Archaeology Odyssey 1:2, Spring 1998
Elgin Marbles Debate

Bring the Marbles Home!

By Graham Binns

Respect, even reverence, for the past has inspired Graham Binns to take up causes involving cultural history. In the 1950’s, he chaired a committee that oversaw the restoration of a 17th-century theater in Malta. Since the early 1980’s, he has lectured widely on the repatriation of the Greek antiquities, and he is currently chairman of The British Committee for the Restitution of the Parthenon Marbles. A traveler himself, Binns has a special interest in the travel writers of the 18th and 19th centuries.

Mr. Merryman’s article is presented as an argument in which one side appears to be balanced against the other in terms of strict legality, a process by which unarguable fact is led by irresistible logic to an inevitable conclusion. But in reality his arguments are heavily weighted and tendentious. I admit that I, too, am biased—but biased by what I consider right and proper.

What this controversy boils down to is that there is a great, though battered, building of legendary significance and that it was wrong to wreck it further by sawing off and taking away great sculptured chunks of it. No amount of doubtful hypothesizing about what might have happened if it had not been wrecked is going to excuse the wrecking. To try to do that is to argue like a boy who has kicked another child’s sandcastle: “Well, the sea would have got it if I hadn’t kicked it!”

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