“I Always Wondered About Horse-Sodomites”

The word ‘hippopornos’, which appears to be a straightforward compound noun meaning either ‘horse-prostitute’ or ‘horse-sodomite’ does not, on the face of it, appear to make much sense. The word is not well-attested, surviving primarily in late lexica and commentaries. The Greek sources seem confused about its meaning as well, and two threads of explanation are offered. According to one line of thought, ‘horse’ was used as an intensifier indicating an excessive degree of something. (If this seems puzzling, one may consider the use of ‘ass’ as an intensifier in colloquial English of phrases like, ‘I just saw this big-ass dog down the street’ or ‘That was a lame-ass joke.’) Accordingly, a hippopornos was someone given over to prostitution (or sodomy, in the last two sources cited). The other, less lexically imaginative explanation, holds that it is a simple compound meaning, ‘a prostitute/sodomite on a horse.’ Read further for the details!


“Hippoporne: Used in place of megaloporne (one excessively given over to sodomy). This is a rare word.”

῾Ιππόπορνε: ἀντὶ τοῦ μεγαλόπορνε· σπανίως. ᾿

Scholia to Aristophanes’ Frogs, 429:

“This of Hippobinus (Horsefucker): He has playfully emended the name on account of Hipponikos’ licentious proclivity for prostitution. They often use the word ‘horse’ (hippos) to mean ‘of a great degree.’
‘Hippoporne’: Kallias is mocked as squandering his patrimony, especially as he is mad for women. Or it is used of bestiality.”

(τουτονὶ τὸν ῾Ιπποβίνου: Παρεγραμμάτισε διὰ τὴν ἀσέλγειαν παρὰ τὸ ῾Ιππονίκου εἰς πορνομανῆ. τὸ δὲ ἵππος πολλαχοῦ ἐπὶ τοῦ μεγάλου λαμβάνουσιν· ἱππόπορνε. κωμῳδεῖται δὲ καὶ ὁ Καλλίας ὡς σπαθῶν τὴν πατρικὴν οὐσίαν, καὶ μάλιστα ἐπὶ γυναιξὶ μεμηνώς. ἢ τοῦ κτηνοβάτου).


Alciphron, Epistles 3.14:

“I cannot bear seeing Zeuxippe the horse-prostitute so cruelly using the young man. He is not only having to pay her gold and silver, but his houses and fields too. She, mainly contriving to light a slow fire of love in his heart, pretends to love the young Euboeus, so that once she has gone through his possessions, she can turn to another love.”

Οὐκ ἀνέχομαι ὁρῶν Ζευξίππην τὴν ἱππόπορνον ἀπηνῶς τῷ μειρακίῳ χρωμένην. οὐ γὰρ δαπανᾶται εἰς αὐτὴν χρυσίον μόνον καὶ ἀργύριον, ἀλλὰ καὶ συνοικίας καὶ ἀγρούς. ἡ δέ, ἐπὶ πλέον ἐκτύφεσθαι τὸν ἔρωτα τούτῳ μηχανωμένη, τοῦ Εὐβοέως ἐρᾶν προσποιεῖται [τοῦ] νεανίσκου, ἵνα <τὰ> τούτου κατασπαθήσασα οὕτως ἐπ’ ἄλλον τρέψῃ τὸν ἔρωτα.


Athenaeus, Deipnosophistae 13.18:

“Diogenes, seeing a man who had shaved his beard off, said, ‘Surely you are not able to accuse nature for making you a man and not a woman?’ Seeing another man on a horse, in roughly the same state, rubbed down with ointment and accordingly dressed up, he said that he was earlier wondering what the horse-sodomite might be, and that he had now found it.”

‘Διογένης δὲ ἰδών τινα οὕτως ἔχοντα τὸ γένειον ἔφησεν· ‘μή τι ἔχεις ἐγκαλεῖν τῇ φύσει, ὅτι ἄνδρα σὲ ἐποίησε καὶ οὐ γυναῖκα;’ ἕτερον δέ τινα ἐπὶ ἵππου ἰδὼν παραπλησίως ἔχοντα καὶ μεμυρισμένον καὶ τούτοις ἀκολούθως ἠμφιεσμένον, πρότερον μὲν ἔφησε ζητεῖν τί ἐστιν ὁ ἱππόπορνος, νῦν δ’ εὑρηκέναι. ἐν ῾Ρόδῳ δὲ νόμου ὄντος μὴ ξύρεσθαι οὐδ’ ὁ ἐπιληψόμενος οὐδείς ἐστιν διὰ τὸ πάντας ξύρεσθαι. ἐν Βυζαντίῳ δὲ ζημίας ἐπικειμένης τῷ ἔχοντι [κουρεῖ] ξυρὸν οὐδὲν ἧττον πάντες χρῶνται αὐτῷ.’ καὶ ταῦτα μὲν ὁ θαυμάσιος εἴρηκε Χρύσιππος.

Eustathius, Commentaries on The Odyssey, 2.260

“Mention should be made about Diogenes coining the word ‘horse-sodomite’ by analogy with ‘horse-centaur.’ For, when he saw a man who has disfigured his beard and was riding, smeared with oil, upon a horse, he said that he was wondering who a horse-sodomite was, and that he had now found it. Clearly, the word ‘horse-sodomite’ was meaningless until that time, much like tragelaphos (goat-stag) and other such words. The fact that scorn of the beard was a subject of reproach to the ancients is clear from many examples.”

᾿Ενταῦθα δὲ μνεία ληπτέον Διογένους ὀνοματοποιήσαντος ἱππόπορνόν τινα πρὸς ἀναλογίαν τοῦ ἱπποκένταυρον. ἰδὼν γάρ, φασι, τινὰ κατῃκισμένον τὸ γένειον καὶ μεμυρισμένον ἐπὶ ἵππου, πρότερον μὲν ἔφη ζητεῖν τίς ἐστιν ὁ ἱππόπορνος, νῦν δ’ εὑρηκέναι, ὡς δηλαδὴ ἀνυποστάτου φωνῆς μέχρι τότε οὔσης τῆς κατὰ τὸν ἱππόπορνον, ὁποία καὶ ἡ κατὰ τὸν τραγέλαφον καὶ τὰ τοιαῦτα. ὅτι δὲ ἡ τῶν γενείων ἐξαθέρισις ἐπονείδιστος ἦν τοῖς παλαιοῖς, ἐκ πολλῶν δηλοῦται.


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