Two American female tourists were arrested by Roman police for carving their initials into a wall in the ancient Colosseum.
The young women, aged 21 and 25, were released on their own recognizance by a Roman court. They will be charged with aggravated damage to a monument.
Their names or hometowns were not released by police.
Iacobone said the young women apologized for the vandalism, but he said such acts “are extremely serious. No one considers the damage they are creating.”
“They have carved their names into ancient stone. It is not like writing with a pen, and then afterward it can be cleaned up,” he said.
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.
Union leaders 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 irreparable damage.
With thousands of tourists visiting the monument each day and many hidden corners, Iacobone said it was impossible to monitor everyone’s actions.
With the Islamic State gleefully bulldozing ancient towns of immense historical significance in Iraq, the care of our history has become of vital concern. Acid rain in Athens is eating away at 2500-year-old structures. Air pollution in Rome is disfiguring some of the most beautiful public art in the world, causing all that marble in statues, fountains, and facades to soften and eventually crack.
In our own country, historical sites, houses, and structures are being sacrificed for new homes or office parks. Developers wanted to give part of the Bull Run Civil War battlefield over to a highway, which would have encouraged more development. Despite the best efforts of local and national preservation groups, we are still losing historical sites to development.
The two young women arrested in Rome were not intentionally destructive. They simply didn’t think. They will learn an expensive lesson, but what about us? What are we learning about how to treasure and preserve our history?
It has been said that nations will be as environmentally friendly only as much as they can afford to be. In the very near future, we are going to have to decide how much of our cultural and historical heritage we are prepared to lose forever in lieu of doing what it takes to safeguard them.
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