Νικασίτιμος οἶφε Τιμίονα

Just to counter the repressive BS in the last post, here’s some news that it doesn’t have to be that way: 2,500-year-old erotic graffiti has been found on an Aegean island.

"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. "

They weren’t just celebrating sex, but gay sex. All while the dour Hebrews were laying down nit-picking laws about what God allows you to do with your genitals.


  1. Larry says

    Be thankful we live in a modern age. Its so much easier writing “I screwed <name> here” with a Sharpie pen than chiseling into a freakin’ rock!

  2. says

    I hope he wasn’t too specific in revealing the location of these inscriptions. If the local guardians of virtue (they don’t call them orthodox for nothing) find out then photographs will be all that survive the 2500 yr journey.

  3. says

    As the article explains, though, there was a heck of a lot of nuance in the grammar. And most of the length was taken up with the names, where the endings and the verb “οἶφε” not only said “screwed”, but communicated that it was a grand and prolonged screwing.

    And your sharpie boast won’t last millennia.

  4. lpetrich says

    The mounted gentleman’s name was Timion, Τιμίων. His name becomes Timiona, Τιμίονα in the accusative or object case.

  5. azhael says

    I’m not sure what makes me more jealous, the hot outdoor gay sex, or the names.

  6. Moggie says

    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.

    If a 21st century man were transported back 2500 years, he and Dion would struggle to communicate, but give both of them a marking implement and a wall, and they’d both draw cocks on it. This is kind of heartwarming.

  7. says

    @lpetrich #5 – That caught me, too. You would think that a reporter writing from Greece — and presumably living there and speaking Greek daily — would have recognized the case change. I wonder if perhaps she just felt more comfortable giving the receptive partner a more feminine name.

    As for the verb, you may find this list of six dirty words of ancient Greek an entertaining read. There are no pictures, but the text is NSFW.

  8. Ogvorbis: Still failing at being human. says

    They weren’t just celebrating sex, but gay sex. All while the dour Hebrews were laying down nit-picking laws about what God allows you to do with your genitals.

    And see what happened? Greece has been completely obliterated by God, while the Israilite Empire is the mightiest on earth thus showing who was Right and who was an evil sinner!

    Er. Wait.

    Erm. Nevermind.

  9. robro says

    Kevin @#2

    I hope he wasn’t too specific in revealing the location of these inscriptions.

    The description in the article is specific enough that you can easily find the general vicinity in Google Earth, and it’s not a large area. They are on the island of Astypalaia on a rocky peninsula at Vathy, “found at the highest point of the promontory overlooking the Bay of Vathy on the island’s north-western tip.”

    However, I suspect that locals have known about these inscriptions for a long time. In fact, the photo shows some writing at the base of the rock that looks like recent graffiti although I suppose it could be identification markings.

  10. robro says

    All while the dour Hebrews were laying down nit-picking laws about what God allows you to do with your genitals.

    While the nit-picking laws of the Deuteronomist writings were well after the 5th/6th century, it’s plausible that some of the rules were reactions to the Hellenistic life style. Greeks and Greek ways had been infiltrating Palestine since before Persian times and the way of life became a major social-political issue in the region during the 2nd century BC.

    Of course, Greeks could be just as dour and prudish as the Judaeans, but over different things such as any form of body disfigurement like tattooing, scarification, circumcision, and the Galatians’ reputed practice of self-castration for the gods Cybele and Attis.

  11. magistramarla says

    Every time that I hear the fundis claiming that man/woman marriage was at the foundation of every successful culture in the world, it makes me laugh. They have obviously never studied ancient cultures.

  12. Francisco Bacopa says

    If my three semesters of Greek 25 years ago serve me right, the mounter’s name means “Most Victorious”. Possibly a nickname.

    Can Ipetrich or anyone better at Greek than I am confirm this?

  13. lpetrich says

    Modern Greek has some differences from Classical Greek. In particular, most third-declension nouns, like Timion’s name, were forced into the first or second declensions with various suffixes. Thus, Actaeon’s name (Ἀκταίων) becomes Actaeonas (Ακταίωνας) in Modern Greek, at least in Wikipedia. So that might have caused some confusion here.

  14. monad says

    @15 Francisco Bacopa:
    The name is from the words for both victory and honor. That’s a very usual sort of name. The Lexicon of Greek Personal Names includes Nikasitimos (www.lgpn.ox.ac.uk/publications/vol4/) along with Nikasikrates, Nikasidikos, Nikasippos, Nikasimakhos, and so on.

    This Greek celebration of sex would sound a little better to me if someone confirmed that Timion was certainly a man, because they have some other traditions I’m ok to see gone.

  15. Francisco Bacopa says

    I studied mostly pre-Koine Greek, so what happens in modern Greek doesn’t shape my judgment. One thing I learned was that Greek often shared the “sigma tau” sound with English when forming superlatives. That’s why I thought that “Nikastimos” might be the same as “Big Winner”.

  16. Pierce R. Butler says

    The ancient Greeks celebrated human sexuality in many forms. E.g., Tom Holland, in Persian Fire, mentions in passing

    … the erect phalluses that were a somewhat startling feature of way-markers in Attica…

    Oddly (to me, anyhow) women in “birthplace-of-democracy” Athens were more thoroughly repressed than anywhere else in the region, while the women with most autonomy and standing were those of proto-fascistic Sparta.

  17. Suido says

    @Pierce #20:

    Kerry Greenwood’s retelling of Medea contains fascinating insights into how women’s roles and freedoms differed in the various cultures of the time.

    And plenty of fun sexy times, written in a very matter-of-fact, this-is-how-they-did-the-do style. Shock, horror, Jason and Nauplios wank each other off as young, pubescent males.