Athens rejects London’s proposed loan of Parthenon friezes

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London, England, UK. British Museum, Bloomsbury. The Parthenon Gallery - housing the Elgin Marbles. Credit line: PjrTravel / Alamy / Alamy / Profimedia

The Greek Ministry of Culture has rejected proposed solutions whereby friezes from the Parthenon temple could come to Athens on permanent loan from the British Museum in London. 

The frieze pieces on display in London do not belong to the museum there, the ministry said late Thursday: “They are the product of theft.” 

Earlier, British media had reported progress in negotiations between the two countries over the cultural artefacts. In return, Greece is said to be planning to lend other ancient art treasures to Britain.

Under this solution, however, the British Museum would remain the owner of the Parthenon friezes. With a loan, Athens would not have recognized ownership, which is why the proposal is not a solution, experts told Greek radio on Friday.

Athens has been demanding the return of all friezes in the British Museum for decades. In exchange, other ancient Greek objects and collections could be exhibited in London for a limited time, they say. The British have so far refused to do so. 

In the Greek capital, a new museum was built underneath the Acropolis in 2009. There, real frieze parts are exhibited together with plaster replicas of the missing elements. 

The Parthenon, which means Virgin’s Chamber, is one of the most famous surviving architectural monuments of ancient Greece.

At the beginning of the 19th century, the British ambassador Lord Elgin had the best-preserved parts of the Parthenon dismantled and brought to England, where they are known as the Elgin Marbles.

He sold them to the British Museum in 1816, where 56 of 96 parts of the frieze have been ever since. ©dpa

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