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Intelligence Squared organises London debate on the Parthenon Marbles

Intelligence Squared [1] are organising a debate about whether the Parthenon Sculptures should be returned to Greece.

Speakers include Stephen Fry, who has recently written at length about why he supports the campaign for their return [2].

According to the website, the debate will also be later screened on BBC World News.

Intelligence Squared [3]

Send them back: The Parthenon Marbles should be returned to Athens
June 11th, 2012, Cadogan Hall
Doors open at 6pm. The debate will begin at 6.45pm and finish at 8.30pm

What’s all this nonsense about sending the Parthenon Marbles back to Greece? If Lord Elgin hadn’t rescued them from the Parthenon in Athens and presented them to the British Museum almost 200 years ago, these exquisite sculptures – the finest embodiment of the classical ideal of beauty and harmony – would have been lost to the ravages of pollution and time. So we have every right to keep them: indeed, returning them would set a dangerous precedent, setting off a clamour for every Egyptian mummy and Grecian urn to be wrenched from the world’s museums and sent back to its country of origin. It is great institutions like the British Museum that have established such artefacts as items of world significance: more people see the Marbles in the BM than visit Athens every year. Why send them back to relative obscurity?

But aren’t such arguments a little too imperialistic? All this talk of visitor numbers and dangerous precedents – doesn’t it just sound like an excuse for Britain to hold on to dubiously acquired treasures that were removed without the consent of the Greek people to whom they culturally and historically belong? That’s what Lord Byron thought, and now Stephen Fry is taking up the cause. We should return the Marbles as a gesture of solidarity with Greece in its financial distress, says Fry, and as a mark of respect for the cradle of democracy and the birthplace of rational thought.

Speakers for the motion
Anna Diamantopoulou
Greek Minister for Development, Competitiveness and Shipping

Stephen Fry
Actor, writer, comedian, and broadcaster

Speakers against the motion
Felipe Fernández-Armesto
William P Reynolds Professor of History, the University of Notre Dame

Tristram Hunt
Broadcaster, historian and newspaper columnist; Labour MP for
Stoke-on-Trent Central

Chair to be announced

Please note: this debate will be filmed for later broadcast on BBC World