Iraq Banner Desktop

Store Banner Mobile

Tourist Defaces Roman Wall in Herculaneum

Dutch Tourist Defaces Ancient Roman Villa in Herculaneum

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

A 27-year-old tourist from the Netherlands has been accused of defacing a frescoed wall in the ancient Roman city of Herculaneum, located near Naples, Italy. The vandalism occurred at a historic site that has remarkably survived since the catastrophic eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD. This incident highlights ongoing issues with the preservation of world heritage sites amid increasing tourism. 

Vandalism Incident at Herculaneum 

The Herculaneum Archaeological Park, a site less frequented but equally as significant as its neighbor Pompeii, was the scene of the recent vandalism. Italian police reported that the tourist used a black, indelible marker to graffiti a section of a painted wall within the site. The man’s graffiti signature was promptly discovered by staff, leading to his swift identification and arrest. 

Herculaneum, like Pompeii, was buried under volcanic ash during the eruption of Mount Vesuvius. However, the deeper layer of ash in Herculaneum has preserved the site’s ruins exceptionally well, making any damage to these ancient structures particularly grievous. The site is renowned for its detailed frescoes and mosaics that provide valuable insights into Roman life and art. 

Stunning paintings found in Herculaneum attest to its Roman luxury seaside retreat reputation.  

Stunning paintings found in Herculaneum attest to its Roman luxury seaside retreat reputation. (milosk50 / Adobe Stock) 

Italian Culture Minister Gennaro Sangiuliano condemned the act, emphasizing the importance of preserving cultural heritage. “Any damage hurts our heritage, our beauty, and our identity, and that is why it must be punished with the utmost firmness,” he stated, according to a CNN report. 

The Dutch tourist faces serious charges of damaging and defacing artistic works. 

Previous Incidents of Vandalism 

Vandalism of historical sites is, unfortunately, not a rare occurrence in Italy, with the Colosseum of Rome being a favorite target. 

According to the Associated Press in 2017 a tour guide spotted an Ecuadorian visitor carving the names of his family and the year 2017 on walls inside the world famous ancient monument. What’s more, in 2015, the Guardian reported on the arrest of two Californians who carved their initials and posted selfies with their work online, and in 2015 they reported on a Russian tourist being fined $23,000 (€20,000) and slammed up for four months in prison for carving his initials into the Colosseum. 

In 2020, an Irish tourist was caught using “a metal point” to carve his initials about 2 inches high onto a pillar on the Colosseum's first floor

And last year a man from Bristol in the UK was caught in the act and filmed. 

Looking at the walls of the Colosseum and even the one at Herculeum pictured, some of the historic walls are covered in tags. It is obvious that this shameful activity has been popular throughout the centuries.  

These repeated acts of vandalism have prompted Italian authorities to strengthen laws and increase penalties to protect their cultural heritage. Tougher penalties for those who vandalize cultural sites, with fines reaching up to €40,000 (around $43,500) have been imposed. This move aims to deter such destructive behavior and safeguard the country’s rich historical legacy. 

The recent incident at Herculaneum underscores the need for ongoing vigilance and robust preservation strategies. While tourism brings invaluable revenue and global awareness to these sites, it also poses risks that must be carefully managed. 

Top image: The graffiti tag that was written on a wall in Herculaneum, Naples, Italy. Source: Carabinieri/Handout 

Gary Manners's picture


Gary is an editor and content manager for Ancient Origins. He has a BA in Politics and Philosophy from the University of York and a Diploma in Marketing from CIM. He has worked in education, the educational sector, social work... Read More

Next article