If we leave Europe, we should finally have the decency to return Greece’s plundered heritage
The Acropolis Museum in Athens is an architectural marvel that has rightly won awards. The way the remaining Parthenon marbles are bathed in sunlight and overlooked by the temple that was their original site is profoundly beautiful. But what I found most affecting when I visited last week was the deliberate absences in the exhibits – spaces pointedly left blank for the day when, Greeks hope, the rest of the sculptures that were carved by Phidias and his assistants circa 447–438BC will be returned.
Many readers will no doubt be aware that many of these priceless sculptures, once better known as the Elgin marbles, reside in a gloomy room in the British Museum, having been torn from the Parthenon in the early 1800s by Lord Elgin. It is a subject of great controversy, but one that most Britons, especially those who are young and not of an imperialistic bent, struggle to care about. When polled in 2014 by YouGov, only 23% of British people wanted to keep them.