- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 5, 2006


Greece yesterday showcased a 2,500-year-old marble statue fragment from the Parthenon returned by Germany’s Heidelberg University and predicted it will help reclaim Parthenon pieces at the British Museum.

“I am certain that the return of [this] fragment from Heidelberg will rekindle the discussion concerning the return of the scattered parts of the Parthenon,” Greek Minister of Culture George Voulgarakis said during a ceremony atop the Acropolis.

“This has historic significance,” he said.

Mr. Voulgarakis personally transported the fragment — the first from the dismembered Parthenon frieze to come back from a known location abroad — from Germany on board the Greek prime minister’s plane.

“This could be the most important act in my political career,” the minister told a Greek radio station last week.

Measuring 10 by 8 centimeters (3 by 4 inches), the fragment belongs to the Parthenon’s northern frieze, part of a sculpture depicting participants in a festival honoring the city’s patron goddess, Athena.

The heel fragment probably was removed from the Acropolis by a 19th-century visitor to the site and was first recorded at Heidelberg University in 1871, said Acropolis site supervisor Alkistis Horemi.

“Its edges were chiseled, it was used as a souvenir,” she said.

The word Parthenon has been carved in Greek into the back of the fragment.

Mr. Voulgarakis said Greece remains on a mission to recover all the missing parts of the Parthenon, which was badly damaged during a 17th-century Venetian siege of Athens.

According to the Greek Ministry of Culture, pieces of the fifth-century B.C. temple are found in London; Paris; Vienna, Austria; Rome and Palermo, Italy; Copenhagen; Munich and Wuerzburg, Germany.

But the holy grail of Greek efforts remains the British Museum’s collection of 56 sculpted friezes depicting gods, men and monsters that were removed from the Parthenon by agents of British ambassador Lord Elgin in 1806-11, at a time when Greece was part of the Ottoman Empire.

The Greeks for 20 years have demanded their return, complaining that the works — masterpieces executed at the height of the Greek classical period — were removed illegally and are part of the national heritage.

Greece says it is willing to discuss the prospect of cooperation, joint exhibits and loans with foreign institutions that restore contested antiquities.

In return for the marble fragment, Heidelberg University was given a Roman-era sculpted head on a five-year loan, Miss Horemi said.

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