Boris Johnson wrote that the Elgin Marbles should not have been removed from Athens in an undiscovered letter sent to Greek politicians two months before 2012 London Olympics.

  • While London’s Mayor, Johnson wrote a letter for a Greek politician.
  • He stated that the Marbles wouldn’t have ever come to Britain in an ideal world.
  • These were taken from Athens Parthenon by Lord Elgin in 1801-1812 

Boris Johnson believed once that the Elgin Marbles shouldn’t have been taken from Greece’s Acropolis. A letter confirms this belief. 

Johnson, who was Mayor of London in 2012 ahead of the London Olympics, wrote to a Greek official saying that the marbles shouldn’t have been brought to Britain. 

The British Museum now has them on display. 

Recently, the Government is under greater pressure to return marbles. Kyriakos Mitsotakis, Prime Minister of Greece, stated last week that they had been’stolen.  

The UK has always maintained that the Marbles were legally acquired. Following Mr Mitsotakis’s comments, Johnson maintained last week that only the British Museum can decide whether or not to return the Marbles.   

Marbles can be found in London at a distance of 260ft (80m), with a small section located at Athens at 164ft (5m).  

Boris Johnson believed once that the Elgin Marbles shouldn’t have been taken from Greece’s Acropolis. A letter confirms this belief.

When serving as Mayor of London ahead of the London Olympics in 2012, Mr Johnson (pictured this week) wrote to a Greek official to say that 'in an ideal world' the marbles should never have come to Britain

While serving as London Mayor in advance of the 2012 London Olympics, Johnson (pictured this Week) wrote to a Greek official saying that the marbles “in an ideal universe” should not have reached Britain.

Johnson stated in his 2012 letter that he had reflected on the matter for many years. It was published by The Guardian. 

“In an ideal world, the Parthenon Marbles wouldn’t have been taken from the Acropolis. It would be possible now to see them in situ.

However, he stated that it’s impossible for the Marbles’ original locations to be restored to what they were on the template. 

Future PM stated that the “glorious” sculptures had been present in London since their removal and now constitute the “centrepiece of the greatest museum here, so it would be a grievous and unremediable loss to have them go elsewhere.” 

They were were taken from the Parthenon in Athens by the then British ambassador to the Ottoman Empire, Lord Elgin, between 1801 and 1812, and are now on display at the British Museum

These items were removed from Athens’ Parthenon by Lord Elgin (1801-1812), and now are on display at The British Museum

After writing to George Hinos, the Greek politician, he concluded his letter by saying that while he was sympathetic to Athens’ case, he also felt that he needed to defend the interests of London. 

Hinos, then the leader of Ilia’s provincial New Democracy Party was writing to Johnson to request the return of Marbles. 

The letter was written less than 2 months prior to the Olympic flame being lit in Ilia, before it made its journey to London to host the 2012 games. 

He is said to have written: ‘In the name of justice and morality, we implore you to begin the procedure for the return of the Greek sculptures.’    

Last week, Mr Mitsotakis claimed that the Pm had promised ‘not to stand in the way of Greece establishing a formal dialogue with the British Museum over the future of the marbles’.

As part of the exchange, the PM from Greece offered to lend some items, including the Artemision Bronze ancient sculpture, to the UK to help with the purchase of the Marbles that date back to 2,500 years.

The people opposed to their return have stated that it would create a precedent for the exchange of historical treasures from all around the world.   


The Elgin Marbles is a collection that includes classical Greek marble sculptures as well as inscriptions. These were created mainly by Phidias and his associates.

Thomas Bruce (7th Earl of Elgin), was the British Ambassador to the Ottoman Empire between 1799 and 1803. He removed Parthenon Marble from Athens’ Acropolis.

In 1801, Earl said that he obtained an Ottoman permit to remove parts from the Parthenon. 

Elgin had to be granted permission to access the Acropolis as it was an Ottoman military post.

His agents removed half the remaining sculptures and architectural parts from the Propylaea, Erechtheum and Erechtheum.

The excavation and removal was completed in 1812 at a personal cost of around £70,000.

These sculptures were sent to Britain by the Scots aristocrat, who was then accused in Greece of vandalism and looting.

The British Government bought them in 1816. They were then placed in the British Museum. The original Duveen Gallery still houses them.

Greece sought to have their collection returned from the British Museum over the years but has not been successful.

It is widely believed that Elgin was not authorized to take the Parthenon’s sculptures out of the Parthenon. The original document, however, has also been lost. It was debunked by many.

Others argue, however, that the Ottomans, who had been in control of Athens from 1460 onwards, were legally entitled to the artifacts.