Love Among the Ruins
The Guardian reports: “Wild, windswept, rocky and remote, Astypalaia is not an obvious place for the unearthing of some of the world’s earliest erotic graffiti.
Certainly, Dr Andreas Vlachopoulos, a specialist in prehistoricarchaeology, didn’t think so when he began fieldwork on the Aegean island four years ago. Until he chanced upon a couple of racy inscriptions and large phalluses carved into Astypalaia’s rocky peninsula at Vathy. The inscriptions, both dating to the fifth and sixth centuries BC, were “so monumental in scale” – and so tantalisingly clear – he was left in no doubt of the motivation behind the artworks.
"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 dolomite limestone that dot the cape, the inscriptions have provided invaluable insight into the private lives of those who inhabited archaic and classical Greece. One, believed to have been carved in the mid-sixth century BC, proclaimed: “Nikasitimos was here mounting Timiona (Νικασίτιμος οἶφε Τιμίονα).
"We know that in ancient Greece sexual desire between men was not a taboo," added Dr Vlachopoulos, 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, emphasising the sexual act in a way that is highly unusual in erotic artwork. "
Found at the highest point of the promontory overlooking the Bay of Vathy on the island’s north-western tip, the inscription has led the archaeologist to believe that soldiers may once have been garrisoned there.
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 behaviour on the part of Dion,” said Vlachopoulos.”
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