Tawdry Tuesday: A Wedding Recipe

Aristophanes, Peace 868-870

“The child is bathed and her ass-situation is fine.
The cake is baking and the sesame buns are shaped—
Everything else is complete—but we need a penis.”

ἡ παῖς λέλουται καὶ τὰ τῆς πυγῆς καλά·
ὁ πλακοῦς πέπεπται, σησαμῆ ξυμπλάττεται,
870καὶ τἄλλ᾿ ἁπαξάπαντα· τοῦ πέους δὲ δεῖ.

According to a scholion, sesame cakes are made for weddings to ensure an abundance of offspring (vet σησαμὴ R: πλακοῦς γαμικὸς ἀπὸ σησάμων πεποιημένος διὰ τὸ πολύγονον, ὥς φησι Μένανδρος. RV)

Later, a Slave remarks on the girl’s rear end:“Master, she’s got a five-year ass” ὦ δέσποτα, ὅσην ἔχει τὴν πρωκτοπεντετηρίδα. (876).

Image result for ancient greek comedy wedding

A scholion relates this to the frequency of the completion of the Dionysia. Another adds that at this point they are grabbing the girl and showing her genitals to the audience. (Schol V. ad Aristop. Pax 867b ἁπτόμενος γὰρ αὐτῆς τῆς πυγῆς <φησι> καὶ θαυμάζων καὶ τοῖς θεαταῖς ἐπιδεικνύμενος τὸ αἰδοῖον. V Although, here we should probably imagine a male actor with female genital apparatus).

From Henderson’s Maculate Muse:


“I Defecated Because of Fear”

I was just recently thinking of our ongoing skatokhasm and the sheer variety of excremental words in ancient Greek. I happened to look up my favorite Greek word from graduate school and stumbled upon what must be the most charming entry in the Suda.

Suda, Epsilon 92 [referring to Aristophanes, Frogs 479]

“I shat myself”: I defecated because of some fear. I pooped. Aristophanes says this in the Frogs. He is calling the god to help.”

᾿Εγκέχοδα: ἀπεπάτησα διὰ φόβον τινά, ἔχεσον. ᾿Αριστοφάνης Βατράχοις. κάλει θεὸν εἰς βοήθειαν.

Principal parts: χέζω, χεσοῦμαι, ἔχεσα, κέχοδα, κέχεσμαι….

Strattis, fr. 1.3

“If he will not have the leisure to shit,
Nor to visit a profligate man’s home, nor if he meets
Anyone, to talk to them at all…”

Εἰ μηδὲ χέσαι γ’ αὐτῷ σχολὴ γενήσεται,
μηδ’ εἰς ἀσωτεῖον τραπέσθαι, μηδ’ ἐάν
αὐτῷ ξυναντᾷ τις, λαλῆσαι μηδενί.

Image result for medieval manuscript defecation


Aristophanes, Clouds, 391

“When I shit, it’s like thunder: pa-pa-pa-papp-AKS!

χὤταν χέζω, κομιδῇ βροντᾷ “παπαπαππάξ,”


My kids like this song. Thanks to Aristophanes, I can now think of it diffrently



Flaying the Flayed Dog

Aristophanes, Lysistrata, 156-8

Kalonikê: But what if our husbands leave us?
Lysistrata: To use Pherecrates’ term: flay the flayed dog.
Kalonikê: These words of nonsense are just counterfeit [sex].

ΚΛ. Τί δ’, ἢν ἀφιῶσ’ ἅνδρες ἡμᾶς, ὦ μέλε;
ΛΥ. Τὸ τοῦ Φερεκράτους, κύνα δέρειν δεδαρμένην.
ΚΛ. Φλυαρία ταῦτ’ ἐστὶ τὰ μεμιμημένα.


“The word of Pherecrates: if our husbands despise us, then it is necessary to use dildos and to flog the flogged shaft. Pherecrates said this in a drama where the proverb is applied to those who are suffering something else in addition to what they have suffered.

(τὸ τοῦ Φερεκράτους: ᾿Εὰν ἡμᾶς παρίδωσιν οἱ ἄνδρες, τότε πάλιν ἐξέσται ὀλίσβοις χρήσασθαι, καὶ ἀποδέρειν τὰ ἀποδεδαρμένα σκύτη. Φερεκράτης ἐν δράματι εἶπε τοῦτο, ἔνθεν τάσσεται ἡ παροιμία ἐπὶ τῶν ἄλλο πασχόντων αὖθις ἐφ’ οἷς πεπόνθασιν.)

“to flay the dog”: this is an image for intemperate genitals. It is not found in the Saved [play] of the comic Pherecrates.

κύνα δέρειν: Σχῆμά ἐστιν ἀκόλαστον εἰς τὸ αἰδοῖον. ἐν δὲ τοῖς σωζομένοις (Φερεκράτους) τοῦ κωμικοῦ τοῦτο οὐχ εὑρίσκεται.

ta memimêmena: “Since they use a dildo instead of a penis. For she says that the words of others are nonsense”

τὰ μεμιμημένα: ᾿Επεὶ τῷ ὀλίσβῳ χρῶνται ἀντὶ τοῦ αἰδοίου. φλυαρία φησὶ τὰ ἀπὸ τῶν ἄλλων.

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.

Image result for Ancient Greek Dildo vase

vers 490 av.JC, ancienne collection Dutuit, Petit-Palais, Musée des Beaux-Arts de la Ville de Paris.

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 (c. six inches) . See the note on the Suda-online.

**Lysistrata 109-110.

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.

J. Henderson, The Maculate Muse, 222

skinned dog

Thunderous-Mouth-Milling and Petty-Bragging: Some Words for a Thursday

The Suda has the following anecdote which seems to be taken and altered from Diogenes Laertius or something similar.

“thunderous-mouth-milling”: Eubulides says this “the eristic, asking his horn questions and discombobulating the orators with his falsely-intellectual arguments, taking with him the “thunderous-mouth-milling” of Demosthenes.

Ῥομβοστωμυλήθρα: Εὐβουλίδης φησίν: οὑριστικὸς κερατίνας ἐρωτῶν καὶ ψευδαλαζόσιν λόγοις τοὺς ῥήτορας κυλίων ἀπῆλθ’, ἔχων Δημοσθένους τὴν ῥομβοστωμυλήθραν.

ῥομβοστωμυλήθρη (lit. “thunderous-mouth-milling” (?) seems to be a misunderstanding or humorous take on ῥωποπερπερήθρη, usually translated as “braggadocio” but is more like “cheap/petty bragging”
From Diogenes Laertius, Lives of the Eminent Philosophers 2.10

“The eristic Euboulides, asking questions about horns
And discombobulating the speakers with his falsely-intellectual arguments
Has gone off, taking the petty self regard of Demosthenes with him

For it seems that Demosthenes was a student of Eubulides and was able to stop his problems with the letter ‘r’ because of it. Eubulides was also in conflict with Aristotle and undermined him a lot.

οὑριστικὸς δ᾿ Εὐβουλίδης κερατίνας ἐρωτῶν
καὶ ψευδαλαζόσιν λόγοις τοὺς ῥήτορας κυλίων
ἀπῆλθ᾿ ἔχων Δημοσθένους τὴν ῥωποπερπερήθραν.

ἐῴκει γὰρ αὐτοῦ καὶ Δημοσθένης ἀκηκοέναι καὶ ῥωβικώτερος ὢν παύσασθαι. ὁ δ᾿ Εὐβουλίδης καὶ πρὸς Ἀριστοτέλην διεφέρετο, καὶ πολλὰ αὐτὸν διαβέβληκε.

Eubulides is now known for some interesting paradoxes.

Image result for ancient greek eubulides

Demosthenes, no longer thunderous-mouth-milling.

Filled With Inertia or…Books Which Have Finished Me

I began writing a comment on Palaiophron’s excellent post but as my stylus scribbled, things got out of hand. So consider this both comment and tribute to his observations. I do deviate in that I list three books without using his categories, compensating by expanding my comments. So without further ado….

Plautus. Any Plautus. Lord knows Ive tried, but I just can’t find the humor, despite many classical friends who break into guffaws when reading them. If I were of mean spirit, I’d say they laughed because they’d been taught that Plautine plays were supposed to be funny. Aren’t we all glad that I am not of mean spirit? I’ve read all the plays, and Fraenkel’s Plautinisches im Plautus, in the revised Italian edition. No go. I do find individual words, phrases and sentences interesting for the archaic Latin, one of my special interests. Dishonorable mention: Terence. Same reasons, but not even the redeeming feature of interesting Latin. On the other hand, I find Aristophanes extremely funny. I suppose if one likes shows like Benny Hill or Monty Python one will like Plautus and Terence. But I don’t.

Seneca, Epistulae. What a crashing bore. Not even interesting Latin…Ciceronian it ain’t, but it doesn’t have the inventiveness of the fine Silver Age Latin of Petronius and Tacitus. Or even Lucan. Roman philosophy I consider pretty half-baked philosophy. No, scratch that, Roman philosophy isn’t baked at all. The letters are a big snooze. Why waste time on them when you can be rereading Plato? Or the fragments of the Presocratics? Dishonorable mention: his essays. And they’re way longer than the letters, upping the Lethean dimension. This is the lad who wrote the hilarious Apocolocyntosis? He definitely shouldn’t have quit his day job, although Nero would beg to differ.

Marcus Aurelius, Meditations. This one actually makes it to lists of Great Books. More’s the pity. Way back in high school I read our boy in translation and thought I’d never look back. Until I hit the sight translation part of my Oxford Greats final. An unseen from…you guessed it. I died a thousand times during those two hours, but somehow managed to get a high Beta out of it. My mind goes numb with this book…I just don’t care what happens next. The author is a very interesting emperor with a totally uninteresting mind, although his exchanges with Fronto are really rather interesting. Another one who shouldn’t have quit his day job.

I suppose a good read is like love…where you find it. But who would want to look for a bad read? A good read makes you eager to finish, so you can start rereading, and so on, and so on. Of these three I’ve singled out…I really can’t think of any others who interest me less.

Medically Mad or Just Thinking Bad? Early Greek on Being Crazy

An ancient distinction between mental maladies with absolutely no relevance to the modern day.

Assemblywomen, 248-253

[First Woman]: But what if Kephalos attacks you with abuse—
How will you response to him in the assembly?

[Praksagora]: I will say he’s out of his mind [paraphronein]

[First Woman]: but everyone knows this!

[Praksagora]: then I will also call him psychopathic [lit. ‘black-biled’=melancholic].

[First Woman]: They know this too.

[Praksagora]: But I will add that he produces terrible ceramics and will then do a fine job of doing the same to the city.

ἀτὰρ ἢν Κέφαλός σοι λοιδορῆται προσφθαρείς,
πῶς ἀντερεῖς πρὸς αὐτὸν ἐν τἠκκλησίᾳ;
ΠΡΑΞΑΓΟΡΑ φήσω παραφρονεῖν αὐτόν.
ΓΥΝΗ Α …ἀλλὰ τοῦτό γε
ἴσασι πάντες.
ΠΡΑΞΑΓΟΡΑ ἀλλὰ καὶ μελαγχολᾶν.
ΓΥΝΗ Α καὶ τοῦτ᾿ ἴσασιν.
ΠΡΑΞΑΓΟΡΑἀλλὰ καὶ τὰ τρύβλια
κακῶς κεραμεύειν, τὴν δὲ πόλιν εὖ καὶ καλῶς.

Melancholy here contrasts with “thinking -wrongly” (paraphronein). A scholion to another play by Aristophanes glosses the realms of these types of mental maladies (Schol. ad Plut. 11a ex 20-28)

“He seems to say this because he harmed or helped his master through his own virtue more—and while he disturbed him through prophecy, he made him crazy [melankholan] through medicine and took away his ability to think [phronein] through wisdom, which is the art of thinking. The servant lies. For he does not speak the truth….”

…τοῦτο οὖν
ἔοικε λέγειν, ὅτι διὰ τῶν ἑαυτοῦ
μᾶλλον ἀρετῶν ἔβλαψε τὸν δεσπότην
ἤπερ ὠφέλησε, καὶ διὰ μὲν τῆς
μαντείας ἐτάραξε, διὰ δὲ τῆς ἰατρι-
κῆς μελαγχολᾶν ἐποίησε, διὰ δὲ
τῆς σοφίας, ὅ ἐστι τῆς φρονήσεως,
τοῦ φρονεῖν αὐτὸν ἀφείλατο. ψεύδεται
ὁ δοῦλος· οὐ γὰρ ἀλήθειαν λέγει

Where melancholy denotes a physical ailment [i.e. biologically caused and treated], paraphrosunê indicates parafunctionality which may be treated without medicine.

μελαγχολάω: to be atrabilious, melancholy-mad.

μελαγχολία: atrabiliousness, melancholy, a disease [atual LSJ definition]

παραφροσύνη, ἡ:  wandering of mind, derangment, delirium

παραφρονέω: to be beside oneself, be deranged, or mad.

Lyrica Adespota, fr. 3.9-10

“Lust–that magician–takes me. It descends upon my mind
And makes me crazy!”

῎Ερως μ’ ἔλα]β’ ὁ γόης· εἰς τὴν ψυχήν μου εἰσπε-
σὼν [ποιεῖ μ]ε παραφρονεῖν.

Aristotle, Metaphysics 4.1009b

“In the same way, ‘truth’ concerning the way things appear has come to some people from their senses. They believe that it is right that truth should be judged neither by the multitude or the scarcity [of those who believe it]; and they believe that the same thing seems sweet to some who taste it and bitter to others with the result that if all men were sick or if they were all insane and two or three were healthy or in their right mind, wouldn’t it seem that these few were sick and crazy and not the rest?”

[1] —ὅμοιως δὲ καὶ ἡ περὶ τὰ φαινόμενα ἀλήθεια ἐνίοις ἐκ τῶν αἰσθητῶν ἐλήλυθεν. τὸ μὲν γὰρ ἀληθὲς οὐ πλήθει κρίνεσθαι οἴονται προσήκειν οὐδὲ ὀλιγότητι, τὸ δ᾽ αὐτὸ τοῖς μὲν γλυκὺ γευομένοις δοκεῖν εἶναι τοῖς δὲ πικρόν, ὥστ᾽ εἰ πάντες ἔκαμνον [5] ἢ πάντες παρεφρόνουν, δύο δ᾽ ἢ τρεῖς ὑγίαινον ἢ νοῦν εἶχον, δοκεῖν ἂν τούτους κάμνειν καὶ παραφρονεῖν τοὺς δ᾽ ἄλλους οὔ:

Image result for ancient greek comedy vase

Ancient Greek Viagra: Medicine, Magic, and Erections

I apologize to the world for this. But a tweet directed me to learn some new words. Also, I don’t advise trying the following formulas. Here we go…

I added the Greek, someone responded:


The full passage also has a prescription for sexual performance

Magical Papyri, 7.185

“To be able to fuck a lot: mix fifty [pine nuts] with two measures of honey and seeds of pepper and drink it. To have an erection whenever you want: mix pepper with honey and rub it on your thing.”

Πολλὰ βι[ν]εῖν δύνασθαι· στροβίλια πεντήκοντα μετὰ δύο κυά[θ]ων γλυκέος καὶ κόκκους πεπέρεως τρίψας πίε. Στ[ύ]ειν, ὅτε θέλεις· πέπερι μετὰ μέλιτος τρίψας χρῖέ σου τὸ πρᾶ̣γ̣μ̣α.

  1. Complications: this might just be a metaphor. στροβίλια can be phallic; κόκκος can mean “testicles” or female genitals. Also, seeds are, well, seminal. So there is some affiliative magic going on here.

2. I was a little unsure about στροβίλια, but I checked Galen (De Simp. Medic. 12.55.7) and it seems to be a pine nut (Κώνου ὁ καρπὸς, ὃν δὴ καὶ κόκαλον ὀνομάζουσι καὶ στρόβιλον). I am happy for a botanist’s help.

3. τὸ πρᾶ̣γ̣μ̣α: There is a variant attributed to Democritus τὸ π[έλ]μα, which looks like we could treat as a diminutive of τὸ πέος (“penis”) if we wanted to. So, you know, “spread pepper and honey on your little prick”)


For the verb βι[ν]εῖν, see this earlier post. For masturbation in ancient Greek, go here.

Etymologicum Magnum

Anaphlân: to rub genitals with your hand. Some, instead, say stuein.

     ᾿Αναφλᾶν: Χειροτρίβειν τὸ αἰδοῖον. Οἱ δὲ, στύειν.

Aristophanes, Birds 1255-56

“Iris herself—so you’ll be surprised how erect I am
Even though I am an old man, three times as good as a ship’s ram!”

τὴν ῏Ιριν αὐτήν, ὥστε θαυμάζειν ὅπως
οὕτω γέρων ὢν στύομαι τριέμβολον.

Suda, for the gloss

“Triembolon: able to strike a lot. Aristophanes”

Τριέμβολον: πολλάκις ἐμβάλλεσθαι δυνάμενον. ᾿Αριστοφάνης·


Aristophanes, Acharnians 1220

“I want to sleep. And I am erect.
And I will fuck in the dark.”

Κἀγὼ καθεύδειν βούλομαι καὶ στύομαι
καὶ σκοτοβινιῶ.

According to J. Henderson (The Maculate Muse 1991: 112) this verb is the vulgar way to talk about erections:


Image result for Ancient Greek Phallic vase

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