Thousands of Greek high school students staged a demonstration at the Acropolis Tuesday, forming a human chain around the ancient Athens monument and demanding the return of the famed marbles British ambassador Lord Elgin carried off more than 200 years ago.


Greek high school students form a human chain around the Acropolis in Athens as part of their protest Tuesday. ((Associated Press))

The teens and their teachers wore bright orange jackets bearing the phrase "Parthenon Marbles — Reunification Now."

Giorgos Hasiakis, secretary of the Athens tutors union, helped organize the demonstration and said that a similarevent is scheduled to be held soon at the British Museum, where the marbles are currently held.

"The marbles belong in their rightful place and the students will continue with such actions until they return," Hasiakis said, according to Reuters.

He added that this newest campaign calling for the British to return the marbles has collected 65,000 signatures and sent 900 letters to the museum in London.

Marbles removalbegan in 1799

Over the years, several campaigns have been launched both in Greece and in the U.K. calling on the British Museum to return the priceless carvings, which depict stories and figures from ancient Greek civilization.

At the time, Greece was under the control of the Ottoman Empire. The seventh Lord Elgin — Great Britain's ambassador to the Ottoman Empire — began removing the artifacts from the Acropolis in 1799.

The move was controversial even then, with British poet Lord Byron among those who criticized Elgin for his actions.


The disputed marbles are currently held at the British Museum, which has consistently refused to return them to Greece. ((Paul Sampson/CBC))

The marbles are now on permanent display at the British Museum. In the past, museum officials have claimed that the marbles are safer in London than in Athens, where the Acropolis has suffered deterioration from pollution.

Greece has nearly completed construction of a lavish new museum facility at the foot of the Acropolis, with the two-storey venue designed to showcase the country's vast collection of artifacts. It will includeempty display areas for the marbles currently held in Britain.

In 2006, Germany's University of Heidelberg and a Swedish woman returned Parthenon carvings they had heldto Greece.

"I really hope this will be a signal to the many people in Europe, tourists and especially the British Museum, that has so many things from ancient Greece, to give them back to the Greek people," said Birgit Wiger-Angner in November. Her great uncle had removed a piece of a temple at the Acropolis in 1896.