A Love Poem - CIL 04, 5296
O, would that it be permitted to hold your delicate arms,
fastened around my neck, and to offer kisses to your tender lips.
Go now, darling, and trust your joys to the winds;
trust me, the nature of men is fickle.
Often while I lie awake in the middle of the night, lost in love,
I reflect on these things with myself: many are they whom Fortune has lifted up high;
and in the same way these, suddenly thrown down headlong, she now oppresses:
just as when Venus has unexpectedly joined the bodies of lovers,
daylight divides them, and (they?)…
Milnor, Kristina. “Gender and Genre: The Case of CIL 4. 5296.” In Graffiti and the Literary Landscape in Roman Pompeii. 1st ed. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014.
(The picture and transcription are taken from this source, p 198 and 209. There is obviously MUCH more scholarship on this, but Milnor is a good starting place.)
I’d recommend looking up Rebecca Benefiel if you want more information specifically about graffiti in domestic spaces.
A beautiful love poem from one woman to another, neatly inscribed on the wall inside a house in Pompeii. There’s much to say about this poem, but I’ll keep it brief! There’s a lot of debate as to whether this was actually written by a woman, to a woman, and scholars sometimes bend over backwards to try to justify another explanation. But I (and many others) argue that it rejects the involvement of men both thematically and grammatically. The speaker does not seem interested in men’s “fickle nature.” The gender of the speaker can be determined by the perdita in line 4: a nominative, feminine perfect passive participle. The gender of the addressee is shown by pupula, a vocative, feminine noun (a diminutive term of endearment, literally meaning “little girl,” but probably more like “darling,” or maybe even “baby”?)
Please add your own translations, comments, and bibliography if you like!
Thanks to @ciceronian for the great request!