To sue or not to sue? Parthenon Marbles activists debate

Parthenon pediment figures in the British Museum
The British Museum says it can display the sculptures "in the context of world history"

Activists from around the world seeking the return of the Parthenon sculptures to Athens have met in London to discuss their strategy as Greece faces troubled times.

"The Olympics are a four-yearly reminder to the world of all we owe to Greece," said former MP Eddie O'Hara - who chairs the British Committee for the Reunification of the Parthenon Marbles.

The meeting, he added, "ought to remind people in London and throughout the world that there's one debt to Greece that will never be repaid until those sculptures in the British Museum are returned."

Read more: To sue or not to sue? Parthenon Marbles activists debate

Lord Elgin - Saviour or Vandal?

By Mary Beard Last updated 2011-02-17

Much of the sculpture that once enhanced the Parthenon in Athens was brought to London by Lord Elgin 200 years ago. Was this the act of a saviour or a vandal? Mary Beard looks at both sides of a fierce argument.


Read more: Lord Elgin - Saviour or Vandal?


JUNE 2012, Museums Journal






EDDIE O'HARA, Chairman of the British Committee for the Reunification of the Parthenon Marbles

The Olympic games always remind us of our cultural debts to Greece .  London Olympics 2012 brings this particularly close to home.  This is why the British Committee for the Reunification of the Parthenon Marbles (BCRPM) is organising an international colloquy to link the Olympic spirit with their cause. 


William G Stewart's response to Richard Dorment's article in the Telegraph

I tell you what Mr. Dorment, let's ask MORI to get us a cross-section audience of, say 500 people, and I'll debate this issue with you. What about in the Duveen Gallery?

In the meantime, on the matter of a Government not having the authority to change the Act of 1816, let me remind you that it has already done so. The Act that entrusted the Marbles to the British Museum also decreed that the 7th Earl of Elgin , and all the Earls of Elgin to follow, should be Trustees of the British Museum. Well the present Earl of Elgin is not a Trustee because a Bill in 1963 struck out that right. And may I remind you that two leaders of the Labour Party (Neil Kinnock and Michael Foot) while in Opposition, promised to return the Marbles to Athens.

Finally, for the moment, are you aware that German documents captured after the 2nd World War showed that Hitler had plans to remove Nelson's Column to a square in Berlin? Do you think that the British people would ever have stopped demanding their return?

So what about that public debate?

Willian G Stewarts comment to Richard Dorment's article in the Telegraph 30 June 2009 entitled "The Elgin Marbles will never return to Athens – the British Museum is their rightful home"

Further comments:

• The credulous or naive journalists that Richard Dorment castigates - they include more than one from his own paper - are people who (unlike him, apparently) realised that, for a mature judgment of this issue, it was essential to see the New Acropolis Museum for oneself. They at least know what can be seen there other than the plaster casts that are on display - for example, the world's finest collection of pre-Classical Greek sculpture; or, better still, the West Frieze of the Parthenon, and the smaller pieces from the North, South and East, that Elgin left behind, living proof that the Marbles would have survived without Elgin's intervention; or even some tell-tale traces of the vandalism of Elgin's agents in detaching the slabs from the building and sawing them in two. Dorment's whole paragraph beginning 'Let's review the facts would have better started with 'Let's murder the facts'; while its concluding sneer about litigation in the courts may yet prove a hostage to fortune.
Anthony Snodgrass
Chairman of the British Committee for the Reunification of the Parthenon Marbles
July 01, 2009 at 09:12 AM

• Having seen the display in Athens and then revisited the Parthenon Sculptures in the British Museum, there is no doubt (in my mind) where these sculptures look best and more importantly - where they make more sense. Am really sorry that Richard Dorment has written such a poor article and there are some critical errors in his reporting too. I wonder if the positive features written by other journalists were naivety or better judgement and understanding. Perhaps Richard Dorment is the only journalist able to support the British Museum and its Trustees in its dated approach to the reunification of a peerless work of art. So much more would be gained if the British Museum returned these sculptures to Greece and indeed more visitors would make time to visit the British Museum.
Marlen Godwin, on June 30, 2009, at 08:41 PM