Italy confirms Parthenon deal

In what could prove a hefty boost to Greece’s campaign for the return of the British Museum’s Elgin Collection of sculptures from the Acropolis, Italian officials have confirmed they are prepared to send back to Athens a small fragment of the Parthenon’s decoration that spent the last 180 years in Sicily. The 35×34 centimeter marble piece is decorated with the draped lower leg and bare foot of Peitho – a daughter of Aphrodite – and originally formed part of the 160-meter frieze that adorned the external walls of the Parthenon, built between 447 and 438 BC. The frieze, as well as the pedimental sculptures and the 92 metopes, was made between 438 and 432 BC. Late on Wednesday, the Italian president’s office confirmed that Carlo Azeglio Ciampi may bring the piece with him to Athens during a November 6 official visit. To avoid setting a dangerous precedent that would rattle the European museum establishment – which espouses the rule of finders-keepers regarding artifacts acquired abroad – the Italians will officially be lending the work to Greece for 99 years, in exchange for some comparable Greek artifact.