Greek President Wants Parthenon Marbles Out of British Museum “Prison”

FILE - President of the Hellenic Republic Prokopios Pavlopoulos declares on Monday the opening of the International Workshop entitled "Reunification of the Parthenon sculptures. (Photo by Eurokinissi/Yiannis Panagopoulos)

ATHENS – With the ruling Radical Left SYRIZA essentially giving up the fight to have the stolen Parthenon Marbles returned, Greek President Prokopis Pavlopoulos said they should be released from a room in the British Museum and housed in the light-filled glass-walled Acropolis Museum, which has a view of the Parthenon, their home.

Pavlopoulos, from the major opposition New Democracy, has emerged as Greece’s perhaps foremost new champion to get the marbles returned after SYRIZA said they belong to the world, not Greece, and gave up a court fight, preferring diplomacy, which has failed.

“Let the British Museum come here and make the comparison between this (Acropolis) museum of light and the murky, if I may say, prison of the British Museum where the Parthenon Marbles are held as trophies,” Pavlopoulos said from the Acropolis Museum, at a conference sponsored by his office, the Ministry of Culture and Sports, the International Association for the Reunification of the Parthenon Sculptures and the museum.

Supporters noted that the Acropolis Museum, which opened in 2009, was built specifically to house the marbles that were stolen nearly 200 years ago by Scottish diplomat Lord Elgin.

There was no response from the British Museum, said the news agency Reuters in a report on the conference but officials there have repeatedly said the stolen goods are now their property and will never be returned.

Lord Elgin removed the 2,500-year-old sculptures from the Acropolis temple in Athens during a period when Greece was under Ottoman rule. They have been placed in a gallery inside the British Museum in London, lit by a long skylight.

The Acropolis Museum holds the sculptures that Elgin left behind alongside plaster casts of the missing pieces, lit by the sun coming through a glass wall looking over the original site.

“This museum can host the Marbles,” Pavlopoulos said. “We are fighting a holy battle for a monument which is unique.”

The British Museum has refused to return the sculptures, saying they were acquired by Elgin under a legal contract with the Ottoman Empire, an invading occupying power which didn’t own them.

The museum and other British institutions have also resisted other repatriation campaigns citing legislation preventing them from breaking up collections and arguing that they can preserve items and present them to an international audience, Reuters also noted.


  1. “The British Museum has refused to return the sculptures, saying they were acquired by Elgin under a legal contract with the Ottoman Empire, an invading occupying power which didn’t own them.”
    Dealing In Stolen Items Is Akin To A “Fencing Operation.”

  2. I have had in the past visited the Parthenon (sans its metope sculptures) on the Acropolis in Athens, and as well as at that time the then so-called Acropolis Museum.
    I have likewise had the opportunity to have visited The British Museum in London and was totally exhilarated to be able to view the “Elgin Marbles” in their designated gallery for all to view, marvel and admire!
    They are and have been wonderfully displayed with all of the very best curatorial interest in a spacious gallery environment that is hardly a “room” or a “prison”.
    President Pavlopoulos should be grateful that these beautiful and precious artworks of world-re-known had been in some way “salvaged”, and meticulously cared for, and kept safe in a museum with better attention given to them than what would not have been so in Athens ( or anywhere else in Greece) up and until 2009 with the wonderful new Acropolis Museum of today.
    There are numerous works of Greek art that exists in many other international museums, that are equally respected for their magnificent beauty, that give great inspiration on a universal scale and homage to their homeland now and forever.
    It seems to me that President Pavlopouos has a P.T Barnum mentality in thinking of upping Greece’s tourism, by offering a new “spectacular side-show”. I cant blame him since Greece has had such a difficult and austere economic time, but such fool-hardy desperate measures are laughable in today’s contemporary and diversified global…

  3. I undertook my own research some years ago.
    This research in turn led me to the undoubted conclusion that the removal of the Parthenon Sculptures was both illegal and immoral.
    Why was it illegal and immoral?
    1. No actual original authority/edict (called a Firman) from the Ottoman Sultan to remove the Parthenon Sculptures has ever been produced/discovered.
    2. The document provided by Elgin’s agent to the British Parliament two hundred years ago (which is merely an English translation of an Italian translation of the supposed Firman) does not authorize the removal of Sculptures from the Parthenon structure.
    3. According to expert opinion, the format and wording used in the alleged document is inappropriate/inaccurate for the Ottoman Sultan’s Firman – ‘ergo’ the Firman did not exist.
    4. And, finally, the man actually responsible for the removal, the Rev. Philip Hunt (Elgin’s agent in Athens), admitted quite openly at the time to the British Parliament, that he was able to remove the Parthenon Marbles only through a combination of ‘cajolery, threats and bribery’ (testimony to the British Parliament in 1816).
    These issues are contained within my novel centred on the theft and return of the Parthenon Marbles, published as an ebook under the title: ‘The Devil’s Legacy’ and here in Greece in print form as: ‘ΣΥΝΩΜΟΣΙΑ ΣΤΟΝ ΙΕΡΟ ΒΡΑΧΟ’ (Εκδόσεις Χατζηλάκος).
    Tom Jackson,

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