It is safe to say that there is very little chance of the Elgin Marbles turning up for sale on eBay anytime soon. Even those charged with running the British Museum, currently embroiled in a growing scandal over stolen and missing artefacts, would presumably spot them on the site.
That is why it is simply laughable for Greek experts to claim the precious sculptures are at risk after the embarrassing disclosure of a series of thefts from the institution. Leading the charge is Despina Koutsoumba, the head of the Association of Greek Archaeologists, who argues the marbles would be far safer off in Greece. Well, she would think that, wouldn’t she?
Greece has long demanded the return of the ancient treasures, which were taken in the 19th century. Tim Loughton, who chairs the all-party parliamentary group on the British Museum, spoke for sensible people everywhere when he accused Greece of ‘blatant opportunism’ in making these ridiculous claims. The Greeks certainly do their campaign for restitution no great service by resorting to such absurd arguments.
Even so, this should not disguise the real and growing crisis faced by the British Museum over its inept handling of the missing artefacts scandal. Those running the institution are vulnerable to the charge of being asleep at the wheel as well as making matters worse by being less than forthcoming in their public statements — an indefensible attitude on the part of such a prestigious cultural institution.
Crucial information has instead emerged in dribs and drabs. The museum disclosed last week that items from its collection were missing. It said that the items were ‘small pieces’ and included jewellery, glass and gems of semi-precious stones.