The writings on the wall : the spatial and literary context of domestic graffiti from Pompeii
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Over 11,000 graffiti once covered the site of ancient Pompeii, inscribed upon many buildings in the city including houses, temples, and public buildings. Their messages include greetings, proclamations of love and desire, and bits of poetry. These inscriptions have fascinated scholars since the first walls were unearthed at Pompeii in the eighteenth century and this interest has yielded a wide array of methodologies and approaches. As archaeology has evolved over the centuries, so too has the approach to this material. The unique position of graffiti as objects of both philological and archaeological study has necessitated the need for a multidisciplinary approach. This dissertation recontextualizes Pompeian graffiti as artifacts and examines the distribution of graffiti within domestic space in Pompeii including the relationship between content and context. Specifically, this dissertation examines a corpus of graffiti from twelve buildings in Pompeii. I analyze the locations of the graffiti and the rationale for these locations using space syntax, a theory for analyzing the configuration of space. From an examination of their locations, I propose how the Pompeians used the spaces within these buildings and postulate how their use may have changed over time. This analysis indicates that, in general, Pompeians chose highly visible, accessible, and well-trafficked locations in which to write graffiti, indicating that writers of ancient graffiti, unlike many modern, wrote these messages in areas under surveillance. Visitors and inhabitants wrote them in areas where they would be seen doing so. Further analysis of the interaction between graffiti and their context shows that while these messages occupy highly visible areas, they were written in such a way as to not detract from the overall aesthetic appearance of the space. Close study of the content of the individual messages shows how the substance of the graffiti responded to the spaces in which they were written and the other graffiti written around them. This combination of archaeological and philological inquiry allows an identification of types of space and, to some degree, organization of movement within a space, which, in the absence of other artifacts, has been difficult to interpret.