School of Classics Seminar

Dr James Beresford

‘Have classicist lost their marbles?

Perverting History, Heritage and Human Rights in Pursuit of Elgin’s Troublesome Trophies’

3.30 pm, Friday 3 March 2017

K217, Newman Building

University College Dublin


Repatriation of the marbles removed from the Parthenon by Lord Elgin between 1801–05 has been labelled ‘the cause célèbre amongst the cultural return cases’ (Greenfield, J. 2007 The Return of Cultural Treasures, p. 41). Although the sculptures have been displayed in the British Museum for the last two centuries, since the early 1980s the return of the fifth century BC marbles has become the single most important issue within the Greek Culture Ministry. In recent years a number of prominent classicists have joined archaeologists and museologists, as well as politicians and lawyers, in calling for the restitution of the disputed artworks. This seminar will, however, examine how many of the claims put forward by classicists have – often unintentionally – distorted scholarly and public understanding of the (in)famous marbles and the temple which they previously adorned. In a repatriation dispute that is genuinely multidisciplinary in nature, if classicists are to make an effective contribution to the debate, then there is a need for them to gain a more holistic understanding of the history, archaeology and architecture associated with the Athenian Acropolis during later periods of history.

Dr James Beresford is a classical archaeologist specialising in cultural heritage, museology and ancient seafaring. Formerly assistant professor in the history department at LUMS (Lahore), and editor of Minerva: The International Review of Ancient Art & Archaeology, he has also taught in Japan, the United Arab Emirates and the United Kingdom. Much of the last three years have been spent in Athens. He currently lives in Bristol where he is writing a book on the on-going attempts to repatriate the Parthenon/Elgin Marbles. He is the author of The Ancient Sailing Season (2013).