Greece & rome
Lesson #3

An in-depth history of tattooing

Presented by Charles Comber aka “Baby Handz”.

Greece & rome

Greek written records of tattooing date back to at least the 5th-century BC and was associated with barbarians. The Greeks were taught the practice of tattooing from the Persians, and used it to mark slaves and criminals so they could be identified if they tried to escape.

The Romans in turn adopted the practice from the Greeks, and in late antiquity when the Roman army consisted largely of mercenaries; they also were tattooed so that deserters could be identified.

Greece & rome

The Greek verb stizein meaning “to prick,” was used for tattooing.

Its derivative stigma was the common term for tattoo marks in both Greek and Latin.

During the Byzantine period, the verb kentein replaced stizein, and a variety of new Latin terms replaced stigmata including signa “signs,” characteres “stamps,” and cicatrices “scars.”

Mythology & gods

When it comes to Greek & Roman tattoos, Mythology and Gods are the most prominently known.  Now this can cover all sorts of creatures, heroes, monsters, mortals, Gods and other elements, but we are going to focus on some of the top sought after in tattoo history.


In Hellenistic times, especially during the 3rd century BCE, as Apollo Helios he became identified among Greeks with Helios, Titan god of the sun, and his sister Artemis similarly equated with Selene, Titan goddess of the moon.


Ruler of the Olympians of Mount Olympus, Zeus was the “Father of Gods and men.” In Greek mythology, this child of Cronus and Rhea was also the god of thunder and the sky.


Meet the son of titans Cronus and Rehea, aka the “God of the sea”, the “Earth-Shaker”, and the “Tamer of horses”. When it comes to Greek mythology, Poseidon was responsible for new islands and calm seas in Athens.

Those who dared to offend or anger here will feel his wrath in the form of earthquakes, shipwrecks and chaotic springs.


This viciously noble fighter is purported to have slayed tons of ancient villains, and these terrifying beasts can instill serious zealousness to all Hercules tattoos.

The litany of fierce foes contains the Nimean Lion, the Cretan Bull and the nine-headed Lernaean Hydra.

The presence of Hades and Cerberus are notably worthy features as well.

Shield of Achilles

During the end of the Trojan War, the Shield of Achilles was used to dual against the prince of Troy, Hector.


After Uranus’ genitals were cut and throw into the sea by Cronus, Aphrodite arose from the sea foam. This goddess was quite similar to Venus, though she represented sexuality, love and beauty.