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Should the Elgin Marbles be returned to Greece?
February 8, 2013 at 12:32 AM

Some backround info below.  Many feel they were stolen and should be returned.  Some feel they should be reinstalled on the Parthenon Others feel that that is out of the question as the air quality would be devastating to the sculptures.  What do you think?

Elgin Marbles

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Elgin Marbles
Parthenon Marbles
Year circa 447–438 BCE
Type Marble
Dimensions 75 m (247 ft)
Location British Museum, London

The Elgin Marbles (pron.: /ˈɛlɡɪn/ EL-gin),[1] are a collection of classical Greek marble sculptures (mostly by Phidias and his assistants), inscriptions and architectural members that originally were part of the Parthenon and other buildings on the Acropolis of Athens.[2][3] Thomas Bruce, the 7th Earl of Elgin obtained a controversial permit from the Ottoman authorities to remove pieces from the Parthenon while serving as the British ambassador to the Ottoman Empire from 1799 to 1803.

From 1801 to 1812, Elgin's agents removed about half of the surviving sculptures of the Parthenon, as well as architectural members and sculpture from the Propylaea and Erechtheum.[4] The Marbles were transported by sea to Britain. In Britain, the acquisition of the collection was supported by some,[5] while some critics compared Elgin's actions to vandalism[6] or looting.[7][8][9][10][11]

Following a public debate in Parliament and subsequent exoneration of Elgin's actions, the marbles were purchased by the British government in 1816 and placed on display in the British Museum, where they stand now on view in the purpose-built Duveen Gallery. The debate continues as to whether the Marbles should remain in the British Museum or be returned to Athens.


  • Sekirei
    by Sekirei
    February 8, 2013 at 12:36 AM

    Eh, I am up in the air.. was it fixed so that the movement of the marbles was legal? How does the Greek government feel?

    I am happy that the Egyptian artifacts are on their way back to Egypt.. maybe it is time to send these sculptures back to Greece.

  • turtle68
    February 8, 2013 at 12:37 AM

     They should be returned to is comparable to looting IMO.

    I do agree they should not be hung on the Parthenon as they are more likely to be ruined and as the Parthenon is falling to pieces because of the polution it would be foolhardy to do so.

  • Clairwil
    February 8, 2013 at 12:48 AM
    Quoting Sekirei:

    I am happy that the Egyptian artifacts are on their way back to Egypt

    I'm not.

    Too many governments in Africa have destroyed priceless artifacts recently, for the sin of not being Islamic (or even Islamic but not the 'right' branch of Islam), for me to feel comfortable with the safety of their stewardship.

  • Clairwil
    February 8, 2013 at 12:49 AM
    Quoting Sekirei:

    How does the Greek government feel?

    How does the German government feel?   After all, they're the ones who, in effect, would be paying.

  • survivorinohio
    February 8, 2013 at 12:53 AM

    Here is another article.  The greek Gov wants them back,

    The Elgin Marbles / Parthenon Sculptures

    By , Guide

    What are the Elgin Marbles?

    At its broadest, the term ‘Elgin Marbles’ refers to a collection of stone sculptures and architectural pieces which Thomas Bruce, Seventh Lord Elgin, gathered during his service as ambassador to the court of the Ottoman Sultan in Istanbul. In practice, the term is commonly used to refer to the stone objects he gathered – an official Greek website prefers “looted” - from Athens between 1801-05, particularly those from the Parthenon; these included 247 feet of frieze. We believe that Elgin took around half of what was surviving at the Parthenon at that time. The Parthenon items are increasingly, and officially, called the Parthenon Sculptures.

    The Elgin Marbles in Britain

    Elgin was heavily interested in Greek history and claimed he had the permission of the Ottomans, the people ruling Athens during his service, to gather his collection. After acquiring the marbles he transported them to Britain, although one shipment sank during transit; it was fully recovered. In 1816 Elgin sold the stones for £35,000, half his estimated costs, and they were acquired by the British Museum in London, but only after a Parliamentary Select Committee – a very high level body of inquiry – debated the legality of Elgin’s ownership. Elgin had been attacked by campaigners (then as now) for “vandalism”, but Elgin argued the sculptures would be better cared for in Britain, and cited his permissions, documentation which campaigners for the return of the Marbles often now believe supports their claims. The Committee allowed the Elgin Marbles to stay in Britain. They are now displayed by the British Museum.

    The Parthenon Diaspora

    The Parthenon, and its sculptures/marbles, have a history which stretches back 2500 years, when it was built to honour a goddess called Athena. It has been a Christian church and a Muslim mosque, but has been ruined since 1687, when gunpowder stored inside exploded and attackers bombarded the structure. Over the centuries the stones which both constituted and adorned the Parthenon had been damaged, especially during the explosion, and many have been removed from Greece. The surviving Parthenon sculptures are divided among museums in eight nations, including The British Museum, the Louvre, the Vatican collection and a new, purpose built museum in Athens. The majority of the Parthenon Sculptures are split evenly between London and Athens.

    The Elgin Marbles and Greece

    Pressure for the return of the Marbles to Greece has been growing, and since the 1980s the Greek Government has officially asked for them to be permanently repatriated. They argue that the Marbles are a prime piece of Greek heritage, and were removed with the permission of what was effectively a foreign government as Greek independence only occurred a few years after Elgin was collecting. They also argue that the British Museum has no legal right to the sculptures. Arguments that Greece had nowhere to adequately display the Marbles, because they can’t be satisfactorily replaced in Parthenon itself, have been made null and void by the creation of a new £115 million Acropolis Museum with a floor recreating the Parthenon. In addition massive works to restore and stabilise the Parthenon and the Acropolis have been, and are being, carried out.

    The British Museum’s Response

    The British Museum has basically said “no” to the Greeks. Their official position, as given on their website in 2009, is:

    “The British Museum’s Trustees argue that the Parthenon Sculptures are integral to the Museum’s purpose as a world museum telling the story of human cultural achievement. Here Greece’s cultural links with the other great civilizations of the ancient world, especially Egypt, Assyria, Persia and Rome, can be clearly seen, and the vital contribution of ancient Greece to the development of later cultural achievements in Europe, Asia, and Africa can be followed and understood. The current division of the surviving sculptures between museums in eight countries, with about equal quantities present in Athens and London, allows different and complementary stories to be told about them, focusing respectively on their importance for the history of Athens and Greece, and their significance for world culture. This, the Museum’s Trustees believe, is an arrangement that gives maximum public benefit for the world at large and affirms the universal nature of the Greek legacy.”

    The British Museum has also claimed they have a right to keep the Elgin Marbles because they effectively saved them from further damage. Ian Jenkins was quoted by the BBC, while associated with the British Museum, as saying “If Lord Elgin did not act as he did, the sculptures would not survive as they do. And the proof of that as a fact is merely to look at the things that were left behind in Athens.” Yet the British Museum has also admitted that the sculptures were damaged by “heavy handed” cleaning, although the precise level of damage is disputed by campaigners in Britain and Greece. Pressure continues to build.

  • survivorinohio
    February 8, 2013 at 12:58 AM

    Quoting Clairwil:

    Quoting Sekirei:

    How does the Greek government feel?

    How does the German government feel?   After all, they're the ones who, in effect, would be paying.

    What dogs do the germans have in this fight?

  • Clairwil
    February 8, 2013 at 1:04 AM
    Quoting survivorinohio:

    What do you think?

    I think they should eventually be returned, when it is safe to do so.


    Return the Marbles? Forget it

    By Trevor Timpson
    BBC News

    Dorothy King and statues from the Parthenon east pediment
    Dorothy King at the British Museum

    Archaeologist Dorothy King, who breaks the mould of the dusty academic, is an outspoken critic of Greek demands to take back the Elgin Marbles from the UK.

    "I think she sounds fun," Dorothy King says of Melina Mercouri, "I wish I could have been friends with her - a bit of a drama queen, but aren't we all?"

    Ms Mercouri was the Oscar-nominated actress and Greek culture minister who demanded that the UK return the Parthenon sculptures - the Elgin Marbles - "in the name of fairness and morality".

    But standing firm against her is Dr King, who argues in her new book against repatriating the Marbles. Like Ms Mercouri, she is a colourful character. She is irreverent and feisty, with a blog called PhDiva, and she speaks her mind on a range of issues in newspaper columns and on TV.

    Not that she absolutely rules out the return of the Parthenon sculptures, removed by Lord Elgin in the early 19th Century, although her book keeps up her attack on the Greeks' ability to look after their archaeological treasures properly.

    "When the Greeks can demonstrate that they too have done an admirable job of caring for the Marbles in Athens then, perhaps, we can discuss a loan.

    "Should Greece ever sort out a suitable museum display, it might be possible to appreciate them [the Marbles] there fully one day," she says in her book.

    New home for old treasures

    Her stance - that a loan might be possible one day - is not what those who want the Marbles to stay in London want to hear. "I think a lot of the people who want them to stay are not happy because they thought I'd be firmer," she says.

    Design plan for the New Acropolis Museum
    The controversial new museum

    The Greeks are building a new museum in which they want to unite their own Parthenon sculptures with those held in London and around the world at the foot of the Acropolis - within sight of the Parthenon temple itself. And they have been praised for the recent cleaning of the slabs taken down from the Parthenon's west frieze in 1983.

    So does this mean the Greeks have met the conditions she sets in her book for "perhaps discussing a loan"? Not at all, says Dr King, who hates the new museum.

    "I don't think it should have been built," she says, pointing out that distinguished Greek scholars have protested at the destruction of archaeological remains to build the museum.

    But the Greek authorities and their supporters insist that the museum's plans have been altered precisely so as to preserve early Christian remains underneath - and to enable them to be seen by visitors through transparent panels in the floor.

    This cuts little ice with Dr King, who says there are eight or nine layers of remains under the museum.

    Left: Marbles in the British Museum, and right, the west  frieze in Athens (photo S Mavrommatis©)
    Parts of the frieze in London, left, and in Athens

    And as for the cleaned frieze, she says: "Anyone who saw the condition of the west frieze in Athens next to the Elgin Marbles in London would immediately decide that the Marbles in London should stay there."

    But when the museum finally opens, surely we will know then that whatever has happened in the past, the London carvings will be safe in Athens?

    "Three months of 'let's look after our Marbles' after 50 years of 'let's ignore them and damage them' does not add up to a good track record," she says.

    Patina or whitewash?

    On no subject is she more scornful than what supporters of their return lovingly call the "honey-brown patina" formed on some of the Parthenon carvings in Greece. They say the patina forms naturally as marble ages and it contains precious surface details of the carvings - and lament the fact that it was lost on many of the London sculptures during a controversial cleaning in the 1930s with metal tools.

    I like Athens so if they did go back it would just be an excuse to go
    Dorothy King

    Dr King calls it "brown sludge", and says it is almost certainly a whitewash that the Ottomans applied to the Parthenon when they turned it into a mosque, and which has turned brown over time.

    As for the 1930s cleaning, the Greeks used similar techniques for much longer, she says: "It happened a long time ago and I think it's very hypocritical of the Greeks considering how white and shiny their own sculptures are."

    Her book is wide-ranging, with many insights into the history of Athens and the temples of the Acropolis - particularly interesting for those who like all periods of Greek history and don't like to read about the classical age alone.

    Athens puts cleaned west frieze on display

    It is spoiled a little by some small textual and other mistakes which have enabled some of Dr King's opponents to make fun of her. Hopefully the publisher will put these right in future editions - especially as the book will probably be read by young people just starting to love the study of the Greek world.

    Is she confident that the British will resist calls to send the marbles back to Athens? "Who knows what's going to happen in the future? I like Athens so if they did go back it would just be an excuse to go."

  • Momniscient
    February 8, 2013 at 1:05 AM

    If the British Museum returned everything that didn't belong to it... there wouldn't be anything there.

    What does the parliament of Greece think?

  • Momniscient
    February 8, 2013 at 1:08 AM

    Quoting survivorinohio:

    Quoting Clairwil:

    Quoting Sekirei:

    How does the Greek government feel?

    How does the German government feel?   After all, they're the ones who, in effect, would be paying.

    What dogs do the germans have in this fight?

    They are bailing out Greece.

  • Clairwil
    February 8, 2013 at 1:11 AM
    Quoting survivorinohio:
    Quoting Clairwil:
    Quoting Sekirei:

    How does the Greek government feel?

    How does the German government feel?   After all, they're the ones who, in effect, would be paying.

    What dogs do the germans have in this fight?

    They recently spent 44 billion euros, to bail Greece out.  Effectively, Greek government spending is at the moment coming from the pockets of tax payers in Germany more than it is coming from the pockets of tax payers in Greece.

    I was only being half serious, though.  I should have added a :-)

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