Rare Roman writing instrument featuring a joke found where journalists work today in London

Bloomberg’s European headquarters in London is the site where over 200 Roman styluses and ancient writing tablets were found, dating back to 70 AD. It’s fitting that the award-winning architectural office building where award-winning journalists work has revealed such a find of Roman writing instruments. One of the iron styluses even features a rare inscribed joke that archaeologists are calling “elaborate and expressive.” The joke sounds all-too-famailiar today.

Of all of the styluses, only one features the inscription.

WGAD8 revealed what it says: Perfect for a tongue-in-cheek souvenir gift.

It reads: ‘I have come from the City. I bring you a welcome gift with a sharp point that you may remember me. I ask, if fortune allowed, that I might be able (to give) as generously as the way is long (and) as my purse is empty.'”

“In other words: I’m broke, but here’s a pen.”

Even more humorously, the scribe who etched the tiny inscriptions on the ancient pen made a spelling error, leaving off a letter on the end where they ran out of room.

The Museum of London Archeology (MOLA) which excavated the site, noted that the city in question was probably Rome.

The blog post jokes:

“I went to Rome, and all I got you was this stylus!”

According to MOLA, the rare stylus creates a direct link between Roman Italy and the province of Britannia.

“The iron stylus – used to write on wax-filled wooden writing tablets – dates to around AD 70, just a few decades after Roman London was founded,” states the MOLA blog.

“The Bloomberg dig uncovered more than 14,000 artifacts revealing what life was like for the first Londoners, including the first written reference to the name of the City. Six hundred of the finds are now on display at London Mithraeum Bloomberg SPACE.”

This inscribed stylus is one of only a handful ever found across the entire Roman Empire. The MOLA archaeologists believe the Bloomberg example to be “the finest, unparalleled in the length, poetry, and humor of its inscription.”

Not only does this discovery illustrate how Rome and Britannia were interconnected, but also that writing had become a critical way for people to stay connected, true to this day.

“The stylus and its inscription highlights the crucial role that writing and literacy played in allowing traders, soldiers and officials to keep in contact with peers, friends and family, some of whom lived over a thousand miles away.”

Along with the styluses, archaeologists uncovered over 400 writing tablets with beautiful cursive text – written words from the first Londoners in history. Bloomberg states the tablets were used for “note taking, tallying accounts, correspondence, and legal matters.”

One of the tablets is the earliest example of a financial document from the City of London. It dates to January 8, 57 AD. Another tablet dating to from 65 – 70 AD features the word, “London” on it, a first-ever written reference to the City, spelled “Londinio.”

Roman tablets via YouTube/Bloomberg

Bloomberg’s headquarters also features the Temple of Mithras in the basement. Built in 240AD, the Romans built the temple next to the Walbrook river. The temple was dedicated to “one of their most mysterious cult figures,” Mithras the bull-slayer.

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More on the fascinating Bloomberg writing tablets found in from 2016 below:

Featured images: Screenshots via YouTube

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