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Insulting Graffiti Carved into Ancient Roman Wall Discovered in England

vindolanda ancient roman graffiti
Ancient Roman graffiti discovered in Vindolanda. Credit:(c) The Vindolanda Trust

Ancient Roman graffiti found carved into a wall in England shows that even the ancients liked leaving insulting messages in public places.

Found in the site of Vindolanda in Northumberland in northern England, the ancient graffiti dates back to the Roman occupation of Britain.

Vindolanda is home to an ancient fort and settlement, as well as countless ancient treasures found at the site that reveal an interesting perspective into the period. Archaeologists have even found a handwritten invitation for a birthday party written by one sister to another at Vindolanda.

Most recently, a volunteer excavating the site found a piece of insulting graffiti located on Hadrian’s Wall that dates back to the 3rd century AD. It features a carved phallus, as well as the words “SECVNDINVS CACOR,” which translate to “Secundinus, the shitter.”

The discovery of the graffiti along this stretch of Hadrian’s Wall, which runs 73 miles (117 km) across England in total, brings the count of inscriptions depicting phalluses on the ancient wall to thirteen.

Ancient Roman graffiti depicts phallus, insult

The graffiti was clearly intended to be directed at a specific individual, and the addition of the phallus makes it even more insulting despite the fact that the phallus was often used as a symbol of good luck in ancient Rome.

Dylan Herbert, who is a retired biochemist, found the inscription by chance during his second week of helping out at the site on May 19th.

“I’d been removing a lot of rubble all week and to be honest this stone had been getting in my way, I was glad when I was told I could take it out of the trench. It looked from the back like all the others, a very ordinary stone, but when I turned it over, I was startled to see some clear letters. Only after we removed the mud did I [realize] the full extent of what I’d uncovered, and I was absolutely delighted,” he said, according to a statement released by the Vindolanda Charitable Trust.

Dr. Andrew Birley, Director of Excavations at the site, hailed the discovery of the inscription as fascinating.

“The recovery of an inscription, a direct message from the past, is always a great event on a Roman excavation, but this one really raised our eyebrows when we deciphered the message on the stone,” he announced.

“Its author clearly had a big problem with Secundinus and was confident enough to announce their thoughts publicly on a stone. I have no doubt that Secundinus would have been less than amused to see this when he was wandering around the site over 1,700 years ago,” he stated.

Archaeologists and volunteers have been excavating at the site for over one hundred years and continue to uncover fascinating remnants from Vindolanda’s past.

Graffiti common in ancient world

This is by far not the only piece of ancient graffiti in existence. The urge to leave your mark for posterity is nothing new, as ancient Greek graffiti carved into the Temple of Abu Simbel in Egypt clearly shows.

Many Greeks of the time were clearly literate, even including the soldiers of fortune who traveled to Egypt since they left their names and historical descriptions of their campaigns on temples and other buildings.

On the imposing statue of Rameses II at Abu Simbel, Greek words and names can be seen clearly even today, millennia after they were left there.

The statue for the great Egyptian leader, who was also known as the “Governor of the Two Lands,” bears clear ancient graffiti referring to the military campaign fought by Egyptian King Pesmatik II in 593 BC in Nubia. His fighting forces consisted of both Egyptian and Greek soldiers, who were led by commanders from each of these lands.

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