Part Four:
Contemporary comments on Lord Elgin's looting
"He (Elgin) looted what Turks and other barbarians considered sacred."
J. Newport MP

Edward Clarke, in his book "Travel to European Countries", published in 1811, wrote one of the most famous descriptions of the actual operations on the Acropolis by Lord Elgin's workteam under the supervision of Lusieri. According to Clarke, who witnessed the removal of the metopes, it was a fantastic and marvellous sculpture. But tragedy struck when a part of the Pentelic marble collapsed under the pressure of Elgin's machines and Clarke states that even the Turkish commander cried as the marble was smashed to pieces.

Frieze detail

Clarke also makes the point that Elgin's workteam didn't ruin the Parthenon by mistake, but they also cut the marble into smaller pieces for easier transport.

He was also aware that Pheidias and his fellow-sculptors had designed the decorations to the Parthenon in such a way that they could be seen at their best from below, not at eye level in a museum.

He concludes by saying that the shape of the temple suffered damage greater than that suffered by Morosini's artillery, that a great iniquity had been committed and that the English government could have demanded that the Turkish government took measures to protect the sculptures.

Edward Dodwell states in refutation of the British argument that the Greeks weren't indifferent to the preservation of the monuments. Many had complained about the ruination to the Sultan because he had given permission to Elgin to make his plans. He also says that he felt humiliation at being present at the looting of the most exquisite sculptures and architectural members. He adds that the arts in England could have benefited from castings of Pheidias' sculpures and ends by saying that not only was sacrilege committed but also the work had been assigned to people who only cared for their individual interests.


Thomas Hughes, an English clergyman, gives a shocking picture of the plunder of the Acropolis: "Tympana capitals, entablature and crown, all were lying in huge heaps that could give material for the erection of an entire marble palace."

The English painter Hugh Williams admitted that the Elgin Marbles would certainly have contributed to the progress of the arts in England but he didn't accept the right to uproot them from Greece.

Lord Broughton also mentions the damage to the Parthenon and accuses Elgin of having planned to remove the entire temple of Theseum (Hephaestus).

Francis Douglas, a British MP, assured Parliament that the Greeks admired the remnants of the Parthenon and that even the Turks had begun to appreciate their value. He also said that every sculpture of the Parthenon reminds us of the chisel of its creator and those for whom it was created. He ended by expressing his great disappointment at the impudence of the hands that were not afraid to dislocate the magnificent objects of the Parthenon and he praised Chateaubriand, who had charged Elgin with sacrilege.

Part 1:
The construction of the Parthenon
Part 2:
The stripping
of the Parthenon
Part 3:
The Elgin Marbles in
Part 4:
Contemporary comments on the looting
Part 5:
British views on the return
o f the Marbles
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