Roman iron stylus unearthed in London bears ‘welcome gift’ inscription

I came to London in 70AD and all I got you was a lousy pen: Roman iron stylus unearthed in the City of London bears ‘welcome gift’ inscription

  • Roman stylus pen was found underneath Bloomberg’s European HQ building 
  • Archaeological specialist said was one of the most ‘human’ Roman London finds
  • Excavations between 2010 and 2014, experts recovered about 14,000 artefacts

It’s a familiar slogan you’ve read on any number of cheap modern-day tourist souvenirs: ‘My dad went to wherever and all he got me was this lousy…’

But a remarkable archaeological find suggests vendors had a similar sense of humour nearly 2,000 years ago.

A Roman iron stylus pen unearthed in the City of London and dated around 70AD, bears the inscription: ‘I have come from the city. I bring you a welcome gift with a sharp point that you may remember me.

A Roman iron stylus pen unearthed in the City of London and dated around 70AD, bears the inscription: ‘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 my purse is empty.’ 

And perhaps in contrast to today’s recipients of the slogan’s modern equivalent, archaeologists have hailed the poetry and humour on the stylus.

Michael Marshall, a senior Roman finds specialist, said: ‘It’s one of the most human objects from Roman London.

‘It’s very unpretentious and witty. It gives you a real sense of the person who wrote it.’ 

The pen was found during excavations underneath Bloomberg’s European headquarters near the Cannon Street Tube station on the bank of the river Walbrook, a now-lost tributary of the Thames.

The pen was found during excavations underneath Bloomberg’s European headquarters (pictured) near the Cannon Street Tube station

During the excavations between 2010 and 2014, experts recovered about 14,000 artefacts which archaeologists are continuing to work through. 

Due to corrosion, the inscription on the 5in stylus – used to scratch letters on a wax-covered tablet – was exceptionally difficult to read and became legible only after painstaking work by conservators.

Paul Roberts, curator at Oxford’s Ashmolean Museum where the stylus is on display, said: ‘I’ve never seen anything quite like it.’ 

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