February 8, 2008

The flaws in John Carr’s arguments

Posted at 1:53 pm in Elgin Marbles, New Acropolis Museum

Some more responses to John Carr’s provocative statements about the Elgin Marbles in Athens News. Including his own correction of some of the errors in his original narrative.

Athens News

No. 13272
Letters to the editor


Four million see Elgin Marbles
THERE’S many a slip… Somehow, out of the digital mysteries of emailing, a zero emerged where it shouldn’t have. My letter in the January 18 issue should have read that 4 million, not 40 million, people see the Elgin Marbles in the British Museum each year. My many critics may thus calm down. To err this time was in-human; though to forgive will be Duveen.
John Carr

Carr’s arguments flawed…
IN RESPONSE to John Carr’s letter (January 18) I would like to correct his flawed arguments. Firstly, concerning Carr’s statement “the Marbles, which were acquired fully in accordance with the administrative rules of the Ottoman Empire, which was the legitimate authority of the Balkans at that time”. To justify the Ottoman rule of Greece would mean that the War of Independence in 1821 was illegal. Using Carr’s own argument, Britain itself acted illegally then for aiding the Greek people to liberate themselves from the Ottoman Turks. The truth is Lord Elgin (Thomas Bruce) took the Marbles illegally while Greece was occupied. He took them not even for his country, but rather to decorate his mansion in Scotland. Only after he lost his fortune did the British Museum acquire them.

Secondly, regarding Carr’s attack on the culture ministry of Greece: “If you are a culture ministry and if you’re going to appeal to someone’s noble side, should you not be noble yourself, instead of – in the Greek media’s portrait – something resembling a den of sexually-perverted thieves?” True, the current culture ministry is in a political scandal. However, does that mean that those who argue the return of the Parthenon Marbles have no right to fight for this cause? Or is Carr perhaps arguing that the millions of people who want the sculptures reunited in the New Acropolis Museum are now less noble?

Finally, he states: “Besides, there are more ordinary Greeks who agree with me than
I suspect.” This really makes me laugh as most polls even in England show that many people strongly favour the Marbles’ be return to Greece.

There are many advantages of having the Marbles displayed in the New Acropolis Museum, designed in such a way where the viewer would be able to see the frieze and metopes as laid out on the Parthenon itself. The effect of natural sunlight coming into the gallery and its proximity to the Acropolis will significantly add to the visitors’ experience! I believe it is an ethical crime not to reunite these works in one museum at their place of origin.

Theo Lagakos
Toronto, Canada

… logical…
I HAVE read Mr John Carr’s letter in your issue of January 18. Not being a regular reader of your newspaper I have missed Mr Gilson’s article but I think the point of the dialogue is obvious. I have to say that Mr Carr’s arguments seem to me totally logical and rightful. Maybe they could be summed up with the following Greek proverb (although it is one that shouldn’t be mentioned in a polite dialogue): έκανε η μύγα κώλο κι έχεσε τον κόσμο όλο. ( I leave the translation to you ).

Permit me to add one more triviality. It is usually the weak and not the strong who need to be protected by moral rules.

Dimitris Zacharakis

… and ill-informed
A LETTER by a Mr John Carr (January 18) endeavouring to tie the Zahopoulos and Elgin scandals together with the return of the Parthenon sculptures to Athens so upset me that I decided to write an unbiased opinion to set the matter right.

That gentleman’s letter is so irrelevant, misleading and coupled with dubious pettiness that I was genuinely appalled at his clear lack of basic education and knowledge! I also wondered as to the reason he wrote such an ill-informed letter.

Whether Mr Carr likes it or not, the New Acropolis Museum in Athens, which I visited last July, is ready and capable to welcome the Parthenon sculptures. The British Museum has to get off its high horse, stop procrastinating and commence meaningful negotiations to see how this will come about to the benefit of both nations. Both nations should put aside national pride and pseudo-patriotism and demonstrate willingness to sort things out. The age of gunboat imperialism should be over in the 21st century.

Alexander M Benakis
United Kingdom


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