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American Perspective on CSR

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88 But if Avellino opens his publication of the graffiti with the citation of Chateaubriand, he closes it with a reference to an equally famous Romantic name, albeit somewhat disguised. In the last paragraph of his book, Avellino mentions that a ‘learned sig. Woodsword’ has authored a book on Pompeian graffiti which shows their remarkable familiarity with canonical ancient poetry. The ‘Woodsword’ in question is actually Christopher Wordsworth, nephew of the famous poet, who in 1836 had published one of the first critical works which dealt with the wall inscriptions as objects worthy of study.

In this way, he suggests that his song has had a prior existence, and will have a future one, to the oral performance represented in the poem. 51 Breed also argues that moments such as that in Eclogue 10, where Gallus imagines inscribing his amores on trees (Ec. 10. 52–4), ‘authenticate’ the Eclogues themselves as written texts: ‘[the tree] stands in for the page on which Virgil’s poem is written . . ’52 Clearly there are significant differences between this type of programmatic and generically significant ‘graffiti’ in bucolic poetry and the ‘real-life’ wall texts which will be considered in this book.

The case of CIL 4. 1885, however, is cautionary: it records the consuls of 18 ce, but in such a fashion that it is clear that its writer has simply copied words from a formal inscription in stone nearby (see Chapter 3). Thus, as always, we need to be wary of assuming that the information contained in a graffito is historically transparent. The other curious fact about the dated graffiti is that none of them give years after the earthquake of 62. In certain senses, this is peculiar, as one would expect the damage to the city would have entailed a fair amount of replastering, so that older graffiti would have been destroyed and replaced by new ones.

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