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Me, I thought Parliament was sovereign

I am simply staggered by this.

The Elgin Marbles were looted by the UK two centuries ago.

They are not ours.

They belong to Greece.

To pretend otherwise is deeply embarrassing.

To refuse their return is simply wrong.


A UK parliamentary inquiry in 1816 concluded that Elgin had acquired the marbles legally

16 thoughts on “Me, I thought Parliament was sovereign”

  1. The Greek government and supporters of the marbles’ return to Greece have argued that they were obtained illegally or unethically, that they are of exceptional cultural importance to Greece, and that their cultural value would be best appreciated in a unified public display with the other major Parthenon antiquities in the Acropolis Museum.

    The last bit is a good argument.

    So why doesn’t Greece offer to buy them back? The British Museum spent good money acquiring, preserving, and making the Marbles famous.

    Greece isn’t a poor country, so why the aggressive begging? Make us an offer. We shouldn’t be interested in Greeks bearing grifts, the descendants of the murderous Spartiates have nothing to teach us about justice or human decency.

    Show us the drachmas, Stavros.

  2. Just 3d scan and robotically scuplt a few dozen copies and flood the world with Elgin Marbles. No-one will give a shit about the Greeks having one when there’s one in Cleveland and Swindon.

    None of this is really scarce any longer, is it? Hard and expensive to make something like this in Byron’s day, but you could probably make an Elgin Marbles for about £10K today. It’s not like it’s a magical object with Nazi-melting powers.

  3. Theophrastus (2066)

    …the descendants of the murderous Spartiates…

    The Athenians were Ionian Greeks; the Spartans were Dorians. Also, after the slavic and Turkish invasions, modern Greeks bear as much relation to ancient greeks as we do to the builders of Stonehenge.

  4. They were legally paid for, in an open transaction, with a receipt. When I buy a loaf of bread that’s “looting” is it?

  5. @Steve
    That’s the way to go. We bought them, but there is no reason why we shouldn’t let them buy them back ….. at current market rate of course. Which is somewhere between transport costs and priceless. Perhaps the Greek government would like to opine how much they are currently worth. If they are worthless then what’s all the fuss about?

  6. Martin Near The M25

    We should send them fake marbles as Western Bloke suggests. I’d make them hollow and fill them with little model Trojans.

  7. I wonder if Spud’s house was stolen from nature. It wasn’t there in the last century so you could argue that the theft is recent too. And it’s a degree above what has happened in Athens because nature is ‘irreplaceable, once lost it’s gone forever’ ©CPRE. Ah but the developer acquired the land legally, he would say. Probably but it was taken from someone before that.

  8. My Greek friend says that, if the UK had not bought them, they would probably have been broken down and used as hardcore in building some property or other. In those days, what benefit was history when you could save a Drachma or two? His words, not mine.

  9. Bloke in North Dorset

    Man who would happily loot our pensions gets misty eyed over the property rights of some old stones.

  10. Theo – it’s 2003 or whatever stupid year it is.

    The sneaky Doric bastards have probably made it to Athens by now (they made it to Aberdeen).

  11. jgh: Elgin bought them off the Ottoman head honcho in Athens at the time. I guess the modern Greeks, hating their old Ottoman oppressors, think that that transaction is null & void. However if it was ever litigated in International Law, one assumes that the Ottomans were the legal government there at the time so the transaction stands.

    As Steve memorably said, ” show us your drachmas, Stavros”. We ought to offer to sell them back at the modern value of what Elgin paid for them, plus a bit for storage and furbishment.

  12. I recall reading somewhere that the bits lying around the Parthenon were being broken up for concrete aggregate when Elgin acquired the marbles. Seems like he did the world a favor.

  13. I don’t think they were broken for aggregate – there’s no shortage of stones lying around in the Athens area. The marble was burnt to produce slaked lime.

  14. The thing I remember from my trip to Athens is where the locals had chopped out the lead their ancestors had used to hold the temples etc together. So I’m sure they’d have had no hesitation in burning up the marble to produce quicklime.

    Oh. The other thing was the lousy quality of the calamari they sold. Maybe I was given tourist quality.

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