Writing on the Wall: The Intrigue of the Pompeii Graffiti
In 79 AD, Mt. Vesuvius erupted, burying two cities, Herculaneum and Pompeii under ash. 2000 Pompeii residents died.
15 centuries later, Pompeii was unearthed from underneath over four metres of ash. Left behind was a frozen snapshot in time: bodies and objects had been perfectly preserved by the ash. An incredible discovery, it was even more interesting when graffiti was discovered around the city, illustrating the fact that these were just normal people, like us. This article explores the graffiti found around Pompeii. Some of it’s romantic. Some humorous. Other bits should be written on bathroom walls, if you know what I mean.
How many times have you seen graffiti around declaring so-and-so was here? This graffiti is particularly special because it’s so similar to something that would be said now.
“We two dear men, friends forever, were here. If you want to know our names, they are Gaius and Aulus.”
“Daphnus was here with his Felicla.”
I can't count the number of times I've read "(insert name) was here". For me, reading things like this emphasises the fact that they were real people. When they are so long gone, it is easy to forget and think of them as nothing but statistics.
“Aufidius was here. Goodbye”
“Figulus loves Idaia”
“Rufus loves Cornelia Hele”
Once again, very similar to stuff that would be said nowadays.
“If anyone sits here, let him read this first of all: if anyone wants a
screw, he should look for Attice; she costs 4 sestertii.”
See what I mean about bathroom walls?
“Lovers are like bees in that they live a honeyed life”
This nugget of wisdom was found in a bar.
“On April 19th, I made bread”
A bit of a dull diary entry, possibly, but one nevertheless. Found written in the gladiator barracks.
“Atimetus got me pregnant”
“I don’t want to sell my husband, not for all the gold in the world”
“A copper pot went missing from
my shop. Anyone who returns it to me will be given 65 bronze coins (sestertii).
20 more will be given for information leading to the capture of the thief.”
”Methe, slave of Cominia, from Atella, loves Chrestus. May
Pompeian Venus be dear to both of them and may they always live in harmony.”
“Chie, I hope your hemorrhoids rub together so much that they hurt worse
than when they every have before!”
“Take hold of your servant girl whenever you want to; it’s your right”
“The man I am having dinner with is a barbarian.”
Sounds like a text message I got from a friend last week.
“O walls, you have held up so much tedious graffiti that I am amazed
that you have not already collapsed in ruin.”
“Once you are dead, you are nothing”
“If anyone does not believe in Venus, they should gaze at my girl
My personal favourite. Because it’s so sweet. Venus is the goddess of beauty, so the man who wrote this was saying his girlfriend was the goddess of beauty.
There is much more graffiti than this, I have just chosen what I believe to be the best to compile into this article. The Pompeiian graffiti humanises these people that are long gone, and without these shreds of their personality would just be names or statistics, and for that reason should be considered very important historically.