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Debate over the Elgin marbles
The Elgin Marbles consists of a parade of beautiful statues of gods and goddesses from Athens, a Greek city named for Athena, the virgin goddess of wisdom and warfare. The statues were sculpted at a time when Athens was flourishing and perhaps the most powerful city in the world.
These works of art were once brightly painted and gleamed in the sunshine, but today, 2,500 years later, many of them are broken and have lost their color. The anonymous artists who created them were very skilled in geometry, which is apparent in the sense of balance and harmony that they possess. The statues continue to awe those who come from around the world to view them. Even now, the Elgin Marbles enlighten artists about the creation of beauty.
In the 1800s, Lord Elgin visited Athens from England. He was an amateur art lover who was saddened to see that the statues had fallen into decay. He asked the Sultan of Turkey, who then ruled Athens, if he could buy the statues. The Sultan agreed in the hopes of enriching his kingdom. And since he found the statues to be of little importance, he willingly made the concession.
Lord Elgin had just attained some of the most important treasures in art history! He brought the Elgin Marbles to England and donated them to the British Museum, where they remain to this day.
However, after the Greeks attained autonomy from Turkey, their leaders complained about the sale. They believed that the Sultan of Turkey never had jurisdiction to sell the statues in the first place and that the beautiful works of art did not belong in England, instead, they should be returned to Athens, where indigenous Greeks have always dwelled. However, the British Museum has refused to return the Elgin Marbles. They say they will not feed the greed of the Greeks, and that their claims to the statues are ambiguous at best. They believe the British paid for the statues fairly and in compliance with all the laws of the time.
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