I heard a radio programme recently celebrating the work of the graffiti artists who sprayed and inked upon every available surface of the New York subway in the 1970’s. There was an implication that these acts of “artistic vandalism” were ground breaking and set the direction for the likes of Banksy to follow.
I’ve no doubt they were influential, but they overlook something. The word sounds Italian because it derives from the Italian word for scratched; graffiato. It was part of life in Roman towns 2000 years ago (and can be seen in Pompeii as a result as well as in Ancient Greece and Egypt) and continues to this day.