History of the Marbles

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Hacking the Parthenon over and over

In the year 1799, the 7th Earl of Elgin, was appointed Ambassador at the Sublime Porte of Constantinople in Ottoman Turkey, 'not without lobbying on his own part'. Elgin had been engaged for some years building a grand country house, to be called Broomhall. The architect was Thomas Harrison, a fine architect in the Greek style and passionate admirer of Greek classical architecture, who strongly encouraged Elgin to arrange for drawings to be made of the Greek antiquities in Athens and especially "… to bring back plaster casts in the round of the actual surviving objects. There was no suggestion at that time that the original remains themselves should be removed."

Athens at the turn of the 19th century and after three and a half centuries of Ottoman occupation was a village of 1300 souls, clustered around the Acropolis. The population did not exceed some ten thousand of whom half were Orthodox Greeks and the rest Muslim Turks (who all spoke mainly or even only Greek), Albanians (half of them Muslim and half Christian Orthodox) with a sprinkling of African Muslims, Jews, Roman Catholics and a handful of western European families.