Tuesday November 25, 2014

Graffiti in the Roman Colosseum earns man $28k fine

Listen 5:12
colosseum

photo credit: vgm8383 via photopin cc

When in Rome, don't do what the Romans do.

Despite a centuries-old tradition of carving one's initials in the Colosseum, a Russian man has been fined a whopping $28,000 dollars for graffiti.

The 42-year-old man was apprehended on Friday after a guard at the Colosseum, the Roman amphitheater in the center town, saw him carve the letter "K" in a section of brickwork.

The graffiti was found on a ground floor section of the nearly-2,000 year-old structure where restoration work was taking place, according to the Italian ANSA news agency.

"The damage to the monument is notable," site superintendent Mariarosaria Barbera told ANSA.

"The incision cut out part of the surface of the structure and compromises its conservation and image."

The Russian tourist was found guilty of causing "aggravated damage" to the Colosseum, and was also given a four-month suspended prison sentence.

"This is pretty extraordinary," noted Darius Arya, one of the world's foremost experts on the Colosseum, in an interview on As It Happens.

The archeologist noted that the fine is nearly the average annual net salary in Italy. He wondered if it would ever be paid, and what authorities would do if it isn't.

"It's human nature to carve your name in something. We've all seen graffiti for our whole lives. But when something is old, it becomes precious."

The Russian is the fifth tourist caught carving graffiti on the Colosseum's walls this year.

Rome's ancient amphitheater, which attracts about four million visitors a year, is no stranger to vandalism. In fact, Mr. Arya says some of its graffiti is 1,400 years old.

"Obviously today we appreciate that [graffiti] because it's another snapshot, a window into that ancient culture," he said, adding that Roman authorities may have frowned on it back then, but he doubts anyone was punished for it.