The Application of International Law, Morality, and Public Policy to the Elgin Marbles Dispute

3 Baku St. U. L.Rev. 1 (2017)
Article Language: English.

In the past century, the former imperial powers of Europe have been subjected to countless calls for repatriation of cultural property. Perhaps the most famed of these disputes lies between the United Kingdom and Greece. In the early 19th century, a British ambassador situated in Ottoman-era Athens removed a considerable amount of ancient works from the city’s historic Parthenon site, and these objects (the “Elgin Marbles”) found their way into permanent exhibition at London’s British Museum. Since the establishment of an independent Greek state, its people have routinely called for the return of this property to its place of origin – a request continually denied by British authorities. Given the durability of this particular dispute, the fame surrounding the works themselves, and the progression of international law, the Elgin Marbles will likely remain at the forefront of cultural heritage and foreign relations discussions through the next few decades. Today, the Greeks have several options (legal and otherwise) with which to try and get the property back. In order to make a strong prediction of the dispute’s future developments, this paper will apply to the relevant facts not only common principles of international law, but also morality, historicism, and the growing trend of voluntary cultural repatriation in diplomatic relations.

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