Conversation with citizens of Greece occurred with people born and raised on the island of Ithaca where according to Homeric legend, Odysseus lived.

Close up of Elgin Marbles, Lapith Fry the Elgin Marbles Conversation with citizens of Greece
Lapith from the Parthenon Frieze

People there cherish crafts and skills which are dwindling along with the island’s indigenous population, edged out by incomers and the business tactics of controlling elites. Neglected olive groves are testimony to this.

Conversation with citizens of Greece pic of a sculpture in Vathi
Copy of sculpture of Poseidon

To have a conversation with citizens of Greece we drank together at a very Greek waterside taverna, Exedra; discussing a statue of Poseidon outside the museum in Vathi, a copy of the original. Our conversation moved on to the touchy subject of the Elgin Marbles or Parthenon Frieze in the British Museum.

The Marbles some say: ‘belong to Greece’ but others feel they are better cared for in the British Museum and should remain there. At the suggestion Greece and Britain might share the artefacts, it has been said the Greeks would never share them.

La Familia & Exedra in Vathy Conversation with citizens of Greece
La Familia & Exedra in Vathy

I posited the notion if the Marbles were returned it would set a precedent for the British Museum (BM) to follow suite with all it’s colonial plunder, pulling the plug on the institution as a whole – emblem of democracy and civic pride that once was.

colour photo of British Museum conversation with citizens of Greece
The British Museum in London

In a sweeping gesture of defiance a Greek citizen dismissed the annihilation of the BM as insignificant (in historical terms) relative to the Marbles/Parthenon Frieze. Adding the British Museum isn’t free. People are ripped off for everything they buy there (the London pavement tax).

copy of sculpture of poseidon conversation with citizens of Greece
Copy of sculpture of Poseidon outside the museum in Vathy

The concept of renting the Marbles to Greece mooted by George Osborne and ‘the guardians’ of the BM seems arrogant. A humble apology for removing them would be in order.

But apology culture and wokeism are riddled with hypocrisy. The people of Britain were enslaved by the Vikings, the Normans and the Romans. Shaking the tin at the Danes, French and Italians would be of no practical use. Asking them to ‘return the english language’ which we have kindly allowed them to use, would be preposterous.

The Elgin Marbles still exist because of the jealous behaviour of a British aristocrat under the circumstances of war. Otherwise they would be dust.

pic of Illisos in the duveen gallery alan dedman elgin marbles durham union debate
Illisos (River God) from the British Museum

A more progressive and conciliatory move might be for half the artefacts to be shipped to Greece, on a rotating basis; vacant slots being filled with carefully crafted casts or copies.

alan dedman in the royal academy schools
Alan Dedman and casts in the corridor at the Royal Academy Schools

But our conversation reminded us, Greek statuary was never the ‘tasteful monochrome’ upper-class Brits perverted it to. In a celebration of racial elitism, bone white displays in places like the Ashmolean Museum and the corridor at the Royal Academy Schools have been stripped of the passion and colour of ancient Greek culture.

It would be fascinating to see the Parthenon Frieze restored to it’s original glory, but no-one has said if the sculptures might be painted with colours again.