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London Mayor Proposes Sharing Agreement for Parthenon Sculptures

Parthenon Sculptures
The mayor of London has suggested a sharing agreement for the Parthenon sculptures. Credit: Alexander Gale / Greek Reporter

London Mayor Sadiq Khan has suggested that Greece and the UK should reach a “win-win arrangement” to share the Parthenon Sculptures.

The status of the Parthenon Sculptures has been a point of contention between the Greek and British governments, as well as the British Museum – where they currently reside – for decades. Various proposals have been made over the years but none have led to the dispute’s resolution.

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak reiterated the UK’s commitment to keeping the Parthenon Sculptures in the British Museum, emphasizing their significance as a “huge asset” to the country.

London Mayor’s Comments on the Parthenon Sculptures

“I’d really encourage the British Museum, the British government, the government of Greece and the Acropolis Museum in Athens to talk about how we can make more progress on this very issue,” Khan told the Greek daily newspaper Ta Nea on Saturday.

“I obviously want Londoners to be able to see the Elgin Marbles, but I don’t see why the British Museum, the British government, the government of Greece and the museum in Athens can’t come to an accommodation to share these wonderful, wonderful Elgin Marbles,” he continued.

“It is important for us to recognize that actually, not all the exhibits that are in the British Museum are ones that should just stay in London,” Khan added.

The Mayor of London has commented on the issue of the Parthenon Sculptures before. Last summer he said “I want them to stay in our city, but why can’t we share them?” he said, “I’d really encourage the British Museum, the British government and the government of Greece and the relevant appropriate place—the museum in Athens—to talk about how we can make progress on this issue.”

The dispute

The Parthenon Sculptures are of monumental cultural and historical importance to Greece. The Parthenon itself, which sits atop the Acropolis overlooking Athens, has endured as a symbol of Greek achievement for thousands of years.

It was July 31, 1801, when Thomas Bruce, the 7th Earl of Elgin, Ambassador of the United Kingdom in Constantinople, chipped away the first Parthenon Sculptures in Athens so that he could take them to Britain.

This would ultimately become the beginning of a two-century-old story of a cultural dispute between two friends and allies: Greece and the UK.

The Greek government has repeatedly urged the British Museum and UK government to return the sculptures to Greece where they would be housed in a specially built museum. However, after decades of diplomatic wrangling, no such agreement has come to pass.

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