The Elgin Marbles

The Elgin Marbles

Of all the museum collections in the world, none have such a tainted background as the Parthenon Sculptures in the British Museum. Upon mention of these sculptures, many heated discussions of imperialism, nationalism, ownership, and restitution arise. To understand this debate, one must disregard nationalism in order to neutrally examine the sculptures for what they are, art. This paper is an analysis about which country should be the proper house of the marbles based on the ideals of being reasonable and the knowledge of what the marbles truly symbolize. Though there are supportive arguments in favor of returning the marbles back to Greece, it would certainly remain in the best interest of the Parthenon Sculptures to remain in the British Museum. To be completely knowledgeable on this debate, one must know the origins of acquisition of the sculptures. During the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, trends of examining ancient Greek and Roman culture took place in order to imitate many of the ancient social beliefs that influenced expansionist policies. This was evident all over Western Europe, but it was especially noticeable in England. In 1799, British man, Thomas Bruce, the 7th Earl of Elgin, was appointed to be the ambassador to Constantinople (Turkey). Bruce always had this idea, since being a boy, of wanting to make England more familiar with Greek art (http://www.greece.org/ parthenon/marbles/). At the time Turkey was occupying Greece, so Bruce took a group of painters, architects, and sculptures to Greece to begin this goal. This is the point where the debate begins. Critics of Lord Elgin cite that he did not obtain the proper authorial permission to actually extract the sculptures away from the Parthenon. At the time of obtainment of the sculptures, Elgin followed legal and standard procedures for the acquiring them. At the Parthenon, Bruce was initially allowed to only make drawings of artwork but was r…


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