The Elgin Marbles are by far the most famous sculptures missing from a Greek temple – but there are many other similar, less known cases. Each case is of course different, but there are still parallels that can be drawn.
In the case of this article, is is the sculptures from the Temple of Aphaia, located on the island of Aegina in the Argo-Saronic Gulf, close to Piraeus, which are now held by a museum in Germany.
The Aegina Marbles: Time to come home?
On 13 April 2011 a group of local dignitaries, school children and villagers gathered in front of the Temple of Aphaia on the island of Aegina, carrying placards and making speeches calling for the return of sculptures removed from the sacred temple exactly 200 years ago. Whilst the more famous Elgin Marbles are the paragon of looted works of art and have been the subject of much debate as demands intensify for their return from the British Museum, the significance of the Aegina sculptures should not be forgotten as they continue to decorate the galleries of the Glyptothek Museum in Munich, Germany, a neo-Classical building, displaying sculptures from Greece’s archaic period
Aegina is the closest island to Athens and is one of the jewels of the Argo-Saronic Gulf. On the eastern part of the island on a pine-covered hill, commanding views over the gulf, lies a beautiful Doric temple built in around 490BC out of limestone and marble. The sanctuary is dedicated to the goddess Aphaia (the “Dark One” or “Invisible One” and possibly a Minoan goddess linked to the veneration of Athena). The sculptures that once adorned the temple have been described as amongst the most famous and important artistic remains from the Archaic and early Classical periods, depicting the heroism of the Greek warriors during the Trojan War. Heroic combat is not only the stuff of Greek mythology and history but, to borrow from Shelley, it also resides in the marbled immortality that is Ancient Greece.
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