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Should we give them back?

(34 Posts)
LadyGlencoraPalliser Tue 16-Jun-09 13:38:24

The Elgin marbles that is.
Personally, I think they should be returned to Greece but I would be interested to know what other people think.

Heathcliffscathy Tue 16-Jun-09 13:38:58


AMumInScotland Tue 16-Jun-09 13:53:25

Yes. They were stolen, and should be returned.

AtheneNoctua Tue 16-Jun-09 15:35:35

No. Because when you oppen that door museums all over the world will have to give back the bulk of their collections and then we won't have museums for anyone to visit anywhere. Should we have Spanish museums that contain only Spanish things, and Chilean ones that contain only Chilean things, and so on?

I think museums are a good thing and they should remain as they are.

Gosh, I wonder, where should we return the dinosaur bones to?

AMumInScotland Tue 16-Jun-09 15:38:27

But many museums have been given things, by their rightful owners, or else have bought them from their owners. Doesn't that make a difference?

ButtercupWafflehead Tue 16-Jun-09 15:42:58

And if you read about them, they were falling apart and decaying due to neglect in Greece, and wouldn't even be around if the British hadn't rescued them.

AtheneNoctua Tue 16-Jun-09 15:51:23

I wonder how much of the "stuff" in museums around the world was really given by their rightful owners. I've never really researched the data in great detail but I would expect a whol lot of "rightful owners" would rise up the second those marbles were sent back to Greece. I think this is why people don't want them to go back. SO it's not so much about the marnles themselves as it is the precedent that would be set.

LadyGlencoraPalliser Tue 16-Jun-09 17:09:48

They are stolen property and should be returned to their rightful owners. That's a precedent that has been set for many years surely?
Buttercup - that is the British version of the story. Their "rescue" could also be seen as an act of vandalism as quite a bit of damage was caused in the process.

Lucia39 Tue 16-Jun-09 17:52:26

Interesting point Lady Glen! It's a two sided argument really. Look at what happened in Baghdad. Had those treasures been held by Chicago or the BM they might still be available to both scholars and the public. As it is, an act of the most despicable vandalism and ineptitude on the part of the US military has seen countless artefacts destroyed and others disappear into private collections!

Now that Greece is part of the EU then perhaps there is a valid argument for returning the originals [the BM could keep copies] but if all historical artefacts were returned to their countries of origin we could end up seeing many of them destroyed or left to deteriorate. You only have to see what happened to the Buddhas of Bamyan to realise what a totalitarian regime can do to items it deems "unacceptable".

ItsAllaBitNoisy Tue 16-Jun-09 18:01:42

I thought this was about Ireland. Give that back too please. And STOP taking other folks stuff - it's rude!

claricebeansmum Tue 16-Jun-09 18:03:18

All the museums could have a really big sort of giant swap shop - so you can swap stuff and end up with all your own stuff in your museum.

It'd have to be a bloody big church hall though...

EccentricaGallumbits Tue 16-Jun-09 18:06:40

I was very confused when I first went to the British Museum.

Slightly highbrow and intelligent chao riend at the time showed me the elgin marbles.

I had been expecting sort of old greek marbles.

like little marble balls. not big wall picture thingys.


campion Tue 16-Jun-09 18:07:29

American museums seem to have half of Europe's art in them - I'm surprised there's anything left for the natives to enjoy.

What about all the treasures that the Russians 'acquired' from Germany immediately after the war which are hidden away even now? At least anyone can go and look at the Elgin Marbles.

Lucia39's points about conservation and protection are too important to dismiss in the rush to be 'fair'.

Itsjustafleshwound Tue 16-Jun-09 18:12:19

But what right has Britain got to steal things because they feel they are in a better position to look after them??

It is patronising to the extreme ...

Kathyis6incheshigh Tue 16-Jun-09 18:13:40

The situation sucks at the moment because it is a deadlock. The BM won't loan them because it can't loan things which it might not get back so the marbles in Britain aren't, in the foreseeable future, going to be displayed with the ones in Greece, which is a pity because it would be cool.

I know a bit about this issue (it's one of my research areas) and the more I read the less I can make up my mind.
Did Elgin remove them illegally? Trouble is, the question hinges on the precise meaning of some words in the permit (firman) he was given, it's a bit ambiguous, and to make it harder, the original firman doesn't survive, just a translation into Italian.
I think it's about 75% likely he did exceed the terms of the firman, but it's certainly not an open and shut case.

Is the 'slippery slope' argument valid? I think it is partially; the Greeks say not because the marbles are a 'special case'. Trouble is, if you're a Nigerian the Benin Bronzes are an equally special case, or if you're Ethiopian the Maqdala treasure may be. However if we have one set of things illegally, the fact that giving them back may encourage other people to want stuff back isn't really a very convincing argument.

Lucia39 Tue 16-Jun-09 18:29:00

campion: Conversely what happened to the Amber Room in St Petersburg? That's the trouble with war! It also needs to be remembered that had, by happy coincidence, an American musicologist not been on hand, several of Haydn's MSS would have ended up being used as kindling by Russian troops!

donnie Tue 16-Jun-09 18:32:12

yes we should.

Ivykaty44 Tue 16-Jun-09 18:37:27

I was asked this in a survey years and years ago - I thought the latest was that greece doen't now want them back - all a bit strange if that is the case [wierd]

Kathyis6incheshigh Tue 16-Jun-09 18:53:27

No, they def do want them back (though not all Greeks, obviously there are plenty who couldn't give a toss). It's a bit of a political football though, so every now and then there will be a politician over there who says 'we've got more important things to worry about.' I think a few years ago they were thinking about trying the strategy of saying 'OK, if we promise they belong to England, can we have them in Athens but they will still belong to you?' but it wasn't going to get anywhere with the British Museum, so it never became an official request.

edam Tue 16-Jun-09 18:59:05

That's interesting, Kathy - so they weren't necessarily stolen in the first place. Hmm... (that's a thinking, I can't make up my mind hmm, not a sceptical one).

GrandadOnagar Tue 16-Jun-09 19:02:29

I lean towards giving them back, but as was said before where do you draw the line? Just things taken in the last 200 years - or longer? I think the Israelis owe the Egyptians some gold and jewelry they 'borrowed' about 3000BC.

Some people want countries or parts of them handed back. We might have to find the descendents of Boadicia and hand them the keys before we all go back where we came from.

Kathyis6incheshigh Tue 16-Jun-09 19:34:37

Oh it's all sooooo mixed up Edam.

Elgin bribed the people in charge to get permission (well whatever permission he did get), so you could say that proves it was an illegal act, but you could also say 'bribery was universal in the Levant at that time, it's just how things worked.'

Also the people who gave him the permission weren't the Greeks, they were the Ottoman empire, so arguably they didn't have the right to give permission anyway. However they had been in charge for a few hundred years and in 1800 at least there wasn't a Greek nation anyway (though there would be within a few decades).

We did much worse plundery things in Africa, ransacking churches and stuff. There are quite a few things in the BM and other institutions with very embarrassing histories.

edam Tue 16-Jun-09 19:34:54

If we give the marbles back, can we have all our stuff that's ended up abroad - all the manuscripts and literary archives that are in the US, for instance?

Blu Tue 16-Jun-09 19:55:39

Since they have just built a new museum to display the wealth of the Acropolis' splendour, i think there is no argument fo not returning them.

Visitors from all over the world want to see the Acropolis / parthenon, and if all of it was carved up into chunks all over the world, there would be nothing to enjoy in it's original location. They are part of a building, not objects intended to be portable. They should be put back.

Kathyis6incheshigh Tue 16-Jun-09 19:56:19

Well most of our stuff in America was sold fair and square.
The Americans have been v good at giving back Holocaust loot which had found its way into public collections. Better than us or the Russians.
Some of them are a bit naughty about illegally importing antiquities that have been nicked recently from Turkey, Iraq, Cambodia, Africa etc, though.

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