As the Acropolis Museum in Athens marked its 11th anniversary, the Greek government has again urged Britain to return the Parthenon Sculptures to Greece.
The 2,500-year-old marble sculptures have been the subject of dispute for over three decades, with Greece and the international community repeatedly calling on the British Museum to return them to their place of origin.
The sculptures were ‘violently’ and illegally removed from the Parthenon by Lord Elgin in the 1800s and sold to the British Museum.
“Since September 2003 when construction work for the Acropolis Museum began, Greece has systematically demanded the return of the sculptures on display in the British Museum because they are the product of theft,” Greece’s Culture Minister Lina Mendoni told Ta Nea.
Mendoni said the Greek government will not relinquish its claim over the sculptures.”The current Greek government-like any Greek government-is not going to stop claiming the stolen sculptures which the British Museum, contrary to any moral principle, continues to hold illegally.”
“It is sad that one of the world’s largest and most important museums is still governed by outdated, colonialist views,” Mendoni continued.
The Greek government has promised to strengthen its campaign to retrieve the artworks ahead of the country’s 200-year independence celebrations next year.
“It is sad that one of the world’s largest and most important museums is still governed by outdated, colonialist views,” she added.
Last year, Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, told British newspaper the Observer that he called on British Prime Minister Boris Johnson to return the Parthenon Sculptures to Athens for 2021, the bicentennial celebration of Greek War of Independence. He added that he is willing to allow treasures that have never been shown abroad before to be exhibited in London in exchange for the Parthenon Sculptures being returned to Athens for 2021.
Last year, more than 14.5 million people visited the Acropolis Museum, which has become one of the most popular cultural institutions worldwide.
On the occasion of World Culture Day last month, Mendoni reiterated that the British Museum should return the stolen Parthenon Sculptures, a plea that has fallen on deaf ears for generations.
“Without the supreme symbol of culture, the Parthenon, Western civilisation cannot exist and this symbol deserves to be reunited with its expatriate sculptures,” Mendoni said on STAR TV.
UNESCO itself strongly supports the need to resolve the issue by returning the sculptures through negotiations between the two sides.
The last survey on the issue of the restitution of the Parthenon Sculptures was conducted by the UK government in 2018 with 2658 adults surveyed. The survey found that 56% of respondents believed they should be returned to Greece, with 20% objecting to their return and a surprising 24% responding they “don’t know.”