Chares pornos kalos…

Claire Taylor

…is a graffito scratched into a street in the Athenian deme of Thorikos. Who Chares was, and whether he really was as fine a whore as his ‘admirer’ suggests, is anyone’s guess. Graffiti like this, which comment on the sexuality of a person, are common in the ancient world however. Examples are found in Attica, Pompeii, Aphrodisias, Thasos, Thera… along with many other types of texts and images – sometimes lewd, sometimes much more functional – drawn, painted, scratched or charcoaled onto walls of buildings, streets, inside houses, on sanctuaries. Interpreting these however is not always easy and historians, archaeologists and classicists have often had very different approaches and communicated with one another very little. But new research shows the importance of dialogue between these discipline. Graffiti have much to contribute to a variety of very current scholarly debates (from the relationship between text and image, materiality, construction of memory, the performance of emotions, to name but a few). To ignore them, or treat them as curiosities, is to close us off to a colourful, and sometimes surprising, world.

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