Petition to return the Parthenon (Elgin) Marbles to Greece.
February 21, 2002 7:05 PM   Subscribe

Petition to return the Parthenon (Elgin) Marbles to Greece. Nice background on the marbles here. Cliffnotes version here.
posted by skallas (19 comments total)
I'm familiar with all of these, especially after researching Phidias's Athena Parthenos online. I've never come to a conclusion on their return. On one hand, there is the moral argument, aond, on the other, the fact that they are in much better shape than the monuments on the Acropolis, thanks to acid rain and Athen's air pollution. They belong to Greece, yes, but also to all mankind.
posted by y2karl at 7:25 PM on February 21, 2002

I am completely against the return of the marbles to Greece. My reaction is a visceral one, and not based upon weighed claims of ownership or heritage.

You must understand that to _be_ in the presence of the marbles is to glimpse -- for an instant -- all of history. You can literally read that right off the skin of the sculptures.

I imagine the Pyramids and the Great Wall have a similar effect. Coming into conjunction with these artifacts, you feel you could walk into yesterday.
posted by Kikkoman at 8:17 PM on February 21, 2002

I would think that their impact would be the same wherever they were.
posted by kindall at 8:23 PM on February 21, 2002

y2karl, there are also allegations that the British damaged the frieze in the 30's when an attempt at cleaning them went wrong. I think this issue is pretty simple, these are Greek artifacts. Greece is a stable country able to display their artifacts as safely as anyone else.

Sorry, but the Empire is over. Give back the spoils.
posted by skallas at 8:30 PM on February 21, 2002

From the petition:

"PUBLICALLY DECLARE our support for the transfer of those parts of the Parthenon currently in the British Museum to a secure and appropriate museum in Athens, and now"

In a museum they would presumably be protected from Athens' pollution.
posted by homunculus at 9:01 PM on February 21, 2002

Sorry, but the Empire is over. Give back the spoils.

heh heh.

posted by Frasermoo at 12:12 AM on February 22, 2002

The Spurlock Museum at the University of Illinois has a search engine on their website. Type in parthenon, check the box marked with digital images on-line, and browse the (too small)pictures of the world's most complete cast of the Parthenon Frieze(no direct link to search results, crappy web design).

The reproductions of the frieze were made in the early 1900's, but derive from molds made by the French consul in the early 1700's, and includes pieces that were destroyed by the Turks in 1795.

The Spurlock Museum's new building that will be the new home to the reproductions is expected to open in the fall of 2002.

I love college towns.
posted by dglynn at 12:15 AM on February 22, 2002

Give back the spoils

OK so where does this end - look in any museum, anywhere in the world and you'll find objects that have been questionably sourced from around the world..

What if Egypt said it wants every relic dug from their soil (sand?) returned? The precedent it sets would be unworkable IMO...
posted by brettski at 1:25 AM on February 22, 2002

a) Elgin *chopped up* the frieze in order to transport it to London.
b) The curators of the British museum had *technicians* chisel away the decorative painting of the frieze, thinking that the colorful decoration of the marbles didn't jive with their image of Classical Greece
c) In later years, the British Museum had other technicians treat the frieze with chemicals that actually corroded the marble.

By all accounts the Brits have done a horrible job preserving the Parthenon marbles; claiming that they are protecting them by not returning it to Greece (yes, I am Greek if you cannot tell) is ludicrous.

The real issue here is that if Greece is successful, the British Museum will be practically a third empty, and then Egypt and other countries would be pounding on its door.

The British (or the Americans, or the Germans, or the Russians, who all have Greek and Egyptian treasures in the museums) have no right to anoint themselves protectors of the cultural history of others.

And as much as I believe that the Parthenon belongs culturally to the entire Western civilization, please try to explain that to Greek schoolchildren that visit the Acropolis Museum and they are told that the treasures of their history are preserved in London, after being bought by the British Empire from the then occupiers of their homeland. I am sure that will go down well.
posted by costas at 1:47 AM on February 22, 2002

Costas, you are missing the point. There is no need to argue, becuase you are not getting them back.
We can dress this up in any shape or form, but it comes down to a schoolboy mentality in the end, which is, we have them and you don't.
posted by Frasermoo at 2:01 AM on February 22, 2002

Frasermoo: Oh, I know we're not getting them back. I work in London, I know the British will not do anything that will somehow lessen the glory of the Empire --like admitting that the British Museum is full of stolen loot. I seem to recall 1-2 rooms of things actually found in Britain created by nations that are now considered British (Celts, Welsh, etc).

What I am arguing against is the ridiculous notion that somehow this is justified in some way and Greece *shouldn't* have the Marbles.
posted by costas at 2:14 AM on February 22, 2002

I have records I looted from a girlfriend about 4 years ago when we split up.

They are hers, she has every right to them...but she will get them back over my dead body. Funny aint it?
posted by Frasermoo at 2:24 AM on February 22, 2002

Well, right there you lost every chance of hooking up with one of her friends...
posted by costas at 2:32 AM on February 22, 2002

There's an extremely recent precedent: BBC Saturday, 9 February, 2002, 16:53 GMT: "Hundreds of thousands of Ethiopians have packed the streets of Addis Ababa to welcome home an ancient Ethiopian relic looted by British troops more than 130 years ago. The 400-year-old "tabot" - a replica of the Ark of the Covenant - was found in a Scottish Church in December. ...Ethiopians now say they hope that this may lead to the return of all other ancient Ethiopian relics currently still on display in British museums."

Great Britain would truly be "great," were she to return the Parthenon marbles to Greece, in time for the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens.
posted by Carol Anne at 6:03 AM on February 22, 2002

Sorry, but the Empire is over. Give back the spoils.

and what a long list could be presented if that were to happen...I personally would love to see the Kohinoor diamond and the peacock throne returned. Also could you spare a few british soldiers to superglue the precious stones they removed from the Taj back.
posted by bittennails at 6:16 AM on February 22, 2002

We can dress this up in any shape or form, but it comes down to a schoolboy mentality in the end, which is, we have them and you don't.

Damn, if only the Swiss banks had thought of that argument when they agreed to return to the victims of the Holocaust their private possesions.
The issue here is whether the British Museum and government decides to live up to the proffessed moral standards it holds so dear, or prefers to gloat in imperial thievery.
As this NYT opinion piece (NYT subscription required etc.) states:
And there can be few instances where the case for repatriation seems so reasonable as this one. The building from which these sculptures were stripped still stands. The people from whom they were taken can preserve them and display them with just as much care as the British Museum can, and with real, untainted honor.

Or for a more, humorous perspective see this.
posted by talos at 6:27 AM on February 22, 2002

Sure, we'd love to give everything 'back' to where it started. Providing that these modern governemnts don't get it. Lets give the Elgin marbles back to Turkey, the Ottoman empire ruled greece at the time so tyhey were the competant authority.

Lets think cultural understanding, sharing of different cultures, lack of parochialism and the fact that I'd be really annoyed if they moved fromn just down the road because they're absolutely wonderful.

Many of the arguments professed in this thread are just not right and I'm sorry that I can't give them the attention that they deserve right now. Hope someone else can.
posted by nedrichards at 7:08 AM on February 22, 2002

Ha, that would really piss of the Greeks if the British gave the Marbles to Turkey.
posted by smackfu at 8:25 AM on February 22, 2002

I went to England recently and was told to see Elgin's marbles. I didn't even know what they were! I went to the museum and asked to see them. They're not called Elgin's Marbles anymore, because as the guard put it "they're not Elgin's marbles are they? They are a part of the Parthenon."

So I think times have changed. Give them back, really. Its as if some country took the crown jewels. They really belong in Greece.
posted by xammerboy at 8:08 PM on February 22, 2002

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