The Colosseum in Rome (photo by the author for Hyperallergic)

The Colosseum in Rome (photo by the author for Hyperallergic)

A 42-year-old Russian tourist visiting Rome was arrested and fined €20,000 (~$25,000) for carving a “K” nearly 10 inches tall into a wall inside the Colosseum, the first century CE amphitheater. The man was spotted by a guard, turned over to police, and given a suspended prison sentence of four months in addition to the fine, the Guardian reported.

“You cannot write on a historic wall, it’s absolutely forbidden,” said Rossella Rea, the Colosseum’s director. She added that such contemporary carvings have no merit compared to the historic graffiti left by ancient Romans. “There are beautiful designs, which are historic and very important.”

The French scholar Charlotte Guichard has studied Rome’s ancient graffiti and written a book on the subject. “Some graffiti is considered historic today whereas it used to be deemed vandalism,” she told Hyperallergic in a recent interview. “It has become integrated into the tourist circuit in Rome.”

The Russian man is the fifth person apprehended for carving into the walls at the Colosseum this year. Other offenders have been teenagers from Brazil and Canada, as well as a father-son duo from Australia. The site has been visited by about 6 million people this year to date. The Colosseum is in the midst of a $35 million, top-to-bottom cleaning, the first in the building’s history.

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Benjamin Sutton

Benjamin Sutton is an art critic, journalist, and curator who lives in Park Slope, Brooklyn. His articles on public art, artist documentaries, the tedium of art fairs, James Franco's obsession with Cindy...