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Should the Elgin Marbles be returned to Greece?

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Should the Elgin Marbles be returned to Greece?

Post by Ivan on Sat Nov 01, 2014 11:23 pm

First topic message reminder :

The Elgin Marbles (more appropriately known as ‘The Parthenon Marbles’) are a collection of 88 classical Greek marble sculptures that used to be part of the Parthenon and other buildings on the Acropolis of Athens. In 1811, when Greece was part of the Ottoman Empire, Lord Elgin obtained permission to do some excavating, but actually removed about half of the surviving sculptures of the Parthenon and transported them by sea to Britain. They have been in the British Museum in London since 1816.

Greece, which became an independent country in 1830, wants the sculptures returned to them. It considers that the cutting and removal of the monuments was illegal, a blatant act of vandalism and the theft of intellectual property. The Greeks have raised the issue on an international level since the 1980s, with the Greek actress, singer and politician Melina Mercouri (1920-1994) leading the campaign. Neil Kinnock promised that if Labour won the general election of 1992 the sculptures would be returned to Greece, but sadly for the Greeks (and for us) it didn’t win. This year UNESCO has agreed to mediate in resolving the dispute, but there hasn't yet been a response from the UK.

So why haven’t the sculptures been returned to Greece? Boris Johnson is vehemently opposed to the suggestion, stupidly describing it as a “Hitlerian agenda for London’s cultural treasures”. The Parthenon was built in the 5th century BC by the city-state of Athens, long before Greece existed as a country. Elgin had a licence from the Turkish rulers of Athens to tamper with the site and he may have saved the sculptures from a worse fate at the hands of the Turks. The British state bought the sculptures from Elgin and turned them over to the British Museum, whose trustees are now their legal owners. Sending one set of artefacts to Greece would set a precedent: museums all over the world might then be expected to send exhibits to the modern nation states occupying the land on which they were built or found. ‘The Mona Lisa’, dating from the early 16th century, was "acquired" by King Francis I of France and has been in The Louvre in Paris since 1797; do you think the French would ever send it back to Italy, which didn’t exist as a nation before the 1860s?

I certainly don’t buy much of that. Can you imagine the reaction if a British monument had been treated in the same way as the Parthenon? Supposing Big Ben had been taken by the Nazis and sold ‘legally’ to another country (how’s that for a “Hitlerian agenda”, Boris?), or if the Greeks had relocated Stonehenge to Athens or taken the Crown Jewels from the Tower of London! Even Elgin’s licence from the Turkish rulers of Athens was probably exceeded, since asset-stripping isn’t quite the same thing as excavating. As to possibly saving the sculptures from destruction by the Turks, that’s hardly a claim to legitimate ownership; if you stop a thief from stealing some of your neighbour’s property, it doesn’t make it yours. The bottom line for me is that if you take something that doesn’t belong to you, and you get caught, then you have to give it back. Theft is theft, and the passage of time doesn’t lessen the crime.

Opinion polls in the last two decades have shown that Britons overwhelmingly agree with Neil Kinnock and think the sculptures should be returned. The Greeks have even suggested joint curatorship of them through the establishment of a branch of the British Museum, within sight of the Parthenon, on the top floor of the new Acropolis Museum. Writing in ‘The Guardian’, Josephine Quinn said: “There's a persuasive argument that people should have the chance to see the marbles beside the Acropolis on which they were first erected. In the new Acropolis Museum, the Parthenon itself is visible through the windows of the room in which the marbles would be displayed together with the fragments that remained in Athens. The sculptures currently split in two – including a decapitated goddess and a great procession that disappears half way through – would be reunited, and would finally make all their sense. Athens is no less accessible than London to the rest of the world, and to see and think about this temple and almost all of its sculpture on the same morning, under the same Athenian sky, would be a privilege and a joy.”

Sources used:-

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elgin_Marbles

http://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2014/oct/19/return-the-elgin-marbles-to-athens-helena-smith

http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/feb/14/parthenon-marbles-greece-george-clooney
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Re: Should the Elgin Marbles be returned to Greece?

Post by Ivan on Wed Nov 18, 2015 10:16 pm

As for mister man-in-the-street being asked for an opinion..... why not have him perform heart surgery?
That sounds like both a logical fallacy and an argument against democracy. Surely there’s a world of difference between having a life-saving skill and holding an opinion on whether or not stolen goods should be returned to their owners?

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Re: Should the Elgin Marbles be returned to Greece?

Post by marcolucco on Wed Nov 18, 2015 10:47 pm


You've simply missed the point -
I am saying that the man in the street is as ignorant of the Elgin Marbles as he is about performing brain surgery. And yes, there is a great difference between having a life-saving skill and holding an opinion just as there is between a quagga and a hair brush but this observation, interesting though it is, has no relevance to the point made.

If the question was: Should we give back STOLEN goods? then that is a horse of a different colour. When you want someone's opinion it is incorrect to couch your question in terms that suggest what the response should be.

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Re: Should the Elgin Marbles be returned to Greece?

Post by Claudine on Tue Nov 24, 2015 10:17 pm

Are you normally quite this brusque, marcolucco?
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Re: Should the Elgin Marbles be returned to Greece?

Post by marcolucco on Wed Nov 25, 2015 8:54 am

Hello Claudine -that's a good example of a question which damns the replier if he answer yes or no. The topic of the Elgin Marbles seems to stir people's imagination. Best regards.
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Re: Should the Elgin Marbles be returned to Greece?

Post by Claudine on Wed Nov 25, 2015 9:22 am

Which isn't an answer, marco. Interesting.
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Re: Should the Elgin Marbles be returned to Greece?

Post by marcolucco on Wed Nov 25, 2015 2:02 pm

And I am normally careful about my replies. Are you aware of the question: "Have you stopped beating your wife?" How should the accused answer that one? I try to make my replies fit the tone of the statement to which I am replying; but we are in danger of losing our Marbles so let us keep to the topic.
Again, best wishes.
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Re: Should the Elgin Marbles be returned to Greece?

Post by Claudine on Wed Nov 25, 2015 2:34 pm

Thank you for evading the question once again. Have a great afternoon.
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Re: Should the Elgin Marbles be returned to Greece?

Post by marcolucco on Wed Nov 25, 2015 2:42 pm

Then, dear Claudine, I have to assume you have misunderstood what I was attempting to communicate to you. You may as well ask if I have stopped being a fascist. Your question is flawed, leading, useless. Do you jump when someone tells you to? Amusing though this exchange is, can you release me from the role of instructor in semantics? And have a good day.

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Re: Should the Elgin Marbles be returned to Greece?

Post by Claudine on Wed Nov 25, 2015 3:11 pm

Although you appear to revel in that role a little bit too frequently, I will of course set you free..

Don't say I never do anything for you. I'm going to play with my grandchildren now. Goodbye.
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Re: Should the Elgin Marbles be returned to Greece?

Post by marcolucco on Wed Nov 25, 2015 4:40 pm

Claudine wrote:Although you appear to revel in that role a little bit too frequently, I will of course set you free..

Don't say I never do anything for you. I'm going to play with my grandchildren now.

You sound too lovely to be reprimanding poor marco who has come here all unprotected with nothing to defend himself but a few odd words. Enjoy your grandchildren. You will see in due course, I hope, that brusqueness is not my normal style and I cannot ever imagine employing it with you. Back to the Marbles -or have we stopped caring about them? Had we transported some other ancient monuments we might have saved them from ISIS.
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Re: Should the Elgin Marbles be returned to Greece?

Post by Ivan on Wed Nov 25, 2015 5:40 pm

marcolucco wrote:-
Had we transported some other ancient monuments we might have saved them from ISIS.
Forgive me for repeating myself, but if I think some thugs are about to vandalise my neighbour's car and I can get the car into my garage to stop them, can I keep the car or should I give it back to the neighbour when he asks for it and when it's safe to do so?
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Re: Should the Elgin Marbles be returned to Greece?

Post by marcolucco on Wed Nov 25, 2015 10:22 pm


Ivan wrote:Forgive me for repeating myself, but if I think some thugs are about to vandalise my neighbour's car and I can get the car into my garage to stop them, can I keep the car or should I give it back to the neighbour when he asks for it and when it's safe to do so?

The situation you've outlined is fairly simple. The intention was to remove the car to a place of temporary safety. It would be illogical to keep the car since there was never any intention to do this. To keep it is straightforward theft.
There are several differences between this and the removal of the Elgin Marbles.

The Marbles were removed not as a temporary measure.
The "owner" of the Marbles is not as clear-cut as the owner of the vehicle; ancient artefacts sit in museums across the globe, rightfully preserved for posterity by whatever country houses them.
A huge amount of time has elapsed since the Marbles were removed; in that period countries, never mind bits of marble, have changed hands and we do well to leave history in the history books.
There is no good reason to remove the Marbles to what most experts would see as an inferior storing place; they are the inheritance of the modern world and we should be proud that we have looked after them well.
As for the act of theft - there are various claims about permission being sought - who was the rightful owner at that time - did the removal confer rights of ownership on the remover? The analogy with the vehicle is not particularly good since here such questions don't arise.

When we are dealing with items of great antiquity then the best home is the one where they can be well preserved for posterity, in the care of people who appreciate their worth, well out of harm's way. Simple.
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Re: Should the Elgin Marbles be returned to Greece?

Post by oftenwrong on Tue Jul 19, 2016 10:37 pm

Update

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/elgin-marbles-return-greece-legal-bid-thrown-out-eu-court-human-rights-a7145216.html
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Re: Should the Elgin Marbles be returned to Greece?

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