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The campaign to return the Parthenon Marbles is an appeal to Britain’s “better instincts”

More coverage of the debate earlier this week [1] about he reunification of the Parthenon Marbles. As well as the vote taken after the UK debate [2], one was also made at the end of the live broadcast of it at the Acropolis Museum – which predictably found an either higher level of support than in Britain.

This story has also had a lot of additional coverage, as a paragraph at the end of an AP article, that has been syndicated by many newspapers internationally.

From:
Artinfo [3]

“We Will Never Repay the Debt that We Owe Greece”: Actor Stephen Fry Calls for Parthenon Marbles to Be Sent Back
by ARTINFO UK
Published: June 13, 2012

The Eurozone may be in tatters, and Greece about to return to the drachma, but on Monday very different matters were at hand. A debate organized by Intelligence Squared held at London’s Cadogan Hall and screened live at the Acropolis Museum in Athens reignited the passions around the Elgin marbles. And Stephen Fry stood out as an unlikely hero of the Hellenic cause.

The Elgin marbles were stripped from the Parthenon and brought to the UK in the 19th century by Lord Elgin, the British ambassador in Constantinople when the Turks controlled Greece. The priceless sculptures have been held at the British Museum ever since, and although the British government claims that they were legally acquired, they have been a sore point in the cultural relationship between the two countries for just as long.

During the debate, Liberal Democrat MP Andrew George appealed to Britain’s “better instincts” saying that returning the marbles “pillaged from an occupied country” would be “the right thing to do.”

Yet the real blow came from Stephen Fry: “No matter how much the sovereign debt crisis means they owe us, we will never repay the debt that we owe Greece,” he declared, before stating that the return of the sculptures would be “an act of supremest class.” The actor proposed the creation of a “Parthenon experience” at the British Museum, telling how the institution cared for the sculptures before sending them back to their rightful owners.

The British Museum tentatively argued that their display of the Elgin marbles complemented the one in Greece and “allowed different and complementary stories to be told about the surviving sculptures, highlighting their significance within world culture and affirming the place of Ancient Greece among the great cultures of the world.” But the argument failed to convince. At the end of the night, an overwhelming majority voted for the motion, 384 to 125.

In Athens, the 93% of the audience voted in favour of the restitution. Clearly, Labour MP Tristam Hunt’s comment that “the people of Greece should have intense pride that their Parthenon marbles sit in the British Museum today” didn’t strike a chord.