Mondays Are Hard: Here’s How to Say “Dildo” in Ancient Greek

From the Suda

Olisbos: Genitals made from leather which the Milesian women used to use as tribades(!) and shameful people do. Widowed women also use them. Aristophanes writes “I did not see an eight-fingered dildo*/ which might be our leathered aid.”** This second part is drawn from the proverb “fig-wood aid” applied to weak people.

῎Ολισβος: αἰδοῖον δερμάτινον, ᾧ ἐχρῶντο αἱ Μιλήσιαι γυναῖκες, ὡς τριβάδες καὶ αἰσχρουργοί· ἐχρῶντο δὲ αὐτοῖς καὶ αἱ χῆραι γυναῖκες. ᾿Αριστοφάνης· οὐκ εἶδον οὐδ’ ὄλισβον ὀκταδάκτυλον, ὃς ἂν ἡμῖν σκυτίνη ‘πικουρία. παρὰ τὴν παροιμίαν, συκίνη ἐπικουρία. ἐπὶ τῶν ἀσθενῶν.

 

Another proverb from the Suda, s.v. misêtê:

“And Kratinus said somewhere: “hated women use dildoes.”

καὶ ὁ Κρατῖνός που τοῦτο ἔφη: μισῆται δὲ γυναῖκες ὀλίσβωσι χρήσονται

 

(!) tribades: see the Suda again s.v. Hetairistai:

“Courtesanizers: The women who are called ‘rubbers'” [or ‘grinders’? i.e. Lesbians] Ἑταιρίστριαι: αἱ καλούμεναι τριβάδες. See also Hesychius s.v. dietaristriai: “Women who rub themselves against girls in intercourse the way men do. For example, tribades.” διεταρίστριαι· γυναῖκες αἱ τετραμμέναι πρὸς τὰς ἑταίρας ἐπὶ συνουσίᾳ, ὡς οἱ ἄνδρες. οἷον τριβάδες (Plat. conv. 191 e).

*this is not an eight-shafted instrument but may instead point to the instrument’s length. See the note on the Suda-online.

**Lysistrata 109-110.

Dildogarden

 

The Lexicographer Photius repeats only the following definition:

 

Olisboi: Leather dicks

῎Ολισβοι: δερμάτινα αἰδοῖα.

 

The Scholia to Aristophanes’ Lysistrata 109-110 basically presents the same information:
Olisbon: A leather penis. And that is for the Milesian women. He is joking that they use dildos. The next part, “leathery aid” plays upon the proverb “fig-tree aid”, used for the weak. He has changed it to “leathery” because dildos are made of leather. They are leather-made penises which widowed women use.”

ὄλισβον: Αἰδοῖον δερμάτινον. καὶ τοῦτο εἰς τὰς Μιλησίας. παίζει δὲ ὡς τοῖς ὀλίσβοις χρωμέναις. σκυτίνη ἐπικουρία: Παρὰ τὴν παροιμίαν, συκίνη ἐπικουρία, ἐπὶ τῶν ἀσθενῶν. ὁ δὲ εἰς τὴν σκυτίνην μετέβαλε. σκύτινοι γὰρ οἱ ὄλισβοι. εἰσὶ δὲ δερμάτινα αἰδοῖα, οἷς χρῶνται αἱ χῆραι γυναῖκες.

 

And, the Chaste H. Liddell could do no better than give this a Latin name:

ὄλισβος , ὁ,

A.penis coriaceus, Cratin.316, Ar.Lys.109, Fr.320.13.

 

 

7 thoughts on “Mondays Are Hard: Here’s How to Say “Dildo” in Ancient Greek

  1. While not exactly Greek, this proverb was written by the author who had taken the Hippocratic oath, for those who are about to take it.

    Life is like Penis. When it’s soft, you can’t beat it, when it is hard, you get screwed.
    House of Gods. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_House_of_God

    Please delete if inappropriate. Thank you.

  2. Hi,
    If you are interested in spicing up your occasional posts (such as this one), here is something you might be interested in–there may be ancient Greek/Latin texts to go with the subject in this journal, and the book now costs mere pennies, used.

    The Primal Whimper: More Readings from the Journal of Polymorphous Perversity Hardcover – July 28, 1989
    by Glenn C. Ellenbogen (Editor)

  3. Hello, Dr. Christensen, Since the topic is on dildo and genitaria, I would like to ask you about the castration myth of Uranus.

    Hesiod’s Theogony (I am interested in the rituals of castration and circumcision in various cultures), and noticed there seems to be at least two independent words used to describe it.

    The first passage describes the instrument of castration Goddess Gaia fashions for her hubby Uranus.
    αἶψα δὲ ποιήσασα γένος πολιοῦ ἀδάμαντος
    τεῦξε μέγα δρέπανον καὶ ἐπέφραδε παισὶ φίλοισιν

    The second passage
    So he [=Cronus] said: and vast Earth rejoiced greatly in spirit, and set and hid him in an ambush, and put in his hands [175] a jagged sickle,
    ὣς φάτο: γήθησεν δὲ μέγα φρεσὶ Γαῖα πελώρη:
    εἷσε δέ μιν κρύψασα λόχῳ: ἐνέθηκε δὲ χερσὶν
    175ἅρπην καρχαρόδοντα: δόλον δ᾽ ὑπεθήκατο πάντα.

    I looked up these words and I got the following.
    Καρχαρόδοντα: sharp toothed with saw like teeth epithet of dog
    Δρέπανον: a scythe A scythe (/ˈsaɪð/ or /ˈsaɪθ/) an agricultural hand tool for mowing grass or reaping crops. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scythe
    LSJ
    δρέπᾰνον, τό, also δράπανον (q. v.), (δρέπω)
    A= δρεπάνη, δ. εὐκαμπές Od.18.368; χαλκέοις ἤμα δ. S.Fr.534; the usual form in Prose and Com., Hdt.1.125, etc.; δ. θεριστικόν PMagd.8.6 (iii B. C.).
    2pruning-knife, Pl.R.333d.
    3scythe, X. Cyr.6.1.30.
    4curved sword, scimitar, Hdt.5.112, 7.93, Ar.Ra.576.

    In wiki it says
    Their [=Scythians] original name was scoloti, but called Scythians by the Greeks (1b) Their name contains the word scythe, a word depicting the curved weapons of the mounted cavalry for which they were most famous. The origins of the Cossacks most likely can be found in this people. The Greeks understood the term to be loosely used of the people of the northern steppes, a location later to be inhabited by the Tartary and the Hun, and so when used in scripture, the term was a loose term describing the barbaric and uncivilised, and the juxtaposition to the civilised and educated and deeply ceremonial/religious, Col 3:11.
    So, I am wondering if the word used to describe the instrument of castration in Hesiod comes from Scythian language, and the myth may possibly have its origin in Scythian culture. Or, am I reaching too far? It seems their origin myth takes them deep North in Ukraine. The geography in which these myths take place interest me.

    I also find the origin myth of Greek-Scythians in Herodotus very interesting, particularly the myths of Herakles and Geryon, his cattle, and Herakles encounter with a woman who is half human and half snake and so on.

    I have been reading several books on PIE. and in this connection, interested in the lineage and the myths of Cyclops as well.

    Thank you.

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