The Parthenon Sculptures… The British Museum View

Some critics were disappointed by ‘Good Vibrations: Crossing Europe on a Bike Called Reggie‘ as it was just as much a travelogue as a book about cycling. Well, I’m sorry, but if you were one of those critics you might want to stay clear of book two based upon this summer’s trip from Greece to Portugal. It will hopefully be very much a travelogue. I prefer to think of Good Vibrations as a book about a journey that happened to be made on a bicycle rather than a book about a cycle ride. I’m currently in the process of trying to make sure that I seize as many opportunities as I can to delve into local culture as I cycle. Much will happen ad hoc as it did back in 2010 but there are certain encounters that I am planning. The first of these will be in Athens where I have found a guide to show me around The Parthenon. She is non other than the leading light in the ‘give us back our marbles’ campaign and I will be meeting her on the 2nd July for my guided tour. I have to say that I’m sympathetic to the return of the Parthenon Marbles (it’s no longer appropriate to refer to them as the ‘Elgin Marbles’ by the way). When I first saw them in the British Museum many years ago I was left cold by how out of context they felt. Earlier this afternoon when I was in London I went back to the museum for another look at the friezes and statues that constitute the ‘marbles’ and I haven’t really changed my mind. That said, the British Museum do have their arguments for keeping hold of them and I was able to get hold of a leaflet that explains why. This is what they have to say;
“The British Museum exists to tell the story of cultural achievement throughout the world, from the dawn of human history over two million years ago until the present day. The Museum is a unique resource for the world: the breadth and depth of its collection allows the world public to re-examine cultural identities and explore the complex network of interconnected cultures.
Within the context of this unparalleled collection, the Parthenon sculptures are an important representation of the culture of ancient Athens. Each year millions of visitors, free of charge, admire the artistry of the sculptures and gain insights into how Ancient Greece influenced – and was influenced by – the other civilisations that it encountered.
The New Acropolis Museum allows the Parthenon sculptures that are in Athens to be appreciated against the backdrop of Ancient Greek and Athenian history. This display does not alter the Trustees’ view that the sculptures are part of everyone’s shared heritage and transcend cultural boundaries. The Trustees remain convinced that the current division allows different and complimentary stories to be told about the surviving sculptures, highlighting their significance for world culture and affirming the universal legacy of Ancient Greece.”

To their credit, the British Museum go on to point interested parties in the direction of the opposing argument as set out by the Greek government at the Hellenic Ministry of Culture website.



2 replies »

  1. Sorry, I cannot believe I wrote Elgin Marbles!!! I do apologise ๐Ÿ™ I meant Parthenon Marbles………. Hangs head in shame…….

  2. A cycle tour through a significant piece of Europe has to be a travelogue! What else can it be? I suppose if you include more descriptions of what gear changes you did and EXACTLY what those ratios were then you may make everyone happy ๐Ÿ˜‰

    Good piece on the Elgin Marbles, I do think in the day that the British Museum may have had a point but as the world gets ‘virtually’ smaller and vastly more ordinary people have access to what were far flung places, the conceited argument that Britain is the only country that can give the world culture does not hold water.

What do you think?