Restorers discover colorful frescoes in Rome's Colosseum

Fri Jan 18, 2013 12:02pm EST
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By Naomi O'Leary

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 colorfully 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 colors 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.   Continued...

A wall with remains of frescoes and graffiti is seen in Rome's ancient Colosseum January 18, 2013. REUTERS/Tony Gentile