The Ancient Graffiti of Pompeii
When the cities of Pompeii (79 A.D.) and Herculaneum were suddenly consumed by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 C.E., many of the buildings were so intimately preserved that modern archaeologists can still read the graffiti scribbled onto their ancient walls.
Baths, Brothels and Phallic Symbols
The baths were spacious, lavishly decorated and luxurious. The women’s baths were smaller and had no architectural distinction relative to the men’s baths. There was a pool, a dressing room with benches and niches, a warm room, a hot room with an apse which held a basin for cold water splashes and a cold room. The cold room was a round structure with radiating alcoves, the ceiling was a dome with an oculus (round opening in the ceiling). Pompeii had three bath complexes.
Here’s a few examples that will make you giggle.
Graffiti, the stuff that we sigh and shake our heads at today, ended up being one of the most important primary resources we have about life in Ancient Rome. It’s an honest, uncensored glimpse of how literate Pompeiians interacted with each other. What official history book could ever give us that?
So what was Latin graffiti like? Let’s just say it was colorful. Here are a few examples:
- LUCIUS PINXIT – “Lucius wrote this.” It’s like they saw what tagging would be in 2000 years and decided to out-mundane us.
- APOLLINARIS, MEDICUS TITI IMPERATORIS HIC CACAVIT BENE – “Apollinaris, doctor of Emperor Titus, took a good shit here.”
- VIRGULA TERTIO SU: INDECENS ES. – “Virgula to Teritus: You are a nasty boy.” Saucy.
- SUSPIRIUM PUELLAM CELADUS THRAEX – “Celadus makes the girls moan.”
More Pompeii Graffiti From 79 AD
Mosaic of a satyr and nymph from The House of the Faun, the home of wealthy Pompeian aristocrats.
Most people associate Pompeii with the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD, an event which killed over 16,000 people and “froze” the surrounding area in ash, leaving an entire city nearly perfectly preserved for posterity. One of Pompeii’s more endearing qualities is its preservation of the less respectable (but more recognizable) aspects of humanity and that is its graffiti. Here are some more of its finest, or at least well written pieces, and maybe that’s the most important thing of all to show how little we have changed or perhaps ever will.
(Bar of Astylus and Pardalus): Lovers are like bees in that they live a honeyed life
(Bar of Athictus; right of the door): I screwed the barmaid
(House of Caecilius Iucundus): Whoever loves, let him flourish. Let him perish who knows not love. Let him perish twice over whoever forbids love.
(barracks of the Julian-Claudian gladiators; column in the peristyle): Celadus the Thracian gladiator is the delight of all the girls
(vico degli Scienziati): Cruel Lalagus, why do you not love me?
(Wood-Working Shop of Potitus): What a lot of tricks you use to deceive, innkeeper. You sell water but drink unmixed wine
(atrium of a House of the Large Brothel): Blondie has taught me to hate dark-haired girls. I shall hate them, if I can, but I wouldn’t mind loving them. Pompeian Venus Fisica wrote this.
(atrium of the House of Pinarius): If anyone does not believe in Venus, they should gaze at my girl friend
(vicolo del Panattiere, House of the Vibii, Merchants): Atimetus got me pregnant
(vicolo del Panattiere, House of the Vibii, Merchants): Figulus loves Idaia
(Bar of Hedone (or Colepius) on the Street of the Augustales; on the corner toward the lupinare): Hedone says, “You can get a drink here for only one coin. You can drink better wine for two coins. You can drink Falernian for four coins.”
(House of Caprasius Primus): I don’t want to sell my husband, not for all the gold in the world
(Vico d’ Eumachia, small room of a possible brothel): Gaius Valerius Venustus, soldier of the 1st praetorian cohort, in the century of Rufus, screwer of women
(Vico d’ Eumachia, small room of a possible brothel): Vibius Restitutus slept here alone and missed his darling Urbana
(corridor in the theater): Methe, slave of Cominia, from Atella, loves Chrestus. May Pompeian Venus be dear to both of them and may they always live in harmony.
(above a bench outside the Marine Gate): 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.
(in the basilica): No young buck is complete until he has fallen in love
(in the basilica): Chie, I hope your hemorrhoids rub together so much that they hurt worse than when they every have before!
(in the basilica): Let everyone one in love come and see. I want to break Venus’ ribs with clubs and cripple the goddess’ loins. If she can strike through my soft chest, then why can’t I smash her head with a club?
(in the basilica): Phileros is a eunuch!
(in the basilica): If you are able, but not willing, why do you put off our joy and kindle hope and tell me always to come back tomorrow. So, force me to die since you force me to live without you. Your gift will be to stop torturing me. Certainly, hope returns to the lover what it has once snatched away.
(in the basilica): Take hold of your servant girl whenever you want to; it’s your right
(in the basilica): Love dictates to me as I write and Cupid shows me the way, but may I die if god should wish me to go on without you
(House of the Centenary; in the atrium): My lusty son, with how many women have you had sexual relations?
(triclinium of a house): Restitutus has deceived many girls.
Nuceria Necropolis (on a tomb): Greetings to Primigenia of Nuceria. I would wish to become a signet ring for no more than an hour, so that I might give you kisses dispatched with your signature.
Herculaneum (bar/inn joined to the maritime baths): Two friends were here. While they were, they had bad service in every way from a guy named Epaphroditus. They threw him out and spent 105 and half sestertii most agreeably on whores.
Herculaneum (bar/inn joined to the maritime baths): Apelles Mus and his brother Dexter each pleasurably had sex with two girls twice.
gnudarve: The walls of Pompei were the original internet.
5thEditionFanboy: We two dear men, friends forever, were here. If you want to know our names, they are Gaius and Aulus.
nmesunimportnt: > On April 19th, I made bread
Is that slang for something?
> Blondie has taught me to hate dark-haired girls. I shall hate them, if I can, but I wouldn’t mind loving them. Pompeian Venus Fisica wrote this.
KJatWork: To the one defecating here. Beware of the curse. If you look down on this curse, may you have an angry Jupiter for an enemy.
These guys were intense.
fingerpaintswithpoop: >Let everyone one in love come and see. I want to break Venus’ ribs with clubs and cripple the goddess’ loins. If she can strike through my soft chest, then why can’t I smash her head with a club?
God damn, who hurt this guy?
AdvocateSaint: >I.4.5 (House of the Citharist; below a drawing of a man with a large nose); 2375: ***Amplicatus, I know that Icarus is buggering you. Salvius wrote this.***
The fact that he signed it is hilarious to me
tritium_awesome: The walls of Roman cities were the Twitter of their day.
mikatango: The Romans also graffitied the pyramids of Egypt with things like “I couldn’t read the heiroglyphs” and “Pontus was here”
VIII.2 (in the basilica); 1820: Chie, I hope your hemorrhoids rub together so much that they hurt worse than when they ever have before!
daniellosaurus: Either Secundus was a super popular name, or my man Secundus had nothing better to do than slowly carve graffiti all over town.
> II.7 (gladiator barracks); 8767: Floronius, privileged soldier of the 7th legion, was here. The women did not know of his presence. Only six women came to know, too few for such a stallion.
Also, what’s the female version of a Chad, because this is her
> VIII.2 (in the basilica); 1881: Virgula to her friend Tertius: you are disgusting!