Saturday, 6 July 2013

Greco-Roman Pagan Tattoos


A little while ago I was at a pub and noticed an amazing tattoo of the Egypto-Roman Goddess Isis underneath the shirt of the man across from me – I was super impressed and we got talking … turned out he got the tattoo because he just thought it was a cool design; wasn’t a Pagan at all. Although, strangely, he did claim to have been a gigolo when he was younger. I have no idea if this was true but I did later hear a story (apparently true) that he fell in love with a woman who lived overseas and he packed a suitcase full of lube, condoms and Viagra when he went to visit her – an old trick of the trade perhaps?

That story is a diversion, but it was his tattoo that got me thinking about Pagan tattoos and how cool they can (potentially) be. There are some awesome tattoos dealing with the Greco-Roman pantheon out there – here are some of the best that I was able to find online (note that some of them were perhaps not originally intended to pertain to a particular deity but I think are evocative of certain Gods nonetheless). 


Apollo / Sol / Helios / Apollon / Apolo
Source: tattoopaulski.com
Source: pics5.this-pic.com


Bacchus / Dionysus / Liber Pater / Bacco / Baco / Dioniso / Dionysos
Source: inkah.tumblr.com

Castor and Pollux / Polydeuces / Dioscuri / Dioscures / Dioscuros
Source: witchcityink.com

Ceres / Demeter / Cerere
Source: fyeahtattoos.com

Diana / Artemis / Diane
Source: fyeahtattoos.com
Source: dailydoseoftattoos.com
Source: sanjosedecalasanzdeduitama.edu.co

Faunus / Pan / Fauno
Source: tatuajesxd.com

Flora / Chloris / Flore
Source: pinterest.com/sunloverholiday

Fortuna / Tyche / Lady Luck / Miss Fortune
Source: flickriver.com/photos/mezdeathhead

Hercules / Heracles / Herakles / Ercole
Source: tumblr.com
Source: juncha.net

Isis / Iside
Source: pinterest.com

Janus / Ianus / Jano / Giano
Source: kingsavenuetattoo.com

Juno / Hera / Iuno / Junon / Giunone
Source: girlfashn2013.blogspot.com

Jupiter / Zeus / Jove / Iuppiter / Giove
Source: forbiddenimages.com

Magna Mater / Cybele / Mother Earth / Gaea / Terra / Tellus / Rhea
Source: tattoogathering.com
Mars / Ares / Marte
Source: dailydoseoftattoos.com
Source: rattatattoo.com

Mercury / Hermes / Mercurius / Mercurio / Mercure
Source: tattoo-bewertung.de
Minerva / Athena / Minerve
Source: lastsparrowtattoo.com
Source: flickriver.com
Source: juncha.net

Neptune / Poseidon / Neptunus / Neptun / Neptuno / Nettuno
Source: fireoftattoos.blogspot.com
Source: nezunoban.tumblr.com

Pluto / Hades / Dis Pater / Orcus / Orco / Pluton / Plutao / Plutone
Source: ratemyink.com

Proserpina / Persephone
Source: lineandshade.tumblr.com

Trivia / Hecate / Hekate
Source: flickr.com

Venus / Aphrodite / Venere
Source: tumblr.com
Source: fotolog.com

Vesta / Hestia
Source: sarapurr.wordpress.com

Victoria / Nike / Victoire / Vittoria / Vitoria
Source: checkoutmyink.com

Vulcan / Hephaestus / Volcanus / Vulcanus / Vulcano / Vulcain
Source: checkoutmyink.com

Roman Gods sleeve
Source: inkfreakz.com


As for tattoos in ancient Greece and Rome ... well, as in our own times, they were not generally embraced by the conservative elite, who tended to frown upon them as either a mark of barbarism or ignominy (eg, because slaves and criminals were often tattooed). However, it is clear that decorative tattoos were common in many provincial regions of the Roman Empire (such as Thrace, Dacia, Gaul and Britannia) and among some soldiers too, if not others. So while the very word for tattoo in Greek and Latin is stigma (literally)  that doesn't mean that ordinary ancient people didn't dig tattoos, it just means that in ancient Europe tattoos were ... edgy. 
"amongst the Greeks and Romans, the use of tattoos ... seems to have been largely used as a means to mark someone as "belonging" either to a religious sect or to an owner in the case of slaves or even as a punitive measure to mark them as criminals. It is therefore quite intriguing that ... when a dynasty of Macedonian Greek monarchs ruled Egypt, the pharaoh himself, Ptolemy IV (221-205 B.C.), was said to have been tattooed with ivy leaves to symbolize his devotion to Dionysus, Greek god of wine and the patron deity of the royal house at that time. The fashion was also adopted by Roman soldiers and spread across the Roman Empire until the emergence of Christianity, when tattoos were ... banned [smithsonianmag.com]."
 For a great article looking at tattoos in ancient Greece and Rome see Adrienne Mayor, "People Illustrated: Tattoos in Antiquity" (1999) 54-57 Archeology 54.


Written by M. Sentia Figula. Find me at neo polytheistRoman Pagan and on Facebook.

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