I wouldn’t be writing this post if I had not read some unfair, as I understand it, criticism of the English government/people/museum on the occasion of the new Acropolis museum in Greece and the right demand for the stolen marbles to be returned to where they belong.
That the Acropolis sculptures are stolen I think is beyond doubt. Even if the Ottomans gave their permission (which is doubtful), even then they are stolen, because the thieves asked for permission someone who didn’t have the right to give a permission. Ottomans were an occupation force in Greece. If the German army in the 2nd World War gave someone a permission to take away French monuments, would this permission be valid, would not such a removal be a theft?
The sculptures were stolen – but let us also think about this kind of stealing. It was (and is) a theft committed not for money, but out of admiration and love for these sculptures – a love that is proven by Lord Byron, and all the learned people in England who study the Greek culture, all of it, including Byzantine and Modern Greek – the poetry, the painting, the music…
It is a theft, yes, and there exists also a wound on these monuments, as long as they remain separated and fragmented, – but we must also remember that this wound is not caused by enemies, it is caused by brothers, it is a wound that comes out of love for the same spirit.
And in a mutual spirit of brotherhood – would the Queen of England restrain her navy should Greece find in Shakespeare original works, worthy enough – in the spirit of world culture, a loot to decorate Greece’s museums of European medieval history?
I feel sure she would restrain her navy, although I’m sure she would be as hacked off at the “theft”.
Speaking as a British (not English, please note) person I personally think the Marbles should be returned. I also think that this is probably a consensus of the British people, but, I’m not so sure about the trustees of the British Museum.