Elgin Marbles

Elgin Marbles

The Elgin Marbles, also known as the Parthenon Marbles, are a collection of classical Greek marble sculptures, inscriptions and architectural members that originally belonged to the Parthenon and other buildings on the Acropolis of Athens. [ [http://www.parthenonuk.com/history_of_the_marbles.php The British Committee for the Restitution of the Parthenon Marbles] ] [ [http://www.britishmuseum.org/explore/highlights/article_index/w/what_are_the_elgin_marbles.aspx British Museum definition] ] [ [http://www.britannica.com/eb/topic-184554/Elgin-Marbles Britannica article on Elgin Marbles] ] [ [http://student.britannica.com/eb/art-106910/Among-the-Elgin-Marbles-is-part-of-the-frieze-from Frieze picture] ] Thomas Bruce, 7th Earl of Elgin, the British ambassador to the Ottoman Empire from 1799 to 1803, obtained an ambiguous permission from the Ottoman authorities to remove pieces from the Acropolis. From 1801 to 1812 Elgin's agents removed about half of the surviving sculptures of the Parthenon, as well as architectural members and sculpture from the Propylaea and Erechtheum.Encycolopedia Britannica, Elgin Marbles, 2008, O.Ed.] The Marbles were transported by sea to Britain. In Britain, Elgin was criticised for his actions, labelled by some as vandalism. However, following a public debate in Parliament and subsequent exoneration of Elgin's actions, the marbles were purchased by the British Government in 1816 and placed on display in the British Museum, where they stand now on view in the purpose-built Duveen Gallery. However, the legality of the removal has been questioned and the debate continues as to whether the Marbles should remain in the British Museum or be returned to Athens.


The Elgin Marbles, removed in 1801 by Thomas Bruce, 7th Earl of Elgin, include some 17 figures from the statuary from the east and west pediments, 15 (of an original 92) of the metope panels depicting battles between the Lapiths and the Centaurs, as well as 247 feet (of an original 524 feet) of the Parthenon Frieze which decorated the horizontal course set above the interior architrave of the temple. As such, they represent more than half of what now remains of the surviving sculptural decoration of the Parthenon. Elgin's acquisitions also included objects from other buildings on the Athenian Acropolis: a Caryatid from Erechtheum; four slabs from the frieze of the Temple of Athena Nike; and a number of other architectural fragments of the Parthenon, Propylaia, Erechtheum, the Temple of Athena Nike and the Treasury of Atreus. The cost to Lord Elgin was estimated at £75,000 (a large sum at the time) and the last piece arrived in Britain in 1812. Due to his financial difficulties, they were eventually bought by the British Museum for £35,000 in 1816. Encyclopedia Britannica, "The Acropolis", p.6/20, 2008, O.Ed.]

At the time, some scholars, notably Richard Payne Knight, insisted that the marbles dated from the period of the Roman Empire, but most accepted that they were authentic works from the studio of Phidias, the most famous Ancient Greek sculptor.Fact|date=April 2008

Legality of the removal from Athens

As the Acropolis was still an Ottoman military fort, Elgin required permission to enter the site, including the Parthenon and the surrounding buildings. He allegedly obtained from the Sultan a firman to allow his artists access to the site. The original document is now lost, but an alleged translated copy made at the time, written in Italian, still survives [St Clair, William: Lord Elgin and the Marbles. Oxford University Press, USA; 3 edition (July 17, 1998) [http://www.amazon.com/dp/0192880535] ] . Vassilis Demetriades, Professor of Turkish Studies in the Department of History and Archaeology of the University of Crete has argued that "any expert in Ottoman diplomatic language can easily ascertain that the original of the document which has survived was not a firman" [see "Was the Removal of the removal of the Parthenon Marbles legal?" in http://www.uk.digiserve.com/mentor/marbles/index.htm] , whereas its actual authenticity has been seriously challengedDadid Rudenstine, "Did Elgin cheat the Marbles?" in "The Nation", vol. 270, 21 (2000) p.30] .

The document was recorded in an appendix of an 1816 report of a parliamentary committee. The committee had convened to examine a request by Elgin asking the British government to purchase the marbles. The decision was to buy them and hand them over to the British Museum. The Parliament report claimed that the document [Full transcription of the document in http://www.damon.gr/marmara/firman_gr.htm] in the appendix was an accurate translation in English of an Ottoman firman dated in July 1801.In Elgin's view it amounted to an Ottoman authorization to remove the marbles. The committee was told that the original document was given to Ottoman officials in Athens in 1801, but researchers have so far failed to locate any traces of it despite the fact that the Ottoman archives still hold an outstanding number of similar documents dating from the same period. Moreover the parliamentary record shows that the Italian copy of the firman was not presented to the parliamentary committee by Elgin himself but by one of his associates, the young clergyman Rev. Philip Hunt. Rev. Hunt, who at the time resided in Bedford was the last witness to appear before the committee claiming that he had in his possession an Italian translation of the Ottoman original. He went on to explain that he had not brought the document with him, because, upon leaving Bedford, he was not aware that he was to testify as a witness. The English document in the parliamentary report was filed by Hunt, but the committee was not presented with the Italian translation purportedly in his possession. William St. Clair, a contemporary biographer of Lord Elgin, claims to possess Hunt's Italian document and "vouches for the accuracy of the English translation". In addition, the committee report states on page 69 "(Signed with a signet.) Seged Abdullah Kaimacan". But the document presented to the committee was "an English translation of this purported translation into Italian of the original "firman" [Kate Fitz Gibbon, "Who Owns the Past?: Cultural Policy, Cultural Property, and the Law", Rutgers University Press (2005), p.115] and had neither signet nor signature on it, a fact corroborated by St. Clair The lines pertaining to the removal of the Marbles allowed Elgin and his team to fix scaffolding, make drawings, make mouldings in chalk or gypsum, measure the remains of the ruined buildings and excavate the foundations which may have become covered in the ["ghiaja"] ; and "…that when they wish to take away ["qualche"] pieces of stone with old inscriptions or figures thereon, that no opposition be made thereto". The interpretation of these lines has been questioned even by non restitutionalists.John Henry Merryman, "Thinking about the Elgin Marbles" in Michigan Law Review, Vol. 83, No. 8, (Aug., 1985), pp. 1898-1899 ] Particularly the word "qualche", which in modern language is translated as "some". According to non restitutionalists, further evidence that the removal of the sculptures by Elgin was approved by the Ottoman authorities is shown by a second firman which was required for the shipping of the marbles from the Piraeus.John Henry Merryman. Whither the Elgin Marbles? in Imperialism, Art And Restitution, John Henry Merryman, ed., New York: Cambridge University Press, 2006.]

Despite the controversial firman, many have questioned the legality of Elgin's actions. A detailed study by Professor David Rudenstine of the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law concluded that the premise that Elgin obtained legal title to the marbles, which he then transferred to the British government, "is certainly not established and may well be false". [Rudenstine, David, 1999. The Legality of Elgin's Taking: A Review Essay of Four Books onthe Parthenon Marbles International Journal of Cultural Property, Vol 8, No. 1, 1999, pp. 356-376] Rudenstine's argumentation is partly based on a translation discrepancy he noticed between the surviving Italian document and the English text submitted by Rev. Hunt to the Parliament. The text from the committee report reads "We therefore have written this Letter to you, and expedited it by Mr. Philip Hunt, an English Gentleman, Secretary of the aforesaid Ambassador" but according to the St. Clair Italian document the actual wording is "We therefore have written this letter to you and expedited it by N.N.". In Rudenstine's view this substitution of "Mr. Philip Hunt" with the initials "N.N." can hardly be a simple mistake. He further argues that the document was presented after the committee's insistence that some form of Ottoman written authorization for the removal of the marbles was provided, a fact known to Rev. Hunt by the time he testified. Thus, always according to Rudenstine "Hunt put himself in a position in which he could simultaneously vouch for the authenticity of the document and explain why he alone had a copy of it fifteen years after he surrendered the original to Ottoman officials in Athens". In two earlier occasions Elgin stated that the Ottomans gave him written permissions more than once, but that he had "retained none of them." Hunt testified on March 13 and one of the questions asked was "Did you ever see any of the written permissions which were granted to [Lord Elgin] for removing the Marbles from the Temple of Minerva?" to which Hunt answered "yes" adding that he possessed an Italian translation of the original firman. Nonetheless he did not explain why he had retained the translation for fifteen years, whereas Elgin, who had testified two weeks earlier, knew nothing about the existence of any such document.

In contrast, Professor John Merryman, Sweitzer Professor of Law and also Professor of Art at Stanford University, putting aside the discrepancy presented by Rudenstine, argues that since the Ottomans had controlled Athens since 1460, their claims to the artifacts were legal and recognizable. Further, that written permission exists in the form of the firman, which is the most formal kind of permission available from that government, and that Elgin had further permission to export the marbles, legalizes his (and therefore the British Museum's) claim to the Marbles. Fact|date=May 2008 He does note though that the clause concerning the extent of Ottoman authorization to remove the marbles "is at best ambiguous" adding that the document "provides slender authority for the massive removals from the Parthenon... The reference to 'taking away any pieces of stone' seems incidental, intended to apply to objects found while excavating. That was certainly the interpretation privately placed on the firman by several of the Elgin party, including Lady Elgin. Publicly, however, a different attitude was taken, and the work of dismantling the sculptures on the Parthenon and packing them for shipment to England began in earnest. In the process, Elgin's party damaged the structure, leaving the Parthenon not only denuded of its sculptures but further ruined by the process of removal. It is certainly arguable that Elgin exceeded the authority granted in the firman in both respects".

Criticism by Elgin's contemporaries

When the marbles were shipped to England, there was criticism of Elgin (who had spent a fortune on the project) but also much admiration for the sculptures. Lord Byron strongly objected to their removal from Greece, denouncing Elgin as a vandal. His view of the removal of the Marbles from Athens is also reflected in his poem "Childe Harold's Pilgrimage": [ [http://www.uk.digiserve.com/mentor/marbles/ The Parthenon Marbles ] ] :"Dull is the eye that will not weep to see":"Thy walls defaced, thy mouldering shrines removed":"By British hands, which it had best behoved":"To guard those relics ne'er to be restored.":"Curst be the hour when from their isle they roved," :"And once again thy hapless bosom gored," :"And snatch'd thy shrinking gods to northern climes abhorred!"

Byron was not the only one to protest the removal at the time::"The Honourable Lord has taken advantage of the most unjustifiable means and has committed the most flagrant pillages. It was, it seems, fatal that a representative of our country loot those objects that the Turks and other barbarians had considered sacred," said Sir John Newport. [ [http://www.spiritus-temporis.com/elgin-marbles/ Elgin Marbles — Everything on Elgin Marbles (information, latest news, articles,...) ] ] A contemporary MP Thomas Hughes, an eye witness, later wrote: :"The abduction of small parts of the Parthenon, of a value relatively small but which previously contributed to the solidity of the building, left that glorious edifice exposed to premature ruin and degradation. The abduction dislodged from their original positions, wherefrom they precisely drew their interest and beauty, many pieces which are altogether unnecessary to the country that now owns them." Fact|date=April 2008

In 1810 Elgin published a defence of his actions which silenced most of his detractors , although the subject remained controversial. John Keats was one of those who saw them privately exhibited in London, hence his two sonnets about the marbles. A public debate in Parliament followed Elgin's publication, and Elgin's actions were again exonerated, and the Marbles were purchased for the nation in 1816 for £35,000 and deposited in the British Museum, where they were displayed in the Elgin Saloon (constructed in 1832), until the Duveen Gallery was completed in 1939.


Some of the Marbles were damaged prior to Lord Elgin obtaining them. One example is that imparted during the period the Parthenon served as a Greek Orthodox church and later as a Latin cathedral (ca. 600–1458). The Parthenon was considered the fourth most important pilgrimage in the Eastern Roman Empire, after Constantinople, Ephessos and Thessalonica..Anthony Kaldellis Associate Professor (Department of Greek and Latin, The Ohio State University), [http://www.lsa.umich.edu/UMICH/modgreek/Home/_TOPNAV_WTGC/Lectures%20at%20U-M/ParthenonKaldellis.pdf "A Heretical (Orthodox) History of the Parthenon"] , p.3] During this period frescoes and Latin inscriptions were added to the marble walls and the parts of the statuary and other artwork considered pagan, particularly based on the associated taboo of viewing idols of God made in our image and the display of genitalia, and thus many such depictions were destroyed or removed.The Parthenon: From Antiquity to the Present. Edited by Jenifer Neils. Case Western Reserve University, Ohio. Hardback ISBN-13: 9780521820936 | ISBN-10: 0521820936) Published September 2005] [ [http://www.hammerwood.mistral.co.uk/elgin.htm The importance of the Elgin Marbles Parthenon Frieze and its symbolism] ]


Another example of prior damage is that sustained during wars. It is during these periods that the Parthenon and its artwork have sustained by far the most damage. In particular, an explosion ignited by Venetian bombardment in 1687, whilst the Parthenon was used as a munitions store during the Ottoman rule, destroyed or damaged many pieces of Parthenon art including some of those later taken by Lord Elgin. [ [http://traumwerk.stanford.edu:3455/Archaeopaedia/198 Stanford Archaeopedia] ] In particular this explosion sent the marble roof, most of the cella walls, columns from the north and south peristyles and carved metopes and frieze blocks flying and crashing to the ground and thus destroying much of the artwork. Further damage was made to the art of the Parthenon by the Venetian general Francesco Morosini when he subsequently looted the site of its larger sculptures. His tackle was faulty and snapped, dropping an over life-sized Poseidon and the horses of Athena's chariot from the west pediment to the rock of the Acropolis forty feet below. [ [http://www.cambridge.org/us/catalogue/catalogue.asp?isbn=9780521820936&ss=exc The Parthenon] , Cambridge University Press]

War of Independence

The Erechtheum was used as a munitions store by the Ottomans during the Greek War of Independence [http://www.erechtheion.org/index_003.htm Erechtheion] ] (1821-1833) which ended the 350 year Ottoman rule of Athens. During this time, the building received extensive damage from gun and cannon fire, including the destruction of the North porch and damage to the marbles.

The Acropolis was besieged twice during the Greek War of Independence, once by the Greek and once by the Ottoman forces. During the siege the Greeks were aware of the dilemma and chose to offer the besieged Ottoman forces, which were attempting to melt the lead in the columns to cast bullets, bullets of their own if they would leave the Parthenon undamaged. Hitchens Christopher, The Elgin Marbles: Should They Be Returned to Greece?, 1998,p.viii, ISBN 1859842208]


To facilitate transport by Elgin, the column capital of the Parthenon and many metopes and slabs were either hacked off of the main structure or sawn and sliced into smaller sections causing irreparable damage to the Parthenon itself to which these Marbles were connected. [ [http://www.nytimes.com/2007/10/28/arts/design/28ouro.html?_r=3&pagewanted=1&oref=slogin Where Gods Yearn for Long-Lost Treasures] , "New York Times"] One shipload of marbles on board the British brig "Mentor" was caught in a storm off Cape Matapan and sank near Kythera, but was salvaged at the Earl's personal expense; it took two years to bring them to the surface.cite web |url=http://www.museum-security.org/The%20Parthenon%20and%20the%20Elgin%20Marbles.htm |title=The Parthenon and the Elgin Marbles |author=Vranopoulos, Epaminondas]

British Museum

While the artifacts held in London may have been saved from the hazards of war, they suffered gravely from 19th-century pollution — which persisted until the Clean Air Acts of 1956 and 1968- [Andrew Oddy, "The Conservation of Marble Sculptures in the British Museum before 1975", in "Studies in Conservation", vol. 47, no.3, (2002), p.145-146, ] and they have been irrevocably damaged [http://www.guardian.co.uk/parthenon/article/0,,195563,00.html British damage to Elgin marbles 'irreparable] , "The Guardian".] by previous cleaning methods employed by British Museum staff.

As early as 1838, Michael Faraday — Professor of Chemistry at the Royal Institution — was asked to provide a solution to the problem of the deteriorating surface of the marbles. The outcome is described in the following excerpt from the letter he sent to Henry Milman, a commissioner for the National Gallery [Andrew Oddy, "The Conservation of Marble Sculptures in the British Museum before 1975", in "Studies in Conservation", vol. 47, no.3, (2002), p.146] [JENKINS, I., '"Sir, they are scrubbing the Elgin Marbles!"-some controversial cleanings of the Parthenon Sculptures', "Minerva" 10(6) (1999) 43-45.] .

"The marbles generally were very dirty ... from a deposit of dust and soot. ... I found the body of the marble beneath the surface white. ... The application of water, applied by a sponge or soft cloth, removed the coarsest dirt. ... The use of fine, gritty powder, with the water and rubbing, though it more quickly removed the upper dirt, left much imbedded in the cellular surface of the marble. I then applied alkalis, both carbonated and caustic; these quickened the loosening of the surface dirt ... but they fell far short of restoring the marble surface to its proper hue and state of cleanliness. I finally used dilute nitric acid, and even this failed. ... The examination has made me despair of the possibility of presenting the marbles in the British Museum in that state of purity and whiteness which they originally possessed."

A further effort to clean the marbles ensued in 1858. Richard Westmacott, who was appointed superintendent of the "moving and cleaning the sculptures" in 1857, in a letter approved by the British Museum Standing Committee on 13 March 1858 concluded [Andrew Oddy, "The Conservation of Marble Sculptures in the British Museum before 1975", in "Studies in Conservation", vol. 47, no.3, (2002), p.148]

'I think it my duty to say that some of the works are much damaged by ignorant or careless moulding -(with oil and lard)-and by restorations in wax, and wax and resin. These mistakes have caused discolouration. I shall endeavour to remedy this without, however, having recourse to any composition that can injure the surface of the marble
Yet another effort to clean the marbles occurred in the years 1937-38. This time the incentive was provided by the construction of a new Gallery to house the collection. The Pentelic marble, from which the sculptures are made, naturally acquires a tan colour similar to honey when exposed to air; this colouring is often known as the marble's "patina" [Gardner, Ernest Arthur: A Handbook of Greek Sculpture. Published 1896 Macmillan; [http://books.google.com/books/pdf/A_Handbook_of_Greek_Sculpture.pdf?id=FZkCAAAAYAAJ&output=pdf&sig=SxrIRuctayFp6t99OkFn_OoksOw] ] but Lord Duveen, who financed the whole undertaking, acting under the misconception that the marbles were originally whiteAndrew Oddy, "The Conservation of Marble Sculptures in the British Museum before 1975", in "Studies in Conservation", vol. 47, no.3, (2002), p. 149] probably arranged for the team of masons working in the project to remove discoloration from some of the sculptures. The tools used were seven scrapers, one chisel and a piece of carborundum stone. They are now deposited in the British Museum's Department of Preservation. [http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/543077.stm BBC News | UK | Museum admits 'scandal' of Elgin Marbles] ] The cleaning process scraped away some of the detailed tone of many carvings. [Paterakis AB. [Untitled] . Studies in Conservation 46(1): 79-80, 2001 [http://links.jstor.org/sici?sici=0039-3630%282001%2946%3A1%3C79%3ATEMQOS%3E2.0.CO%3B2-E] ] According to Harold Plenderleith, the surface removed in some places may have been as much as one-tenth of an inch (2.5mm).

The British Museum has responded to these allegations with the statement that "mistakes were made at that time." On another occasion it was said that "the damage had been exaggerated for political reasons" and that "the Greeks were guilty of excessive cleaning of the marbles before they were brought to Britain." In 1801, when Elgin's agents started removing and sawing the marbles down to a smaller size for transportation, no Greek state existed yet. Additionally, there was no air pollution in the pre-industrial, mostly rural Ottoman Athens.fact|date=July 2008. During the international symposium on the cleaning of the marbles, organised by the British Museum, Dr Ian Jenkins, deputy keeper of Greek and Roman antiquities, remarked that "The British Museum is not infallible, it is not the Pope. Its history has been a series of good intentions marred by the occasional cock-up, and the 1930s cleaning was such a cock-up". Nonetheless, he pointed out that the prime cause for the damage inflicted upon the marbles was the 2000 year long weathering on the Acropolishttp://www.guardian.co.uk/parthenon/article/0,12119,195554,00.html|Mutual attacks mar Elgin Marbles debate] .

In 1882, 81 years after the removal of the marbles and 52 years after the establishment of the Greek state, there was an effort to wipe the medieval graffiti etched on the surface of the Parthenon's Doric columns. The methods applied were crude and entailed the usage of sharp instruments and sponges. The incident lasted for one day and has been described by the historian Demetrios Kambouroglou, who acted promptly and halted the activities. It was never disclosed who had given the actual order to carry on with the cleaning of the columns. [Demetrios Kambouroglou, "Αι Παλαιαί Αθήναι"(="Old Athens" Athens 1922 (no English translation available)]

Dorothy King, in a newspaper article, claimed that techniques similar to the ones used in 1937-1938 were applied by Greeks as well, and maintained that Italians still find them acceptable. [ [http://education.guardian.co.uk/higher/comment/story/0,,1265267,00.html Elgin Marbles: fact or fiction? | Education | guardian.co.uk ] ] Attention has been drawn by the British Museum to a purportedly similar cleaning of the temple of Hephaistos in the Athenian Agora carried out by the conservation team of the American School of Classical Studies at AthensJ. M. Cook and John Boardman, "Archaeology in Greece, 1953", The Journal of Hellenic Studies, Vol. 74, (1954), pp. 147 ] with steel chisels and brass wire in 1953. [ [http://www.britishmuseum.org/the_museum/news_and_press_releases/statements/parthenon_sculptures/facts_and_figures.aspx The Parthenon Sculptures: Facts and Figures] , British Museum.] . According to the Greek ministry of Culture, the cleaning was carefully limited to surface salt crusts . The 1953 American report concluded that the techniques applied were aimed at removing the black deposit formed by rain-water and "brought out the high technical quality of the carving" revealing at the same time "a few surviving particles of colour"

According to documents released by the British Museum under the Freedom of Information Act, a series of minor accidents, thefts and acts of vandalism by visitors have inflicted further damage to the sculptures. [http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/1490023/Revealed-how-rowdy-schoolboys-knocked-a-leg-off-one-of-the-Elgin-Marbles.html Revealed: how rowdy schoolboys knocked a leg off one of the Elgin Marbles] , "The Telegraph".] One of the most serious incidents happened in 1961 when two schoolboys knocked off part of a centaur's legCitation |newspaper= "Times Online" |date= 2007-03-5 |url=http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/global/article1471409.ece |title=59 things that would have stayed secret] . In June 1981, a west pediment figure was slightly chipped by a falling glass skylight, and in 1966 four shallow lines were scratched on the back of one of the figures by vandals. During a similar mishap in 1970, letters were scratched on to the upper right thigh of another figure. Four years later, the dowel hole in a centaur's hoof was damaged by thieves trying to extract pieces of lead.


While Athens has average levels of pollution compared to other European cites, [ [http://reports.eea.europa.eu/technical_report_2006_1/en/technical_1_2006.pdf Air pollution at street level in European cities ] ] air pollution and acid rain have caused damage to marble and stonework at the Parthenon. [http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m2242/is_1629_279/ai_80194454/pg_6 The Parthenon Marbles — Past And Future, Contemporary Review] ] The last remaining slabs from the western section of the Parthenon frieze were removed from the monument in 1993 for fear of further damage [http://www.ekt.gr/parthenonfrieze/index.jsp?lang=en|National Documentation Centre - Ministry of Culture, see History of the Frieze] . They have now been transported to the New Acropolis Museum

Until recent cleaning of the remaining marbles, black crusts and coatings were present on the marble surface. [ [http://wwwbrr.cr.usgs.gov/projects/SW_corrosion/teachers-pupils/index.html Preserving And Protecting Monuments ] ] The laser technique applied on the 14 slabs that Elgin did not remove revealed a surprising array of original details such as the original chisel marks and the veins on the horses' bellies. Similar features in the British Museum collection have been scraped and scrubbed with chisels to make the marbles look white. [ [http://www.parthenonuk.com/DynaLink/ID/37/newsdetail.php The Parthenon Marbles (or Elgin Marbles) Restoration to Athens, Greece — Elgin Marbles Dispute Takes New Twist ] ] Between January 20 and the end of March 2008, 4200 items (sculptures, inscriptions small terra cotta objects), including some 80 artifacts dismantled from the monuments in recent years, were removed from the old museum on the Acropolis to the new Parthenon Museum. [] [New Acropolis Museum http://www.newacropolismuseum.gr/webnews/newslist.asp?offset=0&nid=64&lid=2]

Natural disasters have also affected the Parthenon. In 1981, an earthquake caused damage to the east facade. [ [http://www.goddess-athena.org/Museum/Temples/Parthenon/index.htm The Parthenon at Athens ] .]

Since 1975, Greece has been restoring the Acropolis. This restoration has included replacing the thousands of rusting iron clamps and supports that had previously been used, with non-corrosive titanium rods; [http://arts.guardian.co.uk/news/story/0,11711,1503481,00.html Repair of Acropolis needs 20 more years and £47m] , "The Guardian".] removing surviving artwork from the building into storage and subsequently into a new museum built specifically for the display of the Parthenon art; and replacing the artwork with high-quality replicas. This process has come under fire from some groups as some buildings have been completely dismantled, including the dismantling of the Temple of Athena Nike and for the unsightly nature of the site due to the necessary cranes and scaffolding. But the hope is to restore the site to some of its former glory, which may take another 20 years and 70 million Euros, though the prospect of the Acropolis being "able to withstand the most extreme weather conditions — earthquakes" is "little consolation to the tourists visiting the Acropolis" according to "The Guardian".

Rationale for returning to Athens

Defenders of the request for the Marble's return claim that the marbles should be returned to Athens on moral and artistic grounds, although it is no longer feasible or advisable to replace them on the Parthenon.

*The main stated aim of the Greek campaign is to reunite the Parthenon sculptures around the world in order to restore the unity of the monument and allow visitors to better appreciate it as a whole. [ [http://odysseus.culture.gr/a/1/12/ea121.html Hellenic Ministry of Culture, Special Issues] ]
*So far fragments of the monument have been returned by Sweden, [ [http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/6138214.stm BBC NEWS Swede gives back Acropolis marble] ] the University of Heidelberg, Germany, [http://www.cbc.ca/arts/story/2006/09/05/parthenon-marbles.html Greece reclaims Parthenon sculpture from Germany] ] and the Getty Museum in Los Angeles, USA.
*A New Acropolis Museum, situated to the south of the Acropolis hill, was designed by the Swiss-French architect Bernard Tschumi and is now completed. It is intended to hold the Parthenon sculptures arranged in the same way as they would have been on the Parthenon. The museum's facilities have been equipped with state-of-the-art technology for the protection and preservation of exhibits [ [http://www.arcspace.com/architects/Tschumi/ Bernard Tschumi — New Acropolis Museum ] , arcspace.com.] .
*The marbles were allegedly obtained illegally and hence should be returned to their rightful place [http://www.elginism.com/20070401/702/]

Rationale for retaining in London

A range of slightly different points have been put by British Museum spokespersons over the years in defence of retention of the Elgin Marbles within the museum. The main points include:
* the maintenance of a single worldwide-oriented cultural collection, all viewable in one location, thereby serving as a world heritage centre. The British museum is a creative and living achievement of the Enlightenment, in contrast to Parthenon which is a ruin that cannot be restored.
* the fact that fulfilling all restitution claims would empty most of the world's great museums [ [http://www.holidaytobritain.com/britain-attractions-london-britishmuseum.html British Museum, Attractions of London, England ] ] ;
* the saving of the marbles from what would have been, or would be, pollution and other damage if relocated back to Athens;
* More than half the original marbles are lost and therefore return of the Elgin Marbles would not complete the collection in Greece; and
* a legal position that the museum is banned by charter from returning any part of its collection. [ [http://www.britishmuseum.org/explore/highlights/article_index/e/the_elgin_marbles_ownership.aspx British Museum press release on the Elgin Marbles] ]

The latter was tested in the British High Court in May 2005 in relation to Nazi-looted Old Master artworks held at the museum; it was ruled that these could not be returned. [ [http://www.guardian.co.uk/parthenon/article/0,,1494099,00.html The Guardian article on legal ruling affecting the marbles' return policy, May 27, 2005] ] The judge, Sir Andrew Morritt, ruled that the British Museum Act – which protects the collections for posterity – cannot be overridden by a "moral obligation" to return works known to have been plundered. It has been argued, however, that connections between the legal ruling and the Elgin Marbles were more tenuous than implied by the Attorney General. [ [http://www.elginism.com/20050603/126/ Article on the relevance of the Feldmann paintings judgment to the Elgin Marbles.] ] However, despite the British Museum's charter preventing the repatriation of items within its collection, a 2005 bill concerning the repatriation of ancestral remains allowed for the return of Aboriginal human remains to Tasmania after a 20 year battle with Australia. [ [http://www.cbc.ca/arts/story/2006/03/26/aboriginal-ashes.html British Museum returns aboriginal ashes to Tasmania ] ]

Another argument for maintaining their location within the UK has been made by J. H. Merryman, Sweitzer Professor of Law at Stanford University and co-operating professor in the Stanford Art Department. He argued that if the Parthenon were actually being restored, there would be a moral argument for returning the Marbles to the temple whence they came, and thus restoring its integrity. However, the Greek plan is to transfer them from a museum in London to one in Athens. The sculptures which Elgin spared have been taken down and put in the New Acropolis Museum. "Is it more spiritually satisfying to see the Marbles in an Athenian museum gallery than one in London?" Other voices, this time in the House of Lords, have raised more acute concerns about the fate of the Elgin Marbles if they were to be returned to Greece. In an exchange on 19 May 1997, Lord Wyatt of Weeford stated

"My Lords, is the Minister aware that it would be dangerous to return the marbles to Athens because they were under attack by Turkish and Greek fire in the Parthenon when they were rescued and the volatile Greeks might easily start hurling bombs around again?" [Yannis Hamilakis, "Stories from Exile: Fragments from the Cultural Biography of the Parthenon (or 'Elgin') Marbles", in World Archaeology, Vol. 31, No. 2, The Cultural Biography of Objects, (Oct., 1999), p.316]

Public opinion polls

Despite the British Museum remaining in ardent refusal to return the marbles to Greece, a 1998 opinion poll, organised by Channel 4 TV, showed over 92% in favour of the return. [http://www.ipsos-mori.com/polls/1998/elgin.shtml Public and MPs would return the Elgin Marbles!] , Ipsos MORI.] [http://www.europarl.europa.eu/pv2/pv2?PRG=CALDOC&TPV=DEF&FILE=990128&TXTLST=1&POS=1&LASTCH
] It should be noted, however, that such an open access poll is very likely to contain a very large bias as only those people with a strong point of view will participate and there may be multiple votes cast by an individual. [http://www.education.edean.org/pdf/Tool039.pdf see page 11 of 31] Indeed, in 1998, a non-biased poll carried out by MORI asking "If there were a referendum on whether or not the Elgin Marbles should be returned to Greece, how would you vote?" returned these values from the general adult population:

*39% in favour of returning the marbles to Greece
*15% in favour of keeping them at the British Museum
*18% would not vote
*28% had no opinion

A more recent opinion poll in 2002 (again carried out by MORI) showed similar results, with 40% in favour of returning the marbles to Greece, 16% in favour of keeping them within Britain and the remainder either having no opinion or would not vote. [ [http://www.ipsos-mori.com/polls/2002/parthenon.shtml Ipsos MORI: Support For The Return Of The Parthenon Marbles ] ] When asked how they would vote if a number of conditions were met (including, but not limited to, a long-term loan where by the British maintained ownership and joint control over maintenance) the number responding in favour of return increased to 56% and those in favour of keeping them dropped to 7%.

Both MORI poll results have been characterised by proponents of the return of the Marbles to Greece as representing a groundswell of public opinion supporting return, since the proportion explicitly supporting return to Greece significantly exceeds the number who are explicitly in favour of keeping the Marbles at the British Museum. [ [http://greekembassy.org/Embassy/Content/en/Article.aspx?office=3&folder=274&article=3326 Opinion poll: Majority of Britons favor return of Parthenon Marbles ] ]

Other displaced Parthenon art

The remainder of the surviving sculptures that are not in museums or storerooms in Athens are held in museums in various locations across Europe. The British Museum also holds additional fragments from the Parthenon sculptures acquired from various collections that have no connection with Lord Elgin.

The collection held in the British Museum includes the following material from the Acropolis:

* Parthenon: convert|247|ft|m|abbr=on of the original convert|524|ft|m|abbr=on of frieze:* 15 of the 92 metopes:* 17 pedimental figures; various pieces of architecture
* Erechtheion: a Caryatid, a column and other architectural members
* Propylaia: Architectural members
* Temple of Athena Nike: 4 slabs of the frieze and architectural members

Further reading

* Mary Beard, "The Parthenon" (Profile Books, 2004) ISBN 978-1861973016
* Marc Fehlmann, "Casts and Connoisseurs. The Early Reception of the Elgin Marbles" (Apollo, June 2007, pp. 44-51) [ [http://www.apollo-magazine.com/issue/june-2007/63335/casts-connoisseurs.thtml) Apollo Magazine | Casts & Connoisseurs ] ]
*Jeanette Greenfield 'The Return of Cultural Treasures'(Cambridge University Press 2007)
* Christopher Hitchens, "Imperial Spoils: The Curious Case of the Elgin Marbles" (with essays by Robert Browning and Graham Binns) (Verso, March 1998)
* Ian Jenkins, "The Parthenon Frieze" (British Museum Press, 2002)
* Dorothy King, "The Elgin Marbles" (Hutchinson, January 2006)
* François Queyrel, [http://www.editions-bartillat.fr/fiche-livre.asp?Clef=281 "Le Parthénon, Un monument dans l'Histoire"] (Bartillat, 2008) ISBN 978284100-435-5.
* William St. Clair, "Lord Elgin and the Marbles" (Oxford University Press, 1998)


ee also

* British Museum
* Thomas Bruce, 7th Earl of Elgin
* Francesco Morosini
* Vandalism
* Parthenon Frieze
* Parthenon
* Erechtheum
* Metopes of the Parthenon
* Acropolis Museum

External links

* [http://www.britishmuseum.org/explore/galleries/ancient_greece_and_rome/rooms_18,_18a,_18b_parthenon.aspx The British Museum Parthenon pages]
* [http://www.mistral.co.uk/hammerwood/elgin.htm An interpretation of the meaning of the Marbles]
* [http://odysseus.culture.gr/a/1/12/ea126.html Location of the parts of the Parthenon around the world]

Pros and Cons of Restitution

* [http://odysseus.culture.gr/a/1/12/ea120.html The Restitution of the Parthenon Marbles]
* [http://www.acropolisofathens.gr/ Acropolis of Athens — One monument, one heritage]
* [http://www.parthenonuk.com/ British Committee for the Reunification of the Parthenon Marbles' site]
* [http://www.marblesreunited.org.uk/ Marbles Reunited: Friends of the British Committee for the Reunification of the Parthenon Marbles]
* [http://www.parthenoninternational.org/ The International Association for the Reunification of the Parthenon Sculptures]
* [http://www.elginism.com/ Elginism — Collection of news articles relating to the Elgin Marbles]
* [http://www.greece.org/parthenon/marbles/ A guide to the case for the restitution of the Parthenon Marbles]
* [http://prometheus.cc.emory.edu/panels/5E/G.Wood.html Gillen Wood, "The strange case of Lord Elgin's nose"] : the cultural context of the early 19th century debate over the marbles, the politics and the aesthetics, imperialism and hellenism
* [http://www.museum-security.org/elginmarbles.html Information about arguments for the marbles to be returned to Greece]
* [http://marbles.apokrisi.net Marbles with an Attitude — a different approach to the cause of reuniting the Parthenon Marbles]
* [http://www.spiked-online.com/Articles/00000002D447.htm An argument for keeping the marbles at the British Museum]
* [http://education.guardian.co.uk/higher/comment/story/0,,1265267,00.html "Elgin Marbles: fact or fiction?"]
* [http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm199900/cmselect/cmcumeds/371/371ap20.htm Two memorandums submitted to the UK Parliamentary Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport in 2000.]
* [http://www.seangabb.co.uk/flcomm/flc089.htm Should the Elgin Marbles be Returned to Athens? by Sean Gabb.]

The Marbles in the News

* [http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/6138214.stm BBC News — Swede gives back Acropolis marble]
* [http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/6313953.stm BBC News — Greek school children demand for the return of Elgin Marbles]
* [http://www.cbc.ca/story/arts/national/2006/01/26/elgin-marbles.html CBC News — Keep Elgin Marbles in U.K., expert says]

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • Elgin Marbles — im British Museum. Unter Elgin Marbles versteht man die Teile des Skulpturenschmuckes von Bauten der Akropolis von Athen, die heute im British Museum in London ausgestellt sind. Es handelt sich dabei u.a. um Teile des Panathenäen Frieses, einige… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Elgin Marbles — 1809, sculptures and marbles (especially from the frieze of the Parthenon) brought from Greece to England and sold to the British government by Thomas Bruce, 7th Earl of Elgin (1766 1841) …   Etymology dictionary

  • Elgin marbles — El gin mar bles Greek sculptures in the British Museum. They were obtained at Athens, about 1811, by Lord Elgin. [1913 Webster] …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • Elgin Marbles — Elgin Marbles, s. Elgin 1) …   Meyers Großes Konversations-Lexikon

  • Elgin Marbles —   [ elgɪn mɑːblz], die von Thomas Bruce, Earl of Elgin 1803 12 von Griechenland nach England gebrachten und 1816 vom britischen Staat angekauften Marmorskulpturen, v. a. die Parthenonskulpturen der Athener Akropolis (London, British Museum). Die… …   Universal-Lexikon

  • Elgin marbles — [el′gin] n. [after 7th Earl of Elgin (1766 1841), who brought them to England] a collection of ancient Athenian marble sculptures taken chiefly from the Parthenon, in the British Museum since 1816 …   English World dictionary

  • Elgin marbles — /el gin, jin/ a group of Greek sculptures of the 5th century B.C., originally on the Parthenon in Athens, and supposedly sculptured under the direction of Phidias: presently in the British Museum in London. [after Thomas Bruce, 7th Earl of Elgin… …   Universalium

  • ELGIN MARBLES —    a collection of ancient sculptured marbles brought from Athens by the Earl of Elgin in 1812, and now deposited in the British Museum, after purchase of them by the Government for £35,000; these sculptures adorned certain public buildings in… …   The Nuttall Encyclopaedia

  • Elgin Marbles — El|gin Mar|bles, the a set of ancient Greek ↑sculptures from the ↑Parthenon in Athens, which were brought to Britain by the Earl of Elgin in 1803, and are kept in the ↑British Museum in London …   Dictionary of contemporary English

  • Elgin marbles — /ɛlgən ˈmabəlz/ (say elguhn mahbuhlz) plural noun Greek sculpture of the 5th century BC, originally on the Parthenon in Athens, and thought to have been sculptured under the direction of Phidias; now in the British Museum in London. {after Thomas …   Australian English dictionary