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Graffiti and the Literary Landscape in Roman Pompeii$
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Kristina Milnor

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780199684618

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: April 2014

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199684618.001.0001

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Landscape and Literature in the Roman City

Landscape and Literature in the Roman City

(p.44) (p.45) 1 Landscape and Literature in the Roman City
Graffiti and the Literary Landscape in Roman Pompeii

Kristina Milnor

Oxford University Press

Graffiti in Pompeii should not be understood as illicit or criminal in the same way that they are generally seen in the modern world. Because of lower levels of literacy among the ancient urban population, and a concomitantly different culture of urban texts, the creation of ‘private’ writing in public space was more acceptable, representing a popular echo of the posting of formal dedicatory or commemorative inscriptions by the elite. Individual graffiti illustrate the relationship between such wall writings and the literary tradition as a whole, in particular, canonical epigram. Moreover, paintings paired with texts which adorned the walls of cookshops and taverns in Pompeii show the relationship between ‘popular’ visual and verbal arts. The addition of words to the images suggests a genuine awareness of the role which literary texts could play in creating the urban landscape.

Keywords:   crime, literacy, education, inscriptions, popular art, ekphrasis, epigram

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