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Newsweek: The Parthenon marbles belong to everyone

11 June 2009 / 16:06:13  GRReporter
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“Who owns the Elgin Marbles” – this is the title under which the British magazine Newsweek published a comment by Cathleen McGuigan regarding the dispute between Greece and Great Britain about the destiny of the hacked off reliefs by Lord Elgin. “It is not polite to call the Elgin Marbles the Elgin Marbles anymore. Even in that age of imperialism, many Brits saw Elgin’s acts as cultural vandalism and even Lord Byron shammed their removal,” reminds the author.


Greece has been trying to return the taken marbles ever since its liberation from the Ottoman Empire in 1829 but now its chances are bigger than ever, because of the official opening of New Acropolis museum at the end of June. The magazine stresses on the innovative architecture of Bernard Tschumi, the visual contact with the Parhtenon and the glass floor, through which the visitors can see all the diggings in progress. Many of the Parthenon’s original sculptures were lost over the centuries – some of them destroyed and others stolen. The ones that were still there were taken to the new museum about a year ago, in order to be protected from the destroying pollution in the city.


Cathleen McGuilan reminds how Lord Elgin took the marbles from the Parthenon and concludes, that “history is muddy enough to bolster both sides of the argument.” In 1816 the British state paid Lord Elgin £35 000 and from then until today it is believed that legally the marbles belong to the British Museum. Scientists claim that the marbles are better protected in London then among the polluted Athenian air. But now, Athens has one of the best museums.


“How can anyone date say they belong to the British museum? These are treasures taken out of the Acropolis when Greece was under enemy occupation,” says for Newsweek the Greek minister of culture Andonis Samaras. The author of the article quotes the director of the British Museum Neil MacGregor, who says that the trustees of the British Museum would consider lending the marbles to Athens, provided the Greek government acknowledge Britain’s ownership of the artworks, though some are too fragile to travel in either direction.


Those who agree the British museum owns the marbles have three arguments – Lord Elgin had the approval of the Sultan, who back then was officially the ruler of Athens, the British state has legally bought them from him, and finally – it has been 200 years since this doing. Cathleen McGuigan is in favor of lending the marble to Athens for a certain period of time and then returning them to London, where they are part of mankind’s greatest achievements collection.


“The ancient Hellenic culture that produced the marbles seeded all of Western civilization, not just the contemporary nation of Greece. The marbles really belong to everyone,” concludes Newsweek.

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