Diogenes’ Advice for Self-Care

Dio recounts how the philosopher proposed dealing with, um, animal urges.

Dio Chrysostom, The Sixth Oration: On Diogenes or Tyranny (16-20)

“On behalf of that very thing which men make the most effort and waste the most money—through which many cities have been overturned and for whose sake many people have perished pitiably—for [Diogenes] this was the easiest and cheapest thing. For he didn’t have to go anywhere for sexual satisfaction, since, as he used to joke, Aphrodite was near him everywhere, and for free. He used to say that the poets slandered the goddess because of their own lack of control when they called her “all golden”. Since many did not believe this, he proved it out in the open while everyone was watching. And he used to say that if people did this, then Troy would not have fallen, nor would have Priam, the Phrygian king of the line of Zeus, bled out on Zeus’ altar.

He added that the Achaeans were so witless as to imagine that even corpses needed women and so slaughtered Polyxena on the tomb of Achilles. So he used to explain that fish proved themselves to be almost more prudent than men—for whenever they needed to expel their seed, the went out and rubbed up against something with friction. Diogenes was amazed at the unwillingness of men to spend money to have their foot, hand, or any other part of the body rubbed, and how the very rich would not waste even a drachma on this. But they [all] lavished many a talent on that single member often and that some even still endangered their lives too.

He used to joke that this kind of intercourse was Pan’s discovery: when he was lusting after Echo but couldn’t overtake her, he was wondering in the mountains night and day until that point when Hermes taught him how to do this, because he pitied his helplessness and he was his son. And, after he learned this, he got a break from his great suffering. Apparently, shepherds learned this from him.”

ὑπὲρ οὗ δὲ πλεῖστα μὲν πράγματα ἔχουσιν ἄνθρωποι πλεῖστα δὲ χρήματα ἀναλίσκουσι, πολλαὶ δὲ ἀνάστατοι πόλεις διὰ ταῦτα γεγόνασι, πολλὰ δὲ ἔθνη τούτων ἕνεκεν οἰκτρῶς ἀπόλωλεν, ἁπάντων ἐκείνῳ χρημάτων ἀπονώτατον ἦν καὶ ἀδαπανώτατον. οὐ γὰρ ἔδει αὐτὸν οὐδαμόσε ἐλθεῖν ἀφροδισίων ἕνεκεν, ἀλλὰ παίζων ἔλεγεν ἁπανταχοῦ παρεῖναι αὐτῷ τὴν Ἀφροδίτην προῖκα· τοὺς δὲ ποιητὰς καταψεύδεσθαι τῆς θεοῦ διὰ τὴν αὑτῶν ἀκρασίαν, πολύχρυσον καλοῦντας. ἐπεὶ δὲ πολλοὶ τοῦτο ἠπίστουν, ἐν τῷ φανερῷ ἐχρῆτο καὶ πάντων ὁρώντων· καὶ ἔλεγεν ὡς εἴπερ οἱ ἄνθρωποι οὕτως εἶχον, οὐκ ἂν ἑάλω ποτὲ ἡ Τροία, οὐδ᾿ ἂν ὁ Πρίαμος ὁ Φρυγῶν βασιλεύς, ἀπὸ Διὸς γεγονώς, ἐπὶ τῷ βωμῷ τοῦ Διὸς ἐσφάγη. τοὺς δὲ Ἀχαιοὺς οὕτως εἶναι ἄφρονας ὥστε καὶ τοὺς νεκροὺς νομίζειν προσδεῖσθαι γυναικῶν καὶ τὴν Πολυξένην σφάττειν ἐπὶ τῷ τάφῳ τοῦ Ἀχιλλέως. ἔφη δὲ τοὺς ἰχθύας σχεδόν τι φρονιμωτέρους φαίνεσθαι τῶν ἀνθρώπων· ὅταν γὰρ δέωνται τὸ σπέρμα ἀποβαλεῖν, ἰόντας ἔξω προσκνᾶσθαι πρός τι τραχύ. θαυμάζειν δὲ τῶν ἀνθρώπων τὸ τὸν μὲν πόδα μὴ θέλειν ἀργυρίου κνᾶσθαι μηδὲ τὴν χεῖρα μηδὲ ἄλλο μηδὲν τοῦ σώματος, μηδὲ τοὺς πάνυ πλουσίους ἀναλῶσαι ἂν μηδεμίαν ὑπὲρ τούτου δραχμήν· ἓν δὲ ἐκεῖνο τὸ μέρος πολλάκις πολλῶν ταλάντων, τοὺς δέ τινας ἤδη καὶ τὴν ψυχὴν παραβαλλομένους. ἔλεγε δὲ παίζων τὴν συνουσίαν ταύτην εὕρεμα εἶναι τοῦ Πανός, ὅτε τῆς Ἠχοῦς ἐρασθεὶς οὐκ ἐδύνατο λαβεῖν, ἀλλ᾿ ἐπλανᾶτο ἐν τοῖς ὄρεσι νύκτα καὶ ἡμέραν, τότε οὖν τὸν Ἑρμῆν διδάξαι αὐτόν, οἰκτείραντα τῆς ἀπορίας, ἅτε υἱὸν αὐτοῦ. καὶ τόν, ἐπεὶ ἔμαθε, παύσασθαι τῆς πολλῆς ταλαιπωρίας· ἀπ᾿ ἐκείνου δὲ τοὺς ποιμένας χρῆσθαι μαθόντας.

Image result for Ancient Greek Diogenes

Here’s another post on masturbation in Ancient Greek.

Tawdry Tuesday, Sacred Object Edition (NSFW?)

Pliny the Elder, Natural History 36.4 (21)

“Later, Nicomedes the king wanted to buy the statue from the Knidians, promising to unburden the state of its public debt, which was immense. They preferred to live with this and not without good reason—for Praxiteles ennobled Knidos with this sculpture. Its temple is open all around so that it is possible to see the goddess’ image from every direction. The goddess favors this herself, as the story goes. There is no less sense of wonder from any direction. They report that a certain man was taken with love for it and, once he had hidden himself for the night, he let himself loose upon the image, and there is a stain to show his desire.”

voluit eam a Cnidiis postea mercari rex Nicomedes, totum aes alienum, quod erat ingens, civitatis dissoluturum se promittens. omnia perpeti maluere, nec inmerito; illo enim signo Praxiteles nobilitavit Cnidum. aedicula eius tot aperitur, ut conspici possit undique effigies deae, favente ipsa, ut creditur, facta. nec minor ex quacumque parte admiratio est. ferunt amore captum quendam, cum delituisset noctu, simulacro cohaesisse, eiusque cupiditatis esse indicem maculam.

Valerius Maximus, Memorable Deeds and Sayings 8.2 ext 3

“Praxiteles centered the wife of Vulcan in marble in the Knidians’ temple as if she were breathing—and she was barely safe from a lustful embrace because of the beauty of the work. In this, a mistake is rather excusable for a horse who, when he sees the picture of a mare is compelled to utter a neigh; or when a dog is excited by the sight of a painted dog to bark; or the bull in Syracuse who was compelled to lust after and mount a bronze cow that was just too close to real. Why, then, should we be amazed that animals who lack reason are deceived by art, when we see a man’s sacrilegious desire elicited by the shape of silent stone?”

Cuius coniugem Praxiteles in marmore quasi spirantem in templo Cnidiorum collocavit, propter pulchritudinem operis a libidinoso cuiusdam complexu parum tutam. quo excusabilior est error equi, qui visa pictura equae hinnitum edere coactus est, et canum latratus aspectu picti canis incitatus, taurusque ad amorem et concubitum aeneae vaccae Syracusis nimiae similitudinis irritamento compulsus: quid enim vacua rationis animalia arte decepta miremur, cum hominis sacrilegam cupiditatem muti lapidis liniamentis excitatam videamus?

Image result for knidian venus

What is ValMax’s tone here–is he completely sanguine about this anecdote? How might our current, pornographically advanced society strike him? How would he feel about the ethics of sex with robots and its threat against the future of humanity?  Feel like hearing more about masturbation in Ancient Greek? Yeah, we’ve got that. More than once.

yes, there is a Greek Epigram on this (Plato, Epigram XXV Page):

“Paphian Aphrodite once came across the sea to Knidos, hoping to see a statue of herself. After gazing at it in a spot seen from all sides , she said, ‘When did Praxiteles see me naked?’ Praxiteles never saw what it was not right to see – his tool carved out an Aphrodite that Ares would like.”

῾Η Παφίη Κυθέρεια δι’ οἴδματος ἐς Κνίδον ἦλθε
βουλομένη κατιδεῖν εἰκόνα τὴν ἰδίην.
πάντῃ δ’ ἀθρήσασα περισκέπτῳ ἐνὶ χώρῳ
φθέγξατο· „Ποῦ γυμνὴν εἶδέ με Πραξιτέλης;”
Πραξιτέλης οὐκ εἶδεν, ἃ μὴ θέμις, ἀλλ’ ὁ σίδηρος
ἔξεσεν, οἷά γ’ ῎Αρης ἤθελε, τὴν Παφίην.

Tawdry Tuesday: Stood Up? Try a Sinister Replacement (Kind of NSFW)

Martial, Epigrams 11.72

“You always swear you will come to me, Lygdus, when I ask
And you promise a time and a place.

When I stretch out tense with prolonged excitement,
Often my left hand rushes in to replace you.

Liar! What should I beg for these deeds, these habits?
Lygdus—may you bear the umbrella of a one-eyed lady.”

Venturum iuras semper mihi, Lygde, roganti
constituisque horam constituisque locum.
cum frustra iacui longa prurigine tentus,
succurrit pro te saepe sinistra mihi.
5quid precer, o fallax, meritis et moribus istis?
umbellam luscae, Lygde, feras dominae.

And, to make this all a little more acceptable, here’s Martial on his choice of dicktion:

Epigrams, 3.69

“Because you write all your verses with nice words
There’s never a cock in your songs.
I admire this, I praise this. Nothing is holier than you alone.
But no page of mine lacks, well, lubrication.

Let nasty boys and easy girls read these poems then;
Let the old man who has a girlfriend to taunt him read them.
But, Cosconius, your holy and venerable words
Ought to be read by young boys and virgins.”

Omnia quod scribis castis epigrammata verbis
inque tuis nulla est mentula carminibus,
admiror, laudo; nihil est te sanctius uno:
at mea luxuria pagina nulla vacat.
haec igitur nequam iuvenes facilesque puellae,
haec senior, sed quem torquet amica, legat.
at tua, Cosconi, venerandaque sanctaque verba
a pueris debent virginibusque legi.

This poem reminds me of another where Martial defends himself by explaining that it is hard to write a poem without a penis. Harvesting from the garden of the Muses….

Bibliothèque nationale de France, Français 25526 (Roman de la Rose, France 14th century), fol. 160r.  What are these women picking?!

Bibliothèque nationale de France, Français 25526 (Roman de la Rose, France 14th century), fol. 160r.

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.

Scholia:

“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

Diogenes Can Get Satisfaction (And So Can You!)

Dio recounts how the philosopher proposed dealing with, um, animal urges.

Dio Chrysostom, The Sixth Oration: On Diogenes or Tyranny (16-20)

“On behalf of that very thing which men make the most effort and waste the most money—through which many cities have been overturned and for whose sake many people have perished pitiably—for [Diogenes] this was the easiest and cheapest thing. For he didn’t have to go anywhere for sexual satisfaction, since, as he used to joke, Aphrodite was near him everywhere, and for free. He used to say that the poets slandered the goddess because of their own lack of control when they called her “all golden”. Since many did not believe this, he proved it out in the open while everyone was watching. And he used to say that if people did this, then Troy would not have fallen, nor would have Priam, the Phrygian king of the line of Zeus, bled out on Zeus’ altar.

He added that the Achaeans were so witless as to imagine that even corpses needed women and so slaughtered Polyxena on the tomb of Achilles. So he used to explain that fish proved themselves to be almost more prudent than men—for whenever they needed to expel their seed, the went out and rubbed up against something with friction. Diogenes was amazed at the unwillingness of men to spend money to have their foot, hand, or any other part of the body rubbed, and how the very rich would not waste even a drachma on this. But they [all] lavished many a talent on that single member often and that some even still endangered their lives too. He used to joke that this kind of intercourse was Pan’s discovery: when he was lusting after Echo but couldn’t overtake her, he was wondering in the mountains night and day until that point when Hermes taught him how to do this, because he pitied his helplessness and he was his son. And, after he learned this, he got a break from his great suffering. Apparently, shepherds learned this from him.”

ὑπὲρ οὗ δὲ πλεῖστα μὲν πράγματα ἔχουσιν ἄνθρωποι πλεῖστα δὲ χρήματα ἀναλίσκουσι, πολλαὶ δὲ ἀνάστατοι πόλεις διὰ ταῦτα γεγόνασι, πολλὰ δὲ ἔθνη τούτων ἕνεκεν οἰκτρῶς ἀπόλωλεν, ἁπάντων ἐκείνῳ χρημάτων ἀπονώτατον ἦν καὶ ἀδαπανώτατον. οὐ γὰρ ἔδει αὐτὸν οὐδαμόσε ἐλθεῖν ἀφροδισίων ἕνεκεν, ἀλλὰ παίζων ἔλεγεν ἁπανταχοῦ παρεῖναι αὐτῷ τὴν Ἀφροδίτην προῖκα· τοὺς δὲ ποιητὰς καταψεύδεσθαι τῆς θεοῦ διὰ τὴν αὑτῶν ἀκρασίαν, πολύχρυσον καλοῦντας. ἐπεὶ δὲ πολλοὶ τοῦτο ἠπίστουν, ἐν τῷ φανερῷ ἐχρῆτο καὶ πάντων ὁρώντων· καὶ ἔλεγεν ὡς εἴπερ οἱ ἄνθρωποι οὕτως εἶχον, οὐκ ἂν ἑάλω ποτὲ ἡ Τροία, οὐδ᾿ ἂν ὁ Πρίαμος ὁ Φρυγῶν βασιλεύς, ἀπὸ Διὸς γεγονώς, ἐπὶ τῷ βωμῷ τοῦ Διὸς ἐσφάγη. τοὺς δὲ Ἀχαιοὺς οὕτως εἶναι ἄφρονας ὥστε καὶ τοὺς νεκροὺς νομίζειν προσδεῖσθαι γυναικῶν καὶ τὴν Πολυξένην σφάττειν ἐπὶ τῷ τάφῳ τοῦ Ἀχιλλέως. ἔφη δὲ τοὺς ἰχθύας σχεδόν τι φρονιμωτέρους φαίνεσθαι τῶν ἀνθρώπων· ὅταν γὰρ δέωνται τὸ σπέρμα ἀποβαλεῖν, ἰόντας ἔξω προσκνᾶσθαι πρός τι τραχύ. θαυμάζειν δὲ τῶν ἀνθρώπων τὸ τὸν μὲν πόδα μὴ θέλειν ἀργυρίου κνᾶσθαι μηδὲ τὴν χεῖρα μηδὲ ἄλλο μηδὲν τοῦ σώματος, μηδὲ τοὺς πάνυ πλουσίους ἀναλῶσαι ἂν μηδεμίαν ὑπὲρ τούτου δραχμήν· ἓν δὲ ἐκεῖνο τὸ μέρος πολλάκις πολλῶν ταλάντων, τοὺς δέ τινας ἤδη καὶ τὴν ψυχὴν παραβαλλομένους. ἔλεγε δὲ παίζων τὴν συνουσίαν ταύτην εὕρεμα εἶναι τοῦ Πανός, ὅτε τῆς Ἠχοῦς ἐρασθεὶς οὐκ ἐδύνατο λαβεῖν, ἀλλ᾿ ἐπλανᾶτο ἐν τοῖς ὄρεσι νύκτα καὶ ἡμέραν, τότε οὖν τὸν Ἑρμῆν διδάξαι αὐτόν, οἰκτείραντα τῆς ἀπορίας, ἅτε υἱὸν αὐτοῦ. καὶ τόν, ἐπεὶ ἔμαθε, παύσασθαι τῆς πολλῆς ταλαιπωρίας· ἀπ᾿ ἐκείνου δὲ τοὺς ποιμένας χρῆσθαι μαθόντας.

Image result for Ancient Greek Diogenes

Here’s another post on masturbation in Ancient Greek.

Masturbating in Ancient Greek

Just in case the picture of a man’s final moment at Pompeii has inspired people this morning, Ancient Greek for (male) masturbation:

Aristophanes, Peace 290-292

“Now comes the time of for Datis’ song
The one he sang once at midday as he masturbated
“How I am pleased and I enjoy this and I am finding delight!”

ΤΡ.                Νῦν, τοῦτ’ ἐκεῖν’, ἥκει τὸ Δάτιδος μέλος.
δεφόμενός ποτ’ ᾖδε τῆς μεσημβρίας·
«῾Ως ἥδομαι καὶ χαίρομαι κεὐφραίνομαι.»

The small LSJ defines δέφω as “to soften by working by the hand, to make supple, to tan hides.” The 1902 LSJ uses Latin to explain: “sensu obscoeno, v. Lat. Masturbari.”

The Suda (delta 297) cuts to the chase on this one with “dephein: grabbing someone by the genitals. Also, “rubbing” (Dephomenos) instead of “flogging your genitals.” (Δέφειν: τὸ τοῦ αἰδοίου τινὰ ἅπτεσθαι. καὶ Δεφόμενος, ἀντὶ τοῦ ἀποδέρων τὸ αἰδοῖον). So, the active vs. middle voice is an important distinction (echoing something I have emphasized in teaching Greek: active voice is something you do to someone else, middle is what you do to yourself…).

Here’s a nice passage that shows the difference in active and passive voice:

Artemidorus, Dream Interpretation 1.78: 74-80

“I know of a certain slave who dreamed that he was masturbating his master—and he then became the teacher and nurse of his children. For he was holding his master’s genitals in his hands which was a symbol of his children. And again, I know of another who dreamed he was being jerked off by his master, and, later he was bound to a pillar and then he received many blows…”

οἶδα δέ τινα δοῦλον, ὃς ἔδοξε τὸν δεσπότην αὐτοῦ δέφειν, καὶ ἐγένετο τῶν παίδων αὐτοῦ παιδαγωγὸς καὶ τροφός· ἔσχε γὰρ ἐν ταῖς χερσὶ τὸ τοῦ δεσπότου αἰδοῖον ὂν τῶν ἐκείνου τέκνων σημαντικόν. καὶ πάλιν αὖ οἶδά <τινα> ὃς ἔδοξεν ὑπὸ τοῦ δεσπότου δέφεσθαι, καὶ προσδεθεὶς κίονι πολλὰς ἔλαβε πληγάς….

Most of the extant uses of this verb appear in comedy. And, not surprisingly, this means Aristophanes:

Aristophanes, Knights 23-24

ΟΙ. Β′                                               Πάνυ καλῶς.
῞Ωσπερ δεφόμενός νυν ἀτρέμα πρῶτον λέγε
τὸ μολωμεν, εἶτα δ’ αὐτο, κᾆτ’ ἐπάγων πυκνόν.

“Excellent.
Just as if you were masturbating, say it first now gently
“let us hurry” and then again pushing on, quickly.”

[Here’s a link to the whole play. Soon, one of the interlocutors stops “because the skin is irritated by masturbation.” (῾Οτιὴ τὸ δέρμα δεφομένων ἀπέρχεται, 29)]

The verb is not common, to say the least, so later commentators found it necessary to gloss it and explain Aristophanes’ joke. Through the explanations of the joke, it immediately becomes less funny, and the language used in the commentaries.

Scholia in Knights:

[1] “ ‘Just like dephomenos’: instead of “flogging your genitals” (apodérôn to aidoion). For, when men touch their genitals they don’t complete as they began, but they move more eagerly towards the secretion of semen. This plays on that, he means start small at first but then go continuously.

[2]dephomenos’: “having intercourse’. Flogging genitals.

[3]dephomenos’: They mean handling the penis. For, when men take hold of their penises they don’t move towards ejaculation the way they began, but more eagerly over time, as they are inflamed by the continuity of movement.”

 ὥσπερ δεφόμενος: ἀντὶ τοῦ ἀποδέρων τὸ αἰδοῖον. οἱ γὰρ ἁπτόμενοι τῶν αἰδοίων οὐχ ὡς ἤρξαντο, ἀλλὰ σπουδαιότερον κινοῦσι πρὸς τῇ τῆς γονῆς ἐκκρίσει. τοῦτο οὖν λέγει, ὅτι πρῶτον κατὰ μικρόν, εἶτα συνεχῶς λέγε. RVEΓ2M

δεφόμενος] ξυνουσιάζων, ἀποδέρων τὸ αἰδοῖον. M

δεφόμενος] ἤγουν τοῦ μορίου ἁπτόμενος. οἱ γὰρ ἁπτόμενοι τοῦ μορίου
πρὸς ἔκκρισιν τῆς γονῆς οὐχ ὡς ἤρξαντο κινοῦσιν ἀλλὰ σπουδαιότερον, ἐκπυρούμενοι τῇ συνεχείᾳ τῆς κινήσεως. VatLh

Aristophanes, Ecclesiazusae, 705–709

“It is decreed that the ugly and the wretched
Get to fuck first.
Take your pleasure on the porch in the meantime
Handling your fig-leaves in the courtyard”

τοῖς γὰρ σιμοῖς καὶ τοῖς αἰσχροῖς
ἐψήφισται προτέροις βινεῖν,
ὑμᾶς δὲ τέως θρῖα λαβόντας
διφόρου συκῆς
ἐν τοῖς προθύροισι δέφεσθαι.

The Suda interprets this passage as meaning that someone is masturbating with a fig leaf. Henderson ( The Maculate Muse. New Haven 1975) explains that the “fig-leaves” are the foreskin and the “courtyard” means outside of a vagina.

Image result for ancient Greek Masturbating vase

And just in case one might worry about moral dimensions of masturbation, ancient philosophers have already tackled the question:

From Sextus Empiricus Pyrrhonian Hypotyposes, 3.206-207

“Similarly, this seems shameful to one of the sages but not to another. For us it is wrong to marry your own mother or sister. But the Persians, especially those of them who seem to pursue wisdom, the Magi, marry their mothers just as the Egyptians marry their sisters. The poet also says: “Zeus addressed Hera, his wife and sister…”

Zeno of Citium even says that it is not strange to rub your mother’s genitals with your own, just as no one would claim it is wrong to rub any other part of her body with your hand. Chrysippus approves in his Republic of a father getting children from his daughter, a mother from her son, and a brother from his sister. Plato insisted generally that wives should be held in common. Zeno also does not disapprove of masturbation, which is shameful in our culture. We have also learned that others practice this wicked habit as if it were a good thing.”

οὕτω καὶ τῶν σοφῶν ᾧ μὲν οὐκ αἰσχρόν, ᾧ δὲ αἰσχρὸν ἐδόκει τοῦτο εἶναι. ἄθεσμον τέ ἐστι παρ’ ἡμῖν μητέρα ἢ ἀδελφὴν ἰδίαν γαμεῖν· Πέρσαι δέ, καὶ μάλιστα αὐτῶν οἱ σοφίαν ἀσκεῖν δοκοῦντες, οἱ Μάγοι, γαμοῦσι τὰς μητέρας, καὶ Αἰγύπτιοι τὰς ἀδελφὰς ἄγονται πρὸς γάμον, καὶ ὡς ὁ ποιητής φησιν,

Ζεὺς ῞Ηρην προσέειπε κασιγνήτην ἄλοχόν τε.

ἀλλὰ καὶ ὁ Κιτιεὺς Ζήνων φησὶ μὴ ἄτοπον εἶναι τὸ μόριον τῆς μητρὸς τῷ ἑαυτοῦ μορίῳ τρῖψαι, καθάπερ οὐδὲ ἄλλο τι μέρος τοῦ σώματος αὐτῆς τῇ χειρὶ τρῖψαι φαῦλον ἂν εἴποι τις εἶναι. καὶ ὁ Χρύσιππος δὲ ἐν τῇ πολιτείᾳ δογματίζει τόν τε πατέρα ἐκ τῆς θυγατρὸς παιδοποιεῖσθαι καὶ τὴν μητέρα ἐκ τοῦ παιδὸς καὶ τὸν ἀδελφὸν ἐκ τῆς ἀδελφῆς. Πλάτων δὲ καὶ καθολικώτερον κοινὰς εἶναι τὰς γυναῖκας δεῖν ἀπεφήνατο. τό τε αἰσχρουργεῖν ἐπάρατον ὂν παρ’ ἡμῖν ὁ Ζήνων οὐκ ἀποδοκιμάζει· καὶ ἄλλους δὲ ὡς ἀγαθῷ τινι τούτῳ χρῆσθαι τῷ κακῷ πυνθανόμεθα.

Sexual Relativity with Sextus Empiricus: Masturbation! Mothers and Sons!

From Sextus Empiricus Pyrrhonian Hypotyposes, 3.206-207

“Similarly, this seems shameful to one of the sages but not to another. For us it is wrong to marry your own mother or sister. But the Persians, especially those of them who seem to pursue wisdom, the Magi, marry their mothers just as the Egyptians marry their sisters. The poet also says: “Zeus addressed Hera, his wife and sister…”

Zeno of Citium even says that it is not strange to rub your mother’s genitals with your own, just as no one would claim it is wrong to rub any other part of her body with your hand. Chrysippus approves in his Republic of a father getting children from his daughter, a mother from her son, and a brother from his sister. Plato insisted generally that wives should be held in common. Zeno also does not disapprove of masturbation, which is shameful in our culture. We have also learned that others practice this wicked habit as if it were a good thing.”

flirtation

οὕτω καὶ τῶν σοφῶν ᾧ μὲν οὐκ αἰσχρόν, ᾧ δὲ αἰσχρὸν ἐδόκει τοῦτο εἶναι. ἄθεσμον τέ ἐστι παρ’ ἡμῖν μητέρα ἢ ἀδελφὴν ἰδίαν γαμεῖν· Πέρσαι δέ, καὶ μάλιστα αὐτῶν οἱ σοφίαν ἀσκεῖν δοκοῦντες, οἱ Μάγοι, γαμοῦσι τὰς μητέρας, καὶ Αἰγύπτιοι τὰς ἀδελφὰς ἄγονται πρὸς γάμον, καὶ ὡς ὁ ποιητής φησιν,

Ζεὺς ῞Ηρην προσέειπε κασιγνήτην ἄλοχόν τε.

ἀλλὰ καὶ ὁ Κιτιεὺς Ζήνων φησὶ μὴ ἄτοπον εἶναι τὸ μόριον τῆς μητρὸς τῷ ἑαυτοῦ μορίῳ τρῖψαι, καθάπερ οὐδὲ ἄλλο τι μέρος τοῦ σώματος αὐτῆς τῇ χειρὶ τρῖψαι φαῦλον ἂν εἴποι τις εἶναι. καὶ ὁ Χρύσιππος δὲ ἐν τῇ πολιτείᾳ δογματίζει τόν τε πατέρα ἐκ τῆς θυγατρὸς παιδοποιεῖσθαι καὶ τὴν μητέρα ἐκ τοῦ παιδὸς καὶ τὸν ἀδελφὸν ἐκ τῆς ἀδελφῆς. Πλάτων δὲ καὶ καθολικώτερον κοινὰς εἶναι τὰς γυναῖκας δεῖν ἀπεφήνατο. τό τε αἰσχρουργεῖν ἐπάρατον ὂν παρ’ ἡμῖν ὁ Ζήνων οὐκ ἀποδοκιμάζει· καὶ ἄλλους δὲ ὡς ἀγαθῷ τινι τούτῳ χρῆσθαι τῷ κακῷ πυνθανόμεθα.

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