Imperial Spoils: The Curious Case of the Elgin Marbles

Christopher Hitchens, Author, Robert Browning, With, Graham Binns, With
Christopher Hitchens, Author, Robert Browning, With, Graham Binns, With Hill & Wang $19.95 (137p) ISBN 978-0-8090-4189-3
Reviewed on: 04/30/1989
Release date: 05/01/1989
When Thomas Bruce, seventh earl of Elgin and British ambassador to the Ottoman empire, removed the Parthenon's sculptured friezes to the British Museum, he ignited a controversy that has not abated in a century and a half. Was Elgin a preservationist or an imperialist thief? Should Britain return the marbles to the Greek government? In this short, gracefully written, engaging broadside, Hitchens, a columnist for the Nation , makes a forceful case for full restitution of the sculptures. Lord Elgin, who considered keeping the marbles himself and charging admission to see them, comes off as an enterprising pirate. In a prefatory essay on the Parthenon, Browning, a classics professor at the University of London, traces the building's history as temple to Athena, makeshift Christian church, school for Greek girls, Turkish arms dump. The international effort now underway to restore the Parthenon and the Acropolis is discussed in a closing essay by Binns, who heads the British Committee for the Restitution of the Parthenon Marbles. Photos. (July)
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