Stolen Roman Marble Fragment Returned by Regretful Thief
Tourists from all over the world visit the Italian capital to see its remarkable Roman remains, such as the Colosseum. However, one tourist was so impressed with the ruins that she stole an ancient artifact from a Roman historical site. She has now returned the piece of Roman marble and apologized. Apparently, it was a gift for her boyfriend.
Employees at the National Roman Museum in Rome recently received a large package. It was posted from Atlanta, Georgia. Inside the package, among packing paper they found a fragment of Roman marble. The Mail Online reports that someone had written on the object: “To Sam, (heart) Jess, Rome 2017.” The relic was accompanied by a letter written in English.
The stolen Roman marble fragment. (Museo Nazionale Romano)
Seeking Forgiveness for Stealing a Piece of Roman Marble
The Guardian reports that it was from a woman called Jess, who was seeking forgiveness “for being such an American asshole.” It appears that she had stolen the relic and had written her message of love on it. According to The Guardian, in the letter the woman wrote “I feel terrible for not only stealing this item from its rightful place but placing writing on it.”
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It appears that the woman was quite young when she stole the piece of Roman marble and that she has now realized that what she did was terribly wrong. Jess wrote in the letter that “It was a big mistake on my part and only now, as an adult, do I realise just how thoughtless and despicable it was.”
Stéphane Verger, the director of the National Roman Museum, is quoted by the Mail Online as saying, “In 2017 she must have come to Rome and took this fragment of marble in order to gift it to her boyfriend.” Apparently, she saw the theft of the Roman marble fragment as a romantic gesture, which she now regrets.
Tourists at the Colosseum. (Calin Stan /Adobe Stock)
She may have decided to return the stolen piece of Roman marble because of the current difficult times being faced by the world in the COVID-19 pandemic. Verger told The Guardian that “The fact is that three years after the theft, she returned it – it’s a very important symbolic gesture.”
Stolen Artifacts from Pompeii Too
This is the second case of stolen artifacts being returned to the Italian authorities recently. A Canadian woman also returned artifacts that she had stolen from Pompeii, which was destroyed by a volcanic eruption in 79 AD. The woman called Nicole sent back fragments of an amphorae and mosaics taken from the ancient city of Pompeii 15 years ago. At Ancient Origins we reported that she believed that they were ‘cursed’ and blamed them for her recent double mastectomy.
Thefts have become a real problem for Pompeii. The Mail Online reports that ‘So many stolen relics have been returned to the site along with letters expressing guilt that officials at Pompeii set up a museum to display them.’
A Mystery Behind the Stolen Stone
The National Roman Museum’s Director is quoted by the BBC as saying “that the stone had little value.” It appears that the message written by Jess to Sam cannot be removed. Because it was written in black marker it has proven impossible to erase. The Mail Online reports ‘Jess wrote that she tried to wash off the message, which she inscribed using a black marker pen. But she was unable to erase the writing.’
The BBC reports that the relic was ‘likely stolen from a site like the Roman Forum, once the centre of ancient Rome and now home to the ruins of several important buildings.’ The Roman Forum was central to the life of the city and the Republic since at least 500 BC. This is where some of the most important speeches and decisions were made in the Republican era.
Part of the Roman Forum. (dragomirescu /Adobe Stock) The piece of marble may have been taken from this site.
It is possible that we may never know for sure where the stolen piece of Roman marble came from. The return of the stone raises some important issues about security at the site, as it appears that no one knew that the relic had been stolen or what monument or site was damaged.
By Ed Whelan