Transcription of a letter by Philip Hunt describing the removal of sculptures from the Parthenon temple

Athens, August 21 1801

My Lord

My second visit to this celebrated City has been attended with circumstances equally honorable to the English Nation and Lord Elgin’s Embassy; Hitherto access to the Temples in the Acropolis has always been difficult, and attained only by bribes to the Governor, demanded in a manner equally arbitrary and insolent, and proportioned according to the supposed rank or eagerness of the individual. -  Your Lordship will be glad to know that in consequence of the remonstrances I made here in the Ambassador’s name, we have He has been able to establish the right of every English visitor to enter the Citadel freely, at all hours of the day, and not only to examine the ruins, but to sketch them:

and I have had the satisfaction of vindicating the cause of three of my fellow Collegians, whom I found here, and who had been refused admittance.  Since my arrival they have visited the fortress every day, with more liberty than they could have /had/ at any public building in London; and hereafter no person is to demand any sum, however trifling, from an Englishman for leave to examine the Antiquities in the Citadel of Athens. In addition to this, His Excellency’s Artists are
allowed not only to model and draw the ublic buildings, but to make excavations among the ruins in search of statues &c, and to clear those parts of the Temples that were defaced by heaps of rubbish or modern walls. It grieved me to the heart to see the destruction made daily by the janissaries of the fortress.  They break off the finest bas reliefs & sculptures in search of the morsels of lead that unite them to the buildings, after which they are broken with wanton barbarity: luckily two of the chef d’oeuvres in the Metopes /of the Parthenon/ had in some degree

escaped their fangs, and have long been coveted by all the Dilettanti of Europe; they represent the combat of the Lapithae and the Centaurs, by the hand of Phidias, and one of them is supposed to be Theseus and the other Perithöus.  They have been repeatedly refused to the gold and the influence of France in the zenith of her power.  These admirable specimens of Grecian Sculpture I obtained leave to take down for Lord Elgin, and they are now embarked with other valuable /precious/ fragments of Antiquity, on board the Ship which brought me here: I trust they will reach England in safety, where they must prove of inestimable service in improving the National Taste.

In the time necessary for packing and conveying on board these enormously heavy Marbles, I made an excursion to Aulos, Chalcis in Euboea, Thebes, Lebadea, Chaeronea, Thermopylae, and Delphi. In my former

visit I had made the tour of Marathon, Salamis, Eleusis, Megara and Sunium, so that I have now seen the most interesting places in Proper Greece. Tomorrow I sail to Egina & Epidaurus in my passage to Corinth, from thence to Sicyon, Mycenae, Argos, and Mantinea – Patrae, Olympia, Elis, and other celebrated cities of the Peloponnesus.  As I have an officer of the Porte with me and every other means of obtaining admission to whatever is interesting – and as I shall be accompanied by one of Lord Elgin’s artists, I hope my excursion may prove not only amusing to myself but useful to His Excellency.

From so many interesting objects as I have lately visited, I know not how to select any thing for Your Lordship’s amusement.  The pass of Thermopylae – the Cave of Trophonius – the fountains of Lethe & Mnemosyne, the mountains of Parnassus & Helicon, the fields of Chaeronea & Plataea, have almost transported me to the

ages of Ancient Greece, and really make me shrink from an attempt to describe the impressions those celebrated scenes made on my mind.  But as I know
that enthusiasm itself is mortal, I shall wait for the moment in which I can write with coolness and detail. Throughout my travels I have been treated as His Lordship’s Secretary, with the utmost attention and confidence, and obtained information as to the actual state of the Country, which has not fallen to the lot of ordinary Travellers.  I send Your Lordship this hasty catalogue of names of places, merely to assure you that my health has not suffered either from the extreme heat of the Dog-days, or the bad air for which those regions are notorious; I beg Your
Lordhsip to present my respects to the family at Ampthill Park, and its Neighbourhood, and to be assured that I remain ever,

Your Lordship’s most devoted & obliged servant, Philip Hunt

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