Parthenon Marbles

Hellenic Electronic Center (HEC) For the Reunification of the Parthenon Marbles

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Joan Breton Connelly rightly admonishes the British and other despoilers of the Parthenon to return their loot to Greece. She says that

“the deliberate and sustained dismemberment of what are some of the most sublime images ever carved by humankind brings shame on those who work to uphold this state of affairs.”

PARTHENON ENIGMA by Joan Breton Connelly

 
Book Review by Evaggelos Vallianatos – Scholar; Author

The polytheistic, scientific and technological culture of the Greeks culminated in an extremely sophisticated form of sculpture and architecture and city planning of the classical age, filling poleis with thousands of statues and dozens of great temples, including the Parthenon in Athens honoring the virgin goddess Athena.

Building the Parthenon was, first of all, a massive public works project. Plutarch, priest of Apollo and philosopher, writing almost six centuries after the Athenians built the Parthenon in the fifth century BCE, left a few valuable clues on the history of the Parthenon.

He reported that the materials used for its construction included marble, bronze, ivory, gold, ebony and cypress-wood. Some 200 craftsmen and 50 sculptors did the lions’ work in constructing the temple of the virgin goddess Athena.

Plutarch praised Perikles under whose leadership Parthenon came into being. The works of Perikles, he said, were done “in a short time for all time.”

William Martin Leake, a British traveler and philhellene, visited Athens in the 1810s. In 1821, he extolled the “magnificent” Parthenon, “which, by its united excellences of materials, design and decorations, was the most perfect ever executed.”

Another philhellene, the French philosopher Ernest Renan, visited the Acropolis in 1865 and fell in love with the beauty and sacredness of the Parthenon. He admitted that, “Greece had created science, art, philosophy and civilization; but the scale failed me. When I saw the Acropolis, I have had the revelation of the divine.” In addition, Renan equated the beauty of the Parthenon with “absolute honesty,” reason and the respect Greeks had towards their gods. He said the hours he spent on the Acropolis were “hours of prayer” to Pallas Athena.

A 20th-century student of ancient Athens, R. E. Wycherley, noted that the Parthenon was the

culmination of Greek architecture… The temple dominated the Acropolis and was the crowning glory of the city… It was elaborately designed, and… worthy offering to Athena and a splendid symbol of the power and achievement of Athens.

E. Guhl and W. Koner, German scholars, also of the 20th century, documented that works of architecture “produce the grandest and most powerful impression and give the most distinguishable character to the life of a nation.” This was particularly true with the Greeks who “were enabled and gifted more than any other nation” in rendering “the innermost nature of their genius in external works of art.”

Just like the Greeks designed the world’s first computer 2,200 years ago in order to unite the heavens and Earth, they also brought together the celestial and temporal in their temples. According to Guhl and Koner, “the temple became the rallying-point of everything good, noble and beautiful, which we still consider as the glory of Greek culture and refinement.”

The American classics scholar, Jon D. Mikalson, agrees. He speaks of the divine origins in Greek architecture, the “inclination” of the Greeks “to give to their gods only what was beautiful.” The result of this piety, he says, “filled their cities and villages… with temples, statues and dedications of unsurpassed beauty.”

According to Mikalson:

Most of what we think of as characteristically Greek in architecture, sculpture, mythology, lyric poetry, tragedy, and comedy owned its origins and, especially in the Classical period, its development to the religious institutions and practices of the Greek people. The cultural environment in which the Greek individual lived, whether in Athens or Sparta or Thebes, was significantly determined by his religion and that of his ancestors.

The Parthenon was the jewel of Greek religion. Like an ageless celestial mirror, it also reflected the power, patriotism, democracy and artistic and technical achievements of Athens, the premier Greek polis in the fifth century BCE.

The Parthenon Enigma (Alfred A. Knopf, 2014) highlights this refreshing interpretation of Greek history. Its author, the American classics scholar Joan Breton Connelly, is admirable because she sees the Greeks mostly as the Greeks saw themselves. This is no small achievement in an age that is fashionable even for classical scholars to hate the Greeks.

In her 2007 book, Portrait of a Priestess, Connelly argued convincingly women in ancient Greece were not second-class citizens, especially in religious practices. Now in her masterful story, The Parthenon Enigma, she breaks new ground once again — explaining the Greeks in terms of their relationships with their gods. Yes, Athens had plenty of philosophers and radical democrats, but above all else Athens had people pious to the gods and Athena in particular.

The Parthenon, Connelly says, was “first and foremost a religious building,” a “supernal” temple that facilitated beliefs and rituals at the “very fabric of [Athenian] life.” It wedded metaphysical understanding and civic solidarity among citizens who knew they were autochthonous Greeks. The Parthenon told them to protect their polis from “exotic, barbaric outsiders.” This made the Parthenon an “epitome of Athenian self-awareness.”

Christians and, eventually, Moslems desecrated, plundered, bombed and wrecked the Parthenon. But, like Plutarch said, the Parthenon remains untouched by time.

Read The Parthenon Enigma. It is a very important book: thoroughly researched and written for the intelligent reader. It is original, insightful and convincing.

Despite the ceaseless barbarities against Greece, including the unforgivable and atrocious colonialism of the European Union and America in Greece since 2009, Greek values are at the foundation of the West. Connelly’s book reminds us of that.

Connelly rightly admonishes the British and other despoilers of the Parthenon to return their loot to Greece. She says that the “deliberate and sustained dismemberment of what are some of the most sublime images ever carved by humankind brings shame on those who work to uphold this state of affairs.”

Stephen Fry offers Britain graceful solution for return of the Parthenon Marbles during the Intelligence Squared conference debate “The Parthenon Marbles Should be Returned to Athens” on Monday June 11, 2012 at Cadogan Hall.
He concludes by saying “We will never ever be able to repay the debt we owe Greece.”

A must watch 6 minutes video:


You can also watch the full 46 minute debate here: Intelligence Squared debate at Cadogan Hall.

Stephen’s analogy to the argument below was “If your house is on fire and you as a neighbor store the neighbor’s paintings in your garage for some time does it make them yours? Will you return them when the neighbor asks you for them?

Speakers against the motion: “What’s all this nonsense about sending the Parthenon Marbles back to Greece? If Lord Elgin hadn’t rescued them from the Parthenon in Athens and presented them to the British Museum almost 200 years ago, these exquisite sculptures – the finest embodiment of the classical ideal of beauty and harmony – would have been lost to the ravages of pollution and time. So we have every right to keep them: indeed, returning them would set a dangerous precedent, setting off a clamour for every Egyptian mummy and Grecian urn to be wrenched from the world’s museums and sent back to its country of origin. It is great institutions like the British Museum that have established such artefacts as items of world significance: more people see the Marbles in the BM than visit Athens every year. Why send them back to relative obscurity?”

“But aren’t such arguments a little too imperialistic? All this talk of visitor numbers and dangerous precedents – doesn’t it just sound like an excuse for Britain to hold on to dubiously acquired treasures that were removed without the consent of the Greek people to whom they culturally and historically belong? That’s what Lord Byron thought, and now Stephen Fry is taking up the cause. We should return the Marbles as a gesture of solidarity with Greece in its financial distress, says Fry, and as a mark of respect for the cradle of democracy and the birthplace of rational thought.”

BBC WORLD NEWS

Chair: Zeinab Badawi BBC World News presenter
Speakers for the motion: Andrew George Chair of Marbles Reunite, Liberal Democrat MP for St Ives
Stephen Fry Actor, writer, comedian, and broadcaster
Speakers against the motion: Felipe Fernández-Armesto William P Reynolds Professor of History, the University of Notre Dame
Tristram Hunt Broadcaster, historian and newspaper columnist; Labour MP for Stoke-on-Trent Central

A so true quote from Things That Never Made It Into Print…
“…that were (Marbles) sawed off by Thomas Bruce, 7th Earl of Elgin, in the early 1800s while ambassador of the British Empire while Greece was under Ottoman occupation. So the British were actually allies — or partners — in this theft.

Full article and comments below…

Greek calls for the UK to return the Parthenon Marbles, nearly 200 years after they were removed from the Acropolis and shipped to London, have a new advocate leading the battle in the UK…
Full article in comment below…

Anthony Badami ’11: Arguing against Elginism is a must read commentary recently published in the Brown Daily Herald. There are no more arguments. Give Them Back!
full article in comment below…

Two illegally excavated rare sixth century sculptural masterpieces have been recovered by Greek police after a pair of farmers tried to sell them for 10 million euros (£8.56 million)… More…

British Museum, make it right. Give Them Back!

Just walking up the steps of Propylaea…you are in awe!
The great entrance…passing through the massive columns of Propyleae…
In early 1800s, Elgin the vandal…hacked and decapitated…the most renowned building in the world…
The Temple of Goddess Athena! …She Wants Them Back!
The Marble Sculptures belong to Her.
The Acropolis Museum…a marvel of Art and modern engineering…waiting for their return.
The old Athens under your feet…Ictinus and Callicrates with Phidias overlooking from the Parthenon as the Athenian sun bathes the creations of Phidias.
British Museum, make it right. Give Them Back!

Click image to watch the video – music: Mikis Theodorakis (4 minutes)

The article in the comment below was published in New York Times.

The author is missing the whole point of the looting and vandalism and pretends the British have the marbles in some legitimate way!

His statement: “…the British still make the better case” is based on foolish arguments like the vast majority of people including the British are rooting for the “Greeks playing the underdog role of the old Red Sox vs NY Yankees”

Elgin did not “spirited them [sculptures] from the Acropolis in Athens”, but he literally hacked them off the solid marble blocks and he vandalized the Temple.

There are countless such statements and assumptions not only for the Parthenon Marbles but in the other references to other major pieces of antiquity that have been looted, including the statement that Zahi Hawass, Egypt’s chief archaeologist, made recent “fuss” about the Rosetta Stone.

Of course one who writes that “today’s Acropolis is itself a kind of fiction” he has not experienced being there. Just by walking up the steps pass the Propylaea, one will feel the admiration. Being there. At the Acropolis.
Should this kind of journalism published by NYT?

See full article and comments…


These Hellenic artifacts were recently auctioned at Bonhams in UK.

Δεν μπορούμε να πιστοποιήσουμε ότι έχουν φύγει παράνομα από τη χώρα και ως αποτέλεσμα δεν μπορούμε να μπλοκάρουμε τη δημοπρασία

Unfortunately the Greek Government had no proof that the wreath had left the country illegally. e-typos.com

The Greek officials interest is on a delicate wreath made of fine gold oak leaves resemble the ones worn by the Macedonian kings as Alexander the Great’s father, Philip II. It is obvious that thieves at some point have vandalized and looted artifacts not much different of what Elgin did for the Parthenon Marbles.

See full article and comments…

Pictures of The Acropolis Museum“…On the approach to the Museum’s entrance, a huge oval balcony in plate glass gives way to a deep well exposing the ruins of ancient Athens at the foot of the Acropolis. Suddenly… ”
By KitChapman, April 17, 2010

See full article and comments….

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