Saturday, February 21, 2009


The long-awaited museum where Greece hopes to one day display the Elgin Marbles alongside other ancient masterpieces from the Acropolis will be inaugurated this summer. Culture Minister Antonis Samaras said Friday the opening ceremony will bheld on June 20. Initially, Greece had planned to open the New Acropolis Museum ahead of the 2004 Athens Olympics.

Crouching at the foot of the Acropolis, the new glass and concrete museum is the centerpiece of Greece's campaign for the return of the Elgin — or Parthenon — Marbles from the British Museum in London. The British Museum has repeatedly refused to relinquish the 2,500-year-old sculptures, which formed part of the Parthenon Temple's decoration until Scottish diplomat Lord Elgin removed them to Britain 200 years ago. At the time, Greece was still an unwilling part of the Ottoman Empire. The British Museum argues that it legally acquired the Marbles, which form an integral part of its collection and are easily accessible to visitors from all over the world.

But Greek officials say the 129 million-euro ($166 million) new building will allow all the surviving Parthenon sculptures to be displayed together — with the 5th century B.C. temple appearing as a backdrop through glass walls.

Designed by U.S.-based architect Bernard Tschumi in collaboration with Greece's Michalis Photiadis, the new museum will contain more than 4,000 ancient works in 215,000 square feet (20,000 square meters) of display space. A delicate operation to lift hundreds of statues from an old museum on the Acropolis using cranes was completed in early 2008, prompting officials to promise an opening that September. But the final exhibition blueprint was only approved this week.

The Parthenon was built between 447-432 B.C., at the height of ancient Athens' glory, in honor of Athena, the city's patron goddess. It survived virtually intact until a massive explosion caused by a Venetian cannon shot in 1687, when the Parthenon was being used a gunpowder warehouse by a Turkish garrison.

For a good read see Stealing Athena by Karen Essex, a delightful book based on the history of Mary Nesbit Elgin, the wife of Lord Elgin of marbles fame. Most of us don't know much about Lady Elgin and, as it turns out, Mary Elgin's life was quite tragic since Elgin was really only interested in spending HER money yet she was instrumental in getting the sculptures shipped to England.He was a pretty nasty guy whose nose was disappearing because of syphyllis. Her life in the Ottoman court and the depiction of Athens at the turn of the 19th century is really fascinating.


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