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19/10/2014

As a Briton, I hang my head in shame. We must return the Parthenon marbles

parthenon marbles

As a Briton, I hang my head in shame

but take heart in what the poet Titos Patrikios, an old friend, calls Greece’s “unbeatable weapon”; the common sense of ordinary Britons who for almost two decades have overwhelmingly endorsed repatriation in successive opinion polls. It was another poet, Yannis Ritsos, who summed up the marbles’ predicament best. “These stones don’t feel at ease with less sky,” he wrote. They needed the luminosity of Attica to be appreciated most.

More than anything, the argument for the marbles’ return is as much about scholarship as it is about aesthetics or ethics. To go on advocating that Phidias’s masterpieces are better off in London is, in essence, to argue that the finest carvings of classical times are better amputated and broken up.

With some of the antiquities divided between the countries – a huge statue of Poseidon has his upper part in London, his lower part in Athens – that is tantamount to not only denying future generations the simple pleasure of enjoying the marbles in their original context, set against the most perfect temple ever built. It is the equivalent of refusing them the right to view them reunited, as they were meant to be seen.

Greece has gone through its darkest hour in recent years. The reunification of the sculptures would be a huge shot in the arm for a nation that in times of difficulty has always stood by Britain. Rarely do we have such opportunities to right a wrong. That opportunity is here now and in the name of everything it stands for, Great Britain should seize the moment. It would, as Stephen Fry put it, be the classiest of acts.

Source: http://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2014/oct/19/return-the-elgin-marbles-to-athens-helena-smith

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