October 5, 2002

Italy to loan fragment of Parthenon Frieze to Greece

Posted at 2:11 pm in British Museum, Elgin Marbles

A small fragment of the Parthenon Frieze, one of a number of pieces dotted around Europe, looks likely to return to Athens on loan. The bulk of the sculptures are of course split between Greece & the British Museum – the other smaller fragments only make up about one percent of the total that survive.


Italy to loan Greece ‘lost’ antiquity
Friday, October 4, 2002 Posted: 11:01 AM EDT (1501 GMT

ROME, Italy — Italy says it will return a fragment of the 5th century B.C. Parthenon Marbles to Greece.

The return of part of the statue of Peitho, goddess of persuasion and seduction, could take place within weeks, officials say.

The fragment, currently held in a museum in Palermo, Sicily, depicts Peitho’s foot peeking out from under her elaborate tunic.

It was originally located on the eastern side of the Parthenon in Athens. It was purchased by the University of Palermo between 1818 and 1820 from the widow of Robert Fagan, the British consul for Sicily and Malta.

It’s not known how Fagan, an amateur archaeologist, acquired the piece.

Italy’s offer to lend the fragment to Greece for 99 years could reopen the controversy over ownership of the Parthenon Marbles, including the famed Elgin Marbles.

The statues are a series of sculptures in a frieze that once adorned the upper sections of the Parthenon.

The bulk of the statues were excavated by Lord Elgin in 1806 and sold to the British Museum in London in 1816, where they are on display.

Other pieces of the Parthenon frieze, carved by Phidias in the 5th century B.C., are disseminated throughout various European museums.

Greek authorities are hoping to reassemble the frieze in time for the 2004 Olympics in Athens.

Greek Culture Minister Evangelos Venizelos has said that Greece would accept a long-term loan of the Elgin Marbles from the British Museum. But the museum and British government have opposed such a move.

Italian President Carlo Azeglio Ciampi may hand the fragment to Greek authorities during his state visit next month.

Ciampi has spearheaded the initiative to return the fragment, although final approval will be necessary from the autonomous Sicilian government, which has sovereignty over the island’s cultural heritage.

Staff at the Salinas Regional Archaeological Museum in Palermo, which houses the fragment, oppose handing it over.

Agata Villa, director of the classic archaeology department at the museum, said: “We are always ready to lend exhibits or to allow copies to be made, but this kind of initiative can only impoverish our museum and deprive us of a piece that is part of our collection’s identity.

“I believe this to be an anti-cultural initiative. An archaeological find is valuable only when it’s part of the history and identity of the museum.”

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