Greece Draws Line: Ancient Greek Jug Leaves London on Loan, But There Will Be No Loan Deal for Parthenon Marbles

Greece Draws Line: Ancient Greek Jug Leaves London on Loan, But There Will Be No Loan Deal for Parthenon Marbles

In a historic move, an ancient Greek water jug, the Meidias hydria, dating back to around 420 BC, has left London for the first time in 250 years. The British Museum has loaned this artefact, along with seven others, to the Acropolis Museum in Athens. However, Greece has made it clear that such a loan arrangement will not extend to the contentious Parthenon Marbles.

The Meidias hydria, acquired by the British Museum in 1772, has undisputed ownership, according to the Greek Ministry of Culture. However, Culture Minister Lina Mendoni emphasised that this situation does not set a precedent for the Parthenon Marbles.

Greece Draws Line: Ancient Greek Jug Leaves London on Loan, But There Will Be No Loan Deal for Parthenon Marbles
The Medias hydria, acquired from Greece by the British Museum in 1772 has been loaned back to Greece

Mendoni stated, “The Parthenon marbles were stolen by [Lord] Elgin, abused, vandalised and sawed up to be in England." She expressed Greece's refusal to consider a lease or loan for the marbles, citing historical mistreatment and lack of protective measures during their time at the British Museum.

The Parthenon Marbles were removed from Athens in the early 19th century by agents of British diplomat Lord Elgin during Ottoman rule. Lord Elgin sold the marbles to the British government in 1816, and they have since been housed in the British Museum.

John Lefas Geoffrey Robertson parthenon marbles 960x600 Kathimerini
Protectors of the Parthenon Marbles Industrialist John Lefas with Australian-British barrister, academic, author and broadcaster Geoffrey Robertson

The loan of the Meidias hydria comes on the heels of the cancellation of a meeting between British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis. It is reported that the meeting was cancelled because Mitsotakis planned to discuss the repatriation of the Parthenon Marbles to Greece, a move that disappointed the Greek Prime Minister.

A survey conducted in July 2023 by YouGov in the UK revealed that 64% of respondents favoured returning the marbles to Greece. However, complications arise from UK law, as the British Museum Act prohibits the permanent disposal or donation of items in its possession. Any permanent return of the marbles to Greece would require a change in UK law by the parliament. The legal constraints add a layer of complexity to the ongoing debate surrounding the repatriation of the Parthenon Marbles.

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