Ancient Writing and Reading: Culture and communication among the graffiti of Pompeii

In the year AD 79, Mount Vesuvius erupted with devastating force, burying the nearby town of Pompeii under more than thirty feet of volcanic debris. Pompeii was wiped off the map, yet below the surface the material remains of the town were preserved in remarkable detail. While best known for its art and architecture, Pompeii also offers a colorful glimpse of daily life and culture through its ancient graffiti -- thousands of messages written on the walls of the city. This talk confronts this widespread phenomenon of public writing occurring in the first century. From public advertisements to handwritten messages, these graffiti reveal members of all levels of society reading, writing, and engaging in this active mode of communication.



Rebecca Benefiel


Washington and Lee University