Elgin Marbles  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

The Elgin Marbles (/ˈel gin/), also known pars pro toto as the Parthenon Marbles, are a collection of Classical Greek marble sculptures made under the supervision of the architect and sculptor Phidias and his assistants. They were originally part of the temple of the Parthenon and other buildings on the Acropolis of Athens.

In 1801, Thomas Bruce, 7th Earl of Elgin obtained a firman, which was an official decree, from the Sublime Porte, the central government of the Ottoman Empire which were then the legal rulers of Greece. Elgin was also later approved by a second firman which allowed for the shipping of the marbles from the Piraeus. From 1801 to 1812, the Earl's agents removed about half of the surviving sculptures of the Parthenon, as well as sculptures from the Propylaea and Erechtheum. The Marbles were transported by sea to Britain. In Britain, the acquisition of the collection was supported by some, while some others, such as Lord Byron, likened the Earl's actions to vandalism.

Following a public debate in Parliament and the subsequent exoneration of Elgin, he sold the Marbles to the British government in 1816. They were then passed to the British Museum, where they are now on display in the purpose-built Duveen Gallery.

After gaining its independence from the Ottoman Empire in 1832, Greece began a series of projects to restore its monuments. It has expressed its disapproval of Elgin's removal of the Marbles from the Acropolis and the Parthenon, which is regarded as one of the world's greatest cultural monuments. Greece acknowledged that the British Museum is the lawful owner of the “Elgin Marbles in 2015, but Greece continues to urge the return of the marbles to Greece for their unification by diplomatic and political means.

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