Tuesday, August 11th, 2009
Parthenon Animated Clip
Earlier this summer I posted about how the Elgin Marbles controversy has been reignited with the opening of the new Acropolis Museum. It seems like the flames keep getting fanned as the summer waxes on. Currently, the Acropolis Museum is showing screenings of a short animated clip by Costa Gavros. This clip shows the history of the Parthenon, which culminates with Lord Elgin’s workers hacking metopes and pediment sculptures off of the facade. Excerpts of Lord Byron’s poem “The Curse of Minerva” is read by a narrator at the end of the clip (Byron wrote this satiric poem in 1811, when Lord Elgin was still removing marbles off of the Parthenon).
You can bet that this screening is a not-so-subtle hint that the Acropolis Museum wants their sculptures back. You can watch the clip here:
I don’t know if this clip has sparked much dialogue between the Greeks and Brits yet, but it has attracted attention and controversy. Recently, the Orthodox Church complained about the depictions of Christians destroying images in the film, and asked that 12 seconds of the film be removed. Later, it was decided that the film would remain unedited.
What do you think of the clip? I think fun to see a visual history of the Parthenon, even if the film agenda is biased.
It will be interesting to see if this Elgin Marbles debate ever ends. I don’t think that either side is backing down or willing to reach a consensus as to where the statues should remain. It’s a never-ending battle. It kind of reminds me of when Jack Sparrow and Barbossa are locked in an eternal sword fight at the end of Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl. Each side keeps on attacking and jabbing, but no progress is made towards ending the fight.
I actually thought that video was kind of cute. But I wish they'd focused more on the Parthenon when it was originally in use and shown the festivals that were organized around it, instead of just showing its slow destruction. Kinda boring, that.
As for the Elgin Marbles, the Greek government sold them to Lord Elgin fair and square. Whining about it now is like crying over spilled milk, and quite frankly I find it annoying. The fact is that if Elgin HADN'T taken those sculptures, we wouldn't even know what they looked like because they would be destroyed. No, there's no justification for stealing a country's artwork and cultural heritage–but stealing isn't what happened here.
I really wish the Acropolis Museum and the British Museum would come to some sort of compromise, though. Like what if the Acropolis Museum accepted copies of the statues–then they could be placed in situ so people could experience them as they would have during the time of Ancient Greece. How cool would that be?
It would have been cool to see the Panathenaic festival in the clip! I didn't even think of that. That's a great idea.
Yeah, Lord Elgin did receive legal permission to take the statues. I think that one of the main debate issues is that Elgin received permission during the Ottoman occupation. So, although Elgin did receive legal permission, that authorization was not approved by the Greeks but by an Ottoman sultan.
However, that doesn't mean that I'm trying to point a finger and blame Elgin. I totally agree, heidenkind, the statues probably would have been destroyed or damaged if they had stayed in Greece. Personally, I would like to see the statues returned to Greece, just because I think it would be so cool to see them in situ.
I think I saw some plaster copies of the Elgin marbles already on the Parthenon (back when I went there in 2003). I remember that it was kind of easy to see which ones were the copies, as if the Greeks wanted to make a pronounced statement about which statues had been stolen. It would be cool to have accurate copies made, though. It's kind of sad that presently the Greeks are more interested in displaying plaster copies (and thereby accentuating their lost marbles), than wanting to have accurate copies to give a better sense of ancient history.
Thanks for sharing this clip. There's a good chance that I'll be teaching an ancient-medieval art history class in the fall (as long as enrollment stays up), and this could be a great introduction to the Elgin marbles controversy for my class. I think it could spark some interesting discussion, and it would be good for the students to see a rendering of what the Parthenon would had looked like when originally built. I do think a video of the Panathenaic procession would be cool to show a class as well, if they were to make one.
CultureGrrl has an interesting post today that ties into things that we have been discussing:
This post includes an interesting link to the British Museum's website, which discusses common misconceptions surrounding the Elgin Marbles. According to this website, the Lord Elgin received local support from both Turkish and Greek officials (scroll down to "9" on the site). I never had heard that the Greeks sanctioned the transaction that went on between the Turks and Elgin. That's interesting. I guess that little disclaimer should be added to the earlier comment that I made on this post.
And Kiersten, that's great that you might be teaching an ancient-medieval class this fall! I hope that enrollment stays up. You'll be great. I also thought that this clip would be fun to show in a classroom.
Those blasted Christians! They always have to mess everything up!
And however poignant Lord Byron's poem is, I still side with the British. In what condition would the Marbles have been in after centuries of acid rain?
I did like the clip, it was pretty cool.