Roman Graffiti Shows Carved Phallus With Insult Found at Vindolanda Fort
A sizable, engraved penis has been discovered at the Vindolanda Roman fort in England, with a clear insult carved above it. The Roman graffiti insult, aimed at another Roman soldier, reads: “You shi**r!”
Think back to school for a moment. Every class had a renowned phallus artist who would scratch, chalk, and carve their arts onto desks, chairs, blackboards, and school bags. Winter brought the prized media of snowy windscreens and giant male sex organs would line the streets of any school neighborhood.
Creating artistically enhanced penises was a hobby born in the Roman period. So popular was the pastime that archaeologists in England are no longer phased when they discover a carved penis on a smashed stone at a Roman fort. They are, however, taken aback when a penis is accompanied by Roman graffiti directed at another Roman soldier. Especially when the insult involves the word “shi—r.”
The Vindolanda Roman fort is just south of Hadrian’s Wall, and it was here that the carved stone phallus with the Roman graffiti insult was discovered in a rubble trench. (Mramoeba / CC BY-SA 4.0)
Removing The Roman Graffiti Penis From The Vindolanda Trench
Vindolanda, where the Roman graffiti labelled phallus was found, was a Roman auxiliary fort located just south of Hadrian's Wall in Northumberland in northern England. The fort was occupied between 85 AD to 370 AD. According to Vindolanda Charitable Trust the ancient carved stone with the image of a phallus and Roman graffiti was found “below a 4th century cavalry barracks, discarded into a long trench filled with rubble.”
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Dylan Herbert, a retired biochemist from South Wales, was volunteering with the Vindolanda Trust when he discovered the carved penis and insult. The discoverer said he had excavated a lot of rubble over the week leading up to the discovery. He said the upturned carved slab had been getting in his way, and that he was glad when he was told he could finally “remove the penis from the trench.” A spokesperson for the site said the stone “gives us a fascinating window into the emotions of someone in the 3rd century.”
Dylan Herbert, a retired biochemist from South Wales, was volunteering with the Vindolanda Trust when he discovered the carved penis and insult, shown here just to the right of his left foot. (Vindolanda Charitable Trust)
The Penis, In Ancient Roman Magic And Religion
In ancient Roman magic and religion the fascinus or fascinum was a potent symbol of strength and fertility. It was also the divine phallus that was depicted on amulets, talismans, and grave effigies. In spell work the penis symbol invoked divine protection and Pliny said it was a “medicus invidiae,” a powerful defense against the evil eye. However, the specimen scratched into the Vindolanda stone is just a hands down old-school penis insult!
The smashed stone slab features a 15.7 x 6 inch (40 x 15 centimeter) long phallus beside the letters “SECVNDINVS CACOR.” A direct translation is: “Secundinus, the s**ter.”
Obviously, about 1,700 years ago someone had it in for Secundinus. Dr Andrew Birley is CEO of the Vindolanda Charitable Trust and he said, “the author clearly had a big problem with Secundinus and was confident enough to announce their thoughts publicly on a stone.” Furthermore, Birley added that he has no doubts that Secundinus would have been “less than amused” by this insult.
Phalluses Don’t Surprise Roman Researchers Anymore
An article about the discovery in Daily Mail says phalluses “are not uncommon on Hadrian's Wall, with a total of 13 now found at the historic site.” Let’s for a moment think about the mind of the author of the insult. We know he was a Roman soldier. While not all of us have been in the military we can all remember being in teams when we were younger. Positive team culture requires strong leadership over a group of like-minded people, and perhaps the best way to bond a group of soldiers is to encourage Squad Mentality.
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According to Engage for Success Squad Mentality creates “individual and collective clarity about the team purpose.” Moreover, “Individuals understand, utilize and develop the strengths of the team, growth and Wanting-to-Win Mindsets are contagious and there is a set of ground-rules and clear expectations of one another.” However, in a military context, Squad Mentality brings with it those pro-penis artists that never dropped their dark arts after high school.
The researchers concluded that the insult serves to remind us that while the Roman army was extremely brutal to the indigenous population of Britannia, they were not shy to throw insults at each other. This newly discovered penis and insult, according to the archaeologists, is “a fabulous bit of social commentary from the ancient past.” And one that they are sure will amuse visitors for many years to come.
Top image: This phallus has insulting Roman graffiti above it that was meant for another Roman soldier. The insult reads: “You shi**r!” Source: Vindolanda Charitable Trust
By Ashley Cowie