Lord Byron: A new exhibition of the great Philhellenic poet opens at the Acropolis Museum on Friday

Lord Byron

The Acropolis Museum honours Lord Byron's memory on the 200th anniversary of his death with a small, symbolic exhibition related to Lord Elgin's seizure of the Parthenon Sculptures. "The Parthenon and Byron" is the title of this exhibition, which will be hosted in the museum's ground-floor foyer and open its doors to the public on Friday, April 26.

Lord Byron's last words before he died are said to have been about Greece: "I gave her my time, my health, my presence, and now I am giving her my life. What more could I have done?"

And yet, as one will notice in the small presentation at the Acropolis Museum ground floor, Byron left us one more unexpected gift that contributes eloquently and powerfully to the arguments for returning and reuniting the architectural sculptures of the Parthenon. It is Byron’s passport, an authentic Sultanic firman, which allowed him to travel across the territory of the Ottoman Empire.

The firman-Byron’s passport provides yet another opportunity to challenge the argument of the alleged existence of Elgin’s “firman”, which ostensibly sanctioned the removal of the Parthenon sculptures.

In addition to the firman, Museum visitors will have the opportunity to see the “Exodus from Messolonghi” (1827) by Louis Joseph Toussaint Rossignon, one of many painters inspired by this subject.

The small exhibition and the publication accompanying it include three sections:

a) a selection of annotated traveller images from the Acropolis and the Parthenon (by Carrey, Dodwell, Fauvel, and Pars, among others),

b) a short biography and excerpts from Byron’s poems “The Curse of Minerva” and “Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage”, which refer to the brutal detachment and destruction of the Parthenon’s architectural sculptures by Elgin and their subsequent underhanded seizure and removal, and

c) Byron’s original passport, a genuine, unexpected Sultanic firman [Islamic royal mandate or decree], exhibited for the first time in the Museum, and serving as an opportunity to reopen the discussion on the return and reunification of the Parthenon sculptures.

The exhibition “The Parthenon and Byron. On the occasion of the 200th anniversary since Byron’s death” will open to the public on Friday, 26 April 2024, on the Museum’s ground floor. No ticket is required to visit this space. A bilingual publication (Greek-English) will be available in the Museum Shops from Monday 29 April 2024.

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