The ancient Colosseum has been vandalized several times over the years, but in what is apparently the most recent case, Italian police caught a 40-year-old Austrian woman carving her initials into one of the monument’s pillars, according to an Italian news agency.
The unnamed woman managed to carve the initials “M.D.S.” with a Swiss Army knife into the marble of the ancient Roman amphitheater before police discovered what she was doing. One of 4 million annual visitors to the Colosseum, according to CNN, the woman was charged with aggravated damage of a building of historic and artistic interest, then released on bail.
The Colosseum, which was completed in A.D. 80 and sits at the center of Rome, is set to undergo a $35 million restoration project to reinforce it structurally; the antiquity has been damaged by years of jarring automobile traffic, by rumblings from a nearby subway station and by people taking pieces of the structure itself.
Theft has been a consistent problem at the Colosseum. A Canadian teenager, for instance, was found with a brick in her backpack that she had taken from the Colosseum.
But authorities have had more trouble with tourists trying to carve things into the structure’s facade. A Lebanese woman used a coin to carve into the structure in July. Days before this, Blagoy Georgiev, a Bulgarian soccer player, was charged with trying to engrave his initials into the floor. In March, two American tourists apologized for carving their initials into the structure.
— Graham Spicer (@gramilano) September 19, 2015
Police in Italy have tried to throw up disincentives, such as large fines, to defacing the priceless edifice. In one instance, police fined a Russian man more than $24,000 after he was caught carving his name into the monument.
Vandalism of the structure is common now, but it was at its worse when fascist leader Benito Mussolini’s party ruled Italy in the 1930s.