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The public’s view on reuniting the Parthenon Marbles

The Times has published some of the responses that it received in response to its piece on the reunification of the Parthenon Sculptures [1].

The Times [2]

January 28, 2003

Return of the Elgin Marbles

With the 2004 Olympics approaching, is it time for Britain to settle this long-running dispute?
BRITAIN should return the Elgin Marbles to Greece. They form no part of our heritage and are rarely viewed by visitors to the British Museum. They should be reunited with their other halves in Athens.

David Brown, Colchester, Essex

Table talk

A SIMPLE solution struck me while reading Saturday’s article on the Elgin Marbles. Let the Greek and British powers that be sit around the table and trade pieces of sculpture. That way both countries would benefit, and visitors to the museums would be able to see the sculptures in a more complete form. I wonder if an agreement could be reached. Perhaps this would be asking too much of human nature.

Penelope Cline, Brighton

Setting a precedent

THE British Museum is quite right to point out that fragmentary separation of works of art is very common.

Many year ago I saw the Acropolis in a “virgin state”. Subsequently, I was surprised to see concrete had been poured over the stone to make visitors’ pathways. While it is probable that the curatorial standards are much the same as ours, I had a strong impression that the level of competence (such as we have here with English Heritage) was not. There may have been a case to lend the Marbles to Athens, but is there any chance of them ever being returned?

If Elgin’s transaction was legal and the Marbles were to be returned, this would set an appalling precedent for emotional campaigns to break out all over the place. For example, the Russian Government would be predictably hostile if we demanded the return of its legally acquired Walpole collection. As it happens, through goodwill and trust, part of that collection is on loan in London right now.

Michael Tapper, Norfolk

Olympic reunion

THE fragmented sections of the Elgin Marbles should be reunited in the Acropolis Museum with a fund created to promote peace and understanding between nations. It would be absurd to expect the reunion to take place in London. It should be done in time for the 2004 Athens Olympics.

G. Hayward, Hythe, Kent

Pay back time

WHY not hand back the Elgin Marbles? We’ve handed back Hong Kong; we are open to negotiation on Gibraltar. It’s about time we gave back riches we have plundered in the name of empire and country. And after Elgin, why not look seriously at opening up a treaty with the Argentinians on Las Malvinas? Or is there too much oil around there for it to be a viable possibility?

Denis Wilkinson, Wigan, Manchester

A naive claim

IT IS all very well to claim that the Parthenon frieze should be returned to Greece where it belongs, but this argument contains a degree of naive political correctness.

First, it is argued that it is out of context in the British Museum. If it were to be returned to Greece, it would still be in a museum, and so would be just as much out of context as it is in the British Museum; it would not fit in the Acropolis Museum, so it would be impossible to look at the Parthenon and its frieze one directly after the other.

Secondly, and more importantly, the standard of care in the British Museum is very high, whereas from what I have seen of Greek museums, they sadly are not as well equipped for looking after them as the British Museum is.

William Wheeler, Bicester, Oxfordshire

Fine gesture

HAVING visited Ancient Olympia last summer, where I saw the Centaurs, and frieze from the Temple of Zeus, I feel that any item of such historical importance to its country should be on display in that country. The Greeks are a proud nation, with a love for their history.

Seeing the pictures in The Times on Saturday convinces me that the rightful home for the Elgin Marbles is Greece. What a fine gesture ahead of the so-called “friendly games” this would be.

Penny Smith

What more d’you want?

LORD ELGIN and his crew destroyed half the friezes and did considerable damage to the structure of the Parthenon itself when they took the Marbles from Athens. Following this, some of the shipments sank on their way back to Mighty Blighty and have been lost for ever. The British Museum doesn’t have the appropriate facilities to look after the artefacts properly, and (admittedly after a bit of a late start) the Parthenon Museum does.

So, stop adding insult to injury and just give the things back.

Through the ages Greece has given you philosophy, maths, astrology, theatre, 12 gods, the Olympics you’re so keen to host in 2012, mythology, linguistic structure, and a great place to go on holiday.

The least you can do is give us back a few bits of stone which have absolutely no significance to your average British Joe or Joanna Bloggs, but mean everything to their Greek counterparts.

How would you feel if we’d run off with half the Stonehenge circle?

Christina Curtis, London E17