The Tale of the Elgin Marbles
The Elgin Marbles are a series of sculptures that originally decorated the Parthenon in Athens.
The marble panels known as the Elgin Marbles were originally part of the Temple to the goddess Athena, an iconic landmark of Athens.
It has survived war, pollution, fire, pillage, explosions and vandalism since it was built in the 4th century BC. Although the building was known as a Temple, it had no priests or altar. It housed a giant statue of the goddess Athena, but its main purpose was as a Treasury.
What are the Elgin Marbles?
The detailed carvings of classical Greek figures and inscriptions on the frieze were created by Phidias and his students between 447 and 438 BC.
Such is their quality and history, the Marbles are considered by some to be the pinnacle of Greek art. Although they are now natural white marble, the friezes would have been highly colourful when they were first created.
The Removal of the Elgin Marbles
Back in the early 19th century, Lord Elgin was appointed British Ambassador for the Turkish Ottoman Empire. He had a passion for antiquities and travelled from Turkey to Greece.
He was given permission to organize a dig at the Acropolis and remove anything that was loose to take back to the UK.
Although the Greeks protested, they were ruled by the Turks at that time and were not able to stop the removal of one of their priceless national treasures.
Such was the stigma, Elgin stored the marbles for 13 years until the British Government stepped in and bought them. They put them on display in the British Museum in London for all the world to see.
Greece argues that the Marbles were created in Athens and should be reunited with the remaining statues of the Parthenon in the Greek National Archaeology Museum.
So far these controversial artifacts remain on display in the British Museum.