Everything you need to know about the Elgin Marbles
The Elgin Marbles, also known as the Parthenon Sculptures, are a collection of classical Greek marble sculptures that originally decorated the Parthenon temple in Athens. They are considered some of the finest surviving sculptures from ancient Greece.
In the early 19th century, the 7th Earl of Elgin removed about half of the surviving sculptures from the Parthenon while serving as the British ambassador to the Ottoman Empire. He had obtained a controversial permit from the Ottoman authorities who then ruled Greece to remove sculptures from the Acropolis. The Earl later sold the marbles to the British Museum in London in 1816 where they remain on display today as the museum's most prized possession.
However, Greece has long disputed the British Museum’s ownership of the sculptures and has demanded their return ever since gaining independence in 1830. They argue that Lord Elgin illegally stole the marbles, which they consider the most important sculptures from the iconic Parthenon, and that they should be reunited with other Parthenon artifacts in Athens where they belong as an integral part of Greek heritage.
The Elgin Marbles debate remains one of the most notorious restitution cases worldwide with strong arguments on both sides. While the British Museum claims legal ownership and that the works are best preserved there, Greece asserts these are loot from their most treasured landmark and that they would be safest displayed in their original home. Despite ongoing talks between UK and Greek officials, there has been little sign of progress on resolving the two centuries-old diplomatic and cultural row.