Adolf Theodor Friedrich Michaelis.

A century of archæological discoveries online

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interfere in case they wished to remove some stones
having inscriptions or figures upon them.*'

This last statement gave the undertaking quite a new
direction. Hunt knew how to interpret these words
in the proper manner. By means of bakshish in the
form of English goods, he received permission from the
governor to remove one of the metopes of the Parthenon.
This permission had been granted more than ten years
before to the French ambassador, Coimt Choiseul-
Gouffier, in reference to the removal of a slab of the frieze.

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Lord Elgin*s first success induced him to have his
firman extended, so as to gain permission to remove
other sculptures of the temple. This formed the beginning
of the widely discussed operations in the citadel, where
300 to 400 workmen were kept busy for a year carrying
off the decorative sculpture of the Parthenon. This spoil
consisted of a dozen figures of the pediments, fifteen
metopes and fifty-six slabs of the frieze. The latto:
were chiefly collected from the ground arotmd the temple
or foimd among the houses ; the statues of the pediments
were removed without necessarily injuring the archi-
tecture ; the metopes, however, could only be detached
after destroying the cornice above them — a proceeding
deserving the severest censure. It was impossible to
remove without vandalism a column from the eastern
porch of the Erechtheion and a maiden from the Caryatid
porch, which was replaced by a clumsy pillar. As it was
said, ^^Quod non fecerunt Gotki, fecerunt ScoH.^^ On the
other hand, parts of the frieze from the Temple of Nike
and some single sculpture from the lower city of Athens
were i^actically saved by their removal from destruction
or loss. The exploitation was completed by a number of
plaster casts from the Theseion, and a rich collection of

All this had been accomplished when Lord Elgin was
recalled in 1803 and returned home via Athens. Lusieri,
who remained as his agent, was soon enabled to send of!
this precious load, in 200 cases, filling several ships.
The brig Mentor was wrecked off stormy Cape Malea, but
skilled divers from the islands off the coast of Asia Minor
succeeded in recovering, in the course of three years, all
the treasures. What remained in the care of Lusieri
was seized by the French, when in 1807 Turkey declared
war on England, and taken by them to the Piraeus. The
want of opportunity for shipment, England's command
of the sea, and the speedy declaration of peace saved the

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statues from the fate, which had befallen the French
treasures in Egypt, of falling into the enemy's hands
(p. 17). Not tiU 1812 v^as Lusieri able to dispatch the
last eighty cases to England.

Against the questions whether Lord Elgin was justified
in using his official position to further a private enter-
prise, whether Hunt's interpretation of the finnan was
correct, and whether the workmen alwa}^ exercised
the greatest care and skill, we may set the con-
sideration that these precious sculptures were spared
from damage and destruction, and withdrawn from the
injuries inflicted on the Acropolis, and in particular on
the western front of the Parthenon by two bombardments
about twenty years later. We can only ask here whether,
in consequence of Lord Elgin's action, science has been
promoted or retarded, and the answer cannot be doubtful.
Only since these valuable remains have been secured from
the indifference and covetousness of the Turks, placed in
safety and exhibited in an easily accessible spot, have
these masterpieces of the school of Hiidias gained an
influence over the development of archaeology, and es-
tablished a fixed standard or scale for the contemplation
of the history of Greek art which they would never have
exercised in the then remote Athens, in the ^iclosure of
a Turkish fortress, at the inaccessible height of the pedi-
ments, or scattered and hidden in many secret places.
TTie history of Greek art would for another half-century
or longer have lacked the important stimulus given by the
Elgin marbles in London. Science therefore has every
reason to feel grateful to Lord Elgin.

Work continued at Athens, for, as Lord Arundel (p. 10)
had expressed it, " to transplant old Greece to England "
seemed now the deshre of many. While the architect.

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William Wilkins, was studying Athenian architecture, a
number of travellers were preparing to study the coimtry
of Greece scientifically. The chief among these was
Captain William Martin Leake, as he then was. He was
present at the shipwreck of the Mentor (p. 30), and lost
on that occasion all his papers, which contained a detailed
description of his travels in Asia Minor. He again re-
turned to Athens in 1804, ^^ travel on the Greek mainland,
in the employ of the British Government. He thus be-
came the founder of the scientific geography of Greece.
Simultaneously there travelled in Greece the loquacious
Edward Daniel Clarke, the thoughtful antiquary Edward
Dodwell, accompanied by the Italian draughtsman
Pomardi, and the dry but indefatigable William Gell.
Their guide was Pausanias, the describer of Greece in the
age of the Antonines, as he had been in earlier days for
Spon and Chandler. But the eyes of the present travel-
lers were more free and open to appreciate present con-
ditions as well as the remains of the past which were im-
folded before them in surprising number and diversity.
The remains of prehistoric architecture in the Argolid
impressed them most forcibly. Tiryns was discovered
with its Cyclopean walls of huge blocks, one towering
above another, with subterranean galleries and arched
vaults, as yet of enigmatical character. Mycenae, the
citadel of the Atreidae, appeared, with the Lion Gate and
the famous Beehive Tomb or Treasury of Atreus, in
which experimental excavations had been made by Lord
Elgin's representative. These travellers had no thought
of carr5dng on excavations. Thus there appeared from
the darkness of antiquity the first palpable remains of
the sites hallowed by Homeric poetry and primeval
legends. From the very ancient walls of Mycenae and
Tiryns interest was naturally extended to the numberless,
and at times excellently preserved, city walls of later
times, scattered all over Greece. To these may be added

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the beautiful ruins of Corinth, iEgina, Bassae, near Phi-
gaUa, until then hardly investigated. These remains of
consummate architecture induced the Society of Dilet-
tanti to organize in 1812 and 1813 a new expedition to
Asia Minor and Attica, about the time of Napoleon's
campaign to Russia, with Gell as its chief, accompanied by
the architects John P. Gandy and Francis E edford. Their
" Unedited Antiquities of Attica " appeared in 1817, soon
after the publication of the second volume of "Anti-
quities of Athens," in which the sanctuaries of the Eleu-
sinian M}^eries and the group of Temples at Rhamnus
mark a great advance in our knowledge of Greek archi-

Other British architects were working at Athens along
the same lines. C. R. Cockerell and J. Foster met Lord .
B3^on there in 1810. Technical questions were of ab-
sorbing interest, in view of the unparaUeled technical
perfection found in all the details of the buildings on the
Acropolis. Thus Cockerell b^an measuring the Doric
colunrn to ascertain its exact entasis, which had already
been observed by Wilkins. This entasis is a slight expan-
sion of the outlines, which in the columns of the Parthenon,
having a diameter in the lowest dnun of 1*90 metre,
amounts only to 17 millimetres on each side, andis of vast
importance in giving life to the outline. In September,
1810, these two young men, who were still in the early
twenties, were joined by a group of older men, who had
met in Rome, and there decided to come to Greece. These
were two Danish scholars, Peter Oluf BrSnstedt and his
brother-in-law Koes, the Livonian Baron Otto Magnus
von Stackelberg, an antiquary, and a man of fine artistic
taste ; the Nuremberg architect Baron Haller von Haller-
stein, and the Suabian amateur Linkh, of Canstatt. These
men were soon united in close bonds of friendship, which
developed into a special intimacy between the two
architects, Haller and Cockerell.

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All had the same ambitions, but tried to realize them
in diverse ways. Stackelberg and the two Danish
scholars visited Asia Minor, while the two Germans and
the two Englishmen went to iEgina in April, 1811, to
examine the niins of the supposed Temple of Zeus.
Having established their quarters in a cave near the
ruins, they found a head with a helmet, near one of the
pediments, while taking measurements and decided to
pursue these traces. Thirty workmen were then en-
gaged, and a great number of fragments were found during
sixteen days' labour. From these fragments it was
possible to restore later fifteen statues, five of the eastern
and ten of the western pediments. The fortunate dis-
coverers acquired the entire treasure from the city of
.Sgina for the sum of £^0 to £40. The inhabitants of
iEgina evidently rated the marble fragments only accord-
ing to their value for the limekiln. These valuable frag-
ments were conveyed to Athens en route for Zante, at
that time the trade centre in these regions, but soon they
were removed to Malta, and placed under English pro-
tection, in consequence of the warlike condition of affairs
there. Their public sale had previously been fixed
in Zante for November, 1812. France and England
tried to acquire them ; the latter had given unlimited
powers to its representative, who, however, made the
mistake of going to Malta, while the sale was in Zante.
In consequence the Crown Prince Louis of Bavaria was
able to acquire them for the comparatively low price of
;f6ooo, and thereby to secure a firm foundation for the
Gl5T)tothek he had planned.

Thorvaldsen was chosen to restore and reconstruct these
fragments. Although this restoration long enjoyed great
fame, yet critical study and strict comparisons have re-
vealed failures in a scheme carried on without scientific
advice. The detailed description of the excavations
recently undertaken by Furtwangler, and his reconstruc-
tion therefrom, will be considered in another chapter (VI).

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^GINA 35

jjWhen these discoveries were made they increased our
knowledge in two directions. Firstly, it was shown that
pediment groups, of which the only examples then known
were those of the Parthenon, formed the decoration not
exclusively of larger temples, as was then supposed, but
that small temples possessed the same decorations at
either end. The subject of the newly discovered group
referred to Homeric poetry, to the battles before Troy.

Secondly, the composition of the group was of unex-
pected severity, in a style presenting older characteristics
than the Attic, and distinctly different ones. It was
Doric art appearing here for the first time. It seemed
so entirely strange that the sculptor Martin Wagner, who
had made the fortunate purchase for his prince, was re-
minded of £g3^tian art. This suggestion has been re-
peatedly made since in regard to newly discovered archaic
Greek art.

TTie travellers, the two Englishmen and the two
Germans, were still followed by good fortune. From
.ffigina they crossed over to the Peloponnese. In the
south-east comer of Arcadia they reached, in July, 1811,
the temple of Apollo at Bassae, near the town of Phigalia,
which is spoken of among the natives as "near the
columns *' ('5 rw^ trrvKovg). The temple is distin-
guished by its exceptionally fine position. It is situated
high in a mountainous region, commanding an extended
view toward the south over rich Messene, with Moimt
Ithome as a central point, and the sea far beyond. To
this must be added the different peculiarities in the con-
struction of the temple, the unusual ground-plan ; the
use made of Ionic half-columns in a Doric temple, etc.
There was abundance of work for the architects Haller,
Cockerell, and Foster.

While searching among a heap of blocks they came upon
a fox's earth, and continuing their search they found a slab
of a frieze, which had served as its lair. Yet another

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Temple with sculpture ! Excavations were not per-
mitted, but after their success at iEgina these friends
did not despair of attaining their aim. The Prussian
painter Georg Gropius, who lived at Athens as the
Austrian vice-consul, had joined this circle of friends,
and began negotiations with the governor of the Morea,
Veli Pasha, at Tripolitza. He succeeded in obtaining
permission to excavate, by promising him half the treasure

With this message Gropius joined his friends at Andrit-
zena in July, 1812. Cockerell was absent, as he had
gone to Sicily, but instead Stackelberg had joined the
three travellers, Haller, Foster, and Linkh. Thus a
party of fourteen persons ascended these lofty summits,
on which they pitched their tents and huts built of
branches. The settlement was called the "Franks'
Town " {ippayxoiiroKis). The number of workmen em-
ployed varied from 60 to 120. Haller took charge of the
excavations, while Stackelberg acted as draughtsman-
Great activity was developed on this elevated site, fre-
quently interrupted by visitors, wandering musicians,
or festivak ; even acquaintance with robbers was not

The search for a pediment group proved vain, evidently
the Temple had not possessed any. The reward of two
months' labour consisted (besides some fragments of
metopes) of thirty metres of frieze, out of which it was
possible to reconstruct twenty-three slabs.

The difficulty now arose of settling with Veli Pasha.
He had heard of the discovery of silver treasures. Some
freshly broken, coarse-grained marble had given rise to
this. Great was his disappointment when one of the
slabs was sent to him for inspection. There was nothing
for him to do but act the art-lover and admire the work-
manship of the tortoises, for which he mistook the great
round shields of the warriors. Under these circumstances

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BASS^ 37

it was not difficult to buy from the pasha his share, and
permission to transfer the marbles, for the moderate sum
of £400, particularly as his recall was imminent.

The laborious task of removing these heavy blocks and
countless fragments over mountains without roads to
the sea, was accomplished in spite of great difficulties
with the authorities, and they were transferred to Zante,
like the iEginetan marbles. All had been placed on ship-
board, except a very curious Corinthian capital, the only
one in the temple, when the soldiers of the new pasha
arrived to prevent the departure. In this, however, they
did not succeed, but the travellers had to witness the
wilful destruction of the capital by the Turks, and there-
fore it is only known to us from drawings. Martin
Wagner saw the sculptures in Zante, while concluding
the purchase of the iEginetan statues, and made drawings
of them, which he published later to the great displeasure
of their discoverers. Their sale took place in 1814. The
British ambassador was present this time, and obtained
the frieze for £15,000, almost three times the price paid
for the iEginetan marbles.

Science was greatly enriched by the discovery of Basss.
The complicated ground-plan of the temple, which had
evidently been built in reference to an older sanctuary ;
the strange form of the Icmic colunms to which the
Corinthian capital had belonged, the oldest one known ;
the combination of the three styles of architecture in one
temple, was so extraordinary as to excite the utmost
curiosity, particularly as its builder, Iktinos, the Athenian,
had laid down a canon for architecture in erecting the
perfect building of the Parthenon. The frieze likewise
presented great problems. It had been on the inner
walls of the main apartment of the temple above the
Ionic colunms — how had it received its Ught ? This
question of the lighting of the temples, the nature of the
so-called h5T)aethral temples, thus became one erf the

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questions of the day, not to disappear for many decades.
All possible and impossible technical solutions were
offered and eagerly discussed, until finally, thanks to a
thorough investigation of Dorpf eld's (1891) the conviction
now prevails that lighting an interior from a brilliant
upper light was quite foreign to a Greek temple ; there
is no question at Bassae of a covered apartment, but of an
open court, such as has been proved to have existed in other
temples, e.g. Didymaion near Miletos. But the frieze
demanded an explanation as well. Its frequent Attic
suggestions, and, on the other hand, a style inclining to
greater severity, have not yet received a satisfactory
explanation. Stackelberg, who devoted great care to
the study of the frieze, and gradually published his studies,
sought to discover its author in Alkamenes, the most
talented of the pupils of Phidias. Very few have been
able to accept therein a solution of the riddle.

The finds of iEgina and Bassas were happily placed in
Munich and London, but what had in the meantime be-
come of Lord Elgin's acquisitions ?

Lord Elgin was recced in 1803. On his retmn
journey he stopped in Rome to submit drawings of his
sculptures to Canova, and request him to undertake
their restoration. But Canova gained a name for great
penetration and insight by declining and declaring it
" not permissible to restore works of such supreme im-

With this declaration an entirely new standard was
given to the art-criticism of the time, rather foreign
to that then existing in Italy. The advice was too
novel to be accepted everjrwhere at once, but posterity
has justified it. Archaeologists will, in consequence,
forgive Canova many softening transformations of the
antique spirit. Against all international law Lord

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Elgin was taken prisoner by the French on his return
voyage, and kept in prison for three years. He offered
at once, while in prison, his collection to the British
Government, but without avail. What indeed had be-
come of these cases ? When Elgin returned home in 1806
he had to seek them in many ports to which the different
ships had carried them, and with difficulty secured a
shelter for them. Before the cases had even been
opened, their unknown contents received the bitterest
criticism from Richard Payne Knight, the then acknow-
ledged art oracle of England. He declared the sculptures
of the Parthenon to be the work of artisans, and partly of
Roman times. The influence of the entire Society of
Dilettanti supported Payne Knight. To counteract this
spiteful stupidity Lord Elgin undertook to exhibit his
treasures publicly.

Only a few grasped the significance of this revelation,
and no one with deeper conviction or with greater en-
thusiasm than the young painter Benjamin Robert Hay-
don. How the contemplation of the Athenian marbles
inspired him is best revealed in his autobiography. This
occurred in 1808. The painter David WiUde, Haydon's
friend, had received a ticket of admission, and called to
take him there.

" To Park Lane then we went, and after passing through
the hall, and thence into an open yard, entered a damp,
dirty pent-house, where lay the marbles ranged within
sight and reach. The first thing I fixed my eyes on was
the wrist of a figure in one of the female groups, in which
were visible, though in a feminine form, the radius and
ulna. I was astonished, for I had never seen them hinted
at in a female wrist in the antique. I darted my eyes
to the elbow, and saw the outer condyle visibly affecting
the shape in nature. I saw that the arm was in repose
and the soft parts in relaxation. That combination of
nature and idea which I had felt was so much wanting for

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high art was here displayed to midday conviction. My
heart beat ! If I had seen nothing else I had beheld
sufficient to keep me to nature for the rest of my life.
But when I turned to the Theseus, and saw that every
form was altered by action or repose — ^when I saw that the
two sides of his back varied, one side stretched from the
shoulder blade being pulled forward, and the other side
compressed from the shoulder blade being pushed close
to the spine, for he rested on his elbow — and when, turn-
ing to the Ilissos, I saw the belly protruded from the
figure lying on its side — and again when in the figure of the
fighting metope I saw the muscle shown under the one
armpit in that instantaneous action of darting out, and
left out in the other armpit because not wanted — ^when
I saw, in fact, the most heroic style of art ccMnbined with
all the essential detail of actual life, the thing was done at
once and for ever.

" I shall never foiget the horses* heads— the feet in
the metopes! I felt as if a divine truth had blazed
inwardly upon my mind, and I knew that they would at
last rouse the art of Europe from its slumbers in the dark-

Haydon spent three months drawing from the sculp-
tures, and then expressed his opinion in these words :

" I saw that the essential was selected in them, and the
superfluous rejected— that first, all the causes of action
were known, and then all of those causes wanted for any
particular action were selected — that thin skin covered
the whcde, and the effect of the action, relaxation, pur-
pose or gravitation was shown on the skin. This ap-
peared, as far as I could see then, to be the principle.

" I consider truly that it is the greatest blessing that
ever happened to this country, their being brought here."

But others did not share these thoughts. Disapproval

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o B







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continued in influential circles, and the Greek gods re-
mained almost without recognition in the foggy city on
the Thames. In spite of all this, Lord Elgin refused
offers made to him, the first coming from the Mus6e
Napolten. In 1811 he began n^otiations with the House
of Commons, but they failed. A new opponent now
arose, and one of the most dangerous. In the spring of
1811 appeared Lord Byron's "Curse of Minerva," a
result of his stay in Athens. And in the summer of the
following year, in " Childe Harold " he poured out the
vials of his wrath on the Scot, the Ret, the temple-robber.
An conspired against the Athenian strangers, who wan-
dered from place to place begging for shelter. When, in
1814, the Frieze of Bassae arrived in London, Payne Knight
raised his voice anew in praise of these reliefs, in contrast
to the sculptures of the Parthenon.

The true appreciation of the latter came first from
foreigners— excepting Haydon and a few of his friends.
The Crown Prince Louis of Bavaria came in the summer
of 1814 to London, from the Peace Congress in Paris, and
was so impressed with the beauty of the Athenian marbles,
as to deposit a sum for their purchase with his bankers in
case England should refuse to reconsider her decision.
Visconti, the foremost archaeologist of the time, soon
followed. He was the first to devote serious study to
this collection. His imqualified praise was extremely
disconcerting to the opponents. Lord Elgin, who in the
meantime had incurred financial difficulties, thought the
moment opportune to offer his treasures for sale to the
British nation, for whom he had originally acquired them.

Delays were caused, rather to Lord Elgin's advantage,
by Napoleon's return from Elba, the Hundred Days,
the battle of Waterloo, and the proroguing of Parhament.
In the meantime not only had Visconti delivered two
addresses before the Academy of Paris, which Lord Elgin
load printed at once, but Canova appeared in London in

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November, 1815 — ^he had been engaged in Paris with the
restituticm of the stolen art treasures (p. 25). The un-
reserved recognition he accorded to the Athenian works
of art finally silenced their opponents and enemies. The
remarkable spectacle was now witnessed in February,
1816, of a Parliamentary commission sitting for a fort-
night, as an Areopagus of art, calling witnesses and ex-

Online LibraryAdolf Theodor Friedrich MichaelisA century of archæological discoveries → online text (page 4 of 30)