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Culture

Italy Returns Parthenon Marble Fragment to Greece, Precedent Seen

PALERMO – The so-called Fagan Fragment, a piece of the Parthenon Marbles that the Antonio Salinas Museum in Palermo, Italy returned to Greece in January will be kept by Greece the Acropolis Museum as a permanent fixture.

Greece hopes that it could create a movement to get back the stolen Parthenon Marbles that are housed in the British Museum, which acquired them 200 years earlier from a Scottish diplomat, Lord Elgin.

He stripped them off the famed monument with the permission of the occupying Ottoman Empire, which didn’t own them but the British Museum said although stolen that they were acquired legally.

The United Nations cultural arm UNESCO said that the United Kingdom, which had refused to intervene, has now agreed to start talks about giving Greece back its own treasures, no mention how long that could take.

When the Fagan Fragment – Artemis’ feet – was loaned back earlier in the year, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said there was “a dynamic that is being built, step-by-step’” for the repatriation of the Parthenon Marbles to Greece, the British newspaper The Daily Telegraph said.

Greece’s Culture Ministry and the Regional Government of Sicily, in a joint statement, said the Artemis fragment again now belongs to Greece after being kept by Robert Fagan, a former British consul for Sicily and Malta.

According to the Culture Ministry, the regional government in Sicily received approval from the national authorities in Italy to permanently return the fragment. Formal approval is expected soon.

“The procedure followed by the Government of Sicily and the Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Italy for the final repatriation to Athens of the Fagan fragment shows the clear and moral way for the return of the Parthenon Sculptures to Athens,” said Culture Minister Lina Mendoni.

The fragment depicts the foot of the goddess Artemis, peeking out from a beautifully crafted tunic. It was taken from the eastern frieze of the Parthenon, which depicts the gods of Olympus seated as they observe the delivery of the veil to Athena.

The fragment belongs to the eastern frieze of the Parthenon that shows the seated gods of Olympus watching the annual Panathenaic Procession in honor of the city’s patron, Athena.

The procession included the transfer of a woven veil to Athena’s statue in the Parthenon. Depicted in the “Fagan fragment” are the lower legs of Artemis, goddess of forests and hunting, whose body is depicted sideways.

But the return comes at a price. The Acropolis Museum will send to Sicily, for four years, a headless statue of Athena from the end of the 5th century BC and an amphora from the first half of the 8th century B.C.

 

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