The Elgin Marbles, also known as the Parthenon Marbles, are a collection of Classical Greek marble sculptures (made by the citizens of Athens under the supervision of the renowned architect and sculptor Phidias and his assistants), inscriptions, and architectural pieces that were originally part of the temple of the Parthenon and other buildings on the Acropolis of Athens.
In 1801, Thomas Bruce, 7th Earl of Elgin obtained a controversial permit from the Sublime Porte, which then ruled Greece. From 1801 to 1812, Elgin's agents removed about half of the surviving sculptures of the Parthenon, as well as sculptures from the Propylaea and Erechtheum. The Marbles were transported by sea to Britain. In Britain, the acquisition of the collection was supported by some, while others, such as Lord Byron, likened Elgin's actions to vandalism or looting.
Following a public debate in Parliament and the subsequent exoneration of Elgin, the marbles were purchased from Elgin by the British government in 1816 and were passed to the British Museum, where they are on display in the purpose-built Duveen Gallery.
After gaining its independence from the Ottoman Empire, Greece began major projects for the restoration of the country's monuments, and has expressed its disapproval of Elgin's removal of the Marbles from the Acropolis and the Parthenon, which is regarded as one of the world's greatest cultural monuments. Greece disputes the subsequent purchase of the Marbles by the British Government and urges the return of the marbles to Greece for their unification.
In 2014, UNESCO offered to mediate between Greece and the United Kingdom in resolving the dispute of the Elgin Marbles, although this was later turned down by the UK