I purchase an ancient sculpture without the consent of the locals. How would you call this sculpture?

    "DimitrisPapa statue"?

    It's pure logic!

  • Comment number 12.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 13.

    Even though, I live in the Netherlands where people don't talk about this topic, i wanted to share some thoughts with you.I am from Athens,from the area of Acropolis , coming from a family of Archaeologists.So, I literally grew up with people debating about this topic in my house.It annoys me when everyone is laughing about how unable the Greeks are to preserve and generally take good care of antiquities. On the other hand, there is some truth in this stereotypical view about Greeks been unable to organise-and-take care of stuff , in general.( I know I am Greek) But the truth is that these marbles were supposed to be in Athens and not in London, why and how its a very interesting story and we can debate for ages. What I don't get is why on earth we should care about the image or the popularity of the British Museum ?! while at the same time these things are missing from another country ...the country they were taken from at first place. Is that the problem now, how the British Museum will preserve its glory?! (with some many other exhibits...!) but the more I think about it the more I remember what a French Colleague have told me, maybe by returning the marbles to Greece other Museums in the world will have to do the same for a... number of countries...(???)

    Also, for those in the UK who think its not so important, well, try to answer to a 9 year-old , who reads in the History books at school that 'this' statue and 'that' temple can be found today in the British Museum in London or in Louvre.
    It is a little bit sad and unfair that many Greeks have never been there and they will never travel to London to see them.Isn't it? Sorry for the typos I am writing you while in the train!

  • Comment number 14.

    "In terms of heritage, our own arguments are as strong as those of Greece.

    The fact that a squalid little Balkan banana republic now wants these stones back to feed its national vanity shouldn't matter a fly speck. Those stones have been bought and paid for many times over by English, Scottish, Welsh and Irish blood."

    hubertgrove - what fatuous imperialistic nonsense. The thought that any of our sons and daughters would die on foreign soil, not for the cause of freedom but so we could nick some spoils of war is ridiculous.

    The loss of treasures from Baghdad's museum after our last adventure on the soil of another country shows how much we care about the culture and heritage of other nations.

    I'm surprised that anyone abroad, including Egypt, has anything to fill their museums with after the ransacking and plundering which has been done to fill the British Museum.

    To coin a phrase from those great philosophers Midnight Oil - 'It belongs to them, we're going to give it back'.

    And pleeeeasse stop calling them the 'Elgin Marbles'.

  • Comment number 15.

    Can't see how anybody can really plausibly argue that really important artifacts of a people's cultural history can be deliberately kept out of its ownership, just on the basis of long-past political circumstances that caused those artifacts to pass involuntarily out of their control.

    Think most of my fellow Brits would probably agree it's probably fair just to give this stuff back to Greece.

    Maybe the more interesting question is what Greece thinks about its ownership of artifacts and land that it seized in a similarly opportunistic manner, and still owns. I know there are Albanians, (FYRO) Macedonians and possibly some of the large number of formerly indigenous muslim population of northern Greece, that have a good few similar gripes against the Greek state. For example, the land grabs and forced population exchanges of the early 20th century, as the Greek state strengthened its power and increased its territory at the expense of other peoples, seem like more examples of the same kind of thing.

    Would be more sympathetic to the Greek state if they were similarly working to redress their own wrongs.

    Am sure some people would see that differently though and would love to hear comments!

  • Comment number 16.

    It's really interesting dr-johnson your concern about the feelings of Albanians or muslims...I would love to know what they are claiming. And I am sure you also feel very sympathetic for the egyptians,italians,chinese,arabs etc whose heritage is also "saved" in museums like THE BRITISH, THE LOUVRE, THE PERGAMON etc.
    As for the FYROMIAN 's...that is another, really interesting story.It's completely different someone claiming his/her own than someone else's.But that is a very long story that the Oxford's professors (among others) have solved.

  • Comment number 17.

    The British Museum is reluctant to return the Elgin Marbles mainly because this will encourage other countries to take action to get their treasures returned. With all the 'loot' gone, there will be nothing much remaining in the British museum.

  • Comment number 18.

    This is not a political issue. This is one of the relocation of a a large percentage of a complete work of sacred architecture to its site of origin and dedication. Physically the marbles are just calcium carbonate. Aesthetically they are merely illustrative of what mankind can produce in one of its (all too brief episodes) of civic genius. Their value is not as 'art' and therefore to provide a short-lived moment of aesthetic thrill on a wet afternoon in London. They belong and have always belonged in Athens. I regard the Parthenon Frieze and the pieces wrenched from their positions with saws and hammers as if the 'Mona Lisa' had its face cut out and exhibited as a complete work. It wouldn't be the complete work. The same goes for the Parthenon Marbles. The pieces should be brought together.

    London can have the copies. They are very good copies, indeed. They would fit nicely into any exhibition for visitors who wish to learn about the art of Pheidias and his colleagues. It might encourage some of the visitors to go to Athens and see the originals in their true context and environment.

  • Comment number 19.

    "In terms of heritage, our own arguments are as strong as those of Greece"

    Please spare me.The sculptures have been in Britain's possesion for how long?? like 2 centuries.well guess what...prior to their abduction by Elgin the Marbles were in Greece for 2.3 millenia.

    For 2300 years the Marbles were to be found in their rightfull place:Athens.

    As a Greek living in London and having visited the British Museum three times I was disguisted by the cultural theft that I witnessed there.


    Greece has answered in the best possible way and has countered any claims the British museum might have regarding safekeeping,pollution,climate,seismicity or whatever excuses they have for not returning them.

    Britain has two options either stay silent and be ridiculed internationally by stuburnly refusing to return the Marbles or acknowledge that Greece is today in the position to have the Marbles back home kept in a STATE OF THE ART museum of an excellent international standard making the new museum probably the best and most modern Museum in the world.


    As for the fact that allegedly the Marbles were legally taken from Greece, I should remind everyone who are ignorant that Greece proclaimed independence in 1821 from the Ottoman Empire.

    Greece in 1817 was under the Ottoman yoke and was in no position to negotiate or dictate anything.From the day one of the formation of the modern Greek state we have been asking the Marbles back home and we always get the same responses..... That we are unable as a country or nation to safekeep the Marbles.

    I think its time for the British Museum to wake up and be mature enough to acknoledge that the world is moving forward and so is Greece and at last return the Marbles to the rightfull heirs of Ancient Greek culture.

  • Comment number 20.

    Let's stop all this fatuous nationalist and multiculturalist nonsense.

    I hope the British Museum does not surrender these important pieces of British history just to appease the nationalist self-esteem of Greek irredentists and the self-hate of British multiculturalists.

    I mean, if we're all about returning 'sacred rocks' to 'their rightful owners', then the Greeks and their collaborators can return the islands of Lesbos, Kos and Naxos to Turkey.

    See what I mean? 'They used to belong to us and we want them badly' is an argument that cuts both ways.

  • Comment number 21.

    Hubertgrove,

    The British Museum's only argument for retention is the multicultural status of London as a global city. Silly really with cheap flights to Athens. Secondly the Parthenon Marbles are no ones property but belong to the Temple built on the Acropolis in Athens. That is where they were 'removed' from to meet a commercial collectors fashion. Caveat emptor British Museum.

    It doesn't matter who controls the 'territory' of the Acropolis...that's were the Marbles belong...in the city that made them.

    The rest of your arguments are just plain silly...and you know it.

  • Comment number 22.

    Allthough I can't see your logic (?) why only

  • Comment number 23.

    The marbles belong rightfully to the Acropolis and the lack of British understanding of this issue reveals that a sense of Victorian imperialism still exists.

  • Comment number 24.

    Allthough I can't see your logic(?) why only these 3 islands? Why not the ionian islands to Albania or Italy? Stay there where you are...in your ignorant misery...Don't forget to complain about this comment Hubertgrove

  • Comment number 25.

    The argument of the British Museum that they protected the marbles therefore they are eternally their rightful owners from now on, is the same with that of a thief who gets the ownership 'rightfully'' of cource but only in their eyes ,forever after the act of theft.Silly, childish, and frankly damn insulting too.As for the fate of the British Museum i would say should be the same as any other 'loot houses' around the world once discovered by the police.I doubt that any single item in that museum has been acquired with a proper license from its rightful owners, and in any case a theft is theft even if you have good intentions.As for Hubertgrove, mate i don't know were you coming from but your knowledge of local history and original descent of populations at their present territories as far as Aegean sea goes is frankly not worth even engaging with.

  • Comment number 26.

    I really cannot understand what all the fuss is about. The marbles were taken from Greece and there is no doubt in anybody's mind (unless you are arrogant and still thinking of the UK as a colonial master) that they should be returned to their rightful owners, the Greeks. The excuse that there was no proper place to house them has vanished. So, the British Museum should abandon its arrogance, stop trying to justify itself and do the right thing.

  • Comment number 27.

    Just out of interest, if you have the time and inclination, google "Lord Byron, Curse of Minerva, Elgin" and see what a contemporary to the removal of the Parthenon Marbles thought of the 'removal to a place of safety'. Shows that the the event was controversial at the time.

  • Comment number 28.

    Hi

    At the end of the day the reality is that it was looted by the British and makes it no diffferent than all the plundering for e.g. in WWII.

    It definitely should be returned to Greece and for sure the ownership belongs to them.

    Perhaps they can simply agree to a 2 yrs at each location - this could be an acceptable compromise.

  • Comment number 29.

    Let the Greeks have back their sculptures with two provisos: 1) The stones come back to the British Museum for an exhibition every 10 or 20 years, and 2) They pay a contribution towards the historic cost of keeping them. Let's not forget the British Museum does not charge an entrance fee, whereas Greek museums do.

  • Comment number 30.

    The British Museum was claiming that the Greeks had no place to host the Parthenon marbles. So, they were forced to pay millions of Euros to create a new museum which would host the marbles of Acropolis and Parthenon. The opening of this museum is today in full glory. Now the British museum claims that the Parthenon marbles need to stay in London because visitors from all over the world can see them. So, they can in the place of their birth ATHENS!! next to the rest of the Acropolis and Parthenon statues and marbles.
    As a Greek myself I feel insulted by the British Museum continuing to keep something that does not belong to them and even the British people in their majority believe they should be returned to Greece. When someone takes something to safe keeping in times of need (if we assume that Elgin took the marbles to safe keep them when Greece was under the Ottoman years) he (now the British museum) returns them when the danger is gone (as Greece is now a safe country capable of looking after herself). This is called having morals. I would not want to think that British people have not got any left!!! How would British people feel if we remove and do not return to them Big Ben? We can actually put this in the new Acropolis museum because visitors from all over the world can see it!!! Athens is such a touristic place after all....

  • Comment number 31.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 32.

    Im a British citizen living in Athens, with a Greek partner. I have many Greek friends and have got to know the culture and history of the country quite well. Of all the arguments for and against the return of the marbles from the British museum, Ive have heard many good points from both sides. However, the fact remains that Greece is making a great deal of effort to establish its cultural identity and improve its perception abroad after many years of turbulent history, consisting of foreign rule, Nazi invasion and military dictatorship. Greece is a nation full of very highly qualified academics, scientists and professionals and has had more than its fair share of bad breaks. They are a proud nation, and rightly so. Whatever way you look at this, its a positive move towards re-establishing its cultural identity and putting Athens back on the world archaeological map, where it should be. Greece, like most countries is far from perfect and has its own problems. Stop it with the negative, confrontational comment, its boring, outdated and backwards. Applaud them instead as its the entire worlds heritage. In many ways we will all benefit from this kind of work to understand the world we now live in with a greater sense of clarity.

  • Comment number 33.

    Dear amonkeyinthesun,
    Just THANK YOU !!!
    Greece and Greeks have offered so many things to this world and it feels bad that we have to defend ourselves in so many ways in modern history. We have been through difficult times in our modern history and as you say we are indeed trying to re-establish our position. We are only 10 million people living in the country (and about 5 outside). Many of the things people in this world know is because Greeks studied them in the past. Respect that as we respect Chinese and Egyptian history and knowledge. We are a proud country, proud of our history and taking this away from us will only make the rest of the world disable as the Greek history is one of the greatest in this world !

  • Comment number 34.

    Do all Roman coins belong to italy? Let us be a little clear about the history. The Marbles were built by the city-state Athens. This city-state was conquered first by the Spartans (the Athenians were Ionians, the Spartans Dorians - two completely different migrations of people from the north. Subsequently Athens was controlled for around 1500 years by the Roman empire and after the fall of Constantinopolis by the Ottomans. When Elgin purchased the marbles, the Ottomans had not just walked into Athens and looted it - They had been there for hundreds of years. After the Ottomans were thrown out, Otto of Bavaria was invited to be King of Greece. It was he who tried to give the local population national identity. He established the Capital at Athens - before it was more of a shanty town. He excavated the Parthenon and it is from this time that the marbles were seen as a symbol of Greek national identity. Had the Athenians objected to Roman rule, then the marbles would not exist - their fate would have been the same as Carthage and Corinth - both completely destroyed in the middle of the 2nd Century BC.
    To get back to the original question, do all Roman coins belong to Italy. I would say no. As for the Marbles, these were made before there was a "Greece". The Hellenistic period starts after the death of Alexander, with Ptolemy in Egypt, Seleucus in Syria and Demetrius trying to get everything else. during the years before the Roman Conquest, there was much upheaval in the greek world - not about who controlled Attica and the Peloponnese, but more about the pretenders to the throne of Macedon.
    Finally, even at the time of their manufacture, there was a priciple of "land taken by the spear"-this actually refers to military conquest.
    There is even a greek word for it. We must always remember that the parthenon was built with wealth looted from the Delian League.

  • Comment number 35.

    There is always the right time for things to happen.
    Time has come for the Parthenon marbles to return to their home.
    Every nation on earth has its own abilities and achievements to demonstrate and to be proud of. And they should freely do.

    Globalized art world, as you write dear Razia, does not mean to gather art from all over the world and put it in exhibition at British museum.
    It means to "take" the spirit and meaning of all these artistic creations and try to get out the inspiration, wisdom and beauty that they hide.

    And to do that in full extension, you need to see and feel them at their natural place.
    The natural place for these marbles is Athens. There you could very easily visit them, and acquire their myth and spirit.

    And I would like to ask the directors of the B.M. to make a few days visit in Acropolis of Athens, to see the new museum, to walk under Parthenon, to watch one performance at the ancient theater there... and then just to ask themselves.. to hear their logic.. to feel their heart beats..





  • Comment number 36.

    I am glad to see that most comments on this post are for the return of the marbles that were so brutally removed, literally stripped off of a religious monument that is the Parthenon.

    To bryndlewindle #5
    You've said that "if they had no been taken by Elgin, there is no guarantee that they would still be in existence at all". However, the mere fact that there are now several pieces on display at the new museum (and better preserved than those in the BM) disproves your hypothesis.

  • Comment number 37.

    I trust that the Greeks aren't being rather hypocritical, and in their museums there is absolutly no articles that have come from other countries?

    I'd rather doubt that.


    That's the whole point of having museum collections all over the world - to bring the world to the people.

    The Elgin Marbles must stay in the UK. It would set the trend to return them, and would empty world museums.

  • Comment number 38.

    Hallo AndyBugden,

    you seem to know the history facts quite well...however with your approach you are spotting the tree but missing the forest..ancient roman or Greek coins can not be compared to the stolen marbles from the Partnenon..there were thousands of coins, there is only ONE Parthenon!!..It is an eternal symbol for the Greek nation, for the majority of the British people the marbles at the British museum are just some ancient stones representing one ancient civilization among the many exhibited...I just see some people from the UK being plainly stubborn, evidently with their pride hurt with the thought that they might loose a memory of their past imperial glory when they were looting the world at will...

    And about national identity amongst ancient Greeks and its time of formation that you question...this was evident even in Homer's epics and Herodotus works, and in the sharing of common religious, cultural and sporting events. They spoke the same language and worshiped the same gods -with slight local variations which is evident in all countries e.g. different accents throughout the UK. And talking about national identity at that time back in history by using today's definitions and understandings is quite irrelevant and inappropriate. At what point in time was "England" made? Maybe whatever is excavated in England e.g. Roman towns, Celtic artifacts etc..and belongs to a time prior than that does not belong to you as well...

    In anyhow, whatever issues of morality or historical facts are raised, the marbles must be returned back home, where they belong.

  • Comment number 39.

    To Tengsted #37

    To answer your question: in Greek museums there are absolutly no articles that have come from other countries

  • Comment number 40.

    The 'Elgin Marbles' simply must be returned now that there is a proper place in Athens to preserve them and to display them to their best advantage. How small-minded and ridiculous we will look when the new museum opens and there are gaps in the otherwise awe-inspiring display of the marbles in their original formation. How would we feel if someone came along and took away bits of, say, the Royal Albert Hall and refused to return them? It would be an act of cultural vandalism to continue to hang on to them; conversely, it would be an act of admirable right-thinking and generosity to return them. International ridicule or world-wide respect? That's the British Museum's choice.

  • Comment number 41.


    Tengsted,

    Personally, I don't recall having seen foreign ancient articles in Greek museums, perhaps I am wrong but in such case they would represent an extremely small percentage on the total, perhaps donations from personal collections. Greece never looted foreign archeological sites, on the contrary it was a victim..there are thousands of ancient Greek articles in museums all around the world..it is other countries that need foreign articles to fill in gaps of hundreds/ thousands of years of history when they were virtually non-existent or have nothing to display for..

  • Comment number 42.

    I would like to echo the sentiments of monkeyinthesun. I, too, am English living in Greece with a Greek partner. I'm no authority on exactly what happened when Elgin stole the marbles, so I was very interested to read the various comments of how the marbles were partially destroyed in order to be removed and all the other details. I agree that we should stop calling them the Elgin marbles, and that the British Museum's argument about having protected the marbles is invalid.How come other parts of the Acropolis have remained intact over those 200 years? There's no doubt that the marbles should be returned. The idea that they should be shared is unbelievable! Just to imagine removing them even once from the British Museum to the new Acropolis museum defies description! Could such an undertaking be repeated every two years? Out of the question - they belong in Athens and that's where they should stay.
    As a footnote to the remarks about what Greece should give back to other countries. I'm just reading Bruce Clark's Twice A Stranger and am staggered to read how in 1923 "the powers that were" decided in the Treaty of Lausanne that a population exchange should take place in order to avoid further conflict in the Balkans. Turks living in Greece were uprooted from their homes and forced to return to Turkey. Similarly Greeks from many areas of Turkey were brutally exiled to Greece,in many cases. In other words, throughout history, the Big Powers have decreed events, without a thought for humanity. So at a later date , can we say that either party owes something to the other? Circumstances may have been beyond the control of their governments. Anyway, what can be done to shame the British Museum into giving back the marbles?

  • Comment number 43.

    A lot of time, effort and investment has been made to preserve the marbles to the highest standard and quality and the British Museum is the world leader in the field of preservation.

    The British Museum is also a free access institution, they do not and have not profited from these marbles. So, despite the enormous investment made in preserving this, why should they just be 'given' back?

    Finally, from what I understand, the new museum (grotesquely looking as it is - my opinion only) has been built on top of ruins that were destroyed during construction.

    Pot. Kettle. Black.

    Reconciliation is a wonderful thing, however, these arguments are just a small number of a very long list of reasons why the marbles will never go back to Greece.

  • Comment number 44.

    @browndeejaykay #42

    Bruce Clark's "Twice A Stranger": excellent book

  • Comment number 45.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 46.

    39. At 9:01pm on 20 Jun 2009, PARRISIA_GREECE wrote:

    To Tengsted #37

    To answer your question: in Greek museums there are absolutly no articles that have come from other countries

    Not quite true, the Athens museum holds one of the finest collections of Egtptian art in the world. Perhaps after they have handed this back to Egypt we should talk again?

  • Comment number 47.

    To "bonzepeach" at #45 :

    Excellent idea..! I think all Greeks would agree totally with you.. to buy the marbles back with EU funds (besides UK is one of the biggest contributor, so actually dear Bonze, YOU will pay also)

    But it is not right to call Greeks "the beggars of Europe" .. besides, even "Europe", the name originates from the Greek mythology ("Europa", she was a Princess taken by Zeus to Creta island)

    funny eh?? I bet you did not know that!

  • Comment number 48.

    @46

    Thank you. My point entirely.

  • Comment number 49.

    to the_luminari

    trust me, countries such as Egypt, Greece and Italy would definitely not mind a global exchange of all archeological findings provided they got their own back..they would actually be flooded with artifacts...

    Greece has not asked for the return of its stolen ancient articles in general. We do realize the cultural importance of large metropolitan museums throughout the world exhibiting articles from all great civilizations. This is a totally different issue...the rationale has been explained quite thoroughly in previous comments made..but some people from the UK do not seem to understand..I guess there will always be Elgins out there but hopefully the Byrons will prevail !!

  • Comment number 50.

    Clearly there are strong arguments on both sides but maybe, considering the uniqueness of these artefacts, the Greeks and the BM could agree a form of 'Joint Stewardship" of the marbles and agree to discuss 'legal ownership' at a future as yet unspecified date. As part of the stewardship arrangement, exact replicas could be made, and each country could agree to house half the originals for a period of time, then exchange halves, and so on.

    Visitors in both countries would have the exact same opportunity to experience the sculptures.....and in the two places in the world that they are most strongly associated with. Ultimately in time, this would be seen as a non controversial arrangement that satisfies most people.

  • Comment number 51.

    To "Tengsted" at #48 & "the_luminary" at #46 :

    You have limited knowledge on the story behind the existence of Egyptian art in the Greek Archeological Museum :

    The Egyptian Collection of the Athens Museum was a donation. At the same time, it exists Greek-Roman Museum in the city of Alexandria (Egypt) with Greek Collection again in the form of donation and also from excavations at the surrounding area which in the ancient years was also inhabited for a big period of time by ancient greeks.

    Everything is done absolutely legally, in cooperation of museums, ministries of culture and archeologists.
    There is mutual respect of Egyptian and Greek archeologists as their nations both share a great piece in ancient history.

    Do not confuse and compare completely irrelevant things just to make an impression.
    Do more research.

  • Comment number 52.

    To the British Museum and to all the pro-Elgins:
    The Parthenon marbles in question are NOT antiquities sold by their lawful owners, but parts of one of the most important and beautiful buildings ever built, sold by the Ottoman invader to Lord Elgin.
    This is called *looting* of an invaded country, not a lawful sale.
    It is as if the Nazis had sold parts of the Louvre to Japan in 1940. France would now ask Tokyo to return them - and righteously so.
    The marbles belong to Greece. Return them where they belong.
    PS: to hubertgrove #20:
    Can you explain us how exactly are these marbles "important pieces of British history"? I thought they were part of the Greek one.

  • Comment number 53.

    51. At 10:41pm on 20 Jun 2009, cdk-athens wrote:

    To "Tengsted" at #48 & "the_luminary" at #46 :

    You have limited knowledge on the story behind the existence of Egyptian art in the Greek Archeological Museum :

    Not true, they are principally the collections of Ioannis Dimitriou and of Alexandros Rostovi. Whilst Egypt did donate some mummies (9) in 1893 this is only a minor part of the currently held collection of over 6,000 items.

  • Comment number 54.

    to the_luminary

    wow impressed!!..what in-depth knowledge!! you might even be working for the British Museum...being an expert and having such one-sided and simple views..quite sad..

  • Comment number 55.

    I am a regular reader of BBC, particularly because of the quality of their stories and its history of comprehensive and impartial reporting. That's why I was very surprised and disappointed when I saw that, on the main story about the new museum, with extensive coverage on the matter of the Elgin sculptures, it is only mentioned that the marbles were 'sold to the British museum' in 1817. Not a single word about the fact that they were originally 'given away' to Elgin (after a sultan decree whose existence was doubted even at the time and after irrevocable damage done to the monument in the process) by the Ottoman Empire, a foreign oppressive regime, in decline and desperate for resources, overthrown by the Greeks just some years later. Omitting this very important fact is like implying: it is the same Greeks who sold the items 200 years ago and now just changed their minds and want them back.

    But the question is not just about ownership. These particular sculptures are *part of a building* and comparing them to other artefacts like jewellery, pottery, coins (especially the latter, which were a means of trade and were *supposed* to be found everywhere in the world) is absurd and ridiculous. They belong to the area and to the monument, they were cut down in a brutal and in a culturally and artistically irrespectful manner, they have to be returned to their original *place*. The question of ownership is still valid, but is secondary. The fact that there is an independent nation that speaks the same language and lives on the same area as the ancient Greeks and wants the marbles returned, is also secondary, even thought it can definitely support this demand.


    To AndyBugden: A little off-topic, but I am shocked by the remarks about how a Bavarian king, a puppet of the foreign powers who first came to Greece 11 years after the Greek revolution, 'shaped' our national identity. You definitely do not 'know the history facts well', contrary to someone's comment. Greek people (like many other oppressed nations of the Ottoman Empire) wrote texts in Greek about a free Greek homeland and died for this idea by the thousands, long before the 1821 revolution, so a little respect for them also wouldn't hurt.

  • Comment number 56.

    51. At 10:41pm on 20 Jun 2009, cdk-athens wrote:

    To "Tengsted" at #48 & "the_luminary" at #46 :

    For example... http://www.culture.gr/h/4/eh430.jsp?obj_id=4510

    Of note, Alexandria was founded 340 B.C, this statue is dated 700 B.C.

  • Comment number 57.

    54. At 10:58pm on 20 Jun 2009, TaPantaOla wrote:

    to the_luminary

    wow impressed!!..what in-depth knowledge!! you might even be working for the British Museum...being an expert and having such one-sided and simple views..quite sad..

    Great response, I will not lose sleep arguing this one....

  • Comment number 58.

    at #53 (and please forgive me all that I come again with the same subject)

    Dear Luminary,

    read again my previous post.

    EVERYTHING was done in warm cooperation with the Egyptian authorities..
    The matching donation of mummies simply proves it.

    Bear in mind that at the time these donations were done to Greece, the same time opened the Greek Museum in Alexandria..





  • Comment number 59.

    Likewise..no sense into talking to a brick wall..

  • Comment number 60.

    Ah, 'hubertgrove' the old 'finders, keepers' argument, eh ?

    That worked well enough in the schoolyard, but hanging on to stuff which isn't really yours for a very long time, in the hope that eventually the other side will get tired isn't really a recipe for a peaceful world - just look at the rest of the middle east...

  • Comment number 61.

    It is so sad to read the comments of some Brits claiming their right on something that was clearly stolen from the Greeks 200 years ago.

    Idea: next time Brits should steal from a less touristic country. This one will have > 13 million people visiting the Athens museum every year. 13 million visitors will be able to see what the Brits did to the Parthenon every year. Clearly, a national embarrassment.

  • Comment number 62.

    58. At 11:09pm on 20 Jun 2009, cdk-athens wrote:

    at #53 (and please forgive me all that I come again with the same subject)

    Dear Luminary,

    read again my previous post.

    EVERYTHING was done in warm cooperation with the Egyptian authorities..
    The matching donation of mummies simply proves it.

    Bear in mind that at the time these donations were done to Greece, the same time opened the Greek Museum in Alexandria..

    Err no, Ioannis Dimitriou (1880)and of Alexandros Rostovi (1904) were private collectors and had nothing to do with the mummy donation (1893) or any agreement between Greece and Egypt, in fact they operated several decades apart. As you say the Greco-Roman museum was opened in 1892 and the exchange of artifacts was nothing to do with the listed collectors.

  • Comment number 63.

    59. At 11:10pm on 20 Jun 2009, TaPantaOla wrote:

    Likewise..no sense into talking to a brick wall..

    You're not really providing anything useful here are you?

  • Comment number 64.

    In response, perhaps I could provide something useful if from your side you provided something meaningful...talking about a single collection and placing the whole debate around this issue (which isn't even an issue between Egypt and Greece) alone is quite absurd...

  • Comment number 65.

    64. At 11:31pm on 20 Jun 2009, TaPantaOla wrote:

    In response, perhaps I could provide something useful if from your side you provided something meaningful...talking about a single collection and placing the whole debate around this issue (which isn't even an issue between Egypt and Greece) alone is quite absurd...

    No it's the basis of who can ask for artifacts to be returned and why. Should Greece repatriate all the objects it curently holds that were taken via private collectors to Egypt if asked? You'll say yes of course but would the Athens Museum say likewise. The statuette noted above that was 'obtained' by Ioannis Dimitriou is the only one of Takushit in existence.

    Does Greece not hold a moral obligation to return this now regardless. Perhaps it should and it may strenghten it's hand in any future negotiation, I suspect it won't though?

  • Comment number 66.

    I first saw the Marbles in London as a child in the austere days of the late 50's. The Duveen Gallery was virtually empty. The sculptures were like nothing I had ever seen before. We had no TVs or many colour print coffee table books. It was a cold day. They inspired me.

    The 'Marbles' are part of a building. A sacred space...a temenos. Not art in the modern sense, but a celebration of community..the great Panathenaic Festival. They represent a procession to present the Maiden with her new robe on behalf of the city. The whole community, young and old, men and women, united. At present, due to the intransigence of a very few, the procession is fractured. I, for one, will celebrate with the people of Greece when they are eventually returned. It will be a great day and I mean to be there when it happens, G-d willing.

  • Comment number 67.

    Ok so your position is based on moral grounds..I see..I don't know anything about the Egyptian collection that you are talking about but I take your word on it..interestingly enough, you seem to know quite a lot...

    You keep forgetting something...England has nothing to be returned back to it, nothing was stolen from England, the empire only stole..so talking about moral obligations of others with the British Museum packed with the riches of all the ancient world is at least hypocritical...




  • Comment number 68.

    66. At 11:52pm on 20 Jun 2009, blefuscu wrote:

    The 'Marbles' are part of a building. A sacred space...a temenos.

    But the building is not being restored is it?

  • Comment number 69.

    67. At 00:00am on 21 Jun 2009, TaPantaOla wrote:

    Ok so your position is based on moral grounds..I see..I don't know anything about the Egyptian collection that you are talking about but I take your word on it..interestingly enough, you seem to know quite a lot...

    You keep forgetting something...England has nothing to be returned back to it, nothing was stolen from England, the empire only stole..so talking about moral obligations of others with the British Museum packed with the riches of all the ancient world is at least hypocritical...

    Not really, perhaps Greece should set the ball rolling if this is what it wants..... Or perhaps it doesn't?

  • Comment number 70.


    Well if Egypt does make a demand I can not predict the outcome but I am pretty confident we would have a much more positive and reasonable approach than the British Museum..there is common understanding between countries with great ancient civilizations which have been systematically looted of their ancient treasures by former imperialistic powers...you can expect understanding between victims, in regards to perpetrators it seems not the case...

  • Comment number 71.

    The Building is not being restored because, despite our best knowledge, it cannot and should not be done. It is regarded as thoroughly undesirable, by the archaeological and art historical community, that this should be done. Some awful damage has been done to sites (Knossos by Arthur Evans)or in Egypt where this has been attempted. The wire brushes used by the curators in the late '30s destroyed the upper millimeter of the marbles in a misguided attempt to 'brighten them up' because of the corrosive effect of the pre-Clean Air Act of 1953 London environment. (London smelt and looked like an ash tray in those days with 3 million smokey coal fires and masses of polluting works and power stations such as Bankside.)

    My belief is that the frieze is an entirety; only to be understood and appreciated as such. It is a religious work made of marble from Pentellicon(Hill to the NE of Athens), conceived and executed in Athens by Athenians (and the resident aliens and islanders--all Hellenes) erected in a location (in Athens), surrounded by the hills of Athens..the Pnyx, Lycobettos. ie they have a place and a context.

    All in all, they are the possession of all mankind...in Athens.

  • Comment number 72.

    TaPantaOla,

    We look at Greek Philosophy and its main theme is absolutes - if an argument is correct then it must be correct in all cases. Let us look at the arguments for:

    1 it is a symbol of the Greek Nation. The Modern Greece dates back as far is the mid 19th Century. Otto of Bavaria was king (yes he was German!) He wanted to give Greece - a new country - a sense of national identity. This is why he established the capital at Athens which was at the time little more than a shanty town (population around 4000)

    The fact is that The Parthenon (Maiden's temple) is a temple to Athene built to celebrate the dominance of the Athenian people. At the time there were two competing tribes dominating Greece, The Dorians and the Ionians. The Dorians actually diplaced the Ionians and they migrated across the sea to the islands and modern day Turkey. Only in Attica did they remain - specifically Athens. Linguistics backs this up. The Dorian language is North western in nature, Attic Greek is linked with Ionic. These two distinct tribes were frequently at war with each other. The Parthenon does not represent Greece, but only Athens some 2500 years ago. It would be a bit like calling the Stone of Scone a symbol of Britain.
    After its defeat by Sparta, Athens loses its dominance in the greek world and is controlled by Macedon, Corinth, the Roman Empire and then the Ottomans. So until the formation of Greece in the 1830s, Athens was not controlled by the Greeks for roughly 2000 years.

    2 The Ottomans had no right to sell the marbles as they belonged to Greece.

    Like I said above for 2000 years Athens was not controlled by itself or the Greeks.

    3 Elgin's paperwork was not in order.

    there is the Firman, presented by Elgin as proof. This was a translated copy in Italian from the original Arabic. The translated copy was necessary to move the goods and Italian was the language of convenience - particularly if you look at the sea route. The fact that the original has not been produced does not mean it did not exist - after all absence of evidence is not evidence of Absense. Elgin was able to strip the Parthenon and export the Marbles - a big undertaking and one which would not have gone unnoticed by the authorities.

    4 The marbles were looted - much in the same way the nazi's looted.

    The nazis looted much in their few years in charge. But like I said - Greece as we know it now had been under ottoman control for hundreds of years and before that by the Roman empire for 1500 years. This is a totally different case than the holocaust etc.

    In addition the building of the Parthenon was a direct result of loot! As you will know Athens was razed by the Persians in 480 BC. In 478 The Delian league was set up in much the same way as Nato after the war - As a defence against the agressors. The league was made up of Ionian and Aeolian states. Athens became the Hegemon. Money, ships and troops were raised by members for the defence of all. Athens needed rebuilding and in 454 Pericles moved the treasury of the league from Delos to Athens. The money which was there for defence of the league was used by Pericles to build the Parthenon and he didn't just stop at the Parthenon. Moreover, when states tried to secede from the league, Athens would attack them, kill the leaders, loot them and in some cases enslave them. Can you imagine the USA acting in this way to Nato members?

    4 It is a symbol of Athens and Democracy and Freedom

    Well we have already seen what Athenian freedom means. Let's look at Athenian Democracy. It did not develop as some grand means of freeing the ordinary person and giving the power to the People. It became increasingly necessary for social cohesion with the emergence of the merchant classes in the latter part of the 6th Century to make some changes to the government. Begun by Solon and developed by Cleisthenes it looked good on paper, but it ensured 1 thing in practice - the continuing control of the Aristocracy. The real power was still held by the Aristocracy. We can see simple proof in the reality. We can look simply at Pericles - what democratic leader can stay in power for so many decades. If you were an ordinary person and you tried to rock the politic boat, you would be swiftly removed. In fact, despite the racism, the Spartans actually had something more akin to democracy than the Athenians and they were millenia ahead in terms of women's rights.

    5 The Elgin marbles should be housed together with the Athenian Marbles

    So why dont the Greek government send theirs to the British Museum? I know this is a ridiculous argument but logically it is equal to the Elgins going to Greece. At present in Greece you have casts of the Elgins. In the British Museum you have a world collecton of different heritages and you can see the influences all in one place - not only that its free as well!

    To me there is only 1 argument that works for the return of the marbles and that would be restoration of the Parthenon. I would think that the British Museum would give them up for that. Logically it matters not which museum they are in, but there can be only 1 Parthenon.

  • Comment number 73.

    To nikos_engo

    I might know a little more about Greek history than you think

  • Comment number 74.

    Have to disagree with elements of #72. Sorry to be pedantic.

    Your summary of the history of Ionian/Dorian rivalry and of the fate of Athens after the defeat of 404BC is just plain wrong. There was no tribal warfare in the 5th and 4th century Greek world. Athens had Dorian cities (Corcyra) and Sparta had Ionian/Aeolian allies. Interests and trade rivalries played a role but ...and this was Sparta's concern... Athens supported democracies (like herself) and Sparta tended to back oligarchies. The people of the Aegean supported Athens, the oligarchs most decidedly did not.

    After the war Athens recovered (Sparta would not have dared damage the Parthenon... very superstitious lot in a Laconic kind of way). For 600 years Athens was premier cultural centre for Macedonians, Romans ..the place to send privileged youth to round off their education. Roman writers extolled the purity of the Attic tongue.

    Rome morphed into the Eastern (we call it the Byzantine) empire around 450ad. Athens was part of this 1000 year culture.

    Disaster struck finally in 1453. The Turks.

    Athens was a shanty in the late 18th Century. Greece had been under a brutal regime which tried and failed to extinguish Christianity (by massacre and kidnapping children). Not one of Islams finer moments.

    PS A world collection of different heritages. ie visit one rather dated museum for one afternoon and you understand world heritage. It takes a lifetime to even start doing that and the British Museum, for all its worthiness, is as outdated in its practice as London Zoo was when I was a boy with animals in cages. You don't understand what you call 'different heritages' by cramming them into one building. How Victorian!

  • Comment number 75.

    I believe that the Greek Republic has not claims on the Elgin Marbles. They were saved by Lord Elgin well before Greece was even an independent country. Only today, that modern day Greece is able to provide the facilities to host these treasures with the assistance of the European Union, can one credibly believe that Greece could provide a safe home for the former Parthenon frieze.

    The United Kingdom, and in particular the British Museum, has provided a safe home for these treasures for 200 years.

    Furthermore, I believe the Greek Republic believes it is the modern-day incarnation of the Ancient Greek Culture, something I refute completely as a Western European. It was Western Europe (England, France, Italy, Germay and many other samller countries) who upheld Greek culture during the dark ages and I don't recognize modern Greece's claim to this very European inheritance.

    Also, I believe the British Museum is much better qualified to take care of these treasures than anybody in Greece.

    Let's put an end to this futile discussion and keep them where they are.


  • Comment number 76.

    blefuscu,

    Forgive my generalisations. Generally Athens was allied to Ionians - this caused the persian wars and ultimately the establishment of the Delian League. Of course there were some crossovers. Corcyra was Doric and it did rebel against Athens - no need for me to tell you what happened next. Although Sparta and Athens cooperated against common enemies, there was still rivalry between them and my view is that this is as much racial as anything else.
    Constantinopolis was the capital of the Eastern Roman Empire and indeed did become Byzantium. The Eastern Empire did fall mid 15th century. You misunderstand the main point i was trying to get across. If you are to be a nation state, the first test is to protect your borders.
    Finally, the best examples of Greek architecture are to be found on the colonies - such as sicily.

  • Comment number 77.

    AndyBurgen, what an absolute waste of knowledge! You seem to have studied the Greek Civilization- "seem" being the operative word here. If you had learnt anything through your studies about all the things my ancestors stood for, you would have been embarrassed by your own views.


  • Comment number 78.

    So they want to lend them the marbles if they aknowlegde its british property???

    The best solution is the other way round! The british should aknowledge its greek property and the greeks then agree to lend them some marbles!

  • Comment number 79.

    As a Greek, I would like to thank Razia Iqbal for giving people the opportunity to have this exchange. And another big Thank You to all those who took the time to offer their support to this ecumenical issue of the return of the Parthenon Marbles to Athens. Every good thought counts.


    And a little note to all my fellow Greeks: don't worry you guys, the return is inevitable, we got the gods on our side- quite literally! *winks*

  • Comment number 80.

    Assuming that the Elgin Marbles were bought 200 years ago then the Greeks will have to pay to have them back. Seems to me that there is a move by various people to steal from legitimate owners, and 200 years seems to be sufficient time to prove legitimacy, therefore the Greeks should make a proper offer based on todays values. I supose that next the Egyptions will want all their artifacts back?

  • Comment number 81.

    The Greeks never received money for them...they never would have sold them, the marbles were stolen, they were carved out using saws!!...Elgin made his deal secretly with the TURKS, another colonial power back them occupying the whole Balkans. The Turks did not care about the cultural heritage of other peoples and tried to make some money, the same applies during their occupation of Egypt...how much clearer should this point be made??

    to Andyburgen...Since you know so much about history you probably also know that one of the "great" symbols of England "Richard the Lionheart" actually considered himself French, avoided staying in England as much as possible and never spoke a word in English...you claim to know historical facts but you can not in-depth knowledge of history unless you are open-minded enough...I could discuss each of your points made, even making relevant comparisons where possible to english history but it would make no sense since your simplified interpretation of historical facts is irrelevant in this discussion and simply diverts the discussion from the main issue

    I am quite stunned by the sheer colonial audacity and ignorance lingering which is still displayed (in the year 2009) by some in this forum still viewing the world as the British playground and ancient cultural heritage of other nations as safari trophies. In today's multi-cultural UK with its Islamic population constantly rising, high proportion of mixed interracial marriages, with millions of people having British passports but not identifying themselves in no way with the British past and imperial rule but rather with those that were subdued, many not even speaking english- see how the english cricket team was welcomed with booing a few days ago at Lord's by the "home" crowd at the "house of cricket"..to express such views is simply regressive and dangerous for your country's sake first of all...

  • Comment number 82.

    Globalized has in effect replaced the word "colonialized." Lets drop the euphamisms. If the intent is to present the Parthenon marbles in a so called global cultural platform, let the British Museum be no longer called "British" and let it be a world heritage site outside the control of the UK and in the hands of the Greeks, Egyptians, Italians... With the return of this great Greek heritage, the shame long associated with the looting of great cultures can begin to wash away...and the thievery and thuggery of past colonial powers be put right.

  • Comment number 83.

    Well dear people I read many arguments and many of them were really good from both sides but I still believe that the marbles belong to the building. NOT to the grieks british or any other nation but to the building itself.

    1. Antiquities exist all over the world and they r preserved by the individual countries as good as anywhere else so the BM can not claim the expertise in preservetion. Organizing receptions in a museum like the BM does is not after all the best way to preserve antiquities.

    2. The absurdity of the poor excuse that let Greece pay to BM for the marbles marks the difference. Greeks would never sell them even beeing a "beggar state" cause its a matter of respect to their past.

    3. Greece is a "beggar state" well I bet UK would also be the same if it was looted and plandered by wars over many years and didnt have its colonies to loot. I would accept the argument give Naxos and some other islands back to Turkey if UK was to give back all the money and artifacts to the states from where they were looted from.

    4. BM can be visited by people from all over the world. Are the marbles the only reason people visit London? Then that must be a really poor city. Are the marbles of Parthenon the crown of British civilization and therefor people visit the city? On the other hand the visitors in Athens go to see the Parthenon as main attraction. They go there to walk on the streets that Plato, Socrates and Perikles walked. Where democracy, philosophy and sciences flurished. Is it fair to say to those people "to be continued in the BM" as if this was a TV serie?

    5.Has ever anyone thought outside the BM how many people would like to see all those antiquities in their natural environment?

    6. Has anyone thought that BM or any other museum that witholds illegaly antiquities deprive the countries of origine from the tourists interested to see them? How absurd does the argument of "begar state" now sounds? If Greece had more tourists then she would ask for less money and thas European states would have to give less. So keeping the marbles in UK doesnt improve the economic situation in Greece.

    7. The gap in the BM can be easily filled by other Greek antiquities as the greek minister of culture said yesterday.

    8. Daily telegraph a well respected newspaper in UK wrote that Mr Baroso didnt visit Athens yesterday. Thats a lie!!! Not only he visited the museum but he also made speach asking for the return of the marbles.

    9. Roman coins and parthenon.Roman coins are movable objects, Parthenon isnt.

    10. Elgin showed the biggest disrespect on this monument than any other conqueror did. He mutilated Parthenon. Parthenon marbles are not heads and tails of horses not heads and legs and arms of people. The marbles tells us a story of galandry and chivallery, a story of excellence of the human mind and the human inginuity. Nobody can understand that by seeing bits and pieces scattered around the world. Nobody can say to the common people "well here we have the half of it, if you have the time and above all the money make another trip to Greece to see the rest cause back in 1816 Lord Elgin couldnt transfer the whole monument in London".

    11. British people are more than the childish behavior of the BM. They are polite and fair and thats why their majority wants the marbles return to its rightfull owner "The Parthenon" so all the world can admire it in its whole majestic presence.

    12. The world monuments are not coins or pieces of land they are the expretion of the human spirit and they can only be seen where they were mend to be.

  • Comment number 84.

    To Luminaty regarding Egyptian collection,

    Dimitriou and Rostovich were both Egyptian citizens at the time.

    Dimitriou made his donation (artifacts in 1890 and then coins 1898) and at the same period helped to built (1895) and was life-time supporter of the Greek Museum there. He was a very honorable member of Egyptian society and died in Egypt. He was in continues close relationship with the Egyptian Archaeological society (he was also an archaeologist himself, apart being a manufacturer/businessman). He helped and took part in many excavations in Egypt, working together with his Egyptian colleagues.

    The Egyptian Collection in Athens Museum is actually quite small and takes only two rooms of the whole museum (have you ever visited it?).

    The donations to the Greek State of the Egyptian collection was done under the willing and generous approval of the Egyptian State, which additionally contributed with mummies.

    Do not try to misinterpret the facts!!

    Throughout the years and until today, there is a very close exchange of study and knowledge between the Egyptians and Greek Archaeological societies.

    Never the Egyptian State has formed any kind of complaint or request for these artifacts and coins.

    You can not even compare this case with the marbles of Parthenon. It is completely irrelevant.

    The Marbles were taken by force and at a time when there was occupation under the Ottoman Empire.

    Also, Lord Elgin, in the hurrying process to remove them (for the fear of local people, who even under the Ottoman occupation, were alerte and tried with all their powers to stop this), he conducted huge damage. In many cases he forcibly took just a leg or the head or other parts of the body, as all these were sculptured in big rocks, part of the building and were very difficult to safely remove at a very short time.. so he literally looted the place. It is a big shame to do that, it is a profound thievery.

    I want to ask you to visit the new Museum in Athens, or B.M. and to share then with us your feelings by looking at headless body in Athens and then looking at the head-only exhibit in London.

    enough said.


  • Comment number 85.

    Stolen goods should be returned to the owner, no matter how much the thief can argue that the stolen goods are his and that the previous owner didn´t appreciate them to the thief´s liking. I would suggest an ultimatum to the BM and the UK government, resulting in cultural embargos (For instance suspension from UEFA, FIFA and the IOC) in case of non compliance. Time to set things straight guys, 21st century, remember?

  • Comment number 86.

    Against all BM 'arguments' & declarations given by some 'patrons' and weeping colonialists (and crypto-afrocentrists synaesthetresses!) who gathered here and there, with BBCs own words:

    1. Saturday, 8 November 2008 : Vatican sends back Parthenon head

    2. Friday, 24 October 2008 : Italy returns Parthenon fragment

    3. Thursday, 25 September 2008 : Italy returns marble to Greece

    4. Friday, 10 November 2006 : Swede gives back Acropolis marble

    5. Tuesday, 24 October 2006 : The British Museum (BM) has denied that it tried to persuade a German university not to return a fragment of the Parthenon sculptures to Athens. (When in 2006 a smaller fragment of the Parthenon frieze - a man's heel - was returned to Athens by the University of Heidelberg in Germany)



    The removal of the marbles was a dishonorable act of vandalism", Robin Cook (14 January, 2004)


    PS: xoser73,
    In the case of non compliance there is another, much greater punishment for the English corrupted post-modernistic pseudo-internationalist establishment:
    boycott of 2012 OLYMPIC GAMES !!!
    Any criminal (a thief in our case) is not allowed to possess or use by any means neither material nor intellectual property which belongs to its victims.
    How about them apples?

    :-)

  • Comment number 87.

    After reading the blogs and feasting on the admirable historical knowledge of most, the arguments for and against, I have come to the conclusion that the essence of the matter is....thankyou Britain for caring for these ancient artifacts.........now please send them home.......where they belong.The British are renound for their fairness and impeccable sense of right and wrong and I have no doubt that with all the problems there are today, the world will shed a tear of content when the marbles are returned to Athens, to the Parthenon, to their dwelling house.........to lay to rest at last. philhellene...And history with all her volumes vast,Hath but one page. Lord Byron (Childe Harold)

  • Comment number 88.

    I am totally embarrassed by the British Museums refusal to hand back what are effectively stolen works of art. It is akin to the Nazis looting of occupied Europe and then claiming ownership! Do the right thing and return the marbles.

  • Comment number 89.

    There is a strong argument behind Britain's constant denial in returning the Parthenon Marbles back to ( but obviously noone wants to admit) where they belong to: 6000000 people visit the British museum evey year. True, very true. Out of this 6000000 I will consider that 60% are european and other tourists & 40% Britons. That means that approximately 3,600,000 tourists fly over to London for maybe a week and spare 1 day ot 2 to visit the museum. Should marbles and other state of the art monuments are to return to where they belong to,at least half of the 3,600,000 will not visit London and prefer to visit perhaps Athens, thus London will loose a significance piece of the financial pie. Tourism!
    Now all these nonsenses about Greeks being unable to protect their history, the fact that we have been able to protect Acropolis (may I remind you that Acropolis is still there) and so many monuments (millions in numbers) tells the whole story. Britain is running out of excuses.
    Someone had proposed to return the marbles on the condition that Greece would compensate Britain for the costs of taking care them. Sorry but no! We didn't offer them to you, you had taken them by us and we were never asked.
    A loan is not acceptable either, not only because there are legal implications behind that, but you can't claim a loan to something which physically belongs to you anyway.
    To conclude, the Parthenon Marbles should return to Greece with immediate effect and no further delays or arguments about this subject.


  • Comment number 90.

    While I was impressed by the Elgin marbles in the British Museum, I did not feel that there was any reason why they should remain there. Frankly, I would have rather seen them overlooking their original location than in some dark London gallery. And the way train fares are spiralling, it's almost cheaper for me to go and see them in Greece than it is for me to go and see them in London! As a gesture of goodwill, we should give them back.

    There is nothing childish about the Greek argument for the marbles' return. How would we Brits feel if someone took away several pillars of Stonehenge or a section of Hampton Court for safekeeping and refused to give them back generations later?

  • Comment number 91.

    Why do they have to be in Athens to be admired? because they'll be in a brand spanking new modern museum? Why don't the Greeks spend money restoring the real buildings and reducing pollution because they would have a case saying that they should be back where they came from. Culture has no borders. With the argument the Greeks are making we may as well place them anywhere in the Ottoman Empire. Anyway, with arguments like that, it would leave it open for pieces to be flying everywhere from one place to the other. If it was about preserving the marbles then it shouldn't matter where they are, as long as they are free for the public to access. BTW, the BM doesn't have a charge to get in so Tourism doesn't really concern them.

  • Comment number 92.

    Well ,first of i have to say that i find some excuses a bit not reasonable..Culture have no borders..That means that the marbles have to stay in an english museum?cause culture has no borders for me means that they had to be sent in all the museums of the world ..not be held in only one museum and do not leave even the people who created them and the british stole these from them to keep it..

    We are people of the world now..Well the last thing i see is this..i think that some people are people justn of themselves..just a comment to a excuse that nobody will believe..

    As for the turism you know very well that the marbles ,etc is a big attraction..So ofcourse an there is a big economical benefit..

  • Comment number 93.

    #19 ingeniousSN wrote: "As a Greek living in London and having visited the British Museum three times I was disguisted by the cultural theft that I witnessed there."

    As a Turk having visited the Pergamon Museum in Berlin, I was upset that behind a net's shadow was displayed the 'reconstructed' marketplace of Milet(os), an ancient city that has a distance of 10 miles from my hometown.

    Art is complete in its 'rightful' place. Where's the rightful place then, you might ask.
    In the context of my example, you should visit Milet and Berlin to find an (/no) answer: art will tell you (n)one.

  • Comment number 94.

    #81 TaPantaOla wrote: "The Turks did not care about the cultural heritage of other peoples and tried to make some money, the same applies during their occupation of Egypt...how much clearer should this point be made??"

    Yours is a point that is far from being clear.

  • Comment number 95.

    This thing that the greeks say something and the turks just appear from somewhere to say the opposite is something that is not our topic now..ok there are problems between the two countries..that i hope that will be solved when turkey one day enter in the eu..just not the same things again and again now..thats tiring..

  • Comment number 96.

    well Priene, I was referring to comments made such as "that Greeks sold the marbles to Elgin and now they want them back, they should pay.."...the Greek did not (or even intend to) sell anything, they were plainly robed, on the other hand the Ottomans made a business deal with Elgin as they couldn't care less about the culture of others...

  • Comment number 97.

    On a side note, the fact that the Parthenon was a temple is debated. It's possible it was just a treasury (I know some of my teachers refused categorically to have it called a temple), and that Athena was worshipped in another building.
    Religious or not, it was certainly a major political statement. If anything embodies the power of classical Athens, it's that. So the Greeks' claim really isn't unreasonable, far from it. But the works the British Museum have had in their care are in a MUCH better state than the ones which remained in Athens. Sorry, but the caryatids still in place on the Erechtheion cut a really poor figure and should have been put in the safety of a pollution-free gallery much earlier.
    Athens has now a place to guarantee these most important artefacts will not be defaced by pollution. But they should acknowledge the fact that without the British Museum, the Elgin marbles would be in a very sorry state indeed, and that Britain has given a crucial hand in the conservation of one of the most emblematic work of Western art. Demanding an unconditional return on the ground that the works were created in Greece totally overlooks the fact that a work of art has not only an origin, but a history. Their stay at the BM (and the excellent state they are in today, which is a direct consequence of that stay) is now part of that history, and you cannot just erase that.
    A loan which would see both institutions loan their work to one another (e.g. Athen hosts the west pediment for say 5 years, then lend it for 5 years etc) and work hand in hand would seem like the fairest solution, in my humble opinion.

  • Comment number 98.

    and something that you dont know elgin destroyed the marbles..he was washing them with acid to make them whiter..the marbles would be in a much better state if there never were in england.Cause in greece noone would wash them with acid...now if they kept themin the english museum in a good state i have heard not even good things about how well they kept them there..in greece they will keep them like their babies..and the new museum is very very good ..so even for a better conservation away from not the english museum..

  • Comment number 99.

    away from the english museum ..i meant..very away..

  • Comment number 100.

    LouiseMarthe,

    of course we can not erase the 200 years of exile in the the BM from the marbles' history but 200 years is nothing compared to the history of 2300 years where they had been always and rightfully standing.

    Taking into account the destruction that Elgin caused to the Parthenon on the first place by his butchery leaves little ground for debate over the care they received next...

 

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