October 15, 2002

New opinion poll shows increase in support for return of Parthenon Marbles

Posted at 2:18 pm in British Museum, Elgin Marbles, Parthenon 2004

A new opinion poll commissioned by the Parthenon 2004 campaign shows that if certain conditions were met, the majority of British people would back the return of the Parthenon Sculptures.

BBC News

Tuesday, 15 October, 2002, 13:25 GMT 14:25 UK
Poll shows support for Marbles return

British people would strongly back the return of the Parthenon Marbles to Greece under certain conditions, according to a survey.

At least twice as many people polled felt that the artworks should be returned to Athens, compared with those who wanted them to remain in the UK.

Forty per cent of people felt the marbles should be returned, while 16% believed they should remain at the prestigious museum.

The figures are almost identical to a similar poll conducted in 1988.

But 56% of people felt the marbles, also known as the Elgin Marbles, should be housed in Greece – compared with 7% of people who felt they should stay if at least one of five conditions were met.

The conditions were:

  • The marbles were given to Greece on a long-term loan but Britain would still own them
  • The marbles were given to Greece on a long-term loan but Britain would still own them and have joint care of the marbles
  • A new Acropolis museum in Greece was built to house them
  • Greece provided the British Museum with other exhibitions of Greek antiquity
  • Greece undertook to make no further claims to make no further claims to other pieces of art/artwork of historical value

According to the British Committee for the Restitution of the Parthenon Marbles, the Greek Government has agreed to meet each one of the conditions.

Liberal Democrat MP Richard Allan, who supports the return of the Marbles, said the survey had undermined arguments that it would mean they were no longer accessible to British people.

He said: “One of the most startling figures which came out of the survey was that 4% of the British people have visited the sculptures which are in Athens and only 9% had been to see those in the British Museum.”

The committee has now called on the UK Government to discuss the return of the artworks to Greece.

It believes they can be returned in time for the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens.

The 56 sculpted friezes were sent to the British Museum after their removal from Greece during Ottoman Turkish rule.


They date from between 447 and 432 BC and depict the most formal religious ceremonies of ancient Athens – the Panathenaea procession.

In 1799 the British ambassador to the Ottoman Empire, Lord Elgin, removed the friezes and brought them to the UK.

“There is now widespread public support in Britain for bringing together all the sculptures of the Parthenon,” said a statement released by the committee.

More than 2,000 people were questioned for the poll.

A spokesman for the British Museum said its position was unchanged.

“We have five million visitors a year from around the globe. The point of the museum is that it enables anybody to explore the past and understand the present wherever they come from.”

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