Inscriptions and etchings documenting an ongoing sexual relationship between two men in Ancient Greece were discovered on the Greek island of Astypalaia. Archaeologists believe it is the oldest record of erotic graffiti ever found.
The etchings included racy inscriptions and phalluses carved on a rock, dating from the mid 6th century BC.
In an interview with The Guardian, Dr Andreas Vlachopoulos, a specialist in prehistoric archaeology was surprised to find such sophisticated inscriptions in such an unlikely place. He called the inscriptions “monumental in scale”.
“They were what I would call triumphant inscriptions,” said the Princeton-trained professor who found them while introducing students to the ancient island world of the Aegean. “They claimed their own space in large letters that not only expressed sexual desire but talked about the act of sex itself,” he told the Guardian. “And that is very, very rare.”
Chiselled into the outcrops of a limestone peninsula in an area called Vathy, the inscriptions have provided invaluable insight into the private lives of those who inhabited archaic and classical Greece. One proclaimed: “Nikasitimos was here mounting Timionas (Νικασίτιμος οἶφε Τιμίονα).
“We know that in ancient Greece sexual desire between men was not a taboo,” added Dr Vlachopoulos in The Guardian interview by Helena Smith, who returned to the far-flung island last week to resume work with a team of topographers, photographers, conservationists and students.
“But this graffiti … is not just among the earliest ever discovered. By using the verb in the past continuous [tense], it clearly says that these two men were making love over a long period of time, emphasizing the sexual act in a way that is highly unusual in erotic artwork. ”
Two penises engraved into limestone beneath the name of Dion, and dating to the fifth century BC, were also discovered at lower heights of the cape. “They would seem to allude to similar behavior on the part of Dion,” said Vlachopoulos.
The epigrapher, Angelos Matthaiou, said the graffiti had not only shed light on the very personal lives of the ancients but highlighted the extent of literacy at a time when the Acropolis in Athens had yet to be built.
“Whoever wrote the erotic inscription referring to Timiona was very well trained in writing,” said Matthaiou, for more than 25 years the general secretary at the Greek Epigraphic Society.
“The letters have been very skillfully inscribed on the face of the rock, evidence that it was not just philosophers, scholars and historians who were trained in the art of writing but ordinary people living on islands too.”