Translation of Lord Elgin's firman (letter of permission)

A letter from H.E. the Kaimacam Pasha, addressed to the Justice [Cadi] and also to the Voivode of Athens, for Lord Elgin giving him permission to excavate and remove objects from the Acropolis of Athens, including the Parthenon temple.

After the greeting, be you informed how our sincere friend H. E. Lord Elgin Ambassador of the Court of England to the Porte of Happiness having explained that it is well known that the greater part of the Frankish courts being anxious to read and investigate the books, the images, and other sciences of the Greek philosophers, and particularly the ministers, philosophers, primates, and other individuals of England who have a regard for all the images remaining from the time of the said Greeks, which are to be found on the shores of the Archipelago, and in other climes, have from time to time instructed men to explore the ancient buildings, and images, and that in this way the able dilettanti of the Court of England being desirous to see the ancient buildings and the curious images of the City of Athens, and of the old walls remaining of the Greeks, and which now exist in the interior of the said place, he [Elgin] has commissioned and ordered five English painters, already present in the said city, to view, contemplate, and also draw the images remaining ‘ab antiquo’, and having at this time expressly requested

[page break] that it be written and ordered that the said painters, while they are occupied in entering and leaving the gate of the Castle of the City, which is the place of their work, in setting up scaffolding round the ancient temple of the Idols, and with moulding in lime paste (that is plaster) the same ornaments, and visible figures, in measuring the remains of other ruined buildings, and in undertaking to dig, according to need, the foundations to find the inscribed blocks, which may have been preserved in the rubble, be not interrupted, nor in any way impeded by the Governor of the Castle, nor any other person, and that no one meddle with their scaffolding, and implements, which they use for making moulds; and when they wish to take away some pieces of stone with old inscriptions, and figures, that no opposition be made, here for you is the present letter written and delivered by X [name unknown], so that, after its subject is understood, be clear that it is the pledge of this Excellent Empire endowed with eminent qualities, that such requests be favoured in conformity with requirements of friendship, sincerity, alliance, and good-will existing ab antiquo, and with the mutual acceptance on both sides, manifestly growing between the Sublime and ever durable Ottoman Court and that of England, and of course as there is no harm for you in the aforesaid images and the buildings being viewed,

[page break] contemplated and drawn, and after having fulfilled the proper show of hospitality towards the aforesaid painters in compliance with the urgent request of the said Ambassador to that effect, and because it is incumbent on us to provide that they meet no opposition in walking, viewing or contemplating the same images, either the buildings they may wish to draw, nor in their scaffolding and implements, on the arrival of the present letter you use your diligence to act conformably to the request of the said Ambassador, while the said five artists in that place are employed in entering and leaving the gate of the Castle of Athens, which is the place of their work; or setting up scaffolding around the ancient Temple of the Idols; or in moulding in lime paste (that is plaster) those ornaments and visible figures; or in measuring the remains of other ruined edifices; or in undertaking excavations, when they find it necessary, of the foundations, in search of inscribed blocks perhaps preserved among the rubble; that they be not molested either by the Disdar nor by any other persons, nor even by you the above mentioned, and that no one meddle with their scaffolding and implements, nor hinder them from taking away any pieces of stone with inscriptions, and figures, and in the aforesaid manner conduct and comport yourselves.

(signed) Sejid Abdullah


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