May 27, 2024

Guest Lectures and Webinars

One of the most enjoyable aspects of being a researcher is getting to share your research topic with interested listeners. Besides an academic audience, many others are also keen to hear about ancient history and past cultures, and researchers are often invited as guest speakers to various events. Over the past winter and spring, I have received unusually many invitations to give guest lectures and speak in webinars.

This past week, I visited Turun klassillinen lukio (upper secondary school) and their ancient history course to talk about Pompeian graffiti. Reija, whose Latin courses I attended during my own high school years, has invited me many times to lecture for her students. I spoke with them about what graffiti are, how and where they were made in antiquity, who made them, and the types of subjects written on walls as graffiti. The students asked smart questions, and we had a great discussion about ancient graffiti. I always enjoy such visits as this.

Lecturing at Turun klassillinen lukio
(photo: Reija Pentti-Tuomisto)

Earlier in the spring, on the eve of May Day, I had the opportunity to lecture at a meeting of the history club at Auralan kansalaisopisto (Aurala Adult Education Centre) in Turku. The topic of the lecture were the many forms of insults in ancient Rome. I talked about the rhetorical theories on invective and the various sources in which insults can be found, such as Roman comedy, political speeches, satirical poetry, and graffiti. The audience was very knowledgeable and asked some difficult questions. The discussion continued for a long time after the lecture over coffee. It was a pleasant way to begin May Day celebrations.

Lecturing at Aurala kansalaisopisto

In January this year, I participated in a webinar hosted by Villa Lanten Ystävät (Friends of Villa Lante association), which also focused on Pompeian graffiti. This was a refreshingly different event because it was conducted as an interview. We discussed the topic together with researcher Elina Pyy, whom I met a few years ago at the Finnish Institute in Rome, i.e. at Villa Lante. We had prepared some questions in advance, but during the webinar, the conversation flowed smoothly from one topic to another. Elina is an excellent interviewer, and it was nice to be a guest at a familiar association's webinar.

Webinar hosted by Villa Lanten Ystävät
(photo: Laura Nissin)

In March, I received an invitation to participate in another webinar. This webinar series is titled Kieli on avain (Language is the Key) and it's produced by the School of Languages and Translation Studies at the University of Turku. It features interviews with the department's researchers, students, and alumni. I was interviewed together with another PhD researcher from our department, Maria Jokela. The theme of the webinar, stereotypes, is common to both of our research topics. We talked about what stereotypes are, how various stereotypes are visible in historical sources, and what role stereotypes play in people's thinking. This was an exciting experience, especially since the webinar was filmed in the university's studio and broadcast live on the university's YouTube channel. The recording of the webinar can be viewed at this link (in Finnish).

"Kieli on avain" webinar
(screenshot from the university's YouTube channel)

It is nice to see that such a broad audience is interested in my research. Such experiences are very encouraging and motivate me to keep working on my research.

Apr 28, 2024

Teaching Martial's Poems

This spring, I faced a new challenge. I had promised to teach a course on Martial's poems as part of the curriculum of the Classics Department at the University of Turku. I've taught Latin and other topics related to antiquity for many years, but I hadn't previously taught this type of course. Both the content of the course and its target group were new to me. While I'm familiar with Martial's texts because I've studied them for my dissertation, I hadn't taught them in a university course before this. Additionally, teaching a course for both major and minor students in Latin is different in its requirements compared to, say, high school or adult education courses, which I have the most experience with.

Teaching Martial

The goal of such a course is usually to familiarize oneself with the works of one ancient author or a specific genre of ancient texts. As an undergraduate student, I remember taking courses on Cicero, Horace, Homer, epigraphy, and Latin at the old Royal Academy of Turku. When planning my course on Martial, I recalled what the courses I took as a student were like and what worked best pedagogically. I also received a lot of good practical tips from other teachers in our department, which I applied in my course. However, I decided not to directly imitate others' teaching but rather to conduct my course based on my own expertise and experience as a teacher.

I had quite a bit of freedom in planning the content and assignments for the course. Initially, I considered what I most wanted the students to learn about Martial's poetry. One of my primary goals was to highlight the versatility of and variation in Martial's poems, including the range of subjects, varied poetic meters, the language of the poems, and their arrangement in Martial's books. For the course text I chose the first book of epigrams by Martial, which we read from the beginning. This book provides a good overview of Martial's poems in my opinion.

Reading commentaries and preparing lectures.
A quote from the collection Carmina Priapea
as context for Martial's poem 1.35, where Martial defends
his obscene poems referring, among other things, to the god Priapus.

One of the biggest challenges in planning the course was assessing how much I could demand from students in a four-credit course. I tried to recall my own days as an undergraduate and the workload of the courses I took. My course on Martial consisted of 12 lectures (each lasting 90 minutes), in addition to which students submitted about every other week a small assignment on the poems for the next lecture. The course also included an essay, in which students reflected, based on the poems read in the course and one article, on topics such as Martial's life and works, the characteristics of Martial's poems, and the comprehensibility of the poems for a modern reader. Additionally, the course included midterm and final exams, in which students had to analyse the content and grammar of the poems covered in the course.

Martial's poems are in many ways a very gratifying material to teach. The poems are usually short, easy to read in terms of language and structure, and each poem usually deals with a clear topic. Teaching progressed conveniently from poem to poem, and it was easy to discuss the characteristics of each poem. We translated the poems together and analysed their language, poetic meters, and content. I particularly aimed to highlight the cultural context of the poems, such as references to other authors, mythology, Roman history, and everyday phenomena in ancient Rome. I used a lot of additional material to contextualize the poems, such as excerpts from other ancient authors, inscriptions, graffiti from Pompeii, Roman artifacts and art, as well as later artists' interpretations of the themes of the poems.

Examples of practitioners of ancient medicine as
background to Martial's poem 1.30 which deals with a doctor.

Although I've been studying Martial's poems for my dissertation for several years, I haven't had to delve into their language, structure, and content as thoroughly as when teaching this course. When conducting research, I mostly read the poems in translations, and I mainly focus on the satirical and stereotypical characters in them. In-depth analysis of individual poems often takes a back seat. However, during this course, I had to carefully consider the grammatical structures, word choices, stylistic features, intertextual relationships between different poems, the relationship of individual poems to Martial's larger body of work, events in Martial's life, historical context, and much more. The old truth docendo discimus or "by teaching, we learn" holds true indeed. During this spring, I've learned a lot about both Martial's poems and teaching a university course.

Here are a few examples of poems covered in the course:

You read him, you ask for him, and here he is:
Martial, known the world over
for his witty little books of epigrams.
Devoted reader, the glory you have given
him while he lives and feels
comes to few poets in their graves.
(Mart. 1.1)

Martial often portrays himself as modest and downplays the significance of his poems, but in this introductory poem, he presents himself as a world-famous poet. The poetic genre of Martial's poems was epigram, which generally refers to short and witty little poems. Usually, the point of the poem is revealed right at the end, as in this poem:

Gemellus is a-wooing Maronilla.
He is eager and insistent, begs her, gives her presents.
Is she such a beauty? On the contrary, she couldn’t be uglier.
So what is so desirable about her, so attractive? Her cough.
(Mart. 1.10)

Gemellus seeks to marry the ugly and sick Maronilla in hopes of inheriting her fortune. Martial often comments on such everyday phenomena and ridiculous characters in his poems. Sometimes he borrowed the subjects of his poems from mythology or historical events, as in this poem:

When virtuous Arria was handing her Paetus
the sword she had drawn from her own flesh, she said:
“I swear the wound I have dealt does not hurt,
but the wound you will deal, Paetus, that hurts me.”
(Mart. 1.13)

In this poem, Martial refers to events during the reign of emperor Claudius who reigned AD 41–54. Aulus Caecina Paetus had been sentenced to suicide for his involvement in a conspiracy against the emperor. According to the story, he did not dare to stab himself to death, so his wife Arria showed him how it's done. Emperor Claudius is also mentioned in this poem:

Tell me, what folly is this? You devour mushrooms on your own,
Caecilianus, before the eyes of the invited multitude.
What fate shall I call down upon you to match
so big a belly and so big an appetite?
May you eat such a mushroom as Claudius ate.
(Mart. 1.20)

The character of Caecilianus is a stingy host who indulges in mushrooms at dinner while his guests watch. Mushrooms were a delicacy even in ancient times. Martial wishes Caecilianus death referring to Claudius, who, according to ancient historians, was murdered with poisoned mushrooms. Dinners are also the subject of the following poem, albeit from a completely different perspective:

You never invite anybody, Cotta,
unless you have bathed with him;
only the baths give you a guest.
I used to wonder why you had never asked me to dinner.
Now I know that you didn’t like me in the nude.
(Mart. 1.23)

Cotta is a voyeur who searches the baths for dinner guests based on which men's appearance pleases him. Such satirical characters were usually fictional in Martial's poems, but the poems reflect real phenomena and characters of Roman everyday life such as drunkards, adulterers, legacy-hunters, and parvenus. Sexual perversions were also a common theme for Martial, as in this poem:

Lesbia, when you turn your tricks, you don’t hide them;
the doors are always open and unguarded.
A spectator gives you more pleasure than a lover 
and you have no use for joys concealed.
A prostitute, on the other hand,
drives witnesses away with curtain and bolt
and rarely does a chink gape in Summemmius’ brothel.
Learn modesty from Chione or Ias, if from nobody else.
Even dirty whores take cover in tombs.
Do you find my strictures too harsh?
I am not telling you not to get fucked,
Lesbia, only not to get caught.
(Mart. 1.34)

The character of Lesbia in this poem is an exhibitionist who wants everyone to witness her sexual activities. The name Lesbia appears in many of Martial's erotic poems and is probably a reference to Martial's poetic precursor Catullus, who in his poems relates his unhappy love for a woman named Lesbia.

Martial also knew how to write on more serious topics such as the good life and friendship. In this poem, he praises his friend Decianus:

If one there be to be numbered with such rare friends
as old-time faith and ancient fame know of,
one steeped in the arts of Cecropian and Latin Minerva,
a good man, truly without guile;
if one there be that guards the right, admires virtue,
and asks nothing from the gods with secret lips;
if one there be that rests on the strength of a noble heart:
hang me if his name be not Decianus.
(Mart. 1.39)

Translations of Martial's poems:

Martial. Epigrams, Volume I: Spectacles, Books 1-5. Edited and translated by D. R. Shackleton Bailey. Loeb Classical Library 94. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1993.

Dec 2, 2023

Research and Conference Trip: Rome – Ostia – Pompeii

My previous visit to Italy had been more than a year ago, so it was time to head back there in early November. I had several good reasons for my trip. I was going to participate in a conference on ancient identities, where I'd present a paper related to my research. In addition to this, I was going to visit a couple of archives to advance my research on Ostia and to explore two recently opened private houses in Pompeii that contained material that was of interest for my doctoral research. My trip was funded by Svenska Kulturfonden and the Finnish Institute in Rome. I'm thankful for their support.

I flew to Rome early on Monday morning on 6 November, and immediately headed to the BiASA archive at the Palazzo Venezia in the center of Rome, hoping to examine materials related to the late 19th century excavations in Ostia. I had confirmed in advance via email that the materials should be available. However, upon reaching the archive I was informed that the archive room I was looking for was only open on Tuesdays and Thursdays. I would have to come back the next day. Calculating that I would have time to return to the archive on Tuesday afternoon, I spent the rest of the day exploring the center of Rome and returned to my accommodation early to catch up on sleep.

A moment of reflection after my unsuccessful visit to the BiASA archive

I had arranged a visit to the archives in Ostia on Tuesday morning to study materials related to my research on the theater of Ostia. This visit went as planned. I had been to Ostia a couple of times before to read excavation reports from the early 20th century (previously in my blog: Searching for the Theatre of Ostia in the Archives). This time I mainly verified some details in the reports and supplemented my notes.

My visit to the archives of Ostia was more successful.
You can see me almost smiling.

I returned from Ostia in the afternoon and hurried back to the BiASA archive. However, this time I was told that the archive room I wanted to visit was only open until two o'clock on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and it was already half-past two. The members of the staff tried to find a solution, and I was asked to wait for a moment. Soon, a person whom I understood to be the director of the archive arrived. She wanted to know what was going on and why I hadn't contacted her in advance. I tried to explain this with my poor Italian. After some discussion and animated gesturing and sighing, she reluctantly agreed to let me into the archive. Two very friendly archivists helped me find the material I was looking for, which turned out to be much more extensive than I had imagined. I examined some late 19th-century photographs and a watercolor painting of the theater of Ostia and realized it would be better to come back at a more suitable time.

At the BiASA archive in the tower of Palazzo Venezia

With Jasmin and Maria at the Porticus Octaviae

On Tuesday evening, I met my fellow researchers Maria and Jasmin, and we went for aperitifs and dinner. We had all come to Rome to participate in the Arachne IX conference entitled "Gender, Identities, and Social Structures in Greco-Roman Antiquity". The conference was organized by the Nordic Arachne network, founded by Finnish and Swedish researchers interested in ancient gender studies. Most participants were from Finland and Sweden, but there were researchers from many other countries including North America and Australia.

Wine reception at the Swedish Institute in Rome

Keynote lecture by Marjatta Nielsen at the Finnish Institute in Rome

The conference was mainly held at the Swedish Institute in Rome, but we also had the opportunity to visit the temporary facilities of the Finnish Institute in Rome. During the conference, we heard presentations on gender ideals, the status of women in antiquity, aging, professions, and ethnic identities among many other topics. I presented a paper on the Roman attitudes towards disreputable professions such as gladiators, actors, and prostitutes.

Me presenting my paper. Photo: Iida Huitula

After the conference on Friday, I took a train to Naples. I had planned to visit Pompeii to see two private houses that had recently been opened to the public after extensive restoration. These houses contain material relevant to my research. I was at the gates of Pompeii early on Saturday morning, rushing straight to my first destination, the so-called House of the Vettii. There I studied wall paintings and inscriptions likely related to prostitution conducted in the house. Similarly explicit paintings have been found only in a handful of Pompeian houses.

The peristyle garden of the House of the Vettii

The backroom decorated with explicit wall paintings,
perhaps a space for prostitutes to conduct their business.

A graffito advertising the services of a woman called Eutychis,
scratched on the wall of the entrance to the house.

Priapus, the god of fertility, painted on a wall near the entrance.

My second destination was the so-called House of the Silver Wedding, one of the largest private houses in Pompeii. It is also one of the few houses where numerous graffiti are still visible on the walls. Many of these are sexual insults and therefore important for my research. I knew the location of some inscriptions, but I had to search for others. A few enthusiastic custodians of the house helped me in my search. We found at least two phallic drawings.

The atrium of the House of the Silver Wedding

A graffito phallus on the wall of the peristyle.
The drawing is only a few centimeters wide.

This room that opens to the peristyle garden has
about a dozen graffiti still visible on the walls.

Calling someone a fellator

It was very enlightening to see these scribblings with my own eyes in their original environment. Many of them were written on the walls of a room located on one side of the large peristyle garden (see the photos above). This room was perhaps used as a dining room, which makes you wonder who wrote them in that particular place and why. As I explored the room, many passers-by stopped to stare curiously at me while I worked. I had conversations with some of them about the wall inscriptions, including a local archaeologist and an American couple.

The Forum Baths were open to the public again.
The photo is from the tepidarium, one of the warm rooms.

Many tourists visit Pompeii with guides whose expertise is not always impressive. During this visit, I heard one guide telling their clients that probably at least 10,000 people died when Pompeii was destroyed. Researchers usually estimate around 2,000 victims. Another guide claimed that the great brothel of Pompeii had thousands of graffiti on its walls. She may have exaggerated on purpose. Only some 120 inscriptions have been documented in the brothel. I also had to correct the archaeologist I met in the House of the Silver Wedding, who claimed that at least 90% of the inscriptions were obscene. Only a few hundred of the over 10,000 graffiti documented in Pompeii contain indecent language. Reality is sometimes less sensational than we would like to imagine.

For the first time I got to climb on top of one of the towers of the city wall.
The view is to the south towards the forum.

Before my trip I had applied for permission to access the storerooms of the Archaeological Museum of Naples to study wall inscriptions stored there. However, the museum never responded to my request, so I had to come up with other plans for Sunday. I took a bus to the western end of the Bay of Naples to visit the archaeological site of Baiae, which was a popular vacation spot for the Roman elite. There I saw the ruins of imperial-era baths, among which is the oldest surviving dome built by the Romans. The acoustics in this round room, later filled with water, were incredible. I also visited the archaeological museum located in a castle built on a hill by the bay in the late 15th century.

The archaeological area of Baiae consisting of multiple baths built on the slopes of a hill

The domed space probably originally served as a frigidarium, a cold bath.
The room has later become partly submerged due to seismic activity.

On Monday morning I returned to Rome by train, where I spent a few hours wandering around the city. In the evening I flew back to Finland satisfied with a successful conference and research trip.

Oct 28, 2023

'Escape from Pompeii' Exhibition at Maritime Centre Vellamo

We visited the 'Escape from Pompeii' exhibition at the Maritime Centre Vellamo in Kotka about a month ago. The exhibition was open from April to September. We organized the trip together with Turku Classical Association Paideia, Palladion association, and the students of Turku Classical High School. Here is a brief report of the trip.

'Escape from Pompeii' exhibition

We set off early in the morning by bus from Turku and arrived in Kotka around noon. Two guided tours were arranged for us for the exhibition, one for the high school students and the other for the rest of the group. While waiting for our own guided tour, we explored the other exhibitions at Vellamo, which were also worth seeing.

Maritime Centre Vellamo

The guided tour was pretty good, but it didn't add much to what one could learn just by studying the objects, exhibition texts, and other materials. The guide also seemed a bit nervous upon hearing that there was a Pompeii scholar in the group. I tried to be encouraging and only corrected the guide at one point when she presented the plaster casts of two victims from Pompeii, claiming that these had been left under the lava.

The guided tour

In my opinion the exhibition was well-executed and diverse. The collection on display mainly consisted of authentic objects brought from Italy to Finland. These included sculptures, wall paintings, inscriptions, everyday objects, and jewelry, among other things. The selection was complemented with items from Finnish museum collections originating from Pompeii, which are seldom on display.

A fresco probably depicting the ancient port of Puteoli (now Pozzuoli).

A sculpture of Dionysus

A Pompeiian phallus amulet that belongs to the
archaeological collections of the Finnish Heritage Agency

The high-quality and clear information signs were written in three languages, and I didn't find any significant errors in them. The museum texts also highlighted recent scientific discussions, such as the timing of the destruction of Pompeii, i.e. whether the eruption of Vesuvius in AD 79 happened in August or October. This question was left open.

The exhibition effectively utilized various multimedia elements. At the beginning of the exhibition, a video installation depicted the eruption of Vesuvius and how people in antiquity interpreted such volcanic phenomena.

The video installation depicting the eruption of Vesuvius in AD 79

Through video material, a maritime archaeological project was presented which involved the recovery of bronze rams of Roman warships in the Mediterranean. One video, projected on a wall, featured a 3D-modeled interior of a Pompeiian private house, while another video showcased colorful Pompeiian wall paintings that might otherwise have been challenging to include in the exhibition.

A 3D model of the so-called House of Caecilius Iucundus in Pompeii.

An creative way to present the buildings of Pompeii and Herculaneum was a video panel lying on the floor. It displayed the locations of the buildings on maps of the cities at the same time as images of these structures were projected onto the wall above. The exhibition also featured a virtual theater mask created by a Finnish visual artist Carine Fabritius, which mimicked the viewer's facial movements and expressions.

A virtual map of Pompeii

A virtual filter representing a Pompeiian mask.
You can try the filter on Vellamo's Instagram profile by opening
the tab marked with three stars, where you will find the filter.
Note that it only works on the mobile app.

There were some minor points of criticism as well. The presentation of objects was not always very clear. For instance, objects retrieved from the Bay of Naples were gathered in a large showcase and described in a rather general manner. The items were not numbered, which could make it unclear for the average museum visitor to discern which among them were, for instance, parts of an anchor, a weight, or a wine skin.

Items retrieved from the Bay of Naples

The connection to maritime activities seemed somewhat thin, even though the exhibition did highlight the role of the Roman navy in rescue operations during the eruption of Vesuvius and the significance of maritime trade in the daily life of the inhabitants of the area. On display were inscriptions that shed light on the lives of sailors, objects related to trade, and a scale model of a Roman merchant ship.

A Roman merchant vessel of the horeia type, 1/5 scale.

I would have liked to see some Pompeian wall inscriptions in the exhibition, but this time they were not included. One at least was incorporated into the 3D model of a Pompeiian private house. The model seemed to be made with enough care that this graffito was, to my understanding, roughly in the right place on the wall.

Whoever loves, let him flourish.
Let him perish who knows not love.
Let him perish twice over whoever forbids love.
(Translation: Alison Cooley & M. G. L. Cooley)

The exhibition was well worth seeing and effectively highlighted the daily life of Pompeian residents and how this life ended so abruptly because of the disaster. We had the opportunity to spend a pleasant Saturday immersed in the world of Pompeii, which is a rare treat in Finland.

Sep 12, 2023

Phalli and Defecation – How I Ended up as Co-author of an International Article

The first peer-reviewed article in which I am a co-author has just been published (available here). How I ended up as one of the authors of this international article was totally unexpected. It was all the more surprising since I had not published anything in English before this and I did not know the other authors of the article. So let me tell you how it all happened.

The phallic stone found at Vindolanda 19 May 2022.

In May 2022, during archaeological excavations at the Roman military camp of Vindolanda located along Hadrian's Wall in Northern England, a curious stone was discovered. It had a large phallus carved into it along with the Latin inscription SECVNDINVS CACOR. Numerous phalli carved into stones have been found at Vindolanda but none of the other phalluses are accompanied by such inscriptions. This fact along with the unusual Latin word cacor make this latest phallus stone from Vindolanda exceptional. The word cacor is clearly related to the Latin verb cacare which refers to shitting, but this form is not attested in any other ancient sources.

My tweet on 26 May 2022.

About a week later the discovery was reported online, and I happened to read the news on social media (available here). I immediately began pondering the engraved text and its possible meanings in relation to the large phallus. The interpretation mentioned in the press release, "Secundinus, the shitter", didn't seem wholly satisfactory to me, or at least not the only possible one, so I decided to share my own interpretations on Twitter. I considered the significance of the word cacor and its connection to defecation in light of other ancient sources.

One of the comments on Twitter.

My tweets were commented on by the user LatinNowERC who was part of the research team that reported the discovery. At the time I didn't know any of these researchers. It seems that my interpretations were in line with those of the Vindolanda team, and LatinNowERC asked if they could contact me via email. Later that same day I received a message from Alex Mullen, assistant professor at the University of Nottingham (now full professor) and the principal investigator of the Latin Now ERC project. She was planning an article about the Secundinus stone and asked if I would be interested in contributing to the article as co-author. Of course I was interested when asked by such an accomplished scholar, and to write about phalli and defecation no less!

I didn't hear back from Alex during the summer, but then I suddenly met her at an epigraphy conference in Bordeaux in August, and we discussed the article idea further. Apart from this conference, the work on the article was done entirely via email and shared files. Professor Alexander Meyer from the University of Western Ontario I have not met in person so far but I hope I will. We worked well together and the article took shape quickly. My part in the article primarily involved the cultural context and the various interpretations of the Secundinus stone.

At the conference in Bordeaux. I would've liked to have a photo
with Alex here but it seems we never took one together.

The article was mostly done by December 2022. We submitted it to the journal Britannia in January 2023, and made the necessary revisions during the spring. The article was accepted for publication in June, and it was published electronically in Britannia on 6 September 2023. Alexander and Alex also wrote a post in one of Vindolanda's blogs based on our article.

Collaborating with international researchers was a great and enlightening experience, particularly because I haven't published articles before this since my PhD dissertation will be a monograph. I got to see how an article evolves from an idea to publication and how the publishing process works. My more experienced colleagues were encouraging and I felt that my expertise in ancient phalli and scatology had a concrete impact on this publication. It was also great to see how these topics connect researchers from different parts of the world.

Thank you Alex and Alex for this opportunity!

Aug 28, 2023

Poems in Pompeian Graffiti

There are numerous poems among the Pompeian graffiti. Many of them are quotes from well-known Roman authors such as Vergil but some of them seem to be original creations of graffito writers in Pompeii. Many of the poems had attained almost proverbial status and recurred in Pompeii and elsewhere in the Roman empire.

A typical characteristic of ancient poetry was the use of poetic meters. The most popular meters in Pompeii were the elegiac and iambic meters but many other poetic meters were used as well. Some of the poems in Pompeian graffiti are metrically irregular and faulty, and the metricality of some graffiti is debatable.

CIL IV = Corpus inscriptionum Latinarum, vol. 4, Berlin, 1871–.

CIL IV 1227
Venimus huc cupidi multo magis hire (cupimus)
    ut liceat nostros visere Roma Lares.
We came here desiring; so much more we desire to go so that we might be permitted, Rome, to see our homes.
Elegiac couplet. Translation: Milnor 2014, 183.
This poem is repeated in various forms in Pompeii and elsewhere, e.g. Pompeii: CIL IV 2995, 6697, 8231a, 8891, 9849, 10065a; Herculaneum: CIL IV 10640; Narbonne: AE 1997, 1068.
CIL IV 1516
hic ego nu[nc f]utui formosa(m) fo[r]ma puella(m)
    laudata(m) a multis set lutus intus {e}erat
Here I've at last screwed a beautiful girl, praised by many, but inside there was a mudhole.
Elegiac couplet. Translation: Varone 2002, 119.
The beginning of this graffito is repeated in CIL IV 1517.
CIL IV 1520
Candida me docuit nigras odisse puellas.
Odero se potero, se non invitus amabo.
Scripsit Venus Fisica Pompeiana.
Blondie has taught me to hate dark girls. I shall hate them, if I can, but I wouldn’t mind loving them. Pompeian Venus Fisica wrote this.
Two dactylic hexameters. Translation: Cooley 2014, 102.
The graffito or the beginning of it is repeated in e.g. CIL IV 1526, 1528 and 9847. The poem is a combination and an adaptation of verses by Propertius and Ovid: Prop. 1,1,5: donec me docuit castas odisse puellas; Ovid. Am. 3,11,35-36: odero, si potero; si non, invitus amabo.
CIL IV 1595
[Ser]pentis lusus si qui sibi forte notavit,
    Sepumius iuvenis quos fac(i)t ingenio,
spectator scaenae sive es studiosus e[q]orum:
    sic habeas [lanc]es se[mp]er ubiq[ue p]a[res]
If anyone has chanced to observe the snake-game, In which young Sepumius has shown his skill, Whether you are a spectator of the theatrical stage or a devotee of horses, May you always have balance equal to his everywhere.
Elegiac couplets. Translation: Cooley 2014, 106.
The graffito was written in the form of a meandering snake. See photo.
CIL IV 1820
Chie opto tibi ut refricent se ficus tuae ut peius ustulentur quam ustulatae sunt Chios, I hope your piles again become sore, So that they smart more than they smarted before.
Iambic senarius. Translation: Cooley 2014, 109.
CIL IV 1882
accensum qui pedicat urit mentulam Anyone who buggers the "inflamed", burns his organ.
Iambic senarius. Translation: Varone 2002, 122.
The word accensus can be a proper name Accensus, or it can refer to a Roman magistrate's attendant or a person suffering from some sort of inflammation. The joke is likely based on these multiple meanings of the word.
CIL IV 1884
qui verpam vissit quid cenasse illum putes The man who shits a dick–what would you think he dined on?
Iambic senarius. Translation: Milnor 2014, 178.
The verb vissit has often been interpreted as visit 'to visit', but the verb vissire means to fart (Adams 1982, 249).
CIL IV 1904
Admiror o parie{n}s te non cecidisse ruinis
    qui tot scriptorum taedia sustineas
I admire you, wall, for not having collapsed at having to carry the tedious scribblings of so many writers.
Elegiac couplet. Translation: Cooley 2014, 110.
This verse is repeated in e.g. CIL IV 2461 ja 2487.
CIL IV 1939
[[- - -]] fu{e}ere quondam `Virei ́ opulentissumi non ideo tenuerunt in manu sceptrum pro mutunio itidem quod tu factitas cottidie in manu penem tenes
Once upon a time the wealthy family of the Vibii lived in Pompeii (?), but they did not hold in their hands the sceptre like a member, as you do every single day, when you hold your penis in your hand.
Trochaic septenarius. Translation: Varone 2002, 93.
The word missing in the beginning has variously been conjectured as e.g. Romai (CIL IV, ad loc.) and Pum[pei]s (Varone 2002). The family named in the graffito has long been read as Vibii but according to Antonio Varone and Heikki Solin it is Virei (CIL IV addenda, s. 1717).
CIL IV 2360
amat qui scribet pedicatur qui leget qui opscultat prurit paticus est qui praeterit ursi me comedant et ego verpa(m?) qui lego He loves, the one who writes; the one who reads is fucked, The critic wants it bad. Who passes by? He sucks. Bears eat me! I’m the reader and a dickhead too.
Iambic senarius. Translation: Milnor 2014, 243 footnote 28.
The last line can also be read et ego verpa(m) qui lego 'I who read eat the cock'.
The same text is repeated in CIL IV 4008.
CIL IV 2416
Miccio ciocio [t]u [t]uo patri cacanti confregisti peram. // Miccionis statum cosiderate Miccio, huckster, you depleted the wallet of your shitting father. – Reflect upon the position of Miccio.
The beginning seems to be a trochaic dimeter. Translation: Levin-Richardson 1995, 230.
For different interpretations of the word ciocio see CIL IV addenda p. 1767–1768.
CIL IV 3948
talia te fallant utinam medacia copo
    tu vedes acuam et bibes ipse merum
If only such lies would deceive you, innkeeper: you sell water to others but drink unmixed wine yourself.
Elegiac couplet. Translation: Joonas Vanhala.
CIL IV 4091
Quisquis amat valeat pereat qui nescit amare.
    Bis tanto pereat quisquis amare vetat.
Whoever loves, let him flourish. Let him perish who knows not love. Let him perish twice over whoever forbids love.
Elegiac couplet. Translation: Cooley 2014, 103.
This verse is repeated several times in Pompeii, e.g. CIL IV 1173, 3199, 5272, 9130 and 9202. Also found in Rome.
CIL IV 4235
Barbara barbaribus barbarant barbara barbis
Dactylic hexameter. A nonsense poem that is impossible to translate.
CIL IV 4832
[A]rma virumque cano Troia(e) qui primus ab oris I sing of arms and the man who first from the land of Troy...
Dactylic hexameter. Translation: Joonas Vanhala.
The beginning of Vergil's Aeneid is repeated several times in Pompeian graffiti. See also CIL IV 9131 which parodies this verse.
CIL IV 4957
Miximus in lecto fateor peccavimus hospes,
    si dices quare, nulla matella fuit.
We peed in the bed. I confess it, we made a mistake, my host. | If you should ask, “why [did you do it]?”—there wasn’t a chamber pot.
Elegiac couplet. Translation: Milnor 2014, 27.
Written close to a door leading into a possible inn (VIII 6,7). Read more on Twitter.
CIL IV 4966
[quid f]it? vi me, oculei, posquam deducxstis in ignem
    [no]n ob vim vestreis largificatis geneis.
[porr]o non possunt lacrumae restinguere flamam,
    [hae]c os incendunt tabificantque animum.
What is happening? Alas, eyes, first you led me into the fire, Now of your own accord you give generously to your cheeks. But tears cannot put out the flame; They inflame the face and melt the spirit.
Elegiac couplets. Translation: Cooley 2014, 102.
The poem is signed Tiburtinus epoese 'Tiburtinus made (this)'. It is assumed that this Tiburtinus also wrote CIL IV 4967–4973 on the same wall.
CIL IV 5296
O utinam liceat collo complexa tenere
    braciola et teneris oscula ferre label-
lis. I nunc ventis tua gaudia pupula crede.
    Crede mihi levis est natura virorum.
Saepe ego cu(m) media vigilare(m) perdita nocte
    haec mecum medita(n)s: multos Fortuna quos
supstulit alte, hos modo proiectos subito
    praecipitesque premit. Sic Venus ut subito
co(n)iunxit corpora amantum dividit lux et se AAREES quid AAM
Oh, if only I could hold your sweet arms around my neck In an embrace and place kisses on your tender lips. Go now, entrust your joys to the winds, my darling, Believe me, fickle is the nature of men. Often I have been wakeful in the middle of a wasted night Thinking these things to myself: many men whom Fortune has raised up on high, Now suddenly rush headlong, and fall, overwhelmed by her. In this way when Venus has suddenly joined together lovers’ bodies, Light parts them and [–]
Elegiac couplets. Translation: Cooley 2014, 103.
Most likely a woman writing to another woman (Milnor 2014, 191–224). See photo.
CIL IV 7065
aedilem Proculam [[CR]] cunctorum turba probavit
    hoc pudor ingenuus postulat et pietas
The entire crowd has approved of Procula as aedilis. This is demanded by innate bashfulness and dutifulness.
Elegiac couplet. Translation: Kruschwitz 2010, 165.
Procula is a name of a woman which makes this graffito peculiar since women couldn't be elected in public office. It has been proposed that the graffito is mocking a man named Proculus. Several men named Proculus are known to have run for or held office in Pompeii.
CIL IV 8899
Hospes adhuc tumuli ni meias ossa prec[antur]
    nam si vis (h)uic gratior esse, caca.
Urticae monumenta vides: discede cacator.
    Non est hic tutum culu(m) aperire tibi.
Guest, do not urinate against this tomb, the bones beg you, for, if you wish to be more pleasing to this man, shit. You look upon the monuments of Urtica [‘Nettle’]; go away, shitter. It is not safe for you to open your ass here.
Elegiac couplets. Translation: Milnor 2014, 65.
CIL IV 9131
Fullones ululamque cano, non arma virumque I sing of fullers and an owl, not of arms and a man.
Dactylic hexameter. Translation: Cooley 2014, 101.
This verse is a prody of the beginning of Vergil's Aeneid. See CIL IV 4832 above.
CIL IV 9246
[H]ic ego cum domina resoluto clune [p]er[e]gi, [- - -]d versu scribere [tu]r[p]e fuit Here I have penetrated my lady's open buttocks; but it was vulgar of me to write these verses.
Elegiac couplet. Translation: Varone 2002, 74–75.


Adams 1982 = J. N. Adams, The Latin Sexual Vocabulary, London: Duckworth.

Cooley 2014 = A. Cooley, Pompeii and Herculaneum: a Sourcebook, London: Routledge.

Kruschwitz 2010 = P. Kruschwitz, "Romanes eunt domus! Linguistic Aspects of the Sub-Literary Latin in Pompeian Wall Inscriptions" in The Language of the Papyri, ed. by T. V. Evans & D. Obbink, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 156–170.

Levin-Richardson 2015 = S. Levin-Richradson, "Bodily Waste and Boundaries in Pompeian Graffiti" in Ancient Obscenities: Their Nature and Use in the Ancient Greek and Roman Worlds, ed. by D. M. Dutsch & A. Suter, Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 225–254.

Milnor 2014 = K. Milnor, Graffiti and the Literary Landscape in Roman Pompeii, Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Varone 2002 = A. Varone, Erotica Pompeiana : Love Inscriptions on the Walls of Pompeii (Studia archaeologica 116), Roma: ”L’Erma” di Bretschneider.

AE L'Année épigraphique