Robert Adair’s Letter to Lord Elgin

On July 31st 1811, Robert Adair, the head of the British delegation in Constantinople (for the period between 1809-1810) wrote a letter to Lord Elgin.

Robert Adair

Robert Adair

In this letter he indicated that the local Pasha, who Elgin gained favour with through numerous bribes, did not possess the authority to grant Elgin permission to remove any part of the Parthenon Sculptures. In his letter he said:

My Lord

In answer to your Lordship’s enquiry respecting the marbles collected by your Lordship at Athens, and for leave to transmit which to this country I was directed by the Secretary of State for foreign affairs to apply to the Turkish government, I have to inform your Lordship that Mr Pisani more than once assured me that the Porte absolutely denied your having any property in those marbles. By this expression I understood the Porte to mean that the persons who had sold the marbles to your Lordship had no right so to dispose of them.

At the same time I beg leave to add that this communication was not made to me in any formal conference with the Turkish ministers.

I have the honour to be, my Lord, your Lordship’s most obedient and humble servant
R. Adair

The original letter went on sale in an auction in 2002.





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