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CLA219H1 Lecture Notes - Priapeia, Priapus, Epigram

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Regina Höschele

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CLA 219 – Woman in Antiquity R. Höschele 09/25/12
Phallus / Male Sex and Gender
- Priapus, god of fertility – always represented with a large phallus
oProtective god
- Apotropaic (“warding off evil”) function attributed to the phallus
- Symbol of potency, fruitfulness
- Fresco of Priapus in House of Vettii (Pompeii?)
oPompeii gave us access to the daily life of the Roman people
- The phallus (images, representations) is not shameful to them
- Image of Mercury (with huge phallus) done at the entrance of a bakery
oAbundant produce
- Statue of Priapus, originally used as a fountain
- Inscriptional hymn to Priapus – praying for fertility
-Carmina Priapeia – collection of apotropaic poems that speaks of a punishment
that involves all kinds of penetration (if one wanders into protected territory, e.g.,
“The biggest advantage of my dick is that no woman can be wide enough for me.”
--- from the Carmina Priapeia
- Earlier literary translations used to leave obscene terms in Latin to restrict access
to full details to educated males
oUsed to keep women ignorant
-Roman tintinnabula – seen in gardens (wind chimes) phallic, apotropaic
- Pan, bucolic god, god of shepherds and the Wild
oInspires panic
oStatue of Pan and she-goat in an uncompromising position (Pompeii)
- Greek Comedy is raunchy, perverse – full of obscene jokes
oActors often wear big fake phalluses
oVase paintings depicting Comedic scenes ~ suggestive
- Comedy linked to Dionysus who has a phallic association
oGod of fertility, of wine, as well as god of theatre
- Herms
oMan’s bust on top of pillar with a huge phallus

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oAssociated with Hermes
oOften erected on boundaries (lit., Hipparchus) and crossroads
oOften depicts heads of philosophers, politicians
oCan be connected by crossbeams to form a fence
o414 BC, Peloponnesian War, Sicilian expedition
Eve of expedition, herms mutilated
Bad omen – Hermes, god of travel
Hermokopidae scandal – people were interrogated, banished and
killed because of this
- Phallus = good, fertile associations
- Ithyphallic = with erect phallus
- Female (vagina) = suspicious, mysterious, bad associations
Female Sex and Gender
-Sexuality is not a natural given different contexts
oConditioned by society (conventions defined)
- Institutionalized way of thinking – discourse
oOur way of talking and thinking involve discourses defined by conventions
“Sexuality must not be thought of as a kind of natural given, which power tries to hold in
check, or as an obscure domain which knowledge tries gradually to uncover. It is the
name that can be given to a historical construct.”
--- Michel Foucault, The History of Sexuality
- Ancient sexual discourse = discourse of power – adult active male opposed to the
passive, inactive (younger) partner (either a female or a boy)
- Penetrator – active male in politics, military, and head of household – dominator
- Penetrated – passive partner, female or boy – dominated
- Masculinity – can be defined by the ability to withstand desire, reject temptation,
have self-control
oWomen are vulnerable, lustful, undomesticated
- Scenes of pederastic seduction
oPederasty = love for boys (teenage male)
oErastes – lover
oEromenes – beloved
- Can only desire a boy until he grows his first beard
oBeard a sign of adulthood
-Homosexuality is a modern concept and pertains to 2 adult males
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