April 4, 2012
A humorous look (which raises a lot of important issues) about whether the Parthenon Sculptures should be returned to Greece & some of the implications that such a move might have if it did take place.
Losing Our Marbles: Should Britain Return the Elgin Marbles to Greece?
Posted: 4/04/2012 00:00
The unwritten rules of decorum state it is impolite to discuss sex, politics or religion at dinner parties. I would like to add one more topic to that list – cultural repatriation. As discursive stink-bombs go it’s not often a headline act, but there are few controversies more likely to invoke a full-on food fight during the middle of the cheese course than the concept of returning archaeological heritage to various peoples around the globe. Now, just months from the Olympics, the campaign is being stepped up once more for the return of the Elgin Marbles to the Greek nation, and another messy argument seems inevitable.
First thing’s first, why are they the Elgin Marbles? Well, here lies our first trip hazard – we do not refer to them as the Parthenon Marbles (the building they were intended for) or the Phidian Marbles (the sculptor who crafted them), but instead they have taken the name of the aristocrat who nabbed them from Greece. As far as I am aware, lumps of rock are unaffected by Stockholm Syndrome, so it’s not the Marbles themselves who are identifying with their kidnapper. No, it’s the British people who have dubbed them Elgin’s Marbles, in gratitude for the Lord’s generosity in selling them, at a reduced price, to the nation in 1816. So, already Britain has committed an act of appropriation through nominative rebranding. The name implies they were Elgin’s to sell in the first place.
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