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News: Greece
9th century watercolour of the Acropolis by Edward-Dodwell (1767-1832). Photo Credit: Benaki Museum/TANN.
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by Archaeology Newsroom

No official Ottoman document testifies lawful removal of Parthenon sculptures

There is no firman allowing the removal of the marbles experts say

There is no official document testifying the Parthenon sculptures were lawfully taken to the British Museum, researchers say. So far the British Museum had been claiming that the marbles were taken to the UK with the Sultan’s permission, but now this is challenged as no document providing proof of this is available.

The British Museum claims that when Elgin removed the sculptures from the Parthenon he had permission from the Sultan. The document, however, testifying this is not preserved. The one available in the museum’s archives today is a friendly letter from Kaimakam Pasha, authorizing Elgin to take casts of the sculptures; in fact it is a later translation into Italian of the letter. Eleni Korka, Honorary General Director of Antiquities, has stated that the letter, not by the Sultan himself but by Kaimakam Pasha, who was replacing the Grand Vizier and was at the time in Constantinople, cannot be considered an official Ottoman document.

Another researcher, Sarian Panahi from Iran, who can read Ottoman Turkish -one of the few historians nowadays capable of doing so- has also stated that there is no firman, namely official document deriving from the Sultan- for the transfer of the sculptures, against the museum’s claim that other documents prove the lawful removal of the marbles. Two Turkish researchers, Zeynep Aygen and Orhan Sakin, also confirmed this, in an interview at the Acropolis Museum, where they presented a study of official documents from the Ottoman Empire related to Lord Elgin. They highlighted the fact that since all firmans and their content were written in a special book, this firman that the British argue existed should also have been included there.

NOTES