Graffiti in Antiquity
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Ancient graffiti - hundreds of thousands of informal, ephemeral texts spanning millennia - offer a patchwork of fragmentary conversations in a variety of languages spread across the Mediterranean world. Cut, painted, inked or traced in charcoal, the surviving graffiti present a layer of lived experience in the ancient world unavailable from other sources. Graffiti in Antiquity reveals how and why the inhabitants of Greece and Rome - men and women and free and enslaved - formulated written and visual messages about themselves and the world around them as graffiti. The sources - drawn from 800 BCE to 600 CE - are examined both within their individual historical, cultural and archaeological contexts and thematically, allowing for an exploration of social identity in the urban society of the ancient world. An analysis of one of the most lively and engaged forms of personal communication and protest, Graffiti in Antiquity introduces a new way of reading sociocultural relationships among ordinary people living in the ancient world.
world could travel wherever they wanted and almost always met the gods they knew. Prayer and sacriﬁce, libations, processions and votive gifts were the elements of cult that made up the impressive festivals of ancient cities or were performed, alone or in combination, by individuals on their own behalf. Altar, temple and image were markers of space where cult took place. These ritual and architectural forms were almost ubiquitous elements of religion – and all who lived in the ancient world could
Sarnus river, also served the towns in the interior and the villas in the surrounding countryside. The geographer Strabo informs us that Pompeii acted as the port for Nuceria and Nola.9 Their products would be brought to Pompeii, and if intended for export to other parts of the Mediterranean would be transferred to seagoing vessels. More will be said about this later (Chapter 10). However, the crosshatched outline of a boat with ﬁgured prow conﬁrms the importance of maritime trade to Pompeii’s
(more than likely for someone new to Ostia) a passage through the town which gave ready access to the principal buildings in the neighbourhood. If this “reading” of the graﬃto is correct, then the person responsible for this map has left us with a practical reminder of the variable social practices that distinguished this part of Region I – from the sacred precinct of republican temples that border the Via della Foce to the large storehouses of grain to the east (the Horrea Apagathiana et
possessed the money necessary – or shared the costs required – to post the notices. Comparing these painted messages with those commissioned by male rogatores, it is also apparent that women’s reasons for recommending certain individuals for elected oﬃce conformed in large part with those expressed by men – kinship, patronage, neighbourhood ties, economic interest or religious aﬃliation. While there is no evidence to suggest that women actually voted in the annual elections at Pompeii, the
cooperate with the others”.24 As a result, the res publica – at least ideally – possessed a series of checks and balances. By tradition, and until the late republic in practice, the senate held preponderant power, so that checks tended to be stressed by supporters of the people. On the other hand, Cicero believed that “without dissensions among the nobles, the kings could not have been driven out”, nor the guarantees of personal liberty for the people introduced.25 This was later seized upon by