I sweat I don't want to keep bringing this up, but there is something equal parts frustrating and hilarious about the train wreck that is the discussion about returning the Parthenon Marbles. A quick search on the blog brings up five blog posts dedicated solely to the discussion. There is a basic post about the issues, a piece on the British museum that decided to show off the Marbles, and a piece about a new campaign by Greece to get the marbles returned, which was backed by UNESCO. Then the 'Monuments Men' spoke up about the issue, and now, the Archaeological News Network reports that British journalist Jonathan Jones speaks up about retuning the marbles.

north frieze of Parthenon sculpture
Part of the Parthenon marbles. [Credit: Laurie Chamberlain/Corbis]

A tiny recap: 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.

Jonathan Jones is a journalist for The Guardian. In his piece on the marbles, he states the following:

"Where do the Parthenon sculptures really belong? To get to the just, right, sensible answer I have to start from my opening claim: this is the world's most beautiful art. It has only a handful of rivals in the highest rank of artistic achievement – think Leonardo da Vinci, think Michelangelo.
[...] The sad truth is that in the British Museum, the Parthenon sculptures are not experienced at their best. For one thing, they're shown in a grey, neoclassical hall whose stone walls don't contrast enough with these stone artworks – it is a deathly space that mutes the greatest Greek art instead of illuminating it. So if the British Museum wants to keep these masterpieces it needs to find the money to totally redisplay them in a modern way.
[...] Or, it could give them to Greece, which has already built a superb modern museum to do just that. The great thing about the Acropolis Museum's display of the Parthenon sculptures – which currently includes pieces left by Elgin, plus casts – is that it makes it easy to see how the sculptures fitted on the building, and how they work as an ensemble. It also has one advantage London can never rival – you can look from the sculptures to the museum's glass wall and see the Parthenon itself, making a sensual connection between the art and its architectural home."

Jones follows these sayings up with a personal account about seeing the marbles, being enticed by their beauty, and feeling frustrated at their treatment. The piece is one of Jones' most commented upon pieces as of late, with nearly 900 comments. Most of those comments are snarky to downright hateful, and they all regurgitate the tried and true issues: 'they were stolen -- 'they weren't stolen', 'they will be treated worse in Greece, just look at the economy', 'Greece should buy them back', etc.

The more I read about this issue, the more I realize that nothing is going to happen to the Parthenon Marbles. In my opinion, they're not going anywhere. Period. Britain is making money off of them, Greece is in no position to demand anything at the moment, and truthfully, the last thing the issue needs is another debate. Most of the commenters also agree that Jones' commentary is not exactly constructive to the issue, but if anything, it at least keeps the Marbles fresh in the mind.