You may, or may not know, Gentle Readers, that we are truly, a nation of poets. But not in the league of Betjeman, Byron et al, oh no.
I’m talking about the unseen bards that leave their thoughts on every toilet cubicle, wall (in fact, any sodding surface…) on our green and fair (?) land.
Priceless observations on human existence, such as:
“For a great blow job, ring 0**** ******” and “Kylie’s a slag and she fucks pigs” – you get the picture. Hardly candidates for the post of the next Poet Laureate.
But is this just modern society isn’t it, you say? Really?
Nay, such literary gems span the length and breadth of human history. Our output pales in comparison to what came out of a society which embodied civilized life. The Romans. With the primary example being Pompeii, researchers have delved not only into the city’s architecture and frescoes, but also all the graffiti to be found throughout its ancient walls. But before you go assuming the ancient Pompeiians vandalized with only the most brilliant bons mots – “Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?” everywhere, forget it.
Here’s a summary of some of the funniest and rudest graffiti translated so far:
At the Tavern of Verecundus, a plaintive plea: “Restituta, take off your tunic, please, and show us your hairy privates”.
The Brothel of Innulus and Papilio witnesses a defiant departure to bat for the other team: “ Weep, you girls. My penis has given you up. Now it penetrates men’s behinds. Goodbye, wondrous femininity!” Ah, so many hearts broken there…
Mr Lover Lover in the Bar of Athictus: “I screwed the barmaid” (now that’s just boasting).
The Pottery Shop/Bar of Nicanor: “Lesbianus, you defecate and you write, ‘Hello, everyone!’ (I’m more concerned about the name myself).
“ Floronius, privileged soldier of the 7th legion, was here. The women did not know of his presence. Only six women came to know, too few for such a stallion”. Well, don’t sweat it pal, plenty more fish, eh?
Adorning a street wall: “Theophilus, don’t perform oral sex on girls against the city wall like a dog (reasonable advice methinks) and: “Secundus likes to screw boys”. A Public Service Announcement, obviously.
Above a bench outside the Marine Gate: “If anyone sits here, let him read this first of all: if anyone wants a screw, he should look for Attice; she costs 4 sestertii.” An excellent testimonial from a satisfied customer – next time, try Exchange and Mart, OK?
The Bascilica: “I could caress Venus’s ribs with a stick, and whip her buttocks with a switch: she pierced my heart, and I would gladly break her head with a cudgel!” (a Times reader, obviously…).
“Chie, I hope your haemorrhoids rub together so much that they hurt worse than when they ever have before!”(gives a different slant to the Roman love of grape-related products).
“ Take hold of your servant girl whenever you want to; it’s your right” – yeah, right on Comrade!
– and best of all, to be found in a Herculaneum bar, next to a drawing of an enormous, radiantly engorged phallus: “Handle with care”. Now there’s an eye-watering offer for you, girls…
In and of itself, the graffiti is interesting. Juxtaposed with today’s society, however, the silly musings say a lot about the tired conservative talking point that modern culture has somehow fallen into immorality and chaos.
For decades now, the likes of the Trump intellligensia (remember Mary Whitehouse?) have made a big business out of pretending that TV, the rise of gay culture, rap music, and dozens of other things have contributed to the fall of a once greatly moral world; all the while seeming to forget that Thomas Jefferson is known to have taken sexual advantage of his slaves, Benjamin Franklin is believed by some to have been part of a drunken orgy club, and the Profumo affair.
Human beings are only a stones’ throw from the base animals that they once were and the notion that the societies that gave rise to the modern world were ones of pure honour and decency, is a fallacy. The world isn’t on a moral decline, because there was never a time when the world was particularly morally superior. If we can glean anything from the Pompeiian graffiti, it’s that even citizens of history’s most immaculate and important civilizations liked their sex and crap jokes.