About two weeks ago, news broke that fashion giant Gucci had offered a cool two million euros to rent the Acropolis for a 15 minute fashion show. Greece’s Central Archaeological Council (KAS) rejected Gucci’s request and the decision was backed by prominent political and archaeological figures. It seems, however, that it was not as unanimously rejected by the Greeks themselves.

The public's response left the country divided over whether Greeks should simply stick to conserving their iconic landmark as a beacon of western civilization, or start making a mint out of it, also. A growing number of Greeks is barely making ends meet. After seven years of bailouts that poured billions of euros into their country, poverty is still an issue, worsening like nowhere else in the EU. So, on February 14 and no sooner than Greece's council of esteemed antiquities and heritage management experts rejected the bid, debate over the decision took the country by storm. Social media sites clogged up with comments and posts.

Greeks have long linked the Acropolis to their national identity. The ministry of culture, also, retains strict control over how the narrative of Greece being the cradle of western civilization is told. The mere notion, therefore, of seeing Greece's prized possession - the Acropolis - put up for rent seven years into a devastating debt crisis, touched a sore and sensitive chord. Renowned writer Apostolos Doxiadis stated:

"A small nation's insecurity was exacerbated. But that is all too often the Greek reaction: dear on symbols, cheap on substance. Culture policy regarding the preservation of our antiquities is totally infuriating. There's no shop to show for at the country's foremost museum - the Archeological Museum of Athens, and yet, Gucci is suddenly the issue?"

With national budgets dwindling and governments across Europe struggling to balance their books, many countries have started to make commercial use of national treasures. Others have unloaded management into private hands. In recent years,Italy allowed a fashion house to sponsor the Colosseum. Britain, also, has been leasing stately estates like Chatsworth House for decades, even selling a large chunk of its fabled Sherwood Forest to plug a gaping hole in the public purse in 2011. Now, leading academics and archaeologists are increasingly urging the Greek culture ministry to follow suit - if not for the prized Acropolis site, than scores of smaller and less significant ones, scattered across the country. Panos Valavanis, a leading Greek classical archaeologist, said:

"The culture ministry was right to strike down the Gucci request, but you'd think that the financial crisis would have fanned the appetite for private ventures in the field."

It hasn't. In 2014, Stephen Miller, an American archaeologist who has spent over four decades unearthing antiquities in Nemea, about 113 kilometers (70 miles) southwest of Athens, went to Greek officials with a promising plan: to allow private companies to buy up unguarded and under-exploited ruins, cutting a share of the tourist-generated profit to the state and the rest divested to the site's maintenance. It was rejected. Miller said:

"Everyone at the culture ministry thought I was crazy. And of course they would because the plan's guaranteed success would have exposed the long-running insecurity and incompetence of bureaucrats doing nothing for decades to manage Greece's treasures."

At the time, leading archaeologists, academics and scholars supported Miller and his ambitious designs to loosen the state's vice-grip on the management of its treasures. Many still agree.

"But fighting a sclerotic mindset molded in a nation for ages isn't easy. I never scrapped the plan; just shelved it to take out when the time is right."

That could take a while, a long while. Greeks are far from ready yet to relinquish guardianship of their antiquities, critics say. It makes them and the culture ministry wary of losing their grip on history and national identity. What's more, credible management is seriously lacking, spooking already skittish Greeks of any privatization scheme for fear of it leading to fresh pillaging and plundering. Valavanis stated:

"For any such scheme to work, there must be strict safeguards and an effective monitoring mechanism in place. There aren't yet and it is bound to take some time. If Greece's financial crisis has revealed anything, it is that the Greek state has proven to be a lousy manager of its assets across the board."