By Renee Livio
Who should own the Parthenon/Elgin has been a long and complex debate. Both sides, the British and the Greeks have valid and equal points as to why they should be the one to care and to keep these precious sought out marbles. Here today, I will present the arguments for both sides.
The Parthenon, throughout history, has been shaken by earthquakes, set on fire, shattered to an extent, attacked a numerous amount of times, looted for its sculptures and completely over taken yet here today, large portions of this temple still stands and remains as a symbol of the great ancient Greek culture. It is said that work on building this artifact had begun in 447 BC to replace an existing temple that had been destroyed when the Persians invaded Athens. The Parthenon was built whilst the
Athenian Empire was at its height of power having just succeeded in the Persian Wars that had lasted from 490BC until 479BC. To the Athenians, building this was a sign of victory, power, wealth and a way to give thanks to the Goddess Athena, the goddess of war, for, as they believe had led them to win their battles. Throughout its time, the Parthenon had most importantly been a Greek temple. Yet as well as that it has also been a treasury, a fortress, a church to the Christians and a mosque to the Turkish. The temple was still intact in the 4th century AD but the city of Athens was purely just a part of a great history, simply just a city apart of the Roman Empire. Shortly after the Parthenon had been converted into a Christian church, mainly focused now on the Virgin Mary, many aspects of the temple had been modified and adjusted, including the removal of a various amounts of sculptures. In the 1400’s Athens fell to the Ottoman Empire and once again the Parthenon had been converted, this time transformed into a mosque. Although they were generally respectful towards the sculptures they in no way felt the need to protect them and often used the material as a resource. By 1800, Thomas Bruce, also know as Lord Elgin as the British ambassador had wanted to bring back aspects of the great Greek art and culture into those that were back in Britain. What had begun as just drawings, paintings and measuring had swiftly changed to where he now had permission from the Turkish to saw, cut and take the sculptures off the very temple and take it back home. With this, we saw how many sculptures were damaged in the process as well as a large amount now lost to history. But on his return to London he experienced financial difficulties which left him no choice but to sell them to the British Government. The collection was then placed in the British Museum which is where today those sculptures still remain, separated from those remaining in Greece.
The detail and advanced methods the Greeks used with such little resources compared to those that we have available today, still leave our modern world to be amazed by their work. The Parthenon was built by the use of limestone as well as having the columns and the wide range of sculptures made up of local marble from Mount Pentelicus. The Athenians originally had 180,000 tons of this marble but is said had only used 22,000 blocks looking for perfection. The use of the white marble represented purity to the Greeks. This temple used the Doric order, having had eight columns standing to the front and back while it had seventeen running along the sides, creating the established ratio of 9:4. This ratio not only determined the proportions of the temple but established many other relationships between the building such as the space between the columns.
One of the most fascinating and intriguing aspects of this artifact is that there appears to hardly be a straight line on this temple. The Greeks used optical illusions to trick the eye into seeing straight, graceful lines when in fact, if looking from outside, are not actually straight. The base for example rises…