Athens, Jan 10 (EFE).- An ornamental piece from the Parthenon frieze was returned to Greece on Monday after remaining on the Italian island of Sicily for over two centuries.
The move came after an agreement was reached between the Acropolis Museum in Athens and the Antonino Salinas archeological museum in Palermo, where the Parthenon fragment had been kepy on display since 1836.
“What is happening today opens the way for other museums to move in the same direction, with the most important of these being, of course, the British Museum, which has to realize that the time has come for the Parthenon marbles that left Greece in circumstances known more or less to all, return here, to their natural home,” Greek prime minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said in a ceremony at the museum.
At the beginning of the 19th century, several sculptures were transported to the United Kingdom when Thomas Bruce, the British ambassador to the Ottoman Empire, got the Sultan’s permission to take away the Parthenon’s interior and metopes.
Bruce, known as Lord Elgin, later sold the artefacts to his government for 35,000 pounds sterling. The marbles have been exhibited at the British Museum since 1939 while the Acropolis only has copies on display.
Mitsotakis highlighted he had raised the issue during his recent meeting with British prime minister Boris Johnson, who said he would not stand in the way of a possible agreement that could be reached between the Greek authorities and the British Museum.
“I am also particularly encouraged by the fact that the majority of British people seem to support our demand. This indicates that times are changing and that the arguments of the Acropolis Museum and the Greek government are clearly recognized by public opinion in Britain,” Mitsotakis added.
Greek minister of culture Lina Mendoni, meanwhile, stressed that the “international community has the right and demands to see this masterpiece of art in its entirety, gathered here in the Acropolis Museum, and not divided between Athens and London.”
Besides Mitsotakis and Mendoni, representatives of the Sicilian government and the director of the Antonino Salinas, Caterina Greco, also attended the ceremony.
Parthenon fragment, which once belonged to Robert Fagan, the British consul for Sicily and Malta, depicts the lower body parts of Artemis, the Greek goddess of the hunt.
According to the agreement, the fragment will be staying in Greece for eight years. The Sicilian authorities, however, have asked the Italian ministry of culture to allow the marble to permanently remain in Greece.EFE