The as-yet-unidentified women, aged 21 and 25, were exploring the famous landmark in Rome on Saturday when they broke off from their tour group and, using a coin, scratched the letters “J” and “N” into the historic amphitheater. They then took a photo of themselves next to the new addition to the Coliseum’s walls. The letters measured around 8cm tall.
Defacing the Coliseum, a landmark that has stood for more than 2,000 years, is forbidden, and there are English and Italian signs around the structure alerting tourists to this fact.
The section that the tourists defaced is part of a 19th-century papal restoration project, although the section itself was completed in 80 AD.
Police quickly caught the women after being alerted by other tourists. The defacers were fined for “aggravated damage” and may have to appear before a judge for sentencing.
“There’s a difference in perception,” a spokesman for the Special Superintendency for the Archaeological Heritage of Rome said. “Museums are treated like churches, sacred places where there are things of great value. Whereas the Colosseum is an incomplete building which has already been robbed.”
The women have shown regret and apologized for their actions, saying that they would remember this incident for the rest of their lives.
“We apologize for what we did,” the women said, according to Italian paper La Stampa. “We regret it, but we did not imagine it was something so serious.”
If these women are ever allowed into another foreign country again, they might consider carving their initials into a tree—preferably one not part of a national landmark.