History : Oct-Nov 2015
NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC HISTORY 39 Of the shattered statues that littered the Acropolis, the most intact were soon taken and reused in new constructions nearby. Smaller sculptures and fragments of the frieze were pilfered by rich tourists. These included the French ambassador, the Count of Choiseul- Gouffier. An avid collector of antiquities, he made off with a magnificent metope (square, sculpted panel) and a section of the Parthe- non’s frieze that is now on display in the Louvre Museum in Paris. Over the following decades deterioration and pillage led to the disappear- ance of almost all the treasures of the former Temple of Athena. Rising from the Rubble In the first decade of the 19th century, the British Ambassador in Istanbul, Lord Elgin, removed many of the remaining sculptures from the Parthenon. These included a large part of the frieze and the last of the beauti- ful statues adorning the eastern facade. His actions remain controversial and the subject of heated debate. Detractors argue that Lord Elgin robbed Athens of its classical heritage, but his defenders counter that by removing these deteriorating pieces he preserved them for posterity. In 1832 Greece won its independence from the Ottoman Empire, and since then the nation has taken enormous pains to conserve the Acropo- lis, considered by all a symbol of their national identity. All the structures built after the classi- cal period have been removed to help restore the site’s dignity. In the 20th century many of the collapsed columns were reconstructed to rebuild the Parthenon’s imposing outline. Thousands of fragments have been collected from the site and carefully curated. Many are now on display in the new Acropolis Museum, opened in 2009, which showcases the long and determined Greek-led efforts at restoration. Inside the museum there is a large, empty room that has been put aside for the day when the sculptures carved at the height of Athenian democracy will finally come home. THE FINAL BATTLE During their long and bloody war of independence Greek troops laid siege to the Turkish garrison occupying the Acropolis (above) and even considered blowing it up. CORBIS/CORDON PRESS XXXXXXXXXXXX CARLOS GARCÍA GUAL CARCÍA GUAL’S PASSION FOR ANCIENT GREECE HAS LED HIM TO WRITE BOOKS AS VARIED AS DICTIONARIES OF MYTHOLOGY AND TREATISES ON HELLENISTIC PHILOSOPHY.
Dec 2015-Jan 2016