The news: Well, it turns out juvenile delinquents with a penchant for dirty graffiti have been around for longer than you might think.
Four years ago, archaeologist Andreas Vlachopoulos started fieldwork in Astypalaia, a Greek island in the Aegean Sea. But it wasn't until recently that he made what might be his strangest discovery yet: Racy inscriptions and phallic drawings from the fifth and sixth centuries B.C. chiseled into limestone and preserved for millennia show what may be the oldest erotic graffiti in the world.
"They were what I would call triumphant inscriptions," Vlachopoulos told the Guardian. "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."
While this graffiti is hilarious, it does serve an important purpose. Archaeologists are not studying these ancient scribbles just for kicks. They provide important insight into social mores and customs of the time. For instance, one work from Astypalaia — which reads, "Nikasitimos was here mounting Timiona" — offers a frank depiction of homosexuality that is uncommon elsewhere.
"We know that in ancient Greece sexual desire between men was not a taboo," 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."
And there is more. Though Vlachopoulos's dicovery might mark the oldest NSFW graffiti ever found, ancient porn is surprisingly common, especially in places like Pompeii. The city has been remarkably well-preserved since the volcanic eruption that destroyed it and scholars have been translating all the dirty gossip and boasts. Here are a few examples they found:
1. From the Bar/Brothel of Innulus and Papilio: "Weep, you girls. My penis has given you up. Now it penetrates men's behinds. Goodbye, wondrous femininity!"
2. From the Herculaneum (a bar/inn joined to the maritime baths): "Two friends were here. While they were, they had bad service in every way from a guy named Epaphroditus. They threw him out and spent 105 and half sestertii most agreeably on whores."
3. Also from the Herculaneum: "Apelles the chamberlain with Dexter, a slave of Caesar, ate here most agreeably and had a screw at the same time."
4. From the peristyle of the Tavern of Verecundus: "Restitutus says: 'Restituta, take off your tunic, please, and show us your hairy privates.'"
You can check out more examples of lewd, ancient graffiti here — just tell yourself that you're getting a history lesson.
Each inscription begins with a reference to where it was found (region.insula.door number). The second number is the reference to the publication of the inscription in the Corpus Inscriptionum Latinarum, Volume 4.
I.2.20 (Bar/Brothel of Innulus and Papilio); 3932: Weep, you girls. My penis has given you up. Now it penetrates men’s behinds. Goodbye, wondrous femininity!
I.2.23 (peristyle of the Tavern of Verecundus); 3951: Restitutus says: “Restituta, take off your tunic, please, and show us your hairy privates”.
I.4.5 (House of the Citharist; below a drawing of a man with a large nose); 2375: Amplicatus, I know that Icarus is buggering you. Salvius wrote this.
I.7.1 (in the vestibule of the House of Cuspius Pansa); 8075: The finances officer of the emperor Nero says this food is poison
I.7.8 (bar; left of the door); 8162: We two dear men, friends forever, were here. If you want to know our names, they are Gaius and Aulus.
I.10.2-3 (Bar of Prima); 8258, 8259: The story of Successus, Severus and Iris is played out on the walls of a bar: [Severus]: “Successus, a weaver, loves the innkeeper’s slave girl named Iris. She, however, does not love him. Still, he begs her to have pity on him. His rival wrote this. Goodbye.”. [Answer by Successus]: “Envious one, why do you get in the way. Submit to a handsomer man and one who is being treated very wrongly and good looking.” [Answer by Severus]: “I have spoken. I have written all there is to say. You love Iris, but she does not love you.”
I.10.2-3 (Bar of Prima); 8297: Word square
I.10.4 (near the rear entrance vestibule of the House of Menander); 8356: At Nuceria, look for Novellia Primigenia near the Roman gate in the prostitute’s district.
I.10.4 (exterior of the House of Menander); 8304: Satura was here on September 3rd
I.10.7 (House and Office of Volusius Iuvencus; left of the door); 8364: Secundus says hello to his Prima, wherever she is. I ask, my mistress, that you love me.
II.2.1 (Bar of Astylus and Pardalus); 8408: Lovers are like bees in that they live a honeyed life
II.2.3 (Bar of Athictus; right of the door); 8442: I screwed the barmaid
II.3.10 (Pottery Shop or Bar of Nicanor; right of the door); 10070: Lesbianus, you defecate and you write, ‘Hello, everyone!’
II.4.1 (bar; left of the door, near a picture of Mercury); 8475: Palmyra, the thirst-quencher
II.7 (gladiator barracks); 8767: Floronius, privileged soldier of the 7th legion, was here. The women did not know of his presence. Only six women came to know, too few for such a stallion.
II.7 (gladiator barracks); 8792: On April 19th, I made bread
II.7 (gladiator barracks); 8792b: Antiochus hung out here with his girlfriend Cithera.
III.4.2 (House of the Moralist); 7698a: Let water wash your feet clean and a slave wipe them dry; let a cloth cover the couch; take care of our linens.
III.4.2 (House of the Moralist); 7698b: Remove lustful expressions and flirtatious tender eyes from another man’s wife; may there be modesty in your expression.
III.4.2 (House of the Moralist); 7698c: […]postpone your tiresome quarrels if you can, or leave and take them home with you.
III.5.1 (House of Pascius Hermes; left of the door); 7716: To the one defecating here. Beware of the curse. If you look down on this curse, may you have an angry Jupiter for an enemy.
III.5.3 (on the wall in the street); 8898: Theophilus, don’t perform oral sex on girls against the city wall like a dog
III.5.4 (exterior of a small house); 8903: Gaius Sabinus says a fond hello to Statius. Traveler, you eat bread in Pompeii but you go to Nuceria to drink. At Nuceria, the drinking is better.
V.1.18 (House of Valerius Flaccus and Valerius Rufinus; right of the door); 4066: Daphnus was here with his Felicla.
V.1.26 (House of Caecilius Iucundus); 4091: Whoever loves, let him flourish. Let him perish who knows not love. Let him perish twice over whoever forbids love.
V.1.26 (peristyle of the House of Caecilius Iucundus); 4087: Staphylus was here with Quieta.
V.3.9 (House of Cosmus and Epidia; right of the door); 6702: Aufidius was here. Goodbye
V.5 (just outside the Vesuvius gate); 6641: Defecator, may everything turn out okay so that you can leave this place
V.5 (near the Vesuvius Gate); 7086: Marcus loves Spendusa
V.5.3 (barracks of the Julian-Claudian gladiators; column in the peristyle); 4289: Celadus the Thracian gladiator is the delight of all the girls
VI (on the Street of Mercury); 1321: Publius Comicius Restitutus stood right here with his brother
VI.6.1 (House of the Olii; on the Via Consolare); 139: The city block of the Arrii Pollii in the possession of Gnaeus Alleius Nigidius Maius is available to rent from July 1st. There are shops on the first floor, upper stories, high-class rooms and a house. A person interested in renting this property should contact Primus, the slave of Gnaeus Alleius Nigidius Maius.
VI.11 (on the Vico del Labirinto); 1393: On April 20th, I gave a cloak to be washed. On May 7th, a headband. On May 8th, two tunics
VI.13.19 (House of Sextus Pompeius Axiochus and Julia Helena; left of the door); 4485: Hectice, baby, Mercator says hello to you
VI.14 (vico degli Scienziati); 3042: Cruel Lalagus, why do you not love me?
VI.14.20 (House of Orpheus); 4523: I have buggered men
VI.14.36 (Bar of Salvius); 3494: In one bar, a picture depicts two men playing dice. One shouts, “Six!” while his opponent holds up two fingers and says, “No, that’s not a ‘three’; it’s a ‘two’”. By the door of the bar, another picture shows a short man driving a group of men out. Above his head are the words, “Go on, get out of here! You have been fighting!”
VI.14.36 (Bar of Salvius; over a picture of a woman carrying a pitcher of wine and a drinking goblet); 3494: Whoever wants to serve themselves can go on an drink from the sea.
VI.14.37 (Wood-Working Shop of Potitus): 3498: What a lot of tricks you use to deceive, innkeeper. You sell water but drink unmixed wine
VI.14.43 (atrium of a House of the Large Brothel); 1520: Blondie has taught me to hate dark-haired girls. I shall hat them, if I can, but I wouldn’t mind loving them. Pompeian Venus Fisica wrote this.
VI.15.6 (House of Caesius Valens and Herennius Nardus); 4637: Rufus loves Cornelia Hele
VI.16.15 (atrium of the House of Pinarius); 6842: If anyone does not believe in Venus, they should gaze at my girl friend
VII (House of the Tetrastyle Atrium); 2060: Romula hung out here with Staphylus.
VII.1.40 (House of Caesius Blandus; in the peristyle of the House of Mars and Venus on the Street of the Augustales); 1714: It took 640 paces to walk back and forth between here and there ten times
VII.6.35 (Brothel of Venus; on the Vico dei Soprastanti opposite the Vicolo del Gallo); 1645: May Love burn in some lonely mountains whoever wants to rape my girl friend!
VII.2.18 (vicolo del Panattiere, House of the Vibii, Merchants); 3117: Atimetus got me pregnant
VII.2.18 (vicolo del Panattiere, House of the Vibii, Merchants); 3131: Figulus loves Idaia
VII.2.44 (Bar of Hedone (or Colepius) on the Street of the Augustales; on the corner toward the lupinare); 1679: Hedone says, “You can get a drink here for only one coin. You can drink better wine for two coins. You can drink Falernian for four coins.”
VII.2.48 (House of Caprasius Primus); 3061: I don’t want to sell my husband, not for all the gold in the world
VII.7.5 (House of the Calpurnii); 4783: Crescens is sweet and charming
VII.9 (Eumachia Building, via della Abbondanza); 2048: Secundus likes to screw boys.
VII.12.18-20 (the Lupinare); 2175: I screwed a lot of girls here.
VII.12.18-20 (the Lupinare); 2185: On June 15th, Hermeros screwed here with Phileterus and Caphisus.
VII.12.18-20 (the Lupinare); 2192: Sollemnes, you screw well!
VII.12.35 (Vico d’ Eumachia, small room of a possible brothel); 2145: Gaius Valerius Venustus, soldier of the 1st praetorian cohort, in the century of Rufus, screwer of women
VII.12.35 (Vico d’ Eumachia, small room of a possible brothel); 2146: Vibius Restitutus slept here alone and missed his darling Urbana
VII.12.35 (Vico d’ Eumachia, small room of a possible brothel); 2163: The warmest hello to Saenecio Fortunaus, wherever he may go.
VII.15.11-12 (House of Verus; between the two doors of the house); 4838: Secundus says hello to his friends.
VIII (corridor in the theater); 2457: Methe, slave of Cominia, from Atella, loves Chrestus. May Pompeian Venus be dear to both of them and may they always live in harmony.
VIII (Street of the Theaters); 64: A copper pot went missing from my shop. Anyone who returns it to me will be given 65 bronze coins (sestertii). 20 more will be given for information leading to the capture of the thief.
VIII.1 (above a bench outside the Marine Gate); 1751: If anyone sits here, let him read this first of all: if anyone wants a screw, he should look for Attice; she costs 4 sestertii.
VIII.2 (in the basilica); 1797: No young buck is complete until he has fallen in love
VIII.2 (in the basilica); 1808: Auge loves Allotenus
VIII.2 (in the basilica); 1811: A small problem gets larger if you ignore it.
VIII.2 (in the basilica); 1812: Caesius faithfully loves M[…name lost]
VIII.2 (in the basilica); 1816: Epaphra, you are bald!
VIII.2 (in the basilica); 1820: Chie, I hope your hemorrhoids rub together so much that they hurt worse than when they every have before!
VIII.2 (in the basilica); 1824: Let everyone one in love come and see. I want to break Venus’ ribs with clubs and cripple the goddess’ loins. If she can strike through my soft chest, then why can’t I smash her head with a club?
VIII.2 (in the basilica); 1826: Phileros is a eunuch!
VIII.2 (in the basilica); 1837: If you are able, but not willing, why do you put off our joy and kindle hope and tell me always to come back tomorrow. So, force me to die since you force me to live without you. Your gift will be to stop torturing me. Certainly, hope returns to the lover what it has once snatched away.
VIII.2 (in the basilica); 1842: Gaius Pumidius Dipilus was here on October 3rd 78 BC.
VIII.2 (in the basilica); 1852: Pyrrhus to his colleague Chius: I grieve because I hear you have died; and so farewell.
VIII.2 (in the basilica); 1863: Take hold of your servant girl whenever you want to; it’s your right
VIII.2 (in the basilica); 1864: Samius to Cornelius: go hang yourself!
VIII.2 (in the basilica); 1880: Lucius Istacidius, I regard as a stranger anyone who doesn’t invite me to dinner.
VIII.2 (in the basilica); 1880: The man I am having dinner with is a barbarian.
VIII.2 (in the basilica); 1881: Virgula to her friend Tertius: you are disgusting!
VIII.2 (in the basilica); 1882: The one who buggers a fire burns his penis
VIII.2 (in the basilica); 1904: O walls, you have held up so much tedious graffiti that I am amazed that you have not already collapsed in ruin.
VIII.2 (in the basilica); 1926: Epaphra is not good at ball games.
VIII.2 (in the basilica); 1928: Love dictates to me as I write and Cupid shows me the way, but may I die if god should wish me to go on without you
VIII.2 (in the basilica); 1951: Sarra, you are not being very nice, leaving me all alone like this
VIII.7.6 (Inn of the Muledrivers; left of the door); 4957: We have wet the bed, host. I confess we have done wrong. If you want to know why, there was no chamber pot
IX.1.26 (atrium of the House of the Jews); 2409a: Stronius Stronnius knows nothing!
IX.2.18 (House of Curvius Marcellus and Fabia; in the tablinum); 4993: Ampliatus Pedania is a thief!
IX.5.11 (House of Poppaeus Sabinus; peristyle); 5092: If you felt the fires of love, mule-driver, you would make more haste to see Venus. I love a charming boy; I ask you, goad the mules; let’s go. Take me to Pompeii, where love is sweet. You are mine…
IX.5.18 (House of Hercules and Nessus; beside the door of house); 5112: Learn this: while I am alive, you, hateful death, are coming.
IX.8.3 (House of the Centenary; in the atrium); 5213: My lusty son, with how many women have you had sexual relations?
IX.8.3 (House of the Centenary; in the latrine near the front door); 5243: “Secundus defecated here” three time on one wall.
IX.8.3 (House of the Centenary; interior of the house); 5279: Once you are dead, you are nothing
IX.8.11 (triclinium of a house); 5251: Restitutus has deceived many girls.
Nuceria Necropolis (on a tomb); 10231: Serena hates Isidorus
Nuceria Necropolis (on a tomb); 10241: Greetings to Primigenia of Nuceria. I would wish to become a signet ring for no more than an hour, so that I might give you kisses dispatched with your signature.
Herculaneum (bar/inn joined to the maritime baths); 10674: [a bar tab] …Some nuts …? coins; drinks: 14 coins; lard: 2 coins; bread: 3 coins; three meat cutlets: 12 coins; four sausages: 8 coins. Total: 51 coins
Herculaneum (bar/inn joined to the maritime baths); 10675: Two friends were here. While they were, they had bad service in every way from a guy named Epaphroditus. They threw him out and spent 105 and half sestertii most agreeably on whores.
Herculaneum (bar/inn joined to the maritime baths); 10677: Apelles the chamberlain with Dexter, a slave of Caesar, ate here most agreeably and had a screw at the same time.
Herculaneum (bar/inn joined to the maritime baths); 10678: Apelles Mus and his brother Dexter each pleasurably had sex with two girls twice.
Herculaneum (on a water distribution tower); 10488: Anyone who wants to defecate in this place is advised to move along. If you act contrary to this warning, you will have to pay a penalty. Children must pay [number missing] silver coins. Slaves will be beaten on their behinds.
Herculaneum (on the exterior wall of a house); 10619: Apollinaris, the doctor of the emperor Titus, defecated well here