Tag: spring2015

Ancient Art’s Relationship with Religion

Carly Strickland

Religion and the beliefs of the cultures of the ancient world played a huge role in the art that was created. Through this digital micro-exhibition visitors should experience the strong relationship between many great works of art and religion. From deities to gods and goddesses, religious narratives, and beliefs shaped the cultures of Mesopotamia, Egypt, and Greece.

As each piece of art in this exhibition is viewed and the cultures in which they were created are studied, comparisons can be drawn to the religious beliefs of the viewer, and it is the hope of the curator that each viewer will find some joy in seeing these pieces from this interesting perspective. A clear understanding of the freedom we have in America to worship and follow any belief system we choose can be overwhelming when one thinks about the uniqueness of these freedoms. There is definite beauty in being able to represent these belief systems through works of art. Consider the societies and cultures of the ancient past as well as the present, and consider your freedom in this melting pot of cultures in which we live.

Here are some questions to ponder while viewing these pieces: What kind of art would these cultures have created if religion and beliefs had not influenced the art so greatly? Would those cultures have had any art at all? How can you relate your own beliefs to these cultures? How does religion play a role in art today?

The curator of this exhibit recently watched a film about Dinah, the daughter of Jacob and sister of Joseph which sparked a connection between art and her own beliefs. The women in the rent tent were worshiping Inanna, the goddess of love and fertility. Although the fictional book and TV series may not have been entirely true to the Bible it still evoked a sense of what other gods the tribes and people of that time worshipped other than the God of the Bible. The commandment “You shall have no other gods before me,” came to life in that moment. Although at times in Evangelical teaching, the “other gods” can be associated with money or some other thing in modern life that takes attention away from the relationship with God, it is interesting to learn that people actually worshipped idols, and clay figures. So hopefully each viewer of this exhibit can find a connection to these pieces and the cultures from which they came, and these connections will further open hearts and minds to the many cultures of the world.

Warka Vase, Uruk, (modern day Warka, Iraq) c. 3300 – 3000 BCE

warka vasePhotograph credit http://www.historyofinformation.com/expanded.php?id=2617

The Warka Vase is made from alabaster, a form of marble, and stands approximately 36 inches high. The piece was found in the Temple Complex of the Sumerian goddess Inanna. Inanna was the patron deity of Uruk and is often mentioned with the other three Mesopotamian deities of Uruk – Anu, Enki, and Enlil. Her name is often accompanied by the symbol of a reed stalk tied in a hook at the top next to it. Inanna was believed to be the goddess of love and war and was later believed to be the goddess of fertility. While Inanna was the goddess of love, she was not the goddess of marriage. She was associated with sexual behavior. In each story that is told about her she is never an innocent bystander. She is always sly, manipulative, “violent and lusting after power“. One of many examples of Inanna’s manipulation can be found in the Epic of Gilgamesh. Gilgamesh was two-thirds god and one-third man, and Ishtar, Inanna’s Akkadian counter-part, fell in love with him the first time she laid eyes on him. “Inanna was carefully identified with Ishtar and rose in prominence from a local vegetative deity of the Sumerian people to the Queen of Heaven and the most popular goddess in all of Mesopotamia”.[i] Gilgamesh did not return the same affection towards her to which she took great offense. Ishtar had her father, Anu, make a divine bull to kill Gilgamesh and his friend Enkidu. Enkidu defeated the bull so the gods punished him by taking his life. Ishtar’s scheme did not go as planned, but someone’s life was still taken because of her selfishness and manipulation.

The Warka Vase tells a narrative story and is said to be a representation of the New Year’s festival. The registers show men, animals, water, and grain, and the New Years festival is believed to have brought fertility and growth to the soil. The bottom register shows a procession of animals walking to the right. The middle register shows nude men carrying vessels walking to the left in the opposite direction of the animals. The top register seems to depict the performance of a sacrifice or offering and shows a bearded bull which often represents deity. The direction switching from left to right gives a sense of movement up to the temple starting from the bottom register of the vase and proceeding to the top register. The male and female figures on the vase, which are no longer in tact, are believed to be depicting Inanna and Dumuzi, or her priestess and the priest-king. “The fusion of the world of the gods and that of the humans was so complete at the end of the fourth millennium, when the vase was produced, that depictions of figures lack indicators of divinity”.[ii] Union between deities and humans was believed an essential step in the process of growth and fertility in Sumer. Cultural wisdom was that the pleasure of deities brought prosperity to the lands.

The interaction between deity and priest-king in the Warka Vase is why the piece was chosen for this digital exhibition. Inanna “…brings knowledge and culture to the city of Uruk” .[iii] She was said to be the source of abundant harvests, power, and protection of the kings.

[i] Joshua J. Mark, “Inanna”, Ancient History Encyclopedia, 2010, http://www.ancient.eu/Inanna/.

[ii] The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Art of the First Cities, (New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2003), 24.

[iii] Joshua J. Mark, “Inanna”, Ancient History Encyclopedia, 2010, http://www.ancient.eu/Inanna/.

Babylonian Stele of Hammurabi, Made in Babylon, Erected at Sippar, Found in Susa, c. 1792-1750 BCE

Screen shot 2015-04-21 at 7.57.20 AMPhotograph credit Getty Images http://www.history.com/news/history-lists/8-things-you-may-not-know-about-hammurabis-code

The Stele of Hammurabi is an art piece and code of laws that was found in ancient Susa, and commissioned by Hammurabi, the sixth king of Babylon. The stele is made of diorite and is 7.4 feet tall, which emphasizes its significance. The main purpose of the piece was to serve as political propaganda, reminding those in the towns of Hammurabi’s kingdom of his rule and his laws. While the bottom portion serves as political propaganda the top is a religious relief sculpture paying tribute to Shamash, the sun god. The principle scene depicted shows King Hammurabi receiving his investiture from Shamash.

Hammurabi was the king of Babylon in Mesopotamia from 1792 to 1750 B.C.E. Babylon’s history was made famous because of Hammurabi’s greatness and military prominence. “Hammurabi combined his military and political advances and irrigation projects and the construction of fortifications and temples celebrating Babylon’s patron deity Marduk”.[i] Hammurabi implemented one of the earliest forms of legal codes in ancient Babylon. “His code, a collection of 282 laws and standards, stipulated rules for commercial interactions and set fines and punishments to meet the requirements of justice”.[ii] “An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth” is an example of one of the harsh punishments that Hammurabi enforced. Hammurabi’s Code was written in cuneiform script, the earliest system of writing, which was developed by the Sumerians. It is divided into three parts, a prologue, epilogue, and two literary passages describing the 282 laws. The prologue describes King Hammurabi’s role as protector, his empire, and triumph. The epilogue is a lyric and summary of Hammurabi’s legal work and groundwork for the future. The two literary passages were put into layman’s terms so everyone could understand the terms of the laws. The punishments were written as conditional statements, for example, “If a man knock out the teeth of his equal, his teeth shall be knocked out”.

Shamash, the sun god, who is seen in the top half of the stele, was also the god of law and justice, which explains why he is holding a staff and ring. He was an Akkadian god who “exercised the power of light over darkness and evil”.[iii] When comparing the Stele of Hammurabi to the Shamash Stele you can see that there is no division between Hammurabi, the king, and Shamash, the deity. It gives a sense of unification between the two. The Victory Stele of Naram-Sin shows Naram-Sin portraying himself as a god, so in comparing the two, the Stele of Hammurabi holds to the tradition where the king is still the negotiator with the deity and submits to the power of the god.

This piece represents another example of the interaction between the king and patron deity. The king is the middleman who communicates with the deity, presenting the god with worship and gifts. In this case the relationship is also used as political propaganda to ensure that the people of Babylon submit to the Hammurabi code – a legal system implemented “to prevent the strong from oppressing the weak and to see that justice is done to widows and orphans”.[iv]

[i] History.com Staff, “Hammurabi”, 2009, A+E Networks, http://www.history.com/topics/ancient-history/hammurabi.

[ii] History.com Staff, “Hammurabi”, 2009, A+E Networks, http://www.history.com/topics/ancient-history/hammurabi.

[iii] Encyclopædia Britannica Online, s. v. “Shamash”, accessed April 21, 2015, http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/538274/Shamash.

[iv] History.com Staff, “Hammurabi”, 2009, A+E Networks, http://www.history.com/topics/ancient-history/hammurabi.

Temple Complex at Karnak, c. 1292-1190 BCE

KarnakPhotograph credit http://stargate.wikia.com/wiki/Karnak

The Temple Complex at Karnak is found in Thebes on the east bank of the Nile River. The ancient Egyptians knew the temple of Karnak as Ipet-isu—or “most select of places”—.[i] It is considered the largest temple complex on Earth. It pays tribute to the deities Amun (Amun-Ra), Khnosu, and Mut. It is made up of courts ascribed to over 30 different kings, 3 main temple precincts, Hypostyle Hall, the sacred lake, and Scarab statues.

The largest temple in the complex is the Temple of Amun (Amun-Re), the King of the gods. The other two temples are the temples of his wife Mut, and son Khnosu. Amun was one of the most important gods in ancient Egypt, and once united with Ra, the sun god, he was the most powerful. “Amun-Ra was considered to be the father and protector of the pharaoh”.[ii] Six enormous figures sit outside the Temple of Amun that are believed to be the sculptures of the royal family, Hatshepsut and her ancestors. Hastshepsut, the Pharaoh of the 18th Dynasty often associated herself with Amun, and one form of propaganda even said that she was the daughter of Amun.

The Great Hypostyle Hall built by Sety I, the 19th century pharaoh, is the most grand of the buildings at Karnak, even in the presence of the temples of gods and goddesses. The Hall is a 54,000 square feet forest of 134 columns. The columns are 45’ wide and approximately 70’ tall. “Not only does the scale and completeness of this monument remain a rarity among ancient Egyptian temples, but is also the largest and most elaborately decorated of all such buildings in Egypt”.[iii] There is great detail in the relief carvings throughout the hypostyle. “The patchwork of artistic styles and different royal names seen in these inscriptions and relief sculptures reflect the different stages at which they were carved over the centuries”.[iv] Some of the relief’s include; Sety I offering two flowers, Ramesses II offering incense, Ramesses IV offering lettuce to Amun-Ra, Sety I attacking the Syrian town of Kadesh, and Horus with the headdress of Amun and the King.

The Sacred Lake is 393 feet by 252 feet and was dug by Tuthmosis III. The lake represents the remembrance of the void of chaos, memorial witness, and the commencement point of creation. It is a place of purification and is where the priest would bathe himself before sacred rituals. The goose is a symbol of Amun and the sacred geese of Amun also lived in the lake.

The Scarab of Amenhotep III, dung beetle and granite statue, was an emblem of the cycle and nature of creation. The dung beetle was an insect associated with the sun god Khepri. “The plinth is decorated with a lightly inscribed sunk relief scene of a kneeling Amenhotep III offering to Khepri who is seated on a low throne. A winged solar disk extends over their heads”.[v] The Scarab is attached to the sacred lake, almost as if they are standing guard, standing between chaos and the rest of the world.

The Temple Complex at Karnak, filled with sacred buildings and rich culture, holds great significance to Egyptian history. “It is the largest religious building ever made, covering about 200 acres, and was a place of pilgrimage for nearly 2,000 years”.[vi] This virtual exhibit would not have been complete without the Temple Complex at Karnak taking an appropriate place considering the amount of religious ceremonies and practices that took place there.

[i] Owen Jarus, “Karnak: Temple Complex of Ancient Egypt”, 2012, http://www.livescience.com/25184-karnak-temple.html

[ii] J. Hill, “Gods of ancient Egypt: Amun”, 2010, http://www.ancientegyptonline.co.uk/amun.html

[iii]University of Memphis College of Arts & Sciences, “Welcome to the Hypostyle Hall”, http://www.memphis.edu/hypostyle/staff_biographies.htm

[iv] University of Memphis College of Arts & Sciences, “Welcome to the Hypostyle Hall”, http://www.memphis.edu/hypostyle/staff_biographies.htm

[v] C. Zarnoch, E. Sullivan, “Scarab of Amenhotep III”, http://dlib.etc.ucla.edu/projects/Karnak/resource/ObjectCatalog/1854

[vi] Mark Millmore, “Karnak Temple Sacred Lake”, Discovering Egypt Website, 1997, http://discoveringegypt.com/karnak-temple/

Marble metope from the Parthenon, Athens, 447-438 BCE

marble metopePhotograph credit Ancient History Encyclopedia http://www.ancient.eu/article/780/

The marble metope from the Parthenon was a series of 92 marble panels on the exterior Doric frieze of the Parthenon in Athens. The marble metopes are also known as the Elgin Marbles, named after the 7th Earl of Elgin, Thomas Bruce who sold the marbles to Britain when Greece was under the rule of the Ottoman Empire. The Elgin Marbles still to this day reside in the British Museum, which has led to a rather heated debate. “Britain used to say that Athens had no adequate place to put the Elgin Marbles, the more than half of the Parthenon frieze, metopes and pediments that Lord Elgin spirited off when was ambassador to the ottoman empire two centuries ago”.[i] Now that the Acropolis Museum is a fully functioning museum with state of the art technology to help preserve and restore art, Britain’s argument is invalid. The debate still continues and further questions to whom ownership belongs and whether repatriation is the correct thing to do or not. Art does help define a culture and its ways but do other people deserve see the art too? Would people appreciate art as much if there weren’t places like encyclopedic museums where they can encounter these pieces first hand?

This particular marble metope from the Parthenon depicts a scene of “A fight between a human Lapith and a Centuar”.[ii] Lapith’s were Greek mythological people who lived on Mount Pelion and were known for their rivalry with the Centaurs. Centaurs were creatures that were part human and part horse and descended from Centaurus, the son of the music god, Apollo. The story the scene was taken from was of Centaurs first encounter with wine. The Lapith’s were throwing a marriage feast for their King, Peirithoos, and gave the Centaurs wine. The Centaurs got unruly and their leader, Eurytion, tried to take advantage of the bride. This caused uproar and “a general battle ensued, with the Lapiths finally victorious”.[iii]

This scene is portraying the victory of the Lapith’s over the Centaurs. The nude Lapith male is in the forefront of the sculpture showing dominance. The stance of the Centaur is uncomfortable and like he is in pain, and the stance of the Lapith is more relaxed and over powering. The defeat of the Centaur is shown very clearly on his face, and even though the Lapith is faceless, his body shows his victory. “The composition is perfectly balanced, with the protagonists pulling in opposite directions, around a central space filled by the cascading folds of the Lapith’s cloak”.[iv]

The connection this piece has with this exhibit is that Centaurs are descendants of Appollo’s son, Centaurus, and that Lapith’s are humans derived from greek mythology.   In this particular piece there is not a god or goddess being worshiped or offered sacrifices, but the piece gives a sense of how Greek culture was shaped around Greek mythology and the gods. Countless stories were told and art was made to visualize those stories. “The ancient Greek spiritual beliefs, religion, and oral tradition are all reflected and formulated through rich myths and legends that besides entertainment provided an articulation of the moral fiber of the Greek culture as it evolved through at least two thousand years”.[v]

[i] Michael Kimmelman, “Elgin Marble Argument in a New Light”, 2009, New York Times, http://www.nytimes.com/2009/06/24/arts/design/24abroad.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

[ii] B.F. Cook, The Elgin Marbles, 2nd edition (London, The British Museum Press, 1997)

[iii] B.F. Cook, The Elgin Marbles, 2nd edition (London, The British Museum Press, 1997)

[iv] B.F. Cook, The Elgin Marbles, 2nd edition (London, The British Museum Press, 1997)

[v] Ancient-Greece.org Staff, “Greek Mythology”, http://ancient-greece.org/culture/mythology.html

Laocoon and His Sons Hagesandros, Polydoros, and Athenodoros of Rhodes, Hellenistic Greece, 1st century BCE,

LaocoonPhotograph credit Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Laoco%C3%B6n

This sculpture of Laocoon and His Sons is one of the most famous sculptures from the Hellenistic time period, around 200 BCE. The sculpture was discovered in nine pieces, one seemingly life-sized, by a farmer in his vineyard on Esquiline Hill, was excavated in 1506, and placed in the Vatican where still housed today. The discovery of Laocoon sparked the imaginations of artists from Raphael to Michelangelo, becoming the standard for aesthetic beauty in art for the next several centuries. One can certainly see the influence of this piece on the physical attributes of some of the works of Michelangelo such as many figures on the Sistine Chapel Ceiling with similar muscular structure, and on the emotional attributes of pieces like his Slaves sculptures. Politicians sought after the sculpture as well, and Napoleon even captured the piece for his Louvre for a time. Eventually Laocoon was returned to the Vatican. Standing around eight feet tall, Lacoon and His Sons is sculpted from marble. The sculpture illustrates the scene of Laocoon and his two sons being attacked by sea serpents.

Laocoon was a Trojan priest and was said to be the priest of Poseidon. Some say he was also the priest of the god Apollo. The Trojan War could have been prevented if the Trojans had listened to Laocoon the day the Greeks brought the Trojan horse into the city. Laocoon tried to warn them against bringing the horse into the city because he sensed that it was a trap and indeed it was. Athena, the goddess, was the protector of the Greeks and punished Laocoon for trying to interfere with their plan. She punished him by sending two sea serpents, Porces and Chariboea, to attack his two sons and him. Another narrative says that, “Laocoon offended Apollo by breaking his oath of celibacy and begetting children or by having sexual intercourse with his wife in Apollo’s sanctuary”.[i] Apollo sent two serpents to kill Laocoon and his sons while he was sacrificing a bull at Poseidon’s altar. Whichever tale is true, both stories show that the gods and goddesses interacted with humans regularly but were not always trustworthy and did not always fight on the side of the humans.

The musculature in this sculpture shows the idealized body type of Grecian males during this time period of ancient Greece. The males were warriors and were expected to be the most fit. This piece shows a very intense narrative moment and emphasizes this by exaggerated tension in the bodies. One son seems to be breaking free of the grip of the sea serpents when he looks across to see his father and brother in the agony of their deaths.

This piece was chosen for this exhibit because of the relationship between Laocoon and the gods and goddesses, which also once again illustrates how gods and goddesses were part of everyday life in Greek culture, and for its influence on generations of artists centuries after the original sculpture was made.

[i] The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica, “Laocoon, Greek Mythology”, accessed April 21, 2015, http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/538274/Shamash.

 Statuette of Isis and Horus, Ptolemic Period, ca. 304-30 BCE

horus and isisPhotograph credit The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Isis was arguably the most important goddess of ancient Egyptian history as she was worshipped not only in Egypt, but also throughout Italy and Greece, and her influence lasted long after the demise of the Egyptian empire. The Statuette of Isis and Horus was made of Egyptian faience, the oldest type of ceramic glaze, created by the Egptians. “Faience was made by grinding quartz or sand crystals together with various amounts of sodium, potassium, calcium, magnesium, and copper oxide”.[i] This particular statue of Isis and Horus was approximately seven inches high. This piece was one of many statues of Isis nursing Horus. The other figures were mostly made of bronze, like a majority of other statues and figures of deities during this time period.

Isis nursing her son Horus was seen as a sort of symbol of rebirth for the ancient Egyptians. During this time period deities were often placed in temples and “the most important was the triad (a group of three persons) of Osiris, his wife, Isis, and their son Horus. They represented the king of the dead, the divine mother, and the living king respectively, together they were the perfect family”.[ii] Osiris was the god of the earth and vegetation. His wife, Isis, was also his sister and she was the goddess of the sky. Their son Horus was the god with whom the Egyptian kings associated themselves, and he became a very prominent god. “As a child, Horus was known as Harpokrates, “the infant Horus”. And was portrayed as baby being suckled by Isis”.[iii] His birth was significant because he was conceived after the death of his father, Osiris. The story is told that his mother, Isis, reassembled all of Osiris’s parts so that she could conceive a successor for the throne.

Horus is suckling Isis in this piece, which is why the statue is sometimes referred to as the Divine Mother nursing her infant. Isis is seated on a throne and is holding Horus’s head in her hands. Horus is not clothed and on the right side of his head is a single lock of hair. The object on top of Isis’s head is a throne hieroglyph that represents her name.[iv]

This piece has been replicated and recreated in many different forms throughout history, which confirms its importance and significance in Egypt as well as other cultures. “During later periods, Egyptians produced many small bronze statuettes of their deities, which they then gave as tributes during pilgrimages of holy sites”.[v] Figures were placed in temples as a representation of the gods and goddesses being worshipped and given offerings. The gods and goddesses of Ancient Egypt shaped the culture more and more during the later periods, and Isis influenced religious worship for centuries after her death and even after the end of the Egyptian empire.

[i] Joshua J. Mark, “Faience”, Ancient History Encyclopedia, 2010, http://www.ancient.eu/Faience/

[ii] British Museum of Art Staff, “Bronze figure of Isis and Horus”, http://www.britishmuseum.org/explore/highlights/highlight_objects/aes/b/bronze_figure_of_isis__horus.aspx

[iii] Egyptian Myths Staff, “Horus”, http://www.egyptianmyths.net/horus.htm

[iv] British Museum of Art Staff, “Bronze figure of Isis and Horus”, http://www.britishmuseum.org/explore/highlights/highlight_objects/aes/b/bronze_figure_of_isis__horus.aspx

[v] The Louve Staff, “Statuette: Isis Nursing Horus”, http://www.louvre.fr/en/oeuvre-notices/statuette-isis-nursing-horus

The Amphipolis Mosaic, 4th Century BCE

The AmphipolisPhotograph Credit Hellenic Ministry of Culture. Graphics and analysis © ancient-greece.org

The final piece chosen for this digital exhibition is The Amphipolis Mosaic. Archeologists found the Amphipolis floor Mosaic in 2014 in a tomb in Amphipolis, Macedonia, Greece. This piece was chosen because of its mysteriousness and for the very different artistic techniques used in creating the piece in comparison to other art of this time period. The Amphipolis Mosaic measures ten feet wide and fiftenn feet long and is constructed of white, black, blue, red, yellow, and grey pebbles. The tomb in which the mosaic was found is believed to have been under the rule of Alexander the Great at the time the piece was constructed, and could have been the site where his mother, Olympias, was buried. Although there is conflicting evidence suggesting other possibilities for who is buried in the tomb, Alexander wanted to make his mother a goddess, and she held tremendous political power even after his death, so a tomb of this kind would have been a fitting burial place for such a prominent figure.

The scene depicted “is identified as Hades in the process of carrying Persephone, with a lamenting female figure (Demeter) left behind”.[i] Pluto, whose earlier name was Hades, was in love with Persephone and abducted her to make her his queen. Persephone, also known as Kore, the goddess of the harvest, was the only child of Zeus and Demeter, the goddess of nature. Pluto, or Hades, was the god of the underworld, hell. Hades fell in love Persephone one day when he traveled above ground and saw her picking flowers in a field. One story says that Zeus, the brother of Hades and Persephone’s father, was his cohort and that they trapped her by causing the ground underneath her to split in half. “Persephone slipped beneath the Earth and Hades stole her to the Underworld where he made her his wife”.[ii]

The figure leading the chariot is believed to be Hermes, the god of transitions and boundaries. This would make sense considering this scene is a depiction of the subjects traveling from Earth back to the underworld. As the son of Zeus, the depiction of Hermes leading the chariot also becomes more plausible. Hades is driving the chariot and some say the female figure is Demeter being left behind. However, a better assumption might be that the female figure is actually Persephone herself, judging by the agony on her face and somber wave. Regardless of who the figure is, the raw emotion on the face of the female figure allows a deeper level of connection with the piece of art.  The detail and different approach to this piece is what makes it so unique and one of the reasons why it was chosen for this exhibition. Artists during this time period were making bronze figures and marble sculptures, not mosaic pieces from marble. Although it is only a two-dimensional work of art, the detail and scale give great emphasize to the scene of Hades abducting Persephone and bring it to life. “The artist enhances the story with simple gestures and lines, which create a cinematic approach where the viewer has caught a fleeting glimpse of a continuous action in a space and time”.[iii] The piece again reflects the theme of the exhibit as it beautifully shows the connection between art and religion in ancient times.

[i] Ancient-Greece Staff, “Amphipolis Mosaic”, http://ancient-greece.org/art/amphipolis-mosaic.html

[ii] “The Myth of Hades and Persephone”, http://www.greekmyths-greekmythology.com/myth-of-hades-and-persephone/

[iii] Ancient-Greece Staff, “Amphipolis Mosaic”, http://ancient-greece.org/art/amphipolis-mosaic.html

By Carly Strickland

Work Cited 

Joshua J. Mark, “Inanna”, Ancient History Encyclopedia, 2010, http://www.ancient.eu/Inanna/.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Art of the First Cities, (New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2003), 24.

History.com Staff, “Hammurabi”, 2009, A+E Networks, http://www.history.com/topics/ancient-history/hammurabi.

Encyclopædia Britannica Online, s. v. “Shamash”, accessed April 21, 2015, http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/538274/Shamash.

Owen Jarus, “Karnak: Temple Complex of Ancient Egypt”, 2012, http://www.livescience.com/25184-karnak-temple.html

Hill, “Gods of ancient Egypt: Amun”, 2010, http://www.ancientegyptonline.co.uk/amun.html

University of Memphis College of Arts & Sciences, “Welcome to the Hypostyle Hall”, http://www.memphis.edu/hypostyle/staff_biographies.htm

Zarnoch, E. Sullivan, “Scarab of Amenhotep III”, http://dlib.etc.ucla.edu/projects/Karnak/resource/ObjectCatalog/1854

Mark Millmore, “Karnak Temple Sacred Lake”, Discovering Egypt Website, 1997, http://discoveringegypt.com/karnak-temple/

Michael Kimmelman, “Elgin Marble Argument in a New Light”, 2009, New York Times, http://www.nytimes.com/2009/06/24/arts/design/24abroad.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

B.F. Cook, The Elgin Marbles, 2nd edition (London, The British Museum Press, 1997)

Ancient-Greece.org Staff, “Greek Mythology”, http://ancient-greece.org/culture/mythology.html

The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica, “Laocoon, Greek Mythology”, accessed April 21, 2015, http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/538274/Shamash.

Joshua J. Mark, “Faience”, Ancient History Encyclopedia, 2010, http://www.ancient.eu/Faience/

British Museum of Art Staff, “Bronze figure of Isis and Horus”, http://www.britishmuseum.org/explore/highlights/highlight_objects/aes/b/bronze_figure_of_isis__horus.aspx

Egyptian Myths Staff, “Horus”, http://www.egyptianmyths.net/horus.htm

The Louve Staff, “Statuette: Isis Nursing Horus”, http://www.louvre.fr/en/oeuvre-notices/statuette-isis-nursing-horus

Ancient-Greece Staff, “Amphipolis Mosaic”, http://ancient-greece.org/art/amphipolis-mosaic.html

“The Myth of Hades and Persephone”, http://www.greekmyths-greekmythology.com/myth-of-hades-and-persephone/

The Great Sphinx

Kirsty Rice

The Great Sphinx has been seen as the symbol of both ancient Egypt and even for Egypt today. The Sphinx is an iconic symbol that is so widely recognized it is crazy to think that there is so much we don’t know about it. Although it is largely recognizable that information that we have about it is fleeting. The Sphinx is in many ways on of the greatest ancient mysteries; from it creation to the always changing face. The origin date of the Sphinx is unknown, the most common and agreed upon date is that it was constructed in the 4th Dynasty (2575 – 2467 BCE) by the Pharaoh Khafre. “However, an accumulating body of evidence, both archaeological and geological, indicates that the Sphinx is far older than the 4th Dynasty and was only restored by Khafre during his reign.”(Gray) Along with the indefinite creation date we struggle to figure out what the original face looked like on the sphinx. With all these questions I was intrigued to see how my own personal recreation would come out based on what I learned from my research.

As I’m sure many would assume that task of reconstruction such an enigmatic figure was not an easy one. All the decision’s I made in the building of my replica where thought out and double-checked. My approach involved a lot of research and comparisons of information to see what I agreed with and thought to be most likely accurate. This was not the easiest task considering there are thousands of different opinions on what the sphinx originally looked like, who it was modeled after and when it was originally constructed. Once I finished my first step, which was research, I moved on to step 2: materials. The sphinx, “varies from a soft yellowish to a hard grey limestone. The massive body is made of the softer stone, which is easily eroded, while the head is formed of the harder stone.”(Gray) Since I am in no way equipped to handle carving stone I moved to something I knew could harden to have the effect of stone but could also be easily manipulated: clay. My decision to use clay was based on what I though would be the closest I could get to stone and still make it something in which I could manipulate it to get an accurate portrayal of what I wanted to accomplish. With clay I knew I could make the sphinx in blocks like it was made from blocks of stone but I could also smooth it down like many believe the sides originally were before they were eroded away by the sand and wind. The sides of the sphinx over time have been distressed because of the sand and wind, “The archaeological record confirms that Thutmosis did indeed free the Sphinx of sand.” (Hawass) When we learned that the sphinx was discovered with sand covering its body it was easier to understand how so much erosion could have occurred to the body of this fig (Orcutt) (Hill)ure. Making the body appear to be more rough and angular then smooth on the sides.

This is a picture of the smoothed down body of my sphinx.
This is a picture of the smoothed down body of my sphinx.

My third step was the actual construction of the sphinx. The building of my sphinx took about two hours. Once I figured out the measurements of the original sphinx scaled down to my one foot long replica the building was not very hard. I made the sphinx one and one hundred- fiftieth of the size. The hardest part in making the sphinx was wanting to fix it so that it was proportional. Making that body the appropriate size made the head appear to be to small and the head alone appeared to large. This was hard to ignore while I was putting the two pieces together. I found it hard to remember that it was not mine to fix and make proportional. But once I looked past the discrepancies in size I then made it a point to spend time on the face. I think the head was a step in-and-of itself.

This is a close up of my face early on. I was working on making the eyes uneven and the mouth off center.
This is a close up of my face early on. I was working on making the eyes uneven and the mouth off center.

Step 4 of my reconstruction project was the head. The reason I see the head as its own step is because most of the controversy that surround this historical object is around the head and more specifically the face of the sphinx. Still to day we lack a confirmed identification on who the sphinx is modeled after. “In ancient Egypt, it wasn’t so much the physical similarity of a statue to its owner that lent its identity, but rather the name on the inscription. Statues were idealized representations, even in the Old Kingdom, and the figure could only be related to a particular individual when the inscription was added.”(Orcutt) And this is something that doesn’t help us much considering we know the sphinx to be thousands of years older than when we have the first inscription into it. Another problem we see with the face is that it was rushed work. “Its left (north) eye is higher than its right (south) eye, and its mouth is a bit off-center. The axis of the outline of the head differs from the axis of the facial features. The quality of details apparent on the face of the diorite Khafre are absent from the face of the Sphinx.”(Orcutt) With information like this we can assume that the workers who built the face where not working while the person whom this was modeled after was alive. Along with the face there is a great debate about whether or not the sphinx had a beard. A beard was found in pieces around the Sphinx and now resided in the British Museum. Although this beard was found and may have been on the sphinx at some point there is not accurate record that the beard was an original piece because that beard with the head dress are more New Kingdom and we know that the Sphinx was created before then. “There is some evidence that a ceremonial beard was added to the Sphinx some time after its original construction.”(Hill) That’s why in my reconstruction I did not include a beard on my Sphinx. My replication of The Great Sphinx is what I believe to be the closest to what the original Sphinx may have looked like. Reconstructing something so enigmic real opened my eyes to all the different studies and theories that surround history.

This is my Final result!
This is my Final result!


Works Cited

Gray, Martin. The Great Sphinx Facts. 1982-2014. <http://sacredsites.com/africa/egypt/great_sphinx_facts.html>.

Hawass, Dr. Zahi. The Sphinx Book: “The Secrets of the Sphinx Restoration, past and present”. Published by Samir Gharieb Director of the Development Fund of the Ministry of Culture in Collaboration with Mr. Mark Linz, Director of the American University in Cairo press, 1988.

Hill, J. The Great Sphinx of Giza. 2010. <http://www.ancientegyptonline.co.uk/great-sphinx.html>.

Orcutt, Larry. The Sphinx Indentity. 2000 . <http://www.catchpenny.org/face.html>.





Alight at the Top of the Staircase: An examination of the Louvre’s recent restoration of The Winged Victory of Samothrace as a case study for right practices in contemporary restoration of Ancient statuary

Alight at the Top of the Staircase

An examination of the Louvre’s recent restoration of The Winged Victory of Samothrace as a case study for right practices in contemporary restoration of Ancient statuary

by Kelly Konrad

A stroll through the tourist-swelled, though undeniably beautiful, Jardin de Tuileries gives way the palatial expanse of the Palais du Louvre, France’s most illustrious museum. As its director Henri Loyrette expresses, the Louvre serves as “a mirror of human existence, passions, and sentiments, a world in which we can all find something in ourselves, of our lives, thoughts and deeds.”1 Amongst the Louvre’s immense collection of treasures, stands The Winged Victory of Samothrace, referred to interchangeably as the Winged Nike of Samothrace. Positioned “in splendid isolation”2 atop the Daru staircase—the most frequented of the Louvre’—and standing at nearly three meters high, this Winged Victory exudes energy, sensuality and power “as she hurtles into space, her chiton blown back” against her body so that her powerful legs remain visible. Ludovic Laugier, a Curator at the Louvre, describes the Winged Victory, as an “essential work” that “immediately draws attention.”3 Sculpted in high quality Paros marble in approximately 190 BCE by an unknown artist, this Winged Victory commenced her Parisian séjour after her discovery at the Greek island of Samothrace in Aegean Sea by French diplomat Charles Champoiseau in 1863. Upon her initial arrival to the Louvre, four early restoration efforts ensued, the last of which ended in 1934.4 Upon her one hundred and fifty year anniversary with the Louvre in 2013, another intensive restoration effort, costing more than four million euros, commenced. Now complete, the Winged Victory’s restoration may serve as a model for contemporary

1 Leo Schofield, “Behind the Louvre Doors,” Australian Gourmet Traveller 7, no. 11 (2007) : 206-214, doi: 2 Ibid.
3 Jamey Keaten, “Louvre’s Winged Victory,” Associated Press, September 3, 2013.
4 Ibid.


restoration of ancient statuary for its international scope, use of integrative technologies, and crowdsource funding efforts. This paper seeks to synthesize the Winged Victory’s ancient, nineteenth-century, World War II-era, and contemporary histories while providing a case study for right practices contemporary restoration of monumental ancient statuary.

First, for her Story

This monumental sculpture represents a winged female figure, that of Victory—the messenger goddess often credited with spreading the news of victory in war and athletic games alike in Ancient Greece.5 The very moment depicted, selected approximately 2,200 years ago from an unknown sculptor, portrays Victory as she ends her flight, landing on the prow of ship. Presently headless, footless, and armless, separate pieces of stone—though not so many as before —constitute the Winged Victory. Her striking impact results from a sculptor’s superb naturalistic skill as well as ability to manipulate elements so as create a palpable sense of drama: a forward- striding forward right leg matched with splayed wings and a tilted torso. Together these elements “create a series of boldly opposing diagonals that enhance the impression of (…) motion.”6 As art historian Lauren Kinnee expresses, “As she advance agains the invisible force of the wind, the Nike becomes a dramatic study of conflicting forces and counter forces”—as evidenced in the twisting of the body.7 Her drapery, clinging in “thin, long, and uneven ripples to her breasts, abdomen, right leg” serves to emphasize both the dynamism of her forward movement against a strong gust of wind as well her “full, robust form—her powerful thighs and the active, contracted

5 “A brief history of the Winged Victory of Samothrace,” American Friends of the Louvre, accessed April 19, 2015,http:// www.aflouvre.org/winged-victory-of-samothrace

6 Lauren Kinnee, “The Nike of Samothrace,” 40. (New Haven: Yale, 2002), http://www.yale.edu/heyzeus/


7 Ibid.


muscles of her torso.”8 The near transparent quality of her drapery reveals the form of the Victory in such a way that she appears nearly nude. Echoing the V-shape of the drapery surrounding Victory’s pelvis, her intensely naturalistic wings “contribute to the uneven, chaotic, and exuberantly active tone of the statue.”9 Her wings appear as pushed as far back as possible and extended to their full length—thus mimicking the behavior of bird just alit on a branch. Though her wings’ construction—“from their curved crests to the joint midway through, to their outspread textured feathers”—reveal her sculptor’s great attention to naturalistic detail, they “lack the regular fan-like arrangement found in real birds”10 Instead, the sculptor chose to position the feathers at odd and overlapping angles—seemingly random in the same manner as the Victory’s drapery folds. This “combination of naturalism and exaggerated irregularity”—a pairing of a “very corporeal body and realistic, though non-ideal wings” grants the Winged Victory her sense of urgency. The feathers of her wings continue to ruffle scholars into the twenty-first century.

Dating to the Hellenistic era of Ancient Greece, The Winged Victory of Samothrace may have served as an offering to the great gods of Samothrace following a naval victory.11 As Bonna Wescoat, American art historian and contributor to the Victory’s restoration efforts, explains, “Nike is the personification, the embodiment of victory in war or in competition. We see her hovering over contestants in scenes of chariot races, crowning the victor, or making offerings; statues of Nike are often dedicated in sanctuaries as symbols of a victory.”12

8 Ibid.

9 Ibid.

10 Ibid., 41.

11 “A brief history of the Winged Victory of Samothrace,” American Friends of the Louvre.

12 Leslie King, “With help from Emory scholars, Winged Victory returns to flight at the Louvre,” Emory Report, July 31, 2014, http://news.emory.edu/stories/2014/07/er_winged_victory_at_louvre%20/campus.html.


Additionally, Wescoat describes the the placement of the Winged Victory as brilliant, for “the statue served as the visual pivot” in the Sanctuary of Great Gods, a complex of a dozen temples dedicated to different deities popular in antiquity.13 Kinnee describes the ancient role of Samothrace as a site “known for both its mystery cult and its position on an important but stormy lane.” Thus, the Samothracian Sanctuary of Great Gods, likely served as an entertainment zone of sorts, particularly for religious pilgrims. After having completed an initiation ceremony, these pilgrims celebrated their both journeys’ end and their own personal victories with elaborate feasting and theatrical performances.14 This religious center gradually faded in importance as the popularity of Christianity rose.15

Additionally, from her vantage point, this Winged Victory would have appeared to behold travelers arriving to the island from sea. Though perhaps of even greater political importance, travelers would have beheld her—the powerful, energized form of Victory herself—as a visual marker of triumph in their approach to the island of Samothrace. As Kinnee explains, “The viewer was thus expected to experience the Nike as part of a realistic seascape diorama.”16 Additional scholarly, though inconclusive, evidence suggests that this Winged Victory may have served as the centerpiece in a fountain construction on the Samothracian Sanctuary of Great Gods.17

Despite her centuries of physical survival, little to no literary or epigraphical reference to this Winged Victory survive. Sans such crucial evidence, scholars continue to debate even the most

13 Ibid.
14 Kinnee, “Nike of Samothrace,” 39.

15 Inti Landauro, “The Louvre’s Winged Victory of Samothrace Is Back,” The Wall Street Journal (blog), July 8, 2014, (5:04 p.m., http://blogs.wsj.com/speakeasy/2014/07/08/the-louvres-winged-victory-of-samothrace-is-back/.

16 Kinnee, “Nike of Samothrace,” 44. 17 Ibid.


crucial questions surrounding the sculpture, such as “Who made her?”, “Precisely when?”, and perhaps most essential: “Why?”. Without answers, scholars often grant this Winged Victory a vague treatment—“commenting on the statue’s beauty but hesitating to speculate about what deeper reaction it may have been intended to evoke in the ancient Greek spectator.”18 Defying this tradition, Kinnee suggests this Winged Victory exists as a Pergamene dedication serving to memorialize the “Pergamene-engineered Roman capture in 166 BC of King Perseus, last of the Macedonians, at the island of Samothrace.” Thus, according to Kinnee, this Winged Victory belongs to the Attalid tradition of generosity, intellectualism, and claim to the Classical Athenian role as savior of Greek civilization.”19

Her Early Years in France
In 1863, Monsieur Champoiseau, a French diplomat, uncovered this Winged Victory,

broken into several pieces, lying in a rectangular-shaped basic upon a windy ridge overlooking the Samothracian Sanctuary of the Great Gods, and, in the distance, the roar of the Aegean Sea.20 She likely sustained her breaks in a fall from her original pedestal resulting from a natural disruption, such as an earthquake.21 Monsieur Champoiseau and his team transported the newly uncovered Winged Victory to France.These late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century restorations considerably complicated the 2013 project. Late nineteenth-century museum experts repaired theses breaks by covering the joints with plaster and then painting over their work. Additionally, as the Victory stood poised to fly without her entire right wing, museum experts created a new right wing, exactly symmetrical to the right one, entirely of plaster. Additionally, to

18 Ibid,,39-40. 19 Ibid., 40.
20 Ibid.
21 Ibid., 39.


connect the original wing to the Victory’s torso, they also recreated her missing left breast. Contemporary conservationists regard these reconstitutions as historically inaccurate.22 Yet, in an effort to resist privileging the history of one era over another, the conversation team at the Louvre will not disturb these earlier modifications. Ludovic Laugier, Head of the Antiquities Department of the Louvre, explains that the Victory stands not only as a testimony to the Hellenistic sculpture, but also as an example of nineteenth-century tastes.23

Her Renewal

In September of 2013, the Louvre issued a press release to announce the restoration project.24 The restoration sought to clean and repair the statue’s base as well as address the significant discoloration resulting from centuries’ accumulation of dirt and grime that diminished the contrast between white tones of Winged Victory and the gray marble of boat-shaped structure on which it rests.”25 Organizers of the project anticipated that the restoration would take more than eighteen months to complete. This conversation project consisted primarily of cleaning. Once removed from its boat-shaped base, conservators will dismantle the twenty-three blocks that form the boat and pedestal. At this point, conservators will verify the assemble of the component parts and incorporate previously unused, though surviving fragments of the original sculpture— many of which were discovered quite recently.26 Additionally, the cement block previously placed between the statue and the boat will no longer serve its previously intended function, as no

22 Landauro, “The Louvre’s Winged Victory of Samothrace Is Back,” 23 Ibid.

24 “Conservation project for the Winged Victory of Samothrace and the monumental staircase,” Louvre, accessed April 18, 2015, http://www.louvre.fr/en/conservation-project-winged-victory-samothrace-and-monumental- staircase.

25 Ibid.
26 “Conservation project for the Winged Victory of Samothrace and the monumental staircase,” Louvre.


scientific justification exists for its presence. Coinciding with the restoration this restoration, the a team from Louvre will refurbish the walls, floors, and vaulted ceilings of the Daru staircase.27
As the Louvre anticipated, the the project unfolded in several stages. In September of

2013, conservations commenced by dismantling and removing of the monument. This restoration marks the first instance since World War II that the Winged Victory descended the Daru staircase.28 The summer of 2014 marked the triumphant reinstallation of the Winged Victory. In the spring of 2015, the Louvre inaugurated both the renovated monument and its newly refurbished surroundings. Only then, according to the Louvre, will the Winged Victory be showcased to her best advantage.29

Thus, beginning in early September of 2013, Daniel Ibled led a team of eight archeologists and conservators in the meticulous cleaning of the Winged Victory. This small international team, comprised of French, Greek, German and American archeologists, restored the marble of the statue to its original white shade, as more than a century of dust, dirt, and grime had rendered it yellow in tone.30 Restoring old, stained marble is both complicated and delicate work. The conversationist first cleaned the Victory’s white marble with compresses soaked in water—a means to simultaneously protect the integrity ancient marble and erase the layers of grime.31

Additonally, Scientist Giovanni Verri, a restoration Scientist from London’s Courtauld Institute of Art, identified microscopic touches of blue paint in his analyses of the Winged Victory.

27 Ibid.

28 Landauro, “The Louvre’s Winged Victory of Samothrace Is Back,”

29 “Conservation project for the Winged Victory of Samothrace and the monumental staircase,” Louvre.

30 “The New Nike: Winged Victory of Samothrace,” My Parisian Island (blog), July 22, 2014,http:// www.myparisianisland.com/2014/07/the-new-nike-winged-victory-of.html.

31 Landauro, “The Louvre’s Winged Victory of Samothrace Is Back.” “7

These microscopic pigments suggest that the Victory was once partly colored with—at the very least—a blue fringe on her drapery. Verri also discovered blue pigments upon the Victory’s wing. Additionally, the restorers attached newly discovered fragments to the drapery as well as the superior flight feather of the left wing to the Victory.32

The base upon which the Winged Victory stands appears in the form of the prow of a warship. The relationship of the Victory to her base necessitated careful study throughout the restoration process. Though most of the statues base resided in Paris, a teams of archeologists in Samothrace uncovered the central internal block and various smaller fragments—four of which were only discovered during the restoration’s progress. Following intense study of these fragments, archeologists three-dimensionally scanned each fragment, so that the restoration team in Paris could first print accurate models then construct exact copies.33 Although the additional fragments to the drapery may escape the notice of all but the most discerning observers, the addition of the superior flight feather creates an impact.34

In the words of Wescoat, in visitors’ next excursion to the Louvre, “you’ll be seeing a whole new girl, so to speak.” She continues, “She is so amazingly cleaned up that it’s going to be a real pleasure.”35 Wescoat reveals as well that the renewed Victory now possesses a translucent brilliance, “When the light from the windows came into the room where the Louvre conservators were restoring her, you could see right through parts of the statue. It just glows; it’s

32 Ibid.
33 King, “With help from Emory scholars, Winged Victory returns to flight at the Louvre.” 34 Landauro, “The Louvre’s Winged Victory of Samothrace Is Back.”
35 King, “With help from Emory scholars, Winged Victory returns to flight at the Louvre.”


remarkable”—quite appropriate for a goddess alight the top of one of the most traversed staircases in the world.36

Her Mysterious Feather

According to Wescoat, “The primary feathers of the Nike are unlike those of birds in nature and also of wings generally represented in ancient Greek art.”37 Differences exist in both the density and the overlapping nature of the feathers arrangement. In comparing the feathers of this Victory’s wings to hundreds of representations of feathers in ancient art as well as to wide range of birds believed to have inhabited the Mediterranean in early antiquity, Wescoat and her team uncovered no visual precedent, that is, no explanation. The tip of the feather upon which Wescoat and her team conducted their investigation was discovered in the 1962, just north of the monument.38 To this misery, Wescoat explains, “If we cannot find a place for our feather on the left wing, then we’ll have to consider the possibility that the missing right wing was made of more complex construction of at least two different kinds of marble” —referring to the slightly different composition of the marble used in the feather fragments for the right wing in Paris.39

Her Legacy

Though cleansed, renewed, and restored to her place atop the Daru staircases, scholarly inquiries continue. As Wescoat explains, “While the restoration of the statue is complete, we still have a great deal more work to do to understand the many aspects of this masterpiece.”40

36 Landauro, “The Louvre’s Winged Victory of Samothrace Is Back.”
37 King, “With help from Emory scholars, Winged Victory returns to flight at the Louvre.” 38 Ibid.
39 Ibid.
40 Ibid.


Additionally, archeologists in Samothrace continue to work towards determining the context that originally surrounded the Winged Victory, pondering such questions as, “Was she within a closed building, or an open precinct?”.41 Specifically, Wescoat and her team of scientists continue to investigate a rediscovered plan of the South Nekropolis while working towards completing a new topographic plan for the Sanctuary—particular of its Western area.42

In a new display, the Louvre will include a case containing the remaining, though yet- attached fragments of the statue.43 Fragments from the Winged Victory of Samothrace now reside in a museum on the island of Samothrace, alongside a copy of the Louvre’s, Winged Victory. Although Greece has not formally requested France to return the Winged Victory, many travelers regularly write to the Louvre on behalf of returning Victory to her home island in the Aegean Sea.44

For this comprehensive restoration’s demonstrated commitment to international scholarly engagement, observance of the ancient objet’s recent history, and use of integrative technologies, it may well serve as a model by which similar restorations of monumental ancient statuary may plan future restorations. Additionally, creative crowdsource funding campaigns may serve as a successful means by which museums, large and small, may gather the resources to embark upon restoration of such cultural treasures as the Winged Victory of Samothrace—a renewed light at the top of the Louvre’s grand Daru staircases.

41 Kinnee, “Nike of Samothrace,” 39.
42 King, “With help from Emory scholars, Winged Victory returns to flight at the Louvre.” 43 “A brief history of the Winged Victory of Samothrace,” American Friends of the Louvre.
44 Landauro, “The Louvre’s Winged Victory of Samothrace Is Back,”



Keaten, Jamey. “Winged Victory of Samothrace will be moved for restoration.” Record, The (Kitchener/Cambridge/Waterloo, ON), September 07, 2013., Points of View Reference Center, EBSCOhost (accessed April 18, 2015).

King, Leslie. “With help from Emory scholars, Winged Victory returns to flight at the Louvre.” Emory Report, July 31, 2014 ,http://news.emory.edu/stories/2014/07/ er_winged_victory_at_louvre%20/campus.html.

Kinnee, Lauren. “The Nike of Samothrace: The Next Generation Attalid Victory Monument?”. New Haven: Yale 2002), http://www.yale.edu/heyzeus/winter2002/nike.pdf.

Landauro, Inti. “The Louvre’s Winged Victory of Samothrace Is Back.” Wall Street Journal (blog). July 8, 2014 (5:04 p.m.).http://blogs.wsj.com/speakeasy/2014/07/08/the-louvres- winged-victory-of-samothrace-is-back/.

Schofield, Leo. “BEHIND THE LOUVRE DOORS.” Australian Gourmet Traveller 7, no. 11 (November 2007): 206-214. Hospitality & Tourism Complete, EBSCOhost (accessed April 18, 2015).

“Conservation project for the Winged Victory of Samothrace and the monumental staircase.” Louvre. Accessed April 18, 2015. http://www.louvre.fr/en/conservation-project-winged- victory-samothrace-and-monumental-staircase.

“A brief history of the Winged Victory of Samothrace.” American Friends of the Louvre. Accessed April 18, 2015. http://www.aflouvre.org/winged-victory-of-samothrace.


“Art movers from Bovis move the statue toward the Salle de Sept Cheminées as Mr. Ibled, the director of the restoration, watches. Musée du Louvre/Antoine Mongoudin” via the Wall Street Journal
“A view of the left Wing of the Winged Victory of Samothrace statue, with an added feather. Natalie Bruhiere”  via the Wall Street Journal
"Art movers maneuver the statue back into position. Musée du Louvre/Antoine Mongodin" via the Wall Street Journal
“Art movers maneuver the statue back into position. Musée du Louvre/Antoine Mongodin” via the Wall Street Journal
“After restoration Musée du Louvre/Antoine Mongodin” via the Wall Street Journal

The Great Debate: Final Conclusions of Encyclopedic Museums and Ownership

Justice is served!  All rights to the Indiana Jones franchise © Paramount Pictures.
Justice is served!
All rights to the Indiana Jones franchise © Paramount Pictures.

Jennifer Crumby

The Great Debate: Final Conclusions of Encyclopedic Museums and Ownership

Throughout this course we have looked into a vast collection of ancient structures and artifacts that create an idea of how we depict the early civilizations of the ancient Sumerians of Mesopotamia, ancient Egyptians, and the ancient Greeks. Through studies of these objects and preserved archaeological sites, art historians have pieced together what we believe to be accurate depictions of how these societies lived and ruled the Near and Middle East and Africa. From found artifacts we can learn how these ancient people farmed and hunted or fished, reproduced, bathed, traveled, communicated, and how they otherwise generally lived everyday lives. The study of the uses of these objects also reveal the economy or geography of the area at the time. Objects also commonly lead to discovery of liturgical purposes, such as icons for devotion and funerary practices. These artifacts and tombs also serve as primary sources for a historical map to the rulers of kingdoms. With the uncovering of artifacts we can study the advancement and political structures of these early civilizations, giving us insight into the world of our ancient predecessors.

A recurring topic has been the issue of rightful ownership and the legality of how ancient artifacts in museum and private collections were acquired. A hotbutton issue in the world of art history and the political sphere is the advocacy of encyclopedic museums. Museums are sometimes defended as sanctuaries for found objects, and at other times seen as thieves from the original lands of the artifacts’ perceived rightful owners and their descendants. While open discussion has proven that the general feeling is that any resolution should honor these ancient civilizations and the contextual significance of these objects, no clear consensus has been reached as to where these objects rightfully belong. As ancient predecessors to every human being on Earth, these objects demonstrate a sociological understanding of these early civilizations that benefit the world and history in its entirety. Without a doubt, we would not know much at all about these ancient civilizations without the discovery and allowed study of the objects, structures and geographical locations. Together we will analyze seven key historical objects whose significance of contextual meaning, amount of respect given in its current confinements, and rightful ownership are currently being questioned.

The Stele of Hammurabi.  © Musée du Louvre, Paris. This image is for non-commercial scholarly use.
The Stele of Hammurabi.
© Musée du Louvre, Paris. This image is for non-commercial scholarly use.

The Stele of Hammurabi is a six-foot-high monument made of black dolomite. It bears an image of the King Hammurabi receiving powers bestowed upon him by the Ancient Sumerian Sun God Shamash, c. 1792 to 1750 B.C.E. King Hammurabi ruled Babylon from 1782-1750 BCE and conquered around 1,000 square miles of present-day Iraq, cementing Babylon as a formidable ancient city. But what has made King Hammurabi most memorable was that he placed many monuments like this stele in his Babylonian cities, all which reminded the Babylonian people of their civic and religious duties to live by the Code. The Hammurabi Code was an impressive, highly developed ancient Sumerian legal system.

An article by Donald G. McNeil examines the Stele of Hammurabi’s inlaid Code of Hammurabi. McNeil does a wonderful job of examining King Hammurabi in-depth through this ancient stele’s coded legal system, judging King Hammurabi’s fairness and the authority exerted during his thirty two-year reign of Babylon. The breakdown of the Code of Hammurabi does thoroughly analyze King Hammurabi’s legal system and its rudimentary pre-Bible and pre-Democracy systems of checks and balances, but it is the author’s other outline that is of great interest to the topic of rightful ownership. McNeil introduces a fine detailed account of the discovery of the Stele of Hammurabi. Found in the ancient Persian city of Susa, now in Iran, the Stele of Hammurabi was discovered by a man by the name of M. deMorgan. According to McNeil’s account, M. deMorgan was the director general of an expedition sent by the French government to Susa on an archaeological dig in their interests (McNeil 444). It was during this expedition in 1901-1902 that they discovered the Stele of Hammurabi. It was in horrible shape, having been found in three separate pieces. deMorgan and his company of archaeologists joined the pieces back together to form what we now know as the Stele of Hammurabi, effectively preserving what’s left of the ancient artifact. From there art historians have been able to study the piece in cuneiform and reveal the earliest known example of a highly developed legal system in an ancient civilization.

The Stele of Hammurabi currently sits on display in the Louvre. The ancient artifact is safely preserved and exhibited to the public in an easily accessible and high-traffic encyclopedic museum, which happens to one of the world’s most popular museums. The Louvre also makes available digital images of the artifact online and in publications, as well as extensive information known about the object and King Hammurabi. This ancient artifact was unearthed from Iran in pieces and restored, the first time anyone of what we consider modern culture had ever seen this ancient stele. Without the questioned archaeological digs performed around a century ago, archaeologists may have never found ancient artifacts like the Stele of Hammurabi. These found objects were taken from the country of origin with permission from the ruling government of the time, breaking no laws and without use of any questionable ethics. Given that this artifact has been in the care and ownership of another country for over 100 years, has been made easily accessible to the public and to scholars, has been researched thoroughly to the advantage of the historical value of all mankind, and seems to be well preserved in a facility better than the country of origin can provide; any request to claim ownership of this particular artifact or otherwise remove the Stele of Hammurabi from the Louvre is currently unfounded. While it can be said that the contextual meaning is lost outside its land of origin, the Stele of Hammurabi’s context is long since gone. The original use was to outline the Code of Hammurabi during its reign. The current political structure of Iran hardly still adheres to the laws and religious practices of the ancient Babylonian era. Where contextual meaning is concerned, that has long since passed. As for a point of rightful ownership, the Iranian people cannot definitively prove without a doubt that they are completely straight descendants of this ancient Sumerian civilization only. Nor should the thousand of years between this modern era and this ancient civilization bestow any inheritance of this magnitude on the residents that currently occupy the region in which the ancient artifacts were first uncovered. In yeat another perspective, this region is currently experiencing a radical political and religious uprising tht has directly sanctioned the destruction of artifacts from ancient civilizations. The country of Iran is still experiencing an internal uprising, and cannot be considered a stable country capable of protecting ancient artifacts. In these instances, art historical preservation organizations such as UNESCO, who cooperate on an international scale with the United Nations, should be called in to mediate discussions and assist in a peaceful resolution to any dispute or analyze when to remove items due to threats of safety and preservation.

Mask of Tutankhamun, from the innermost coffin.  Ownership now © The Museum in Cairo, reused here for non-commercial scholarly use only.
Mask of Tutankhamun, from the innermost coffin.
Ownership now © The Museum in Cairo, reused here for non-commercial scholarly use only.

Being one of the most famous and influential archaeological discoveries of the 20th Century can easily be attributed to the uncovering of King Tutankhamun’s tomb. In 1920, the determined archaeologist Howard Carter continued digging his way through the Valley of the Kings, eager to uncover anything left to be found. Where many other archaeologists accepted that nothing more of value was left to be found, Howard Carter found the sponsorship of English Earl of Caravon. The Earl of Caravon was himself an amateur explorer who had plenty of financial backing to keep Howard Carter digging. In January 1922, after two long years of digging and admittedly on the verge of giving up, Howard Carter and his team of excavators uncovered the tomb of a then-unknown young pharaoh.

The Mask of Tutankhamun, c. 1327 BCE, is a solid gold-encrusted mask from the innermost coffin of King Tutankhamun’s elaborate set of sarcophagi in his burial tomb. The mask is believed to be a representation of King Tutankhamun’s face. It bears lapiz lazuli and quartz motifs to define the brow and eyes. Now deconstructed, this innermost coffin’s mask is one of the most iconic images from the discovery of King Tutankhamun’s tomb. With Howard Carter’s discovery of the first fully intact tomb of an Egyptian pharaoh and previously discovered funerary artifacts and pieces displaying King Tutankhamun’s name, this fully intact mummy gave scientists and art historians most of the information that is known today of the process of mummification and other funerary practices of the ancient Egyptians.

The British Museum in London originally transported many of the found contents of King Tutankhamun’s burial chamber to London to be put on display. This mask and many other ancient artifacts appeared in a gallery opening in 1929, which was an enormous hit with historians and patrons. Queen Elizabeth II visited the 1929 exhibition and viewed Howard Carter’s discoveries herself. Through much controversy of Howard Carter’s taking of the tomb’s contents and England’s long-upheld claims to ownership of the tomb contents, as well as many world tours around the globe, the items and King Tutankhamun’s remains are now back in Egypt and under ownership of the Museum of Egyptian Antiquities in Cairo.

An article by John H. Douglas lays out many details of artifacts found in King Tutankhamun’s tomb. Douglas also mentions a little bit of details revealed by Howard Carter and the press as he uncovered the tomb and eventually took these artifacts as his own. The discovery and ultimately the removal of the contents of King Tutankhamun’s burial chamber have been well-documented by Howard Carter and member of the press of 1922. The Egyptian government at the time of discovery did not represent the sentiments of the Egyptian government that rules today. The inhabitants of Egypt today are understood to be the descendants of the ancient Egyptians, even being home to a radical sect of Egyptians who choose to follow the religion and other customs of the ancients. Egypt itself has been found to be capable of hosting, displaying, and preserving ancient artifacts and structures. The Museum of Egyptian Antiquities have many of these items on display to the public and still negotiate to make items available for further research, such as the famous x-ray CT scan that led to a forensic team’s digital facial reconstruction of what we believe to be King Tutankhamun’s true face. Given the amount of availability, preservation, and respect given to King Tutankhamun’s belongings and remains, the Cairo museum continues to prove that they are quite capable of handling the responsibilities that come with being bestowed the ownership rights of the ancient artifacts of one of their ancient pharaohs.

Cleopatra's Needle in Alexandria, ca. 1880; old archive photo
Cleopatra’s Needle in Alexandria, ca. 1880; old archive photo

A solemn look at the deterioration of ancient artifacts leads us to a Cleopatra’s Needle monument, located outdoors in New York City’s Central Park. In Chas. Chaille Long’s article “Send Back the Obelisk,” Long recalls his first-person account of witnessing the unveiling of the Cleopatra’s Needle at its inception in the current installation on Central Park. He then recalled his first seeing it in Egypt during his military service, emotionally stating that the monument no longer evoked the civic and other ethereal meanings he once asociated with it. Additionally, according to Long, the context of Cleopatra’s Needle was lost when it was removed from its original environment. It was damaged in transport and was enduring weathering in its new place in Central Park. Deterioration or destruction of an ancient artifact is exactly hat needs to be prevented, and is a serious enough case that an advocacy or preservation group should step in to protect the ancient artifact. Likewise, returning the monuments simply for re-installation and allowing these monuments to continue to be weathered down and destroyed should be considered irresponsible and unacceptable in the art historical and historical preservation communities. In situations like these, deliberations with political leaders and groups such as UNESCO should take place to have peaceful resolutions. Preservation of the obelisk in the United States should be the key issue, and any rightful owner should be ready and able to provide preservation of the obelisk.

Although well-trained art historians generally aim to be respectful of the country’s culture, the area of disagreement is rightful ownership of the artifacts. While it is easy to sympathize with a group of people who feel disenfranchised over actions of something being taken from their land, that premise of sympathy is based on spiritual meaning. We cannot assume that every country claiming ownership has the best intentions in mind. Assuming that a governing body cares for artifacts on a respectful, emotional level is a detriment to archaeology and hinders preservation. We have to examine the country’s ability to preserve the sites or objects. ISIS and Boko Haram are reportedly uniting. A part of the militant terrorist groups’ “cultural cleansing” campaigns includes ridding nations of artifacts from other religions or civilizations – deliberate destruction of ancient artifacts. In the event of armed conflict, UNESCO cites The Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Properties in the Event of Armed Conflict of 1954 for setting standards for discussing risks of leaving the artifacts, which are currently being destroyed by radical Islamic terrorists. In this case, preservation cannot be guaranteed. Though not enough evidence is currently provided to warrant a return of Cleopatra’s Needle, preservation should be the responsibility of the current owners of the monument.

Hatshepsut, ca. 1473–1458 B.C; © The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Statue of Seated Hatshepsut, ca. 1473–1458 B.C; © The Metropolitan Museum of Art

The statue of Hatshepsut, c. 1479 to 1458 BCE, is located in the British Museum in London. It is carved from limestone and originally was further decorated with paint. The statue was uncovered in Deir el-Bahri, Thebes, which is the location of her temple. Though damaged quite a bit when it was recovered, it is still a mainly intact and wonderful representation of a female pharaoh. As Hatshepsut reigned further, physical depictions of the queen began to change. A published 2006 museum review by Emily Teeter beautifully describes this and many other physical depictions of Hatshepsut, along with a nice description as to what we know historically from her reign. Images of Hatshepsut began a metamorphosis of her gender, changing some of her body style to resemble more of a masculine form without much subtlety. Her female breasts smooth out to a more masculine chest, she wears a male ceremonial kilt, and she sports a false beard which a female most definitely could not have grown herself. The damage could be attributed to the destruction of some of her monuments by her stepson Thutmose III, who harbored a great deal of animosity towards his stepmother after she usurped his throne a little while after he came of age to assume the title of King. Accordingly, mentions of Hatshepsut became scarce likely at King Thutmose III’s wishes. Hatshepsut’s temple, the Hathor Chapel, was a target of his anger, and archaeologists can see why. Inside the temple are inscriptions announcing her accomplishments and a message from her celestial father delivering the message that his daughter is a wonderful king and reinforcing her right to rule as she did.

This statue was recovered from Thebes in 1845, though not intact. Other pieces were recovered approximately 80 years later and were rejoined with the original piece, which was located in Berlin. The Metropolitan Museum of Art then negotiated to acquire the main piece to restore the statue. An expensive and painstaking process from excavation to restoration, a great deal of care and responsibility has been put into this statue of Hatshepsut by the museum. As a queen who achieved the rare title of a female pharaoh, a statue such as this is extremely important in terms of historical research. This ancient artifact, along with primary scholarly sources, arguably proves that such a person very likely existed. The current condition of the statue causes enough alarm that preservation not only should come first, but that whichever museum, no matter which country, appears to be the most stable and has the best conditions for preserving this artifact should do so with ownership and accepted responsibility of the object, along with the technology and other capabilities that only a major museum could handle.

The Pyramids of Giza, scholarly use courtesy of Encyclopedia Brittanica; © Sylvain Grandadam—Stone/Getty Images
The Pyramids of Giza, scholarly use courtesy of Encyclopedia Britannica; © Sylvain Grandadam—Stone/Getty Images

An example of an international group at work is UNESCO. The work they have accomplished with on-site preservation includes the Great Pyramids of Giza in Cairo, Egypt. Constructed between 2575 and 2465 BCE, the Great Pyramids have been called architectural and engineering marvels, as well as one of the seven wonders of the world. Extremely similar to ziggurats, these structures serve as burial tombs of pharaohs. UNESCO is an acronym for United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. UNESCO designated these famous pyramids as a protected World Heritage site in 1979. That proclamation came in handy in 1995 when the Giza Pyramids were threatened by way of destruction for a highway project in Cairo. When contemplating how Egyptians could consider doing such a thing, we must remember that these ancient pyramids actually run flush to the outskirts of a present-day densely populated city of Cairo.

UNESCO was able to complete this task with the World Heritage Convention: a subgroup inside UNESCO that takes immediate action to preserve any World Heritage site that is in danger of destruction. Negotiations with the Egyptian Government resulted in a number of alternative solutions which replaced the disputed project. UNESCO does not claim ownership, but instead negotiates for the protection of World Heritage Sites and empowers groups within the countries to work with their governments to preserve historical sites.

The Temple of Ishtar ruins, Ashur. Courtesy of UNESCO, © Editions Gelbart (scholarly use only)
The Temple of Ishtar ruins, Ashur. Courtesy of UNESCO, © Editions Gelbart (scholarly use only)

Another example of a key historical monument that is now considered to be in danger is the Temple of Ishtar in the city of Ashur, located approximately 100 kilometers outside Mosul in present-day northern Iraq. The Assyrian city of Ashur was a key city during the Akkadian empire that ruled c. 2334 to 2154 BCE, and was eventually the capital of Assyria. While smaller than Nimrud and Nineveh, it sat at a pivotal position along a trade route in Mesopotamia that aided in supporting a strong economy that guaranteed the city’s survival over centuries. Another element of this particular ancient city was its geographical benefits. This particular city was erected flush to the Tigris River, and the city’s other unique geographical surroundings afforded the city natural defenses which were strengthened with buttressed walls. Ashur was one of the earliest forts ever uncovered from ancient early civilizations. Ashur is also the site of the Temple of Ishtar or Inanna of Ashur, where a large cache of ancient artifacts were unearthed by excavator Walter Andrae.

Looking at an article discussing Assyrian artifacts in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City and previous installments in Berlin, we can see that many found object from the discovery of the Temple of Ishtar in Ashur are currently preserved and protected within encyclopedic museums. Considering the armed conflict currently plaguing Iraq and the imminent danger ancient artifacts face from the radical terrorist groups, ownership is no question. Of the many ancient artifacts from Ashur in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, some were objects from the uncovering of the Temple of Ishtar. From just this temple we discovered votives and statues depicting gods, rulers and other objects that have been studied and benefited our understanding of rituals and everyday lives of the ancient Sumerians. A discovery of ancient artifacts found underneath the temple was very valuable to research. Excavator Walter Andrae uncovered items such as copper objects, clay statues, glasswork and precious stone jewelry. These significant ancient artifacts demonstrate metalwork and glass and jewelry-making skills of the Assyrians and their predecessors.

The rising power of radical forces and the beginning of the Iraqi-American War assisted UNESCO in making the decision to make the city of Ashur and its Temple of Ishtar a World Heritage Site in 2003 in efforts to further protect the site from damage or destruction. UNESCO submits that the ancient city provides scholars the opportunity study the evolutionary engineering practices of the ancient Sumerians. Right now northern Iraq is in immediate danger from the sanctioned destruction of ancient artifacts by the radical religious group ISIS, who aim to eradicate artifacts from ancient civilizations that did not worship their god. In March of 2015, UNESCO used the term “cultural cleansing” when describing and condemning the devastating destruction of the archaeological site at Nimrud, the ancient Assyrian capital. UNSECO continues efforts to mobilize the people of Iraq and the international political and academic communities to further protect cultural heritage sites in Iraq.

Figure of Iris from West Pediment of the Parthenon, Elgin Marbles;  © The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Figure of Iris from West Pediment of the Parthenon, Elgin Marbles; © The Metropolitan Museum of Art

A final key historical topic that is still greatly debated today is the rightful ownership to the Elgin Marbles. The Elgin Marbles happen to be a large portion of the Parthenon frieze. The Elgin Marbles were removed from the Parthenon during the reign of the Ottomans over Greece by an Englishman by the name of Lord Elgin, for which the marbles are currently named. The Elgin Marbles have been held by the British Museum since 1816. Lord Elgin’s reasoning for removing the marbles were the state of deterioration as monuments were not being properly cared for at the time. While the Ottoman Empire spanned Greece, their ruling political government at the time of the sale of the Elgin Marble did not have any personal stake in the removal of the ancient artifact. Since Greece gained independence from the Ottoman oppression, the country was petitioned for the return of their artifacts they consider to be stolen.

The argument for repatriation of the Elgin Marbles in an article by Michael Kimmelman introduces an excellent example of encyclopedic museums overstepping their boundaries to inappropriately keep possession of ancient artifacts. Kimmelman documents the opening of the Acropolis Museum in Athens, Greece, a state-of-the-art encyclopedic museum with outstanding capabilities to both preserve and display ancient artifacts of their culture. Designed by Swiss architect Bernard Tschumi, the Acropolis Museum sits near the base of the Acropolis. The museum houses the rest of the Parthenon frieze that Lord Elgin did not take, making do with plaster casts of the missing Elgin Marbles that complete the frieze. The displeasure of the missing Elgin Marbles is a national argument in Greece, with even the President of Greece affirming that the ancient artifacts were in fact stolen, and he offers his own support in his nation’s campaigning for the return of the Elgin Marbles to the rightful place.

According to UNESCO, who has been involved by initiation deliberations between Athens, Greece and the British Museum, their mediation and questions have gone unanswered by the British Museum. Since the 2009 construction of the state-of-the-art Acropolis Museum in Athens, Greece, the British Museum’s long-standing claims of inadequate preservation and protection have been answered in full. Considering that the Elgin Marbles acquirer, Lord Elgin, was ambassador to a ruling empire that was not only oppressive but no longer rules, the British Museum’s argument for their ownership to the Elgin Marbles goes unfounded. The Ottoman Empire had no stake in ancient Greek artifacts, as they were an oppressive foreign government with no historical connection to the removed artifacts. the Elgin Marbles were not truly their possessions to sell to Lord Elgin and England. The act of taking the Parthenon frieze in 1816 while the country of Greece was under the rule of an oppressive regime was an issue of the past for which the British Museum is not fully held accountable; however, the refusal to return the Elgin Marbles to their rightful owners and original location shows a lack of ethics within the British Museum that Kimmelman feels greatly tarnishes the museum’s reputation in both academia and the general public.

Of all seven of the key topics discussed, it can be determined that the general purpose of our encyclopedic museums are to benefit mankind and our cultural heritage and preserve these ancient artifacts or world heritage sites. While armed conflicts bring about extremely difficult circumstances, having key diplomatic organizations such as UNESCO oversee peaceful mediations in certain controversial or emergency situation could bring about positive change in the art historical and preservation communities and initiate progress within these ancient artifacts and sites. Where our cultural heritage can be preserved and protected, great care and sometimes ownership should be given in light of how the artifacts can be preserved. However, ownership where ethics are not solid and preservation is no longer a topic for opposition, the discussion for repatriation should be on the able. Every situation will be different, and having organizations such as UNESCO to mediate between individual situations are very necessary for any hopes of reaching peaceful resolutions.


Works Cited

“Assyria at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.” In The Biblical Archaeologist, Vol. 58, 167- 169. Boston, MA: The American Schools of Oriental Research, 1995.

Douglas, John H. “Treasures of a Boy-King.” In Science News, Vol. 110, 396-397. Washington, D.C.: Society of Science and the Public, 1976.

Encyclopædia Britannica Online, s. v. “Ashur”, accessed April 21, 2015, http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/38385/Ashur.

Encyclopædia Britannica Online, s. v. “Hatshepsut”, accessed April 19, 2015, http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/256896/Hatshepsut.

Encyclopædia Britannica Online, s. v. “Pyramids of Giza”, accessed April 20, 2015, http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/234470/Pyramids-of-Giza.

Kimmelman, Michael. “Elgin Marble Argument in a New Light.” New York: The New York Times, June 2009.

Long, Chas. Chaille. “Send Back the Obelisk!” In
The North American Review, Vol. 143, 410-413. Iowa: The University of Northern Iowa, 1886.

McNeil, Donald G. “The Code of Hammurabi.” In American Bar Association Journal, Vol. 53, 444-446. Washington, D.C.: American Bar Association, May 1967.

Teeter, Emily. “Museum Review: Hatshepsut and Her World.” In American Journal of Archaeology, Vol. 110, 649-653. Long Island, NY: Archaeological Institute of America, 2006.

Human and horses


Ma Lijun

“There is nothing so good for the inside of a man as the outside of a horse.”


The relationship between horse and human is  one of the longest love affairs to traverse history, and it is an affair that has been described by the hand of the artist.Horses have always occupied a special place in human consciousness. The connection with strength and power inspires man to produce works of art identifying his feeling for the horse, and human’s culture has been enriched by the association. The practical advantages from mastery over the horses have appealed to the more sophisticated requirements of human nature – the need for excitement, for aesthetic  satisfaction and as an expression of spiritual aspiration. To be seated on horseback, five feet above the ground, brings authority; to gallop hell-for- leather with the wind in your face lends the rider wings, as if at one with gods. This wonderful creature have played in human societies since they were domesticated some six thousand years ago has been so crucial that it is no exaggeration to say that the development of nations and cultures would have been quite different had they not existed.

The horse become integral to all the great early cultures, and with the recognition of its innate value it come to be perceived differently. Horses were decorated and adorned; they become to a large degree status symbols and we hightly prized. Individuals took a prode in their horses, and this, combined with a necessity for military horsepower, led to breeding regimes and intelligent animal husbandry. The Sumerians and Assyrians, who were skilled hunters and able to shoot arrows from their cavalry, kept detailed records of their horses, taking horses as their treasures.

The horse as a vehicle for the greater glorification of the rider is a tradition perpetuated since the horse was first ridden, and it most clearly appreciated in equestrian protraiture. This in itself is an ancient and enduring form of flattery. Who could doubt the power of the Roman emperor immortalized in bronze with his horse.

Depictuons from the Egyption tomb of Tutankhamun show splendidly presented horses in good condition: they were obviously inportant chariot horses, fit to pull a king. The horse is bigger than everbefore.”Thin-skinned, hot- blooded ,resilient, fine – boned and with a splendid and unparalleled bearing, these horses of ‘Eastern’ character had an overwhelming influence on the develoipment of modern horse breeds.”[Johns,11]

Horsing-racing propagated first by the Greeks and then take up by the Romans. Satisfying  human’s innate desire to compate when not warring, chariot- racing was an intoxicating , fast and furious sport, and usually involved either two-horse or four- horse teams.[Pickeral,132]

It was from the splendour of ancient Greece and Rome, from the second millenium BC onward, that the most tantalizing myths and legends sprang, and the horse again took centre stage.The stories so often recounted were vivdly illustrated in paint, bronze, marbel and mosaic, with Pegasus remaining one of the most often depicted and best known of mythological horses.

The relationship between the horse and human is one that has constantly changed, shifted and evolved with the passage of time. What has not changed is the irrefutable essence of the horse that so attracts humankind, including artisets.It is this indefinable quality that inspires great feeling, a feeling intangible but potent, a mysterious element that defies exact explanation.


 Kings and horses

Strength and speed are two of the equine qualities that humans have exploited since horse were first domesticated, and as the urge to compete is strong in many people. Kings and rulers of antiquity liked to be shown as mighty conquerors and the war-chariot was an appropriate part of that image.

Seal of Darius I (reigned 521-486 BC) Agate cylinder seal Height 3.7 cm (17/16 in.) London, The British Museum
Seal of Darius I
(reigned 521-486 BC)
Agate cylinder seal
Height 3.7 cm (17/16 in.)
London, The British Museum

Ancient Persians were great horse-people and value their horse highly. The horse was symbols of social status and courage. Within Persian society, horses were owned only by the privileged. They were used for racing and hunting, as in the lion hunt pictured, as well as for military campaigns and transport. With the exception of the magnificent Nisean breed, which is very smaller than a morden horse.

Light two-wheeled chariots were of the highest importance in ancient warfare and ceremonial display. The hunting of very large predators such as lions has been a royal and noble pursuit in many cultures.

The powerful , stocky horse shows no apparent signs of panic  in spite of the fact that lions claws are tearing at him, and both horse and rider are dressed with a degree of splendours that may seem inappropriate to the bloody business of slaughter. the effect, perhaps heightened by the uses of precious metal , is theatrical.


Tutankhamun in his chariot attacking Africans c,1567 -1320 BC  painted wood Cario, Egyptian National Museum
Tutankhamun in his chariot attacking Africans
c,1567 -1320 BC
painted wood
Cario, Egyptian National Museum

This painting  is one of several scenes decorating an elaborate wooden chest, which was one of the treasures uncovered during the excavation of Tutankhamun’s tomb, and remains in excellent condition, with the paintwork surprisingly bright and colourful.(Pickeral ,41)

The young king stands in his chariot drawn by two spirited horses. One of them with bared teeth, showing his age.Those horses,obviously larger that those in Persians’, are surging forwards. before and beneath them  are dead Africans,who are killed brutally by the king’s arrows and dogs. Thehorsespaintted by bright red is plunging into their attack with a ferocity that matches that of the young king. The horses with a tiara, dressed by caparison like they are showing themselves in a big festival.

Tutankhamun has the chariot reins tied around his waist to free both hands for shooting, indicating horses are good trained.


Achaemenian Period, 515B.C  Limestone Iran,Persepolis
Achaemenian Period, 515B.C

“Persepolis was the unashamedly opulent palace of Darius I, begun in about 518BC and built to serve as the great king’s seat of government and as a centre for lavish entertaining. The place was designed to reflect the wealth and importance of the Persian empire in every stone, with the magnificent central hall, being the most visually arresting. Thirteen of the original seventy – two columns supporting the roof still survive, soaring from the arid landscape into the sky.”[Baskett,30]

This sense shows dignitaries from across the empire bringing tributes to the king. The finely modelled horse is just a gift, and  one that shows respects to the king. Although small is size, the horse has all features of powerful.  His strong legs and muscular body remind viewers his durable and reliable.



detail of the so-called Alexander Sarcophagus Marble relief,451/4 in. high. Istanbul, Archaeological Museum
detail of the so-called Alexander Sarcophagus
Marble relief,451/4 in. high. Istanbul, Archaeological Museum

ALEXANDER was perhaps  the most charismatic leader in history: a legend in his own lifetime, he has been regarded as the model o fa great ruler and general throughout succeeding ages. The ancient accounts of his life include the story of how he won his horse, Buccephalus(Oxhead), by demonstrating, as a twelve- year- old boy, that he could control and ride his grown  stallion that was regarded as dangerously unmanageable. Buccephalus remained Alexander’s equine companion throughout the years of travel and campaigning as far afield as the Indian subcontinent, and died, aged about thirty, in 326BC, after the battle of Hydaspes. Alexander founded the city of Bucephala in his memory.

The sarcophagus was discovered at Sidon and was probably intended not  for Alexander but for his ally, Abdalonimus, King of Sidon(died 304 B.C). The relief’s  style follows that of Lysippus(active mid- to late 4th century), Alexander’s portraits, who, according to Pliny, carved many animals, including horses in quadrigas As in the famous cavalcade on the Parthenon frieze(part of the Elgin Marbles in The British Museum; about 440 BC), the horses’ poses are somewhat repetitive – and there for rhythmic – but naturalistically conceived. In this desperation of battle and even the pain inflicted by the fierce  Greek bits (the riders once held reins in one hand.)



Since people first learnt how to ride, there must have some who delighted in showing off exceptional equestrian skills, not only those that had an obvious purpose, such as the ability to use weapons of war when on horseback, but others that simply demonstrated athleticism and a high degree of mutual understanding between man and horse.

Greek horsemen of the fifth century BC riding bareback with the most casual ease and grace, their horses lively and spirited, but fully under control; Small but powerful, the horses’ prancing pose conveys eagerness and dynamism. Accustomed though we are to seeing saddles as essential articles of riding equipment, the image of the naked or near-naked rider on a similarly naked horse remains a powerful expression of the horse-human bond.

Statuette of a Horse and Rider Greek, mainland, early fifth century B.C. Bronze Height 8.3 cm., length 7.5 cm., width 2.5 cm. Princeton University Art Museum, gift of Frank Jewett Mather Jr. (y1948- 8)
Statuette of a Horse and Rider
Greek, mainland, early fifth century B.C.
Height 8.3 cm., length 7.5 cm., width 2.5 cm.
Princeton University Art Museum, gift of Frank
Jewett Mather Jr. (y1948- 8)

The horse’s head is large in proportion to its stocky body and short legs. It holds itself proudly erect, the neck vertical, the head at a forty-five-degree angle. The eyes are large and slightly bulging; the nostrils flare. The muscles of the breast and flanks are well modeled.

The rider may be a boy: he is beardless, and his feet barely extend past the horse’s belly.He is nude, but unlike the horse, his genitals are not represented. He rides bareback, his posture erect but not stiff. The reins pass through the horse’s mane on the right side to emerge on the left, where the rider holds them in his left hand, his right hand lowered to his thigh. The reins are taut, accounting for the erect posture of the horse. “Through the slight turn of the rider’s head to one side, the group becomes more relaxed in its pose and signals the tendency of the period to break away from rigid postures”


 Racing horses

SPORTING celebrities , both human and equine, were admired and feted in the ancient world. The fourth- century poet Ausonius was asked by the emperor tho write an epitaph on the death of a famous racehorse name Phosphorus (‘Light – bearer’).

“Fly with haste to join the wing- footed

horses of Elysum; may Peasus gallop on your right and Arion as your

left-wheeler, and let Castor find a fourth horse for the team”

The poem describes the horse’s skill and strategy on the racetrack, delighting the roaring crowd of spectators, and concludes with the wish and belief that in the afterlife  Phosphorus might joun the immortal winged horses of myth and legend.

Fragment of a Relief-Amphora with Horse and Rider Greek, Cretan, ca. 660-630 B.C. Ceramic Height 19.07 cm., width 19.7 cm., maximum thickness 2.45 cm. Tampa Museum of Art, gift of Mr. and Mrs. William Knight Zewadski in honor of j. Michael Padgett,Curator of Classical Art, 1990-1992 (1991.023.001) CONDITION The medium red to light brown clay is coarse and contains mica and darker red inclusions. The fragment is broken on all sides. The surface is worn, and there are chips in the horse's tail and the raised band below.
Fragment of a Relief-Amphora with Horse and Rider
Greek, Cretan, ca. 660-630 B.C.
Height 19.07 cm., width 19.7 cm., maximum thickness 2.45 cm.
Tampa Museum of Art, gift of Mr. and Mrs. William Knight Zewadski in honor of j. Michael Padgett,Curator of Classical Art, 1990-1992 (1991.023.001)
The medium red to light brown clay is coarse and contains mica and darker red inclusions. The fragment is broken on all sides. The surface is worn, and there are chips in the horse’s tail and the raised band below.

A horse gallops to the right, its body, legs, and tail stretched out and elongated in order to accentuate the perception of speed. A male figure wearing a belted tunic rides bareback, his head and upper body turned frontally to face the viewer. while holding onto the reins with his left head, his right hand is swung back, clutching a riding crop, now largely affected.


 Myth and Symbolism

People have always invested nature, including other animals, with symbolic menatings and mystical powers. In religious myth and magical folk-tale, horses take their palce as symbols of speed and power, courage and loyalty , beauty and nobility.”The idea of a flying horse is , however , far older and more widespread that its focus in Graeco-Roman culture”[25],A depictuon of a horse with huge, feathered wings can look wonderfullly plausibel, and the idea of flight is no more than an extension of the qualitites of speed and grace that are already associated iwth the species.

Terracotta, orange clay with inclusions, pale yellow-beige slip, mold-made, hand-finished, painted H. 56, W. 50 Museo Archeologico Regionale "Paolo Orsi" di Siracusa, inv. 34540, 34543, 34895 Syracuse, via Minerva, old temple of Athena, near aedicula E, 1913-14 excavations
Terracotta, orange clay with inclusions, pale
yellow-beige slip, mold-made, hand-finished,
H. 56, W. 50
Museo Archeologico Regionale “Paolo Orsi” di
Siracusa, inv. 34540, 34543, 34895
Syracuse, via Minerva, old temple of Athena, near
aedicula E, 1913-14 excavations

This terracotta tablet represents the winged Gorgon Medusa, her legs positioned in the “Knielauf”pose, an Archaic convention that represents a figure running at great speed. Her torso is shown frontally and her lower body in profile. Her large wings curl above her shoulders and her winged right boot extends beyond the edge of the tablet.
Originally the figure was set in a square black background, and the tablet has been reassembled from several fragments with missing areas restored, especially noticeable on the right side.

With her right hand, the Gorgon grips the belly of the small winged horse Pegasus, tucking the creature under her arm. Pegasus rests his head on his mother’s breast. His elongated right eye is outlined in black and his mouth is slightly open. His neck is painted purple, the details of the mane, black. His rear hooves rest on the Gorgon’s right foot and his front hooves on her right thigh. The feathers of his lowered wing are painted black and purple, and his long cord-like tail hangs above th Gorgon’s foot. Pegasus and Chrysaor were the offspring of the Gorgon and the god Poseidon. Chrysaor’s head once rested in the hollow of the Gorgon’s left shoulder, but both his head and body are now missing.[Bennett,230]


Johns, Catherine. Horses: History, Myth, Art. Cambridge, Mass. Harvard University Press, 2006.

Baskett, John. The Horse in Art. New Haven, Conn.Yale University Press, 2006.

Pickeral, Tamsin. The Horse: 30,000 Years of the Horse in Art. London: Merrell, 2006.

Bennett, Michael J. Magna Graecia: Greek Art from South Italy and Sicily. Cleveland, Ohio: Cleveland Museum of Art , 2002.

Padgett, J. Michael, and William A. P. Childs. The Centaur’s Smile: The Human Animal in Early Greek Art. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Art Museum , 2003.

By Ma Lijun

Apollo: God of music, poetry, art, oracles, archery, plague, medicine, sun, light and knowledge


Apollo :God of music, poetry, art, oracles, archery, plague, medicine, sun, light and knowledge


Apollo, a deity of many functions and meanings, after Zeus perhaps is the most influential of all the Greek gods. He was the son of Zeus and Leto, twin brother of Artemis. Apollo, one of the great gods, is represented in some degree dependence on Zeus, who is the source of the powers. The powers of Apollo are of different kinds, but all are connected with one another.

Apollo is the god who punishes and destroys the wicked and overbearing when he wearing bow and arrows. All sudden deaths of men were believed to be the effect of the arrows of Apollo. Also, Hyginus relates, that “four days after his birth, Apollo killed the dragon Python at the mount Parnassus.”

The Python of Delphi was a creature with the body of a snake. This creature dwelled on Mountain Parnassus, in central Greece. Wherever it went, it diffused an obnoxious smell and spread mischief and death.
Python was once sent out by Hera, the wife of Zeus, in order to chase the pregnant Leto, a lover of Zeus so that she couldn’t settle anywhere to give birth.  By the time Apollo, the son of Leto, was only four days old, he was already a strong boy. A silver bow with golden arrows, given to him by the blacksmith Hephaestus, made the young god decide to kill Python and take revenge.

The death of the Python filled Apollo with joy, so he happily took his lyre and started playing a song of victory, giving joy to people all around. This was the moment where Apollo became the god of the Music. Right after he finished his song, Apollo took the creature and buried it under the slopes of Mount Parnassus. On its surface, he built the oracle of Delphi, which is also known as the “Pythia”.

However, because the blood of Python,  Apollo had committed a crime and, according to the laws of Mount Olympus, he needed to be purified. Therefore, Zeus ordered from Apollo to institute the Pythian Games at Delphi so that athletic and musical competitions could be hosted. Apollo followed the order and he even took part in the games himself. From then on, the Pythian Games were held every four years in Apollo’s honor.

Apollo is the god who delights in the foundation of towns and the establishment of civil constitutions. He helped the construction of Troy. A town or a colony was never founded by the Greeks without consulting an oracle of Apollo, so that in every case he become, as it were, their spiritual leader. In Egypt, he was made to form a part of their astronomical system, which was afterwards introduced into Greece, where it became the prevalent opinion of the learned.

Apollo also is the god of prophecy. He had the power of communicating the gift of prophecy both to gods and men. As the god of song and music, He delighted the immortal gods with his play on the phorminx during their repast. Apollo is ascribed as the invention of the flute and lyre.

“The first time we hear of the worship of Apollo at Rome is in the year B. C. 430, when, for the purpose of averting a plague, a temple was raised to him, and soon after dedicated by the consul, C. Julius. A second temple was built for him in the year B. C. 350. During the second Punic war, in B. C. 212, the Ludi Apollinares was instituted in honor of Apollo. ””The worship of this divinity, however, did not form a very prominent part in the religion of the Romans till the time of Augustus, who, after the battle of Actium, not only dedicated to him a portion of the spoils, but built or embellished his temple at Actium, and founded a new one at Rome on the Palatine, and instituted quinquennial games at Actium”.

Apollo, the national divinity of the Greeks, was of course represented in all the ways which  arts were capable of. As the ideas of the god became gradually and more and more fully developed, his representations in works of art rose from a rude wooden image to the perfect ideal of youthful manliness. The most beautiful and celebrated among the extant representations of Apollo are the colossal marble statue of Appollo in London, which was discovered broken into 121 pieces, laying near the large pedestal on which it had originally stood at Cyrene in modern Libya. This image of Apollo shows him holding a lyre, and so emphasizes his role as god of music. He is naked apart from the precariously draped himation or cloak around his hips, and has an almost feminine quality that reflects the influence of Hellenistic statuary of the second century BC The limbs are well proportioned and harmonious, the muscles are not worked out too strongly, and at the hips the figure is rather thin in proportion to the breast.

– Ma Lijun


“Colossal Marble Statue of Apollo.” British Museum -. Accessed March 21, 2015. http://www.britishmuseum.org/explore/highlights/highlight_objects/gr/c/marble_statue_of_apollo.aspx. ”

APOLLO : Greek God of Music, Healing & Prophecy | Mythology, Apollon, W/ Pictures. Accessed March 21, 2015. http://www.theoi.com/Olympios/Apollon.html. “Apollo.” Wikipedia. Accessed March 21, 2015.

“Apollo.” Apollo. Accessed March 21, 2015. http://www.pantheon.org/articles/a/apollo.html.

“Apollo.” Wikipedia. Accessed March 21, 2015. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Apollo.

The Grecian Claim

In 1801, Thomas Bruce, the 7th Earl of Elgin, began his controversial removal of half the sculptures in the Parthenon. Greece at this time was occupied by the Ottoman Empire. In 1811, the Earl received a permit from the Ottoman sultan giving him permission to take the marble pieces. However, when the Earl was asked to present his permit, he had lost the original permit and only had an Italian copy. Following his excavation, the Earl fell on hard times. He lost half of his nose to an infection, his wife left him for his best friend, and he was forced to sell his collection of marbles to the British government for £35,000 to cover his divorce.
The British claim they have the right to keep the marbles. They believe they purchased the pieces legally, if the Earl’s permit was legitimate. The Earl was given permission by Greece’s occupied government at the time. The British argue that the marbles are safer in Britain, anyways. Greece is an unstable country and had nowhere safe to store the marbles for a long time. In addition, any court ruling stating that the marbles should be returned to Greece could affect the ownership cases for so many other artworks in museums with questionable ownership.

Greece responded by building the New Acropolis museum to properly house their ancient artifacts. These marbles are a part of Greek history and culture and the legality of their removal from the Parthenon is uncertain. It has not been proven that the Earl’s permit was even legitimate. Greece believes they would not be setting up any detrimental precedents because they are only asking for the marbles from the Parthenon and certain other precedents have already been set where stolen pieces were returned to their rightful owners. If the Parthenon marbles were reunited in Greece, they could be set up in a situation that more closely resembles their original context. The British Museum has not shown the same level of care for the marbles that Greece will. Greece has set up the New Acropolis with state-of-the-art technology to care for the marbles where the British have damaged them in cleaning sessions and endangered them in transportation. The British public even believes Greece has the right to their marbles, according to opinion polls.

Greece’s argument is just too strong to deny. Especially when these marbles were most likely illegally obtained to begin with. If, however, the Ottoman sultan’s permit is legitimate, the Ottoman Empire no longer exists and Greece is independent. Any past agreements made by the Ottomans are not relevant today. The British refusing to return the marbles is stubborn. They hold far more value to Greece than Britain. Also, it would be far more convenient for professionals studying Ancient Greek art for the pieces to be easily accessible in one country. Being able to see them in their original context holds more value than keeping them in Britain where they are less important.


– Bridget O’Hara

Works Cited
Kimmelman, Michael. “Elgin Marble Argument in a New Light.” The New York Times, June 2009.

McGuigan, Cathleen. “Romancing the Stones.” Newsweek, June 2009.

Elgin Marbles: A Debate of Ownership

When the Parthenon was constructed in the 5th century BCE, Athens was thriving as a democracy under the rule of Pericles. This temple was built to honor the patron deity of Athens, Athena. This goddess’ attributes of intellect and warrior prowess reflected ideals that the Athenians revered. As a warrior culture with extreme civic pride, Athena’s Parthenon was the focal point of the Acropolis and visible from around the city of Athens. Decorative marble sculpture series adorned the pediments of the sculpture. These marble sculptures depicted scenes from Greek mythology, such as the birth of Athena and Athena’s victory over Poseidon. As a culture that lived by the notion that any non-Greek person was barbaric, the marble statues of the Parthenon stood as reminders to Athena’s people of Greek and Athenian supremacy.

More than two millennia after completion of the Parthenon and the decorative marble statues, Athens was no longer that mighty republic thriving under Pericles but was subjected to Ottoman authority. A British ambassador to the Ottoman Empire, Lord Elgin, was fascinated with the concept of classical Greek history and took particular interest in the Parthenon’s marble statues while visiting the Acropolis. Initially the ambassador only called for sketches to be made of the statues. After concluding that the marbles were suffering in situ, he removed the pedimental sculptures, metopes, and portions of the frieze to return to England. It was later sold to the British Museum of Art where it still resides.

Today much controversy surrounds the ownership ‘Elgin Marbles.’ Both the British and Greeks argue that each have legal and moral claim over the Parliament’s marble adornments. The British defend their ownership of the marbles based on Greece’s lack of an adequate museum and the fact that they paid for the pieces (McGuigan 2). They further bolster their argument claiming that Western culture including Britain is a product of Greek antiquity, thus the Elgin marbles are part of British history as well (The British Museum 2). The Greeks counter this claim of ownership by building a new Acropolis Museum in 2009 while making extra effort not to disturb any ancient cultural sites (McGuigan 1). Furthermore, the Greeks liken the removal of the marbles to the Nazi plundering of art during World War II (Kimmelman 2). Due to their initiative of preservation and the heritage of the objects, I believe the Elgin Marbles ethically and legally belong in the possession of the Greeks.

It is my opinion that the Elgin Marbles are legally and ethically the property of Greece. Because this issue of ownership is extremely controversial and prevalent today, many believe that the case of ownership should be considered in a modern court. It may be difficult for the legality to be settled in court today, but I do not believe that it is impossible or unadvisable. I do not think there should be a statue of limitations on the looting of a cultural treasure. Greece’s former cultural minister, George Voulgarakis, compares Elgin’s taking of the marble statues to the Nazis plundering priceless art during World War II (Kimmelman 2). Still today Nazi looted art is being returned to their legal owners as an act of atonement for those atrocities. A court case regarding the possibility of the Elgin Marble’s return to Greece could be handled similarly to the homecoming of Nazi looted works. I believe that the Greek government has the greater claim to the Marbles for various reasons. Initially I do not believe that Elgin had the legal authority to remove the marble statues from the Parthenon. Additionally, Elgin’s supposed motivation behind removing them, the lack of the ability to conserve the works, is now invalid. A new Acropolis Museum was constructed in 2009 a mere thousand feet away from the Parthenon. The Greeks now have a worthy space that can preserve and display their national monument just steps from its original location. Furthermore, after discovering an ancient settlement on the construction site, the museum’s plan was altered by elevating the structure on columns and utilizing a glass floor to allow for a view of the excavation (McGuigan 1). This new museum and its subsequent alterations demonstrate the Greek government’s desire for maintaining and preserving its culture. Though I believe there is an inherent difference between a moral and legal right to ownership, I personally consider Greece to be both morally and legally the rightful owners of the Elgin Marbles. Morally, the marble statues are a vital part of Athenian culture and should belong to the nationalistic Greeks. Legally, I don’t believe that Lord Elgin had permissible right to remove the statues, thus his selling them to the British Museum of Art was not legally right. When determining which right of ownership is more pressing, Voulgarakis states it best: “The problem is not legal. It’s ethical and cultural…The Acropolis is special” (Kimmelman 2). I believe that modern courts have an obligation to overturn past legal actions if they are contrary to what is correct for modernity. Without progressing from the past, there can be no advancing to the future. The removing of the marble sculptures during an unstable moment in Greece’s history may have appeared benevolent during the early 19th century, but today they should be returned to the civilization that is prepared to care for its cultural treasure. There are guaranteed to be issues arriving from modern courts overturning past legal actions, such as general opposition to the idea and an influx of reconsidered cases, but correcting a previous action for today’s society is too important to be stymied by potential controversy.

Because of its ongoing preservation efforts and the legacy of the objects, I believe that the Elgin Marbles belong to the Greek government. The marble statues of the Parthenon were taken during a vulnerable time for the Greeks, and today they have proven that they are deserving and able to own the Elgin Marbles. These objects are a significant part of Athenian and Greek history, a culture founded on nationalistic pride. I believe that based on Greece’s efforts and heritage, the Elgin Marbles should be repatriated to Athens.


Julia Stewart


Works Cited

 Kimmelman, Michael. “Elgin Marble Argument in a New Light.”

The New York Times, June 2009.

McGuigan, Cathleen. “Romancing the Stones.” Newsweek, June


“The Parthenon Sculptures.” The British Museum. http://www.


parthenon_sculpture. s.aspx.


The Trustees at the British Museum. You are permitted to use any of the images that are available on the British Museum website subject to our terms of use. The Museum will also grant a licence to use a larger version of an image, free of charge, subject to additional terms and conditions. These include usage in: non-commercial research or private study (unpublished), or one-off classroom use in a school, college or university presentation or lecture without entrance fee, including PowerPoint, reproduction within a thesis document submitted by a student at an educational establishment (an electronic version of the research may be made available online provided that it is at no cost to the end user) reproduction within (but not on the cover of) an academic (peer-reviewed) book, journal article or booklet, provided that the publication is published by an organisation set as a charity, society, institution or trust existing exclusively for public benefit and that the publication has a print-run of no more than 4,000 copies. E-book rights are not covered; for these please contact sales@bmimages.com. The image will be supplied in JPEG format, with the longest edge at 2,500 pixels, which will appear at a maximum of 21 cm (A5) when printed at 300 dpi. Please note the image may not have been cleaned or colour-managed.
The Trustees at the British Museum. You are permitted to use any of the images that are available on the British Museum website subject to our terms of use. The Museum will also grant a licence to use a larger version of an image, free of charge, subject to additional terms and conditions. These include usage in: non-commercial research or private study (unpublished), or one-off classroom use in a school, college or university presentation or lecture without entrance fee, including PowerPoint, reproduction within a thesis document submitted by a student at an educational establishment (an electronic version of the research may be made available online provided that it is at no cost to the end user) reproduction within (but not on the cover of) an academic (peer-reviewed) book, journal article or booklet, provided that the publication is published by an organisation set as a charity, society, institution or trust existing exclusively for public benefit and that the publication has a print-run of no more than 4,000 copies. E-book rights are not covered; for these please contact sales@bmimages.com. The image will be supplied in JPEG format, with the longest edge at 2,500 pixels, which will appear at a maximum of 21 cm (A5) when printed at 300 dpi. Please note the image may not have been cleaned or colour-managed.



The Elgin Marbles debate

Nearly 2,500 years ago, the Parthenon was built. It served as a temple to the goddess Athena and had since been used as a church, mosque, and even storage for gunpowder. The Ottomans used the Parthenon for gunpowder storage in 1687 and caused an explosion that greatly damaged the ceiling (Parthenon 2008). When the Ottomans ruled Athens they had no interest in the architecture or art that surrounded them. The damage from the explosion left many pieces of art just laying on the ground surrounding the Parthenon. It wasn’t until 1801 that the majority of the pieces of art were moved. From 1801 to 1805 a man by the title Lord Elgin traveled to Athens and had a team remove large pieces of marble, statues, parts of the frieze, and other pieces of artwork. He took the art back to his home in Britain where he intended to keep it as a private collection. He had supposedly been given a permit from the Ottoman Sultan that allowed him to take whatever he pleased (McGuigan 2009). After a few years in Britain, the British government purchased the Elgin Marbles and they were placed in the British Museum (Parthenon Sculptures n.d.). Today the Greek governments are fighting for the return of the art to where they believe is their rightful home. They have even had a large $200 million museum, The Acropolis Museum, built so that they would have a place to house them (Kimmelman 2009).

There is debate about whether the Elgin marbles should remain in Britain or return to Greece. In my opinion, they should be returned to Greece now that they have the facilities to ensure their protection. Given the situation in 1801, I do not think Lord Elgin was wrong in taking the art. I also think it is nice that the British Museum has been able to house these artifacts for so long. A great number of people have been able to appreciate artwork they might never have seen otherwise. However, now that Greece is able to house the artwork and they are fighting for its return, I believe it should be given to Greece.

The British Museum has no rightful ownership in my opinion. They might have purchased them, but there is debate about the authenticity of the permit Lord Elgin possessed. Lord Elgin has been equated to a looter and theoretically stole the artwork from Greece. If you knowingly purchase a stolen car for example, it does not make the car yours. If you were taken to court the car would be taken away and given back to the rightful owner. The Greeks want to be able to reunite their artwork with their country. The art was created for the Parthenon and surrounding areas in Athens.

There is argument that more people can learn about the Greek culture and history if the pieces remain in Britain. I believe that a piece of artwork can be more appreciated in the country from which it came. If you allow yourself to be fully immersed in a culture and be exposed to the beautiful, original artwork at the same time, it will outweigh an experience you could have viewing the art in Britain. Would a person in Britain not want to learn about the Greek culture if they could not view the art in their own country? The artwork would be more respected and understood if a person could fully experience the art, culture, and land together. According to one article, The Parthenon Sculptures, “The Acropolis Museum allows the Parthenon sculptures that are in Athens (approximately half of what survive from antiquity) to be appreciated against the backdrop of ancient Greek and Athenian history.”

While the British Museum has protected and housed the Elgin Marbles since the 19th century, it is time they were returned to their rightful country. Lord Elgin traveled to Athens with the intent to learn about the ancient art and returned with pieces of a culture and history. After housing the art for a few years the British government purchased these pieces and they have since been kept in the British Museum. Until recently with the construction of the Acropolis Museum, Greece has not had a proper facility to keep the artwork protected. However, now the country has the facilities and the desire to have a piece of their history restored and it would be in the best interest of the artwork if it were returned.


– Lauren Bowles

Works Cited

Anonymous. The Parthenon’s Many Lives. 2008. PBS.


Kimmelman, Michael. “Elgin Marble Argument in a New Light.” The New York Times.      June 23, 2009. http://www.nytimes.com/2009/06/24/arts/design/24abroad.html?      pagewanted=all&_r=0.

McGuigan, Cathleen. “Romancing the Stones.” Newsweek. June 6, 2009.


“Parthenon Sculptures.” British Museum.                 http://www.britishmuseum.org/about_us/news_and_press/statements/part    henon_sculptures.aspx.


Athena: Goddess of Wisdom

l_pl1_54766_fnt_tr_t91iiiAthena (Minerva to the Romans) was the goddess of reason, wisdom, handicrafts, and war. She was also the guardian of Athens, of which was named after her. She was seen as a fierce, brave warrior, but would only fight in conflicts that would threaten her state, and was said to value peace. She is the daughter of the Greek chief god Zeus, and was said to be his favorite child. In one interpretation of her origin, she sprung to life from Zeus’s forehead, full grown, and without a mother. She was known as the Parthenos (the virgin). She was associated with birds, specifically owls. She is most commonly depicted wearing armor, and carrying a spear and shield matching her roll as a goddess of war, and as a guardian. As Minerva, her roles don’t change much from her Greek incarnation other than taking over the victory aspects of the Greek goddess Nike.

Athena in mythology is noted for inventing many different items that would become essential to the people’s lives. In the fields of agriculture she invented the bridle ,  the rake, and the plow. In transportation, she invented the ship, and the chariot, and in entertainment, she invented the trumpet, and the flute.  Athena is also noted for having a turbulent history with Poseidon, the god of the sea. Both Athena and Poseidon competed to be the patron god of what would be Athens, and Athena won the contest by giving the humans the olive tree. In one story, a beautiful woman named Medusa fell in love with Poseidon, and the two mated in Athena’s temple. This Angered Athena and she placed a curse on Medusa which caused her to turn into a monster so vile that a single glance at her would turn a person to pure stone. In Homer’s The Odyssey, the titular character, Odysseus, angers Poseidon by not crediting him for the siege of Troy, and the end of the Trojan war, and dooms Odysseus to never be able to return to his home in Ithaca. Athena intervenes in Poseidon’s plans, and guides/protects Odysseus from Poseidon on his journey home.

In this statue, Athena is depicted wearing an armored helmet and holding an owl, the emblem of her wisdom, in her right hand. Originally this statue held a spear in her left hand, but has since been lost. The statue’s lack of body armor and shield seems to indicate that this statue may have been created during a time of peace.  Her helmet is adorned with a miniature sphinx, which in addition to fitting her guardian traits, it could possibly be a nod to the mental battle the sphinx engages Oedipus, and the “Riddle of the Sphinx” which would coincide with the wisdom aspects of Athena’s character.

– Connor Carraway

Works Cited

1. About.com. “Medusa With Snaky Hair.” Accessed March 11, 2015http://ancienthistory.about.com/od/monsters/ss/Monsters_4.htm

2. About.com. “Myths about Athena.” Accessed March 11, 2015. http://ancienthistory.about.com/od/athenaminervamyth/qt/052509BulfinchAthena.htm

3. Encyclopedia Britannica.”Athena.” Accessed March 11, 2015. http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/40681/Athena

4. Encyclopedia Britannica.“Minerva.” Accessed March11, 2015. http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/383802/Minerva

5. Encyclopedia Britannica.“Sphinx.”  Accessed March 11, 2015.  http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/559722/sphinx

6. Greek Mythology.com. “Athena.” Accessed March 11, 2015. http://www.greekmythology.com/Olympians/Athena/athena.html

7. Greek Myths & Greek Mythology. “Goddess Athena.” Accessed March 11, 2015. http://www.greekmyths-greekmythology.com/goddess-athena/