During the four months when Clarke was in Athens, Lord Elgin's dilapidation of the Acropolis was gaining speed, and Clarke was under the impression that his lordship's men were removing the marbles to put in his house in Fifeshire: `under the pretense of rescuing the arts from the hands of the Turks they are pulling down temples that have withstood the injuries of time and war and barbarism for ages, to adorn a miserable Scotch villa', as he wrote to William Otter the day after his arrival in Athens. Lucieri, he found, was not to blame `because he could only obey the orders he had received, and this he did with manifest reluctance: neither was there a workman employed in the undertaking, among the artists sent out of Rome for that purpose, who did not express his concern that such havoc should have been deemed necessary, after the *moulds* and *casts* had already been made of all the sculpture which it was designed to remove'.

Lucieri was showing him round to see how the work was getting on under his direction, when some workmen were engaged in preparing the removal of the metopes by means of ropes and pulleys. The disdar (governor) of the Acropolis had come to see the work, but with dissatisfaction. Lucieri told Clarke that it was only with great difficulty that the work could be carried out as the Turks were very attached to the building which they had grown to look at with religious veneration, and, indeed, had built a mosque among the Greek remains. Clarke had not been there long before one of the workmen came to tell Lucieri that they were about to lower one of the metopes. They went to watch the operation, and the metope was raised from its position between the triglyphs, but as the men were trying to manoeuvre it so that it could be lowered, part of the surrounding stone was loosened, and a thundering mass of fine Pendeli marble shattered into white fragments. It was a horrifying moment, and the disdar made the most of it. He could no longer restrain his emotions which had, in the Turkish fashion, been pent up, and he actually took the pipe out of his mouth and managed to let fall a tear. `*Telos*!' (`The end') he boomed and declared that nothing could induce him to consent to any further dilapidation of the building. Later, however, his pain was mollified with the help of some money, and he offered no protest when some of the finest pieces were removed from the Parthenon, `Looking up, we saw with regret the gap that had been made; which all the ambassadors of the earth with all the sovereigns they represent ... will never again repair.'

Horrified as may have been, Clarke proceeded industriously with his own little plans. Apart from collecting more than a thousand coins and a number of vases, he acquired some marbles and then set to work to achieve his master stroke. This was the plan to carry away the great statue of the basket-bearing Kistophoros (which Clarke supposed to be Ceres) at Eleusis. Wheler had discovered this colossal statue in 1676, and several ambassadors had unsuccessfully applied for its removal. Clarke, who says he `found the goddess in a dunghill buried up to her ears', was swift and efficient in his approach, and with a bribe of an English telescope for the voivode of Athens, he got a firman giving him permission to take it. The Eleusinian peasants were alarmed at the prospect of losing the statue which they believed gave fertility to their cornland, but on 22 November (only twenty-five days after Clarke had written so despondently on the island of Kea, seeing no roses among the thorns) he was able to seize the prize. The village priest, arrayed in his vestments, struck the first blow at the rubbish with a pickaxe, and the removal of the half-buried figure had begun. Clarke (whose previous experience in levitation had been launching a kitten in a balloon when he was at Cambridge) had devised a machine which lifted the two-ton statue over the brow of the hill, and the Kistophoros was down by the sea in nine hours. It was loaded, with other marbles, on the merchantman *Princessa*, bound for England, and now it reposes at the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge.



[From: "Beyond the Grand Tour", by Hugh Tregaskis, Ascent, 1979, p. 54-55]

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