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Stephen Fry on the removal of the Parthenon sculptures

Popular British actor and writer Stephen Fry has compared Lord Elgin’s removal of the Parthenon sculptures from Greece to Nazi Germany stealing the Arc de Triomphe during the occupation of France.

Speaking on the Australian TV series Stuff the British Stole on Sunday, Fry, a longtime campaigner for the return of the 2,500-year-old treasures currently on display at the British Museum, argued that even if there were “the most scrupulously written document” granting permission to British diplomat Lord Elgin to remove the marbles, “it’s like saying ‘Well, Germany claims it should have the Arc de Triomphe and there’s the document that proves it.’ But the Nazis were an occupying force. What right did they have to give away parts of France? It wasn’t theirs to give away.”

Lord Elgin removed the marbles from the ancient citadel in 1806, during a period when Greece was under Ottoman rule. Recently, Turkey publicly rejected the claim that he had received permission from Ottoman authorities to remove antiquities from the Acropolis.

Fry said it would be “classy” if the British Museum were to return the treasures to their original home. “Wouldn’t Britain look classy for doing that?” he said. “Wouldn’t that be a fantastic feather in our cap? Because they mean so much more to Athens than perhaps we understand.”