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You thought graffiti was a recent invention? Well it's not! It's been around for many millennia and probably won't go away anytime soon. Graffiti provides a window into the commoners of a civilization.

Roman graffiti gives us messages of love "Helena amatur a Rufo" (Helen is loved by Rufus) and "Venus es" (You are Venus) to paranoia "Stonnius nil scit" (Stonnius knows something) to jokes at another's expense "Quid agit tibi dexter ocellus?" (How is your right eye?) greetings "Io Saturnalia". They wrote laundry lists, stories, the alphabet, and advertisements on walls.

Such things give us an intimate look at daily life in Rome. They tell us things that history books and records kept by scribes can't: they tell us about the character of a people that have long since passed into history.

When I was in high school, I took Latin, and one of our projects was to translate graffiti on the ruins of the walls of Pompeii, from a picture given by our instructor. The one that sticks out most in my mind is what translates into

Cornelius made me pregnant!

Some themes never change.

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