Glenn Reynolds mentioned this, and I thought it was really interesting. People have been writing graffiti since the invention of writing and this article provides translations for ten pieces of ancient graffiti.
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.
First on their list is from ancient Athens.
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.
How would you like to be remembered like that millenia from now?
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.
I’ve heard of this one before, but I have never seen the picture.
Political cartoons are an ancient art.
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.
Just imagine that as your least favorite politician. I know it’s so hard to choose just one.
And, there is this one.
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.
I could say “I’m amazed, O Internet, that you have not fallen apart, you who support the tediousness of so many writers.”
- Ancient Graffiti (gregoryhamel.net)