ARCH OF HADRIAN IN ATHENS
COULD CRUMBLE DUE TO ECONOMIC CHAOS
HADRIAN's Arch and other archaeological treasures are in danger of collapsing due to budget cuts in Greece's economic crisis, according to a published report.
"Hadrian's Arch and the Temple of Olympian Zeus are in danger of falling down," Despina Koutsoumba, head of the Association of Greek Archaeologists, told USA TODAY.
The Arch of Hadrian, which stands in the middle of Athens, is believed to have been erected by the citizens of Athens in honor of Hadrian, who loved all things Greek and who showered their city with honors.
But now the Athenians face hard times as their economy is in free fall. Amid drastic government cutbacks, rioting has broken out in the heart of Athens. The photo shows the Arch of Hadrian against the backdrop of billowing smoke from fires set by rioters.
The carved stone statues and structures that are out in the open and important to the country's tourism industry usually receive restoration work after every winter.
However, Hadrian's Arch, a Roman triumphal gateway, and the Temple of Zeus, named for the greatest of the Greek gods, received no care this year because of budget cuts. They are among many examples of Greek culture that face possible erosion, Koutsoumba says.
The fourth round of austerity measures will be implemented this month by the Greek government under the auspices of the International Monetary Fund, the European Central Bank and the European Commission.
Greece has 210 museums, 250 active archaeological digs and 19,000 designated archaeological sites and historical monuments.
One reason the budget is being cut is because there are fewer things to protect, the government says. According to the Looting Department, antiquity and art theft has increased by 25% the past two years.
"War as well as financial crisis give individuals and organized groups the opportunity to [grab] cultural artifacts with higher chances of success," USA TODAY was told by Christos Tsirogiannis, forensic archaeologist. "The financial crisis [in Greece] is forcing more people every day into illegal acts for easy money."
Analysts say that more than 80% of looted antiquities are smuggled abroad, where they command high prices, and the budget cuts are making it difficult to recover the pieces.