Acropolis. Parthenon fragement to return to Greece

Italy loans Parthenon fragment to Greece

By Region Culture News The Islands

Italy is returning a fragment of the Greek Parthenon’s eastern frieze back to Greece. It was originally bought by the University of Palermo from the widow of Robert Fagan, the British consul for Sicily and Malta.

Italy is returning a fragment belonging to the Parthenon’s eastern frieze to Greece in a new deal. The artefact is being returned on a four-year loan as part of a cultural exchange agreement between Sicily and Greece. The intention is for the loan period to be further extended by another four years. However, the move back to Greece could become permanent.  

This new loan deal puts increasing pressure on the UK to return several similar pieces known as the Elgin Marbles.

Foot of a goddess

The fragment,a goddess’s foot from the east side of the Parthenon frieze. Photograph: AP

The Italian marble fragment is the foot of a goddess, peeking out from beneath a tunic. The goddess depicted could be either Peitho or Artemis. It is currently held in the Antonino Salinas Regional Archaeological Museum in Palermo, Sicily.

The University of Palermo originally bought the piece in 1816 from the widow of Robert Fagan, the British consul for Sicily and Malta.

The loan back to Greece is being reciprocated. The Acropolis Museum in Athens will loan the Palermo museum a 5th-century BC headless statue of the goddess Athena, as well as an 8th-century BC amphora.

Cultural exchange

This exchange of pieces follows several years of negotiations between Sicily and Greece.

“Sending back to the context of its origins a small, but significant, fragment belonging to the Parthenon has a very strong symbolic value,” said Sicily’s councillor for culture, Alberto Samonà. “It is also a response to the international debate [about the Parthenon artefacts]. But I don’t want to get into that debate. For us, this is a gesture of friendship – Greece and Sicily are two areas of the Mediterranean that share a common story.”

The fragment was loaned to Greece in 2002 and in 2008. Samonà said the latest transfer could become permanent, but that it would be up to the Italian culture ministry to take the measures needed to make that happen.

The international debate referred to by Samonà is the ongoing argument concerning the Elgin Marbles held in the British Museum. Greece has argued for their return, while Britain claims they were legally acquired.

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