The gladiatorial graffiti of the Roman amphitheatre: long-lived memorials of imperial munera

The gladiatorial graffiti of the Roman amphitheatre: long-lived memorials of imperial munera

Alessandra Tafaro (BSR; Warwick)
Alessandra Tafaro (BSR; Warwick)

Exceptional examples of gladiatorial graffiti have been found scratched onto the seating orders, stairs and marble slabs of the Flavian Amphitheatre. Spurred by the arena shows, spectators represented in the here and now the highlights of gladiatorial spectacles, either as endorsements of their favourites, or as impromptu memorials. This lecture will explore how gladiatorial drawings challenge scholarly perceptions of graffiti as ‘ephemeral, informal and unsophisticated’ (Baird and Taylor: 2011) and will investigate what the medium and form of graffiti, which combine iconographic and verbal elements, disclose about Roman strategies of memorialisation. Graffiti responses to the spectacles highlight the spontaneous nature of such forms of writing which differ from the extant public and authoritative written documents that construct the Amphitheatre. Yet, by encapsulating a paradoxical idea of monumentality, graffiti, which embed private and less authoritative voices, become integral to and gain meaning from the monumental space of the Amphitheatre, offering the disposable lives of gladiators a permanent form of memorialisation.

This event will be in English.

CITY OF ROME LECTURE SERIES


Alessandra Tafaro is an Early Career Fellow at the Institute of Advanced Study at the University of Warwick, working at the juncture between Latin literature and Roman epigraphy. Focussing on the dynamic dialogue between Martial’s Epigrams and epigraphic poetry, her doctoral thesis establishes a new critical interpretation of early-imperial writing culture which reconsiders literary and epigraphic modes of communication as inter-permeable and re-evaluates the modern understanding of ‘literary’ and ‘sub-literary’ cultures in the Roman world. During her time at the British School at Rome, she will pursue a new project on the nature, function and monumental context of gladiatorial graffiti preserved in amphitheatres across Rome and Pompeii.


Image 1: The fresco of Fighting gladiators, Pompeii, Regio V. Photo taken from pompeiisites.org.

Image 2: Gladiatorial graffito, room 8, Paedagogium, Rome (AE 1989, 64). Photo from Langner (2001) Tab. 54 fig. 1021.

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