Obscene graffiti of carved penis hints at ancient Roman feud

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  • Carved graffiti depicting penises and gross insults were found near Hadrian’s Wall.
  • The graffiti alludes to a personal feud between two Romans more than 1,700 years ago.
  • In addition to the phallus symbol, a Latin insult referring to someone as a “shitter” was found carved into the stone.

An ancient graffiti depicting a phallus has been found near Hadrian’s Wall in northern England, suggesting a personal feud between two Romans.

Penis carving dates back more than 1,700 years, and it was found in stone and accompanied by a vulgar insult in Latin, which experts say roughly translates to “Secundinus, the shitter.”

Dr Andrew Birley, director of excavations and chief executive of the Vindolanda Trust, said the inscription “broke us by surprise”.

“Its authors clearly had big problems with Secundinus and were confident enough to publicly announce their ideas on a rock. I have no doubt that Secundinus wouldn’t be very much to see this when he was wandering around the site more than 1,700 years ago. Happy,” Burley said in a statement.

The stone, 15 inches wide and 5 inches high, was discovered by Dylan Herbert, a retired South Wales biochemist who volunteered in excavations.

Dylan Herbert discovered the graffiti while volunteering to dig.

Dylan Herbert discovered the graffiti while volunteering for excavation work.

Vendolanda Trust


“From the back, it was a very ordinary stone like all the other stones, but when I turned it over I was surprised to see some legible letters,” Herbert said.

“It was only after we cleared the dirt that I realized what I had found, and I’m very happy.”

While Roman penises are often seen as a lucky charm or a fertility symbol, experts say in this case the author subverts it as an insult to the individual.

In addition to the penis image, the stone also bears the words “Secvndinvs Cacor”. Roman inscription experts say the phrase is a misplaced version of “Secundinus cacator,” which translates to “Secundinus, the shitter.”

The researchers say each letter has been “carefully carved” to demonstrate the author’s “deep affection” for Secundinus.

After years of extensive excavation, the phallus carving is the 13th to be found at the Vendolanda site.

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