Graffiti in the Ancient World
We might think of graffiti as being a modern form of art or expression, but its origins are in the ancient world. Historians have found over six thousand graffiti in Pompeii and they claim that the graffiti explains more about the culture, feelings and circumstances of Pompeians of that time, than any other sources. Likewise, the same evidence is found in Rome where about every single surface of marble or similar material has some sort of graffiti on it. Common for all of them is that the graffiti, whether it something interesting such as letters, symbols, sentences, emblems or profane words and caricatures, all are carved with a knife, nail or similar sharp instrument.
This has led historians and archaeologists to believe that carrying such objects was something very common and that graffiti was a normal way of expressing oneself. The same pattern is found today.
The Alexamenos graffito can be placed under the category of caricature as it is widely interpreted that the inscription or graffiti is mockery intended to the early Christians and especially a man called Alexamenos. Other Christian graffiti though, provide us useful information on how the ancient world understood their religion and which elements where characteristic. Fish, the acronym ΙΧΘΥΣ (often transliterated ICHTHYS) and the Chi-rho were the most used symbols. This gives an insight to their interpretation of Jesus' teachings, which according to evidence is Jesus being a fisher of men. It can also be a way of explaining the feeding miracles of Jesus. The Chi-rho is short for Christos and dates back to the time of Emperor Constantine. The symbol was widely used by the early Christians and was believed to bring about good fortune and blessings.