Greece has again called on the UK to return the disputed Elgin Marbles ahead of the Acropolis Museum’s 11th anniversary.
The Elgin Marbles, otherwise known as the Parthenon Marbles, are a collection of Ancient Greek marble sculptures made under the supervision of Phidias and his assistants which were originally part of the temple of the Parthenon and other buildings on the Acropolis of Athens.
The Acropolis Museum, which houses the remaining sculptures, located in the Greek capital Athens, is keeping a space empty for them among its current display.
As the museum’s 11th anniversary looms on 30th June, Greek Culture Minister Lina Mendoni has called on the British Museum in London to return the Elgin Marbles, a request that has been made many times over the years.
The British Museum claims to be the true owners after buying them from a Scottish nobleman who stole them during the Ottoman Occupation.
Between 1801 and 1812, representatives of Thomas Bruce the 7th Earl of Elgin removed about half of the surviving sculptures of the Parthenon, as well as sculptures from the Propylaea and Erechtheum.
They were then transported by sea to Britain. Elgin later claimed to have obtained an official decree from the central government of the Ottoman Empire in 1801. But this document has never been found in the archives and its veracity is disputed.
The Acropolis Museum was designed to showcase the Marbles should they ever be returned.
Greek Culture Minister Lina Mendoni said: “It is time for the British Museum to reconsider its stance ahead of the Acropolis Museum’s next birthday.
“Does it want to be a museum that meets and will continue to meet modern requirements and speak to the soul of the people, or will it remain a colonial museum which intends to hold treasures of world cultural heritage that do not belong to it?”
Mendoni called the British Museum’s possession of the sculptures a “product of theft” and that Greece will “never recognise” its ownership.
British Museum Director Hartwig Fischer called the theft of the 2,500-year-old Marbles a “creative act”.
In 2014, UNESCO offered to mediate between Greece and the UK to resolve the dispute, although this was later turned down by the British Museum on the basis that UNESCO works with government bodies and not trustees of museums.
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