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Graffiti of Pompeii ‘may have been the first social network’

London, January 15 (ANI): Graffiti on the walls of ancient Roman householder, especially during elections would have been the Roman equivalent of posting a Facebook message, hiring an advertising hoarding or sticking a campaign poster in a front window, researchers say.

Hundreds of political slogans have been found in Pompeii and the walls of the wealthiest voters offered prime advertising space for candidates.

Graffiti was commonplace in Pompeii and thousands of messages have been preserved.

Researchers now believe that wealthy householders in Pompeii, which was preserved in astonishing detail when Mount Vesuvius erupted in AD79, would have controlled the graffiti on their walls.

Slogans supporting candidates were scrawled in locations all over the city but the spaces available on the walls of big homes would have been the prime locations.

Professional artists would even, on occasions, be hired to paint the messages that were to appear on the walls of the richest inhabitants.

Archaeologist Eeva-Maria Viitanen said, the discovery of slogans on the walls would have meant that homeowners gave their active approval to whoever scrawled the messages.

According to LiveScience, she said that the facades of the private houses and even the streetwalks in front of them were controlled and maintained by the owner of the house, and in that respect, the idea that the wall space could be appropriated by anyone who wanted to do it seems unlikely.

Graffiti preserved in Pompeii covers all sorts of sentiments, from wishing friends well to the bawdiest of observations, the Daily Mail reported.

It was usually written in charcoal or scratched into the stucco surfaces which abounded in the ancient city.

Viitanen from the University of Helsinki in Finland said that the political slogans were usually straightforward and could be as simply as stating the name of the candidate and the office he was running for.

They might describe a candidate as ‘a good man’ or ‘worthy of public office’, and in one case a man hoping to be elected boasted about how good he was at baking bread.

Rather than bars or shops the most popular place to write a slogan was on a householder’s wall.

Viitanen said that the graffiti was an early form of social networking.

For the graffiti to avoid being scrubbed off it would, she argued, need to be permitted by the householders which would have meant they endorsed the candidate.

Some of the political adverts were sponsored by groups that today might be expected to show little active interest in politics – pickpockets, thieves and late-night drinkers.

The findings of the study were presented at the Archaeological Institute of America in Seattle. (ANI)