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Disagreement between Britain and Greece over ancient sculptures

This is the question that has poisoned the relationship between London and Athens since the beginning of the nineteenth century.

Then Lord Elgin, the British ambassador to the Ottoman Empire, had a large quantity of marble sculptures from the Parthenon and other buildings dismantled on the rock of the Acropolis in Athens. It ended up in the British Museum in London, where it is displayed to this day under the name “Elgin Marbles.”

Since 1835, Greece has demanded the return of the Parthenon sculptures to Athens. Britain claims just as forcefully that it belongs to London. 60 years ago, a special law was passed explicitly prohibiting their return.

To prove stability The issue of sculpture has become a necessity for senior politicians in both countries.

So it made sense for Mitsotakis to mention this during his visit to London this week. Once there on Sunday, he told the BBC that the sculptures were “essentially stolen”, likening the placement of the famous frieze in London to “cutting the Mona Lisa in two”.

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak responded by canceling a planned meeting with Mitsotakis at his residence at 10 Downing Street. Then Mitsotakis’ reaction was “discontent and resentment,” which are unusually harsh words between the two allied countries.

In Great Britain, the issue of Greek marble sculptures became a hot-button domestic political issue.

Photo: TT

Sources close to Sunak told the BBC The Greek side had promised that Mitsotakis would not take the sculptures During his visit to London. This seems unlikely, because mentioning it is almost necessary for Mitsotakis for domestic political reasons.

However, the meeting was planned It would take place without any press conference afterward, as questions about the sculptures inevitably arose.

Because even in Great Britain, this issue is a hot-button domestic political issue.

Sunak and his government believe that the sculptures belong to the British Museum of that period. They like to portray the opposition leader, Labour’s Keir Starmer, as someone willing to give them up and hand them over.

Starmer, who met Mitsotakis on Monday, is certainly somewhat more open to loaning out the Elgin Marbles to Athens. But he is not ready to permanently change the law prohibiting their deportation.

The Labor Party, which is widely ahead in the opinion polls Ahead of next year’s election, he is of course also trying to capitalize on the canceled Downing Street meeting.

A party spokesman told the BBC: “Pitting a fight with a NATO ally for some headlines shows how weak Rishi Sunak is.”

There is no solution to this issue in sight. The British Museum suggested that some of the sculptures could be loaned to Athens, while other artefacts could be loaned to London.

Plaster copies in the Acropolis Museum in Athens refer to the sculptures whose originals are in London.

Photo: TT

But it is difficult to imagine that the Greek side agrees to this. On the British side, many fear that the sculptures, if loaned, will never be returned.

A third of the Parthenon statues are on display in the Acropolis Museum in Athens. Works once installed by Lord Elgin are highlighted with blanks or plaster reproductions.

fact.The carvings are 2,500 years old

The Parthenon Sculptures are decorations and sculptures from the Parthenon temple on the Acropolis in Athens, including a frieze that was originally 160 meters long.

The sculptures were created between 447 and 432 BC.

Between 1801 and 1805, much of the sculptures were dismantled by order of the British diplomat Lord Elgin, who was ambassador to the Ottoman Empire (to which Athens then belonged).

The official Greek position, since 1835, has been that this was theft. The British position is that Lord Elgin obtained permission from the Ottoman authorities to remove the sculptures.

The Elgin collection was sold in 1816 to the British government and was subsequently placed in the British Museum as part of the permanent exhibition there. Nearly a third of the decorations remain in Athens, where they have been on display in the Acropolis Museum since 2009.

Read more:

Sunak: The Parthenon frieze remains in London

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