The marbles cannot be considered in isolation. We are focusing here on Greek artifacts because we have an affinity with Greece. If the marbles were returned (either directly or through some fudged arrangement) then it would open the floodgates to other countries, with similar claims. My Pakistan girl would be straight on the blower to Lahore. UK (and others around the world) museums would be empty and I believe that humanity in general would lose out. Is this what you are advocating?
Alternatively, Athens could buy/ rent artifacts from other countries it fill the museum (why is it half empty anyway?) and this would help the Greeks to experience other cultures. For instance there are 8000-year-old statues (long before Ancient Greece and Rome) in Amman that could be loaned out most likely with right diplomatic approach . There are probably more 5000 year old stone dressing tables to be unearthed in Orkney. There are Pakistan/Indian treasures, which could be loaned out. Even native Australian/American/ African items could be obtained. Not all Greek people are obsessed about the marbles. For instance, the Greek lass who worked with me would have preferred Panny winning the European soccer cup.
I believe that Burrell, Elgin etc were collectors in the true sense and not looters. Equating them with the Nazis seems somewhat off-beam to me. But remember that armies plundered from the time of Julius Caesar and before. I once stayed for a short time with a family (in Munich). They openly displayed the spoils of war in the form of painting on the wall. The father was a solder in the army.
I bought several Aboriginal artifacts many years ago at an auction In Melbourne when I was looking for furniture. No one was interested in these at that time. I brought these back with me to the UK. Later I discovered that these objects were several hundred years old and of great significance to the native people. I plan to offer there to the Burrell if they were interested. Why? So that it helps people to learn about the rich and ancient Aboriginal culture. Am I too a looter?
Message posted by janmanessi on 08 February 2011 at 2:13pm - IP Logged
Surely anyone is a looter who KNOWNGLY possesses something which legally belongs to someone else and weas taken by them. In that case I would class your German friends as looters but not you because at the time you purchased the artefacts you were not aware that they had been stolen, however I would hope that now that you ARE aware of their religious and cultural significance you would offer to return them to their rightful owners, as Boy George did with his icon.
Message posted by jrk on 08 February 2011 at 3:22pm - IP Logged
"time you purchased the artefacts you were not aware that they had been stolen"
And who should I give them back too? Australian museums are full of such artifacts. And I do not know even now if these had been stolen. I only know now that they are old. I had carbon dating done on them after Australian visiting friend reckon they were used extensively. I have no idea where these items came from except that the lot they were came from a wealthy French family estate. As an aside I also bought a ornate marble clock, I gather which is predates the French revolution and a card table which goes back centuries. I sort of guess they might have been escaping the revolution or they were fleeing Huguenots (via London). Should I return these to and to whom? Complicated!
"I would class your German friends as looters". I agree with you. Clearly they are looters, but that is what happens in war, de facto legalised theft. And who knows where the paintings came from and sadly the owners probably perished in nearby Dachau.
Message posted by Wynne on 08 February 2011 at 4:25pm - IP Logged
I think I prefer the idea of international museums rather than all artefacts being retained within national boundaries. But then I've never been a great fan of nationalism in any form. Should Greek artefacts 'belong' solely to those within the current borders? Should every Monet be kept in France, every Da Vinci in Italy and every Turner in Britain? The world would be a little duller if we put up the cultural barriers at national borders. That is a different argument from looting but I don't think there is a de facto case for every Greek artefact belonging in Greece. The argument as to the legality of their removal is another matter and one which is quite complex. As for soldiers looting then I would have thought that legally they are still knowingly in possession of stolen property and have no title to it.
Message posted by SusieH on 08 February 2011 at 4:50pm - IP Logged
Quote: Originally posted by NicandJohn on 07 February 2011
My gut feeling is they only belonged to the Greeks until they failed to defend them against the Turks- "to the victor the spoils" etc. They were bought by the British, so if they were bought back by the Greeks there would be no issue with "precedent".
I visited the museum of Asiatic art (is that the correct name?) in Corfu town last summer, not sure how all display items were acquired?
Your post highlights the difficulty. As I understand it some 10,000 Asiatic artifacts were donated to the Museum of Asiatic Art by a former Greek Ambassador to somewhere in Asia who amassed his collection at that time.
I am sure that this man collected his artifacts in what he considered a legal manner but I wonder if those countries they originally came from would not agree with him.
Corfu's museum is renowned the world over yet, if they were forced to give back their treasures, there would be nothing left and not only the Greeks but the whole of Europe would be the losers.
The Elgin Marbles are a difficult subject because the British Museum have backed themselves into a corner by using, as a excuse for years, Greece has nowhere to display them which would conserve them properly. Well now Greece has and that excuse is no more but I am sure they will come up with others.
I have no idea what the answer is except that hopefully museums the world over will agree to loan original countries some of their artifacts for periods and those countries will give them back to the lender at the appropriate time Sadly I suspect there are many countries who, once they get their hands on what they consider their property, will keep them for ever more causing yet more rows.
Message posted by seaangler (Chat Room Administrator) on 08 February 2011 at 5:14pm - IP Logged
The facts that I have read over the years of going to Greece/Turkey museums and the like is that Turkey/Greece has no end of each others artifacts and from the spoils of war. Has the Greeks ever ask Turkey to hand back all the stuff they have taken over the years...and visa versa...NO!!
You will be asking for that big horse that they built back in Troy all those years ago back next!!
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!
Message posted by Wynne on 08 February 2011 at 6:03pm - IP Logged
As an aside, when I first went to Thessaloniki in around 1985, there was a sign (in Greek) saying entry to the museum was free to Greeks but there was a charge for non-Greeks. I presume that as members of the EU they are no longer able to do this or does it still happen in some places?
Message posted by NicandJohn on 08 February 2011 at 7:40pm - IP Logged
What were the laws governing war when the Turks invaded and enabled Elgin to remove the marbles? I'm aware these days "international law" is often referred to in wartime- but thought that framework was put together after the second world war. Most new laws are not applied retrospectively.
I feel sure the people of Doncaster where I currently reside and those of Dublin where my father came from will have been robbed by the vikings when they visited, but we're not asking for "our" stuff back, nor are we suggesting that descendants of the vikings are withholding items that are legally ours.
Message posted by janmanessi on 08 February 2011 at 8:00pm - IP Logged
The borders between Greece and Turkey changed constantly during the centuries, many 'Greek' sites such as Ephesus and Didyma are in modern Turkey. Artefacts may be Hellenistic but were from, and are found, in modern day Turkey.
The situation can be likened to India and Pakistan- almost anything in Pakistan's museums is of Indian origin, because until 1947 they were one country.
These two examples however are very different to the one which started this thread.
Message posted by jrk on 08 February 2011 at 8:11pm - IP Logged
"But then I've never been a great fan of nationalism in any form".
I am not a fan either. I reckon nationalism creeps into this. After all we came out of Africa together. There is no tangible difference at the DNA level between nationalities. As the Scots (Robert Burns?) would say, we're all Jock Tamson's bairns.
Maybe I should leave my Australian artifacts to the Athens Museum (if interested?) to broaden horizons etc. And it would help to fill up the Museum with a new subject. Does this sound OK?
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