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This debate passed off at Cadogan Corridor on 11th June 2012.
What’s all this nonsense about sending the Parthenon Marbles again to Greece? If Lord Elgin hadn’t rescued them from the Parthenon in Athens and introduced them to the British Museum virtually 200 years in the past, these beautiful sculptures — the best embodiment of the classical supreme of magnificence and concord — would have been misplaced to the ravages of air pollution and time. So we have now each proper to maintain them: certainly, returning them would set a harmful precedent, setting off a clamour for each Egyptian mummy and Grecian urn to be wrenched from the world’s museums and despatched again to its nation of origin. It’s nice establishments just like the British Museum which have established such artefacts as objects of world significance: extra folks see the Marbles within the BM than go to Athens yearly. Why ship them again to relative obscurity?
However aren’t such arguments somewhat too imperialistic? All this discuss of customer numbers and harmful precedents — would not it simply sound like an excuse for Britain to carry on to dubiously acquired treasures that have been eliminated with out the consent of the Greek folks to whom they culturally and traditionally belong? That is what Lord Byron thought, and now Stephen Fry is taking on the trigger. We should always return the Marbles as a gesture of solidarity with Greece in its monetary misery, says Fry, and as a mark of respect for the cradle of democracy and the birthplace of rational thought.