The Venus de Milo is considered to be one of the masterpieces of Greek antiquity. Believed to date back to 130BC, the marble statue was created by Alexandros of Antioch and discovered in pieces by a peasant among ancient ruins near the town of Tripiti on Milos in 1820. The push for its return follows a long-running campaign by the Greek government for the repatriation of the Elgin Marbles from the British Museum, along with a similar push in Italy demanding that the Louvre return Leonardo da Vinci’s “Mona Lisa” to Florence.

Olivier Voutier, a French naval officer, was said to have negotiated the purchase of Venus when Milos was part of the Ottoman Empire. It was presented to King Louis XVIII and transferred to the Louvre in 1821, where it has remained ever since. Some still question whether it was bought or stolen. Now, the council is looking for broader international backing.

Gerasimos Damoulakis, a hotel owner who has been the mayor for eight years, is spearheading a repatriation campaign, called “Take Me Home”.

"We are angry. It is 200 years since it was stolen. It should be given back. It is not just a statue – it is a masterpiece of Greek history, it is our obligation to our ancestors and our children to bring back this historical treasure to the island."

Milos has a population of just 5,000 permanent residents – but this swells to 35,000 in the summer months as Greek and foreign tourists are drawn to its beaches and ancient ruins. Last year, the council voted in favour of taking “dynamic action” to push for the statue’s repatriation, and this year the campaign has taken top billing on promotions for summer concerts, theatre performances and other cultural events. Damoulakis aims to bring the statue back by 2020 and says a building has been set aside to house it. He says that Greece’s 325 municipalities have endorsed the campaign – but a bid to gather a million signatures of support faltered and only attracted around 10,000.

The mayor met Christophe Chantepy, the French ambassador to Greece, in Athens a year ago – but appeals for support from the French government appear to have gone nowhere. Louvre officials were unavailable for comment. Locals are not too impressed either. Antonis Mallis, a travel agency director, would like to see the statue returned but thinks it is an “impossible” goal.

"The mummies belong to the Egyptians, the [Elgin] Marbles belong to the Parthenon – all these things have been taken from civilisations and should be returned, but no museum will allow this to happen because it would create a loophole that would allow all the museums to be emptied." 

So will the original goddess ever return to Milos? Moschoula Mavrogianni, a local boutique owner, sums it up best.

"It is a dream. They will never give it back. It is the same with the Elgin Marbles. They are still there."