One would think that societies that have millions of people, the majority of those who are in the lower class, would have more exposure and records written down about them than any other class for us to analyze. Unfortunately that is not the case. People who had wealth and power normally had the privilege to have records done for them for future societies and people to study and read. Luckily the graffiti in Roman society tells a lot about the political life that the everyday Roman lived by.
Most of the graffiti that mentions anything politically related tend to seem as though they are sending a message that the particular politician they are talking about is either for or against the people. For instance some mention “All the goldsmiths support Gaius Cuspious Pansa for public works commissioner”(SNT p. 190). From this, one can probably assume that whoever decided to write this message was trying to conspire that there was some sort of connection between Gaius and goldsmiths that was either corrupt or simply he was a goldsmith and wanted to let others to support Gaius. But most likely it’s sending a message that the wealthy are supporting Gaius. Others that are much the same state “The mule-drivers support Gaius Julius Polybius for the mayor. Genialis supports Bruttius Balbus for mayor. He’ll balance the budget”(SNT p. 190). The inscription makes it seem as if Polybius is not the best choice to become mayor. It points out that possibly mayors before them spent money profusely without the concern of the lower class that consisted of commoners. The graffiti is much clear in favoring one person running for mayor, Balbus, and makes it clear that he is the obvious choice that will get the job done. Other markings take a different approach and ridicule the opposition. A good example of the ridicule between people with different political views is “I ask you to support Marcus Cerrinus Vatia for public works commissioner. All the late-night drunks back him”(SNT p. 190). The mockery is evident and it is written in a sarcastic tone. Reason being that the person who mentions to support Marcus, quickly follows by saying that drunks support him.
It is no surprise that some of the graffiti discovered in Roman cities display the vast views that the commoner in ancient Rome had. It is no shock because the republic and the empire lasted centuries and there is bound to be different opinions from the masses. Some may have depicted the politician who was ideal to run for the people. Others tried to make a specific politician’s career lack respect and experience. Ultimately, the Roman people faced constant changes in their political life; some for the better and sometimes for the worst.
Very little is known about the common people that took up the majority of the population in ancient societies. The sources that we derive our information about these ancient people come from the most unexpected places. Graffiti and the epitaphs reveal a lot...