That pretty much sums up my reaction to this excellent NY Times article on recent requests from Greece to “repatriate” the Elgin Marbles.
My father–who is British–would say “we stole ‘em fair and square". True enough, and that theft is a fact of history–the presence of the marbles in Britain inspired the 18th/19th century Neo-Classical revival in the West. Prior to that, the Parthenon was a Turkish munitions dump, a makeshift mosque, a church–why, again, should all this be stripped away in favor of an archaeological reconstruction of Periclean Athens?
This blog proves I’m a big fan of the ancient world, but I also think it’s foolish to ignore later events in arriving at some pristine reconstructed notion of ancient civilization. All history is a process; take the example of the Euphronius Krater recently returned to Italy my the NY Metropolitan Museum of Art:
Stolen property is stolen property. But how curious that an ancient Greek vase, which centuries after it was made came into the possession of an Etruscan collector (a kind of ancient Elgin) living on what is now the outskirts of Rome, and then ended up buried for thousands of years below what became modern Italy, is today Italian cultural patrimony. By that definition, Elgin’s loot is arguably British patrimony.
In book 3, the reality of exile was starting to sink in. In an earlier post I noted the immediacy of the poetry in book 1, written while the wound was still fresh:
Dum tamen et terris dubius iactabar et undis,
fallebat curas aegraque corda labor. (III.2.15-6)
Dubius is the key word here; Ovid was uncertain and anxious about the future, a denial common in the opening stages of grief. So fallebat is probably closer to “beguiled” than “deceived".
Once Ovid arrived at Tomis he penned a more sober reflection de causa relegationis, which resulted in the long, lawyerly defense outlined in book 2. Now at book 3, Ovid has started living with the sentence…
Ut via finita est et opus requievit eundi,
et poenae tellus est mihi tacta meae, (ibid. 17-8)
…and the reality of his circumstances has changed his attitude:
nil nisi flere libet, nec nostro parcior imber
lumine, de verna quam nive manat aqua. (ibid. 19-20)
[Lumine is poetic for the eye. Quam - “than", despite its unusual position splitting the prepositional phrase de verna nive, follows the comparative parcior - “scarcer". Note also the classical “rule of three” in ll. 17-8: Three phrases, each larger than the last, all essentially saying the same thing.]
|<< <||Current||> >>|