June 20, 2004
Neal Ascherson has written a lengthy article in the Observer about the reasons why he believes the Elgin Marbles should be returned. This article is prompted by a new BBC film on the subject to be shown later this week.
End the exile
For 300 years we have had the Elgin Marbles, but the case for their return is now unanswerable
Sunday June 20, 2004
In August, the Olympic Games begin in Athens. The world will converge on the city crowned by the Parthenon. But the Greeks, hoping against hope, have invited a very special group of guests who will not be coming. The sacred figures of the Elgin Marbles, sawn off the temple by a Scottish nobleman almost 200 years ago, will be staying in the British Museum.
This week, a fair-minded BBC film will examine Lord Elgin and what he did. It will also set out the arguments, some respectable, some disgraceful, which have kept the marbles here in the teeth of generations of Greek – and British – protest. At the Games, Culture Secretary Tessa Jowell will meet her opposite number, Costas Karamanlis, who is both minister of culture and the new Prime Minister. It is obvious what he will say to her. It is far from obvious that they will agree.
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