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Separated! The Tale of the Acropolis in Athens, and London

This is a story of two cities: Athens and London. Two cities separated by over 3000 kilometers but united culturally because of their great contributions to our study and understanding of Greek culture.

Wait what, London?! Yes, London. For when the Ottoman Turks had the whole of Greece under their rule, an enterprising Brit with the title of Lord of Elgin fell in love with the Parthenon upon seeing it and decided to use his official title, as British Ambassador to the Ottoman Empire, to legally purchase almost ALL the sculptures in the Parthenon, of which can now be found in the British Museum of London.

But first things first, let’s take a look at the Acropolis in Athens!

1. The Acropolis in Athens.


Propylaea

* The Propylaea serves as the main entrance to the Acropolis. Meaning monumental gateway, the Propylaea’s design has been copied numerous times; from the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin to the Propylaea in Munich.



Parthenon

* Dedicated to the goddess Athena, patroness of Athens, the Parthenon is a thing of beauty! God knows how many books I’ve read about the subject, but to see it up close definitely cannot compare.


Parthenon

* Completed in 438BC, the monument without a doubt stands as the most enduring symbol of the prominence of Classical Greece and the grandeur of the Ancient Greek civilization. In its long history, the Parthenon has been a Greek temple, Byzantine Orthodox Church and pilgrimage site, Roman Catholic Church, Islamic Mosque and finally a tourist center.


Parthenon

* Some random ruins on the Acropolis. I might as well be in the set of the new 300 movie!


Parthenon

* For the purpose of scale; look how HUGE the Parthenon is!!


Acropolis

* Monicca posing by the Parthenon, and the writer posing against the Sanctuary of Pandion (a legendary King of Athens) while rocking the colors of the Greek flag.


Erechtheion

* The Erechtheion, located on the northern side of the Acropolis, is famous for being a temple dedicated to both Athena and Poseidon and for the presence of the Caryatids, aka the pillars shaped like hot women.


Erechtheion

* Another view of the Erechtheion. Take note of the olive tree located on the lower left side of the photo. Legend states that Poseidon and Athena once competed for the honor of having the city (obviously Athena won) named after them. This sacred olive tree was Athena’s gift to the Greeks for this honor, and is supposed to be over 10,000 years old!!


Propylaea

* Heading back outside through the Propylaea of the Acropolis.


Acropolis

* The walls here remind me of those found in Jerusalem, with its imposing and grand facade; like they could withstand the siege of a dozen catapults.


Acropolis

* Restoration work is currently being done on the various pillars around the structure. Oh the parkour moves that one can do here..


Acropolis Dogs

* Some weird looking dog/lion sculptures chilling under the sun.


Propylaea

* The long lines of tourists climbing into and out of the Acropolis via the Propylaea. It’s the tourists who stop in the middle of the stairs to take pictures that cause all the traffic, and I was definitely one of them!


Theater of Dionysus

* Located around the Acropolis are several ruins including that of the Asclepeion (above), a healing temple dedicated to the god of medicineAsclepius, and the Theater of Dionysus (below), used for festivals in honor of the Greek god of wine and merriment, Dionysus.


Odeon of Herodes Atticus

* The Odeon of Herodes Atticus is a stone theater located on one of the slopes on the side of the Acropolis. With a capacity of 5,000, this well-preserved amphitheater is still used today for musical and theatrical performances.

2. The Elgin Marbles in London

I had the great privilege to explore this wonderful museum back in 2012 and to this day, ranks as my favorite museum in the world, followed by the Louvre in Paris. Easily, the highlight of my trip here, aside from its awesome collection of mummies, is the gallery showcasing the Parthenon Marbles.


Elgin Marbles

* Purchased by Lord Elgin for a measly £70,000, the Parthenon Marbles basically includes all the sculptures and wall decorations found within the Parthenon. So if you ever wonder where all the art is at in the Acropolis, the answer would be, in London!

It would be like someone bought all the possession in your home, but left the house intact!


Elgin Marbles

* Naturally, public outcry accompanied the arrival of the Marbles in London, with some popular citizens including the famous Lord Byron, referring to Elgin as a vandal. However Lord Elgin did have his supporters, as a big chunk of the population were fans of Ancient Greek culture and came to admire the great historical works of art. He eventually ended up selling it to the British Museum for a mere £35,000 despite getting higher offers from other potential buyers, including Napoleon.


Elgin Marbles

* The British then took it upon themselves to painstakingly clean and conserve the Parthenon Marbles, which at that point had suffered through centuries of misuse, neglect, pollution and vandalism under the Ottomans. Eventually the public came to accept that the Marbles were better off in London arguing that they could be preserved better here than in their original home in Athens.


Elgin Marbles

* The Greeks have long claimed that the sale of the Marbles by the Ottomans is illegal and that their presence in the British Museum is akin to theft. They have long lobbied the British Government to return everything citing their increasing efforts to conserve and protect their monuments and the need to restore the Parthenon’s organic cohesion, wherein one can not only appreciate the Parthenon structure, but also admire it with its original decorations as a whole, restoring its integrity.


Elgin Marbles

* The debate continues as to whether these should remain in London or be returned to Athens. Such is the passion of the Greeks towards this subject that to ask a random stranger to talk about it is to invite an animated discussion full of lamentation and patriotic feelings.


Caryatids


* One of the original Caryatids, taken from the Erechtheion by Lord Elgin currently displayed with the Parthenon Marbles. Athenian legend states that the remaining five Caryatids can be heard wailing at night for their lost sister.


Elgin Marbles

* While I don’t want to take sides in this issue of whether the Marbles should be returned/loaned back to Athens or kept in London, I have to say that this exhibit definitely offers us an invaluable glimpse into the world that the Ancient Greeks lived in and I’m glad that they’re housed in an environment that offers maximum conservation and protection for future generations to enjoy.

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