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What is The Cenotaph?

July 19th 1919 is when the (original) Cenotaph was unveiled in Whitehall, London, it was a monument dedicated to those who were killed or wounded during the First World War. It was designed and built by Edwin Lutyens, when it was originally constructed it was only made out of wood and plaster, reason being is because it was created in a very short amount of time. The Prime Minister at the time commissioned Lutyens, who was forced meet the dead line of London’s victory parade and that had only given him less than two weeks. Shortly after it was reviled to the public it took no time at all for them to begin putting wreaths of flowers high around its base.

Discussions began in the press and within Parliament over the possibility of making the Cenotaph a permanent memorial to the fallen. Not too much longer after, the British Cabinet decided that the Cenotaph should be erected again, this time permanently, at the same location.

With the decision being made that this time they needed a more permeant statue, it is now made of Portland Stone and it was completed in 1920. Each year, on the Sunday closest to November 11, Remembrance Day is held at the Cenotaph in honor of all those who died during the two World Wars as well as later conflicts. Attended by the British royal family and political and religious leaders, as well as representatives from the armed forces, the service has not changed greatly since its introduction.

Fun Facts

  • A cenotaph in definition of a monument erected in memory of a deceased person whose body is buried elsewhere.
  • Portland stone is a type of white grey limestone.
  • David Lloyd George, was the prime minister at the time.
  • Whitehall is a road in the City of Westminster in Central London.
  • Some of the building names that Edwin Lutyens built have correlations between famous Game of Thrones characters.
    • Castle Drogo in the country of Devon. Khal Drogo.
    • Deanery Garden in the country of Berkshire.



The Elgin Marbles, now known as the Parthenon Marbles, are a collection of Greek sculptures and architectural details. The name comes from Thomas Bruce, Seventh Lord Elgin, an English ambassador to the court of the Ottoman Empire in Istanbul who was granted a firman, defined as a special permission by the sultan, that allowed Elgin “to take away any pieces of stone with old inscriptions or figures thereon.” (Editors). During 1801-1803, Elgin removed fifteen meropes and two hundred forty-seven feet of the frieze, which was just less than half, as well as one of the caryatids from the nearby portico of Erechtheion, and four fragments of the frieze from the temple to Athena Nike (Sánchez). Elgin, a lover of art, first kept these in a popular private exhibition, but sold them to the British government in 1816. This whole event was the source for the word “elginism”, the term referring to the act of taking of cultural treasures from one country to another.

Elgin’s removal of the marbles was hugely controversial and the process of the sale of the marbles to the British Parliament provoked public outcry rooted in moral indignation over the plundering of the marbles and those who felt it was a waste of public funds to purchase them, respectively. Here is a political cartoon by George Cruikshank exemplifying the prevailing public opinion of the deal depicting Elgin trying to sell the marbles to “John Bull,” an embodiment of the sensible Englishman.


  1. “ Here’s a bargain for you, Johnny? Only £35,000!! I have bought them on purpose for you! Never think of Bread when you can have Stones so wondrous cheap!!”
  2. “I don’t think somehow that these here Stones are perfect! And had rather not buy them at present. Trade is very Bad and provision very Dear, and my Family can’t Eat Stones! Besides, they say it will cost £40,000 to build a place to put them in—As the Turks gave them to our Ambassador in his Official capacity for little or nothing & solely out of compliment to the British Nation —I think he should not charge such an Enormous price for Packing & Carriage.”
  3. “Don’t buy them, Daddy! We don’t want them Stones. Give us Bread! give us Bread! Give us Bread!”
  4. “Let him take his Stones back again to the Turks. We don’t want them in this Country!!”

The removal of the marbles was an unlawful act, as judged in the landmark 1967 study by British historian William St. Clair, Lord Elgin and the Marbles, that came to the conclusion that the firman was exploited by bribed Ottoman officials; indeed, in a letter from a British Ambassador to Constantinople addressed to Elgin states, “I have to inform your Lordship that… the Porte absolutely denied your having any property in those marbles. …the persons who had sold the marbles to your Lordship had no right so to dispose of them” (Theodoru).

The unlawfulness of the act as long been cited by Greece in its attempts to get the British Museum to return the marbles, as well as the artistic and historical authenticity of the marbles seen in a special museum built for the purpose of displaying them as they would have in the Parthenon; an experience they say the British Museum cannot replicate. Subsequent British governments have been unwilling to force the British Museum to return them, which would require legislation. The British Museum has argued the marbles’ return would set a worrying precedent that could see major museums across the globe emptied, and voiced concerns as to the potential for damage to the marbles in Greek care.

Though the matter of the stolen art has been a topic straining relations between Greece and Britain for two hundred years, the conversation has gained new momentum in the past decade as public polls repeatedly show the populous as supportive of the marbles’ return to Greece. The year of 2007 hosted a landmark meeting on the subject between Greece and the British Museum, the topic brought back into public eye in 214 as Amal Clooney’s law firm took the issue to international court unsuccessfully, again reignited briefly in 2015 by comments in support Britain return the artifacts made by George Clooney, Amal Clooney’s husband, and Bill Murray while promoting the film Monuments Men.

In recent years, Greece has sought to shift the conversation from the elements of the past, to the elements of now, pointing to the rise of anti-globalism and for “the return of the so-called Elgin Marbles from the British Museum as a symbolic act in the fight against anti-democratic forces seeking ‘the dissolution of Europe’” (Johnston). In an attempt to improve diplomatic relations over pursuing legal action, Greece is offering to loan the UK artifacts from its museums.

Greece’s idea of improving international relations and combating anti-democratic forces comes in the wake of its 2008 recession, a humanitarian crisis where international creditors have demanded policies of austerity for their loans, and the youth unemployment rate is above fifty percent. Under these conditions, Greece’s neo-facist party, Golden Dawn, has become their third largest party. Furthermore, one of the leaders of the party in January claimed that “Donald Trump’s election had ‘given us a new wind of support.’” Greece’s new tact at having the Marbles back on their home soil raises attention to the pressing need for a steady stream of culture mingling between countries to combat the surge of violent nationalism in the western world.


A replica of the Galleon in Brixham.

In 1577, Sir Frances Drake became the first Englishman to sail the world using his ship, The Golden Hinde. Originally named The Pelican, Drake changed the name to The Golden Hinde after Christopher Hatton, the sponsor of his ship and whose family crest was a golden hinde. Although the voyage consisted of five other vessels and 164 men total, Drake’s is the most canonical because his was the only ship to survive of the five. The galleon (this is the type of ship Drake sailed upon; there was multi-layers of decks, square shaped, and multi-masted) weighed 120 tons and took about three years to complete its mission circumnavigating the world. The 36,000-mile trip, which is about the same distance of traveling from California to Maine 11 times, housed 80 crew members—only 56 survived by the end of the trek. Before he set on his voyage across the world, Drake met with Queen Elizabeth I to talk about the voyage, and it was decided that Drake would sail as a private ship that was unofficially endorsed by the queen, she could not officially support a person who the Spanish would see as an “arch-pirate”.  Because of the speed and mobility of the galleon, it was able to conquer several Spanish ships. One of the ships, The Nuestra Señora de la Concepcíon, was conquered and raided by Drake and his company. This heist was different from any of the other takeovers because it produced one of the largest treasures ever captured: over 360,000 pesos (app. € 480 million), 26 tons of silver, and one half tons of miscellaneous items (like jewelry, coins, etc.) When returning back to England in 1580, over half of the treasure was awarded to the queen, which made her profit by 4,700%. Her share of the treasure was more than the national debt at the time. BY order of the queen, Drake was knighted for his service and his ship was declared to be on permanent display in the Thames estuary. By 1650, the ship was rotting away too much and disintegrating into the water, so it was torn down to build an identical replica. However, John Davies, a storekeeper at Deptford dockyard, collected sturdy pieces of the remaining wood from the original ship to build a chair, which is currently housed in Bodleian Library at Oxford University. Since then, many replicas of both the chair and ship have been made.


Lion statues are very common in London. However, none are as large as the four lion statues in Trafalgar Square at the base of Nelson’s column. There are four lion statues in Trafalgar Square. They are named the “Landseer Lions,” after the sculptor, Edwin Landseer. However, Edwin Landseer was not the first sculptor that was tasked with this job. The first was Thomas Milnes, who had made four stone lions for the set, but was deemed not impressive enough so the job went to Landseer. Landseer was asked in 1858 after he was commonly known for sculptors of animals such as: dogs and horses. For Landseer to be able to complete his work, he asked for a lion that died in the London zoo be sent to his studio. It was a slow process for Landseer was still sketching after four years of obtaining the job. It was only in 1866 that the first lion was placed and after another year went by the rest were finally put in their places, after almost a decade of working on the lions. The lions are not identical except for their sitting positions, their front paws forward and their tails curled to the side are the same. The lions are also known for tourists and Londoners to climb on top of them and in 2011 officials nearly called for a ban due to citizens stepping onto the lions tails almost to the point of collapse.



Just past the London Bridge and close to the Tower of London stands a golden beckon to commemorate an event crucial to London history.  The Monument “stands at 202ft high (62m) and is exactly 202ft (62m) away from the spot where, on the night of the 2nd of September 1666, the Great Fire began in a bakery on Pudding Lane” (Free Tours by Foot “Great Fire of London Monument – Best Views of London).  This national landmark was commissioned by Sir Christopher Wren along with Dr. Robert Hooke who were both on the team that oversaw the rebuilding of London in 1671.  Wren is also responsible for the design of the new St. Paul’s Cathedral since the original was consumed by the fire.  The famous cathedral was not the only building to suffer” one third of all buildings in London were destroyed, 86% of the City was burnt to the ground and 130,000 people were made homeless” (City of London “The Monument). Similar to another famous landmark, Waterloo Bridge, The Monument is made of Portland stone, this means it cleans itself whenever it rains and is topped with a golden globe.

Not only does The Monument serve as a reminder of The Great Fire of London but also as scientific laboratory and a hell of a work out! Originally, Wren and Hooke had wanted to build a secret lab underneath The Monument for a giant zenith telescope however, “This plan was soon abandoned as the area surrounding The Monument was too busy” (City of London “The Monument”). Today tourist can visit the site and, if willing, walk up the spiraling 311 stairs to the top.  This may sound grueling but “Everyone who makes the climb is awarded a certificate to mark the occasion” (City of London “The Monument”). Once at the top, guest can take in a 360 view of London on a viewing platform. Something to consider however, is what must go up must come down and neither Wren or Hooke designed a lift. So 311 stairs up means 311 steps coming down!

A fun fact is that at the bottom is an image of King Charles II and his brother James, The Duke of York, that have been craved in to remember their help in fighting the Great Fire.  The Monument is meant to symbolize a city that rose out of the ashes.


Historical scholars have some of the toughest work cut out for them. To study their field, they must rely on evidence, artifacts, and sources from the past. These sources could contradict each other, be difficult to find, or even be near impossible to understand. Egyptologists knew this problem well, as many ancient Egyptian artifacts are written in hieroglyphics, a written language consisting of symbols that, before 1824 C.E., had lost meaning on archaeologists and historians.

It was not until the discovery of the Rosetta Stone, a large granodiorite, basalt slab, that there was a solid lead on translating these hieroglyphics. The stone is theorized to be originally from a stele dictating a decree written by Egyptian priests to honor King Ptolemy V, created in 19 B.C.E. The decree was copied three times in three separate languages: Ancient Greek, Egyptian hieroglyphics, and the more common demotic Egyptian script. Present on the stone are 54 lines of Ancient Greek text, 32 lines of Demotic text, and 14 lines of Hieroglyphic script. The stone is 44 inches by 30 inches, and weighs approximately 760 kilograms, or 1,680 lbs.

The stone was discovered on July 19th, 1798 C.E. near the town of Rosetta (also called Rashid), by Pierre Bouchard, a French soldier. At the time, the French Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte was invading Egypt to claim power and authority. The French had been reconstructing Fort Julien, when the stone was discovered to have been used in its original construction. Napoleon, with the intention of claiming Egyptian cultural artifacts, took possession of the Rosetta Stone. In 1801, the British army attacked the residing French troops, and the British then laid claim to the stone, finally moving it back to the British Museum in London in 1802, where it has been housed to this day.

After being moved back to Britain, many historians attempted to (figuratively) crack the secrets of the Rosetta stone. British scientist Thomas Young was the first to study the texts in 1814, and he made the best initial progress by analyzing the cartouches on the stone. Cartouches are hieroglyphics located inside of ovals that are typically used to write out the names of royalty. In this case, Young determined the cartouches on the Rosetta stone to be referencing Ptolemy V. However, it was not until 1822 that the rest of the stone was translated. Between 1822 and 1824, French Egyptologist Jean-Francois Champollion completely translated the stone. As a reader of many languages, as well as Greek and Coptic, Champollion could connect the Coptic demotic signs to the hieroglyphics, leading to more educated guesses and clearer translations for the other hieroglyphs. Coptic Egyptian language is an adaptation of the Greek alphabet with seven signs from the demotic common Egyptian language, which effectively allowed Champollion to make the connection.

Champollion discovered that hieroglyphics did not just act as symbols translating directly to objects, but instead acted as a mix of symbols to represent objects as well as ideas and phonetic aspects of language. In doing so, he had accomplished what had not been done in the nearly 1500 years since the Hieroglyphic script had died out. The amount of excitement that surrounded the final product must have been phenomenal. It is because his work in translating and understanding the Hieroglyphic script that the study of Egyptology was created. It is likely that so much history of ancient Egypt has been rediscovered thanks to his efforts. Many advances made in studying ancient Egypt would have been delayed, or even never made, had Young and Champollion been unable to make such advancements in translating the Rosetta Stone.