In the year 455 AD vandals sacked Rome, creating havoc and looting artistic treasures. More than 1,500 years later, they are still at it. Besides carving or painting graffiti on historic buildings, some have hammered statues in the public parks of Rome and even have thrown dye into the Trevi Fountain.
Up on Pincian Hill, a 19th century park, vandalism is commonplace. In May and June of 2014, 13 of the park's 230 busts had their noses broken and four were uprooted and thrown to the ground. In the past, vandals have even attacked Michaelangelo's Pietà stature with hammers and paint. I personally saw graffiti carved into the walls in the Vatican Museum's Raphael rooms. And in 2011, part of an Egyptian obelisk brought to Rome 2,000 years ago was covered in graffiti.
Last week, two idiotic young California women (21 and 25) broke away from their tour group (something they did a lot apparently) and managed to scratch their initials into the bricks of the 2000 year old Colosseum in Rome. Thankfully, other caring tourists saw them and called over the policia, and they were promptly arrested, but only after their deed was done, and after they took a selfie of them and their handiwork.
Using a coin, they scratched (carved is too refined a word for this) a J and an N into a brick wall on the first floor of the west side of the Colosseum. Six million tourists that flock to the Colosseum every year, most of which are fairly well behaved and respectful.
Police charged the women with 'aggravated damage on building of historical and artistic interest'. After they were caught, the women apologized to Piazza Dante police and Captain Lorenzo Iacobone. They said: 'We apologize for what we did. We regret it but we did not imagine it was something so serious. 'We'll remember for a lifetime.' Yea, sure. These shallow gals had no clue of the value or historic significance of what they were supposedly there to look at, to ponder, to admire.
This is my main complaint about the flood of tourists in Rome and the lack of true interest, sensitivity or knowledge in what they are putting on their "must see" lists of tourist spots to hit. Three hours of tourists waiting online to view the beauty of what the Vatican Museum holds... and they are just shoved through so no one at all can take any decent amount of time to admire the masterpieces, the way they should. There is a total lack of sensitivity. This is why people shout and pickpocket and shove in a holy place like St. Peters or the Pantheon. Most don't even know before they go to the Pantheon that it's a practicing Catholic Church!
A Russian tourist who carved his initials into the Colosseum in November was handed a four-month suspended sentence and a fine of 20,000 euros ($21,270) after opting for a speedy trial. It was the fifth such act of vandalism by tourists last year, including a Canadian tourist who tried to steal a piece of stone from the Colosseum hidden in his backpack! Things have gotten so bad with people carving initials and then taking selfies, that this week Rome banned selfie sticks from the Colosseum. I hope they chase away the hawkers all around the Colosseum selling the selfie sticks. We saw a lot of them when we were there... one even had a stock supply hidden in cracks in a wall across from the Colosseum.
Union leaders, citing recent acts of vandalism, have complained about the lack of personnel to properly monitor Rome‘s archaeological treasures with increasing numbers of visitors seeking to leave their trace on antiquity, causing incalculable damage. After all, 18,000 people a day visit the Colosseum alone. The walls around the edge of the Colosseum are covered with engraved names that were made by visitors when the Colosseum was left open. Now there is a metal barrier around the outside and only people with tickets can get in.
But despite the closed circuit cameras and vigilant custodians, there are still people from every corner of the globe who attempt to leave a mark. In recent years an Australian and his son were caught, as well as a teenager from Brazil and another from Canada. Because of Italian laws protecting minors, teens escape being fined because of their age. Many other Roman monuments are under attack too. In 2011 police caught an American tourist scaling a wall of the Colosseum to chip off pieces of marble.
Construction of the Colosseum began in 70 A.D. under the Roman Emperor Vespasian and was opened in 80 AD under his son Titus. Don't you think it should stand intact for another 2000 years? But Rome is not one building or a single statue. The entire city should be treated with the same respect and dignity as any true lover of art and history would do.
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