There is no shortage of foreign artifacts in British lands, from the British Museum in London to many other castles and estates housing artworks and treasures; and in this case Roman columns from the ancient city of Leptis Magna.
Located in the vicinity of modern-day Al Khoms near Tripoli, this city has had a long history of settlement changing hands from the Phoenician founders, to the Punic Empire to being an important trade outpost for Rome through to Islamic rule where Al Khoms was constructed next to it eventually absorbing the ruins as we see them today.
Britian alleges that the Prince Regent of Tripolitania (an Ottoman District precursor to modern Libya) gave the columns in question as a gift in 1817 to the British Consul General of Tripoli Hanmer Warrington; while the Libyan government claims they were in fact looted.
The columns were used in a royal estate Virginia Water in Windsor Great Park, where they were incorporated into a contemporary “Temple of Augustus” designed by Royal Architect Sir Jeffry Wyatville in 1828.
In an interview with Mohamed Shaban, a lawyer representing Libyan interests, he highlighted the lack of concrete action to return the pillars to their original home.
As both sides dispute each other’s claims, the article explains that the Crown Estate in charge of Royal sites has commissioned Arabic experts to review records to prove that they were gifted but the process is proving difficult.
Many former colonies have successfully regained other artifacts from European museums in recent years with a modern prerogative to respect the ownership of the artifacts and ensure they are safely displayed back in their respective homelands.
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