The earthquake that damaged Pompeii on February 5 62 CE was probably the writing on the wall. But unaware of the devastation that would befall them in the volcanic eruption of 79 CE, Pompeiians carried on. With no access to social media, they posted their thoughts by literally writing on the walls.
The eruption of Mount Vesuvius submerged Pompeii and nearby Herculaneum under volcanic ash. The ash preserved an extraordinary amount of buildings and artifacts, allowing future generations unique insight into the lives of Pompeiians prior to the eruption.
Excavations at Pompeii revealed erotic imagery abounded in the everyday life of Pompeiians. Oversize dicks were everywhere, thought to bring good luck. Of course, these days, some regard an oversize dick as good luck in itself.
Erotic painting decorated brothels and private residences – including gay and bisexual erotic art. With no porn flicks on offer, men commissioned MMF murals and the like for their bedroom walls. And then there was graffiti — lots and lots of graffiti.
Male sex workers
In brothels, the writing on the wall often consisted of menus or price lists. Male and female sex workers, usually slaves, offered five varieties of sex: vaginal, active or passive anal, cunnilingus, and blowjobs. Most services cost about the same as a loaf of bread.
Free Roman male citizens could have sex with anyone except fellow citizens, male or female, so long as they topped. However, brothel menus offered active anal sex meaning there probably was a market for it.
Unlike cunnilingus. Although listed on menus, it’s doubtful male slaves provided that service for female customers. Roman women were forbidden from sex with slaves.
One inscription does promise that “Maritimus licks your vulva for 4 As. He is ready to serve virgins as well.”
But we can be reasonably certain Romans did not take their daughters to brothels for deflowering by slaves. Maritimus either scrawled that on the wall for his own amusement or maybe wanted to hint that he offered rimming. Perhaps he used ‘vulva’ as some people today use — and I cringe even to type it — ‘boy pussy’, or not quite so cringey, ‘bussy’.
The writing on the walls
But onwards to the graffiti – the social media posts, the tweets, the influencers, the lols and the trolls of pre-eruption Pompeii.
At the Tavern of Verecundus, some joker scratched an ancient version of ‘Show us your pink bits!’
“Restitutus says: ‘Restituta, take off your tunic, please, and show us your hairy privates’.”
Meanwhile, at the House of the Citharist, a troll slandered two men and tried to cast blame on a third.
“Amplicatus, I know that Icarus is buggering you. Salvius wrote this.”
Another pulled a similar stunt at the Building of Eumachia.
“Secundus likes to screw boys.”
I have buggered men
But an anonymous poster at the House of Orpheus found an outlet for his desire to scream his sexuality to the world.
“I have buggered men.”
On a bench outside the Marina Gate, Attice, an early influencer, indulged in a little self promotion.
“If anyone wants a screw, he should look for Attice; she costs 4 sestertii.”
There were also life hacks and handy hints. Here’s one for those who like to learn something new every day.
“The one who buggers a fire burns his penis.”
Keep your dicks out of the flames, boys.
And there were reviews.
“Two friends were here. While they were, they had bad service in every way from a guy named Epaphroditus. They threw him out and spent 105 and half sestertii most agreeably on whores.”
Meanwhile, at the Brothel of Innulus and Papilio, one young man came out to the world.
“Weep, you girls. My penis has given you up. Now it penetrates men’s behinds. Goodbye, wondrous femininity!”