ATHENS  -  Two Bulgarian Roma women were arrested in Greece on Sunday on suspicion of smearing oil on exhibits at some of Athens’ top museums for the past two months, state agency ANA said.

The two suspects were arrested at the National Historical Museum, which houses relics from the 19th-century Greek war of independence.

The two women allegedly told police that they were daubing the works with oil and myrrh “because the Holy Scripture says it is miraculous”, the agency said.

They will be taken before a prosecutor on Monday.

In July, two middle-aged women left oil marks on dozens of items at the Byzantine and Christian Museum - home to the country’s most extensive collection of religious relics.

The incident was revealed by Kathimerini daily, not the museum itself, and then Culture Minister Lydia Koniordou tried to play down the incident.

“I wouldn’t exactly call it vandalism...it was some ladies spreading oil,” said Koniordou, who was later replaced in a cabinet reshuffle.

In late August, the Benaki Museum - the foremost collection on Greek culture - said two people had likewise splashed an “odourless and colourless oily substance” on exhibit bases and cases.

In most cases, restoration staff were able to clean the exhibits. But more lasting damage was caused to wooden items, including a sixth-century Coptic cross.