Greece opens Acropolis Museum, wants marbles back

Greece inaugurated its long-delayed Acropolis Museum on Saturday with the prime minister calling for the Classical Parthenon marbles, held in Britain for 200 years, to be repatriated.

The 2 500-year-old sculptures were removed from the Parthenon in 1806 by Lord Elgin, then British ambassador to the Ottoman empire.

”All the marbles have to come back … it is not only the Greeks but the whole world that is asking for this,” Greek Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis told the opening ceremony, attended by about 400 dignitaries from around the world.

Planned to remind visitors of the 5th century BC monument visible across the street, the museum’s top floor layout mimics the main temple of the Acropolis, the Parthenon. The display shows where those sculptures housed in the British Museum in London, would fit.

”The Parthenon marbles will be reunited here, in the Acropolis Museum,” Culture Minister Antonis Samaras said.

The British Museum long refused to return the sculptures, saying Greece had no where to display the marbles. The construction of the new museum has not changed its stance. The crowd of dignitaries were taken to a tour of the 14 000 square metre museum, with particular focus on the missing pieces. White plaster moulds of Olympian gods, heroes and animals, fill in the gaps of slabs now in London.

”The head of Athena is in Athens, the torso is in the British Museum,” Dimitrios Pantermalis, president of the museum’s board of directors said, guiding the visitors. ”Some of these horses are in Athens but their heads are in London.”

While Greece has said a loan would not be good enough, Bonnie Greer, deputy chair of the British Museum’s board of trustees, who attended the ceremony, reiterated this idea.

”We’ve never been asked to loan them, and that is what we are waiting for,” she told Reuters.

Plagued by protests and bureaucratic delays for decades the museum will open to visitors on Sunday for one euro. Tickets for the first three days, available only on the internet, have sold out. – Reuters

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