Ready When Called? Tawdry Tuesday Tension

In the vast and boring literature on Samuel von Pufendorf (1632-1694), everything the man had to say on the natural law is picked apart, but you’d be hard pressed to find a single discussion of his verdict on male sexual potency: 

“Man is an animal ready for sex at any time,” Pufendorf wrote. “He’s aroused much more frequently than seems necessary for the conservation of the species” (“Ast homo animal est nullo non tempore in libidinem paratum, cujus stimulis longe frequentius vellicatur, quam conservandae speciei necessarium videbatur”). 

Pufendorf always took into consideration the views of ancient writers, but he must have missed the contradicting account offered by Hellenistic poet Rufinus: 

Greek Anthology 5.47

How often, Thaleia, I’ve wanted to take you in the night
And gorge my spirit on hot-blooded lust.
But now you’re up against me, your sweet body naked,
And I’m limp, my spent ‘limb’ falling asleep.
Sad excuse for a heart, what’s happened?
Get up! Don’t flop!
You’ll have to search for another
When, right here, is some super good luck.

πολλάκις ἠρασάμην σε λαβὼν ἐν νυκτί Θάλεια,
πληρῶσαι θαλερῇ θυμὸν ἐρωμανίῃ.
νῦν δ᾽ ὅτε <μοι> γυμνὴ γλυκεροῖς μελέεσσι πέπλησαι,
ἔκλυτος ὑπναλέῳ γυῖα κέκμηκα κόπῳ.
θυμὲ τάλαν, τί πέπονθας; ἀνέγρεο, μηδ᾽ ἀπόκαμνε:
ζητήσεις ταύτην τὴν ὑπερευτυχίην.

*The Pufendorf quotation is from his De Officio Hominis & Civis Juxta Legem Naturalem (“On the Duty of Man and Citizen According to the Natural Law”).

Fresco of the god Priapus.
Naples National Archaeological Museum.

Larry Benn has a B.A. in English Literature from Harvard College, an M.Phil in English Literature from Oxford University, and a J.D. from Yale Law School. Making amends for a working life misspent in finance, he’s now a hobbyist in ancient languages and blogs at

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