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Their azure arches through the long expanse, More deeply purpled, meet his mellowing glance, And tenderest tints, along their summits driven, Mark his gay course, and own the hues of Heaven; Till, darkly shaded from the land and deep Behind his Delphian rock he sinks to sleep. She addresses the visitor: Yet still the gods are just, and crimes are cross’d See here what Elgin won, and what he lost!The poet sits alone within the walls of the ruined Parthenon when, suddenly, as a vision, Minerva herself appears in front of him. Another name with his pollutes my shrine: Behold where Diana’s beams disdain to shine!Opinions have been divided into two major groups: to those who consider Elgin’s initiative as a rescue of the marbles from the Turks, who were the rulers of Athens at that time, and to those who think that what Lord Elgin did was a sacrilege.
Some of the marbles are still lying on the bottom of the sea… In 1803 Elgin had to go back to England to report on his mission and relying on the Peace of Amiens, he decided to cross France, without realising that he had placed his head in the lion’s mouth.
In May 1803 Napoleon resumed his war against England and, breaking the treaty, he arrested all Englishmen between 18 and 60 who happened to be in France. Fortune smiled at him for a while and was allowed to go to the Pyrenees where he was arrested again and imprisoned for 3 years.
Elgin’s agents in Athens had not only taken vases and statuettes but also erected scaffolds around the building of the Parthenon.
They stripped the Erechtheium and the temple of Victory and took away one of the Caryatids.
Elgin was a member of a group of English aristocrats, the Society of Dilettanti, which was founded for the encouragement of classical archaeology.
Their ardent ambition was to make England an art centre of the world.Byron refused to authorise any publication because he probably wanted to go back and live in England.The poem consists of 312 lines and it is a severe attack against Lord Elgin and his taking away from Greece the so called «Elgin Marbles», the marbles of the Parthenon on the Acropolis of Athens Ever since these marble sculptures arrived in London early in the 19century, they have caused controversy.These people possessed great political power and often held important diplomatic posts in various embassies.One of their main concerns was to take advantage of the opportunities of their residence abroad and enrich their mansions back home with the artistic spoils of the continent.Some retribution still might Pallas claim, When Venus half avenged Minerva’s shame.Further in the poem, Minerva attacks Elgin’s country, Scotland, which the goddess calls A land of meanness, sophistry and mist, Just as Boeotia was the arid and the most uncivilised part of Greece, so Scotland is the uncivilised part of Britain.“I was obliged,” writes Lusieri to Elgin, “to be a little barbarous”.According to an eyewitness, “the fine masses of pentelican marble came clattering down, scattering the white masses with from his mouth and dropped a tear crying: «That is enough!He remained under a humiliating restraint until the peace of 1814!When Byron came to Greece, one afternoon, he went as a pilgrim to visit the Acropolis of Athens but was shocked at the plight of the Parthenon, the temple of goddess of wisdom Minerva.