The Parthenon Marbles are a collection of classical Greek marble sculptures, inscriptions and architectural pieces that were originally part of the temple of Parthenon and other buildings on the Acropolis of Athens. The Parthenon temple was built in Greece in the 5th century BC to honour the goddess Athena, and has since become one of the most recognisable wonders of the world, and one of the greatest architectural feats of the ancient Greeks.
Between the periods of 1801 and 1812, half the marbles were torn from the temple while Athens was under control of the Ottoman Empire. In 1811, the Earl of Elgin claimed to obtain a permit to remove the marble from the Sublime Porte, and with that, he transported the marbles by sea to Britain. While some people supported Elgin’s actions, claiming that he did the Greeks a service by recovering the artefacts before they had the chance to be destroyed forever, others compared his behaviour to that of stealing or vandalism. This was because he had essentially taken for himself what many considered the property of the past, present and future Greek people. Nonetheless, in 1816, the British Parliament purchased the marbles and presented them to the British Museum where they have been on display since.
There has been much controversy surrounding these marbles, with many historians arguing that they were wrongfully taken from Greece, with Elgin never actually receiving the required permission for removal, with no evidence existing to showcase his permit. Furthermore, to add salt to the wounds of the Greek people, the removal of the objects also damaged the Parthenon temple, with many slabs and metopes being sawn, sliced, and hacked which caused irreparable mutilation to the Parthenon that the marbles were attached to.
While this presents the most obvious argument for why the marbles should be returned to Greece, another argument posits itself in the fact that the Greek people consider the artefacts as a symbol of their culture, heritage and their past. Similarly, many archaeologists and historians would agree that it is imperative that the marbles are unified in order to be seen as they were initially intended. As the ancient temples still exist in Athens, it would make more sense to keep the marbles there as well, in order to showcase Greek history and art in a more chronological and holistic way.
However, on Britain’s side, they provide the rebuttal that the marbles should remain in the globally renowned British Museum where they can tell the story of human development and cultural achievement. Similarly, the fact that they have been in the British Museum for more than two hundred years without any lawsuits or actions from the Greek government, limits any legal rights the Greek people may have to the relics. Furthermore, the British Museum has recently announced that it is going to loan a number of the marble pieces to the State Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg. This presents another argument as to why the marbles should not be returned to Greece, as the museums claim that they present their visitors with a variety of cultures, showcasing art in a number of contexts, allowing them to be shown in their best light. Nonetheless, many historians would suggest that by removing a work from its original setting, you would be losing the context of the work and thus the impact of its cultural significance would be minimised.…