People have been making graffiti since there was writing — everywhere we go we find messages lost in time. Some of these ancient writings give us priceless insight into lost civilizations. Other pieces, though, just give us big lumps of awesome.
Here are 10 pieces of ancient graffiti that show that people really haven't gotten any sillier in the last couple thousand years.
Top image: Mr. Lederhosen on Flickr.
10. "Sydromachos has an ass as big as a cistern."
Someone in Athens wrote this 1,500 years ago. It makes you hope there's no afterlife, because no matter how big Sydromachus' ass was, it doesn't deserve to be what's most remembered about him over a millenium later. On the other hand, it makes you hope that there is an afterlife and you meet the ghost of whoever wrote this. Civilizations rise and fall. Languages evolve out of recognition. Schadenfreude lasts forever. That would be one happy ghost.
9. "Thorni fucked. Helgi carved."
Leave it to the Vikings to carve something like this. It's the translation of runes made in or just before the twelfth century, by a bored soldier who had to shelter in Maeshowe Cave in Scotland overnight. Rediscovered in the 1800s, the runes were not always faithfully translated by guidebooks.
8. The Earliest Recorded Slam Against Christianity
That's someone worshiping a crucified donkey. Guess what new religion it was mocking? We tend to think of the olden days as far more pious, or far more violent. People either converted to Christianity or tried to wipe it out. This shows us that religious mockery has been around for a long time.
7. "We two dear men, friends forever, were here. If you want to know our names, they are Gaius and Aulus."
Awwwwwwwwwwwwwwwww! Friends forever! Screw historical context and everything else; that is just adorable. Sadly, this message was preserved because it comes from Pompeii, but we can just assume that they left the city before the volcano erupted. Maybe they went to a farm, where they have plenty of air and room to run around.
6. "Ingigerth is the most beautiful of all women."
This is also an inscription in Maeshowe Cave. It's a nice sentiment. At least until you consider it's next to a picture of a dog dripping saliva. I don't know. Maybe, at the time, it was considered a great compliment, beauty standards subjective, cultural change, blah, blah, blah. Somehow, though, I don't think this was meant entirely as a compliment. Funny, though.
5. The Pompeii Conversation
"Successus, a weaver, loves the innkeeper's slave girl named Iris. She, however, does not love him. Still, he begs her to have pity on him. His rival wrote this. Goodbye."
"Envious one, why do you get in the way? Submit to a handsomer man and one who is being treated very wrongly and good looking."
"I have spoken. I have written all there is to say. You love Iris, but she does not love you."
This is what happens when you don't have message boards. You have to chisel your petty fights into the wall of a bar in Prima. It takes forever and it defaces the architecture. Puts texting into perspective, doesn't it?
4. The Politician's Head
This isn't a very accomplished sketch. It's just some clueless dude in politics, in Rome, a couple of thousand years ago. The thing is, it could be in the New Yorker in the nineteen fifties, or online today, or scribbled on a wall throughout the last few centuries. It turns out one of the most immortal themes of art is political caricature.
3. "Felicter Pompeii"
This is notable for both its irony, given what happened, and its kindness. A quick rummage through the dictionary shows that the modern day 'felicity' means 'happiness.' This little doodle, scrawled over walls everywhere, says, "Happiness to Pompeii." Clearly, that did not work out. Still, modern-day graffiti artists, while more accomplished than ancient ones, aren't usually as ready to pour out messages of love and happiness to the city they happen to reside in. This kind of ancient graffiti, and its commonplace appearance, are pretty endearing.
2. "I'm amazed, O wall, that you have not fallen in ruins, you who support the tediousness of so many writers."
Why is everyone else on Youtube so stupid? Youtube or Pompeii. Whichever.
1. "Good luck on your resurrection."
Written in Greek on a tomb in Israel. A resurrection was not considered something to look forward to once you had died, so this is both historically interesting and side-splittingly hilarious. Perhaps this was a sincere wish, hampered by an inability to fully express it. On the other hand, maybe this was a bunch of confused people, hearing that someone was going to die and then 'be resurrected,' and skeptically but gamely trying their best to do right by the corpse. "A resurrection, you say? Well. Good luck with that."
Donkey Picture: Wiki Commons
Politician's Head Picture: Vincent Ramos
Via Pompeiana, NPR, WTNH, EWTN, Boston Globe, Orkney Jar and Ancient Worlds.