Naughty Roman Frescoes Uncovered In Colosseum

Colosseum
Archaeologists working on a conservation project at the Colosseum in Rome have discovered ancient frescoes of gladiators and erotic scenes, Agence France Press reports.

The brightly colored fragments were found on the walls of a corridor currently closed to the public for restoration. The scenes show gladiators being honored with laurels. There are also erotic scenes, although the researchers didn’t go into detail about what they showed.

The popularity of erotic art in the Roman Empire has led to the perception that it was a permissive society. Actually that was only half true. Many Romans were straight-laced and sexually conservative. A good parallel is the modern United States, where a large number of people frown on public displays of nudity or sexuality, while on the other hand Americans produce and consume vast amounts of pornography. Often these are the same Americans. A 2009 study found Utah has the highest per capita consumption of online porn.

Archaeologists are still working on uncovering the delicate pictures and hope to have them preserved and on view to the public by 2014.

Ancient, Renaissance, and early modern graffiti was also found, raising the question of how old graffiti has to be before it stops being vandalism and starts being of historic interest.

The Colosseum has been quickly decaying in recent years, with bits falling off and archaeologists discovering that the building is beginning to lean.

[Image of gladiator fresco from the Roman amphitheater in Mérida, Spain courtesy Wikimedia Commons]

The Leaning Colosseum Of Rome

Colosseum
Rome’s iconic Colosseum is beginning to tilt, the Guardian newspaper reports.

The stadium where gladiators used to hack away at one another to cheering crowds has developed a distinct slant, with one side being 40 centimeters (15.7 inches) lower than the other. Archaeologists have been studying the tilt for a year and have confirmed that it is real and could pose a threat to the monument’s stability. They theorize that the concrete base on which the Colosseum rests may be cracked.

Currently, experts are figuring out what rescue plan, if any, they will suggest to their cash-strapped government.

It’s been a bad couple of years for Italy’s monuments. Despite an expensive restoration, the Colosseum has been crumbling, although not as much as disaster-ridden Pompeii. That ancient city has seen a couple of walls and buildings collapse entirely.

Hopefully a solution will be found to save these ancient Roman ruins without burdening Italy with even more debt.

[Photo courtesy sneakerdog via Flickr]

Italy’s Famous Monuments Hit By Austerity Measures

ItalyHard economic times in Italy are threatening that country’s priceless cultural heritage.

The Times of Oman reports that billionaire Diego Della Valle said he’s thinking of withdrawing the 25 million euros ($33 million) he promised last year to restore the Colosseum, which has been crumbling due to lack of maintenance. An even more serious problem is Pompeii, which suffered a couple of spectacular collapses in 2010.

The Times reports that the government is increasingly looking to private investors to save the day, and is also promising to release 105 million euros ($138 million) from the European Union for a four-year maintenance plan for Pompeii.

Italy only spends 1.8 billion euros ($2.4 billion) annually on culture, just 0.21 percent of the gross domestic product and barely enough for basic maintenance. With tourism being a major portion of the Italian economy, it seems shortsighted not to preserve and restore the very sites that tourists come to see.

Not all news coming from Italy is bad. The government has finally cracked down on the fake Roman centurions and gladiators who prowl around the Colosseum, bullying tourists into taking pictures with them for exorbitant prices. The government says they are all ex-cons and are operating without a license. Some of the fake gladiators climbed onto the Colosseum to protest, showing that they care more about money than preserving their national heritage.

[Photo courtesy Adam Kahtava]

Is the Colosseum crumbling?

ColosseumEconomic instability, a change of government, and now this.

It looks like Italy’s most famous landmark, the Colosseum, may be crumbling. The Culture Ministry has launched an investigation after eyewitnesses spotted bits of stone falling off the Roman ruin on two different occasions in recent days.

An Italian shoe company has promised to restore the Colosseum with an ambitious 25 million euro ($34 million) project, but work won’t start until March.

If the reports are true, the Colosseum isn’t the only monument in trouble. Pompeii has suffered a series of collapses that has raised questions about the site’s management and has escalated into a major scandal. With Italian government deeply in debt and struggling with unpopular austerity measures, it’s doubtful if the glorious legacy of ancient Rome will receive much official funding in the coming fiscal year.

Photo courtesy Sebastian Bergmann.

Book review: Quiet Corners of Rome

Travel guidebooks conceive of the world as a series of obvious, important monuments. This is particularly true of a brash and magnificent city like Rome. Your typical traveler could be forgiven for simplifying this complex historic capital down to a giant marble stadium, a series of famous steps and giant chapel mural. But writer David Downie reminds us there’s a lot more to Rome than its monuments. In fact, Downie argues, Rome is a city best savored through its secret places: the sensual and contemplative spaces unknown to the average visitor.

In his new book, Quiet Corners of Rome, Downie (a Gadling contributor) treats us to an insider’s tour of over 60 of Rome’s hidden spaces based on years of exploration. What he reveals is a city that is not about grand monuments, but instead the spaces in between: quiet courtyards punctuated by burbling fountains and the fresh scent of pine, the distant vibration of church bells in a shady courtyard and ancient stone plazas bedecked with intricate architectural details. Each sight is accompanied by a serene photo taken by photographer Alison Harris. It’s less a tourist guide than a dictionary of intimate discoveries and pleasant surprises – a sprawling, overwhelming city made personable, particular and specific.

Looking for a guide to Rome’s greatest and grandest sights? This is not that book. What Quiet Corners of Rome accomplishes however, is something altogether more authentic. It’s a highly personal, approachable and enjoyable way experience one of our favorite places as it was meant to be experienced: by cherishing every hidden nook and secret city view.