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Boris Johnson won’t return 2,500-year-old Elgin Marbles to Greece as they had been ‘legally acquired’ by British Museum

Written by on 12 March 2021

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has rejected Athens’s demands for the return of the Parthenon Marbles, also known as the Elgin Marbles.

He argues they had been “legally acquired” and are rightfully owned by the British Museum.

The marbles are kept in the British Museum  Image: The marbles are kept in the British Museum. Pic: AP

“I understand the strong feelings of the Greek people – and indeed Prime Minister Mitsotakis – on the issue,” Mr Johnson told Greek newspaper Ta Nea.

“But the UK government has a firm longstanding position on the sculptures which is that they were legally acquired by Lord Elgin under the appropriate laws of the time and have been legally owned by the British Museum’s trustees since their acquisition.”

They used to be housed in the Parthenon in Ancient Greece  Image: They used to be housed in the Parthenon in Ancient Greece. Pic: AP The relics have long been a bone of contention between Greece and the UK. Pic: AP Image: The relics have long been a bone of contention between Greece and the UK. Pic: AP

The 2,500-year-old sculptures were removed from the Acropolis more than 200 years ago and have long been the subject of dispute.

The marbles were once in the ancient Greek Parthenon temple and other buildings on the Acropolis but around half were taken to Britain in the early 19th century by staff working for the Earl of Elgin, Thomas Bruce.

Greek culture minister Lina Mendoni has branded Elgin a “serial thief” and accused him of having used illegal tactics to take the marbles.

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