Three Words: Ancient. Erotic. Graffiti.
If there is one thing I learned studying dead languages in college, it’s that the people of the ancient world were just as raunchy as we are today — possibly even more so. And just in case you don’t believe me, this little news tidbit should lay your doubt to rest: One of the world’s oldest examples of erotic graffiti has just been uncovered on the Greek island of Astypalaia. And it’s dirty. Really, really dirty. Awesome!
According to The Guardian, Dr. Andreas Vlachopoulos discovered the remarkably racy carvings in the rocky peninsula of the island overlooking the Bay of Vathy. The graffiti includes both words and images — the words being things like Nikasitimos was here mounting Timiona and the images, of course, enormous phalluses — and dates back to the fifth and sixth centuries B.C. Also, the inscriptions were huge. So big, in fact, Dr. Vlachopoulos said of them, “They were what I would call triumphant inscriptions. They claimed their own space in large letters that not only expressed sexual desire but talked about the act of sex itself. And that is very, very rare.” Unapologetic hooking up? Definitely something I can get behind.
Erotic graffiti itself is far from rare; we’ve found examples of it all over the remains of the ancient world, and not just in Greece, either. Pompei and the inside of the Colosseum, for instance, display a great deal of dirty jokes in Latin (“Defecator, may everything turn out okay so that you can leave this place!”), and the Moche people of Peru were well-known for their erotic pottery. What makes this particular finding so momentous, however, is the tense in which the graffiti is written. “We know that in ancient Greece sexual desire between men was not a taboo,” Dr. Vlachopoulos said. “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.” Its frankness and the pride its authors took in it sets it apart.
So, y’know, next time someone gives you trouble about making a dirty joke, just tell them that you’re following in the footsteps of some of the greatest civilizations in history.