In the chapter “Deep time of media infrastructure” in the book “Signal Traffic”, while talking about the Roman Empire is mentioned that “The Romans seemed to inscribe into everything”, commuting every suitable surfaces in meanings of communication. This concept is quite evident walking around Rome and watching the surfaces of monuments filled with every kind of inscription, symbols and low reliefs. Thinking about roman monuments there’s maybe one of them which is particularly impressive for the amount of informations “stored” in a single artefact: The Trajan Column.
The column was erected to commemorates Roman emperor Trajan’s victory in the Dacian Wars and built between 107 CE and 113 CE. The continuous helical frieze of the column winds twenty-three times from base to capital for a total of 200 mt length, portraying Trajan’s two victorious military campaigns against the Dacians, split in 114 “scenes”.
It’s still not completely clear which was the final purpose of the column, surely the “commemorative” and “celebrative” function were the main ones, but also the communicative impact is outstanding and unprecedented in this kind of monuments. It’s impressive still today the huge amount of work put in the realisation of this monument and the number of information that a single “piece” of architecture is able to communicate.
The desire of human beings to express themselves or testify something on “public surfaces” such as walls and monuments has not decreased since the times of ancient Romans. Nowadays our cities are filled with symbols, scripts, printings and drawing on walls, from the “official” ones such as advertisements to the most “subversive” ones, also known as “mural paintings” or “graffiti”.
Graffitis are an interesting form of expression to confront to pieces such as romans monuments, If we think about it the purpose has remained the same, the celebration, the testimony and the communication. This kind of “public” form of expression appeals to the inner desire of human beings to be remembered, so from the smallest “tag” on a wall made with a marker to the biggest, complicated and “artistic” works, graffiti are the modern answer to this personal and a maybe too much selfish human “need”.