Greece has tried lawsuits, appeals to European and global humanitarian and cultural courts, please, threats--anything to get the Parthenon Marbles back to Greece. Now Greece is offering the British Museum unique ancient archaeological pieces in exchange for the Parthenon Marbles, reports the Independent.

The Parthenon Marbles, also known as the Elgin Marbles, is a collection of classical Greek marble sculptures, inscriptions and architectural members that originally were part of the Parthenon and other buildings on the Acropolis of Athens. Thomas Bruce, the 7th Earl of Elgin obtained a controversial permit from the Ottoman authorities to remove pieces from the Parthenon while serving as the British ambassador to the Ottoman Empire from 1799 to 1803. Since then, there has been great controvercy surrounding the legitimacy of this permit and the validity of the UK's claim to keep the Marbles instead of sending them home to Greece. The UK, however, maintains its claim and it does not look like they will release it any time soon.

Now it seems the Athenian government, which decided against taking legal action against the UK last year, will instead renew diplomatic efforts with an offer to regularly loan some of the wonders of Ancient Greece to British institutions in exchange as a symbolic act in the fight against anti-democratic forces seeking 'the dissolution of Europe'.

Greek museums hold astonishing art works created in antiquity. The arrival of art such as the 'golden mask of Agamemnon' or the statue of Zeus/Poseidon, which could be expected to cause widespread interest. Lydia Koniordou, the Greek Minister of Culture and Sport, said allowing the restoration of this founding monument of Western values would send a message about Europe’s commitment to democracy – at a time when many believe this is under threat from rising nationalism.

"The reunification of the Parthenon Marbles will be a symbolic act that will highlight the fight against the forces that undermine the values and foundations of the European case against those seeking the dissolution of Europe. The Parthenon monument represents a symbol of Western civilization. It is the emblem of democracy, dialogue and freedom of thought."

Greece is carrying out restoration work on the Parthenon and has built a museum specifically designed to display the sculptures, but currently only has slightly less than half of them. Other fragments are held by several museums in Europe.  Elgin’s staff removed the sculptures somewhat crudely – for example, the heads of a centaur and a human in a dramatic fight scene are in Athens, while their bodies are in London.

Professor Louis Godart, the newly elected chairman of the International Association for the Reunification of the Parthenon Sculptures (IARPS), said:

"It’s unthinkable that a monument which has been torn apart 200 years ago, which represents the struggle of the world's first democracy for its own survival, is divided into two. We must consider that the Parthenon is a monument that represents our democratic Europe so it is vital that this monument be returned to its former glory. [The Greek government has] resolved to renew and intensify its efforts for the return of the Parthenon Sculptures. The centrepiece of Greece’s renewed push for the return of the sculptures will be a proposal – made in a true spirit of compromise – to offer recurring, long-term loans of rare archaeological treasures from Greek museums in exchange for the return of the Parthenon Sculptures from the British Museum. Greece and its supporters will not rest until all the known surviving sculptural elements from the Parthenon are reunited in the Acropolis Museum in full view of the monument which they once adorned."

Andrew George, chairman of the British Association for the Reunification of the Parthenon Sculptures, said returning the sculptures to Athens would help the UK's reputation in Europe following the Brexit referendum vote.

“Britain has nothing to lose and so much to gain from engaging with the Greek Government in this way. A gracious act by the British would lift our reputation at the very moment our otherwise threadbare negotiating position with the EU appears so grubby and self-seeking. Such a high level and deeply symbolic gesture of this kind would also help counteract the tide of growing right-wing intolerance that is taking hold across Europe. Britain has nothing to lose but a deeply damaged reputation – having clung on for over 200 years to such important artefacts which were stolen from the Greeks when they could do nothing to stop it – and has much to gain at the very time Britain's reputation needs enhancing amongst those countries it wants to do a deal with. And the offer of ancient treasures from Greece “would more than compensate for the apparent loss [of the Marbles].

The British Government has routinely dismissed calls for the return of the sculptures to Greece.
A spokesman for the Department of Culture, Media and Sport said:

"The Parthenon sculptures were acquired legally in accordance with the law of the time. They are the responsibility of the trustees of the British Museum who are legally responsible for their care."