Greece's claim to the Marbles

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    Jun 20, 2009 7:11 AM GMT
    In reading recent articles, especially about the newly built museum at the Acropolis, I'm beginning to question the arguments of both sides. Being (half) Greek myself, but also a huge fan of art history and the preservation of art I'm caught in a bind.

    So what are you thoughts on the "Elgin" Marbles, their history, and where they should be housed?

    Just some links to look into the issue:

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/entertainment/arts_and_culture/8110010.stm

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/entertainment/arts_and_culture/8096109.stm

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/7717269.stm

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/7644689.stm
  • Posted by a hidden member.
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    Jun 20, 2009 1:56 PM GMT
    i'm not greek - so i don't care
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    Jun 20, 2009 2:22 PM GMT
    The issue is the context under which Lord Elgin supposedly "looted" the marbles. The Ottoman Empire during this period was weak & corrupt, and saw no particular value in the art works of the Parthenon, perhaps because they were a Muslim culture, so that looting of antiquities was rampant. In Lord Elgin's time these treasures were being destroyed, not preserved by the native Greeks at all.

    He didn't so much loot as rescue them, and mostly at his own expense (though with one notable misadventure that lost some). Had he not done so I doubt any of them would even still exist today. So the position of the Greeks about looting seems a bit ungrateful, at best.

    Should the marbles now be returned, when modern Greece has developed strong rules & enforcement against looting? Possibly.

    I have an acquaintance and sometimes dinner companion who's a professor of archaeology. We share an interest in art in general, and have been members of the same museum. He is one of those to whom the Greek government grants official permission to excavate at the Parthenon, and for years he's been after me to join him on one of his summer digs.

    He tells me he and his team are under constant close supervision by government representatives, to ensure they keep nothing for themselves. Everything they discover must remain there. So I believe safeguards are now in place that would prevent looting.
  • greekguy79

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    Jun 20, 2009 3:50 PM GMT
    Surely you guys know that not all of these marbles are being "preserved" in England. Many of the ancient marbles have been defaced in the museums that house them. If Lord Elgin was preserving them, (if that's more palatable a way of saying it) then Lord Elgin would not be adversed to having those marbles return to the land from where they came.

    And as a sidenote, I find it rather audacious to proclaim that Greeks weren't interested in preserving their native antiquity at all! The Greeks were an occupied people, and were subject to their Ottoman Muslim overlords. It's not like they had the freedom to do as they pleased, and many Greeks spent their blood to preserve their antiquity, or we wouldn't have a free Greece today, and an uninterrupted inheritance of Greek culture, custom, religion, etc.

    At any rate, whatever the reason the ruins were taken, they ought to be returned from where they were taken. Greek museums and ancient ruins are cared for by some of the best antiquarians, archaeologists on the globe. I'm sure the Brits can rest assured that the marbles will finally be in good hands, and in the land they were taken from.
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    Jun 20, 2009 4:08 PM GMT
    greekguy79 saidAnd as a sidenote, I find it rather audacious to proclaim that Greeks weren't interested in preserving their native antiquity at all! The Greeks were an occupied people, and were subject to their Ottoman Muslim overlords.

    My understanding of the history of that period was that it was the local Greeks who were plundering the Acropolis and selling off the bits piecemeal for private profit, mostly to Europeans. The Ottomans were largely ambivalent, corrupt officials either giving permission when motivated by bribes (which Elgin himself evidently did), or simply looking the other way. Preservation of Greek antiquities was not a priority with them, but neither was selling them a source of major profit.

    But while one can argue who the bad guys were, the point is the Parthenon was being slowly taken apart, and Lord Elgin sought to preserve it the only way he knew how. Leaving it in place was not working, so he moved parts of it elsewhere.

    And in principle I'm not opposed to returning these treasures to Greece. There's a similar campaign to do the same with some Egyptian relics. Though even the Egyptians seem to recognize that in their case they haven't got the ability yet to handle them all, and having their cultural legacy admired in museums all around the world is viewed by them as being not such a bad thing. Still, there are strong voices in Egypt on both sides of the issue.
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    Jun 20, 2009 4:15 PM GMT
    I reckon half greeks are the best guys ever *cough*

    With the opening of the New Acropolis Museum I feel that Greece finally has the ability to house and look after the Marbles in the way they should be.

    The problem, however, is that if the Natural history museum lets the marbles go, they'll create a precedent for returning relics. Therefore all the countries that want their "stuff" back, will begin clamouring anew.

    To be honest I don't think thiis problem will ever be resolved.

    kai sto OP, ora gia na pas kommotirio icon_razz.gif eheh
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    Jun 20, 2009 4:18 PM GMT
    That was MY idea!

    I also invented the Information Superhighway.

    Uh...YOU'RE WELCOME!
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    Jun 20, 2009 4:18 PM GMT
    Red_Vespa said
    Should the marbles now be returned, when modern Greece has developed strong rules & enforcement against looting? Possibly.

    I have an acquaintance and sometimes dinner companion who's a professor of archaeology. We share an interest in art in general, and have been members of the same museum. He is one of those to whom the Greek government grants official permission to excavate at the Parthenon, and for years he's been after me to join him on one of his summer digs.

    He tells me he and his team are under constant close supervision by government representatives, to ensure they keep nothing for themselves. Everything they discover must remain there. So I believe safeguards are now in place that would prevent looting.



    You talk as if Greece is a third world country (although getting on the bus today it felt as if it was >_<). Also to even suggest that even if Greece didn't have such strict safeguards that prodigious artefacts such as the Marbles could be "looted" is ludicrous
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    Jun 20, 2009 4:34 PM GMT
    Fable said Also to even suggest that even if Greece didn't have such strict safeguards that prodigious artefacts such as the Marbles could be "looted" is ludicrous

    Actually that's exactly what Lord Elgin witnessed. He visited the Acropolis a number of times, and on each occasion he discovered more of the friezes had disappeared. That's when he took action. In fact, he always regretted that his failure to act sooner resulted in the loss of what had been considered some of the most precious, which have never reappeared.

    And in modern times, who can say what might happen? The Nazis looted all of Europe, and many of those treasures are still missing, or remain in disputed ownership. This is not a matter involving the Greeks alone, but conceivably of forces outside their control. That region of the world is realtively stable today, especially with Greece as a NATO member. But in 100 years, who knows?
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    Jun 20, 2009 4:40 PM GMT
    Red_Vespa said
    Fable said Also to even suggest that even if Greece didn't have such strict safeguards that prodigious artefacts such as the Marbles could be "looted" is ludicrous

    Actually that's exactly what Lord Elgin witnessed. He visited the Acropolis a number of times, and on each occasion he discovered more of the friezes had disappeared. That's when he took action. In fact, he always regretted that his failure to act sooner resulted in the loss of what had been considered some of the most precious, which have never reappeared.

    And in modern times, who can say what might happen? The Nazis looted all of Europe, and many of those treasures are still missing, or remain in disputed ownership. This is not a matter involving the Greeks alone, but conceivably of forces outside their control. That region of the world is realtively stable today, especially with Greece as a NATO member. But in 100 years, who knows?


    Well in 100 years, who knows about anything. Duh.

    The marbles were taken how long ago? Hmmmmm.

    To be honest, I'm happy as much as the next person that Lord Elgin took the marbles, as you say looting etc. However, we're not talking about the past, or the far future, we're mainly discussing the now.
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    Jun 20, 2009 10:27 PM GMT
    Acropolis Museum revives spat with Britain. Greece unveils $180 million project, renews bid to get sculptures back (another version of the first story in the OP):

    http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/31463730/ns/world_news-europe/
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    Jun 20, 2009 10:29 PM GMT
    If GreekPanther wants my marbles he can have them.

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    Jun 20, 2009 10:39 PM GMT
    And hasn't Egypt also been demanding the same thing for ages now for some of their relics. The Cleopatra's needles especially?
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    Jun 20, 2009 10:41 PM GMT
    The marbles should be returned to Greece but the British should be compensated with other pieces (which Greece has TONS of). Better to engineer a deal as a swap rather than a straight up return.
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    Jun 20, 2009 10:49 PM GMT
    Fable said
    Red_Vespa said
    Fable said Also to even suggest that even if Greece didn't have such strict safeguards that prodigious artefacts such as the Marbles could be "looted" is ludicrous

    Actually that's exactly what Lord Elgin witnessed. He visited the Acropolis a number of times, and on each occasion he discovered more of the friezes had disappeared. That's when he took action. In fact, he always regretted that his failure to act sooner resulted in the loss of what had been considered some of the most precious, which have never reappeared.

    And in modern times, who can say what might happen? The Nazis looted all of Europe, and many of those treasures are still missing, or remain in disputed ownership. This is not a matter involving the Greeks alone, but conceivably of forces outside their control. That region of the world is realtively stable today, especially with Greece as a NATO member. But in 100 years, who knows?


    Well in 100 years, who knows about anything. Duh.

    The marbles were taken how long ago? Hmmmmm.

    To be honest, I'm happy as much as the next person that Lord Elgin took the marbles, as you say looting etc. However, we're not talking about the past, or the far future, we're mainly discussing the now.


    well, there is a high profit to be made in trading antiquities. that aside when elgin visited the acropolis the ottomans had already been using it for an ammunition storage, so he may have saved them from a malevolent regime, but that was 200 years ago. now there are armed guards in the subways protecting the digs that are going on all throughout athens.

    the only reason that i supported the BM in not returning the marbles was because there was no place that was right for their preservation in greece. that has since changed. it's time for the british to return the marbles to their rightful home. since the greek government is taking the proper steps to protect all ancient sites and artifacts it's time for the return.

    it's true elgin had the approval of the ottoman sultan, but no greek will find that legitimate, and with 400 years of occupation by a foreign culture that has no respect for the history, religion, and culture of the natives it's an understandable issue.

    and we see claims from china and egypt to return artifacts that were 'stolen' and 'looted' from their countries. you're completely right, it's not a matter of past or future, it's a matter of now. and the marbles should be returned now.
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    Jun 20, 2009 10:57 PM GMT
    This brings to mind something worrying if this starts a trend. When politics begin to transcend science, it poses a very real risk of tampering with precious knowledge altogether just for the sake of national pride.

    I too believe that Greece can very well provide adequate housing for them now. But what about other similar claims if it was approved?

    Remember the Flores Fossils? They were taken by Indonesian 'experts' citing their rights as being the academics of the country it was found in for first dibs on the discovery. They were damaged when returned.

    What would happen for instance if South American nations started demanding the return of all relics? Not all of the countries can adequately safeguard them. Or as I previously mentioned, Egypt? Which has always been a volatile country - especially now with mounting tensions against Israel again. Science operates on meritocracy, the people who can most protect a particular object has to keep it, rather than based on the illusions of who 'owns' it. As long as everyone gets equal access to it and not damage it.

    So if they return the Elgin marbles, at least make sure everyone understands it's because Greece can now provide the necessary protection. It is, after all, firstly a world heritage artwork.

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    Jun 20, 2009 11:06 PM GMT
    Fablekai sto OP, ora gia na pas kommotirio


    Mpori na akolouthi kapia nea moda to paidi! icon_razz.gif Pios kseri ti kanoun eki sto ohio oi gay? icon_lol.gif


  • Posted by a hidden member.
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    Jun 20, 2009 11:11 PM GMT
    OMG. It's all greek to me. Literally.
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    Jun 20, 2009 11:23 PM GMT
    Rune said
    Fablekai sto OP, ora gia na pas kommotirio


    Mpori na akolouthi kapia nea moda to paidi! icon_razz.gif Pios kseri ti kanoun eki sto ohio oi gay? icon_lol.gif




    that's just not nice.
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    Jun 20, 2009 11:27 PM GMT
    jackofhearts46 said
    Rune said
    Fablekai sto OP, ora gia na pas kommotirio


    Mpori na akolouthi kapia nea moda to paidi! icon_razz.gif Pios kseri ti kanoun eki sto ohio oi gay? icon_lol.gif




    that's just not nice.


    Ela re plaka kano icon_smile.gif Ala zito signomi ama pragmatika se piraxe afto pou eipa.
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    Jun 20, 2009 11:30 PM GMT
    damn... not worth making another phone call, lol.... should have learned greek
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    Jun 20, 2009 11:41 PM GMT
    jackofhearts46 saiddamn... not worth making another phone call, lol.... should have learned greek


    Hahaha

    Translation: Come on man, I'm just kidding. icon_smile.gif But sorry if what I said bothered you.
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    Jun 20, 2009 11:50 PM GMT
    Rune said
    jackofhearts46 saiddamn... not worth making another phone call, lol.... should have learned greek


    Hahaha

    Translation: Come on man, I'm just kidding. icon_smile.gif But sorry if what I said bothered you.


    hahaha, no, it's ok. just messing back
  • Posted by a hidden member.
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    Jun 20, 2009 11:54 PM GMT
    I think they should go back.

    But... a couple of points...

    1) They were bought legally in order to stop them from degenerating.

    2) They are also significant to Britain and British culture. The British bought them at the height of Empire in order to signify (like the Greeks before them) that they were a cultured civilisation. It is as significant that they are in London (centre of an old Empire) as it would be for them to be in Athens.
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    Jun 20, 2009 11:59 PM GMT
    k1052 saidThe marbles should be returned to Greece but the British should be compensated with other pieces (which Greece has TONS of). Better to engineer a deal as a swap rather than a straight up return.


    This is a nice idea.