Originally part of the Athens temple, the marble sculptures on display in the British Museum are at the center of a 200-year-old restitution dispute between Greece and the United Kingdom.
Jan 11, 2022
In mid-November, Greece’s Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis met with his British counterpart, Boris Johnson, in London.
At the top of his agenda was a Greek demand that’s been made for centuries. He asked that the so-called Parthenon Marbles — a series of sculptures that were once part of the Parthenon — be taken from the British Museum, where they are currently displayed, and returned to Greece once and for all.
The 2,500-year-old sculptures, which depict scenes from Greek mythology, are sometimes referred to as the Elgin Marbles, after Lord Elgin, the British ambassador to the Ottoman Empire in Constantinople. His staff began removing them from the Acropolis in 1801 and sold them to the British government, along with hundreds of other antique items taken from Athens.
The marble sculptures consist of parts of a frieze, metopes and figures. They represent roughly half of the surviving sculptural decorations of the Parthenon — many of their counterparts are in Athens’ Acropolis Museum.
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