May 19, 2009 / 4:26 PM / 9 years ago

Antiquities returned to Greece

ATHENS (Reuters) - Greece got back more than 200 classical and medieval antiquities from European countries, a step it hopes will help bring back the Parthenon marbles from Britain.

Greece’s Culture Ministry Tuesday presented the artifacts -- from ancient coins and vases to parts of a Byzantine church -- at a special ceremony in Athens.

“We are moved to receive today... these parts of our cultural heritage,” Culture minister Antonis Samaras told reporters at the Athens Archaeological museum. “These are not just pieces of art, but precious links to people’s historical identity.”

Greece has campaigned for decades to get back from the British Museum the Parthenon sculptures, also known as Elgin marbles, saying they are an integral part of one of the world’s most important monuments.

The British Museum, which contains roughly half of the 160 meter frieze that adorned the 2,500-year-old temple and was removed in 1801 by Lord Elgin, then British ambassador to the Ottoman empire, has refused to return the treasures.

Greece hopes to strengthen its case when it opens the new Acropolis Museum, especially designed to host the marbles, in June. It has campaigned for the return of treasures from around the world.

Germany, Belgium and Britain returned the hundreds of items shown Tuesday following Italy’s offer of two Parthenon fragments to the new Acropolis museum last year.

Reporting by Renee Maltezou; Editing by Dominic Evans

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