Oh boy... remember when I wrote about the Parthenon Marbles and called it 'one of the most controversial political landmines between Great Britain and modern Greece'? I wasn't exaggerating. To do a quick copy/paste for those not in the know about the marbles; the Parthenon Marbles, also known as the Elgin Marbles, is a collection of classical Greek marble sculptures, inscriptions and architectural members that originally were part of the Parthenon and other buildings on the Acropolis of Athens. Thomas Bruce, the 7th Earl of Elgin obtained a controversial permit from the Ottoman authorities to remove pieces from the Parthenon while serving as the British ambassador to the Ottoman Empire from 1799 to 1803.

The Parthenon Marbles acquired by Elgin include seventeen figures from the statuary from the east and west pediments of the Parthenon, fifteen (of the original 92) of the metope panels depicting battles between the Lapiths and the Centaurs, as well as 247 feet (75 meters) of the original 524 feet (160 meters) of the Parthenon Frieze which decorated the horizontal course set above the interior architrave of the temple. As such, they represent more than half of what now remains of the surviving sculptural decoration of the Parthenon. Elgin's acquisitions also included objects from other buildings on the Athenian Acropolis: a Caryatid from Erechtheum; four slabs from the parapet frieze of the Temple of Athena Nike; and a number of other architectural fragments of the Parthenon, Propylaia, Erechtheum, the Temple of Athena Nike, and the Treasury of Atreus.

Matt Damon, Bill Murray, John Goodman and George Clooney promote their new movie 
The Monuments Men. Photograph: Dave M. Benett/WireImage

In the blog post linked above, as well as in the comments there, are a lot of pro's and con's about returning the marbles. I think they should be returned, honestly, but I don't think Great Britain is obligated to at this point in time. Thankfully, I'm just the writer of a teeny tiny blog and not American actor Georgy Clooney, because when he spoke up in favor of the return of the Marbles, shit hit the proverbial fan. The Archaeology News Network reports that:

"[...] [the] comments [were made] Saturday by Clooney while publicizing at the Berlin Film Festival his new film 'Monuments men' which tells the story of men recuperating looted Nazi art. Responding to a question by a Greek journalist asking him whether he believed the 2,500-year-old Parthenon marbles taken by British diplomat Lord Elgin two centuries ago should be returned to Greece, the actor had responded saying it was ''probably the right thing to do''. Clooney's words were immediately applauded by minister Panayiotopoulos who wrote a letter to thank him for his opinion and called him ''an active citizen and a creative artist who resolutely defends what is good and right''. He also invited him to spend a few days in Greece. [London Mayor Boris] Johnson's reaction was quite different, accusing the actor of ''plugging a film about looted Nazi art without realizing that Goering himself had plans to plunder the British Museum"."

Well, may I just say, again, 'oh boy...'? Actor Bill Murray--also in 'Monuments Men'--supported his co-star on the red carpet, adding more fuel to the fire by saying:

"It seems like it's a problem all over the world. Who owns this art? Where it came from? Do they have the right to give it back? I think it has had a very nice stay here, certainly. London's gotten crowded, there's plenty of room back there in Greece, plenty of room. England can take a lead on this kind of thing... letting art go back where it came from. If [the marbles] were all together the Greeks are nothing but generous – they'd loan it back every once in a while... like people do with art."

The question was put to Clooney and co-star Matt Damon again a little later on after he'd had time for some proper research, and he stuck to his previous answer. Quoting The Guardian:

"In London on Tuesday, the question was put to him again. "I did a little research just to make sure I wasn't completely out of my mind," he said. Slipping on pronunciation, he added: "Even in England the polling is in favour of returning the marbles from the Pantheon [sic], the Pantheon marbles."

Clooney said the Vatican and the Getty museum, in Los Angeles, had returned parts of the Parthenon and suggested the question was whether a piece of broken-up art should be put back together as best as possible. In this case returning them was "probably the right thing to do".

The actor said it was suggested over the weekend that because he was an American he probably didn't understand. "That's probably right," he deadpanned. But Damon quickly chipped in: "That can't always be the British default position. I mean seriously, it's not actually an argument to say we are Americans we don't get it."

Clooney added: "I do think it's worth having an open discussion." But he suggested he might not be getting his placards out quite yet. "It was one of a hundred questions at a press conference, a Greek reporter asking me about the marbles – and I just said I thought it was probably a good idea if they found a way back at some point.""

Let me be clear, in general, I don't think it's a smart movie to step into an argument when you know very little about it. That said, anything that comes out of the mouth of an actor as famous as George Clooney and his co-stars is bound to kick up dust somewhere. All we know for sure is that the situation remains unresolved and will remain so for quite some time. Sadly so, I would say.