British Museum blog

Loan of a Parthenon sculpture to the Hermitage: a marble ambassador of a European ideal

Neil MacGregor, Director, British Museum

The State Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg

The State Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg

The British Museum is a museum of the world, for the world and nothing demonstrates this more than the loan of a Parthenon sculpture to the State Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg to celebrate its 250th anniversary.

The river-god Ilissos. Marble statue from the West pediment of the Parthenon.

The river-god Ilissos. Marble statue from the West pediment of the Parthenon, Athens, Greece, 438–432 BC (British Museum 1816,0610.99)

The British Museum opened its doors in 1759, just five years before the Hermitage. Sisters, almost twins, they are the first great museums of the European Enlightenment. But they were never just about Europe. The Trustees of the British Museum were set up by Parliament to hold their collection to benefit not only the citizens of Great Britain, but ‘all studious and curious persons’ everywhere. The Museum today is the most generous lender in the world, sending great Assyrian objects to China, Egyptian objects to India and Iranian objects to the United States – making a reality of the Enlightenment ideal that the greatest things in the world should be seen and studied, shared and enjoyed by as many people in as many countries as possible.

The Trustees have always believed that such loans must continue between museums in spite of political disagreements between governments. That is why in 2011 they lent the Cyrus Cylinder, the document setting out the humane ideals of the ancient Persian Empire, to Tehran. It is a position energetically shared by our counterparts in Russia. Last year, the Hermitage lent the spectacular collection of paintings, formed by Sir Robert Walpole and sold to Catherine the Great, back to his country house, Houghton Hall, for the summer. Loans from Russian museums enriched the recent exhibition Ice Age art: arrival of the modern mind and the BP exhibition Vikings: life and legend both at the British Museum, and Malevich at Tate Modern earlier this year was an outstanding act of Russian generosity, enjoyed by thousands of visitors. Both Tate and the Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts are in return lending works to the exhibition Francis Bacon and the Art of the Past which opens at the Hermitage this weekend.

So, when our colleagues at the Hermitage asked if we might also make an important loan to celebrate their 250th anniversary, the Trustees immediately answered yes. And no loan could more fittingly mark the long friendship of our two houses, or the period of their founding, than a sculpture from the Parthenon.

Sculptures from the West pediment on display in the Parthenon Galleries (Room 18)

Sculptures from the West pediment on display in Room 18

The great leader of Athens, and the visionary spokesman for its exemplary status for all humanity, was Pericles. In 431 BC, in his famous funeral oration for the heroic Athenian dead, he proclaimed the world-wide renown to which destiny had summoned both them, and their city:

For glorious men like them, the whole earth is their sepulchre. And their memorial is carved not only on a headstone by their home, but far away in foreign lands, unwritten, in the minds of every man…

Marble portrait bust of Pericles. Roman copy of a Greek original (British Museum GR 1805.0703.91)

Marble portrait bust of Pericles. Roman copy of a Greek original (British Museum GR 1805.0703.91)

Two and a half thousand years later, I hope that Pericles would applaud the journey of Ilissos to Russia, where ‘far away in foreign lands’, this stone ambassador of the Greek golden age and European ideals will write ancient Athens’s achievements – aesthetic, moral and political – in ‘the minds of every man’. It is a message that Russia, and the whole world, need to hear and I am delighted that the British Museum has been able to lend such a remarkable object.

This post is based on the text of an article by Neil MacGregor for The Times, 5 December 2014.

Press release – British Museum loan of Parthenon Sculpture to State Hermitage Museum

The river-god Ilissos from the West pediment of the Parthenon is on display at the State Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg, from Saturday 6 December 2014 until 18 January 2015.

More about the Parthenon sculptures on the British Museum website

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64 Responses - Comments are closed.

  1. neilrock says:

    What an absolute travesty… One of the most disputed exhibits in the British Museums collection and we loan to a museum in a country where we expect them to play by the rules. I hope that I’m wrong but, I doubt that we’ll see that again.

    Liked by 4 people

    • Perris Lucas says:

      The most objective comment I read here today. Giving art to Putin…
      But with regards to the issue though, the masterpieces were indeed stolen from another western European EU country, Greece, and the civilized world recognizes that the so called (BY the British) “museum of the world” British Museum, should return them to their EU partners Greeks.

      Liked by 3 people

  2. Nikolaos Karatasios says:

    It is not yours to loan it, give it back to Greece

    Liked by 5 people

    • D Pappas O'Donnell says:

      Send the Elgin Marbles back where they belong — Athens! You have kept them far too long. The Russians are barbarians & once again, invaders! why do you bow before the Dictator Putin! Return Greece’s glory to Greece! and your position & attitude are insulting & tone-deaf.
      For SHAME, Director MacGregor — shameful!

      Liked by 3 people

    • Phantom Monk says:

      “I hope that Pericles would applaud the journey of Ilissos to Russia, where ‘far away in foreign lands’, this stone ambassador of the Greek golden age and European ideals will write ancient Athens’s achievements – aesthetic, moral and political – in ‘the minds of every man’.”

      Oh yes, absolutely. Phidias and his colleagues would have been thrilled to see their work crudely dismembered and dispersed.

      What this does do, is show the absolute paucity of England’s aesthetic, moral and political achievements.

      Liked by 2 people

  3. Maria Papadolia says:

    It’s about time you open your ears to your people’s demand to return the Marbles of the Parthenon to Athens where they belong and from where a certain lord stole them, and let the Greeks decide if it’s correct to loan them to other museums….

    Liked by 4 people

  4. Liliya says:

    You and the Trustees have demonstrated an appalling lack of judgement by deciding to make a loan to the Russian State at this particular time, and by waxing lyrical about their “generosity” in the above blog. It is an insult both to starving Ukrainian families, cowering the basements of towns occupied by the Russian military; and to the families of Russian soldiers who were killed in combat in Ukraine and were refused a decent burial by the Russian Government. Your reference to Pericles’ funeral oration in this context is rather insensitive. P.S. If you really want to show generosity, you should return the collection to the people of Greece.

    Liked by 4 people

  5. Septimus Cavazos says:

    How can you now justify your refusal to send them to Greece?

    Liked by 4 people

  6. lynda hudson says:

    why loan it to russia you might as well give it back to greece. it was not very well thought out was it .

    Liked by 4 people

  7. Vartan Narinian says:

    It is offensive, provocative and rude for the museum to be lending the marbles to third parties.

    Moreover, to suggest that the museum could one day lend the marbles back to Greece is insulting to Greeks all over the world.

    The marbles were looted by Elgin for his own estate. They should be returned to be reunited with the rest of the sculptures in the Acropolis Museum, where they belong.

    Liked by 4 people

    • C Panayiotopoulos says:

      I am sure that the majority of the pride British people would be ashamed by the acts of Elgin who committed extreme vandalism by breaking them from their temple of Parthenon.
      Definition of vandalism: deliberately mischievous or malicious destruction or damage of property or willful or ignorant destruction of artistic or literary treasures.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Ana. K says:

        Up until the 19th century, British explorers and missionaries in Australia were collecting human remains of Aboriginals as mementos. These were collected for ‘study’ [supposedly], but in reality they ended up being transferred to museums. One example is that of the British Natural History museum, that thought nothing was wrong with that, and I’m presuming that a portion of the British people who visited these exhibits didn’t think much of it either, because these remains were finally returned in 2011 to their descendants, but only after the Australian government got involved. The Indigenous people campaigned for years. So my point is that if the British people don’t give a damn about the circumstances of the taking of Aboriginal human remains of Aboriginals, why would some of them give a damn about Elgin cutting them out of the Parthenon?
        In my view, both are an abomination and show disrespect for cultural integrity, but the wealthy British ‘adventurers’, treasure hunters, explorers, have not been known to show any respect for any culture.

        Liked by 1 person

  8. Vasileios Pergialiotis says:

    Who told you that your museum is a museum of the world. Its a museum that exposes stolen scupltures. Return them where they truly belong. Your lies are well known. You were saying in the past that Athens does not have a proper museum. Yet you do not have anything to say. The world knows that the Lords that aquired these monuments would be today in prison…So much for your Lordeship….

    Liked by 3 people

    • Perris Lucas says:

      Well, the British have illusions that their museum is the “museum of the world”. Popular yes, but with stolen masterpieces of Europe and Egypt.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Ana. K says:

      They have made so many excuses in the past, as you mention. I’d like to see them get out of this one, now that a legal case is on foot.

      Like

  9. Liza Janus says:

    How very narrowly focused these comments are. What a shame. Culture can build bridges and remembering the past may try to help not repeating mistakes. Well done BM.

    Like

    • Perris Lucas says:

      Someone here is right about the British assumption that the “British Museum is a museum of the world”. What are the Le Louvres and Acropolis Athens Museum then?!
      Thing is, that STOLEN masterpieces from another western European country, Greece, cannot and should not be allowed to go on tour around the world. This right has only the Greek Secretary of Culture to do. The entire civilized world especially the USA, does not recognize the right that Britain should keep them and boast. Period.

      Liked by 2 people

    • Ana. K says:

      You mean culture builds bridges only when one country facilitates the theft of artefacts and then maintains the facade of ownership? Your comment makes no sense.

      Liked by 2 people

    • Vasileios Pergialiotis says:

      What kind of culture steals cultural artifacts from other civilizations? According to your thoughts culture builds bridges but this is in fact true when these are not based to your narrow thinking. Cultured civilizations accept their falts. Furthermore, what exactly do you mean by “remembering the past…” do you actually believe that these belong to the British people? Your civilization has nothing worth for, so that`s why the British looted the entire world during the last 3 centuries. In order to expose them in their so called “Museum of the world”…such a travesty….

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Perris Lucas says:

    STOLEN masterpieces from another western European country, Greece, cannot and should not be allowed to go on tour around the world. This right has only the Greek Secretary of Culture to do. The entire civilized world especially the USA, does not recognize the right that Britain should keep them and boast. Period.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Ana. K says:

    You make the argument that the British Museum is a museum of the world, but so is the museum in Athens. These artefacts are from Greece, they were sold illegally to Elgin, so it then follows that whatever transaction occurred thereafter is equally illegal. Your museum would have to be one of the most unethical. Your country essentially loots artefacts from the world and claims them, when in reality there is no legal ownership.

    Like

  12. C. Christodoulou says:

    BM intentionally insults a whole nation. Shame to you.

    Liked by 2 people

  13. john says:

    A disgrace. BM you should be ashamed. Make good casts for your exhibition hall and return the statues to Athens

    Liked by 2 people

  14. Paul Fitz-George says:

    1. The Parthenon Marbles were created by the city state and people of Athens, not the present day state or people of Greece, which did not exist at the time the statues were conceived and created. It’s like saying the British are direct descendants of the Romano British of The Roman Empire, which is in all probability impossible to prove as well over a thousand years of change and population churn have occurred

    2. Using a trans-history possession argument is pointless e.g. everything in every museum everywhere in the world should be returned to everywhere else that it came from. The arguments would be never ending and no exhibits would be loaned to anyone ever, for fear of non-return

    3. The nation state of Greece is a relatively new concept circa 1821 (Athens successor states were in fact Rome and Byzantium – should the marbles be given to the Italian government?) and Greece received British support at various times during its creation. It’s history however was a volatile one and had Elgin not purchased (he did not steal them) and safely removed the marbles, there in all probability wouldn’t be any to argue over

    This argument should end and end now, as it stultifies artefact exchange and causes animosity between cultures to no one’s benefit or honour.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Christos Papadelis says:

      1. Every country has historical symbols that represent aspects of its national identity. The ravens of the Tower of London, or the Crown Jewels are historical symbols of British nation. Parthenon marbles are such national symbols.

      I hope you understand that the vast majority of the nowadays British citizens (many with Indian or African origin) are not direct descendants with the people who created the crown jewels. I hope you also understand that nowadays British citizens do not have any direct biological link with the ravens of the Tower of London. They belong to wild nature!!! However, they are historical symbols of your nation and represent your history and culture.

      This is the case for the Parthenon marbles for Greeks!!! They are not simple stones of an ancient monument. They are HISTORICAL SYMBOLS of a country that exists and it is recognized by the international laws.

      2. Even if we ignore the historical and nationalistic aspect of the marbles, the marbles of the Parthenon are pieces of a currently EXISTING MONUMENT!!!! This is where they belong.

      3. I am glad that you acknowledge the British support for the creation of the Greek state. Then, you should know that the Greek state was created (with the help of high society British citizens, like Lord Byron) as a representative of ancient Greek culture. British were the first who acknowledged the direct symbolic and historical link of this state with ancient Greece, the state of Athens, and its cultural representation.

      I was expecting somebody from a nation with short history to be unable to understand the historical and symbolic meaning of these marbles, not from a British!!! If your country would like to still represent the moral values of a nation that respects history and culture, it should return the marbles to the place where they belong!!!

      I would also expect -and the gallops present that this is the case-, the vast majority of British people to support this action, not to be against it. British museum should understand that it is an institution of a modern country with democratic values and rules, not an institute of a dominant empire!!!!

      Liked by 2 people

    • Nikolaos Karatasios says:

      don t you get it? it s like you ve stolen tha arms of a statue that stands back in Athens..

      Liked by 1 person

    • Ana. K says:

      Your argument is flawed. The ‘nation state’ of England can also be a recent creation, as is the concept of Great Britain. What is England but the expulsion of Britons, and the amalgamation of Germanic people, followed by the Danish, then the Norman French. But where have Greeks been forced out of their land, like the Britons were by the Saxons, as was the case in the land that is now England? It’s quite typical of your ilk to make genealogical arguments about others, to insult other people, out of some crypto racism, to justify the retention of the marbles.
      The type of support Greece receive from Great Britain can’t really be considered support if you consider the outcome of such support: a series of broken promises, but we won’t get into that, I’ll just say that one side of my family had to flee parts of Turkey, thank to the ‘British help’.
      The reality is that the Ottomans had no right to the illegal transaction and Lord Elgin had no right to buy the marbles. His right is artificial and based on colonialist type status.
      The reason why these marbles are retained, as well as other artefacts that are not remotely ‘British’, is because if all these artefacts were removed, there’d be nothing to draw visitors to this museum.
      As for your flawed second point, well hey, the marbles were in ATHENS, so Rome doesn’t enter the equation.
      As an Australian, I won’t be bother with your third paternalistic point, as it reeks of colonial paternalism, the ‘if ‘we’ -the civilised British elite didn’t remove the marbles they’d be damaged anyway, undercurrent of your point – which every intelligent individual knows is a non-argument. You know this argument is flawed on many levels, but you still recite it. For what purpose? To highlight the hypocrisy?
      Let’s sum up the true ‘British’ position and general attitude with respect to how your museums operate:
      It took how many decades for the British Natural History Museum to return the remains of indigenous Australians, and one wonders if they would have returned the remains had they not been approached by the Australian government and Australian indigenous leaders. My point is that up until the 19th century, the English had this supremacist view, that they could loot whatever they liked, including human remains (for study and display), even when the use of such human remains is forbidden by the very culture/people. The Aboriginal community involved had to campaign for such a long time to obtain these ancestral remains, and the government had to get involved, for their return to eventuate. What’s your argument to that? That if the British didn’t take those human remains, they’d be destroyed? That today’s Aborigines aren’t the ‘same’ as those in the 19th century, therefore the use of the bones was justified?
      You know something mate? Greek language, it’s alphabet, hasn’t changed that much. We still use it today, it’s still a part of Greek culture and learning. But the reality is that England was given an alphabet after the arrival of the likes of Augustine and the concept of ‘England’ -as a nation -didn’t arise until King Alfred, only to be short lived until the Normans arrived. Before the arrival of the Saxons, there was no alphabet, you didn’t have books. In other words, England didn’t have the type of learning that the Greeks had, and yet you dare make out that the marbles belong to England out of some false argument.
      Answer me this: Do you also have a Parthenon there?
      Answer: No.
      Where do these marbles come from?
      Answer: they were severed from the Parthenon.

      Like

    • Vasileios Pergialiotis says:

      1) What exactly is a Romano British empire? Do you actually believe that you have such routes? This is completely insane…it just makes all Greeks and Italians laugh. Do you actually believe that you do have an ancient culture?

      2)We are not a nation state…we are a nation. You probably do not know that the Greek civilization did not extinct during the Othoman occupation. The Athens success state was Rome???…this was not a success state this was an occupation…the Romans occupated half of the known word. Probably this is why you think that you are of Romano British ancestry. Do you also think that Europe during the second WW belonged to the Nazis and their succesors were once again the Europeans when they won the war? Is that what they teach you in the Romano British schools ?????😉

      3)Of course all exhibits should be returned were they belong (provided that the nation that has the right to them can prove that they can be retained in proper conditions.

      It is well known to all other nations that your Great Empire was based in looting and stealing, you just cannot yet accept it….

      Like

  15. JWH says:

    Dear BM,
    Please give them all back to Greece, that is where they belong. Apologise for the delay and restore some part of our British honour.
    Thanks,
    John

    Liked by 2 people

  16. Robert Mendelson says:

    Fitz-George is correct and there are more Greek ruins in Turkey than in Greece. Should all of these artifacts be returned to Greece? The only argument I have is The British Museum’s decision at this particular time to lend Russia anything while they invade Ukraine. To lend art to an outlaw State while it ignores the world’s condemnation is tone deaf.

    Like

    • Ana. K says:

      Are you serious? How can you compare the ruins in Turkey, that are still attached to the land they stand on with something that a Lord/elitist intentionally removed from a temple for his own personal use? Perhaps you should go back, read how these marbles were removed before you make nonsensical comparisons.
      What Lord Elgin did is the following: like all the nobles with colonialist leanings, he entered a country like a shopper, decided to choose whatever he liked, to have shipped home for his own personal use. This is not about the preservation of art or culture, it was a cold and calculated illegal acquisition for a private collection, which was then bequeathed to the British Museum.
      It’s like me going to the UK, chipping off parts of Buckingham Palace or the Tower of London, that I like, to take with me and then somehow state that it’s for safekeeping or whatever other BS excuse I make, then for me to die, and to bequeath it to the Australian Museum. It still doesn’t make it legal does it?
      But the legal issues that arise concern the legality of such acquisitions. If the Ottomans at the time don’t have legal title, then how can they transfer this title to Lord Elgin? It then follows, that Elgin doesn’t really have a valid legal entitlement, how can valid title pass on to the British Museum? Personally, I’m hoping Geoffrey Robertson demolishes all the pathetic arguments that have been made by the museum in the highest court.

      Like

  17. Ana. K says:

    How on earth can the director of the British Museum even suggest that Pericles would applaud this?

    Liked by 2 people

  18. Marion says:

    sir,

    You seem to proudly sign your article but I am afraid this is just a hihihoho fiesta of the BM. Someone would expect a more honest approach from such an “Enlighted” Museum!

    Unfortunately, this “place of art” has only enlighted ideas in exhibiting Provocation, Lies and Dishonnor to the rest of the Humanity! Because the Parthenon marbles are Masterpieces but not the only pieces of art stolen and vandalised by your country, sir! Greeks are the only ones though profoundly reacting to this shameful barbary! And Russians might be called barbarians but British master the title in this case! Thus, exchanges between barbarians are a normal act… The Art and History circles are not that surprised by this act of the BM. Definately “loan” means “money”! We are mostly shocked by the Russians having been part of such a disgraceful deal! Shame and pity!

    It is not a matter of “political disagreement”, sir! It is a matter of historical legitimacy, national pride and glory, a matter of respect of heritage! It is a matter of values and principles! You do not “loan” something which is STO-LEN! You give it back to its legitimate owners!Point.

    Once more the British Museum veils the truth in some lyrical and light lines of article…
    I am asking you here and I need a serious answer: Why don’t you describe the way the British Museum got the Parthenon marbles intra muros? Why don’t you refer to that unspeakable dishonesty of Lord Elgin, while Greeks were under the turkish occupation? Historical documents depict that even the Turkish pasha of Athens had reacted against Elgin and tried to stop the British thief!
    As for your reference to Pericles, do you think that he would applaud this act which denuded his own glorious work, vision and principles?
    Please, before you ever put your fingers on a keyboard again and write such articles, which have nothing to do with history and art, but are pure commerce and communication Trojan horses, do us a favour: have a look about how thiefs were sentenced in Ancient Greece… Pericles would applaud!!!

    Like

    • AncientGreeceParadox says:

      Marion

      How in your opinion is the modern Greek state and the people living in it in any shape or form the rightful owners of the marbles and why? Also the fact that they are not describing the details TRUST ME is very much in the interest of the Greece status quo in conjunction with strategic interest of Britain itself but not only. Fact of the matter is any treasure that belongs to the western civilisation is safer at the hands of the British who weather we like it or not are for the past few hundred of years the leaders of the west. Bad liders, yet they are.

      Like

      • Ana. K says:

        So your’e saying the the current English state and its people are rightful owners, even though the marbles were SAWN OFF the Parthenon, which is in Athens.
        Wow, I applaud your lack of logic. If that’s the type of argument that you think is valid, I can only laugh at the ridiculousness.

        Like

      • AncientGreeceParadox says:

        I never said that. I asked a question witch you can’t answer. The current owner in as far as I understand it is the British Museum witch is a treasure of our shared human history explained in all its epochs through the collection and then care of its marvellous artefacts.

        Like

  19. AncientGreeceParadox says:

    I don’t believe they belong to the Greek people or what is today the Greek state. I do however believe they belong to Athens and should be returned there if they have been looted. The rest of the story with emotional Greek government and Greek people and all the rest of it is in my judgement (and I am sure anybody’s with a basic knowledge on the subject judgement) laughable to say the list. Greeks should stop embarrassing themselves. LISsos means absolutely nothing associated with river in Greek just to give you a clue.

    Like

    • Ana. K says:

      Spoken like a true hater. If I took the Sutton Hoo artefacts and made the same argument, that those artefacts didn’t belong to the English or England, people like you would be roasting me over hot coals.
      This crypto racist argument to justify the retention of the Parthenon Marbles is a non argument.

      Like

      • AncientGreeceParadox says:

        No we’d just be laughing. That’s what you don’t understand. You are a country that’s getting emotional over a long lost history that is very likely, in fact the conclusion of logical reasoning that has absolutely nothing to do with the current status quo of that region and its people. Look at the historical evidence and not emotional attachments or syndromes of ancestral grand-or.

        Like

      • Ana. K says:

        The historical evidence is straightforward. The Parthenon Marbles belong to the Parthenon, i.e. Athens, not the British Museum.
        FYI, I’m not a country, I’m a Greek – Australian individual, living in Australia. Theft is theft and an illegal transfer/bequest is an illegal transfer/bequest. THAT is historically documented.

        Like

    • Vasileios Pergialiotis says:

      I do not know why my previous comment was erased. But trully this is another travesty…I do not know what does LISsos means…I know that Ilissos was a Greek river God…and i do know that you probably do not know nothing about greek mythology…I posted the link to the greek wiki…however, my previous comment was erased…therefore i suggest to hold your thoughts until you check them once more….

      Like

  20. Terrible decision. Mad to inflame the debate on the marbles- ever. Museums all over the world have stuff from other countries- imagine sending everything back to everyone else- why just target the marbles?

    Like

    • Ana. K says:

      But most other artefacts are not sawn off temples and transported to a Lord’s manor for his personal use well before the museum’s acquisition. That’s one thing many of you don’t bother considering, the illegal acquisition and the motive of it.
      Do you think that most museum acquisitions result from vandalism?
      Do you even know what vandalism is?

      Like

  21. George Ioannidis says:

    Dear Mr Mac Gregor, The Name “British Museum” is a very bad joke…please consider to change the name of the “British Museum” (Nothing British is there), to “Storage of World Tresors looted by the British”. This, I believe will be your best contribution to your country’s history, as well a great lesson for the generations to come.

    Liked by 1 person

    • AncientGreeceParadox says:

      What an argument. At the time Britain had a big well established legal empire. End that’s that! The museum is in the heart of Britain established during the British empire therefore is the British Museum.

      Like

      • Ana. K says:

        Not a legal empire. Take Australia [a former British colony] as one example, our High Court overturned the legal fiction of terra nullius, which the English relied on at the time of invasion. Go and read to educate yourself, before you use the phrase ‘legal empire’: Mabo and Others v Queensland (No. 2) [1992] HCA 23.
        FYI Greece was never a part of the English empire you speak of. The Ottomans had no legitimate or legal title to the Parthenon in order to sell the marbles to a British treasure hunter. Every notable legal expert has said as much.

        Like

      • AncientGreeceParadox says:

        Britain was an empire in the age of empires recognised as such by all other empires. I never mentioned there was an English empire or that Greece was ever part of it.

        Like

      • Phantom Monk says:

        What exactly is a ‘legal empire’? It is only legitimate in the eyes of the imperialist – those countries occupied and incorporated into empires, whether British, Ottoman or Soviet, saw things rather differently.

        Fortunately, that is not that – empires crumble and the crimes carried out by those empire builders are seen for exactly what they were.

        Like

      • Vasileios Pergialiotis says:

        What you again? Yes you did have a well established legal empire…just as other occupational forces were legal in history… The BM may be in the heart of Britain but it does not speak of Britain itself…

        Like

  22. AncientGreeceParadox says:

    Ana K

    As I have said I am of the opinion that the marbles do belong in Athens. What I am saying is a total farce is the emotional rhetoric coming from Greece. At the time the marbles were saved (looted) by the British there was no sensitivity about them in the local population whatsoever, in fact the Parthenon was a Mosque. There was no Greek identity or ancient historical sensitivity at all in Athens or in the region. It was brought about and manipulated by western historians for the interest of the western and Russian empire. Now that’s a taste of history and much more not worth mentioning here and now. Fact is the marbles were not saved (looted) from Greece (witch did not exist) and were not saved (looted) from a people that protected them or protested for their “looting”.

    Like

    • Vasileios Pergialiotis says:

      The Greek identity existed. Perhaps what you do not know is that in times of misery, of occupation and of financial exhaust no one cares about their civilization. When people (or Lords) take advantage of this situation, this does not prove that their succesors can make such claims…

      Imagine a whole nation suffering for almost half a thousand years the Othoman occupation (the Europeans suffered Nazi occupation for only a few years). Imagine this devastated nation during the time of this “claim” and then you will have your answer…The so called Lords of this period took advantage of similar situations all over the world…

      Liked by 1 person

      • AncientGreeceParadox says:

        What nation? Where? The Greek national identity was born in the court of Ali Pasha, in the writings of Byron, diplomacy of Russia and the romanticism of the very lords you vilify in western Europe. The “Greek” people did not suffer for almost half a thousand years under Ottoman occupation, they WERE part of the Ottoman empire with the Orthodox church being one of the most powerful institutions in the empire and the “Greek” people doing much better then many other “MILETS” in the empire economically and with their recognised “Milet” cultural and religious rights as opposed to others who were not even allowed to speak their own language and had their cultural heritage crushed and suppressed. Like I said above if your argument for claiming in modern Greece artefacts from an era of ancient Greece is an emotional one then that argument is ridiculous in every conceivable point of view be it historical, cultural, nationalistic etc. The only argument is that their natural place is in the city of Athens at the Parthenon. There is no nationalistic argument to this debate, simple. And I being softy softy here.

        Like

    • Ana. K says:

      I’d like to see what you would do if you were occupied for centuries by Ottomans. Look at what occurred in Iraq in short period of time, the damage and looting and damage of artefacts, where the occupying nations did little, if anything, and facilitated looting. But do you say that the identity of Iraqis is non-existent? No. You forget the contemporary examples of cultural vandalism. This lapse of yours is indicative of some dislike of Greeks. Greeks today have a right to their culture, not for it to be continually vandalised by those who deem themselves classes above, like this museum and its trustees.

      Like

    • kpharck says:

      Your realpolitik argument justifies any robbery, like for example the looting of Bibliotheca Zalusciana in Warsaw by Russians to establish their own Imperial Public Library (N.B. half of the looted books were stolen in transport).
      The moral judgment is essential in history, and if an empire was built on immoral acts, it is no less immoral just because of being strong.
      Further, there are numerous examples of nations living without their own states – for example Poles in 19th century, Greeks, Hungarians, Rumanians, Czechs, Ruthenians (Ukrainians), Indians, Indians or Jews. The absence of state does not nullify the nation’s rights.

      Liked by 1 person

  23. Vasileios Pergialiotis says:

    According to you thoughts Greece is a country which was born out of the writings and the diplomacy of your romantic lords. However, i dont quite see the comparison of lord Byron with lord Elgin….Furthermore, diplomacy and writings is simply not enough to form a nation. Greeks took back their country through years of batlle and losses, which proves that they did not only wanted to be relieved from the Othoman empire but they did also believe in this idea. The Greek people did suffer…you should not refer just in a group of wealthy Greek “lords” that we calles kotzambasides in order support your thoughts as these constituted only a minority…The Greek language and history were preserved through societies that we called “Hidden school” and which were fought by the Othoman empire…The Greeks were part of the Othoman empire as much as slaves of other empires…Other people have already replied to you regarding the matter of ancestry…So please do not be softy…and furthermore do not twist history as if it was a game…Do not use examples that do not refer to the general picture.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Vasileios Pergialiotis says:

      Giving a closure to this conversation which probably leads to nowhere. The marbles belong to Greece. This is undisputable. The British posetion of the marbles is no longer justified. It`s a shame that the BM provokes the general feeling of a nation so profoundly. It is a shame that UNESCO does not stand up to such actions. I truly know that the marbles will not return in Greece under the current conditions, given the fact that our politicians do not claim them puissant. However, i am trully sorry to hear these twisting words from the representative of the BM, who by constitution should be a man with a strong believe in arts, an ambassador of peace.

      Liked by 1 person

      • AncientGreeceParadox says:

        What you don’t understand is that I am not having a debate with you but I am trying in vain…! All the best with getting back your great-great………great……………….- granddaddy’s marbles and peace out:-)

        Like

  24. AcropolisofAthens.gr says:

    Dear Mr. MacGregor,

    Your decision to lend part of the Parthenon sculptures to another museum, announced to the public only after it was executed, was not an innocent move on behalf of the British Museum. Your action is a bold statement, especially in the face of greater public support for the return of the Parthenon sculptures to Athens.

    The Parthenon sculptures have more than historical, aesthetic, and artistic values. You quoted Pericles on your blog and yet your use of his words is out of context. At the time of Pericles, temples were sacred and their sculptures would typically be removed or mutilated by invading forces.

    Pericles talked about abstract values, unwritten memorials “in the minds of every man”. After all, this is what the Greek culture pioneered in this world, the abstract versus the material. I am sure that taking the physical components of a temple away from their original location is not what Pericles meant when he talked about the intangible dimension.

    Responding to your choice to promote the British Museum as “a museum of the world for the world”, I would like to answer that there is no such thing as “a museum of the world for the world”. There are museums, artefacts, locations, people, history. These are entities and concepts recognised by everyone. There are also communities and values through which we all relate to one another – respect, appreciation, friendship. Any self-declared museum label (“universal”, “encyclopaedic”, “world”) represents nothing more than a branding term. It is common knowledge that the British Museum calling itself a “world museum” is a workaround to allow itself to display artefacts from faraway places in today’s landscape of cultural values. It is the intangible dimension of heritage that makes it universal, not its physical removal or ownership.

    If a community or caretakers of a piece of heritage at a location wish to share that heritage in the form of a loan, that can and should be effected by the community that is naturally, geographically and historically connected with that piece of heritage. The British Museum is no God-sent intermediary to play “museum for the world” or to arrange a loan of an ancient Persian artefact to Tehran, to use your example.

    There is one truth which, I hope, one day you will admit, too, that the world is the definitive universal museum. Heritage, displayed locally for all citizens who travel to a place, is what makes every part of this world unique, providing an authentic experience to everyone. Your policy to keep the sculptures of the Acropolis away from Athens fundamentally undermines the concept of world travel, which, in turn, contradicts your argument of keeping heritage assets at one place (the British Museum) for “a world audience”.

    Pericles would applaud your focus on meaning than matter.

    Please reunite permanently the sculptures of the Acropolis in the heart of Athens. This would restore the meaning of what is currently a fragmented, unreadable masterpiece. Only then, will your institution be in a position to claim your role as a disseminator of inherited values to a world of citizens.

    Yours sincerely,

    Nikolaos Chatziandreou

    Liked by 6 people

  25. PAPAKOSTAS KONSTANTINOS says:

    Museum of receivers of stolen goods,now you loan the stolen property,what can we comment on that !

    Liked by 1 person

  26. Vicky from Athens, Hellas. says:

    The stolen sculptures of the Acropolis should be returned to Athens-Hellas. The History is written and no one can change it. But lets face it, they will not. It is all a part of a political game. Bare also in mind that it is known that they are not well preserved and the tragic difference, if they are exhibited next to the non stolen ones, will be tragically obvious and the same time a great defamation for the “civilized” nation of gb which only great isn’t. Loaning the stolen masterpieces of the unique and unrepeatable Hellenic Art only reconfirms the british criminal against the civilization and art, words that don’t exist in the british vocabulary. Shame on those who permit such crimes.

    Liked by 2 people

  27. C Panayiotopoulos says:

    The majority of the proud British people are ashamed by the acts of vandalism committed by Elgin (through deliberately mischievous and malicious damage of artistic treasures by dismembering/mutilating the Parthenon). Whether Elgin had or not the permission of the Ottomans would be as legal as a permission obtained from the German to loot and vandalize art from one of their occupied country.

    The British Committee for the Restitution of the Parthenon Marbles are a group of eminent British people who having considered the case for the reunification of the Parthenon Marbles strongly support it and wish to campaign to achieve it. These are some relevant comments and against those of Neil MacGregor.

    1. The Marbles are better off in London where they can be seen in the context of other world cultures: Research on museum visitors has concluded that the average visitor does not make meaningful connections between the randomly acquired objects held by encyclopaedic museums. Indeed, given the choice between viewing the Parthenon Marbles within the contexts applied to them by British Museum curators and experiencing them in the city of Athens from which they originate, the overwhelming evidence is that the majority of the public would prefer to see them returned to Athens.

    2. The Marbles belong to “the world”, to all of us, and should therefore be left where “everyone” can enjoy them: Now that Athens has a world-class, state-of-the-art museum in which to house the Marbles, there is no longer any justification for assuming that London is the best place for the people of the world to enjoy them. Since its opening, the New Acropolis Museum has enjoyed over 5 million visitors (*June 2013). It is therefore reasonable to assume that visitor numbers would increase still further were the Parthenon Marbles to be reunited in the new museum.

    3. The Marbles are too important a part of the British Museum collection to allow them to be given up: The most important part of the British Museum’s work in the future will be the fostering of creative cultural partnerships with other nations. These can lead to groundbreaking exhibitions such as the Terracotta Army from China and Moctezuma from Mexico to name but a few. Returning the Parthenon Marbles would open a new chapter in cooperative relationships with Greece and enable visitors to the British Museum to see new objects loaned by Greek museums. Refusal to return them is hampering this process. The Parthenon Marbles display in the British Museum could be displayed as high-quality casts. The decision to return the Marbles to Athens would be seen as the British Museum leading the way in enlightened cultural diplomacy, the benefits of which would be diverse, long-term, and far-reaching.

    4.. “The Elgin Marbles are no longer part of the story of the Parthenon. They are now part of another story.” (Neil MacGregor, Director, British Museum): It is not the role of museums to rewrite history to further their own nationalistic ends. As their correct name makes clear, the Parthenon Marbles are, and will always be, integral to the story of the Parthenon, one of the finest cultural achievements bequeathed to us by the ancient Greeks.

    And a reminder that one of the best arguments in favour of the return of the Parthenon treasures to Greece comes from Hugh Hammersley, an Englishman and a contemporary of Lord Elgin. He had taken part in the debate in the British Parliament that had to decide whether the Elgin Marbles should be purchased and displayed in the British Museum. He proposed an amendment to the House of Commons resolution that stated: «…Great Britain holds these Marbles only in trust till they are demanded by the present, or any future possessors of the city of Athens; and upon such demand, engages without question or negotiation, to restore them, as far as can be effected, to the places from where they were taken, and that they shall be in the mean time carefully preserved in the British Museum.” ————— William St. Clair, Lord Elgin and the Marbles, Oxford University Press (1983), p. 261.

    Liked by 2 people

  28. Anna Gregory says:

    The Museum with its recent act has clearly demonstrated that apart from exhibiting other peoples’ cultures which it has taken away without their consent and in violation of any ethical principles and laws in the area (some call these acts a theft), it also lies. It said for years that the Marbles cannot move and now it decides itself to move them! It said for years that there are no legal means for the Marbles to be exhibited (permanently or not) in other Museums and now it demonstrates that there are. People are reserved towards Russia’s recent acts against Ukraine. The BM compensates these acts. Is there anyone in this Museum that can tell its people to no longer go against the tide, the morality and the ethical principles? We wonder….

    Liked by 1 person

  29. Kathy Kouvas says:

    The actions of the British Museum under the Director and his employees of the museum speak louder than words. To tell you the truth there really is not much to say, except that they who seek respect have no respect for others.
    How can the Bristish Museum ask to be respected for their decision to hold onto the sculptures from the Parthenon, that was built in Greece for future generations.

    Greece has had enough of invasiions from other countries over the centuries. Their fight for freedom and their success at gaining it earns them the Right to be respected. My parents have always taught me to be proud o who I am and where I come from. They are saddened by what is happening, and after loosing my father last year I came to realise the ethics and morals my father taught me were very important. Not only to myself but to the world. I remeber the story of the boy who climbed to the top of the Acropolis wrapped teh Greek Flag around him and fell to his death, so that the Gremans in the Second World War would not take the flag. Need i say anymore.

    How can someone through their actions like the Bristish museum, which is at the moment like a slap in the face for Greece, can exuse such a decision to the rest of the world. How can they speak to me and feel proud for their actions. The Parthenon is a symbol not only of Democracy but the Birth of Civilization, a building that should be respected for its amazing Architecture and what it stood for.

    Who are they to speak on behalf of the world and preach to us? Who are they to tell me where they belong, who gave them that right. What does Greece say to its Children, its ok to do this.

    SIMPLY NO ITS NOT OK TO DO THAT ITS NOT OK TO LEND OUT SOMEONES HARD WORK AND CALL IT YOUR OWN.
    IF ANYTHING THE BRITISH MUSEUM HAVE TAUGHT THE WORLD ONE THING BY THEIR ACTIONS: NOTHING> THEY TAUGHT US NOTHING!!

    But Greece has taught them so much, it is this: WE ASK TO BE RESPECTED AND TO RESPECT OUR REQUEST TO RETURN THE SCULPTURES THAT WERE TAKEN FROM THE PARTHENON

    These paragraphs are from a poem I wrote called Athena is Crying back in 2010 that was published in Kosmos Newspaer in Sydney. Its about how the Ancient Greeks would see and feel about what has happened today.

    Athena is Crying-

    ” Athena is crying Lost out at sea, She is crying for Poseidon God of the sea”

    ” Poseidon he tells her he remembers a ship through Kythera it sailed on its long voyage trip”

    ” They were bought into slavery from a man who loved gold, a man of status so I was told’

    “As they passed Kythera I started a storm, no man will laugh at me carrying a sword”

    ” Oh how happy you are to see me broken and sad, but how you still pave the way for sailors from a foreign land”

    Thankyou

    Liked by 1 person

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This is an exquisitely decorated purse lid from the Anglo-Saxon burial at #SuttonHoo, which was discovered #onthisday in 1939. In this object the quality of craftsmanship can really be appreciated. The lid is only 19cm in length but it must have been incredibly valuable. The outstanding nature of the finds at Sutton Hoo points to this being the burial of a leading figure in East Anglia, possibly a king. The landowner Mrs Edith Petty donated the discovery to the British Museum in 1939.
#SuttonHoo #Gold #Archaeology #AngloSaxon Today we’re celebrating the unearthing of the beautiful Anglo-Saxon objects from #SuttonHoo, which were found #onthisday in 1939. Arguably the most iconic of all the objects, this helmet was an astonishingly rare find. Meticulous reconstruction has allowed us to see its full shape and some of the complexity of the fine detailing after it was damaged in the burial chamber. The gold areas of the helmet reveal a dragon or bird-like figure – the moustache forms the tail, the nose forms the body and the eyebrows form the wings, with a head just above. Another animal head can be seen facing down towards this.
#SuttonHoo #AngloSaxon #Gold #Helmet #Archaeology #onthisday in 1939, just before the outbreak of the Second World War, archaeologists discovered the treasures of #SuttonHoo. It was one of the most important historical discoveries of the 20th century, and contained a wealth of Anglo-Saxon objects which greatly enhanced the understanding of the early medieval period. One of the most significant things to be found was an undisturbed ship-burial, the excavation of which can be seen in this photo. The 27-metre-long impression the ship left in the earth is highly detailed and was painstakingly recorded. The centre of the ship contained a burial chamber housing some spectacular objects – we’ll be sharing some highlights today.
#SuttonHoo #AngloSaxon  #archaeology #archive #blackandwhite This photograph shows a mountainside in #Angola featuring large engravings which may be thousands of years old. This rock art is found at Tchitundu-Hulu Mulume, one of a group of four rock art sites located in the south-west corner of Angola, by the edge of the Namib desert. The area is a semi-arid plain characterised by the presence of several inselbergs (isolated hills rising from the plain). Of the four sites, Tchitundu-Hulu Mulume is the largest, located at the top of an inselberg, 726 metres in height. There are large engravings on the slopes of the outcrop, most of them consisting of simple or concentric circles and solar-like images.

Our #AfricanRockArt image project team have now completed cataloguing 19,000 rock art images from Northern, Eastern and Southern Africa, and will be completing work on sites from Southern African countries in the final phase of the project. Follow the link in our bio to find out more about our African #rockart image project and the incredible images being catalogued.
Photograph © TARA/David Coulson. Our #AfricanRockArt project team is cataloguing and uploading around 25,000 digital images of rock art from throughout the continent. Working with digital photographs has allowed the Museum to use new technologies to study, preserve, and enhance the rock art, while leaving it in situ.

As part of the cataloguing process, the project team document each photograph, identifying what is depicted. Sometimes images are faded or unclear. Using photo manipulation software, images can be run through a process that enhances the pigments. By focusing on different sets of colours, we can now see the layers that were previously hidden to the naked eye.

This painted panel, from Kondoa District in #Tanzania, shows the white outline of an elephant’s head at the right, along with some figures in red that it is possible to highlight with digital enhancement.

Tanzania contains some of the densest concentrations of rock art in East Africa, mainly paintings found in the Kondoa area and adjoining Lake Eyasi basin. The oldest of these paintings are attributed to hunter-gatherers and may be 10,000 years old.

Follow the link in our bio to learn more about the project and see stunning #rockart from Africa. This week we’re highlighting the work of our #AfricanRockArt image project. The project team are now in the third year of cataloguing, and have uploaded around 19,000 digital photographs of rock art from all over #Africa to the Museum’s collection online database.

This photograph shows an engraving of a large, almost life-sized elephant, found on the Messak Plateau in #Libya. This region is home to tens of thousands of depictions, and is best known for larger-than-life-size engravings of animals such as elephants, rhino and a now extinct species of buffalo. This work of rock art most likely comes from the Early Hunter Period and could be up to 12,000 years old.

Follow the link in our bio and explore 30,000 years of stunning rock art from Africa. © TARA/David Coulson.
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