January 15, 2004
According to the current Lord Elgin, Greece has failed to protect the Elgin Marbles from pollution. This line of reasoning though fails to accept that Lord Elgin could not anticipate such things happening in the future & that this formed no part of his original reasoning for their removal. The Sculptures that remained on the Parthenon were there because it was very hard to remove them without destroying the integrity of the monument (something that Lord Elgin did not worry about). Surely if this was really the concern of the British, then they should have lent expertise to preserve them insitu, rather than ripping them from the building for their own benefit?
The Herald (Scotland)
Web Issue 1919 – January 15 2004
Greeks ‘failed to protect marbles’
GRAEME SMITH and CATHERINE LYST
January 15 2004
THE Greeks cannot be trusted to look after the 2500-year-old Elgin marbles, which were taken from the Parthenon almost two centuries ago, Lord Elgin said yesterday.
Greece wants the marbles returned to their home in time for this year’s Olympic Games and has been backed by a campaign in Britain that has won the support of MPs and public figures including Dame Judi Dench and Vanessa Redgrave.
The British Museum, which bought the marble sculptures from Elgin and houses them, has refused to hand them over despite the campaign, which has been running for more than 40 years. Lord Elgin yesterday said the Greeks had failed to protect their artefacts from pollution and the marbles should not be given back.
They were taken from the Parthenon by Thomas Bruce, the seventh earl of Elgin, for his mansion, Broomhall in Fife, which was designed in the classical Greek style.
At the time the earl was British ambassador to the Ottoman empire and the Turks, who had conquered Greece, granted him permission to remove the sculptures, which were of no cultural significance to them.
However, they never made it to Broomhall, now home to the eleventh earl of Elgin, who made clear yesterday he does not think they should go back to Greece.
Lord Elgin, a 79-year-old descendant of Robert the Bruce, said his ancestor would have claimed he took the stones to preserve them from desecration, and the 42 pieces he left in Athens, because they were in superb condition, had now rotted away.
Lord Elgin was challenged by Robin Cook, the former foreign secretary. He said: “They belong in Athens. We had half of them, the Greeks had the other half, but you can only just see them as a whole when they are united. The only way to unite them is to put them back where they belong.”
Mr Cook compared Lord Elgin’s removal of the marbles to a foreigner taking part of Nelson’s column.
“It’s as if someone had hacked off Nelson’s head and taken it abroad, and we were left with the stomach and the legs,” he said. “Does anyone imagine we would rest in these circumstances?”
Last night, a spokeswoman for the Greek consulate in Glasgow said Greeks in Scotland would be offended by Lord Elgin’s comments.
“Of course we are able to look after the marbles,” she said. “It would be really nice if they could be returned so people could admire them in the place where they originated.”
Talks about the future of the marbles are expected to take place over the next few weeks. Under new proposals the British Museum would retain ownership.
The Greek government is building a museum at the foot of the Acropolis to house the artefacts. The British Museum would be given its own annexe and would have responsibility for the marbles’ conservation.
- Why Greece should be trusted to look after the Elgin Marbles : January 14, 2004
- Marbles Reunited campaign will not alter government position : January 14, 2004
- New Zealand parliament urges Britain to return Elgin Marbles : May 31, 2007
- Athens Olympics may hasten resolution of Elgin Marbles return : January 14, 2004
- New campaign to Reunite the Parthenon Marbles : January 15, 2004
- New Elgin Marbles reunification campaign launches in London : January 14, 2004
- Are the Elgin Marbles a Scottish issue? : March 7, 2008
- Lord Elgin’s great great great grandson on the Marbles : January 8, 2009