Tuesday, July 14, 2009
While the debate of whether to return the Elgin Marbles to Athens or to retain them in London is a largely socio-historical matter, it can also be read as a political one. It must be remembered that the states involved have stakes to care about, which will be sustained or missed depending on how the power relation between Great Britain and Greece will yield a decision affecting the ownership of the classical relics.
In comparison, Greece is a less developed country as opposed to Great Britain, which belongs to the First World. It may be that Greece was the center of Ancient Western civilization, but the glorious days are now gone. As a country with a struggling economy, Greece may be questioned over its capacity to keep the cultural heritage of the past intact. It may be the rightful owner of these relics, but could the concerned Greek museum’s state-of-the-art technology match that of its British counterpart for the safeguarding of the world’s classical works of art?
Meanwhile, Britain’s economic capacity and touristic accessibility may overshadow the accusation that the Marbles were illegally obtained. These political advantages, however, cannot be helped being interpreted as Britain’s powerplay over a comparably inferior rival. Just because Britain can maintain what Greece cannot itself restore from the ruins, it is already accorded temporary ownership of the collection. What about the Greek sentiment of having been robbed of its artistic self?
The political issue surrounding the Elgin Marbles debate will never die down unless power struggle gets struck down from this European cultural crisis.