The Elgin Marbles

Connor Carraway


2 April, 2015

ARH 351

Lord Elgin’s decision to take historic antiquities from the Parthenon back to England has been a source for controversy ever since the 19th century. Today Greece is still requesting for the U.K. to return the pieces of their cultural history, but the U.K. still refuses to send the Elgin Marbles back to their homeland. The U.K. has claimed that they can’t send the marbles back to Greece, because they don’t have a proper place to store them, but that has since been rectified by Greece after the construction of the Acropolis Museum, however the U.K. still claims that the marbles still belong to them.

I believe that the courts do have the power to make a ruling on this issue, and that the Greece does have claim over the marbles. If Greece was able to make a claim that the Elgin Marbles have a proper storage place, and that they are able to safely travel from the U.K. to Greece, then there shouldn’t be much of a problem by returning the marbles to their place of creation. Greece has the greater claim in this situation, for the marbles are relics of their culture’s history.

In the debate over moral rights vs. legal rights ownership, I believe that a legal right of ownership is the more poignant approach. The difference is that a court will be more likely to honor a legal right of ownership, however if a person has bought a stolen object from a thief, then even though they didn’t actually commit the crime, they will still have to return the stolen

property, and if the courts go with this, then moral law will have the upper hand. I don’t really think that a court should limit themselves to only one of these choices, but should consider both claims to the marbles, and then come up with their decision.

Modern courts do have the power to overturn past decisions that may not have accounted for modern beliefs at the time of their inception. A culture is always changing, and if the law isn’t updated to stay relevant to the society, then it can cause some serious problems by not considering new problems that didn’t exist at the creation of the laws.

Will the Elgin Marbles ever return to Greece? I believe that they will someday, but I also doubt that the U.K. will just gladly give them up either. Greece has a battle ahead of them, but one day the marbles will sit in the Acropolis museum.











“Romancing the Stones”, Newsweek, accessed April 2 2015.