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Responses to John Carr’s comments on the Marbles

Two letters published in Athens News highlight many of the factual inaccuracies present in the rantings by John Carr [1] relating to the Elgin Marbles in recent weeks.

Athens News [2]

No. 13271
Letters to the editor
A dispute carved in marble

IN HIS riposte (Zahopoulos and Elgin, January 18), John Carr struggles to justify his tabloid-style smearing of the Greek ministry of culture by appealing to his own version of the history of the Marbles issue. I pass over all his questionable assertions except the last one: “Let’s leave the Marbles where they can be seen and admired by 40 million (sic) people each year”.

If John Carr really believes in that figure, then one can begin to understand why he holds the views he does. In fact, not even the British Museum itself has claimed more than 5 million to 6 million visitors a year, while a series of questionnaires and opinion polls consistently show that, of this total, something over three-quarters do not bother to include the Marbles in their visit. An “ethical argument” still needs to be based on an array of accurate facts: ours is.

Anthony Snodgrass
British Committee for the Reunification of the Parthenon Marbles

I WRITE in response to John Carr’s Letter to the Editor (Zahopoulos and Elgin, January 18). Loaded with factual inaccuracies and representing an unbecoming and ailing viewpoint, his swansong to the last vestiges of a cultural imperialism long abandoned cannot go without reasoned redress.

Firstly, regardless of the Act of Parliament of 1816, the term “Elgin Marbles” has been abandoned by all parties and stakeholders. The British Museum itself respectfully refers to them as the Parthenon Marbles or the Parthenon Sculptures.

Further, no permission was ever given by the rulers of the Ottoman Empire to extract and remove any of the sculptures that were in situ from the Parthenon. If Mr Carr has firm evidence to the contrary I would be grateful to have sight of it, as I expect, would the British Museum. I suspect he is misquoting an Italian translation of a Firman. No Firman actually exists.

Finally, where is the figure of 40 million visitors to the Marbles each year quoted from? Research was conducted on this very subject by William G Stewart, the TV presenter and member of Marbles Reunited, in the summer of 2002. With the permission of the British Museum (which, by the way, claims only 6 million visitors per year), he took a group of students to the Duveen Gallery to count the number of visitors. He chose a peak time of year in the summer season, June 28- July 1. The numbers returned for each day were 4,441, 4,246, 4,526 and 5,311, respectively, the average being 4,631. If you multiply this by the number of days the BM is open per year (360), you will find that the correct figure is only 1,667,160.

Mr Carr, you demand that the Greeks get their house in order. Sir, they have, it is called the New Acropolis Museum.

Nicky Artemi
Acting secretary, Marbles Reunited