Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Roman Graffiti - lives writ large




You might turn your nose up at graffiti, and sure most of it is pretty ordinary, both in content and style. But imagine if your city was suddenly snap frozen and all that messy scrawl etched on walls or toilet doors became the future's only connection with our present. Would it define us? Would it give hints of our lives? Would any of it be yours? 

Just such a thing happened on August 24th 79AD - to a wealthy seaside town on Neapolitan Coast. It was filled with the rich, those who could manage a few days away from Rome or Capua, and the thousands who worked in the Roman tourism industry. But most importantly for us, this was a town filled with those who could read, and better yet, write - many of them leaving tiny snippets of their day on the walls of taverns, brothels, and even those of the rich. Much of it was full of bravado and a little too wild for this 'PG' post, but here are some of the more mundane and less saucy, written by everyday people living everyday lives. So go ahead, meet someone living in Pompeii through just a few of their words...   


Outside House of Menander: Satura was here on September 3rd

Bar of Astylus and Pardalus: Lovers are like bees - they live a honeyed life

Gladiator barracks: On April 19th, I made bread

Outside House of Pascius Hermes: To the one sh---ing here.  Beware of the curse.  If you squat down on this curse, may you have an angry Jupiter for an enemy.

House of Caecilius Iucundus: Whoever loves, let him flourish.  Let him perish who knows not love.  Let him perish twice over whoever forbids love.

Just outside the Vesuvius gate: Defecator, may everything turn out okay so that you can leave this place

On column inside Barracks of the Julian-Claudian gladiators: Celadus the Thracian gladiator is the delight of all the girls

On Mercury Street: Publius Comicius Restitutus stood right here with his brother

Outside House of Sextus Pompeius Axiochus and Julia Helena: Hectice, baby, Mercator says hello to you

Inside Bar of Salvius (this is an actual sign): Whoever wants to serve themselves can go on and drink from the sea.

House of the Large Brothel: Blondie has taught me to hate dark-haired girls.  I will hate them, if I can, but I wouldn't mind loving them.  Pompeian Venus Fisica wrote this.

Outside House of Caesius Valens and Herennius Nardus: Rufus loves Cornelia Hele

Outside House of Pinarius: If anyone does not believe in Venus, they should gaze at my girl friend

Outside House of the Vibii, Merchants: Artimetus got me pregnant

Outside House of Caprasius Primus: I don't want to sell my husband, not for all the gold in the world

Outside House of the Calpurnii: Crescens is sweet and charming

Small room of a possible brothel or tavern: Vibius Restitutus slept here alone and missed his darling Urbana

Above a bench outside the Marine Gate: If anyone sits here, let him read this first of all: if anyone wants a scr--, he should look for Attice; she costs 4 sestertii (about $100)

In the basilica (the local government administration building - public servants haven't changed): No young buck is complete until he has fallen in love

In the basilica: Epaphra, you are bald!

In the basilica: Chie, I hope your hemorrhoids rub together so much that they hurt worse than when they ever have before!

In the basilica: Samius to Cornelius: go hang yourself!

In the basilica: O walls, you have held up so much tedious graffiti that I am amazed that you have not already collapsed in ruin.

For more Roman history check out 'A Body of Doubt' - live on Amazon now














For more on Roman history check out 'Mischance and Happenstance' - live on Amazon