The Vatican returned a marble head to Athens last week. The head was then fitted onto its rightful place (the body of a youth carrying a tray of sweets as an offering to Athena). Officials in Athens are hopeful that this gesture will just be the start of retrieving lost treasures. The head has been handed over in a one year loan deal.
The British museum in London holds many artifacts from the Parthenon which officials in Greece are eager to retrieve. Michalis Liapis the culture minister of Greece spoke of how he hopes the example set by the Vatican will lead others in a similar situation to have a rethink.
Two and a half thousand years ago the Parthenon was built in honor of the Greek goddess Athena. In 1687 Venetian forces attacked the Parthenon with cannon fire during Ottoman occupation.
Over a century later Lord Elgin took large pieces of the temple which he later sold to the British Museum. The British Museum has been steadfast in its refusal to return the pieces to Greece saying that the pieces were acquired in a perfectly legal manner and are available to see free of charge for visitors.
A spokeswoman for the British Museum Hannah Boulton said that the return of the marble head by the Vatican has not put any further pressure on them to return anything and has not changed their position.
Almost half of the Parthenon frieze is located at the British Museum. Other pieces can be seen at the Louvre as well as a handful of other museums.
Sources at the Vatican say the loan may be renewed at the end of the year and there is a possibility that other pieces of Parthenon sculptures they have may also be loaned out.