ATHENS – After a 17-year legal battle, Greece will finally receive hundreds of looted artifacts, among them a 2nd-Century bronze statue of Alexander the Great. The pieces were in the possession of British antiquities dealer Robin Symes, who had unlawfully acquired them.
Symes had accumulated a vast collection of stolen art from illicit traders, including 351 pieces originating from Greece. The repatriation of these artifacts was announced by Culture Minister Lina Mendoni, signaling a significant victory for Greece, according to the BBC.
Greece has been engaged in a long-standing battle to recover stolen treasures from museums and private collectors. While a deal has been reached for the gradual return of 161 artifacts from the collection of New York billionaire Leonard Stern over the course of several decades, the fight for restitution continues.
The British Museum, home to the stolen Parthenon Marbles, has refused to return them, instead offering Greece a loan on the condition that other treasures are put up as collateral, serving as insurance for their eventual return.
Culture Minister Mendoni did not specify whether the artifacts in Symes’ collection were linked to the discovery made by Italian and Swiss authorities in 2016. During that time, a significant haul of archaeological treasures, allegedly belonging to Symes, was found in a Swiss freeport.
In a brief moment of hope, the Vatican returned three fragments of the Parthenon temple in March, after having kept them for centuries. However, expectations for the British Museum to follow suit and repatriate the stolen marbles were quickly dashed.
The pieces set to be returned from Symes’ collection include a Neolithic-era statuette made of white stone (4th millennium BC), an Early Cycladic figurine (3200-2700 BC), a damaged marble statue of an Archaic kore (550-500 BC), a broken bronze statue of Alexander the Great during his youth (late 2nd century AD), and an Archaic marble head of either a kore or a sphinx (550-500 BC).
Mendoni noted that the fight to reclaim these artifacts began in 2006 when Greek authorities initiated an investigation into the Robin Symes company. However, no explanation was given as to why it has taken so long to retrieve the stolen goods.