marbles

Elgin Marbles

[el-gin, -jin]

Lapith fighting a Centaur; detail of a metope from the Parthenon at Athens; one of the Elgin elipsis

Collection of ancient Greek marble sculptures and architectural fragments in the British Museum. They were removed from the Parthenon in Athens and other buildings by Thomas Bruce, Lord Elgin (1766–1841), ambassador to the Ottoman Empire, and shipped to England between 1802 and 1811. Elgin claimed he was saving the works from destruction by the Turks, who then controlled Greece. He secured permission from the Turks to remove “any pieces of stone” bearing figures or inscriptions. They remained in his private possession, amid mounting criticism, until 1816, when the crown bought them. The controversy still continues; the Greek government frequently demands their return.

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