This 2,000-year-old message from Pompeii's ruins is freaking me out

pompeii ruins
© ludovicabastianini/Shutterstock

Archeologists unearthed some eerie graffiti in history's most famous graveyard.

In Italy, stone figures squirm on the ground, doomed to spend eternity perfectly preserved in their last dying moments. Recently, scientists discovered one of their final messages, one that will probably make me sleep with the lights on tonight.

Even if you're not familiar with the Pompeii ruins, you've probably seen the photos. Mount Vesuvius erupted in 79 A.D. Ash and other volcanic materials rained down for hours, burying the city under 20 feet of debris. The people who died at Pompeii aren't famous because they were so numerous or their deaths were particularly grisly (though they were). They're famous because we can still see their final moments. For thousands of years, the destroyed town has remained oddly intact.

The Pompeii bodies disappeared over time, but gaps remained where the bodies used to be. When Pompeii was eventually rediscovered over a thousand years later after the eruption, excavators filled in the gaps with plaster. Today, the plastic bodies of people in their final moments are a popular, though creepy, tourist destination.

pompeii ruins© BlackMac/Shutterstock

Recently, archaeologists excavating the area discovered a message scrawled in charcoal on one of the houses. It read, "XVI K Nov in [d]ulsit pro masumis esurit [ions].” In English, that's something like, “he over-indulged in food.”

When I first saw that, I thought it was some sort of grumpy priest's explanation for the eruption. People were gluttonous, so they faced supernatural (or just plain natural?) consequences, kind of like the popular song, "Pompeii" by Bastille.

"And the walls kept tumbling down in the city that we love/ Great clouds roll over the hills, bringing darkness from above," sings the band. "We were caught up and lost in all of our vices ... Oh, where do we begin, the rubble or our sins?"

But here's the freaky part: that message was written a week before the volcano erupted. It's like some ancient prophet knew what was about to happen. Maybe they sensed Pompeii's excesses would bring it down.

Pompeii was a fertile area, full of farmlands and wineries. It also had theatres, a gymnasium, a hotel and water heated by geothermal energy that went to houses and baths. A lot of people there probably "overindulged in food."

Overeating didn't cause Mount Vesuvius to erupt (I know it's a controversial position, but I'm sticking to it). But the idea that human excesses can have disastrous consequences is a pretty consistent one throughout history. Sometimes, it's superstitious, but sometimes, it really happens — Chernobyl used to be full of humans too, after all. And people certainly seem on track to cause more environmental disasters thanks to ever-growing consumption.

When future people dig up New York, what prophetic warnings will they find scrawled in the Subways?

This 2,000-year-old message from Pompeii's ruins is freaking me out
Archeologists unearthed some eerie graffiti in history's most famous graveyard.

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