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July 19, 2012 4:42 AM   Subscribe

Graffiti from Pompeii is a collection of inscriptions found in Pompeii and published in the Corpus Inscriptionum Latinarum. Much of it is not unlike what you might find scrawled in a toilet stall or on a wall in present day - declarations of love, friendship, and sexual prowess; complaints about careless defecators; philosophical musings about love, life, and death; and meta discussions about the act of graffiti itself.
posted by catch as catch can (47 comments total) 66 users marked this as a favorite

 
Every time I read these, I wish someone had translated them into more vernacular English. I doubt this one, to pick a random example: "My lusty son, with how many women have you had sexual relations?"

Also, literacy rates being what it was back then, most of these inscriptions are presumably from the upper classes.
posted by DU at 5:13 AM on July 19, 2012 [4 favorites]


These are great, cheers.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 5:15 AM on July 19, 2012


Oh man Roman graffiti is the coolest! Sadly many visitors leave their own remarks carved in the walls, which has destroyed many examples and makes it harder to map out and rediscover new ones; graffiti hasn't been as extensively studied as other aspects of Roman life in the past, so early excavations often didn't leave detailed notes or pictures of what was once on the walls they mapped. Some other links, if that's okay? There's some neat recent work on this; the blog Blogging Pompeii has even more examples from within the city. This has a comment that lists some older works. Ancient Graffiti in Context
may also be worth a look through your local uni library or through ILL. Here's a great writeup of the graffiti in Rome's port city, Ostia.

Also, some of them actually appear to have been done by children. Others may have been done by adults; these are pictorial or include few words. Outside of Pompeii, the city of Dura Europos has many, many soldier-written graffiti (as well as examples from a myriad of religions) so not quite as class-restricted as you might think-- gladiators and women in the brothel certainly weren't upper class, and they often appear to have written their own inscriptions.
posted by jetlagaddict at 5:27 AM on July 19, 2012 [10 favorites]


*may have been done by illiterate adults, sorry!
posted by jetlagaddict at 5:29 AM on July 19, 2012


Thanks so much for posting additional links, jetlagaddict, these are fantastic. I just thought other mefites might like to snigger along with me, but real info is much appreciated!
posted by catch as catch can at 5:33 AM on July 19, 2012


..many, many soldier-written graffiti (as well as examples from a myriad of religions) so not quite as class-restricted as you might think...

I thought of this objection to my own comment, but from the examples listed:
Floronius, privileged soldier of the 7th legion, was here.

Gaius Valerius Venustus, soldier of the 1st praetorian cohort, in the century of Rufus, screwer of women
I'm not sure what a "privileged solider" is supposed to mean, but presumably it's better than a regular soldier. Maybe he just got promoted. The other guy is a Praetorian. I'm not sure if the elite guards came from the an crustier-upper than the common soldiers, but I'd be willing to bet that having 3 names does.
posted by DU at 5:35 AM on July 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


O walls, you have held up so much tedious graffiti that I am amazed that you have not already collapsed in ruin.
posted by Jehan at 5:38 AM on July 19, 2012 [4 favorites]


Wow, I really mangled that last sentence. It'll probably be the one unearthed by e-archeologists in 2000 years.
posted by DU at 5:39 AM on July 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


Oh man, some MAJOR burns on Epaphra in there.
posted by Uppity Pigeon #2 at 5:41 AM on July 19, 2012 [6 favorites]


FOR A GOOD TIME CALL XIV-DCII
posted by Egg Shen at 5:44 AM on July 19, 2012 [15 favorites]


Sorry, that was about the Dura examples specifically, many of the soldiers had become Roman citizens or were local recruits, I don't know anything specific about soldiers in Pompeii though there's a slight difference between the Praetorian guard and being one of many praetorian cohorts. Three names also sometimes indicates that the person is a freed slave; they take on the master's praenomen and nomen if freed properly by a Roman citizen. Minor quibble! Clearly the ones that are grammatical exercises or political commentary are from more-privileged Romans, but I actually think it's fascinating how much more graffiti exposes of other classes (and women, and children) than what the traditional literary record does.
posted by jetlagaddict at 5:48 AM on July 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


complaints about careless defecators

SHIT PROPERLY!
posted by two or three cars parked under the stars at 5:48 AM on July 19, 2012 [3 favorites]


Defecator, may everything turn out okay so that you can leave this place

I'm assuming that this translates more accurately to "Hope everything comes out all right!"
posted by Strange Interlude at 5:48 AM on July 19, 2012 [5 favorites]


In Phillips Hall back at Carolina someone had graffitied

I LOVE BLACK COCK

Which someone else had found impolite and had altered it to

I LOVE BLACK COCK KOREA!
posted by samofidelis at 6:16 AM on July 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


Mary Beard does a nice write up of Mr Hot Sex, if you're into that sort of thing.
posted by BWA at 6:18 AM on July 19, 2012 [6 favorites]


Is there anywhere I can find the original Latin for these?
posted by ocschwar at 6:23 AM on July 19, 2012


These poor primitive folk hadn't even invented the limerick. It seems so obvious in hindsight. We truly do live in the golden age of graffiti.
posted by Brodiggitty at 6:30 AM on July 19, 2012 [4 favorites]


Romanes eunt domus
posted by symbioid at 6:34 AM on July 19, 2012 [7 favorites]


People called Romanes, they go, the house?
posted by Faint of Butt at 6:35 AM on July 19, 2012 [6 favorites]


Love these!

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.

I used to live in an apartment facing an alley-and-dumpsters, right off of the main campus drag where alllllll the undergrad bars were. Where was this graffito when I needed it?
posted by theatro at 6:37 AM on July 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


SHIT PROPERLY!

rick
posted by Mr. Bad Example at 6:52 AM on July 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


Graffiti like this always reminds me of one of my favorite parts of the Roman Baths at, well, Bath--the curse tablets. Bathers would write curses on thin sheets of pewter or lead, roll them up, and toss them into the water. (Here's a picture of one.) Apparently clothing theft was a major problem, since it's a recurring theme:
Docilianus...to the most holy goddess Sulis. I curse him who has stolen my hooded cloak, whether man or woman, whether slave or free, that [...] the goddess Sulis inflict death upon [...] and not allow him sleep or children now and in the future, until he has brought my hooded cloak to the temple of her divinity.
posted by Mr. Bad Example at 6:58 AM on July 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


"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."

I bet that man wore a fedora.
posted by Kattullus at 7:05 AM on July 19, 2012 [15 favorites]


WELEASE WODERICK!
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 7:50 AM on July 19, 2012 [4 favorites]


Metafilter: The one who buggers a fire burns his penis
posted by Nelson at 8:44 AM on July 19, 2012


The poor translations come across in ones like this:

VIII.2 (in the basilica); 1842: Gaius Pumidius Dipilus was here on October 3rd 78 BC.

It's BCE, not BC. LOL

Seriously, though, why not translate what was written, and then explain how that translates to our system of numbering years?!? I, for one, would love to know how it was that Romans calculated their calendar system and knew what year it was!
posted by kuppajava at 8:46 AM on July 19, 2012


I gather there was a lack of public facilities in Pompei? Or else many careless defecators.
posted by jokeefe at 9:08 AM on July 19, 2012


Sadly poor toilet habits appear to have been a widespread scrounge across the Roman Empire; there are several invocations of Mars in North Africa, for example, and probably elsewhere as well (see: Wilson, A. I. “Incurring the wrath of Mars: sanitation and hygiene in Roman North Africa”, in G. C. M. Jansen (ed.) Cura Aquarum in Sicilia. Proceedings of the Tenth International Congress on the History of Water Management and Hydraulic Engineering in the Mediterranean Region. Syracuse, May 16-22, 1998.)

On the other hand I feel like our student bathrooms (which do already have some Latin graffiti) would be highly improved by additional MAY MARS STRIKE YOU DOWN, YOU WHO DO NOT WIPE THE SEAT and FOR THE LOVE OF JOVE REPLACE THE TOILET PAPER.
posted by jetlagaddict at 9:18 AM on July 19, 2012 [3 favorites]


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.

I wonder how long before the eruption this one was written. If it wasn't long before, the person who was defecating there probably died in the eruption (the writer of the graffiti might have, too). Maybe the curse was even more effective than the writer intended it to be.
posted by Anne Neville at 9:36 AM on July 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


I, for one, would love to know how it was that Romans calculated their calendar system and knew what year it was!
There were a couple of different ways, but I think graffiti at this time would most likely name the Consuls for that year. So 78 BCE would be Marcus Aemilius Lepidus and Quintus Lutatius Catulus. Though maybe they dated it with the name of a local official instead, which I think sometimes happened?
posted by Jehan at 9:43 AM on July 19, 2012


SHIT PROPERLY
CACA PROBE.

Seriously, I was bummed A) first that the graffiti page did not have the original Latin; and B) second that the online CIL database doesn't seem to have much (at least of these Pompeiian epigraphs that I searched for) in the way of extra information.

I do remember in Davies's Europe: a History a small parenthetical section on Pompeiian graffiti, which in fact included one or two of this page's examples, along with the original Latin. I seem to remember one as, "filius salax, quot mulierum difituisti?"--lusty son, how many women have you fucked?
posted by adoarns at 9:48 AM on July 19, 2012


ON THE THIRD EVENING AFTER THE CALENDS OF QUINTILIS, IN THE YEAR OF THE SECOND CONSULSHIP OF NERO CLAUDIUS CAESAR AUGUSTUS GERMANICUS, IN THIS PLACE TULLUS CORNELIUS LEPIDUS HAD CONGRESS WITH ANTONIA, MOTHER OF GAIUS DOMITIUS AGIUS. SHE WAS SATISFIED, ALTHOUGH HE NEVER WILL BE
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 9:48 AM on July 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


Related post.
posted by homunculus at 9:51 AM on July 19, 2012


I, for one, would love to know how it was that Romans calculated their calendar system and knew what year it was!
There were a couple of different ways, but I think graffiti at this time would most likely name the Consuls for that year. So 78 BCE would be Marcus Aemilius Lepidus and Quintus Lutatius Catulus. Though maybe they dated it with the name of a local official instead, which I think sometimes happened?


The complete text of 1842 (well, as determined by Mommsen and Zangemeister) is:

C PUMIDIUS DIPILUS HEIC FUIT
AD V NONAS OCTOBREIS M LEIPID Q CATUL COS
CUM

So A D V NONAS = ante diem 5 nonas and yes, in the year when Lepidus and Catulus were consuls.


If anyone does want the Latin transliteration of any of these, please memail me, I have access to the original volume and would happily scan and email any of them.
posted by jetlagaddict at 10:43 AM on July 19, 2012 [4 favorites]


Anyone know if these were written in roman cursive? Combine that with their tendency to abbreviate words and I'd imagine figuring out what they say is difficult.
posted by benito.strauss at 10:55 AM on July 19, 2012


Anyone know if these were written in roman cursive?

Not an epigraphic person at all but it's really hard to carve cursive letters and I don't think I've seen any real cursive letters in the examples I've seen of true graffiti (literally, "scratched"; some were obviously painted) but even the examples I've seen of the painted political slogans are in block capitals. Some [not in the CIL] were also in Greek or Oscan or other languages, not Latin. This article with Rebecca Benefiel explains that:
Benefiel explained that the graffiti is incised into the wall plaster and all anyone would need was a sharp implement. "It was pretty easy to carve the stucco," she said. She also found that because it's much easier to carve a vertical line into the grain of the plaster and harder to make a horizontal line, the three horizontal strokes of the letter E (a common letter in Latin) were turned into two vertical strokes.


There's also a little more about the tools she uses to help see them better. But yeah, especially given over-writing and years of wear, plus that whole volcanic activity...very tough to do!
posted by jetlagaddict at 11:07 AM on July 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


"On April 19th, I made bread"

Um....okay? Glad to hear that momentous event was recorded for posterity.
posted by adso at 11:10 AM on July 19, 2012


FOR THE LOVE OF JOVE REPLACE THE TOILET PAPER.

They used a communal shitsponge on a stick stored in a jar of seawater.

Communal Shitsponge is the name of my GG Allin cover band

posted by elizardbits at 11:23 AM on July 19, 2012 [3 favorites]


adso, that's the first docvmented statvs vpdate.

Corripe Cervisiam -Homer
posted by vozworth at 11:23 AM on July 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


"On April 19th, I made bread"

Um....okay? Glad to hear that momentous event was recorded for posterity.


The Roman Facebook.
posted by binturong at 11:56 AM on July 19, 2012 [3 favorites]


CENTURION: What's this, then? 'Romanes Eunt Domus'? 'People called Romanes they go the house'?
BRIAN: It-- it says, 'Romans, go home'.
CENTURION: No, it doesn't. What's Latin for 'Roman'? Come on!
posted by illuminatus at 12:36 PM on July 19, 2012 [4 favorites]


Kattullus: ""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."

I bet that man wore a fedora.
"

Eponysterical!
posted by symbioid at 4:34 PM on July 19, 2012


The word square is brilliant.
posted by mattoxic at 10:44 PM on July 19, 2012


The one who buggers a fire burns his penis

for it is written
posted by mattoxic at 10:51 PM on July 19, 2012


For those who have taken a little Latin and are interested in scribblings, I highly recommend: Scribblers, Sculptors, and Scribes: A Companion to Wheelock's Latin and Other Introductory Textbooks. [On Kindle!]

It contains inscriptions from a variety of sources - graffiti, statues, personal objects, etc. It also includes photos and line art reproductions of some of the writings and drawings (e.g. cartoon faces drawn on the sides of walls).

All inscriptions are printed (much of the handwriting is too sloppy to read), abbreviations are spelled out in parentheses, and definitions and grammar notes are extensive. (The PROVERBIA ET DICTA sections also include great, short quotes from Latin literature)

Even if your Latin is very rusty, you'll seldom have cause to reach for a dictionary or grammar book; that information is already conveniently provided for you. This really helps make it a nearly effortless joy to read.

I would also recommend Joseph Solodow's book Latin Alive, also on Kindle. I realize it's only tangentially related, but this is about as topical a reference as I'll likely find on Metafilter, so humor me! :)

The publishers blurb:
In Latin Alive, Joseph Solodow tells the story of how Latin developed into modern French, Spanish, and Italian, and deeply affected English as well.

Offering a gripping narrative of language change, Solodow charts Latin’s course from classical times to the modern era, with focus on the first millennium of the Common Era. Though the Romance languages evolved directly from Latin, Solodow shows how every important feature of Latin’s evolution is also reflected in English.

His story includes scores of intriguing etymologies, along with many concrete examples of texts, studies, scholars, anecdotes, and historical events; observations on language; and more.

Written with crystalline clarity, this is the first book to tell the story of the Romance languages for the general reader and to illustrate so amply Latin’s many-sided survival in English as well.
posted by Davenhill at 12:27 AM on July 20, 2012


Graffiti from Pompeii is a collection of inscriptions found in Pompeii and published in the Corpus Inscriptionum Latinarum

I'm sure this tells more about where I expect to find graffiti, but I read that as "Corpus Inscriptionum Latrinarum" initially.

I will show myself out now.
posted by the cydonian at 12:47 AM on July 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


Jul. 19th was a great day for classics on Metafilter. The next post mentions akrasia by name.
posted by skbw at 6:37 PM on July 20, 2012


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