CULTURE

Parthenon Marbles debate continues

«The Elgin Marbles must stay,» wrote Alan Howarth in The Guardian on February 5. Taking them from the British Museum, he says, «would impoverish the world. This universal museum, this place of big ideas, cannot be reconciled to narrow claims.» And he backs up his feeble view with a threat: «There would be no end to the claims that would be made for restitution of the exhibits of all the great museums of the world. If the marbles were to leave the British Museum, Pandora’s box would be opened,» concludes Howarth, who is a Labor MP for Newport East. He was formerly education minister in a conservative government (and apparently is not so firm in his own beliefs). As a compatriot of Pandora, the mythical woman who opened a box and released all the ills upon the world, Helbi is in London at present, and will make her own pilgrimage to the Marbles, taking care not to open any boxes. If the Marbles are returned, it would set a seal on British rationality and what is now open cooperation between Greece and Britain on lending archaeological treasures. The world would not be impoverished, but two museums would be enriched – the new Acropolis Museum with the freed hostages, and the British Museum with other valuable antiquities. «Return the Marbles,» was the title of The New York Times’ editorial on February 2. «By the time Lord Elgin obtained the authority to remove ‘pieces of stone with old inscriptions and figures’ from the Greek Parthenon, that remarkable structure was already more than 2000 years old,» explains the editorial. «In 1816, the Parliament authorized the purchase of the Parthenon Marbles, and they were given to the British Museum.» The editorial supports the Greek demand for the return of the Marbles, pointing out that the Greeks «can preserve them and display them with just as much care as the British Museum can.» Enigma