Monthly Archives: September 2017

Graffiti from the Past

When we think of graffiti, we usually think of spray painted signs, walls and doors with anything from a symbol or word, a hodgepodge of designs to a unified mural. In most cases, graffiti is considered bad, disrespectful, and ugly.

What about graffiti from 1,850 years ago?

These two profiles were etched into a column with other signs and symbols in front of the Southeast Building (built ca. 150 CE) in the agora in Athens, Greece. The profiles could have been drawn by anyone living today. However, they were not.

These copies come from an American School of Classical Studies at Athens agora excavation report. When I saw them I got chills. Who were these people? (I assume at least two, as probably the latter one was added close to the earlier profile.) Were they students at a school? (The Library of Pantainos was next door to the Southeast Building and apparently had similar graffiti on its columns.) Did these people know each other? Did they end up as artists? As philosophers? There is no way to know.

Nonetheless, these doodles are a bridge to people who lived in another time and place.

Goosebumps.

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