Elgin marbles must not be lent to Greece until British Museum is granted ownership: historian


One of the world’s leading historians has denied claims that the Elgin Marbles were illegally removed from Athens’ Parthenon and recommended not loaning them to Greece unless the British Museum recognizes ownership of the sculpture .

The Greek government has campaigned for decades to return the 2,500-year-old artifacts (sometimes called Parthenon sculptures) to Athens, but the British Museums Act of 1963 has made it very limited. Removal of objects from collections is prohibited except in the following circumstances:

Earlier this month, British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said there were “no plans” to change the British Museum Act.

But George Osborne, chairman of the British Museum and former Treasury secretary, said it was exploring the possibility of long-term loans to Greece.

Sir Noel Malcolm, Senior Fellow at All Souls College, Oxford University, writes: (pdf) The think tank Policy Exchange refutes claims that the marbles were illegally taken by Lord Elgin between 1801 and 1805.

Thomas Bruce, 7th Earl of Elgin, was appointed British Ambassador to the Ottoman Empire in 1799, a position he held for four years.

Malcolm said Elgin was fascinated by ancient Greek architecture and demanded “freedom to remove sculptures and inscriptions that do not interfere with the works and walls of the fortress” at the Parthenon in Athens.

Malcolm states that this was approved in 1801 by the Ottoman Sultan of Istanbul, who ruled over what is now Greece.

He said that the original Fuhrman had not survived, but that a contemporary Italian translation should not prevent Elgin from “carrying away stone fragments with old inscriptions and figures.”

According to Malcolm, the sculpture was gradually sent to England between 1803 and 1812, where it was exhibited at the British Museum, where it attracted “great interest”.

Epoch Times photo
The frieze forming part of the Elgin Marbles of the Parthenon in Athens, Greece, displayed at the British Museum in London on January 21, 2002. (Graham Barclay, BWP Media/Getty Images)

The British Museum purchased a marble from Lord Elgin for £35,000

Elgin, who had spent £74,000 to bring the marbles to England and was heavily in debt, decided that a special committee of the House of Commons would investigate the matter and, after an Act of Parliament in 1816 had approved the purchase, they were transferred to the British Museum. sold for £35,000.

The Elgin Marbles have been on display at the British Museum for the past 200 years.

Malcolm wrote in his report, “The words ‘steal’, ‘plunder’, ‘steal’, ‘plunder’ appear very frequently when demands for the return of marbles to Athens are expressed.” However, he said they were misnomers.It is doubtful that the sculptures were legally photographed with the consent of the Ottoman authorities, the only legal government in Greece at the time. There was no room.

He concluded: And representatives had legal validity. “

Malcolm then considered debating whether to return the Elgin Marbles to Greece to “restore the integrity of the original artwork.”

He pointed out:

“Masaccio’s Pisa Polyptych is in Pisa, Vienna, Naples and London; Mantegna’s San Zeno Altarpiece is in Verona, Tours and Paris; Signorelli’s Beach Polyptych is in Paris, Berlin, Dublin, Glasgow, Toledo, It is in Williamstown.In each of these cases, and in so many others, the situation is accepted as a fact of history,” he added.

He said it would be impossible to put the marbles back in their original position in the Parthenon, adding, “Instead, we are thinking about moving the marbles from one museum to another.”

“Certainly they will be alongside other original sculptures, but this is very different from reconstructing the original artwork. Two groups of sculptures have been removed and many others have been replaced.” It is completely lost.

Xi Jinping sided with Greece

Historians also point out that when Chinese President Xi Jinping visited Athens in 2019, he agreed with the Greeks that the Elgin Marbles were being held illegally in Britain, stating: increase. Because we have many relics abroad and we are doing our best to bring these back home as soon as possible. “

Epoch Times photo
Chinese President Xi Jinping (left) and Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis visit the cargo terminal of Chinese company Cosco in the port of Piraeus, Greece, November 11, 2019. (Orestis Panagiotou/AFP via Getty Images)

Malcolm said the idea of ​​lending money to Greece might seem like a smart compromise, but it has serious flaws.

he said: The Greek authorities should say their promise fell victim to force majeure. “

“Another possible scenario is legal action by a Greek individual or entity. Such action could lead to an indefinite delay in the return of the marbles to London or a total ban on the return of the marbles by a Greek judge. It could lead to a judgment against you,” Malcolm added.

Earlier this month, during a trip to San Diego, Sunak said: Our galleries and museums are funded by taxpayers because they are great assets to this country. We share their treasures with the world and the world comes to Britain to see them.The British Museum’s collection is protected by law and we have no plans to change it. “