Greece Asks British Museum to Return Ancient Statues

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Unlocking Word Meanings

Read the following words/expressions found in today’s article.

  1. repatriation / rɪˌpeɪtriˈeɪʃən / (n) – the act of returning or sending back something to its own country

    The president called for the repatriation of some artworks that were previously taken without permission to other countries.

  2. hold (someone/something) captive / hoʊld ˈkæp tɪv / (idiom) – to keep someone or something in a jail or cage

    The government denied that it was holding the artworks captive and immediately ordered for their return to their origin country.

  3. adorn / əˈdɔrn / (v) – to decorate something to make it beautiful

    His drawings adorned a lot of children’s books.

  4. quash / kwɒʃ / (v) – to end something, such as an argument or a rumor

    The police tried to quash the argument between the two drivers involved in a car accident.

  5. memento / məˈmɛn toʊ / (n) – an object that is kept to remember a person, past event, or place

    I would like to have a small gallery in my house filled with family mementos.


Read the text below.

Greece has once again appealed to Britain for the repatriation of the controversial Parthenon [PAHR-thuh-non] Marbles.

In a recently held conference, Greek President Prokopis Pavlopoulos [pro-KOP-is pav-LAW-poo-laws] addressed the long-standing dispute concerning the custody of the statues, which are currently on display at the British Museum. The president claimed that the sculptures rightfully belong to Greece’s Acropolis Museum, calling the British Museum a prison that holds the marbles captive.

The sculptures originally adorned the Parthenon temple in Athens, which was built to honor the Greek goddess Athena. In the 19th century, while Greece was still under the Ottoman empire, then British ambassador Thomas Bruce removed some of the sculptures and brought them to Britain. Currently, only 40% of the sculptures remain in Greece.

On many occasions since 1832, Greece has campaigned for the return of the marbles. Britain, however, has always argued that Greece did not have a suitable place to display the sculptures. To quash this argument, the Greek government built the Acropolis Museum, which has a view of the actual temple that once held the statues.

Despite Greece’s appeals, the British Museum has again refused to return the marbles. Museum representatives stressed that the sculptures were legally acquired from the Ottoman empire. Furthermore, a British Museum spokesperson underscored the importance of keeping the marbles in London. The representative said that the sculptures are a memento of ancient Greece’s cultural impact all over the world, and having the surviving pieces in two different places allows for diverse discussions about the country’s legacy.

Viewpoint Discussion

Enjoy a discussion with your tutor.

Discussion A

• In your opinion, should the British Museum return the Parthenon Marbles to Greece? Why or why not?
• How do you think Greece can persuade Britain to give back the marbles? Explain.

Discussion B

• In your opinion, is the repatriation of cultural artifacts and artworks an important issue? Why or why not?
• How do you think countries can peacefully resolve similar disputes on returning cultural artifacts and artworks? Discuss.

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