June 13, 2012
More coverage of the results of Monday’s debate on the reunification of the Parthenon Marbles, organised by Intelligence Squared.
Stephen Fry calls for Britain to return Parthenon Frieze to Greece
Stephen Fry said that the classical Greek sculptures, which reside in the British Museum, should be returned to “a country in dire need”.
By Florence Waters
10:51AM BST 12 Jun 2012
The actor has said that restoring the marbles, which rank among the greatest treasures in British Museum’s collection, would be the ultimate show of “friendship” to a country in crisis – and would send out the right message to the rest of the world.
The Parthenon Frieze, part of a wider collection of classical sculptures called the Elgin Marbles, has resided in Britain since the early 19th century when they were brought over to Britain by explorer Lord Elgin.
Speaking at a debate on the future of the Elgin Marbles, hosted by Intelligence Squared, Fry said:
“Let’s be a classy country and return the marbles to Greece. We would be admired by the rest of the world, offering friendship to a country in dire need.
“In Greece, there are men queuing up for food and when the cameras are turned on them, they turn away because they are so ashamed.”
The marbles, which are housed in the British Museum’s purpose-built Duveen Gallery, have been cleaned and restored in Britain but there is an ongoing public debate about whether the taking of the Elgin Marbles was legal or not still rages.
Some believe the treasures should be returned to their original home next to the Parthenon in Athens.
Fry’s suggestion was that the current display should be replaced by a film, telling the “story” of the feud.
“Until we return the marbles – regardless of how much their debt crisis means they owe us – we will never be able to repay the debt that we owe Greece”, he added.
Labour MP Tristram Hunt was also on the panel, and argued that returning the marbles would “start us down a slippery slope that will purge our museums of cosmopolitan sensibility”.
“The Ethiopian tablets and Rosetta Stone will have to be returned. It will be a global loss of learning,” he said.
In a poll taken before the event asking audience members if they would like the marbles to be returned to Greece, 196 voted for, 202 against and 158 didn’t know. The same poll taken after the debate showed a majority of 384 voting in favour of returning the marbles.
The Acropolis Museum in Athens, which was built in 2009, shows a reconstruction of the placement of the Parthenon friezes as they would have appeared around the upper part of the walls of the Parthenon.
Authorities claimed that the impetus for building the museum was to convince to British Museum to return the sections of the Frieze in London to Greece.
12 June 2012
Fry loses his marbles over ‘national treasure’ jibe
Stephen Fry may be affectionately regarded as a “national treasure” but it is best not to mention this within his vicinity. During a heated on-stage Intelligence Squared debate over whether the British Museum should return the Elgin Marbles to Greece, the actor got most indignant when fellow debater Felipe Fernández-Armesto, Professor of History at the University of Notre Dame, addressed him by this moniker.
Fry pretended to vomit into his attaché case and was visibly agitated when the professor claimed that Fry had referred to himself as a national treasure backstage at Chelsea’s Cadogan Hall before the debate.
“That is not true!” Fry objected loudly. “You cannot make statements that are lies. I demand you retract. I have never called myself that.”
Later, when the professor asked Fry to retract the “liar” accusation and say he had been “mistaken”, Fry replied tartly: “I will say you have been mistaken to have read a newspaper.”
All was not lost for Fry. He and co-debator Andrew George won the motion to send back the marbles.
- Stephen Fry: “It would be a ‘classy’ move for Britain to return the Parthenon Marbles” : June 13, 2012
- The campaign to return the Parthenon Marbles is an appeal to Britain’s “better instincts” : June 15, 2012
- Intelligence Squared organises London debate on the Parthenon Marbles : April 25, 2012
- Stephen Fry convinces the public that returning the Elgin Marbles would be the right thing to do : June 13, 2012
- Live broadcast of the Intellegence Squared Parthenon Marbles debate at the New Acropolis Museum : June 2, 2012
- Parthenon Marbles debate to be broadcast live at Acropolis Museum & re-shown on following day : June 8, 2012
- Reshowing of Parthenon Marbles debate in Australia : August 3, 2012
- Stephen Fry’s support for the return of the Marbles : April 2, 2012