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Ottoman edict allowing Lord Elgin to remove Parthenon Sculptures non existent say experts

According to experts, Lord Elgin plundered the Acropolis monument without the Sultan’s permission. This argument defies the British Museum’s claim that there was an Ottoman firman that allowed him to take the sculptures.

Ottoman edict allowing Lord Elgin to remove Parthenon Sculptures non existent say experts
19th century watercolour of the Acropolis by Edward-Dodwell (1767-1832)
[Credit: Benaki Museum]
According to the British Museum, Elgin removed the Parthenon Sculptures with permission from the Sultan, however this document is not saved, and what the Museum has in its archives, is a later translation into Italian, of a friendly letter from Kaimakam Pasha, authorizing Elgin to take casts of the sculptures but did not authorize him to cause any damages to the monument, says the Honorary General Director of Antiquities, Eleni Korka.

Ms. Korka also stressed the fact that the letter was not by the Sultan himself but by Kaimakam Pasha, who was in Constantinople at the time, replacing the Grand Vizier, and is not an official Ottoman document.

The British argue that they have other documents besides this, however, Iranian researcher Shariat Panahi, one of the few historians who can read Ottoman Turkish and has researched all official documents of the Ottoman Empire, underlines that there is no firman for the transfer of the sculptures.

This fact was confirmed by two Turkish researchers in an interview they gave at the Acropolis Museum. In particular, Turkish researchers Zeynep Aygen and Orhan Sakin presented the results of a long study of the Ottoman Empire’s official documents, which are related to Lord Elgin and stressed the fact that: “All the firmans as well as their contents, were written in a special book “.

Sakin rejected the British claim that Elgin’s documents gave him the permission to export the Marbles. “First of all, this was not a firman. Perhaps, it was a personal letter, but not a firman. The firman could only be signed by the Sultan, not by the Pasha. There was only a permit to visit”, said the Turkish researcher.

Source: ERT [February 25, 2019]


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  1. Thanks for share this information with us, I always come across this amazing post.

  2. Did Elgin have all necessary permission to remove, crate and ship the marbles out of port over an extensive period of years? Obviously he did. Had he not the Ottoman authorities in Athens would have lost their heads - quite literally.

  3. Is time for ALL countries to repatriate all antiquities to the countries they were illegally taken from. Including the USA and our Native Americans. Perhaps they can be allowed to keep only what the country of origin permits. What these countries did was abominable maybe financial restitution in the form of fines should be instated as well. Let's start with England.

  4. C'mon Brits, be nice lads and ladies and return the building decorations back to the Greeks. If the Greek nice lads and ladies were in the turnabout situation, and they kept a few of the more prominent upright stones of the circle at Stonehenge, then we might realize how they feel. Use the gallery to feature a display of something more than justifiably extols the power of the ancient British, such as perhaps a dazzling display of gold torques or Anglo-Saxon Staffordshire Hoard dazzlers. Time maybe for you to let go of the Greek past and extoll Britannia, and let the Greeks extoll their icons.


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