Greek Culture Minister Pavlos Geroulanos resigned on Friday after masked armed robbers stole more than 60 ancient objects of “incalculable” value from a museum in Olympia.
Sixty-eight objects were whisked from a museum dedicated to the ancient Olympic Games after two masked men immobilized the museum’s sole female guard as she arrived to take over the early morning shift, officials said.
“There were two of them, and they had a gun,” Olympia Mayor Thymios Kotzias told Flash Radio.
“They immobilized the guard as the shift changed at 7am (0500 GMT), having previously knocked out the alarm,” he said.
“We must wait and see what the local archaeology supervisor will say, but the items were of incalculable value,” Kotzias said.
A government source said Geroulanos had submitted his resignation over the incident, but it was not immediately clear if it had been accepted by Prime Minister Lucas Papademos.
Olympia, birthplace of the ancient Olympic Games, is visited by hundreds of thousands of visitors annually.
The incident occurred at the town’s second museum, which showcases nearly 500 objects related to the Games, such as clay vessels and bronze discs used in the events, stone tablets and bronze statues of athletes.
Kotzias said no security staff are actually present between 6 and 7am, when the building is guarded by an electronic alarm.
“The museum had never been targeted before,” the mayor said.
The main Olympia museum, which is better guarded, features statues, architectural elements and offerings from the sprawling ancient complex where the Games were held from at least 776 BCE to 393 AD.
This is the second major theft to embarrass Greek culture officials in a month as the country grapples with its most serious debt crisis in decades.
In January, a painting personally gifted by Spanish-born master Pablo Picasso to Greece was stolen from the Athens National Gallery along with two other important artworks by Dutch abstract artist Piet Mondrian and 16th century Italian painter Guglielmo Caccia, better known as Moncalvo.
In that case, the thief or thieves, had knocked out the alarm system and forced open a balcony door at the back of the building, which is located across from one of Athens top hotels.
The gallery was on reduced security staffing owing to a strike.
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