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 Elgin Marbles dispute infographic
Graphic shows a timeline and a cutaway of the Parthenon, identifying where the Elgin Marbles come from.


Row between Britain and Greece over Elgin Marbles heats up

By Jordi Bou

November 28, 2023 - Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis accused his British counterpart Rishi Sunak of cancelling a scheduled meeting in London in a diplomatic row over the status of the Parthenon Marbles.

The Parthenon Sculptures, also known as the “Elgin Marbles” were taken from Greece in the early 19th century and have been displayed in Britain ever since – however, the debate over who rightfully owns these Greek artifacts continues to this day.

Thomas Bruce, the seventh Earl of Elgin, became British Ambassador to the Ottoman Empire in 1799. In 1801, he negotiated what he claimed was permission from the Turks – who then controlled Athens – to remove statues from the Parthenon.

The British Museum maintains that Elgin was an official diplomat and had acted with the permission of Turkish authorities. Greece argues that the Turks were a foreign force acting against the will of the people they had invaded.

The Marbles which were taken to Britain include about a half – around 75 metres– of the sculpted frieze that once ran all round the building, plus 17 life-sized marble figures from its pediments and 15 of the 92 metopes, or sculpted panels, originally displayed high up above its columns.

PUBLISHED: 28/11/2023; STORY: Graphic News; PICTURES: Getty Images, Newscom, Francesco Fanelli, Jastrow, Broomhall House, Trustees of British Museum