Elgin Descendant Says Stolen Parthenon Marbles Were Gift

Elgin Marbles, also known as the Parthenon Marbles, at the British Museum. (Photo by Eurokinissi/Marcos Houzouris)

ATHENS – The frieze marbles stolen from the Parthenon almost 200 years ago by a Scottish diplomat and sold to the British Museum were not unlawfully taken but were a “gift” to him from the ruling Ottomans who didn’t own them, a descendant of Lord Elgin said.

Lord Charles Bruce told the British newspaper The Sunday Express that a Turkish sultan allowed Elgin to take the marbles, arguing that they didn’t belong to Greece anymore but the occupying Turks.
He said: “The marbles were a diplomatic gift. It’s a part of the story not clearly understood. “The British had cemented a military alliance with the Turks, and there was a personal friendship between Elgin and the sultan.

“They exchanged gifts, and there’s a beautiful chandelier from Elgin which still hangs in the Topkapi Palace in Istanbul in a room where Lady Elgin taught the sultan’s family to dance the eightsome reel. We also gave them the smallpox vaccine, which prevented an outbreak in Smyrna, and later went on to Baghdad and Bombay, and was used to inoculate a million Indians,” he said.

Lord Bruce, 57, told The Times the Turkish Sultan also gave Lord Elgin four acres of land in the Turkish capital of Istanbul and 10,000 British Pounds for Britain’s first embassy.

Greece’s ruling Radical Left SYRIZA said it would not go to court seeking return of the Marbles that Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said belong to the world now although it would try to use diplomatic means that have failed for two centuries.

The British Parliament bought the art treasures from Elgin in 1816 and gave them to the British Museum in London. A new Acropolis Museum opened in Athens under the Parthenon in 2009 and was built to house the marbles if they are returned and which decorates the Acropolis for more than 2,000 years before being stolen.

European Union laws aimed at seeing art treasures returned and state that “cooperation mechanisms and restitution procedures” are only valid from January 1, 1993, in order to prevent cultural objects being illegally removed.

After UNESCO offered to mediate between the countries in 2014, the British Museum said its collection is “not only for the British people, but for the benefit of the world public, present and futures,” and claimed it owns the Marbles, not Greece.


  1. Their claim is not only proposterous
    It is lame, absurd and boisterous
    A prevarication which is so outrageous
    That they have the nose of a rhinoceros.

    1. There are also sculptures from the Parthenon in:
      •Musée du Louvre, Paris
      •Vatican Museums, Rome
      •National Museum, Copenhagen
      •Kunsthistorisches Museum,Vienna
      •University Museum, Würzburg
      •Glyptothek, Munich
      (How did they get there?)

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