Hollywood has a reputation for creating trite storylines in which either a lawyer is cast as the hero or England as the villain.
Its latest epic has both, and this one is reality. Little more than a week after her marriage to George Clooney, the world’s most photographed barrister, Amal Alamuddin -Clooney, has flown off to advise the Greek government on how to force the removal of the Elgin Marbles from the British Museum.
Given the rioting, economic meltdown and general chaos of recent years, it would be easy to think that Greece had more immediate worries than the whereabouts of a set of decorative stones rescued in the early 19th century — with permission from authorities in Athens — to save them from being chiselled away by peasants for -quicklime.
But that misses the point. What would Greek politicians do if the marbles were returned? No longer would they have a patriotic issue to beat their chests about in order to distract from their failures.
In the name of European harmony, we would like to propose a compromise: we will return the Elgin Marbles once Greece has repaid the €240 billion of emergency loans made by EU states during the crisis, and honoured all its government bonds.
Until then, we suggest Greece recognises the role Lord Elgin played in rescuing its deteriorating heritage and accepts that the British Museum has done an excellent job in preserving the marbles and displaying them to scholars and the public alike.
To have a little bit of the glory of ancient Athens in London hardly seems out of line with the spirit of shared European culture.
This article first appeared in the print edition of The Spectator magazine, dated 18 October 2014
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