A fragment of the Parthenon Marbles which returned from Italy to its home at the Acropolis Museum on Monday was welcomed in a special ceremony attended by PM Kyriakos Mitsotakis.
The symbolic and practical gesture made by the autonomous region of Sicily to hand over the “Fagan fragment” raises expectations for the repatriation of all the Parthenon Marbles.
The fragment, which belongs to the eastern frieze of the Parthenon, shows the seated gods of Olympus watching the annual Panathenaic Procession in honor of the city’s patron, the goddess Athena. The procession included the carrying of a golden veil to Athena’s statue in the Parthenon.
Depicted in the “Fagan fragment” are the lower legs of Artemis, the goddess of forests and hunting, whose body is depicted in a side view.
The return of the fragment to Athens piles pressure on the British Museum to follow suit.
PM Mitsotakis said that the return of the fragment “is a very important step because this is the first artifact returned from a foreign museum.”
“It paves the way for the British Museum to enter into serious discussions with the Greek authorities in order to find a solution that would be mutually acceptable. I did raise the issue when I visited the Prime Minister [Boris Johnson] and I was encouraged by the statement of the PM that the British government will not oppose an agreement between the Greek authorities and the British Museum,” Mitsotakis added.
Last week, Greece reunited fragments of the Parthenon Marbles exhibited at the Athens Archaeological Museum to the Acropolis Museum in a highly symbolic gesture, highlighting the Greek demand for the unification of the artifacts.
Italy a forerunner for returning Parthenon Marbles to Greece
Cultural Heritage Assessor and Sicilian Identity Councilor Dr. Alberto Samona, said that through this move Sicily becomes a forerunner on the issue of returning the Parthenon Marbles to Greece, contributing in key ways to the discussion taking place on global level.
He said that according to Italian legislation, the Antonino Salinas Museum “is transferring to the Museum of the Acropolis in Athens for four years, with the possibility of another four-year renewal, the Parthenon fragment that is currently kept at Palermo as part of the archaeological collection of British consul Robert Fagan, which was bought by the Royal University of Palermo in 1820.
“In exchange, two very significant objects from the collections of the Museum of the Acropolis will come to Palermo, each for a four-year period: an important headless statue of Athena, dated approximately to the end of the 5th century BC, and a Geometric amphora of the first half of the 8th century BC. The agreement also foresees joint initiatives that will be implemented by the collaboration of both museums on issues of cultural interest of a global scope.”
Samona confirmed that Sicily wishes “the permanent return of the fragment to Greece”.
Greek Minister of Culture Lina Mendoni explained the importance of the Fagan fragment’s return.
The Minister said that the piece is not a long-term loan (deposito) for exhibition, but with the prospect of remaining on a permanent basis (sine die) in the Acropolis Museum, reunited forever with the Parthenon frieze.
“The intention and aspiration of the Sicilian government to permanently repatriate the Palermo section to Athens, confirms the long-standing ties of cultural connection and brotherhood of the two regions,” Mendoni said.