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New Acropolis Museum Opened With Lavish Party

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« on: June 20, 2009, 07:09:12 am »

                                      New Acropolis Museum to open with lavish party

Associated Press Writer
Elena Becatoros

– The golden age of ancient Athens comes to life Saturday as Greece opens its new Acropolis Museum with a lavish party, bolstering its long campaign for the return of 2,500-year-old sculptures stripped
from the citadel more than two centuries ago.

Years of delays and often vociferous criticism about the museum's hulking design and location in the capital's old district come to an end with a nearly euro3 million ($4.1 million) opening ceremony to be attended by foreign heads of state and government — though conspicuously not from Britain, where
the sculptures currently reside.

The reinforced concrete and glass structure sits near the foot of the ancient citadel like a skewed
stack of glass boxes. With UV coating on its walls of windows, air filters and climate control, the
euro130 million ($180 million) museum is Greece's answer to the argument that it had nowhere to
safely house the frieze pried off the Parthenon in the 19th century by British diplomat Lord Elgin and currently displayed in London's British Museum.

"This new state of the art Acropolis Museum now demolishes that excuse," said Culture Minister Antonis Samaras, who on Friday described the sculptures widely known as the Parthenon, or Elgin, Marbles, as being in "enforced exile."

Greece sees the return of the sculptures — part of a stunning 160-meter (525-foot) marble frieze mainly of a religious procession that adorned the top of the ancient citadel's grandest structure, the
Parthenon — as an issue of national pride.

The Parthenon was built at the height of Athens' glory between 447-432 B.C. in honor of the city's patron goddess, Athena. Despite its conversion into a Christian church, and Ottoman occupation from the 15th century, it survived virtually intact until a Venetian cannon shot caused a massive explosion in 1687. Elgin removed about half the surviving sculptures in the early 1800s, when Greece was an unwilling part of the Ottoman Empire.

"On this momentous day, at this historic site, we appeal to everyone around the world who believes in the values and ideas that emerged on the slopes of the Acropolis, to join our quest to bring the missing Parthenon marbles home," Samaras said.

The British Museum has repeatedly rejected calls for their return. It says it legally owns the collection it bought from Elgin, who sold it to stave off bankruptcy, and that it is displayed free of charge in an international cultural context.

"I think they belong to all of us. We are all global citizens these days," said British Museum spokeswoman Hannah Boulton.

But on the top floor of the new Acropolis Museum, Greece's counter-argument — that the sculptures were looted from a work of art so important that the surviving pieces should all be exhibited together — is displayed in stark relief.

The glass hall with a 360-degree panoramic view onto central Athens and the Parthenon itself displays the section of the frieze that Elgin left behind, joined to plaster casts of the works held in London.

The soft brownish patina of the original marble contrasts starkly with the bright white of the plaster casts sent by the British Museum in 1845: battle scenes are cut jaggedly in half, with the torso and heads of warriors and horses in London and the legs in Athens. The attempt to shock is deliberate.

"Until the missing marbles are back, all people, Greeks and non-Greeks alike, who visit this museum will feel great pride and great anguish when they walk up to the Parthenon Gallery and see the inspiring sculptures from the temple interspersed with the replicas of the pieces in the British Museum," Samaras said.

"It is like looking at a family picture and seeing images of loved ones far away or lost to us."

But the museum is not only about the Parthenon Marbles.

With about 150,000 square feet (14,000 square meters) of exhibition space, it holds more than 4,000 ancient works, many of them never displayed before due to lack of space in the cramped old museum which sat atop the Acropolis hill.

Now, visitors can walk among statues and friezes with surviving traces of paint; view fragments of sculptures and coins still bearing scorch marks from the Persians' sacking of the city in 480 B.C.; gaze through three stories of glass floors from the top of the museum straight into the foundations, where construction revealed an entire underlying neighborhood of ancient and early Christian Athens.

The museum opens to the public on Sunday. Entry is at a nominal charge of euro1 ($1.40) until the end of the year, when it will increase to euro5. The first four days are already completely sold out through Internet sales.


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« Reply #1 on: June 20, 2009, 07:15:54 am »

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« Reply #3 on: June 20, 2009, 07:23:28 am »

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« Reply #5 on: June 20, 2009, 07:28:39 am »

                                              New look for ancient city of Athens

By Rick Steves
Tribune Media Services
aPRIL 28, 2009

A century and a half ago, Athens was a humble, forgotten city of about 8,000 people. Today, one out of every three Greeks packs into this city of about 4 million.

Athens has been famous for its sprawl, noise, and pollution. My advice has long been to see the big sights, then get out. But visiting it recently to research a new guidebook, I've seen a dramatic change. The city has made a concerted effort to curb pollution, clean up and pedestrianize the streets, spiff up the museums, build a new airport, and invest in one of Europe's better public-transit systems.

Even with its new look, the Greek capital still has its "big three" sights: the stunning Acropolis, the Ancient Agora just below, and the remarkable National Archaeological Museum. But coming in June is the opening of a fourth big sight — one that will stoke a battle over Greece losing her marbles more than 200 years ago (more on that later).

To many, the most important ancient site in the Western world is the Acropolis, rising gleaming like a beacon above the gray concrete drudgery of modern Athens. This is where the Greeks built the mighty Parthenon — the most famous temple on the planet, and an enduring symbol of ancient Athens' glorious Golden Age from nearly 2,500 years ago.

The major monuments of the Acropolis survive in remarkably good condition. While the Persians, Ottomans, and British were cruel to the site in the past, the greatest dangers it faces now are acid rain and pollution. Ongoing restoration means that you might see some scaffolding — but even that can't take away from its greatness. I like to come late in the day, as the sun goes down, when the white Parthenon stone gleams a creamy golden brown.

While the Acropolis was the city's ceremonial showpiece, it was the Ancient Agora that was the real heart of classical Athens. For some 800 years, it was the hub of all commercial, political, and social life and home to many of the city's religious rites.

Little survives in the Agora from the classical period. Other than one very well-preserved temple and a rebuilt portico, it's a field of humble ruins nestled in the shadow of the Acropolis. But that makes it a quiet, uncrowded spot to wander and get a feel for the ancients. Romantics can't help but get goose bumps as they kick around the same pebbles that once stuck in Socrates' sandals, with the floodlit Parthenon forever floating ethereally overhead.

North of the city center is the world's best collection of ancient Greek art, the National Archaeological Museum. It takes you from 7000 B.C. to A.D. 500 on a beautifully displayed and well-described sweep through Greek history, from prehistoric and Mycenaean artifacts through the evolution of classical Greek statuary.

This museum now has a worthy competitor — the New Acropolis Museum, slated to open in June. It's a world-class space, custom-built to showcase the Parthenon sculptures, along with truckloads of other artifacts, all complemented by modern exhibits. And the state-of-the-art building itself is worth a look, as the boldest symbol yet of the post-Olympics vision for Athens.

The new museum also serves as a sort of 21st-century Trojan horse, intended to lure the famous Elgin marbles (the Parthenon sculptures) away from London's British Museum. In the early 19th century, the British ambassador to the Ottomans, Lord Elgin, got permission to strip marble panels from the Parthenon and take them to England.

For years, the Greeks have asked for the marbles back, and for years, the Brits have responded with claims that Greece can't give them a suitable home. And yet, now that this state-of-the-art facility is ready and waiting, it still seems unlikely that the marbles will be returned anytime soon.

Britain is reluctant to give in, for fear of setting a precedent — and getting "me, too" notices from Italy, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, and all the other nations who'd like the missing pieces of their cultural heritage back. But even without the Elgin marbles, this new museum will be worth the wait, capturing the timeless splendor of ancient Athens in an ultra-modern building.

Athens is more than a showcase for its past. Take some time to smell the souvlaki, whether by wandering through the touristy Plaka district, browsing through the Monastiraki flea market, or exploring the Psyrri neighborhood, the cutting-edge place to go for nightlife and dining. The narrow winding streets can be confusing, but you can't get too lost with a monument the size of the Acropolis looming overhead to keep you oriented.

Rick Steves


writes European travel guidebooks and hosts travel shows on public television and public radio.
His syndicated column runs weekly at

The Seattle Times Company
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« Reply #6 on: June 20, 2009, 07:30:14 am »

                          Greece recovers stolen antiquities from Germany, Belgium, Britain

 Posted : Tue, 19 May 2009
Author : DPA 
Category : Culture
Culture General News

- Germany, Belgium and Breitain have returned hundreds of priceless artifacts to Greece, the oldest a 5th century coin, Greek Culture Ministry officials said Tuesday. Among the items retuned from Germany included 96 copper and ceramic pots and vessels, dating from the 3rd or 4th century BC from Thessaly, in northern Greece.

Officials said the items were seized by customs authorities at Nuremberg, Germany in 2007 in a truck arriving from Greece.

"Many of these items were returned with the cooperation of German authorities and the Greek Consul General in Munich," Culture Minister Antonis Samaras said at a presentation of the newly displayed
items at the Archaeological Museum in Athens.

The minister presented hundreds of fragments of pottery and copper coins dating from the 5th to 3rd century BC which were returned to Greece from Belgium.

Samaras also unveiled a piece of marble, dating from the 11th or 12th century, taken from a Byzantine temple in the Ancient Agora by a British tourist in the 1950's.

The marble fragment was returned recently to the Greek Embassy in London by a family member of the British tourist, saying they supported the return of the Parthenon Marbles to Greece.

Greece's government has launched a campaign to recover ancient artefacts and religious art smuggled out of the country and acquired by private collectors and museums.

Over the past few years, Greece has reclaimed antiquities from Italy, the J Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles and the Shelby White collection in New York.

For years Greece has called on Britain to hand back the fifth century BC Parthenon marbles, currently housed in a special gallery at the British Museum.

The friezes, also known as the Elgin Marbles, were removed from atop the Acropolis by Lord Elgin, who was Britain's ambassador to the Ottoman Empire at the time.

The 2,500-year-old sculptures, depicting 160 metres of religious and mythological scenes, have been held by the British Museum since 1816 after they were sold by Elgin, despite ongoing Greek efforts to have them repatriated.

The British Museum has refused to return them, insisting that the transaction was legal as Elgin obtained permission to remove them from Greece's then rulers, the Ottoman Empire.

Athens hopes to display them in a new 100-million-euro (130- million-dollar) museum, which is due to
be inaugurated to the public on June 20, but the British Museum has said in the past that there was
no sense in returning them as more people could see them where they were.
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« Reply #7 on: June 20, 2009, 07:31:50 am »

                              No invite for Lord Elgin heirs as New Acropolis Museum opens

Europe Features
By Christine Pirovolakis
May 21, 2009
Deutsche Press Agentur

- When Greece's long-awaited Acropolis Museum finally opens its doors next month, foreign presidents, international dignitaries and officials from the British Museum will be invited to celebrate.

But one group has been banned from party: the descendants of Lord Thomas Elgin - the man Greece blames for removing friezes from the ancient Parthenon temple and then selling them to the British Museum in London, where they are currently on display.

Located at the foot of the ancient Acropolis in Athens, the new 20,000-square-metre museum was planned as the new home for the 160- metre-long strip of marble that adorned the Parthenon until 1801.

'The opening of the Acropolis Museum is a major world event and on June 20th it will be a day of celebration for all civilized people, not just for Greeks alone,' Greek Culture Minister Antonis Samaras said.

Greece will mark the opening of the new museum, nearly three decades after the building was first proposed, with a week-long party.

The new 120-million-euro (160-million-dollar) museum is the Greek government's key argument for the return of the Parthenon, or Elgin, marbles from Britain.

Lord Elgin, the British Ambassador to the Ottoman Empire, removed the friezes from the temple when Athens was under Ottoman occupation some 200 years ago.

They were then sold to the British Museum which has since refused to relinquish the sculptures that include depictions of religious and mythological scenes, insisting the transaction was legal.

London has long argued that Athens lacks a proper display space to ensure the safety and preservation for these priceless antiquities.

The Greek government, it appears, is set to prove them wrong.

Designed by New York architect Bernard Tschumi to offer visitors direct visual contact with the Parthenon temple itself, the entire top-floor gallery of the new museum offers a simultaneous view of the frieze and the ancient site.

The top-floor gallery fits the exact dimensions of the Parthenon temple and its 115 panels. Greece only possesses 36 of them, but will display replicas of the rest.

Constructing such a vast museum in one of the world's most ancient cities was not an easy task.

Almost as soon as workers began digging at the site, a settlement from the 5th century was uncovered, forcing contractors to call in archaeologists.

Rather than re-locate the museum, the architectural team decided to build the modern steel and glass structure on concrete stilts above the archaeological diggings.

The government is hoping to attract 2,500 visitors during the first three days after the opening.


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"No invite for Lord Elgin heirs as New Acropolis Museum opens (Feature) - Monsters and Critics" -

THE "ELGIN" MARBLES:,3935.0.html
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« Reply #8 on: June 20, 2009, 07:33:10 am »

                            Greece Rejects British Museum’s Terms for Elgin Marbles Loan

By Maria Petrakis
June 11, 2009

-- Greece said it won’t accept the British Museum’s conditions for allowing the Elgin Marbles, a collection of disputed ancient artworks, to go on display at the New Acropolis Museum.

Culture Minister Antonis Samaras said the museum’s loan condition -- that Greece acknowledge the fifth-century B.C. antiquities as the property of the British Museum -- would be unacceptable to any Greek government.

“Accepting this is tantamount to legitimizing the snatching of the marbles and the carving up of the monument 207 years ago,” Samaras said in an e-mailed statement.

He said Greece would be willing to loan other antiquities to the British Museum “to fill the gap when the marbles are returned to the country they belong.”

The New Acropolis Museum, constructed to house antiquities from the 2,500-year-old Parthenon Temple, officially opens on June 20. Replicas of the artworks in London, which were taken from the Parthenon by Lord Elgin in the 19th century, while Greece was under Ottoman rule, will be displayed alongside relics left in Greece.

Successive U.K. governments have declared that the marbles will not be returned. The British Museum’s director, Neil MacGregor, said in a 2007 interview that objects in the collection could in theory be loaned for three or six months, though this would be impossible while the Greek government refuses to acknowledge that his trustees are the legal owners of the stones.

The fifth-century B.C. frieze depicts gods, giants, people and centaurs in the annual Panathenaic procession.

For more information on the museum, go to http:

To contact the writer on the story:
Maria Petrakis in Athens at
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« Reply #9 on: June 20, 2009, 07:35:28 am »


                                                        Romancing the Stones

By Cathleen McGuigan
Published Jun 6, 2009
From the magazine issue
dated Jun 15, 2009

It's not polite to call the Elgin Marbles the Elgin Marbles anymore.

Not even in the British Museum, where the ancient Greek sculptures and reliefs have resided since the
early 19th century, after a British ambassador to the Ottoman Empire named Lord Elgin hacked them
off the Parthenon.

Even in that age of imperialism, many Brits saw Elgin's acts as cultural vandalism. Lord Byron slammed
the marbles' removal in his bestselling epic poem Childe Harold's Pilgrimage.

The call for their return has grown since Greece won its independence from Ottoman rule in 1829, led by the Greek government in particular since the 1980s. In the noisy debate over the restitution of ancient artworks to their original locale, no case is more controversial or inflamed than the question of the Parthenon marbles: should the British finally send them back?

Later this month a new Acropolis Museum will open in the shadow of the Parthenon in Athens.

The building is more than a bold composition in glass, steel, concrete and stone: it is architecture as argument, explicitly meant to sway opinion over the fate of the marbles. Designed by the Swiss-born,
New York–based Bernard Tschumi, the three-level structure begins to express its agenda in the way it defers to an ancient settlement that was discovered during excavation of the construction site. (The building was adapted so that it is raised on concrete pillars, allowing archeological work to continue beneath it—and with glass floors that will give visitors a dramatic view of the ongoing dig.)

But it's the crown of the museum that will make the most powerful case for restitution: the top floor is a glass box that is canted at an angle away from the structure beneath it—like an uneven stack of cartons—so that it lines up perfectly with the Parthenon, visible about 1,000 feet away.

Many of the Parthenon's original sculptures were lost or destroyed over the centuries; those remaining on the temple were removed in recent years because the pollution in Athens was eating away the marble. Now, along with other sculptures, the frieze that encircled the temple—it depicts a procession of figures, some bringing sacrifices—is installed in the new museum in its original configuration on the Parthenon.

To accentuate the ghostly absence of the missing marbles, there are white plaster copies to fill the gaps.
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« Reply #10 on: June 20, 2009, 07:36:50 am »

The history of how the marbles got to London is muddy enough to bolster both sides of the argument. When the seventh Earl of Elgin took up residence in the embassy in Constantinople in 1799, he began to pursue his passion for classical antiquities. He sent emissaries on a mission to -Athens, which was then a shabby little outpost that had been under the Ottoman thumb for 400 years.

At first, Elgin wanted only some sketches and plaster casts made of the great sculptures and reliefs on the Parthenon and other nearby ruins. But his permit from the Ottoman sultan granted his crew access to the Acropolis—then a Turkish garrison—and stated that "no one meddle with their scaffolding or implements nor hinder them from taking away any pieces of stone with inscriptions and figures."

Politics was at play here at least as much as art appreciation.

The Ottomans were grateful to Britain, which had blocked the advance of Napoleon in Egypt—and over several years, Elgin's agents chiseled away at the most potent symbol of the golden age of classical Greeks.

But the gods got even, with Elgin at least.

In the course of his Ottoman escapade, he lost the following: his beautiful and rich wife to his best friend, a big chunk of his nose to a nasty infection he'd caught in Constantinople and, ultimately, his marbles, which he was forced to sell to the British government in 1816 for £35,000 (roughly equivalent to $4 million today) to dig himself out of debt after his divorce.
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« Reply #11 on: June 20, 2009, 07:39:29 am »

Since then, the trustees of the British Museum have never wavered in their position that Elgin's marbles legally belong to the museum.

Scholars long argued that the marbles were better preserved in London than they would be in smog-choked Athens, with its poor museum facilities.

"The British said, you don't deserve them, you don't have a place to put them," says Antonis Samaras, the new minister of culture in Greece. "Now we have one of the best museums that can be."

But rather than trying to negotiate the point right now, the Greeks are letting their new museum do
the talking.

"We are presenting in a visual way what was, to this point, a verbal discussion,"

says the museum's president, Dimitrios Pandermalis.

Is there a glimmer of hope that all the remaining marbles from the Parthenon might eventually be reunited, at least temporarily?

The trustees of the British Museum have stated they would consider lending the marbles to Athens—though some are too fragile to travel in either direction, notes the director, Neil MacGregor—provided the Greek government acknowledge Britain's ownership of the artworks.

For many Greeks, that's a sore point.

"How can anyone dare say they belong to the British?"
asks Samaras.

"These are treasures taken out of the Acropolis when Greece was under enemy occupation."

Pandermalis takes a gentler, less political approach: he suggests that Greece could lend other classical pieces to London in exchange for a long-term loan of the marbles. "It's not easy," he says, "but let's find a solution for both sides."
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« Reply #12 on: June 20, 2009, 12:38:29 pm »

                Greece's new Acropolis Museum set for weekend opening after years of delays

Wed Jun 17, 6:21 PM
By Nicholas Paphitis,
The Associated Press
 ATHENS, Greece

- About 1,500 years after Christian zealots vandalized the Parthenon's pagan sculptures, Greece's Orthodox Church Wednesday formally blessed the new Acropolis Museum, set to open this weekend after years of delays.

Standing near the remains of an inaugural sacrifice for a third-century BC town house excavated under the citadel, priests burnt incense and chanted blessings for the building where Greece hopes one day to display the Elgin - or Parthenon - Marbles.

The US$180-million museum will be officially inaugurated Saturday. Foreign heads of state and government are expected to attend, including Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. It will open to visitors Sunday, at a nominal $1.40 charge.

Officials say the glass and concrete museum, about 400 metres from the Acropolis, will boost Greece's old but fruitless bid for the return of the 2,500-year-old sculptures, displayed in the British Museum for nearly two centuries since their removal from the site.

Athens says the sculptures were stolen from a work of art so important that its surviving pieces should all be exhibited together.

But the British Museum counters that it legally owns its collection, and displays it free of charge in an international cultural context.

Culture Minister Antonis Samaras said the new museum would turn public opinion in favour of the Greek campaign.

"It is a catalyst for the return of the Parthenon Marbles," he said during a press preview Wednesday. "This is a symbol of modern Greece which ... honours its past with works comparable to those of our ancestors."

Spreading across five levels, the museum provides an airy setting for some of the best surviving works of classical sculpture that once adorned the marble Acropolis temples. The basement contains remains of an ancient Athenian neighbourhood, which will open to visitors next year.

By day, printed glass panels filter the bright sunlight while revealing the ancient citadel in the background. The internal lighting projects the statues outward at night, contrasting with the floodlit hilltop temples.

"The natural light, which combines with artificial lighting, helps greatly to set off the colour of the works," museum director Dimitris Pantermalis said.

U.S.-based architect Bernard Tschumi said the proximity of the Acropolis itself was a major challenge in designing the building.

"(The Parthenon) is one of the most perfect buildings that has influenced generations for centuries in western architecture," he told The Associated Press. "At the same time, I often say that to be an architect you have to be - especially in this case - both very humble and very arrogant."

"What we tried to do was to be as simple, as clear, as precise as we could be establishing a visual relation between the Parthenon, the museum with the beautiful sculptures and with the archaeological remnants," Tschumi said.

The Parthenon was built between 447 and 432 BC, at the height of ancient Athens' glory, in honour of the city's patron goddess, Athena.

Despite its conversion into a Christian church, and Turkish occupation from the 15th century, it survived virtually intact until a massive explosion caused by a Venetian cannon shot in 1687.

About half the surviving sculptures were removed by Scottish diplomat Lord Elgin in the early 1800s, while Greece was still an unwilling part of the Ottoman Empire.

Most belong to a frieze depicting a religious procession that ran round the top of the temple.

The new museum holds more than 4,000 ancient works in 14,000 square metres of display space.

The highlight is the top story where Greece's Parthenon sculptures will be displayed in their original alignment in a glass hall, next to plaster casts of the works in London.

"It is a beautiful space that shows the frieze itself as a narrative - even with the plaster copies of what is in the British Museum - in the context of the Parthenon itself," Tschumi said.

"I am convinced that sooner or later the Marbles in the British Museum will come back to Athens."
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« Reply #13 on: June 21, 2009, 09:51:05 am »

Louisa Gouliamaki
Agence France-Presse
Getty Images

Exterior view of the New Acropolis Museum in Athens,
which is scheduled to open on Saturday.

Its glass-enclosed third-floor gallery has full views of
the Parthenon
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« Reply #14 on: June 21, 2009, 06:35:50 pm »

                                          In Athens, Museum Is an Olympian Feat 

Orestis Panagiotou
/European Press Agency
NY Times
June 20, 2009
“My apologies,” said Antonis Samaras, Greece’s culture minister, who was overseeing the final preparations for the museum’s debut on Saturday. “But it’s like the Olympics,” he added, referring to the 2004 Athens Games. “Everything will magically come together on opening night.”

If it does, Greece will finally, after decades of preparation, procrastination and acrimonious debate, have a large-scale, architecturally ambitious and modern center for the care and display of artifacts from its most important ancient site. The museum, which cost $200 million and sits near the base of the Acropolis with a direct view of the Parthenon, is one of the highest-profile cultural projects undertaken in Europe in this decade.

Intended as “the ultimate showcase of classical civilization,” Mr. Samaras said, it was built to promote tourism and, like any large, government-financed museum, to stir national pride. But it was also meant, not incidentally, to spark discomfort in another country in the European Union.

“We didn’t build this for the sake of the British,” Mr. Samaras said in an interview, adding at once, “but look around: does this not negate the argument that Athens has no place good enough to house the Parthenon Marbles?”

For more than 30 years, Greece has been working, through diplomacy and public relations offensives, to regain the Elgin Marbles, sections of a decorative frieze that adorned the Parthenon until Lord Elgin ordered them removed in the early 19th century, during his tenure as British ambassador to the Ottoman Empire. Years later, bankrupt, he sold them to the British Museum, where they have been a major attraction since 1816.

Today, almost two centuries on, many Greeks hope the opening of the museum will focus international attention on their country’s claim to the so-called Elgin Marbles, and put an end to Britain’s longtime argument that it is in a better position to look after those 2,500-year-old panels. Last week the Greek government turned down an offer from the British Museum for a three-month loan of the collection, because it came with the condition that the Greeks formally acknowledge British ownership.

“This is a nonstarter for any discussion,” Mr. Samaras said. “No Greek can sign up to that.”

The new museum, 226,000 square feet of glass and concrete designed by the New York architect Bernard Tschumi, replaces the old Acropolis Museum, a small 1874 building tucked into the rock of the Acropolis next to the Parthenon. The design, introduced in 2001, was meant to be completed in time for the 2004 Olympics, but dozens of legal battles — many having to do with some 25 buildings that were demolished to make room for it — delayed the process for years.

Even now, not all Athenians are happy with the building, wedged in as it is among apartment buildings in a middle-class residential district. “It is as if a titanic U.F.O. landed in the neighborhood, obliterating all of its surrounding structures,” said Nikos Dimou, a prominent Greek author.

The museum has five floors (including two basement levels that will not be open at first), which provide space for 4,000 artifacts, 10 times the number displayed in the old building. On the first level a glass floor offers visitors close-up views of an early Christian settlement, dating from the 7th to 12th centuries, that was discovered under part of the future building’s footprint during excavations in 2002.

The second floor, reached by a glass ramp, features a rich trove of free-standing objects from the archaic and classical periods. But it’s really the third and top floor — a glassy gallery — that Mr. Samaras and other Greeks hope will advance their country’s cause with Britain and the rest of the world.

Rotated 23 degrees off the axis of the lower floors to parallel the Parthenon itself, this rectangular glass enclosure feels dramatically different from the rest of the museum. Like a 21st-century surrogate of the monument looming above, it displays what remains in Greece of the original Parthenon sculptures and frieze, alongside plaster casts of the works in London. The contrast between the glaring whiteness of the copies and the ancient, honey-colored marbles makes for a powerful, and calculated, statement.

“We wanted it this way,” said Dimitris Pandermalis, the museum’s director. “Who will fail to notice that a torso is here and a head in England?”

Greece retains only 36 of the 115 original panels from the Parthenon frieze, which depicts a procession in honor of the goddess Athena. Britain has long asserted that when Lord Elgin chiseled off the sculptures some 200 years ago, he was acting legally, since he had permission from Greece’s Ottoman rulers. That legality, however, has been challenged by Greek scholars in recent years, with the government in Athens spurning it altogether.

“The claim is bogus,” said George Voulgarakis, a former Greek culture minister. “It’s like saying the Nazis were justified in plundering priceless works of art during the Second World War.”

In recent years Greece has tried to build international support for its repatriation campaign by going beyond mere demands, for example joining forces with Italy in 2007 to crack down on antiquities theft and nefarious art dealers who trade in looted works. At least 25 artifacts have lately come back to Greece, including fragments from the Parthenon frieze that were displayed for decades at museums in Italy, Germany and the Vatican.

So far the British Museum trustees have not seemed to be swayed, beyond the offer of the three-month loan.

Late on Friday, about 50 Greek demonstrators marched at the base of the Acropolis to protest the British Museum’s defiance.

“Enough with the excuses,” said Alexis Mantheakis, the protest organizer. “The Parthenon Marbles now have a new Greek home.”
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