What are the Elgin Marbles? Facts and Information

Here are some facts about the Elgin Marbles.

  • The Elgin Marbles are a collection of classical Greek sculptures. The marble pieces were originally part of the Parthenon, the temple built on the Acropolis in Athens, Greece.
  • They have been on display in the British Museum in London since the early 19th century. Since then, Greece has campaigned to have the works of art returned to Greece.
  • A Scottish diplomat, Thomas Bruce, the 7th Earl of Elgin, removed the pieces from Greece during the early 1800s. He claimed he had been given permission to remove items he excavated.
  • At the time, Athens was a part of the Ottoman Empire, which gave its permission for the items to be taken away. Lord Elgin was very interested in ancient Greek art.
  • Parliament decided Elgin had acted legally and he sold the marbles to the British Museum. The sculptures meant that public were more interested in ancient art and they also influenced art of the period.
  • The Elgin Marbles collection includes about 82 metres of the original frieze, or decorative stone work from the Parthenon, and 17 stone figures. It also includes items from other nearby temples.
  • The collection also includes 15 of the original 92 rectangular carved panels. These show battles between a legendary Greek tribe, the Lapiths, and centaurs, who were half men, half horse.
  • Some of the decorative items from the Parthenon remained in Greece and can be seen at the Acropolis Museum. Others can be seen in museums such as the Louvre and the Vatican Museum.
  • In December 2014, one of the Elgin Marbles left the UK for the first time and was loaned to a Russian museum. The British Prime Minister promised it would be returned.
  • About 40 percent of British people think the Elgin Marbles should be returned to Greece. Organisations and celebrities have campaigned to have them returned, including UNESCO and George Clooney.

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