The world famous Elgin Marbles were removed from the site of the Parthenon in the early 1800s by Lord Elgin, British Ambassador to the Ottoman Empire. The sculptures were then purchased by the British Museum in 1816. Since then, many questions have arisen regarding the rightful owners of the sculptures, whether it is the British Museum or Greece.
A new bill has been proposed by members of parliament which could allow the British Museum to transfer ownership of the sculptures back to Greece, on the two-hundredth anniversary of Britain’s controversial acquisition of the Elgin Marbles.
British MP, Mark Williams stated that “These magnificent artifacts were improperly dragged and sawn off the remains of the Parthenon.” He presented the bill on 11 July 2016 alongside eleven other MPs. The bill was set in place to annul the ownership of these marvelous artifacts which were wrongfully taken from the remains of the Parthenon.
The legislation should also have an impact on future relations with Britain’s neighboring countries following their decision to leave the European Union. Chairman of the British Association for the Reunification of the Parthenon Sculptures, Andrew George, stated that repatriation provides an opportunity to foster good relationships and “there could be no better demonstration of that generosity and graciousness than to do what would be the right thing by the Greeks.”
Former U.K. Prime Minister, David Cameron disagreed with returning the artifacts to Greece and went so far as to say that Britain was not about to lose her marbles.
The British Museum has also taken a stand against the return of the Greek sculptures to Greece, and do not feel that they should stand in the Acropolis Museum with the remaining artifacts which survived. A statement made by the British Museum emphasizes the following: “The Parthenon sculptures in London are an important representation of ancient Athenian civilization in the context of world history.” The Trustees are adamant that the current locations of the sculptures, being in two different countries, enables different and complementary stories to surrounding the surviving sculptures to be told to the public. In doing so, this will highlight the significance of these artifacts and also affirm ancient Greece as one of the world’s greatest cultures.
Recent public surveys carried out in the U.K by the Times of London and the market research group, Ipsos-Mori have indicated that the majority of the British public stands in favor of repatriation.