LOSING THEIR MARBLES
I am sat at a cafe in the Thissio district of Athens, alongside the Ancient Agora at the base of the Parthenon.
Tomorrow I shall be visiting the Museum of the Acropolis. I am sure it will be a wonderful visit, but of course there is one ‘exhibit’ missing – the Parthenon Marbles.
There has been much debate as to whether the British Museum should return them to their rightful owners. Lord Elgin indeed did get permission from the rulers at the time to remove the Marbles and transport them to Blighty. However, let us look at some facts here:
1) The Marbles are not any standalone statues, they were not some treasure displayed in some Greek museum. No, the Marbles were part of the Parthenon, carved as part of the actual structure and so had to be literally hacked away by Elgin’s henchmen.
2) The rulers at the time were the occupying Turkish, who did not give a fig about Greece’s heritage. This was abundantly clear from the fact that the biggest destruction to befall the Acropolis area was not an earthquake or a fire but an explosion caused by Turkish munitions stored there. That’s how little value they held the place in. Also, no doubt some sort of favour was granted in exchange for the permission – not much in life comes free.
Let us consider this, if the unthinkable happened and the Nazi’s had won WWII, how would we feel now if their Japanese allies had taken a shine to the tower of Big Ben and gained similar permission? One of England’s most iconic structures could have been, metaphorically speaking, unceremoniously ‘ripped’ from the Houses of Parliament and now be standing proudly in Central Tokyo.
If this had happened, would we want our treasure back now? Damned right we would and with justifiable reason.
As a Brit married to a Greek, I have heard both sides of the debate many times and unequivocally I side with the arguments given by my wife’s ‘wounded’ country-folk.
Surely all other arguments are immaterial? The evidence is there as an open and shut case. The Marbles were taken at an opportunistic time in an act of vandalism. I say return them now.