Restorers discover colourful frescoes in Rome’s Colosseum
ROME (Reuters) – Italian restorers cleaning the Colosseum have discovered remains of frescoes indicating the interior of one of the world’s most famous monuments may have been colourfully painted in Roman times.
The 2,000-year old arena, where gladiators fought bloody battles for the entertainment of crowds, originally looked far different from the stone ring that has become one of the symbols of Rome.
Working in a passage closed to the public for decades, restorers scraped off years of limescale and black pollution from car exhaust to discover remains of the frescoes, their vivid red, blue, green and white colours still visible.
“This is a beautiful archaeological surprise,” Mariarosaria Barbera, Rome’s archaeological superintendent told Reuters on Friday. “Even in a monument as well known as this one, studied all over the world, there are still new things to discover.”
The team also discovered ancient sketches by spectators who painted crowns and palm trees, symbols of victory celebrating the success of gladiators they supported. The Latin word “VIND”, referring to victory or revenge, was also found. Restorers discovered the frescoes in a passage leading to the highest level of seating, a wooden gallery reserved for the lowest classes and furthest from the action in the arena.
Senators had seats on the first floor, while the emperor and Vestal Virgin priestesses had special boxes with the best views. Blue pigment was a costly luxury at the time, so its use in a corridor leading to the cheap seats indicated the rest of the stadium’s interior may have been intricately decorated too, Barbera said.
The frescoes likely date from after 217 AD, when a fire destroyed the wooden gallery that topped the Colosseum.
Known in Roman times as the Flavian Amphitheatre, the Colosseum has suffered heavily in two millennia, not least from pollution from a road ringing the monument just steps away.