Acropolis Museum Director Says Parthenon Marbles Stolen by Lord Elgin

Elgin Marbles, also known as the Parthenon Marbles, at the British Museum. (Photo by Eurokinissi/Marcos Houzouris)

ATHENS – Rebuffing claims by the British Museum that the Parthenon Marbles were legally obtained from Lord Elgin almost 200 years ago, Acropolis Museum Director Dimitrios Pandermalis said the Scottish diplomat didn’t have permission from officials of the Ottoman Empire occupying Greece.

“There was no firman – meaning a sultan’s decree – for the removal and transfer of the sculptures by Lord Elgin,” Pandermalis said in an address to an international workshop about reunification of the marbles, organized by the Greek Presidency, the Culture Ministry, the International Association for the Reunification of the Parthenon Sculptures and the Acropolis Museum.

Pandermalis said he had data from 19th Century Ottoman archives proving that Elgin did not

He said that an examination of the Ottoman archives between 1800 and 1830 by two Turkish experts revealed that Elgin was only granted permission to dig around the Acropolis, Kathimerini said in a report on the event.

“The document that has been saved and called a firman, and which was cited by Lord Elgin, briefly an ambassador for his country to the High Porte, is, in reality, not an order by Sultan Selim III,” Pandermalis said.

He said it was “an administrative letter” sent to Ottoman authorities in Athens which granted permission to dig into the earth mounds that were created around the Acropolis after it was bombed by cannon fire in 1687 by Venetian general Francesco Morosini. “There was no permit for excavation or for a removal (of the Parthenon Marbles,)” he said.

The British Museum has long claimed that it acquired the Parthenon Marbles legally and that Lord Elgin had received permission from the Ottoman authorities which ruled Greece at the time to take them to Britain.

The Acropolis Museum was built, and opened in 2009, with glass walls on the top floor where it was hoped that the stolen marbles would be placed if the British Museum gave up its claims and returned them, which it has steadfastly refused to do, claiming they no longer belong to Greece.

With the ruling Radical Left SYRIZA essentially giving up the fight to have the stolen Parthenon Marbles returned, Greek President Prokopis Pavlopoulos said they should be released from a room in the British Museum and housed in the light-filled glass-walled Acropolis Museum, which has a view of the Parthenon, their home.

Pavlopoulos, from the major opposition New Democracy, has emerged as Greece’s perhaps foremost new champion to get the marbles returned after SYRIZA said they belong to the world, not Greece, and gave up a court fight, preferring diplomacy, which has failed.

“Let the British Museum come here and make the comparison between this (Acropolis) museum of light and the murky, if I may say, prison of the British Museum where the Parthenon Marbles are held as trophies,” Pavlopoulos also said at the same event, said the news agency Reuters.

2 Comments

  1. So, Lord Elgin a.k.a. Thomas Bruce
    Has pulled off a Duck, Duck, Goose
    He lacked the skill, bu not the guile
    Gave him an inch, but he took a mile.

  2. I undertook my own research some years ago.
    This research in turn led me to the undoubted conclusion that the removal of the Parthenon Sculptures was both illegal and immoral.
    Why was it illegal and immoral?
    1. No actual original authority/edict (called a Firman) from the Ottoman Sultan to remove the Parthenon Sculptures has ever been produced/discovered.
    2. The document provided by Elgin’s agent to the British Parliament two hundred years ago (which is merely an English translation of an Italian translation of the supposed Firman) does not authorize the removal of Sculptures from the Parthenon structure.
    3. According to expert opinion, the format and wording used in the alleged document is inappropriate/inaccurate for the Ottoman Sultan’s Firman – ‘ergo’ the Firman did not exist.
    4. And, finally, the man actually responsible for the removal, the Rev. Philip Hunt (Elgin’s agent in Athens), admitted quite openly at the time to the British Parliament, that he was able to remove the Parthenon Marbles only through a combination of ‘cajolery, threats and bribery’ (testimony to the British Parliament in 1816).
    These issues are contained within my novel centred on the theft and return of the Parthenon Marbles, published as an ebook under the title: ‘The Devil’s Legacy’ and here in Greece in print form as: ‘ΣΥΝΩΜΟΣΙΑ ΣΤΟΝ ΙΕΡΟ ΒΡΑΧΟ’ (Εκδόσεις Χατζηλάκος).
    Tom Jackson,
    Athens,
    Greece.

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