“The return of the Elgin Marbles to Athens has become imperative”, writes Τhe Times of London in its leading article, which now openly and clearly supports the repatriation of the Parthenon Sculptures.
“The Elgin Marbles are sublime in their depiction of the human form and the impression of movement. Millions have marvelled at these sculptures that once adorned the Parthenon and for the past two centuries have reposed in the British Museum, among the most beautiful of all its holdings”, the newspaper notes.
“For more than 50 years, artists and politicians have argued that artefacts so fundamental to a nation’s cultural identity should return to Greece. The museum and the British government, supported by The Times, have resisted the pressure. But times and circumstances change. The sculptures belong in Athens. They should now return. The immediate precedent is the agreement by Italy to lend Greece a marble fragment of the goddess Artemis which was taken, like the Parthenon sculptures”, the article stresses.
As the secretary of the British Committee for the Reunification of the Parthenon Sculptures, Marlen Godwin told the Athens and Macedonia News Agency, “this intervention will contribute substantially to the public debate on the long-standing demand for the return of the Sculptures to Athens”. A request that “came to life” last November after the visit of Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis to London and the relevant proposal submitted to his counterpart, Boris Johnson.
The Times also refers to the recent agreement with Italy for the return of the marble fragment of the goddess Artemis in exchange for other Greek antiquities. With this as a given, the British newspaper proposes that the same be done with the Sculptures of the Parthenon. In other words, to return to Athens and Greece to send “a rotating exhibition of some of its finest classic artefacts not permanently exhibited”.
According to the newspaper, this proposal came close to an agreement but failed to be completed as the two sides disagree on the ownership status of the Parthenon Sculptures. Britain insists that it has bought them and therefore they belong to it legally, the newspaper writes, while Greece says that they have been looted and that the Ottoman Empire had no right to dispose of them.
This “bureaucratic absurdity”, as the Times characterizes it, can be swiftly resolved by selling back the sculptures in Greece at cost price. That is, at the price bought by the British Parliament from Lord Elgin. He urges the British Parliament to do so immediately.
Finally, the reference is made to the argument that if today’s museums return objects that they own and belong to other cultures, they will cease to be centers of world culture and heritage. According to the newspaper, the Parthenon Sculptures are a unique case (sui generis) as their separation is the separation of an artistic ensemble. He concludes that their return would be a generous gesture at a time when Britain needs to rekindle its European friendships.