The Elgin Affair: The True Story of the Greatest Theft in History

Skyhorse
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A New York Times Notable Book chronicling the nineteenth-century scandal of the Elgin Marbles, their removal from the Parthenon, and Lord Elgin’s harrowing fate.
 
As the Napoleonic Wars raged in the first years of the nineteenth-century, Scottish diplomat Lord Elgin committed one of the most notorious acts of art theft—or was it preservation?—in history. With the blessing of the Ottoman Porte, Elgin removed friezes, metopes and slabs from the Parthenon and other Ancient Greek sites and transported them from Athens to London. The collection, known as the Elgin Marbles, now occupies its own room in the British Museum and continues to stir controversy over what Lord Byron referred to as a disgraceful act of vandalism.
 
In The Elgin Affair, Theodore Vrettos re-creates in full and colorful detail of Lord Elgin’s exploits: a steamy tale of obsession, intrigue, adultery, imprisonment, and financial ruin. Along the way, he encounters some of the most famous names of nineteenth-century history, including Napoleon, Sultan Selim III, Lord Nelson, Lord Byron, and Keats.
 
Drawing on original source material letters, diaries, official government reports, and memoranda, Vrettos offers “a vividly told story of greed, deceit, cunning, thievery, obsession, and astonishing cultural arrogance” (Tim O’Brien, author of The Things They Carried).
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Additional Information

Publisher
Skyhorse
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Published on
Oct 1, 2011
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Pages
256
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ISBN
9781628721805
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Language
English
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Genres
Art / History / Ancient & Classical
History / Ancient / Greece
History / Europe / Great Britain / Victorian Era (1837-1901)
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Alexandria was the greatest cultural capital of the ancient world. Accomplished classicist and author Theodore Vrettos now tells its story for the first time in a single volume. His enchanting blend of literary and scholarly qualities makes stories that played out among architectural wonders of the ancient world come alive. His fascinating central contention that this amazing metropolis created the western mind can now take its place in cultural history.

Vrettos describes how and why the brilliant minds of the ages -- Greek scholars, Roman emperors, Jewish leaders, and fathers of the Christian Church -- all traveled to the shining port city Alexander the Great founded in 332 B.C. at the mouth of the mighty Nile. There they enjoyed learning from an extraordinary population of peaceful citizens whose rich intellectual life would quietly build the science, art, faith, and even politics of western civilization. No one has previously argued that, unlike the renowned military centers of the Mediterranean such as Rome, Carthage, and Sparta, Alexandria was a city of the mind. In a brief section on the great conqueror and founder Alexander, we learn that he himself was a student of Aristotle.

In Part Two of his majestic story, Vrettos shows that in the sciences the city witnessed an explosion: Aristarchus virtually invented modern astronomy; Euclid wrote the elements of geometry and founded mathematics; amazingly, Eratosthenes precisely figured the circumference of the earth; and 2,500 years before Freud, the renowned Alexandrian physician Erasistratus identified a mysterious connection between sexual problems and nervous breakdowns.

What could so cerebral a community care about geopolitics? As Vrettos explains in the third part of this epic saga, if Rome wanted power and prestige in the Mediterranean, the emperors had to secure the good will of the ruling class in Alexandria. Julius Caesar brought down the Roman Republic, and then almost immediately had to go to Alexandria to secure his power base. So begins a wonderfully told story of political intrigue that doesn't end until the Battle of Actium in 33 B.C. when Augustus Caesar defeated the first power couple, Anthony and Cleopatra.

The fourth part of Alexandria focuses on the sphere of religion, and for Vrettos its center is the famous Alexandrian Library. The chief librarian commissioned the Septuagint, the oldest Greek version of the Old Testament, which was completed by Jewish intellectuals. Local church fathers Clement and Origen were key players in the development of Christianity; and the Coptic religion, with its emphasis on personal knowledge of God, flourished.

Vrettos has blended compelling stories with astute historical insight. Having read all the ancient sources in Ancient Greek, Hebrew, and Latin himself, he has an expert's knowledge of the everyday reality of his characters and setting. No reader will ever forget walking with him down this lost city's beautiful, dazzling streets.
The story of five women who shared one of the most extraordinary and privileged sisterhoods of all time.

Vicky, Alice, Helena, and Beatrice were historically unique sisters, born to a sovereign who ruled over a quarter of the earth's people and who gave her name to an era: Queen Victoria. Two of these princesses would themselves produce children of immense consequence. All five would curiously come to share many of the social restrictions and familial machinations borne by nineteenth-century women of less-exulted class.

Victoria and Albert's precocious firstborn child, Vicky, wed a Prussian prince in a political match her high-minded father hoped would bring about a more liberal Anglo-German order. That vision met with disaster when Vicky's son Wilhelm-- to be known as Kaiser Wilhelm-- turned against both England and his mother, keeping her out of the public eye for the rest of her life. Gentle, quiet Alice had a happier marriage, one that produced Alexandra, later to become Tsarina of Russia, and yet another Victoria, whose union with a Battenberg prince was to found the present Mountbatten clan. However, she suffered from melancholia and died at age thirty-five of what appears to have been a deliberate, grief-fueled exposure to the diphtheria germs that had carried away her youngest daughter. Middle child Helena struggled against obesity and drug addition but was to have lasting effect as Albert's literary executor. By contrast, her glittering and at times scandalous sister Louise, the most beautiful of the five siblings, escaped the claustrophobic stodginess of the European royal courts by marrying a handsome Scottish commoner, who became governor general of Canada, and eventually settled into artistic salon life as a respected sculptor. And as the baby of the royal brood of nine, rebelling only briefly to forge a short-lived marriage, Beatrice lived under the thumb of her mother as a kind of personal secretary until the queen's death.

Principally researched at the houses and palaces of its five subjects in London, Scotland, Berlin, Darmstadt, and Ottawa-- and entertainingly written by an experienced biographer whose last book concerned Victoria's final days-- Victoria's Daughters closely examines a generation of royal women who were dominated by their mother, married off as much for political advantage as for love, and finally passed over entirely with the accession of their n0 brother Bertie to the throne. Packard provides valuable insights into their complex, oft-tragic lives as daughters of their time.

"Superb... Flanders's convincing and smart synthesis of the evolution of an official police force, fictional detectives, and real-life cause célèbres will appeal to devotees of true crime and detective fiction alike." -Publishers Weekly, starred review

In this fascinating exploration of murder in nineteenth century England, Judith Flanders examines some of the most gripping cases that captivated the Victorians and gave rise to the first detective fiction

Murder in the nineteenth century was rare. But murder as sensation and entertainment became ubiquitous, with cold-blooded killings transformed into novels, broadsides, ballads, opera, and melodrama-even into puppet shows and performing dog-acts. Detective fiction and the new police force developed in parallel, each imitating the other-the founders of Scotland Yard gave rise to Dickens's Inspector Bucket, the first fictional police detective, who in turn influenced Sherlock Holmes and, ultimately, even P.D. James and Patricia Cornwell.

In this meticulously researched and engrossing book, Judith Flanders retells the gruesome stories of many different types of murder in Great Britain, both famous and obscure: from Greenacre, who transported his dismembered fiancée around town by omnibus, to Burke and Hare's bodysnatching business in Edinburgh; from the crimes (and myths) of Sweeney Todd and Jack the Ripper, to the tragedy of the murdered Marr family in London's East End. Through these stories of murder-from the brutal to the pathetic-Flanders builds a rich and multi-faceted portrait of Victorian society in Great Britain. With an irresistible cast of swindlers, forgers, and poisoners, the mad, the bad and the utterly dangerous, The Invention of Murder is both a mesmerizing tale of crime and punishment, and history at its most readable.

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