YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

Fragment of the Parthenon is sent back to Greece

September 06, 2006|From Reuters

ATHENS — Greece on Tuesday hailed the return of a small fragment of the Parthenon from a German university as a major step toward the return of the temple's sculptures from the British Museum.

The marble fragment of a foot, measuring only a few inches, was placed by Culture Minister George Voulgarakis back on the northern frieze of the 5th century BC Parthenon on Tuesday. Part of the frieze is now in the Acropolis Museum in Athens, but much is in London.

"For the first time in almost 200 years, a precious piece of the Parthenon abroad is put in its place," Voulgarakis said. "The Parthenon marbles have started to come home."

The 2,500-year-old Acropolis monuments are seen as the epitome of the Golden Age of Athens. The foot fragment comes from a procession frieze, much of which is in the British Museum as part of a collection widely known as the Elgin Marbles, after the British ambassador who took them from the Acropolis and transported them to Britain in 1802.

The late Greek actress and minister Melina Mercouri spearheaded a fiery campaign for their return in the 1980s, describing them as looted national treasures. The British Museum has repeatedly turned down such requests, saying the marbles are in better care in London, safe from the Athens pollution that has damaged those left behind.

Greece hopes a museum being built at the foot of the Acropolis, especially to house the marbles, will be ready in 2007.

"This is the first time that a request for the return of Parthenon marbles has been accepted," Voulgarakis said. "For the first time, the silent agreement among museums in possession of Parthenon sculptures has been broken."

Greek officials, eager to allay museums' fears the return of the marbles may open the way for other nations to demand antiquities back, have made clear the Parthenon is a special case of restoring a fragmented monument of world importance.

Los Angeles Times Articles