Who Owns the Elgin Marbles?
A visitor to the new Acropolis museum stands behind the Caryatids, female figures used instead of pillars, in Athens on Sunday, June 21, 2009. The empty space in front of the visitor denotes the absence of a Caryatid now on display at the British Museum in London. The Acropolis Museum opened its gates today to the first visitors who came to see the more than 4,000 exhibits on display, including those parts of Parthenon's marble frieze not held by the British Museum. (AP)

A visitor to the new Acropolis museum stands behind the Caryatids in Athens on Sunday, June 21, 2009. The empty space in front of the visitor denotes the absence of a Caryatid now on display at the British Museum in London. (AP)

Giant questions of antiquity, propriety and cultural heritage — beginning with the Acropolis, where else?

In the early 19th century, Thomas Bruce, Earl of Elgin, under Ottoman eyes, removed sculptures from the Parthenon — half of the frieze on the Parthenon itself, and a lot of sculptures. Many see the “Elgin Marbles” — ensconced in the British Museum — as a great cultural heist, 200 years old. Now Athens has a stunning new Acropolis Museum, and very much wants the Elgin Marbles back.

This hour, On Point: The Elgin Marbles — London or Athens?

You can join the conversation. Tell us what you think — here on this page, on Twitter, and on Facebook.


Joining us from Athens, Greece, is John Psaropoulos, editor and columnist for Athens News, Greece’s oldest English-language newspaper, and Athens correspondent for National Public Radio.

Also joining us from Athens is John Brady Kiesling, a former American diplomat and trained classical archeologist. He studied at the American School of Classical Studies in Athens and who has worked on archeological digs in Greece, Turkey, Armenia, and Spain. He lives in the Plaka neighborhood just at the foot of the Acropolis and joins us from his home there.

Joining us from the British Museum in London is Konstantinos Politis. A classical archeologist, he is in charge of the dig and the museum at the site of Lot’s Cave in Ghor Safi.

And from Cambridge, England, we’re joined by Mary Beard, professor of classics at Cambridge University’s Newnham College and author of “Fires of Vesuvius: Pompeii Lost and Found.”

More links:

The website of the new Acropolis Museum in Athens offers photos and information about the Acropolis monuments and the musuem’s galleries.

In a recent op-ed in The New York Times, critic Christoper Hitchens argued for the return of the Elgin Marbles to Greece.  In yetserday’s Times, Michael Kimmelman explored how the opening of the museum has renewed the debate.

The BBC World Service offers a collection of photos of the new museum in Athens:

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