Last week, a tourist was filmed etching a pair of names onto the walls of Rome’s Colosseum. He could now face a hefty fine—or even time in jail—for defacing the world wonder.
The video, which was posted to Reddit, shows a man using his keys to scratch the words “Ivan + Hayley ‘23” on an exterior wall of the 1,900-year-old structure. Next to him is a woman—presumably Hayley—who also watches as the defacement take place.
At one point the man looks up, sees that a stranger is filming him in flagrante delicto, and simply smiles. “Asshole,” the person holding the camera mutters as he walks away.
It’s unlikely the defacer—Ivan?—would be smiling if he knew the history of punishments for people who have vandalized the Colosseum, even in minor ways.
In 2014, for instance, a 42-year-old Russian tourist was caught carving the letter “K”—his initial—onto a wall of the landmark. After being arrested on site, the man was fined €20,000 and hit with a four-month suspended prison sentence.
“You cannot write on a historic wall, it’s absolutely forbidden,” said the Colosseum’s director at the time, Rossella Rea.
In 2020, an Irish visitor was also nabbed while scratching his initials on the amphitheater. He was arrested and charged with damaging a historical landmark—a crime punishable with up to one year in prison or a fine of at least €2,065 ($2,200). (It’s unclear whether or not the Irishman was convicted and sentenced.)
“The Colosseum, like any monument that represents the history of all of us, must be preserved and handed over to future generations,” Colosseum spokesperson Federica Rinaldi told CNN at the time.
“Carving one’s initials, in addition to being a crime, seems to be a gesture of those who want to appropriate the monument,” Rinaldi added. “Better take a selfie!”
Representatives from the Colosseum did not immediately return Artnet News’s request for comment on the video of last week’s alleged incident.
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