Battle Over the Elgin Marbles Rages On
Travel Blog • Eva Holland • 06.16.09 | 1:08 PM ET
We blogged about one writer’s sneak peek at the New Acropolis Museum last summer, and now opening day has finally arrived—predictably, not without controversy.
The museum was designed both to pressure Britain for the return of the Elgin Marbles, and to provide a worthy home for them after their (eventual, theoretical) return. With that context in mind, it’s no surprise that Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown and the director of the British Museum—where the marbles are currently held—have all declined invitations to the grand opening on Saturday.
Meanwhile, a spokeswoman’s suggestion that the British Museum might loan the marbles to Athens, conditional on the Greek government’s acknowledgment of Britain’s ownership of them, didn’t go over too well either. The Athens culture minister told the Guardian that agreeing to the condition “would be like sanctifying Elgin’s deeds and legitimising the theft of the marbles and the break-up of the monument 207 years ago. No Greek government could accept that.”
I think the British Museum has run out of excuses. I don’t see how Elgin’s carving up of the Parthenon all those years ago qualifies as anything other than gross cultural vandalism (interestingly, Lord Elgin was also the one who gave the order to pillage and torch Beijing’s Old Summer Palace), and the standard line—that Athens can’t take care of its own cultural heritage—seems to be negated by the new Ä130 million facility. I haven’t made it to Athens yet, but when I do I’d love to see the Parthenon friezes reunited at last.