The Marbles Go to London


The Marbles Go to London

I'm still inputting data about the Elgin Marbles (now we're calling them the 'Parthenon Marbles') into Itinera.  For your intellectual curiosity, let me educate you a little bit about the international controversy that surrounds these ancient marbles statues.

The artist Phidias sculpted the Parthenon Marbles as decoration for the Parthenon in Athens, Greece between ca. 447 - 438 BCE.  However, although Athens was once a leading city, it diminished into a sketchy, decrepit neighborhood with a far-off a history of grandeur.  By the time Lord Elgin (also known as the ambassador, Thomas Bruce) became interested in the Marbles, Athens was already in tatters.  His interest was sparked by the decorative Marbles, and he told his secretary, William Richard Hamilton, to check out the Marbles in July 1800.  Hamilton also brought along the artist Giovanni Battista Lusieri and a group of other artists to draw the statues at the Acropolis, including the Parthenon Marbles.

This was all in the early 1800s, when tensions were brewing around Europe because of the Napoleonic Wars.  So in February 1801, Bruce's artists were denied entrace to the Acropolis because of paranoia that the French would attack Turkey after the invasion of Egypt.  Unless Bruce could send a firman, or letter of permission, to the Athenian government allowing the artist to have access to the Marbles, they were finished.

After some procrastination, Bruce requested a firman at the Porte in Athens, Greece, which became (debatably) official by July 1801.  The firman granted the artists access to the Marbles, and Bruce also threw in a clause stating that the artists had permission to move the Parthenon Marbles from Athens to London, England.

Next week, I'll post about the controversy that surrounds the Parthenon Marbles.  Stay tuned!

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