History of the Marbles

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Introduction

Thomas Bruce, the 7th Earl; of Elgin, British Ambassador to the Sublime Porte of Constantinople (Istanbul) the seat of the Ottoman Empire at the turn of the 19th century, having stripped down the monuments of the Acropolis from 1801 - 1804 brought back to London one whole caryatid from the Erechtheion, huge pedimental figures, friezes, metopes and parts of columns from the Parthenon and other pieces representing over half of all the surviving sculptures from the monuments.

These were sold to the British Government in 1816, after the Select Committee of the House of Commons had debated the issue and considered the method of their acquisition, their value and the importance of buying them as public property. At the conclusion of this procedure, in spite of some serious misgivings expressed by a number of MPs and witnesses, especially whether a British Ambassador was justified in using his position to acquire antiquities from the Government he was accredited to, Elgin won the day. Parliament decided the sculptures be bought at the recommended price of £35,000.00, that they remain together and be displayed at the British Museum which maintains to this day that the so-called ' Elgin Marbles' are legally and properly held by it. Scholars have now seriously disputed this claim in the light of recent research and findings especially concerning the validity of the so-called firman.