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Elgin Marbles

A collection of ancient sculptures brought from Greece to England by the Earl of Elgin, in 1812, while he was British ambassador to the Porte. On the strength of a firman from the Sultan authorizing Lord Elgin to examine, measure, and remove certain stones and inscriptions from the Athenian acropolis, his agents took possession of these marbles, which are said to have cost the ambassador nearly ˙75,000. In 1816, they were acquired by the British Museum for ˙35,000, and are now the property of the British nation, though a bitter controversy has from that time to this been waged sporadically, both as to the artistic value of the statues and as to the propriety of their removal from Greece. The chief marbles formed a part of the Parthenon, and were probably designed by Phidias and executed under his direction. They are mainly statues from the pediments and metopes, together with a large portion of the frieze of the cella. In addition, there are also figures from the Erechtheum and from the Temple of Niké Apteros. See Ellis, Elgin Marbles (London, 1847); Newton, in the Contents of the British Museum, Elgin Room (London, 1881-82); Michaelis, Ancient Marbles in Great Britain (Eng. trans. by Fennell, Cambridge, 1882); and the article Athenae. On the Phidian theory of their origin, see an article by W W. Story in Blackwood's Magazine for December, 1873.

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