1800′s Salvage

Sponge divers from Symi and Kalymnos were employed in 1802-1804 to recover 16 crates of Parthenon sculptures and a throne .

A great deal of information is presented in the  document Lord Elgin and His Collection, Author(s): Philip Hunt and A. H. Smith.

This document refers extensively to letters provided by a relative of Emmanuel Caluci of Cerigo (Kythera), the British Vice-Consul at the time. Information from page 259 of the document is reproduced below.

Excerpts of such letters were presented to the Greek Historical and Ethnological Society, and have been printed for the most part by A. Myliarakis in the Greek periodical Hestia xxvi. (1888), pp. 681-799, in the course of a general study of the history of Elgin.

Source: The Journal of Hellenic Studies, Vol. 36 (1916), pp. 163‐ 372 Published by: The Society for the Promotion of Hellenic Studies.

“The objects to be salved in the first instance were 16 cases, and the throne, which had lost its case.

The four cases with the slabs of the frieze of Nike Apteros had been recovered at an early stage and sent away, and there were therefore 13 objects to be dealt with.

Five of these had been salved during the summer of 1803, and eight remained in September, 1803.”

“Six of the remaining cases were recovered before work was broken off on 29 December, 1803.”

“The twelfth [16th?] case was recovered on 9 June, and finally the marble throne, which had given special trouble, for want of a case, was recovered in the later summer.”

“At length, on October 24, 1804, more than two years after the wreck of the Mentor, Lusieri reported the complete success of the salvage operations:-

I have the satisfaction to inform you that at last all the marbles at Cerigo have been recovered, and we have good reason to rejoice, for they all deserve to be jealously guarded.

I confess however that I live in a state of uneasiness seeing that both those and these here that are even better, and ready for shipment, are still in these barbarous shores.

I have not failed on my part to write several times to all those who ought to have interested themselves both on account of Milord Elgin, and still more on account of the national advantage. But unfortunately I see plainly that in these regions there are no true friends of Milord, and still less are there lovers of the fine arts ….

My diggings continue to increase the collection of vases but so far I have not had the good fortune to find any of such a kind as was promised long ago by several fragments of big vases of the greatest perfection, from those same diggings.

I always have a pencil in hand at the same time. I have had no direct news from His Lordship since September of last year.”


It seems as though the team might have done a bit of ‘collecting’ from Kythera while there in the early 1800′s.

Here’s an object found in Paliopolis, the beach next to where the Mentor sank.

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