Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Finders, Keepers? I don't think so

The University of Heidelberg recently returned to Greece a fragment of the Parthenon’s northern frieze. This gesture is hopefully part of a growing trend of returning Greece’s ancient treasures, since the J. Paul Getty Museum in California finally agreed to return a couple of filched items as well. If only the British would be so gracious as to return the so-called “Elgin” marbles (named, of course, for the man who pilfered them), the restoration of ancient Greek culture in Greece could finally begin. If the British think there should be a “common area” for such items to be viewed, shouldn’t it be in Greece, where the remains of the actual Parthenon still stand?

It is a sad statement of the civilized world that so many people from so many countries took such shameful advantage of the Turkish occupation of Greece by plundering so many ancient artifacts. The Turks were pretty short-sighted in letting this happen as well, but I suppose they never really wanted any Greek or Roman history to remain in regions they considered Turkish.

Yet such “cultural plundering” hasn’t been solely focused on Greek antiquities. A term has been invented, called “elginism”, in honor of the famous British thief, that means “cultural vandalism”. Many people have taken advantage of wars in the Middle East as well, and who knows how many other countries have fallen victim to eager collectors.

I can understand the thrill of holding, touching a piece of ancient history. But let’s keep these artifacts in the hands of their rightful owners.

1 comment:

Scruffy said...

I'll have to side with the Greeks on this one. Bring em back. The improvements in Greece give me pride and I now believe that they can safeguard them and show them in a respectful manner.

However, when I arrived in 1985 and saw the state of affairs of many archaeological sites, I wondered if valuable, perishable antiquities were not really SAFER in the hands of professionals in England/USA etc instead of the bumbling, inept hands of Greek curators.

Again, things (times) have changed, and I've seen that with my own eyes.

A personal joke I used to tell American tourists during the 80s was that a thousand years ago, the Greeks started to refurbish the Parthenon and they never finished it. (that's why you always see scaffolding there).

Anyways... done.... Greece prevails...