In 1687, the Venetians advanced to conquer the Acropolis, the Athens fortress, and to drive back the Ottomans who held it. The Venetians’ advance on Athens took place during the second Turkish-Venetian war in the Peloponnese, a region of Greece which had been under Venetian rule for three decades. It is noteworthy that Morosini, commander of the Venetian troops that besieged Acropolis, was opposed to this military campaign against Athens. Establishing their domination in Athens proved an arduous job for the Venetians.
Their soldiers were heavily armed with howitzers and cannons and were arrayed close to the Acropolis. In total, fifteen cannons were placed on the hill of Muses, nine on Pnyka, and 5 howitzers on Areios Pagos hill. The Venetians bombed the Acropolis continuously for four days. On 26 September 1687, one of their shells eventually penetrated the roof igniting the cache of gunpowder that the Ottomans had stored in the Parthenon, blowing away the central part of the temple. The incessant bombing also caused three walls of the main cellar to crumble as well as part of the frieze. Six columns collapsed on the south side and eight on the north side. On the east side only one column was left standing. Consequently, the roof of the Parthenon caved in along with the epistyle, a number of triglyphs and the metopes.
In the meantime, the Venetian parliament had voted almost unanimously in favor of authorizing Morosini to detach the best Athenian antiquities and to bring them to Venice. Morosini failed to detach the best-preserved statues from the west pediment, because of its collapse, and only managed to send the marble lion from the Acropolis, one marble lion from Thesion, and the famous lion from Piraeus (to Venice).
These three lions have decorated the Naval Port of Democracy in Venice ever since. Some of Morosini’s officers, Venetians and mercenaries among them, also took what antiquities they could easily carry with them. His secretary, San Gallo, removed a statue’s head from the west pediment, a piece now on display at the Louvre museum. Another Venetian officer detached part of the frieze with two horsemen and a horse’s head; now housed in the museum of Art History in Vienna. A Danish officer detached two heads from the Metopes on the north side, both now exhibited at the National Museum of Copenhagen.
The Venetians abandoned Athens after less than two years, leaving the Acropolis once again in the hands of the Ottomans. The Ottomans built a mosque on the site of the temple’s ruins and around it they built houses, though fewer than before the bombing.
Morosini’s ill health impelled him to return to Venice in 1688. Five years later, he launched further military campaigns against the Ottomans but eventually fell ill in Carystos, where he died in January 1694, aged 75. His corpse was transferred back to Venice, where he was buried with honors.