The gladiatorial graffiti of the Roman amphitheatre: long-lived memorials of imperial munera
4 May 2022
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.
Alessandra Tafaro (BSR; Warwick)