Roman graffiti leaves no doubt about how one soldier felt about the other .

Roman graffiti leaves no doubt about how one soldier felt about the other  .
A stone with a carved penis and an explicit insult was recently discovered near the Scottish-British border along with Hadrian's Wall excavations, leaving no doubt about how one soldier felt about another. (photo credit: THE VINDOLANDA TRUST)

The discovery along Hadrian's Wall near the Scottish-British border adds a human dimension to life in a 3rd-century fortress and settlement.

Someone really, really doesn't like Secundinus. So much so that they carved a very personal insult against him along with a candid carving of a rod on a stone face that lasted nearly 2,000 years.

So all those who grab a can of spray paint and paint graffiti and curse words on the walls nowadays, take note: This is how it's done.

At all times, Secundinus would now be known as a "shitter," leaving no doubt what at least one Roman soldier thought of the Roman fort and settlement of Vindolanda, located in today's picturesque British Northumberland countryside, and which is part of Hadrian's Wall World Heritage Site.

Hadrian's Wall runs near the border between present-day Scotland and England. It was built beginning in 122 AD by Emperor Hadrian, primarily as a frontier for the Roman Empire to provide protection against hostile enemies and as a base for military units. The ruins of the wall are Britain's most important Roman ruins.

The fort and settlement were "a treasure trove of everyday life during the Roman occupation of Britain and beyond," according to a press release from the Vindolanda Charitable Trust, which was founded in 1970 and has been leading excavations at the site where archaeological excavations have been taking place for nearly 100 years. The latest discovery adds another layer to the human side of life there.

"What distinguishes this section of Hadrian's Wall as a World Heritage Site is that some of the artifacts discovered date back nearly 2,000 years and reveal human emotions and feelings," according to the statement.

One example that particularly stands out is the handwritten birthday invitation in which a woman very politely asks her "dear sister" to join her in celebrating her birthday. Now this carved graffiti expresses a completely different feeling.

"What distinguishes this section of Hadrian's Wall as a World Heritage Site is the discovery of artifacts dating back nearly 2,000 years that reveal human emotions and feelings."

Vindolanda Charitable Trust

According to the press release, the author could have taken some time to very carefully engrave each letter of his highly emphatic writings against Secundinus, indicating that he was confident enough to publicly announce his ideas carved into the stone.

History and discovery

The stone face dates back to the 3rd century AD by archaeologists, and it measures 40 centimeters. 15 cm wide. Tall (16 x 6 inches) and engraved with the words SECVNDINVS CACOR. Specialists in Roman writing - Dr. Alexander Mayer, Alex Mullen, and Roger Tomlin - recognized it as a distorted version of Secundinus cacator: the press release noted "Secundinus, the slanderer," adding the image to the strength of the written insult.

In Roman times, the penis was often seen as a positive symbol, as something of a good luck charm or fertility symbol. However, with these special words, that expression was hardly an expression of goodwill.

The carved stone was discovered on May 19 by excavation volunteer Dylan Herbert, a retired biochemist from South Wales who was removing rubble as the stone continued on its way.

"I was thrilled when I was told I could get her out of the trench," Herbert said, according to a press release. “From the back, it appeared to be the same as all the other stones; it is a very ordinary stone.. But when I turned it over, I was astonished to see some clear letters. Only after we removed the mud did I realize the full extent of what I had discovered, and I was very happy.”

The statement noted that the phallus carving is the number 13 found along with an extension of Hadrian's wall, much more than has been found at any other location along the wall.

“It is always special to have another name to add to the increasingly long and impressive list of people who lived in Vindolanda, regardless of the nature of the inscription and its marking,” Dr. Andrew Burley, CEO and Director of Excavations at the Vindolanda Trust, told The Jerusalem Post in an email.

"Secundinus may or may not have been common, and he may or may not have deserved this slander. The inscription remains a window into the personal disputes between members of a military community. It is a very human relationship with a people that might otherwise seem completely foreign to us today."




Font Size
lines height