11 Colorful Phrases From Ancient Roman Graffiti

Image credit: 
Flickr user Roller Coaster Philosophy

When the cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum were suddenly consumed by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 C.E., many of their buildings were so intimately preserved that modern archaeologists can even read the graffiti scribbled onto their ancient walls. See if any of these remind you of a twenty-first century bathroom.

1. “Philiros spado.”

"Phileros is a eunuch."

2. Lucius Pinxit.”

"Lucius wrote this."

3. “Apollinaris, medicus Titi Imperatoris hic cacavit bene.”

“Apollinaris, doctor to the emperor Titus, had a good crap here.” In Latin profanity, “cacatne” pertained to defecation.

4. “Oppi, emboliari, fur, furuncle.”

“Oppius, you’re a clown, a thief, and a cheap crook.”

5. “Miximus in lecto. Faetor, peccavimus, hospes. Si dices: quare? Nulla matella fuit.”

“We have wet the bed. I admit, we were wrong, my host. If you ask ‘why?’ There was no chamber pot.” Found inside an inn.

6. “Virgula Tertio su: Indecens es.”

“Virgula to Teritus: You are a nasty boy.”

7. “Epaphra, glaber es.”

"Epaphra, you are bald."

8. “Talia te fallant utinam medacia, copo: tu vedes acuam et bibes ipse merum.”

“If only similar swindling would dupe you, innkeeper: you sell water, and drink the undiluted wine yourself.”

9. “Vatuan aediles furunculi rog.”

“The petty thieves request the election of Vatia as adele.” In ancient Pompeii, an “adele” was an elected official who supervised markets and local police, among other things.

10. “Suspirium puellam Celadus thraex.”

“Celadus makes the girls moan.”

11. “Admiror, O paries, te non cecidisse, qui tot scriptorium taedia sustineas.”

“I wonder, O wall, that you have not yet collapsed, so many writers’ clichés do you bear.” This phrase seems to have been a popular one, as slightly different versions of it appear in multiple locations throughout Pompeii’s ruins.

In the interest of avoiding hardcore lewdness and profanity, I’ve omitted some of the truly vulgar defacements. For some firmly NSFW examples, do go here.

These quotes were were recorded in a comprehensive, multi-volume collection of Latin inscriptions called Corpus Inscriptionum Latinarum, which was first published in in 1857. Image credit: Flickr user Roller Coaster Philosophy.

January 11, 2013 - 12:05am
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