The explicit graffiti of Ancient Rome

The ‘high culture’ of Ancient Rome

Ancient Rome is one of the cornerstones of ancient civilizations. The culture of this race was one of the founding pillars of modern civilization.

Therefore, the art of such a nation would be fundamental to modern-day art and culture due to the influence it would cause. Roman Culture was famous for its use of frescoes and marble statues, that decorated their magnificent architecture, but there was another, lesser-known, more public form of art spread throughout the Empire.

Graffiti as a form of expression

Graffiti today is seen today as either a liberal art or as a scourge. However, it is mostly agreed that it can be a form of expression for the general public, with some of these works being pieces of commentary on social issues. In Ancient Rome, one can say that the situation regarding graffiti was one of a similar nature to today.

Ancient Roman culture was more than what most people expect it to be. It can be said that most of the graffiti done in Rome was crude or simple. They could be anything, from offences directed towards particular people to boasting, to comments about the quality of an inn or a restaurant.


Ancient Romans may not have had Twitter but this did not keep them from calling out others:

  • “Oppi, emboliari, fur, furuncle.”, which means, “Oppius, you’re a clown, a thief, and a cheap crook.
  • “Philiros spado.”, which means, “Phileros is a eunuch.” Short and sweet.

Inn Reviews

Back then, Tripadvisor obviously didn’t exist. That didn’t stop the Ancient Romans from commenting about the services they would have received from an establishment. The following are comments left in inns:

  • “Talia te fallant utinam medacia, copo: tu vedes acuam et bibes ipse merum”, which means, “If only similar swindling would dupe you, innkeeper: you sell water, and drink the undiluted wine yourself.
  • “Miximus in lecto. Faetor, peccavimus, hospes. Si dices: quare? Nulla matella fuit”, which means, “We have wet the bed. I admit we were wrong, my host. If you ask ‘why?’ There was no chamber pot.

Raunchy comments

Finally, there were also some extremely crude ones. Apart from messages and phrases, Romans created many images through their graffiti. Being plain and simple, a lot were of a crude and phallic kind. For example:

  • “Suspirium puellam Celadus thraex”, meaning “Celadus makes the girls moan.” Certainly this one was full of himself.
  • “Habes sum pincerna,” meaning “I screwed the barmaid.

For more examples on the explicit side check out this list of ‘bawdy graffiti’.

If we look at these, we realise that civilization hasn’t changed that much. The graffiti of Ancient Rome is surely an insightful look into the general everyday life of these people. After all, we are only an evolution of our past selves.


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