This summer I picked up a new hobby, graffiti. Of course, as a Latin teacher, I mean reading ancient graffiti, scratched into the walls, columns, and tombs of ancient Pompeii and Herculaneum. I, along with 15 other Latin teachers from across the country, was fortunate enough to take a seminar through the National Endowment for the Humanities entitled Roman Daily Life in Petronius and Pompeii.
We focused our study on the Romans who were on the fringes of society, not the elite senators, male citizens, and upper class that dominate Roman history and Latin literature. What we read in Latin are texts that were written by and reflect the lives of the elite Romans, but what about the people that we do not hear or see in those stories? Who were the women, the children, the slaves and the freedmen? This is why graffiti is so fascinating, because it gives us a view into the life of the average Roman.
I am excited to bring the lessons that I learned this summer into my classes this year. My summer experience helped me to redesign the way I teach Roman culture to my students. This curriculum will give the students more opportunity for experiential learning. I want the girls to think about what it would have been like to live in Ancient Rome. What would they have seen, heard, read on a daily basis? Where would they have gone each day? What would they have worn or eaten for breakfast?
One hands-on experience that I am particularly passionate about is reading ancient graffiti with my students. Approximately 9,000 graffiti have been discovered in Pompeii and Herculaneum. Thirty percent of these graffiti are names, a simple statement of existence. Seeing someone’s name as they scratched into a plaster wall or column nearly 2,000 years ago is a powerful moment that confirms her existence and makes what we study each day more real. Also notable in this graffiti is that the ancients were very friendly to one another, greeting one another, documenting their friendships and expressing their love for someone.
In eighth grade we have already begun to study the writing conventions used by the ancient Romans. Students have used the different types of ancient handwriting to write the Latin alphabet and to write their own names. Stop by the Dana Hall Middle School and visit the graffiti wall outside of the Latin room 001.
As the Pompeiians would have written: Magistra vobis sal.
(Mrs. Wellington sends greetings to you all.)