Friday 14 January 2011

Reading Pompeii’s Walls; A Social Archaeological Approach to Gladiatorial Graffiti

GARRAFFONI, R. S. ; Funari, P.P.A. . Reading Pompeii´s walls: a social archaeological approach to gladiatorial grafitti. In: Tony Wilmott. (Ed.). Roman Amphitheatres and spectacula a 21st century approach. Oxford: Archeopress (BAR 1946), 2009, p. 185-193.


Many scholars have been trying to explain the Roman entertainment from different approaches and most part of them focused in the interior of the buildings to understand the social function of the presentations that were played. In this context, theories have arisen and different concepts have been used to explain this polemic phenomenon. Although a plenty of researches on gladiators’ presentations, most part of these studies paid more attention to elite’s audiences rather than the common people point of view.

One can affirm that it is problematic to attempt to hear the voices of common people audience because it was the elite who wrote about the spectacles. If on one hand it is very difficult to find the voices of the plebs on this literature, on the other archaeology can provide unique evidence and the inscriptions become an important source for capturing some aspects of their feelings and impressions. Archaeology can provide different sources of evidence for interpreting the ancient past and it is less limited than the literature. In this context, there was a growing awareness that new epistemological approaches in the study of material culture are important for a more critical approach to the ancient world.

With the above in mind, this paper focus on material culture - the graffiti from Pompeii - to discuss some images of the different meanings of the gladiators’ presentations. The Epigraphic evidence is used in this paper to show how this particular type of Roman entertainment can help us to rethink social relationships and Roman identity in a less normative experience.

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