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An erect penis is a work of art, especially if it belongs to a woman. The modern world may openly praise Classical civilization for numerous outstanding contributions to history, but in reality the Greeks and Romans invested much more of their time and treasure in the public celebration of the penis than any other single social or intellectual pursuit--including the development of democracy...by far. Philosophy, science and free speech certainly sprang from the genius of a few western aristocrats, poets and naturalists, but the phallus permeated every corner of ancient society, from the palaces of the urban affluent, to the humble gardens of the rural impoverished. And, oddly enough, the greatest and most lasting tribute to the power of the erect penis belonged to the primordial she-male gods; the “gynomorphs” who laid the foundation of everything western. It’s fair to say that in antiquity erections were impressive, especially on women.
Rigid penises permeated the ancient Mediterranean; the Classical phallus made its presence known at religious rites, theatrical performances, social brotherhoods, drinking parties and even civic statuary. Erections popped up on statues, in frescoes, on pottery and even in the leather accouterments worn by actors; the phallus was ubiquitous and it was seen and felt by all ages and both sexes at any time of the day, in spaces that were both public and private.
Walking the streets in antiquity, young girls were encouraged to suggestively stroke the large erections of the statues of Priapus, as a sort of hopeful nod to future fecundity. Doctors, midwives, priestesses and quacks used dildos made of glass, stone, wood and leather to administer drugs to both men and women via the rectum and the vagina. Priests carried huge erections in processions meant to honor long established divinities like Dionysus, Demeter and Kore. Gardeners carved and erected wooden statues of Priapus and used the god’s notoriously bulbous penis as a weapon against invaders.
And erections weren’t just things of beauty; they were symbols of divine power and cosmic purpose. Priapus, the son of Aphrodite, sported his oversized erection for a very good reason. His phallus wasn’t some form of ego-adornment, it was his personal, divine weapon; a means of divine retribution for those in life who choose to reap ill gotten gain. Zeus had his lightning, Apollo his bow, Poseidon his trident, Hercules his club, and Priapus his penis.
And Priapus didn’t just proudly strut around ancient gardens with his larger than life erection as a sort of device of vanity; he protected the fruits of the gardener’s labors with the threat of sodomy. After all, sodomy was not just a sexual act in antiquity; it was a symbol of the strictest form of divine justice. In the words of Priapus, the god from whose name we derive our medical word “priapism,” a persistent, unyielding erection:
“As long as you refrain from stealing from my garden, I’ll allow you to remain as intact as Vesta. But if you fail to restrain yourself, thief, the weapon under my paunch will so stretch your ass-pussy that you will be able to slip right through it” (Priapeia, 31).
In other words, the gods of the pre-Christian western world didn’t tolerate greed; they punished it with painful humiliation. And Priapus was the god of natural justice. His erect penis was a religious weapon used to teach a lesson to anyone who chose to acquire goods at the expense of others.
Aphrodisiacs and Priapism
The ancient phallus is hard for a reason. Greco-Roman physicians, oracles, priests and witches possessed a myriad of drugs capable of inducing and reducing erections. These pharmaceuticals were derived from animals, plants and even insects, and they were highly effective. According to Pliny, who cites the well respected botanist Theophrastus, the Greeks even possessed a drug that could make a man ejaculate as much as seventy times without losing his erection (Pliny, HN 26.96-99).
According to our medical sources, there were several families of aphrodisiacs. Some made the penis hard or “hot” and others made it soft or “cold.” These drugs were compound mixtures of plants and animal toxins. Some of these drugs, like Spanish fly, are still used today for the same purposes.
The most prominent of these designer sex drug compounds were given names with the “STR” consonantal root in Latin and Greek. Some were called “satyrion” or “asteria,” and even mythic figures like the satyrs bear the linguistic mark of these popular drugs. In antiquity satyrs ran around with erections, just like those who drank the powerful concoction knows as satyrion.
Sex drugs like satyrion and asteria were applied as “anointing oils” in medico-religious contexts. For example, asteria contained blister beetle toxin, cannabis (hash oil), opium, and--among other ingredients--hallucinogens derived from plants like nightshade. These potent drugs were compounded with olive oil as a base, to which volatile oils from roses and other fragrant plants were added. The mixture was then applied to a dildo--that is, the dildo was anointed--and then applied by insertion in the mouth, rectum or vagina.
Many of the aphrodisiacs, particularly those used by prostitutes, also contained abortifacients. In this way, the same drug promoted sexual activity and reduced the likelihood of pregnancy. This is important because the act of sex was used as a means of producing oracular vision in antiquity, and not everyone who wanted a religious experience wanted to get pregnant.
One of the most interesting of these sex drugs used to anoint the penis was called baccharis and ultimately came to Greece and Rome through Lydia. The drug contains saponins that induce smooth muscle contraction. When applied to the rectum, baccharis likely induces anal sphincter spasming; when applied to the cervix, the effect would undoubtedly be uterine contractions. Curiously, the gospel writers report that Mary Magdalen anointed Jesus with this very same costly drug. And of course, Pope Gregory I (6-7 CE) accurately reported that Mary used this specific drug as a sexual stimulant (Homily 33).
Witches and Erections
If you really want a sustained erection in antiquity, you need to visit a witch. After all, even the doctors rely on witches for their profound knowledge of botanical drug lore and their experience with poisons. And of course witches make for the best literary and theatrical characters.
Romans of the first and second centuries of the Common Era were all but pathologically obsessed by witches and their power over human sexuality. Two of the witches that most stirred the Roman imagination were Circe and her niece Medea. Both were known for their prowess with drugs--so much Classical scholars are willing to recognize and discuss. However, these two were also known for their ability to sustain and destroy the power of men to become aroused.
The key to their power to enliven and paralyze the male genitalia was the witches’ wand. Modern scholars refuse to discuss what the short rods of witches were used for in antiquity, but according to the Roman author Petronius (1st CE), in his aptly named work Satyricon, the witches’ wand, or “virga” in Latin, was used by priestesses of Priapus in sexual cult practices (Petronius 92, 105, 127-140). Petronius, as a courtier of the emperor Nero, lived a life centered on the satisfaction of his appetites and provides many sordid details about the sexual life of the Roman people.
The virga was a vehicle for the application of oil-based aphrodisiacs. The Romans recognized that biologically active substances could be directly absorbed by the rectum and vaginal wall that would ordinarily be ineffective when swallowed. The oil-based aphrodisiacs were no exception; when men came to witches and priestesses to participate in the veneration of gods like Priapus, they were given drugs rectally via the virga. This rod was anointed with the drug and then inserted in the rectum. Petronius gives the impression that these men were given a sedative and then restrained--probably for their own safety--before the priestess witches performed rectal stimulation with their virga. It’s likely that the introduction of the virga into the rectum also promoted sexual excitation by massaging the prostate, much like the introduction of an erect penis into the male anus would. As a matter of fact, these priestess witches also used eunuchs attached to the temple sanctuaries to assist in these sexual ceremonies.
According to Petronius (Satyricon, 140), priestess witches used their wands and their drugs to create something best translated as “sacred sodomy” (or sacra pigiciaca in Latin). And, of course, the image of the religious female authority sodomizing the male was not random, but right out of Classical religious tradition. For, the priestesses of Priapus, who brought men to orgasm by means of rectal stimulation were performing the same rites of the oldest hermaphroditic deities. That is, Roman priestess witches carried on traditions first handed down centuries before by the devotees of Aprhodite-Urania, and Phanes, and Hermaphroditus, the great she-male goddesses of the ancient world.
The image of the powerful woman sodomizing her male devotee with her own rigid penis is one of the foundational icons of western civilization. Long before Socrates was ever declared to be the wisest of the democratically inclined Athenians by an oracular priestess, Greek priestess-witches sodomized men in the name of hermaphroditic gods in order to create oracles that consistently thwarted the exercise of tyranny. In other words, she-male sodomy promoted democracy.