Elgin Marbles return or retain?

Beebo

Senior Member
It’s back in the news. The age old question of what to do with the stuff that we removed from other countries. Even calling them Elgin Marbles is quite rightly no longer PC.

Johnson’s latest comment seems to be washing his hands of it by suggest it’s up to the British Museum to ultimately decide.

https://www.google.co.uk/amp/s/amp....on-marbles-is-up-to-british-museum-says-no-10

I believe they will be returned in the next 20 years but The British Museum is a fantastic place with a world leading collection, they can’t be expected to hand it all back.

Where do we draw the line on giving stuff back, especially when a transaction of sorts may have taken place hundreds of years ago. The claim for the marbles being that the Ottomans allowed Elgin to remove them. Greece being under Ottoman rule at the time.

What about stuff like the Rosetta Stone which we apparently stole off Napoleon who presumably stole it off someone else.

Nazi loot is still very contentious. If that can’t be solved then solving older problems is even harder.
 

the snail

Regular
They belong in Athens, no question. The BM could have copies made. Something as unique as those friezes really should be in their original location - I mean you wouldn't want to take half the stones from Stonehenge and send them abroad, would you?
 

mudsticks

Legendary Member
222
 

AuroraSaab

Über Member
Yes, lovely as they are, they need to go back. It's one thing keeping a few bits and pieces. There seem to be plenty of Egyptian mummies and Greek vases to go round for example, but the big stuff needs to go back to it's original place.
 
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Beebo

Beebo

Senior Member
It’s a bit like the slave trader argument, that of course it was wrong, we wouldn’t do it nowadays.
I would be interested to know if the British Museum have information on display detailing how they acquired the marbles and the disputed ownership.
My understanding is that Elgin wanted them to decorate his own house so his motives weren’t purely altruistic.
 

Archie_tect

Active Member
Lord Byron thought it was theft. I'm happy to agree.
Was he ever in any fit state to think straight?
 

the snail

Regular
It’s a bit like the slave trader argument, that of course it was wrong, we wouldn’t do it nowadays.
I would be interested to know if the British Museum have information on display detailing how they acquired the marbles and the disputed ownership.
My understanding is that Elgin wanted them to decorate his own house so his motives weren’t purely altruistic.
It's debatable whether Elgin's actions were even legal at the time, but apart from the legal/moral arguments, these are part of one of the most important historical sites in the world, and people should be able to see these treasures in their original context, as well as many other looted monuments, like the nereid monument from Xanthos and many others.
 

Archie_tect

Active Member
Think of it another way.

The Athens Acropolis Archaeology Museum staff confirmed , during a lecture there, that had the Tympanum and Frieze carvings been left in place they would have been totally eroded by acid rain caused by the Athens traffic. You could claim, but for the preservation in the BM controlled environment, that the artefacts would not longer exist today.
 

Archie_tect

Active Member
Copies of the marbles could be cast in limestone resin and replaced in their original positions, thereby preventing further erosion of the originals but so much work would need to be done to the Acropolis to enable them to be structurally safe, that isn't a realistic option. Whether people are looking at accurate copies or the originals behind glass is immaterial... a lot of fuss over something that doesn't really matter as long as the originals are being preserved to the best of the curator's ability for future generations to enjoy.
 

Ian H

Über Member
Think of it another way.

The Athens Acropolis Archaeology Museum staff confirmed , during a lecture there, that had the Tympanum and Frieze carvings been left in place they would have been totally eroded by acid rain caused by the Athens traffic. You could claim, but for the preservation in the BM controlled environment, that the artefacts would not longer exist today.
Yebbut, is "they wouldn't have looked after it properly" a legitimate defence against a charge of theft?
 
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