Exploring Pompeii's Ancient Graffiti

Headshot of Abigail Stupar.
Abigail Stupar
May 22, 2023
Walls of Pompeii

Pompeii was my first historical interest; I’ve been wanting to visit since I was a child, and suddenly a few weeks ago there I was, in the ancient ruins. I surprised myself with what I found most interesting, though. I found myself entranced by the ancient graffiti, some out in the open and some far more hidden, that unlocked secrets of Pompeii’s daily life.

The ancient graffiti of Pompeii is an intriguing testament to the thoughts and desires of its inhabitants. It provides an intimate glimpse into the richness of ancient Roman society, and it allows us to connect with the people who once walked the streets of this vibrant city. What makes Pompeii's graffiti so fascinating to me compared to preserved ancient texts is its raw, unfiltered nature. Unlike formal inscriptions and official records, graffiti reflects the spontaneous expressions of individuals, capturing their joys, frustrations, opinions, and even humor. The graffiti covers a wide range of topics, including politics, love, commerce, entertainment, and often explicit content. It showcases the diversity of voices and perspectives that existed within the community, revealing the complex social dynamics of the time. This informal form of communication offers a more relatable and personal connection to the people who lived through the cataclysmic eruption of Mount Vesuvius. Studying and deciphering these inscriptions unveils the humanity, emotions, and complexities of a civilization long gone, leaving us with a profound appreciation for the vivid and dynamic history etched onto Pompeii's walls. It’s so incredibly human.

There’s lots of graffiti in Pompeii, but I’m compiling a list of some of my personal favorites here. Of course, much of the graffiti that covers Pompeii is of explicit humor, so in my PG blog I unfortunately won’t be able to include those particular pieces; however, I recommend looking them up for a good laugh (and an interesting look into the various senses of humor of ancient Rome).

That being said, here are 27 fascinating pieces of graffiti you can find in Pompeii:

  1. "Cave canem" (Beware of the dog)

Location: House of the Tragic Poet, entrance corridor


  1. "Salve, lucru" (Hello, light)

Location: House of the Surgeon, entrance hallway


  1. "Veneri amatorem" (To Venus, a lover)

Location: Numerous places throughout the city


  1. "Quisquis amat, veniat" (Let whoever loves come)

Location: Various walls and buildings in Pompeii


  1. "Hic Habitat Felicitas" (Happiness resides here)

Location: House of the Chaste Lovers, entrance


  1. "Invenies in aqua pura vitae" (You will find life in pure water)

Location: Fountain near the House of the Tragic Poet


  1. "Aediles mustatelli" (The black-haired aediles)

Location: Graffiti referencing political figures in the Forum area


  1. "Panem et Circenses" (Bread and circuses)

Location: Various walls and buildings throughout Pompeii


  1. "Fama est de me" (Rumors are about me)

Location: Lupanar (brothel) in Pompeii


  1. "Spectacula tantum" (Spectacles only)

Location: Graffiti referring to the Amphitheater in Pompeii


  1. "Hannibal dentro" (Hannibal is inside)

Location: Graffiti referring to gladiatorial games in the Amphitheater


  1. "Agnomen Gama" (Nickname Gama)

Location: Forum Baths, changing room


  1. "Felici iuventutis" (To the happiness of youth)

Location: House of the Centenary, near the entrance


  1. "Fortuna abest" (Fortune is absent)

Location: House of the Faun, near the atrium


  1. "Amor est vitium" (Love is a vice)

Location: Villa of the Mysteries, peristyle area


  1. "Nihil curo de ista tua stulta superstitione" (I don't care about your silly superstition)

Location: House of Caecilius Iucundus, entrance


  1. "Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?" (Who watches the watchmen?)

Location: Various walls in Pompeii


  1. "Alea iacta est" (The die is cast)

Location: Lupanar (brothel) in Pompeii


  1. "Roma caput mundi" (Rome, capital of the world)

Location: Various walls and buildings throughout Pompeii


  1. "Ceteris paribus" (All other things being equal)

Location: House of the Silver Wedding, peristyle area


  1. "Vivere est cogitare" (To live is to think)

Location: Villa of the Mysteries, triclinium (dining area)


  1. "In vino veritas" (In wine, there is truth)

Location: Taverns and drinking establishments


  1. "Ut vales, valeo" (As you are strong, so am I)

Location: House of the Golden Cupids, entrance


  1. "Nolite rogare quam feci, aut quaero" (Do not ask what I did, or I will ask)

Location: Various walls and buildings in Pompeii


  1. "Amor vincit omnia" (Love conquers all)

Location: House of the Centenary, triclinium (dining area)


  1. "Felix et perpetua" (Happy and forever)

Location: House of the Tragic Poet, atrium


  1. "Vivamus, mea Lesbia, atque amemus" (Let us live, my Lesbia, and let us love)

Location: House of the Vettii, peristyle garden


As you venture through Pompeii, keep an eye out for these fascinating pieces of graffiti. Each inscription is like a puzzle piece that adds to the larger picture of Pompeii's past. They are reminders that the people who lived here were not just figures in history books, but real individuals with their own stories to tell. So, take a moment to read the inscriptions, to immerse yourself in the ancient world, and to appreciate the humanity that still echoes through these ancient walls. And don’t forget to look up the less PG-rated pieces of graffiti that paint the ancient city, too!

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Headshot of Abigail Stupar.

Abigail Stupar

I'm Abigail, a junior studying English and music at Macalester College, and I'll be in Milan, Italy for the spring semester. This is my first time leaving the country, and I want to share my experience as a low-income never-traveled-like-this-before student with you. My interests include writing stories, making art, writing music, learning languages, and exploring the outdoors.

2023 Spring
Home University:
Macalester College
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