Giraffe was on the menu in ancient Pompeii:

“The ultimate aim of our research is to reveal the structural and social relationships over time between working-class Pompeian households, as well as to determine the role that sub-elites played in the shaping of the city, and to register their response to city-and Mediterranean-wide historical, political and economic developments. However, one of the larger datasets and themes of our research has been diet and the infrastructure of food consumption and food ways,” says [University of Cincinnati associate professor of classics Steven] Ellis.


He adds that as a result of the discoveries, “The traditional vision of some mass of hapless lemmings – scrounging for whatever they can pinch from the side of a street, or huddled around a bowl of gruel – needs to be replaced by a higher fare and standard of living, at least for the urbanites in Pompeii.”

O wall

The Romans covered their public spaces with writing: advertisements, announcements, election endorsements, and just plain personal comments.

One of my favorites comes from the basilica in the forum of Pompeii. It’s a tiny poem on the topic of graffiti.

It reads as follows:

admiror, paries, te non cecidisse ruina,
qui tot scriptorum taedia sustineas. (CIL 4.2461)

Which means:

“Wall, I’m surprised you don’t fall to pieces,
since you bear the dronings of so many writers.”

There’s a pun in “sustineas” which means both “put up with” and “hold up” (the English word “sustain” is a derivative). “taedia” is related to the english word “tedium”.

Elogium of Aeneas

Elogium of Aeneas by MrJennings

This inscription, which would have been underneath a statue of Aeneas, was found in the building of Eumachia in the forum of Pompeii. This is a reproduction and reconstruction in the Museo della Civilta Romana. The letters in red are reconstructed.

CIL 10.808 + 8348

Aeneas Veneris
et Anchisae f. Troianos
qui capta Troia bello super
fuerant in Italiam adduxit
bellum suscepit
[…] en […]
[…] lbu […]
oppidum Lavinium condidit et
ibi regnavit annos tris in
bello Laurenti subito non con
paruit appellatusq est indigens
pater et in deorum numero relatus (est)

Aeneas, son of Venus and Anchises, let into Italy the Trojans who had survived when Troy was captured in war. He undertook a war […] founded the town Lavinium and reigned there for three years. In the Laurentine war he suddenly disappeared , and was called Father Indigens, and was received in the number of the gods.

(original photo by me)

Gladiator Graffito

Gladiator Graffito by MrJennings

Sketch reproducing an ancient Roman graffito of a gladiator, originally from Pompeii.

When I went to Capua in 2004, the Gladiator Museum had an exhibit of replica gladiator graffiti, originally found on the podium of a tomb in the necropolis outside the Nucerian Gate of Pompeii. Many of the graffiti show drawings of gladiators.

Another Flickr user identified this type of gladiator as a Thraex = Thracian.

(original photo by me)

Tomb of Aulus Umbricius Scaurus

Tomb of Aulus Umbricius Scaurus by MrJennings

A. Umbricio A. f. Men
II vir i.d.
huic decuriones locum monum.
et HS [][] in funere et statuam equestr.
in foro ponendam censuerunt.
Scaurus pater filio.

[In Latin inscriptions, there is a special symbol which I have represented as HS. It stands for "sestertius". In this inscription, I was unable to reproduce the two symbols that immediately follow the HS. These look somewhat like a modern infinity symbol, and they stand in for the Latin word "milia". Combined, they mean "two thousand sesterces".]

"For Aulus Umbricius Scaurus, son of Aulus, of the Menenia tribe, duumvir with judiciary authority. The city councilors voted the site for a monument to this man and two thousand sesterces toward the cost of a funeral, and that an equestrian statue be set up in the forum. Scaurus the father (set this up) for his son."

Aulus Umbricius Scaurus was Pompeii’s one of the most successful manufacturers of garum, the well-known Roman fish sauce. Approximately 30% of the garum containers discovered in Pompeii and nearby were made in one of the factories of the Scaurus’ family. Scholars can tell this because the containers were stamped with identifying labels, an early form of branding. One container of garum with the Scaurus brand has been found in southern France.

Scaurus’s house in Pompeii can also be identified, since he had mosaics showing amphorae of garum with his name on it in the atrium of the house. Amphorae with some garum still preserved have been excavated in the house.

(original photo by me)

The Elogium of Romulus

The Elogium of Romulus by MrJennings

Romulus Martis | filius urbem Romam | condidit et regnavit annos | duodequadraginta isque | primus dux duce hostium | Acrone rege Caeninensium | interfecto spolia opima | Iovi Feretrio consecravit | receptusque in deorum | numerum Quirinus | appellatus est.

The Elogium of Romulus
“Romulus, son of Mars, founded the city Rome and ruled for 38 years. He was the first leader to dedicate the spolia opima to Jupiter Feretrius, having killed the general of the enemy, Acro king of the Caeninenses, and having been received in the number of the gods, was called Quirinus.”

This inscription, which would have been underneath a statue of Romulus, was found in the building of Eumachia in the forum of Pompeii. This reproduction is in the Museo della Civilta Romana in Rome.

(original photo by me)

N Popidius Celsinus and the Temple of Isis

N Popidius Celsinus and the Temple of Isis

N Popidius N f. Celsinus
aedem Isidis terrae motu conlapsam
a fundamento p(ecunia) s(ua) restituit hunc decuriones ob liberalitatem
cum esset annorum sexs ordini suo gratis adlegerunt.

“Numerius Popidius Celsinus, son of Numerius, restored the Temple of Isis with his own money from the ground up after it had been destroyed by an earthquake. Because of his generosity, the town councilors (decuriones) enrolled him into their membership without charge when he was only six years old.”

Notice that the number six, normally spelled “sex” in Latin, is here spelled “sexs”.

In the book Pompeii: The Living City by Alex Butterworth & Ray Laurence, the authors suggest that this Numerius Popidius Celsinus is the same person commemorated by an inscription found in Spain: “To the shades of Numerius Popidius Celsinus, decurion, well-deserving. Quintus Cecilius his son set this up”. If so, then this is a rare example, possibly the only example, of someone from Pompeii who definitely survived the eruption of Vesuvius. The earthquake that destroyed the temple was in 62 CE and Vesuvius erupted in 79 CE. Since Popidius Celsinus was 6 when he fixed the temple, he couldn’t have been much older than 23 at the eruption.

(original photo by me)