Teaching Resources

Ways for Teachers to Use the Ancient Graffiti Project

It is our goal as Latin teachers to help our students create a personal connection to Latin and the ancient Romans. While we can get them to relate to the sentiments of Latin literature and lessons learned from ancient Roman history, it is sometimes difficult to make connections to the real, everyday lives of Romans. We do not have photographs of actual events or perfectly preserved buildings. We must be creative and bring a fragmented ancient world to life for our students.

The preservation and excavation at the archaeological sites of Pompeii and Herculaneum are as near as we can get to a perfectly preserved Roman town, and are an excellent resource for teachers. The Ancient Graffiti Project provides a wealth of information to help teachers utilize the graffiti written by the inhabitants of Pompeii and Herculaneum. To incorporate these graffiti into our curriculum, we have to change our mindset about what it meant to be literate in ancient Rome. The elite 10-15% of the Roman population were highly educated, learning to read from ancient texts that would have been the equivalent of an elementary school student learning to read from Shakespeare. If a Roman knew their alphabet and could write their own name, which is incredibly powerful in a society where a greater number of children did not learn to read Latin fluently than did. If you could read a name, you would know for whom to cast your vote, who was putting on the games, who built this statue dedicated to a god.

The graffiti of Pompeii and Herculaneum are an excellent way to build these real-world connections into our Latin curriculum. Your students can learn about Roman names, ways that Romans greeted one another, advertisements for gladiator games and records of gladiatorial successes and losses, political advertisements, and beyond by reading what the Romans themselves wrote.

In the Teacher Resources section, there are several introductory lesson plans beginning with the alphabet (both Latin and Greek), progressing to Latin names, and progressing to Latin greetings. These can be used together or separately. http://ancientgraffiti.org/about/teaching-resources/

If you have a particular cultural topic in mind, whether it be politics, gladiators, love, or religion, you can find the most relevant graffiti for each topic here: http://ancientgraffiti.org/Graffiti/featured-graffiti

If you want to explore your own idea, you can simply begin by entering a key word (e.g. gladiator, amat) in the search box on the home page. http://ancientgraffiti.org/Graffiti/

There are also maps of Herculaneum and Pompeii, which are interactive. You can click on the map and explore the graffiti present in a particular area. The map of Herculaneum is also printable for your students. http://ancientgraffiti.org/about/teaching-resources/the-herculaneum-map/


When looking at a particular graffito, you will find a wealth of information in the listing.

  • If the graffito still exists, there will be a picture of it attached to the entry or there will be a link to the pictures on EDR (Epigraphic Database Roma). This an exciting way for students to view the graffito. I often print out and laminate class sets of the graffiti I use in class so that the students can trace over it and see if they can figure out what the letters and words are.
  • There is always a link to the site where the graffito was found. If it is in Herculaneum, you can follow the link to the wealth of pictures on the Herculaneum Panoramas site and view the ruins. 
  • If the graffito is in Pompeii, you can follow the link to view pictures of the site and ruins on Pompeii in Pictures