In a debate hosted by Intelligence Squared in London, the motion made by actor Stephen Fry to return the Elgin Marbles to Athens won by a vote of 384 to 125. Intelligence Squared is a London-based forum which organizes debates on a number of issues from politics and society to culture and arts.
Last night it hosted a debate on whether to return the Elgin Marbles to Athens or not. On the one side was Tristram Hunt (Labour MP) claiming that the Marbles should not return. His main arguments were that the Marbles are more protected in the British Museum and that a visitor in the British Museum can see with one visit many different cultures and civilizations. He also pointed out that if the Marbles return that would boost other countries with rich civilizations to ask their own artifacts be returned, making them less accessible to tourists. Also, he insisted that Greeks should feel proud for the fact that the Marbles are accessible to millions of tourists who can see them along with artifacts from other cultures. On the other hand, Stephen Fry claimed that although Greece owes a lot to Britain due to the debt crisis “we will never repay the debt that we owe Greece.” He also argued that giving back the Elgin Marbles to Greece, especially now that Greece has built its own Archaeological Museum “would be an act of grace and dignity.” He said it would be “classy” if future visitors to the British Museum could see a “Parthenon experience” including a film showing how Britain had curated the marbles for 200 years and then handed them over to the Athens Acropolis Museum. Andrew George, a Liberal-Democrat MP, also pointed out that wonderful work to preserve the Elgin Marbles has been done by the British Museum, but it is now time to return them to Greece. He also pointed out that there is no serious argument to contend that what Elgin did was perfectly legal as Greece was occupied by the Ottoman Empire when Elgin removed the Marbles.
Although this debate will have no official effect on the Museum’s policy, it is a very interesting point that returning the Marbles has started gaining support in the general public of Britain.
(Source: BBC, Intelligence Squared)