The Blog

A trip to the British Museum


I visited my publisher again this week. We discussed the edit of Wrath of the Gods, the second instalment in my Heracles series, which could be released as early as late October. We also talked about a new cover for Son of Zeus – something with more action and drama than the current artwork. This will be commissioned in time for the new paperback, which – hopefully – should be made available to coincide with the launch of Wrath of the Gods. Though Canelo are currently an e-book only publisher, I’m pleased to say they’ve chosen my Heracles novels to be their first venture into print. They will also be releasing all of the Odysseus books in paperback format, the first three of which haven’t been available for a few years.

While I was in London, I paid a visit to the British Museum, where I spent a few hours milling around the sections on Egypt, Assyria, Babylonia and, of course, Greece. The Museum’s collection of Greek pottery is second to none, and I spent a long time, mostly alone in an upper gallery, looking at the pithoi and kraters I learned about twenty years ago at university.


Naturally, no trip to the British Museum would be complete without a visit to the Elgin Marbles. I haven’t seen them for a few years, so enjoyed being amazed by the beauty of the sculptures that used to adorn the Parthenon and other temples on the Acropolis. Amazingly, the Parthenon survived mostly intact for two thousand years, until 1687, when the Ottomans decided to store ammunition inside it. A Venetian cannonball blew up the store of gunpowder, taking most of the Parthenon with it!

The remaining sculptures survived remarkably well in pre-industrialised Athens, where the pollution was nothing like it is today. Then, in 1802, Lord Elgin obtained (some say dubious) permission from the local Ottoman governors to remove the Marbles to England. Their possession by the British Museum has been a thorn of contention between Britain and Greece ever since, and both sides have a strong claim to them.


Ideally, it would be right to see these magnificent works of art displayed in their original setting once more. But for those who think it was wrong to have taken the Marbles, it’s worth looking at the plaster casts taken by Lord Elgin of some of the sculptures – called metopes – that he did not bring back to England (kept in an antechamber to the right of the main gallery where the Marbles are now kept) and comparing them to the originals, still in Athens. These are now in a poor state of repair, the delicate stonework having been eaten away by pollution, until they were removed to a safe place in the 1970s. Whether Elgin was right or wrong to take the Marbles, he at least saved them from suffering the same fate, and preserved the glory of Greece for future generations to marvel at.

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