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Ancient Roman Dick Pic Reveals 1,700-Year-Old Grudge Carved Into Stone

Some things never change, it seems. 


Tom Hale

Tom is a writer in London with a Master's degree in Journalism whose editorial work covers anything from health and the environment to technology and archaeology.

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Ancient Graffiti
This latest addition means that 13 phallic symbols have now been discovered at Vindolanda. Image credit: ©The Vindolanda Trust

Almost 2,000 years ago, a very annoyed Roman soldier took out his carving knife and crafted an ancient dick pic. 

Archaeologists recently snooping around the site of Vindolanda, a Roman fort just south of Hadrian's Wall in northern England, discovered the curious remains of a personal feud that unfolded in the 3rd century CE. 


Among the rubble, they discovered a stone that had been crudely engraved with a penis along with an insult directed towards another person: “Secundinus, the shitter,” it reads. 

“I’d been removing a lot of rubble all week and to be honest this stone had been getting in my way, I was glad when I was told I could take it out of the trench. It looked from the back like all the others, a very ordinary stone, but when I turned it over, I was startled to see some clear letters. Only after we removed the mud did I realize the full extent of what I’d uncovered, and I was absolutely delighted,” Dylan Herbert, a retired biochemist from Wales who discovered the stone back in May, said in a statement.

The archaeologists noted that the lettering and penis symbol is deeply engraved into the hard stone, suggesting the ancient scrawler took time to forge their work of "art".

Phallic symbols are often found on Roman artifacts and are generally perceived to be an emblem of good luck or fertility. The streets of Pompeii, for example, are littered with a number of stone phalluses carved into the pavement, walls, and doorways. In this context, the penises are believed to have been a form of advertising, pointing patrons towards the nearest brothel.


Along the line of Hadrian’s Wall, archaeologists have uncovered at least 13 phallic carvings, including this latest addition. While it’s assumed most of these symbols have a positive intention behind them, the insult written alongside the recent discovery suggests this particular carving had a more irritated motive. 

“Its author clearly had a big problem with Secundinus and was confident enough to announce their thoughts publicly on a stone," Dr Andrew Birley, Director of Excavations and CEO of the Vindolanda Trust commented.

"I have no doubt that Secundinus would have been less than amused to see this when he was wandering around the site over 1,700 years ago.”

Along with its many dick carvings, Vindolanda is notable for being the site where archaeologists discovered the oldest surviving handwritten documents in Britain. Known as the Vindolanda tablets, the documents consist of postcard-sized wooden leaf tablets inscribed with carbon-based ink dating to the first and second centuries CE. 


Just like the newly found penis carving, the documents reveal some surprisingly down-to-earth snippets of everyday life in Roman Britain, including an invitation to a birthday party. Who knows, perhaps this was the night where Secundinus the shitter fell out with his graffiti-happy friend. 


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