The British Museum in London is reported to be close to hammering out a deal with the Acropolis Museum in Athens regarding the hotly contested Parthenon Marbles that have been in the possession of the English institution since the nineteenth century. According to Bloomberg, the two parties are near to reaching a loan agreement that would see a “proportion of the marbles sent to Athens on rotation over several years.” The news outlet quoted anonymous sources as saying that British Museum chairman George Osborne was amenable to displaying plaster facsimiles of the marbles sent to Athens, and that a cultural exchange of artifacts between the two museums was being considered. British daily The Telegraph went so far as to assert that an agreement had been drawn up. A Greek official told The Guardian, however, that there was as yet no deal between the two museums, and that they remained far apart on some issues.
Also known as the Elgin marbles, the antiquities in question date to between 447 BCE and 432 BCE and include fifteen metopes, seventeen pedimental figures, and a nearly 250-foot section of a frieze depicting a festival procession celebrating the birthday of the Greek goddess Athena. All were taken from the Acropolis in 1801 by Lord Elgin, then the British ambassador to the Ottoman Empire. Allegedly having been given permission by Ottoman authorities to do so, he transported the marbles out of the country and sold them to trustees of the British Museum, which has held them in its collection since 1816. Greece since 1983 has actively sought their return, on the grounds that consent offered by authorities of a no-longer-extent regime is meaningless and that the items were taken without the consent of the Greek people.
Until now, officials at the British Museum had been unwilling to confirm that they were in talks with Greek officials regarding the marbles, though they were rumored to be. On January 4, however, a spokesperson from the London institution told The Guardian, “We’ve said publicly we’re actively seeking a new Parthenon partnership with our friends in Greece and as we enter a new year constructive discussions are ongoing.”