How often do you pass by a building scribbled with variety of inscriptions and drawings? Probably every day. This human need to share the most intimate feelings with the "rest" of the world is as old as mankind.
Thirty thousand years ago people have left messages in caves in the form of drawings and characters. These were the beginnings of graffiti, its earliest forms. Every ornament, inscription and drawing on a wall or some other surface, usually in a public place, we call graphite. It can be a few simple, short words or complex wall drawings.
The first known example of "modern" graffiti is preserved in Ephesus, in today’s Turkey, once the city of ancient Greece. It was an advertisement for a brothel.
The first modern graffiti appeared in ancient Egypt, Greece and the Roman Empire. Hence the word "graffiti" (from the Greek word γραφειν 'graphein', which means to write). The first known example of "modern" graffiti is preserved in Ephesus, in today’s Turkey, once the city of ancient Greece. It was an advertisement for a brothel. The graffiti of the ancient world were usually love declarations, political slogans, famous quotes from literature, simple words and even just individual letters. The eruption of Vesuvius volcano preserved the graffiti of Pompeii so in one of them we can see a drawing of the male genital organ with the inscription "handle with care". Some examples of ancient graffiti also are: "My husband is not for sale," "Oh wall, I'm stunned that you have not collapsed under the weight of nonsense written on you!" Ancient tourists who have been visiting Sigiriya fortress from the 5th century in Sri Lanka, near today’s city of Dambula, drew and inscribed over 1,800 graffiti in the period from the 6th to the 18th century. Most of the visitors were of noble origin: social elites, rulers, officials, clergy... The themes of these graffiti were different: love and satire, curses and folk sayings. Many graffiti testify to the high education and literacy of their creators.
Of course, the Greeks and Romans were not the only ones who have left us graffiti. In Guatemala, in the city of Tikali, the specimens of Mayan graffiti are preserved. Viking Halvdan scratched his name in runes on the stair railing of the Hagia Sofia in Istanbul. All these graffiti have contributed to the understanding of lifestyles and languages of ancient civilizations. During Napoleon's invasion of Egypt in the 90s of the 18th century, French soldiers carved their names on monuments. And the name of the English poet Lord Byron (1788-1824) remained preserved on one of the pillars of the temple of Poseidon in Attica, Greece.
Today, graffiti in most cases fall into the category of street art. And they can really be it.
Today, graffiti in most cases fall into the category of street art. And they can really be it. Of course, if they are not the messages of hatred, which unfortunately we see most often on our buildings. Marking and drawing on walls and other places is forbidden today, in most states, and is considered vandalism, unless you obtain permission from the owner of the building or wall. Therefore, it is punishable by law. But, in many cities there are public surfaces that are provided for drawing and writing various messages. Those talented can get a chance to decorate the entire building, and so beautify the city.