New College of the Humanities

Letters - August 2010

Editor Paul Lay reads a selection of your correspondence.


Marble Flaws

Jonathan Downs’s article (‘Losing Our Marbles’, July 2010) seems to me to rest on an unarticulated premise which needs to be questioned. If Britain’s claim to the Elgin Marbles is dubious, the claim of Greece is not clearcut either. Any theft was from the Ottoman Empire (which no longer exists), not from the state of Greece (which did not exist at the time). There are too many historical discontinuities for modern Greece and Egypt to claim the direct inheritance of the Athenian democracy and the Ptolemaic kingdom respectively. Any claim must be geographical, not historical: that the current occupiers of territory are entitled not only to any heritage found on the territory today, but also to any that has ever been found there, whoever occupied the territory at the time. Downs takes this for granted; it needs to be supported by argument.

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