Rebecca R. Benefiel Abigail Grigsby Urquhart Professor of Classics

Rebecca R. Benefiel

Tucker Hall 105

An expert on Pompeian graffiti and a social and cultural historian of the Roman Empire, Rebecca Benefiel came to Washington & Lee University in 2005 after completing her PhD at Harvard. She teaches a variety of Latin literature and Roman archaeology courses.

Professor Benefiel is the founder and director of The Ancient Graffiti Project, a user-friendly resource for studying handwritten inscriptions of the Roman Empire, especially from Pompeii and Herculaneum, and has been President of the American Society of Greek and Latin Epigraphy (ASGLE). 

She has been a visiting professor at Sapienza University of Rome (L'Università di Roma, La Sapienza) and an invited research scholar at Universität Heidelberg, as well as Fellow of the American Academy in Rome, Fellow of the Center for Hellenic Studies in Washington DC, and Member of the School for Historical Studies at the Institute of Advanced Study in Princeton, NJ.

She is a recipient of the Commonwealth of Virginia's Outstanding Faculty Award.


Ph.D. in Classical Philology, Harvard University, 2005

Graduate study in epigraphy, L'Università di Roma 'La Sapienza,' Rome, Italy
   (supported by a Rotary International Scholarship)

B.A. in Greek and Latin, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
   awarded with Honors and Highest Distinction


Latin epigraphy, Roman social and cultural history, Latin literature,
Pompeii and Herculaneum, Roman archaeology

Collaborative Research Projects:

The Ancient Graffiti Project   (Director)

Epigraphic Database Roma   (Supervisor)

EAGLE, The Europeana network of Ancient Greek and Latin Epigraphy   (Contributor)

The Herculaneum Graffiti Project  (Project Director)

The Oplontis Project  (Contributing Scholar)


Recent courses include:
CLAS 288 - Study Abroad: The Archaeology of the Roman Empire
CLAS 338 - Pompeii
CLAS 343 - The Roman Emperor 
LATN 310 - Letters as Historical Evidence (Cicero and Pliny)
LATN 323 - Writing about Empire (Tacitus)
LATN 326 - The Poetry of Ovid
LATN 350 - Latin Epigraphy
LATN 395 - Roman Religion

Other courses include Beginning Latin, Introduction to Latin Poetry, and Advanced Latin seminars on Suetonius, Ovid's Heroides, and The City of Rome in Latin Poetry.

Selected Publications


Inscriptions and the Epigraphic Habit: The Epigraphic Cultures of Greece, Rome, and Beyond,
(eds.) R. Benefiel and C. Keesling, Leiden: Brill, 2023.

Inscriptions in the Private Sphere in the Greco-Roman World, (eds.) R. Benefiel and P. Keegan, Leiden: Brill, 2016.


Articles and Chapters:

R. Benefiel, H. Sypniewski, “Documenting ancient graffiti: Text, image, support, and access,” in: Scratched, Scrawled, Sprayed: Towards a Cross-Cultural Research on Graffiti, edited by O. Skrabal et al., Studies in Manuscript Cultures vol. 35, Berlin: De Gruyter (2023), 425-465.

“Traces of the Roman Army among the Graffiti of Pompeii,” in: Soldados, Armas y Batallas en los grafitos históricos, (eds.) A. Polo Romero, G. Viñuales Ferreiro, and F. Reyes Téllez, Oxford: Archaeopress (2023), 5-13.

“Graffiti in Religious Spaces in First-Century Pompeii: Lararia, Neighbourhood Shrines, and Graffiti in the Early Roman Empire,” in: Cultic Graffiti in the Late Antique Mediterranean and Beyond, (eds.) B. Ward-Perkins and A. Felle, Turnhout: Brepols (2021), 1-16.

P. Hammond, J. Mark, R. Benefiel, “Imperial Epistaxis and Edema: Insights into the Death of the Roman Emperor Hadrian,” Ear, Nose & Throat Journal (2021), 1-3.

“Editing ancient inscriptions,” in: The Lives of Latin Texts. Papers Presented to Richard J. Tarrant, (eds.) L. Curtis and I. Peirano, Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press (2021), 3-31.

“Regio I - Latium et Campania. Pompeii – Tituli scariphati,” Italia Epigrafica Digitale (2020) v. 1, n. 2.5. Open access at:

“Graffiti in Pompeii, Italy,” in: Graffiti as Devotion along the Nile and Beyond, (eds.) G. Emberling and S. Davis, Ann Arbor: Kelsey Museum of Archaeology (2019), 119-133.

Chapter 19: “The Scope and Typology of the Graffiti at Oplontis,” in: Oplontis: Villa A (“of Poppaea”) at Torre Annunziata, Italy. Volume 2. The Decorations: Painting, Stucco, Sculpture, Pavements, (eds.) J. R. Clarke and N. K. Muntasser, New York: American Council of Learned Societies (2019), [e-book pagination, 2002-2048].
and Chapter 20: “Catalogue of the Graffiti,” [e-book pagination, 2051-2162, cat. 1-86, figs. 20.1-128]. Open access at:

R. Benefiel, H. Sypniewski, “Greek Graffiti in Herculaneum,” American Journal of Archaeology vol. 122.2 (2018), 209-244.

“Gladiators, Greetings, and Poetry: Graffiti in first century Pompeii,” Scribbling Through History: Graffiti, Places and People from Antiquity to Modernity, (eds.) C. Ragazzoli, O. Harmansah, C. Salvador, and E. Frood, London: Bloomsbury (2018), 101-116.

“Urban and Suburban Attitudes Toward Writing on Walls: Pompeii and Environs,” Writing Matters. Presenting and Perceiving Monumental Inscriptions in Antiquity and the Middle Ages, (eds.) I. Berti, K. Bolle, F. Opdenhoff, and F. Stroth, Berlin: De Gruyter (2017), 353-373.   Open access at: 

“Latium et Campania. Pompeii et Herculaneum: Graffiti,” Italia Epigrafica Digitale (2017) vol. 2, fasc. 3. Open access at:

"The Culture of Writing Graffiti within Domestic Spaces at Pompeii," in: Inscriptions in the Private Sphere in the Greco-Roman World, edited by R. Benefiel and P. Keegan, Leiden: Brill (2016), 80-110.

"Regional Interaction," in: A Companion to Roman Italy, edited by A. Cooley, Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell, Chichester (2016), 441-458.

D. Petrain, R. Benefiel, “Good Fortunes at Oplontis? A reconsideration of SEG 38.1001,” Zeitschrift für Papyrologie und Epigraphik 200 (2016), 229-233.

R. Benefiel, J. DiBiasie, H. Sypniewski, E. Zimmermann Damer, K. Helms, M. Loar, K. Lundqvist, F. Opdenhoff, “The Herculaneum Graffiti Project: Initial Field Season, 2014,” The Journal of Fasti Online. FOLD&R 361 (2016), 1-23.

R. Benefiel, H. Sypniewski, “Images and Text on the Walls of Herculaneum: Designing the Ancient Graffiti Project,” Off the Beaten Track. Epigraphy at the Borders, edited by A.E. Felle and A. Rocco, Oxford: Archeopress (2016), 29-48.

"Ancient Graffiti in Pompeian Domestic Spaces," in: Öffentlichkeit - Monument - Text: Akten des XIV Congressus Internationalis Epigraphiae Graecae et Latinae, edited by W. Eck and P. Funke, Berlin: De Gruyter (2014), 494-496.

"The Herculaneum Graffiti Project," ISAW Papers 7.4: Current Practice in Linked Open Data for the Ancient World, edited by T. Elliott, S. Heath, J. Muccigrosso (2014).

"The Graffiti," in: Excavations at Zeugma, edited by W. Aylward, Los Altos, CA: Packard Humanities Institute (2013), 178-191. [co-authored with K. Coleman]

"Campania," in: The Virgil Encyclopedia, vol. I, edited by R. Thomas and J. Ziolkowski, Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell (2013), 226-227.

"Magic Squares, Alphabet Jumbles, Riddles and more: The culture of word-games among the graffiti of Pompeii," in: The Muse at Play. Riddles and Wordplay in Greek and Latin Poetry, edited by J. Kwapisz, D. Petrain, and M. Szymanski, Munich: De Gruyter (2012), 65-80.

"Grafitos en lugares domésticos en la antigua Pompeya," in: La Memoria en la Piedra. Estudios sobre Grafitos Históricos, edited by Pablo Ozcariz Gil, Gobierno de Navarra: Príncipe de Viana (2012), 221-230.

"Dialogues of Graffiti in the House of the Four Styles at Pompeii (Casa dei Quattro Stili, I.8.17, 11)," in: Ancient Graffiti in Context, edited by J. A. Baird and Claire Taylor, London: Routledge (2011), 20-48.

"Dialogues of Ancient Graffiti in the House of Maius Castricius at Pompeii," American Journal of Archaeology 114.1 (2010), 59-101.

"Rome in Pompeii: Wall Inscriptions and GIS," in: Latin on Stone. Epigraphic Research and Computing, edited by F. Feraudi-Gruénais, Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield (2010), 45-75.

"Amianth, a Ball-Game, and Making One's Mark," Zeitschrift für Papyrologie und Epigraphik 167 (2008), 193-200.

"Pompeii, Puteoli, and the status of a colonia in the mid-first century AD," in: Pompei, Capri e la Penisola Sorrentina, edited by F. Senatore, Roma: Bardi Editori (2004), 349-368.

"Teaching by Example: Aetiology in Plutarch's De Mulierum Virtutibus," Ploutarchos n.s. 1 (2003/2004), 11-20.

"A New Praetorian Laterculus from Rome," Zeitschrift für Papyrologie und Epigraphik 134 (2001), 221-232.

"The Inscriptions of the Aqueducts of Rome: the ancient period," The Waters of Rome 1 (2001), 1-10.



  • The Oxford Handbook to Pompeii and Environs, co-edited by J. Berry and R. Benefiel (Oxford University Press, in progress)

Current Projects:
- The Joy of Writing. Roman Culture and Ancient Graffiti in Pompeii and Herculaneum

- Chapter on Urban Slavery, for The Oxford Handbook on Comparative Archaeology of Slavery, edited by Jane Webster and Mark Leone.

- continuing to edit inscriptions for the Epigraphic Database Roma

Honors and Awards

Invited Visiting Professor, Sapienza University of Rome (L'Università di Roma, La Sapienza), Spring 2024
Member, Institute for Advanced Study, School of Historical Studies, 2022-2023
National Lecturer, Archaeological Institute of America
Invited Research Scholar, Universität Heidelberg (SFB 933 Materiale Textkulturen), 2013
State of Virginia (SCHEV) Outstanding Faculty Award, 2011
Rome Prize, American Academy in Rome, 2002-2003

Grants and Fellowships:
National Endowment for the Humanities, Scholarly Editions and Translations Award, 2018-2021
National Endowment for the Humanities, Office of Digital Humanities Grant, 2016-2018
Fellow in Digital Epigraphy, Center for Hellenic Studies, Washington DC, 2016-2017
Associated Colleges of the South Faculty Advancement Grant, 2016
Associated Colleges of the South Faculty Advancement Grant, 2014
Library of Congress Kluge Fellowship, 2011-2012
Archaeological Institute of America Olivia James Traveling Fellowship, 2008-2009   
American Philosophical Society Franklin Research Grant, Summer 2007
Mednick Fellowship, Virginia Foundation for Independent Colleges, Summer 2006 
Whiting Dissertation Completion Fellowship, 2004-2005  

In the news . . .

National Geographic interviewed Professor Benefiel for its podcast series Overheard: Season 2, Episode 7 “If These Walls Could Talk” (aired 28 November 2019). That episode was rated one of the Top 5 Best Adventure Travel Podcasts by Explore Worldwide. 

Her research and the digital resource she created and directs, The Ancient Graffiti Project, have also been featured in the Daily BeastSmithsonian MagazineThe AtlanticForbes MagazineScienceNewsCurrent World ArchaeologyNational Geographic magazine, NPR (Virginia Insight), and USA Today.