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Graffiti in the Ancient World

HUMS 150B1

Written Response #14

Graffiti in the Ancient World 

Prompt: For this response, write 250+ addressing what we can learn about ancient Rome from graffiti. How does graffiti compare to other written & archaeology sources from the ancient world? What can we learn about daily life in ancient Pompeii from the graffiti they’ve left behind? What can we learn about Roman values from the graffiti they’ve left behind? What can we learn about the Roman sense of humor from the graffiti they’ve left behind? Definitely tackle the first question in that list, then choose from whichever of the other questions you find most engaging. You'll be drawing almost exclusively from the Roman graffiti reading for this response.

After ready the many graphic graffiti captions from the article, I see that love and sex was a major part of the ancient roman society. The very first graffiti “caption” states “Weep you girls. My penis has given you up. Now it penetrates men’s behinds. Goodbye, wonde4rous femininity” (I.2.20, 3932). That was shockingly graphic for the very first one if I’m going to be honest. But I remember when I went to Pompeii two summers ago, I visited the brothel and I saw different pictures on the wall of different sex positions. You could say that this was the “menu” for the brothel of the different things you could do. But not all the graffiti has to do with sex. There are some about love. For example, “Rufus loves Cornelia Hele” (VI.15.6, 4637). This is one of the simpler and straight to the point love proclamations. 

Graffiti back then is somewhat similar to the graffiti now at days. For example, a lot of times graffiti is from a gang member who claims turf and written will be an insignia of the gang or a phrase. The same was kind of done in the ancient world. I don’t know if they were marking their territory, but some say “Satura was here on September 3rd” (I.10.4, 8304) or “Antichus hung out here with his girlfriend Cithera” (II.7, 8792b). People would announce when they were somewhere and who they were with. 

As far as other ancient graffiti, I am not too positive on how it relates. I know they Egyptians used hieroglyphics which was more picture based rather than words. From doing a little more research, it looks like Pompeii was more written graffiti and other places around the world at the time had more pictures but still had writing.  

Bibliography

Mostly Anonymous. 1st Century A.D. “Graffiti from Pompeii” 1  

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