Tourist Who Defaced Rome’s Colosseum Offers The George Costanza Defense

A tourist carved “Ivan+Haley 23” into the Roman Colosseum, the elliptical amphitheatre at the center of the city just to the east of the Roman Forum. It was completed in 80 AD under the emporer Titus.

Facing five years in jail and a $16,000 fine, 27 year old fitness instructor and British resident Ivan Dimitrov was tracked down by Italian police in England after a five day search. He has apologized, saying he didn’t realize the Colosseum was so old. Presumably if it dated only to the twelfth century the carvings would have been alright?

According to the man’s lawyer,

the boy is the prototype of the foreigner who frivolously believes that anything is allowed in Italy, even the type of act which in their own countries would be severely punished.

He has effectively offered a George Costanza defense: Was that wrong? If anybody had told me that the Roman Colosseum was nearly two thousand years old I would never have done it. But I’ve gotta plead ignorance on this one.

While I generally favor fewer border restrictions, and even in some ways prefer the relatively recent time where passports were an anachronism, I’d have a hard time arguing against a basic test for travel. It would encompass keeping your shoes on in the lavatory and not carving your initials into revered antiquities.

(HT: @crucker)

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. I love the way Gary finds appropriate pop culture clips for these stories. Keep it up!

    Tweet replies are funny too

    “Feed him to the Lions”
    “Must have an an American”
    “Good and who cares, given the “entertainment” that went on inside there”

  2. Ivan dimitrov – British resident .. resident but not citizen. Which country is this idiot from? Obviously one that doesn’t teach history of the Roman Empire

    There are 000s of people – tourists and locals – around the colosseum – most hours of the day. Why wasn’t he arrested and charged whilst doing this heinous act?

    Back in ad..he would have been used as lion bait in the colosseum

  3. This piece of shit belongs in jail and made to pay a heavy fine. Once his jail term ends, he should be thrown out of the country and never ever allowed to return to Italy.

  4. Five years in an Italian prison seems ok, the fine may be a bit light. I hope the damage is repaired. After the time in prison, I wonder if he and Haley will still be together.

  5. I hope this guy gets max sentence, show other tourist not to mess around. I wonder if/when he goes to jail, will the Italian prisoner be kind to him?

  6. @jns

    I believe he actually inscribed Hayley not Haley. Which is ironic that he will be punished for carving the possibly incorrect name. But you deface a world heritage site , punishment is all yours. Enjoy.

  7. Why of course, the age of some historical site dictates whether it can be defaced or not. That is Rule #13 in the “Idiots Guide To Tourism”.

  8. I figure that he should be sentenced to around 3 years of prison work detail, cleaning and repairing damage done by stupid tourists. Then the Italians should deport him to Russia and the Brits can decide for themselves whether they want him back.

  9. Get hi where it really hurts , $$$$$$ pay the fine and a month in jail . And advertise this punishment, the world will get the message from this idiot . Wray if I scratched my initials on his car ?.

  10. Lock him up, teach him about responsibility, and lying.

    Second option, tell me where he lives, so I can throw bricks through his windows, and graffitti his car, they are only “new” no harm, right?

  11. Put this fool in jail and fine him the maximum amount then deport him back to the Eastern Bloc … that will teach him

  12. You know they did some pretty brutal things to people in the Colosseum…..

  13. Cast him out to America, a land of unfortunity. He would become a reality TV star. Thereafter, he would be a rich tourist, putting his name at all other world heritage sites, for the sake of equal opportunity.

  14. So if the Coliseum were only a few years old, it would have been ok to vandalize it? What an idiot. It makes me sad that, at 27 years old, he still thinks that vandalism is ok. Most middle school kids–at least those that I teach–know that if it isn’t yours, leave it alone!

  15. Dumbest excuse I’ve ever heard. Vandalism is Vandalism. What an idiot. Of to prison you go Ivan

  16. Far more interesting is how a different couple in Kansas City were wrongly identified via an Internet witch hunt. They were wrongly doxxed in many blogs, including miles and points, with calls to deface their home and have the “wrong Ivan” disbarred (he is an attorney). Their wedding sites turned into a barrage of public attacks. Yet, of course, few are mentioning this as part of the story given it demonstrates the danger of allowing wrongful attacks on innocent people. My favorite being in Reddit where people were quoted in the comments as needing to find this couple and “if we take a few innocents down in the process, so be it.”

    Welcome to the danger of blogs, shoddy reporting, and allowing commenters to go wild with wrongful speculation. With that in the process the lives that are unfairly altered. But, of course, none of you will ever learn. You will all just blindly fall victim to the next hysteria and becoming armchair detectives.

  17. @George, that Ivan Dimitrov (the figure skating instructor) is 37, not 27, and has lived in the US since 2006. Don’t start another witch hunt like the one against Ivan & Haley from Kansas City, who were also totally unrelated to the jerk who actually vandalised the Colosseum.

  18. “British resident” what an odd way to describe someone, he is clearly not a Brit. Based on his name it’s Russian or Bulgarian or similar.

  19. @Jr
    Dimitrov is Bulgarian.
    Another example of the human detritus who should be sent to live in Rwanda.

  20. Send him to the front line in ukraine or pay the fine! If you know the uk it will be 5 hours of community service, he is a grown 27yo fool.

  21. The “George Costanza” argument??? He didn’t sleep with the Colosseum…

  22. Not to excuse the vandal, but I can’t help wondering “What signs are posted at intervals where tourists can approach the Colosseum?” And if any are posted, are they in languages — French, German, English, Chinese, Spanish, for example — other than Italian?
    We live in an age of barbarians, but that doesn’t excuse the authorities who fail to warn visitors or viewers, of the consequences of despoiling the sites they visit. If those responsible for a church, a mosque, a synagogue, a museum, etc., open that building to visitors, they must alert visitors to the behavior that’s expected. Photographs? Flash?. Covering the head: Women? Men? Removing one’s shoes? Speaking softly? An admission fee?
    Remember, some visitors have never been in such places or the ones they may be accustomed to may well tolerate behavior that’s totally unacceptable elsewhere.
    When dealing with barbarians, those responsible for holy places, museums, etc., are partly to blame if they fail to post the dos and don’ts and in more than the native language of the place. Not everyone speaks Italian, French, German, Spanish, or even English, for pete’s sake.
    Even YHWH warned peoples before he took vengeance. Can we do less?

  23. I have heard in the past about sites being disrespected in various ways by tourists and the responses by locals and authorities. It looks like this man would have heard too and refrained from this activity. What especially got to me was when he saw his himself being filmed he smiled. No shame. No apologetic attitude. I bet when he was found he didn’t smile.

  24. He doesn’t even sound contrite. 5 years and a ton of money is too good for this idiot. What was he thinking? Hopefully he does not propagate…….. Hmmm, that’s an idea.

  25. We need to punish people like him not only in Italy but all country’s as well or we won’t have any history at all. Look what these jerks have allready done to American parks and nothing done about it..Let’s start now before it’s all gone

  26. @Vazir, you cannot be serious. Yes, we live in a world of barbarians. Yes, some places allow certain behaviors that would not be tolerated in other places. But vandalism is pretty universal. It does not take a sign, printed in every world language, for someone to know you don’t carve your name in a place like the Coliseum. This was not some park bench somewhere. If they were visiting it, surely they knew what it was. First time or not, you do not visit a place like this, see all the people flocking to it from around the world, and think it’s ok to carve it up. If someone believes that kind of behavior is ok ANYWHERE, maybe they shouldn’t be allowed a passport. If someone is going to travel to other places it is their responsibility to abide by the laws of that country. Ignorance is not an excuse. And posting signs can’t fix stupid.

  27. Looks like Ivan+Haley’23 will become Ivan+Bubba’23. Ivan should pay the costs he incurred to repair the Coliseum.

  28. Why is it that every news outlet reporting this story has such a hard time with just saying a BULGARIAN MAN. Because that is what he is. He just lives in the UK. Are they hoping to defame the British by insinuating he’s a British tourist? Just say the facts. He’s Bulgarian.

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