A few miles East of Venice, is the island of Torcello. It is a quaint, picturesque looking island with a history dating back to the Early Middle Ages-(and perhaps earlier). In the middle of the island there is a small, but historically significant stone chair which served as the Throne of Attila The Hun. While Attila ruled his Central European Empire from Hungary, apparently, he had another Royal Chair located in Northeast Italy. Historians and Archeologists, however, dispute the idea that this ancient stone chair was built for Attila and that it was built about 100 years after his death. The ancient stone chair probably belonged either to the Governor or Archbishop of the island-(around 1500 years ago).

But, there is actually a larger moral question that is rooted in history, while also transcending history. Let's say, the Historians and Archeologists were just wrong about the chronology and future evidence actually proves that this stone chair was indeed, Attila's Throne, the question is as follows:

If this modest and rather unpretentious looking ancient stone chair was, in fact, the Throne of one of the most famous and infamous Barbarians in World History, should a traveler-(or even a resident of Torcello island), sit on this chair or even approach this chair? Would it be morally appropriate or wise to sit on or even approach the Throne/Chair of a notoriously barbarous, fearsome Leader, such as Attila The Hun? Should one have moral hesitations, questions and reservations beforehand and would it be wise to pause and seriously think about the moral consequentiality of such a decision?

(Note: Attila The Hun's Latin nickname was, "The scourge of God").

  • IIRC Christine Korsgaard says something about the moral value of the pen used to sign the Emancipation Proclamation, that bears on such a question... I'll see if I can find the reference. Jun 20 at 2:01
  • OK I guess it was Shelly Kagan (see here). Jun 20 at 2:05

You should avoid damaging historical relics in general.

Well, regardless of the specifics of the deeds of the person it's associated with, it's a fairly-well accepted principle (outside of certain historical revisionists that want all artifacts that are associated with groups they disagree with) that historical monuments and artifacts should be preserved from damage.

Quoting the UNESCO World Heritage website:

Heritage is our legacy from the past, what we live with today, and what we pass on to future generations. Our cultural and natural heritage are both irreplaceable sources of life and inspiration.

As a result, I would recommend that you avoid doing anything that might cause damage to historical artifacts. While sitting on a stone throne might not seem like much, it would cause very small amounts of wear and tear that, over time and many people acting similarly, would result in the seat being eroded and damaged.

As such, I would say that sitting on the throne would likely be unethical because of the damage it causes to an irreplaceable historical artifact.

  • Good point. I tend to agree with you. Perhaps the local Government of Torcello or the Italian Government should fence off the stone chair and not allow visitors to sit on it, but only allow visitors to view it.
    – Alex
    Jun 20 at 17:54

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