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Pompeian Graffiti

The walls of the houses in Pompeii are frequently covered with inscriptions: these are electoral propaganda messages which urge the citizens to vote for one or other of the candidates. At times an entire category of workers (goldsmiths, marble-cutters, bakers, blacksmiths) holds the candidacy. At other times an aspiring magistrate puts himself forward to the people for a particular office. They are written in red or in black and for the most part in capital letters. They were executed by the professional scribes who also dealt with official communications, the sentences of the tribunal, the buying and selling of slaves and public decisions. There are around three thousand electoral inscriptions in Pompeii and most of them can be dated to the city's final year of existence, given that it was customary to rub out the old inscriptions to make way for new ones. The graffiti, on the other hand, are the messages which were made by scratching on the walls of the houses: these relate to the most disparate subjects and paint an extremely vivid and frank picture of contemporary social life: they include risque jokes, comments on a particular person or event, caricatures of famous people, reflections on love, as well as appreciative remarks about a beautiful woman or the pleasure experienced in the privacy of one of the rooms in the brothel. In addition there are several which are concerned with the buying and selling of materials or livestock and the calculation of merchandise. Many refer to the entertainments on offer in the city or are in praise of the champions put to the test in the gladiatorial games.


Electoral inscription Now hosed in Archeological Museum of NaplesElectoral inscription



Originally part of a wall along "a street which led from the gate towards the town", that is to say Via Consolare, the plasterwork features an exhortation to vote for two candidates for aedile, M. Cerrinius Vatia and A. Trebius Valente. We come across the latter, who was elected in 71 A.D., again in 75 A.D. as candidate for the duumvirate. Other similar electoral messages with the same two candidates' names were found along Via del Foro.

 


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