An angry protester has daubed a new housing development in Latin graffiti – but didn’t quite get their grammar right.
Local residents in Chesterton, Cambridge, described the damage as the ‘most Cambridge thing ever’ on social media despite academics criticising the vandal’s use of language.
The graffiti is reminiscent of the ‘Romans go home’ scene from Monty Python’s Life of Brian – in which Brian daubs an anti-Roman slogan on the walls of Pontius Pilate’s palace but accidentally messes up the grammar.
He is confronted by a centurion but the soldier is distracted by the poor use of Latin and is then ordered to write the slogan 100 times.
Police are investigating after the brand new properties, which are on the market for £1.25 million each, were covered with artistic white and black lettering apparently complaining about the site.
According to local residents, the houses replaced the popular Penny Ferry pub that had stood on the site and provided locals with a ‘green space’ by the river.
The Latin reads ‘locus in domos’ and ‘loci populum’ and has proven difficult to accurately translate – even for Cambridge scholar and TV personality Mary Beard.
However, it loosely means ‘room in the house’ and ‘local people’.
Cambridge University Professor of Classics Mary Beard said: ‘This is a bit hard to translate, but I think what they were trying to say is that a lovely place has been turned into houses.’
Dr Charles Weiss, from Cambridge University’s Faculty of Classics, said: ‘His capital D is odd.
‘I assume this is an impossible form of ‘domus’ and that the word ‘houses’ or ‘homes’ is meant but if the lettering is deliberate it could refer to some non-declining proper noun, like a place or even a person.
‘”Doma” is the name of a few obscure places, evidently, and might be an alternate to Tomas.
‘It could also be capitalised because the writer is accustomed to capitalising nouns, as in German and some English.
‘”Populum” is also very odd. I assume that a genitive or dative is actually meant. It could be a rare spelling of the genitive plural but given ‘Domas’ that seems unlikely.’
Residents believe the graffiti is a protest against the pub being replaced, the high prices of the new housing and the fact they have remained empty for months.
Richard Taylor, 36, lives three streets away from the site. He said: ‘It’s very strange. Who has the ability to do quite neat and artistic graffiti like this?
‘On the one hand it’s an effective way of getting people talking about it. On the other, it’s quite a serious crime. They’ve caused a lot of damage.
‘There are four police officers investigating it now, and they are looking at the builders’ ladders. The artist appears to have used their ladders to do this.
‘The site used to be a pub and gave some public access to a green space by the river.
‘Now these houses have gone up you can no longer access it, and the graffiti appears to be a protest against that.’
Cambridge has faced increasing tension over its housing situation. According to a recent Lloyds Bank study it comes fourth on the list of the UK’s least affordable cities.
The average property price is around ten times the average income.
Richard said: ‘There are a lot of people here who are unhappy about the cost of housing and living.
‘It’s becoming increasingly difficult to afford decent housing, and people in housing estates are increasingly living next to people in very expensive housing.
‘In some way the city is very successful, but there is real pressure on housing and transport and commuting from nearby towns and villages is not easy. We have real problems.’
A Cambridgeshire Police spokesman said: ‘We were called at 8am this morning to a report of criminal damage on Water Street in Cambridge.
‘We have launched a criminal investigation into the incident and anyone with any information is asked to contact police on 101, quoting incident number CFO 836 201 17.’
The houses targeted by graffiti vandals were developed by HC Moss (Builders) Ltd.
A spokesman for the construction firm said: ‘We have been made aware of the incident of criminal damage at our Water Street development and are taking steps to remove the graffiti.
‘This appears to be an isolated incident and it has been reported to the police who are investigating.
‘We will be reviewing our current security measures at the location.’
Local PCSO Dan Eaton said: ‘Only in Cambridge will you find graffiti in Latin.’
The homes are near where a new railway station providing high-speed links to London is expected to open on May 21.