Thursday, April 17, 2008

Elgin, the Firman, and the Parthenon Marbles

Dorothy King has discussed the issues surrounding her research on the firman issued to Elgin concerning the removal of the Parthenon marbles ("The Firman: Bring me the head of ..."). She has found a further version of the text—"a manuscript in a collection"—and has posted a working translation ("Elgin's Firman - permission to remove the Marbles"). (King has indicated that she will be issuing a "tidy" version shortly.)

No doubt the key phrases will be much discussed:
  • "when they want to carry away any of the stones with old inscriptions, or figures, you are not to oppose them in any way"
  • "you are not to interfere with their scaffolding, nor their tools, with which they make moulds, nor are you to oppose them in any way should they wish to take away with them any old pieces of stone with inscriptions, or figures, and this is the manner in which you are to operate, and to behave yourselves"
But will a decision to retain or return these architectural sculptures hinge on this document?

© David Gill

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