Jenny's Research of Ancient Graffiti in Rome

From this project, I was able to learn what common Roman citizens valued. Children, like children of today, enjoyed watching sports and idolized athletic heroes. They grew up drawing what they saw in their daily lives: boats, horses, gladiators, and school drills. Similarly, in modern American society, graffiti often is used as a mode of expression for urban youth. The presence of sexual graffiti shows the prominence of brothels in ancient Roman society, as well as the common patronage the brothel enjoyed. This suggests that this business was more accepted in ancient society than it is today. Likewise, the widespread political graffiti, common to what is witnessed today where private citizens and businesses display signs on their properties advocating for one candidate or another, shows how the ancient Romans also publicized their political beliefs. Similar to today, these messages written on buildings provided a means to show citizens the candidates the owners supported in a hope to persuade their patrons in voting likewise, and as a means for businessmen to attempt to earn favors from politicians by advertising on their behalf. Finally, in contrast to the light-hearted Roman graffiti, the early Christian graffiti was very devout: the writers invoked saints Peter and Paul and drew symbols representing Christ. Combined, I observed that the common ancient Romans enjoyed pleasures in their lives such as games and sports, education, and prostitution, and prioritized politics in society. Meanwhile, I observed early Christians prioritized their religion and valued prayer and piety. These values all were expressed in their graffiti. The is relevant as a way to learn about society because graffiti, as a method of communication, is still used in the society of today as a method to understand societal values and concerns. 

  • At the Pantheon
  • Gladiators fighting carved outside of a schoolhouse in Pompeii Gladiators fighting carved outside of a schoolhouse in Pompeii
  • Graffiti traced over to see design Graffiti traced over to see design
  • Math drills on the side of a Roman Schoolhouse in the Imperial Forum Math drills on the side of a Roman Schoolhouse in the Imperial Forum
  • At the Arch of Titus
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