Should the Elgin Marbles be returned?


Not sure tbh.

On the one hand, they were stolen.

On the other, trying to impose modern notions of nationhood and national "ownership" when it comes to antiquities is a slippery slope. Where would it all end? 

it's not a slippery slope, it's pretty clear when a victorian archeologist has turned up in a 3rd world country and done some grave robbing who owns something. Like wise, when something has been genuinely gifted state to state or bought. 

I don't care about the Elgin marbles /Parthenon sculptures, it's probably a question for the british museum since they are holding them. I kinda like the idea of giving them on loan and not really asking for them back, feels like quite a british solution that. 

I do think it is fcuking ridiculous that  we have a government that would rather try to distract with this nonsense than even pretend to be trying to fix it's litany of failures. 

were they actually physically removed from the Parthenon by Elgin and his crew? 

If so and if the Greeks propose to actually put them back in place then I suppose yes. 

Otherwise, if the choice is between them sitting in the British Museum or a Greek Museum, then I suppose I’m tuglite either way. Bit of a slippery slope tho, what would we ultimately be saying - things can only be exhibited in their country of origin?

Basically what Davos said. If the Greeks want to put them up on the parthenon then give them then so they can do so. If, as I suspect, not, then tuglite as to what museum they sit in.

Think tank More in Common has asked about the row in a focus group of 2019 Tory voters in Walsall. One called it “first world problems” while there’s an “NHS crisis.” Another said “it’s almost like a distraction, isn’t it?” A third said: “Why do we give a cr*p?”

it's not a slippery slope, it's pretty clear when a victorian archeologist has turned up in a 3rd world country and done some grave robbing who owns something. Like wise, when something has been genuinely gifted state to state or bought. 

The problem in this instance is one side says that a pre-Victorian archaeologist turned up in a 3rd world country and done some grave robbing, and the other says that they were genuinely bought...

Scep Tick29 Nov 23 07:47

..., and the other says that they were genuinely bought...


and how did that go?

Sultan Osman Mahmood: "Alright mate, want to buy some marble?"

Dave Elgin: "I dunno, kinda got a lot of marble already"

Sultan Osman Mahmood: "not like these, got a load of weird greek pagan gods gettin up to mischief on em"

Dave Elgin: "could be interested, greek gods you say"

Sultan Osman Mahmood "Yeah mate, they were in that big old temple up there in the middle of athens"

Dave Elgin "Temple in Athens? are you sure they're legit? you own these right?"

Sultan Osman Mahmood: "......."

Dave Elgin: "......"

Sultan Osman Mahmood: "you own india right yalla?"

Dave Elgin: "yeah good point, stick em on me boat then, cash okay?"

Given all the other colonial related paroxysms we are currently subjected to, I can see no reason for not returning them, at least on a long loan if that’s what it takes. Why are we as a country crippled by guilt over our former so called dominions yet incapable of doing the right thing by Europe? And why is Work Experience so tetchy about Greece but happy to suck up to India? What a wholly warped set of priorities which are unrepresentative of the majority of Britain!!! Get him out and let’s have a government which leads us back into Europe, proudly and as honest partners, not bending over to the commonwealth for the sake of our family firm’s IT jobs.

Think tank More in Common has asked about the row in a focus group of 2019 Tory voters in Walsall. One called it “first world problems” while there’s an “NHS crisis.” Another said “it’s almost like a distraction, isn’t it?” A third said: “Why do we give a cr*p?”

Well, that tells us that the denizens of Walsall are Philistines, but not much else. 

The risk of them ending up as a trophy in Paris or Berlin has probably passed now. We are now in the era of the jealous museum curator.  Rishi probably having his ear chewed off by George Osborne. 

there weren’t third world countries in those days because numbered works weren’t a thing, and if there had been, Ottoman Greece wouldn’t have been one.

I’m tug lite if they are returned faod, but I’m not persuaded there’s any imperative to do so and if I were whoever sacked off a meeting about it to attend to more important stuff, I’d probably have sacked thag meeting off too.

The Parthenon sculptures now in the British Museum were stolen

This isn't true. Lord Elgin, the British diplomat who transported the sculptures to England, acted with the full knowledge and permission of the legal authorities of the day in both Athens and London. Lord Elgin's activities were thoroughly investigated by a Parliamentary Select Committee in 1816 and found to be entirely legal. Following a vote of Parliament, the British Museum was allocated funds to acquire the collection.

Return them, and frankly I don't give a shit. The vast majority of people who are thinking about this question currently: (1) have never seen the marbles in real life, and (2) will never bother to go and see them in real life. This is prime time Daily Mail distraction tactics and nothing more. Give them back "on loan" to avoid the precedent setting that others are harping on about.



All of the sculptures from the Parthenon are in the British Museum

This is incorrect. About half of the sculptures from the Parthenon are lost, having been destroyed over the 2,500 years of the building's history. The sculptures that remain are found in museums in five countries, including the Louvre and the National Museum of Denmark, though the majority is divided roughly equally between Athens and London.


The sculptures could be reunited on the Parthenon

This isn't possible. Though partially reconstructed, the Parthenon is a ruin. It's universally recognised that the sculptures that still exist could never be safely returned to the building: they're best seen and conserved in museums. For this reason, all the sculptures that remained on the building have now been removed to the Acropolis Museum, and replicas are now in place.

Return 💯

Morally the right thing to do and it’ll also buy some goodwill with the Greeks - given the vast numbers of tourists we send there every year, you never know when we’ll need it.

i care more about the how than the if

if it’s some post-colonial, self-flagellating humiliation ritual where Britain atones for its shameful past then no, fvck off. 

on amicable terms of friendship between the uk and Greece I have no issue with it

of course the British government is appalling at managing its own image so will probably execute the combo of looking completely petulant until returning them in the most debasing way possible 

looking completely petulant




It's like the longest and most boring real life version of that round in Squid Game, this whole thing. Remember discussing it at school 


Maybe once the game is over Russia nukes whoever hasn't got the marbles 

In principle, yes. 

In practice, no. Opening the floodgates to undoing history and correcting historic mistakes is not a road I want the world to go down. 

“I don't care about the Elgin marbles /Parthenon sculptures, it's probably a question for the british museum since they are holding them. I kinda like the idea of giving them on loan and not really asking for them back, feels like quite a british solution that. ”


but there is a slippery slope argument. legality is a bit like international law - politics and history dressed up as law. Britain legally had dominion over India right?

If the BL has books from the famed ancient libraries of Timbuktu then I wouldn’t support returning them to be burnt by lunatics alongside the irreplaceable treasures already torched. 

So the loan a neat resolution of that problem Obidiah?

Perhaps we could have long peppercorn leases of Corfu and Crete as a deposit? Terminable on safe return of the marbles?

Morally, the relevant consideration is who would derive the most joy from the sculptures. I suspect they would be seen many more multiples of times in the British museum than in Greece, so I think they should stay in the British museum. 

We'd all have much more fun dressing up as hoplites and doing comedies wearing massive phalluses but we have no interest in 5th Century Greek culture at all. We just want to start debates about colonial oppression and the danger of demagogues.  

was it more like push fraud? but it doesn’t really matter - it’s a pointless distraction - where should they be? who “owns” them isn’t that important and endlessly debateable - did the ottomans (or whoever purported to transfer ownership to Elgin) show good root of title? is title based on being the imperial power accepted? prior to the ottomans is even greyer. 

Whether or not Elgin did act lawfully is somewhat murky, notwithstanding the conclusions of the (British) Parliamentary committee, but the burden of proof is governed by the legal maxim “finders keepers”.

Sumo: how can you be so sure? I can't remember the exact facts as related by Robertson, but I think there were three strands: (a) Elgin paid bribes, (b) he said he was removing them to take casts but then kept them and (c) the people he reached his so called agreement with didn't have authority over them anyway

I'm with Byron on this.


Dull is the eye that will not weep to see
Thy walls defaced, thy mouldering shrines removed
By British hands, which it had best behoved
To guard those relics ne'er to be restored.
Curst be the hour when from their isle they roved,
And once again thy hapless bosom gored,
And snatch'd thy shrinking gods to northern climes abhorred!

I agree with cookie actually that there is something about Sunak that suggests he thinks we should be inordinately grateful to have someone as gifted as him serving as PM

er you weren’t even a very good investment banker m88 ur main gift is marrying well

But they are protected by an ACT OF PARLIAMENT so the Government's hands are tied. Just like we are tied to fixed term parliaments. No way out. Very sorry. 


This is looted plunder. The evidence that Elgin acquired them from the sultan is v sketchy too. Send 'em back. 




Sumo_dojo is entirely correct and the Acropolis museum built now 14 years ago in Athens is abs gorgeous. That is where the sculptures would be displayed. In the existing display missing sections are rendered in white plaster so it is clear how the whole frieze would look if reunited, also the Elgin section is in far better condition than the sections which have had several more decades to wither in the athenian smog, so that will be v noticeable.

I challenge anyone who has visited the Acropolis Museum to not want the elgin section returned, it is obviously the correct thing to do.  But it is a moral obligation not legal.

When I was growing up the argument was always that the marbles were better off safe in the Brit Mus but since Athens built their masterpiece of a new museum this is abs no longer the case.

This latest spat between Greeve and UK is abs typical of the Greek hysteria about the issue, they are massive drama queens and the rhetoric is, as always, nuts.

I would however very much like to see the frieze restored in Athens.



Of course not. Since the late 1800s the Greeks have poorly maintained the site (metal struts oxidising; pollution etc.) and we shouldn't endorse that negligence. I don't care if they built a newly enclosed museum.

Also if we don't it'll really annoy jelly/brexit and that's really what's most important.

It should not be (and in my view it is not) in the gift of temporary political administrations to make irreversible decisions as regards cultural issues such as this. That being the case, the status quo must be maintained. Any other position relies on appeals to relative morality which by definition cannot be objectively rationalised.

Cicero political courtroom speeches in which he exposed the wrongdoing of Gaius Verres while governor in Sicily are well known. Lurid details of looting and despoiling of Greek temples in Sicily among other things. Corruption, rape. In this passage he takes a gentler approach defending the status quo. Possession, he argues, is nine tenths of the law. These decisions are too important for our mere temporal masters.    

they'll come to some arrangement like the V&A did with teh Ethiopian crown jewels (which a different country laid claim to each time they agreed terms with one gov't - I think Benin laid claim once Ethiopia had been accommodated? Ethiopia pinched from them. At any rate - tehy now technically belong to Ethiopia but are on long term loan (ie never going to leave teh V&A)

why is Work Experience so tetchy about Greece but happy to suck up to India?

Because India is a superpower that we need to blozz post Brexit (see Camilla, coronation, Koh-i-Noor), while Sunak (or more likely 20p Lee and the focus groups calling up Tory voters) see Greece as a small European country that Britannia can fvck around with just as we did in the days of Palmerston.  Simples.  

Technically we should probably give them back to Turkey. I'm sure they can sort it out amongst themselves. We'll hang on to them for the time being. That do?   

They should gift them back, but on the condition we get them for 3 month residency loan every 24 months, with some added bits loaned too, to make it even more amazeballs. 


The Koh I Noor has been owned by one mass murderer strongman after another. Its place in the British Crown jewels is as historically and culturally significant as any other period in its existence.
The Parthenon sculptures were made for and owned by Athenians, until given away by (or defrauded from) their then imperial government. Their significance primarily derives from the context of the Parthenon and their place in ancient Greek culture, there is no comparison.

The real Athenians fled Athens in disgust after the trial and death of Socrates in 399. They headed west to a promised land known as the Hesperides. After various shipwrecks along the Atlantic coastline the survivors formed a small colony in a faraway land known as Prettanike or Albion. A settlement of wise philosophers and craftsmen was established on the North bank of the river Tamesis where a temple was dedicated to the Muses known as Prettanike Museon. It was prophesied that one day the sacred marbles would return there.    

They should gift them back, but on the condition we get them for 3 month residency loan every 24 months, with some added bits loaned too, to make it even more amazeballs. 

I'm not sure that moving these things around is a good idea.  They should go back to Athens permanently, but with some deal, e.g. all British residents/citizens get free/reduced rate admission to the Acropolis / Parthenon Museum, some graduate scholarships for British graduates to pursue studies at a couple of Greek universities.  The UK is really bad at this soft stuff.  I think because there are too many people whose buy-in is needed for any decision so everything gets reduced to the lowest common denominator.  I mean, of all the countries that Greece has a geo-political relationship with, its closest one is with the UK.  This is easy stuff.

We can do this. 

In exchange for the Elgin marbles the government has successfully negotiated a pass that gets you discounted drinks in Faliraki between 6 and 7pm but only in January.  


Wonder if our Tory seal clappers would still demand we kept them if Rishi wanted to return them and Sir K wanted them retained. 

Oh hell yeah.  It'd prove that Sunak "wasn't really British" (wink wink nudge nudge) 

Keep the Marbles (to replace those mislaid) joins Stop the Boats as Tory mantras for a GE in May 2024 to summon of the spittle of little England.

Ultimately, within the next five years, they should be returned.

Returning museum artefacts should be on a case-by-case basis, to avoid a catch-all approach, otherwise many of the pieces in Musee de Louvre would have to be returned.


They are safer in the British Museum. I know that sounds horribly gammon but it is true over the sort of timeframes that matter. We should keep them. I agree the Acropolis museum is awesome by the way, but 14 years is but the blink of an eye in the scale of these things. 

There is also a massive slippery slope here that will see us having to tell other less developed countries (e.g. Egypt) we simply don't trust them to have their stuff back and that just means loads of awkward conversations with loads of people rather than just one with Greece. 

No way will Greece accept ownership but the marbles staying in UK on permanent loan. Other way round, maybe in time they will settle for that, but given Greek macho rhetoric, not without an awful lot of shouting first. It is an extremely political issue in Greece. Giving up on ownership even if they are sent to Greece on permanent loan will be like political kryptonite.

Prince Philip wouldn't have allowed it because they murdered his family but now it's probably ok. A gift from one nation to another is not a precedent.  And anyway a moral obligation can't be objectively rationalised so it cannot exist by its very definition. 

Yeah so we probably should not be letting morality into the discussion - my moral compass tells me it is absolutely fine to hang on to them as it hurts no one and makes one of our museums a bit better. Plenty of people here seem to have moral compasses which say they need to be returned else the poor little Greek boys and girls will be sad forever. Morality does not help when it comes to this kind of thing - we are not talking about killing anyone, just where some relics ought to reside.

I don't think it's a moral issue. It's the fact that these artefacts are scattered all over the place and I'd like to see them go back to where they came from. That's more meaningful than hoarding things in London. I'm not anti-British empire or into the politics of it. I just think it would be more harmonious. 

As stated above, I'm ambivalent. But the fact that Workie is so exercised about keeping them makes me think we must return them. 

To Cookie's point, I wonder if Sunak's aggressive nationalism over artefacts extends to India's claim over the Koh-i-Noor. One suspects not.


Arthur Snell’s view:-

“The decision by Rishi Sunak to cancel a planned meeting with Greece’s Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis because he had restated publicly a long-held and widely known policy position of Greece, that the Parthenon/Elgin Marbles should be returned to Athens, is one of the worst diplomatic missteps by a British government that I can think of. I include all the Brexit shenanigans in that assessment: even at the height of the destructive Johnson/Frost dishonesty over the Irish border there was at least a kernel of logic to their behaviour: they had negotiated an objectively bad deal with the EU over Brexit. Having lied about the nature of that deal to the British people they had a political imperative to try to improve on its terms so that it would be slightly closer to what they had claimed for it publicly.


Something’s missing

By contrast, Rishi Sunak’s behaviour is inexplicable: even if you accept his argument, that he had received assurances that Mitsotakis would not comment publicly about the issue during his visit (which seems an improbable restriction to be able to put on the head of government of another state), the context in which he spoke about the issue was clearly not of his making. He was asked about it in a BBC interview with Laura Kuenssberg and replied, eloquently and in the perfect English that you would expect for someone with degrees from Harvard and Stanford.

As a diplomat I’ve encountered numerous occasions where a foreign leader says something that doesn’t accord with our own country’s policies. In almost every case, it’s the easiest thing in the world to politely brush off these differences: “We are aware of Greece’s long-held positions on this issue, which we do not share, but it does not prevent us from working together on a range of shared priorities such as …[enter list of shared priorities]”. Or you can go for the slightly more folksy American style: “Friends sometimes disagree, but what we agree about is [say thing that you agree with Greece about].” It’s almost unbelievable that Sunak or his people didn’t choose to avail themselves of one of these very easy formulations.

Instead they offered Mitsotakis a meeting with the Deputy Prime Minister Oliver Dowden. In diplomatic-speak, that is a clearly calculated insult. Your Prime Minister gets to meet our Prime Minister, and vice versa. You don’t cancel that meeting and offer the deputy, particularly as everyone knows it’s a non-job. There may be some that at this point think, “yeah, but it’s only Greece, does it really matter?”. And that’s where Sunak’s incompetence really starts to shine out. Ideologically speaking, Mitsotakis and Rishi Sunak are very close: perhaps it’s not an accident they both did Masters degrees at Stanford. They are both conservative, economically dry, comfortable around a world of wealth and inherited privilege. And Sunak needs Greece as an ally on some of the things he cares most about, especially migration, where Mitsotakis’s government takes a similarly hard line on its own small boats crisis. (The analogy breaks down when you consider that Greece had to deal with about 1 million refugees at the height of the migration crisis in 2015, at a time when Britain was fretting over a tenth of that number.)

Greece is also an important player in NATO, particularly around the complex dynamics with Turkey, and also influential with some important Middle Eastern communities and interest groups. Now is not a good time for the UK to be pissing off the Prime Minister of Greece. So if this was a carefully calculated political stunt to shore up right wing domestic support for Sunak, it really is contemptible. It won’t shift a single election result that makes any difference for the long-term, but it will make Britain weaker on the world stage, as another country shrugs at our essential unseriousness.”

Sounds pretty good to me.



I have been looking at the Greek press on this, they dont seem anywehre near as bothered about this snub as you might think. Preferring to refer to ongoing discussions with Brit Mus, which they consider unaffected by Sunak’s fit of pique.

Still wont give way on the marbles, obv

I continue to be surprised that the media don’t seem to have noticed that the Tories have already passed an Act of Parliament that would allow the British Museum to decide to give back the marbles on moral grounds. They then belatedly realised what they’d done, and paused implementing it.

It is bizarre seeing both Tories and Labour saying they wouldn’t change the British Mueseum Act when Parliament had already done so, it’s just waiting to be commenced.

Should be surprised really.

Yes, I wonder why he left Doomsday Watch? Poss not enough clicks for being reasonable and measured. The podverse has peaked now with R**hard Osman and Marina Hyde getting their own. Fvkc knows what that’s costing.