The Parthenon Marbles, also known as the Elgin Marbles, are a set of 2,500-year-old sculptures originally from ancient Greece—and the subject of one of the most contested art repatriation disputes. A Scottish nobleman removed them from the ruins of the Parthenon, in Athens, in 1801 and sold them to the British government. London’s British Museum has had them on display for nearly 200 years, although the Greek government has repeatedly asked for their return.
The seventh Earl of Elgin, who took the marbles, argued he was helping to preserve them, and the British Museum maintains that it acquired the sculptures legally so it shouldn’t have to return them. But advocates for their repatriation argue that the treasures belong in Athens where they originated and where the other half of the Marbles currently reside.
In 2021, a committee from UNESCO, a United Nations agency, voted unanimously to recommend returning the Parthenon Marbles. The United Kingdom initially disputed the decision. But in June, the British Museum’s Chairman, George Osborne, said there is a “deal to be done” regarding their possible return.