How dare they. How very dare they write on those ancient walls. Except that people have been doing so since the 2000 year old ampitheatre was built, creating layers of their own history. Unfortunately, much of it is so over-written as to be indecipherable and not particularly interesting anyway. Kilroy was always there.
Fifty years ago my wife Maria and I read the graffiti on Stonehenge. There was no entrance fee, no attendants and no protective fence. We parked by the side of the road and wandered round the ancient stones one misty day in November with no one else in sight.
The graffiti was not over-whelming but it did stretch back over the centuries. It first appeared as carved axe heads about 3,500 years ago, 1,000 years after it was built. More recent additions include names and dates. Shame on John Louis De Ferre (17th century), W Skeat 1814, Tom Senior 1817 and H Bridger of Chichester 1866.
Actually much more damage was done by the 19th century practice of hiring a chisel and hacking off a piece of stone to take away as a souvenir.
Those wanting to immortalise their name often choose historic locations, but the place to find the most complete, abusive and amusing ancient everyday graffiti is in the streets, homes, brothels and bars of Pompeii, all preserved by the volcanic ash that destroyed the city in 79AD.
Up Pompeii the graffiti was cruder than a Frankie Howerd script.
On a brothel wall is: “Weep, you girls. My penis has given you up. Now it penetrates men’s behinds. Goodbye, wondrous femininity!” By the door of the Bar Athictus: “I screwed the barmaid.” And on a tavern wall: “Restituta, take off your tunic, please, and show us your hairy privates.”
There are declarations such as “Marcus loves Spendusa” and “Atimetus got me pregnant” to the boastful “Celadus the Thracian gladiator is the delight of all the girls”. They include the vindictive: “Chie, I hope your hemorrhoids rub together so much that they hurt worse than they ever have before;” and the explanatory at a boarding house: “We have wet the bed, host. I confess we have done wrong. If you want to know why, there was no chamber pot.”
An omission that would probably have earned the establishment only three stars out of five on Tripadvisor.
Found in the Basilica, the commercial and judicial centre of the city, was a particularly apt observation: “O walls, you have held up so much tedious graffiti that I am amazed that you have not already collapsed in ruin.” They did: soon after, when Vesuvius erupted.
In the latrine of one of the most luxurious houses of the city was: “Secundus defecated here” written three time on one wall. He was obviously a frequent visitor with little imagination.
Inevitably, the early Kilroy was also out and about. On the wall of a house was carved: “Aufidius was here.” His name is still there, 2000 years later.