Tawdry Tuesday Returns: Masturbating in Latin

This is a much needed companion piece to our post on the same topic in Greek.  Note that many of lexical metaphors for masturbation are shared by the two languages. Much of the following material is drawn from J.N. Adams. The Latin Sexual Vocabulary. 1982. Note, however, that many of the examples are not truly masturbatory.

As an important prefatory note, the Latin word masturbor (whence modern “masturbate”) has unclear and irregular use in Latin (discussed by Adams 209-211 with some rather strong attacks on J. P. Hallet’s 1976 “Masturbator, Mascarpio.” Glotta, vol. 54: 292–308.) The word occurs most prominently in an agentive form  in Martial (translated here with considerable license):

Martial, 14.203 Puella Gaditana

“She sways with such curves and oozes sex so deep
That she’d turn Hippolytus himself into a masturbating creep.”

Tam tremulum crisat, tam blandum prurit, ut ipsum
masturbatorem fecerit Hippolytum.

Adams mast

Other words and terms

Frico, “to rub, chafe”, cf. cont. vulg: “rub one out”

Petronius 91.11

“it is that much more advantageous to rub your groin rather than your genius”

tanto magis expedit inguina quam ingenia fricare

Sollicito, “to shake, stir, rouse, agitate, excite, urge” etc.

Despite Adam’s assertion, the primary examples he cites are about the manipulation of genitals by another party.

Ovid, Amores 3.7.73-4

“Despite this, my girl was not reluctant
To stroke me gently once she moved her hand down…”

Hanc etiam non est mea dedignata puella
molliter admota sollicitare manu;

Martial, 11.22.4

“Who denies this? This is too much. But let it be enough
Stop urging on their groins with that fucker of a hand.”

quis negat?—hoc nimium est. sed sit satis; inguina saltem
parce fututrici sollicitare manu.

Petronius 20.2

“She stirred up my groin which was cold already because of a thousand deaths.”

Sollicitavit inguina mea mille iam mortibus frigida

Cf. Maximianus 5.58 “she began to handle my dirty parts with her hand / and to excite me too with her fingers.” contrectare manu coepit flagrantia membra / meque etiam digitis sollicitare suis

Tango, “touch”, cf. Divinyls Classic “I Touch Myself”

Ovid, Ars Amatoria 2.719–720

“When you find those places where the lady delights at being touched,
Don’t let shame get in the way of you touching her.”

Cum loca reppereris, quae tangi femina gaudet,
Non obstet, tangas quo minus illa, pudor.

Tracto: “to draw, haul, handle, treat” cf. perhaps “to jerk [off]” or “wank”

Martial 11.29.8

“I don’t need a finger: handle me like this, Phyllis”

nil opus est digitis: sic mihi, Phylli, frica

Priapea 80.1-2

“But this limp dick is not long enough nor does it stand up strong enough,
Even if you play with it, do you think it can grow?”

At non longa bene est, non stat bene mentula crassa
et quam si tractes, crescere posse putes?

Adams 1982, 208:

adams

(de)glubo: “to skin, flay, peel” cf. “skin off”

Ausonius, Epigram 79 “Inscribed Beneath the Picture of a Lusty Lady”

Beyond the genial joining of authorized sex
Sinful lust has discovered unnatural modes of love:
What the Lemnian lack posited to the heir of Herakles,
Or what the plays of Afranius in Roman garb presented
Or the total depravity that marked the Nolan people.
Somehow, in a single body, Crispa practices all three!
She masturbates, fellates, and rides with either hole—
So that she might not die frustrated, leaving anything untried.

LXXIX.—Subscriptum Picturae Mulieris impudicae

Praeter legitimi genialia foedera coetus
repperit obscenas veneres vitiosa libido:
Herculis heredi quam Lemnia suasit egestas,
quam toga facundi scaenis agitavit Afrani
et quam Nolanis capitalis luxus inussit.
Crispa tamen cunctas exercet corpore in uno:
deglubit, fellat, molitur per utramque cavernam,
ne quid inexpertum frustra moritura relinquat.

A Ghost Story from Petronius for Werewolf Week

Earlier  we saw how Plato makes being a tyrant equivalent to a type of lycanthropy. The Romans were also into that kind of thing. One of our oldest werewolf tales comes from Petronius’ Satyricon (61-62):

“Trimalchio turned to Niceros and said: “You used to be more pleasant company—I don’t know why you are now so quiet and subdued. If you want to make me happy, please tell us what happened to you.

Niceros, excited at his friend’s request, replied: “May all profit escape me, if I cannot deflate your joy—when I see how you are. Nevertheless, may happiness be ours, even if I am afraid that these scholars will laugh at me. Let them look on: I will tell the story nonetheless, what difference is it to me? It is better to tell a joke than be one.”

werewolf

Once he had uttered these words, he began the following tale:

‘When I was a slave, we were living in a narrow street where the home of Gavus is now. There is was where the gods decided I would fall in love with the wife of Terence the Innkeeper. You do remember Melissa from Tarentum—that most beautiful little package? By god, I loved her less for her body and sexcapades than I did for her fine morals. She didn’t deny me anything I sought. She made a penny, I got half! I put everything I had into her lap, and I was never cheated.

Her husband passed away at the inn one day. As you can imagine, I risked Skylla and Charybdis so I could get to her: for, as they say, Friends are present in times of need.

By chance, my master was visiting Capua in pursuit of some business. I took my chance and compelled a guest to accompany me to the fifth milestone. He was a soldier and as strong as Orcus. We blundered off around the time of the cock’s crow while the moon was shining as bright as midday. We went among the graves and my friend went among the stones to defecate. I sat singing and counting gravemarkers. And then, as I looked for my companion, he appeared and placed all his clothes near the road.

My breath nearly jumped out my nose—I was standing like a corpse. But he pissed around his clothes and suddenly became a wolf! Don’t you dare imagine I am joking, that I am lying. I make up nothing for such an inheritance as this! But, back to what I started to say, after he turned into a wolf, he began to howl and fled into the forest. At first, I didn’t remember where I was: then I went to gather up his clothes, but they had transformed into stones! What could I do but die from fear?

I drew my sword and struck all the shadows before me until I made it to my girlfriend’s home. I entered as pale as a ghost with sweat rushing down to my groin, my eyes nearly dead. I could hardly regain myself. My Melissa was at first surprised because I had gone out so late. And then she said “I wish you had come earlier, you could have helped us: a wolf entered the house and loosed more blood from the ship than a butcher! He escaped, but he didn’t laugh: an older slave tore his throat with a spear.”

Once I heard these words, I could not sleep any longer. At first light I fled the home of Gaius like an angry landlord. But once I came to the place where his clothing had turned into stone, I found nothing but blood. Honestly, I went home and my soldier was lying like a bull on his bed as a doctor was tending to his neck. I knew that he was a shapeshifter* then, and I wouldn’t have been able to share a meal with him even if you threatened to kill me. Let these men believe what they want about this, but if I am lying, let the gods hate me.”

*”shapeshifter”: Latin, versipellis (lit. “pelt-changer”) is used several times for form-changing in Latin literature. Often, this example and that of Pliny EN 8.80 (cf. LSJ s.v.) are translated as “werewolf”. I chose the more general sense.

[LXI] … Trimalchio ad Nicerotem respexit et: “Solebas, inquit, suavius esse in convictu; nescio quid nunc taces nec muttis. Oro te, sic felicem me videas, narra illud quod tibi usu venit.” Niceros delectatus affabilitate amici: “Omne me, inquit, lucrum transeat, nisi iam dudum gaudimonio dissilio, quod te talem video. Itaque hilaria mera sint, etsi timeo istos scolasticos ne me rideant. Viderint: narrabo tamen, quid enim mihi aufert, qui ridet? satius est rideri quam derideri.”

Haec ubi dicta dedit talem fabulam exorsus est:

“Cum adhuc servirem, habitabamus in vico angusto; nunc Gavillae domus est. Ibi, quomodo dii volunt, amare coepi uxorem Terentii coponis: noveratis Melissam Tarentinam, pulcherrimum bacciballum. Sed ego non mehercules corporaliter aut propter res venerias curavi, sed magis quod benemoria fuit. Si quid ab illa petii, nunquam mihi negatum; fecit assem, semissem habui; in illius sinum demandavi, nec unquam fefellitus sum. Huius contubernalis ad villam supremum diem obiit. Itaque per scutum per ocream egi aginavi, quemadmodum ad illam pervenirem: nam, ut aiunt, in angustiis amici apparent.

[LXII] “Forte dominus Capuae exierat ad scruta scita expedienda. Nactus ego occasionem persuadeo hospitem nostrum, ut mecum ad quintum miliarium veniat. Erat autem miles, fortis tanquam Orcus. Apoculamus nos circa gallicinia; luna lucebat tanquam meridie. Venimus inter monimenta: homo meus coepit ad stelas facere; sedeo ego cantabundus et stelas numero. Deinde ut respexi ad comitem, ille exuit se et omnia vestimenta secundum viam posuit. Mihi anima in naso esse; stabam tanquam mortuus. At ille circumminxit vestimenta sua, et subito lupus factus est. Nolite me iocari putare; ut mentiar, nullius patrimonium tanti facio. Sed, quod coeperam dicere, postquam lupus factus est, ululare coepit et in silvas fugit. Ego primitus nesciebam ubi essem; deinde accessi, ut vestimenta eius tollerem: illa autem lapidea facta sunt. Qui mori timore nisi ego? Gladium tamen strinxi et umbras cecidi, donec ad villam amicae meae pervenirem. In larvam intravi, paene animam ebullivi, sudor mihi per bifurcum volabat, oculi mortui; vix unquam refectus sum. Melissa mea mirari coepit, quod tam sero ambularem, et: ‘Si ante, inquit, venisses, saltem nobis adiutasses; lupus enim villam intravit et omnia pecora tanquam lanius sanguinem illis misit. Nec tamen derisit, etiamsi fugit; senius enim noster lancea collum eius traiecit’. Haec ut audivi, operire oculos amplius non potui, sed luce clara Gai nostri domum fugi tanquam copo compilatus; et postquam veni in illum locum, in quo lapidea vestimenta erant facta, nihil inveni nisi sanguinem. Vt vero domum veni, iacebat miles meus in lecto tanquam bovis, et collum illius medicus curabat. Intellexi illum versipellem esse, nec postea cum illo panem gustare potui, non si me occidisses. Viderint quid de hoc alii exopinissent; ego si mentior, genios vestros iratos habeam.”

A Ghost Story from Petronius for Werewolf Week

Earlier  we saw how Plato makes being a tyrant equivalent to a type of lycanthropy. The Romans were also into that kind of thing. One of our oldest werewolf tales comes from Petronius’ Satyricon (61-62):

“Trimalchio turned to Niceros and said: “You used to be more pleasant company—I don’t know why you are now so quiet and subdued. If you want to make me happy, please tell us what happened to you.

Niceros, excited at his friend’s request, replied: “May all profit escape me, if I cannot deflate your joy—when I see how you are. Nevertheless, may happiness be ours, even if I am afraid that these scholars will laugh at me. Let them look on: I will tell the story nonetheless, what difference is it to me? It is better to tell a joke than be one.”

werewolf

Once he had uttered these words, he began the following tale:

‘When I was a slave, we were living in a narrow street where the home of Gavus is now. There is was where the gods decided I would fall in love with the wife of Terence the Innkeeper. You do remember Melissa from Tarentum—that most beautiful little package? By god, I loved her less for her body and sexcapades than I did for her fine morals. She didn’t deny me anything I sought. She made a penny, I got half! I put everything I had into her lap, and I was never cheated.

Her husband passed away at the inn one day. As you can imagine, I risked Skylla and Charybdis so I could get to her: for, as they say, Friends are present in times of need.

By chance, my master was visiting Capua in pursuit of some business. I took my chance and compelled a guest to accompany me to the fifth milestone. He was a soldier and as strong as Orcus. We blundered off around the time of the cock’s crow while the moon was shining as bright as midday. We went among the graves and my friend went among the stones to defecate. I sat singing and counting gravemarkers. And then, as I looked for my companion, he appeared and placed all his clothes near the road.

My breath nearly jumped out my nose—I was standing like a corpse. But he pissed around his clothes and suddenly became a wolf! Don’t you dare imagine I am joking, that I am lying. I make up nothing for such an inheritance as this! But, back to what I started to say, after he turned into a wolf, he began to howl and fled into the forest. At first, I didn’t remember where I was: then I went to gather up his clothes, but they had transformed into stones! What could I do but die from fear?

I drew my sword and struck all the shadows before me until I made it to my girlfriend’s home. I entered as pale as a ghost with sweat rushing down to my groin, my eyes nearly dead. I could hardly regain myself. My Melissa was at first surprised because I had gone out so late. And then she said “I wish you had come earlier, you could have helped us: a wolf entered the house and loosed more blood from the ship than a butcher! He escaped, but he didn’t laugh: an older slave tore his throat with a spear.”

Once I heard these words, I could not sleep any longer. At first light I fled the home of Gaius like an angry landlord. But once I came to the place where his clothing had turned into stone, I found nothing but blood. Honestly, I went home and my soldier was lying like a bull on his bed as a doctor was tending to his neck. I knew that he was a shapeshifter* then, and I wouldn’t have been able to share a meal with him even if you threatened to kill me. Let these men believe what they want about this, but if I am lying, let the gods hate me.”

*”shapeshifter”: Latin, versipellis (lit. “pelt-changer”) is used several times for form-changing in Latin literature. Often, this example and that of Pliny EN 8.80 (cf. LSJ s.v.) are translated as “werewolf”. I chose the more general sense.

[LXI] … Trimalchio ad Nicerotem respexit et: “Solebas, inquit, suavius esse in convictu; nescio quid nunc taces nec muttis. Oro te, sic felicem me videas, narra illud quod tibi usu venit.” Niceros delectatus affabilitate amici: “Omne me, inquit, lucrum transeat, nisi iam dudum gaudimonio dissilio, quod te talem video. Itaque hilaria mera sint, etsi timeo istos scolasticos ne me rideant. Viderint: narrabo tamen, quid enim mihi aufert, qui ridet? satius est rideri quam derideri.”

Haec ubi dicta dedit talem fabulam exorsus est:

“Cum adhuc servirem, habitabamus in vico angusto; nunc Gavillae domus est. Ibi, quomodo dii volunt, amare coepi uxorem Terentii coponis: noveratis Melissam Tarentinam, pulcherrimum bacciballum. Sed ego non mehercules corporaliter aut propter res venerias curavi, sed magis quod benemoria fuit. Si quid ab illa petii, nunquam mihi negatum; fecit assem, semissem habui; in illius sinum demandavi, nec unquam fefellitus sum. Huius contubernalis ad villam supremum diem obiit. Itaque per scutum per ocream egi aginavi, quemadmodum ad illam pervenirem: nam, ut aiunt, in angustiis amici apparent.

[LXII] “Forte dominus Capuae exierat ad scruta scita expedienda. Nactus ego occasionem persuadeo hospitem nostrum, ut mecum ad quintum miliarium veniat. Erat autem miles, fortis tanquam Orcus. Apoculamus nos circa gallicinia; luna lucebat tanquam meridie. Venimus inter monimenta: homo meus coepit ad stelas facere; sedeo ego cantabundus et stelas numero. Deinde ut respexi ad comitem, ille exuit se et omnia vestimenta secundum viam posuit. Mihi anima in naso esse; stabam tanquam mortuus. At ille circumminxit vestimenta sua, et subito lupus factus est. Nolite me iocari putare; ut mentiar, nullius patrimonium tanti facio. Sed, quod coeperam dicere, postquam lupus factus est, ululare coepit et in silvas fugit. Ego primitus nesciebam ubi essem; deinde accessi, ut vestimenta eius tollerem: illa autem lapidea facta sunt. Qui mori timore nisi ego? Gladium tamen strinxi et umbras cecidi, donec ad villam amicae meae pervenirem. In larvam intravi, paene animam ebullivi, sudor mihi per bifurcum volabat, oculi mortui; vix unquam refectus sum. Melissa mea mirari coepit, quod tam sero ambularem, et: ‘Si ante, inquit, venisses, saltem nobis adiutasses; lupus enim villam intravit et omnia pecora tanquam lanius sanguinem illis misit. Nec tamen derisit, etiamsi fugit; senius enim noster lancea collum eius traiecit’. Haec ut audivi, operire oculos amplius non potui, sed luce clara Gai nostri domum fugi tanquam copo compilatus; et postquam veni in illum locum, in quo lapidea vestimenta erant facta, nihil inveni nisi sanguinem. Vt vero domum veni, iacebat miles meus in lecto tanquam bovis, et collum illius medicus curabat. Intellexi illum versipellem esse, nec postea cum illo panem gustare potui, non si me occidisses. Viderint quid de hoc alii exopinissent; ego si mentior, genios vestros iratos habeam.”

Tawdry Tuesday Returns: Masturbating in Latin

This is a much needed companion piece to our post on the same topic in Greek.  Note that many of lexical metaphors for masturbation are shared by the two languages. Much of the following material is drawn from J.N. Adams. The Latin Sexual Vocabulary. 1982. Note, however, that many of the examples are not truly masturbatory.

As an important prefatory note, the Latin word masturbor (whence modern “masturbate”) has unclear and irregular use in Latin (discussed by Adams 209-211 with some rather strong attacks on J. P. Hallet’s 1976 “Masturbator, Mascarpio.” Glotta, vol. 54: 292–308.) The word occurs most prominently in an agentive form  in Martial (translated here with considerable license):

Martial, 14.203 Puella Gaditana

“She sways with such curves and oozes sex so deep
That she’d turn Hippolytus himself into a masturbating creep.”

Tam tremulum crisat, tam blandum prurit, ut ipsum
masturbatorem fecerit Hippolytum.

Adams mast

Other words and terms

Frico, “to rub, chafe”, cf. cont. vulg: “rub one out”

Petronius 91.11

“it is that much more advantageous to rub your groin rather than your genius”

tanto magis expedit inguina quam ingenia fricare

Sollicito, “to shake, stir, rouse, agitate, excite, urge” etc.

Despite Adam’s assertion, the primary examples he cites are about the manipulation of genitals by another party.

Ovid, Amores 3.7.73-4

“Despite this, my girl was not reluctant
To stroke me gently once she moved her hand down…”

Hanc etiam non est mea dedignata puella
molliter admota sollicitare manu;

Martial, 11.22.4

“Who denies this? This is too much. But let it be enough
Stop urging on their groins with that fucker of a hand.”

quis negat?—hoc nimium est. sed sit satis; inguina saltem
parce fututrici sollicitare manu.

Petronius 20.2

“She stirred up my groin which was cold already because of a thousand deaths.”

Sollicitavit inguina mea mille iam mortibus frigida

Cf. Maximianus 5.58 “she began to handle my dirty parts with her hand / and to excite me too with her fingers.” contrectare manu coepit flagrantia membra / meque etiam digitis sollicitare suis

Tango, “touch”, cf. Divinyls Classic “I Touch Myself”

Ovid, Ars Amatoria 2.719–720

“When you find those places where the lady delights at being touched,
Don’t let shame get in the way of you touching her.”

Cum loca reppereris, quae tangi femina gaudet,
Non obstet, tangas quo minus illa, pudor.

Tracto: “to draw, haul, handle, treat” cf. perhaps “to jerk [off]” or “wank”

Martial 11.29.8

“I don’t need a finger: handle me like this, Phyllis”

nil opus est digitis: sic mihi, Phylli, frica

Priapea 80.1-2

“But this limp dick is not long enough nor does it stand up strong enough,
Even if you play with it, do you think it can grow?”

At non longa bene est, non stat bene mentula crassa
et quam si tractes, crescere posse putes?

Adams 1982, 208:

adams

(de)glubo: “to skin, flay, peel” cf. “skin off”

Ausonius, Epigram 79 “Inscribed Beneath the Picture of a Lusty Lady”

Beyond the genial joining of authorized sex
Sinful lust has discovered unnatural modes of love:
What the Lemnian lack posited to the heir of Herakles,
Or what the plays of Afranius in Roman garb presented
Or the total depravity that marked the Nolan people.
Somehow, in a single body, Crispa practices all three!
She masturbates, fellates, and rides with either hole—
So that she might not die frustrated, leaving anything untried.

LXXIX.—Subscriptum Picturae Mulieris impudicae

Praeter legitimi genialia foedera coetus
repperit obscenas veneres vitiosa libido:
Herculis heredi quam Lemnia suasit egestas,
quam toga facundi scaenis agitavit Afrani
et quam Nolanis capitalis luxus inussit.
Crispa tamen cunctas exercet corpore in uno:
deglubit, fellat, molitur per utramque cavernam,
ne quid inexpertum frustra moritura relinquat.

Table Talk: A Ghost Story from Petronius for Werewolf Week

Earlier  we saw how Plato makes being a tyrant equivalent to a type of lycanthropy. The Romans were also into that kind of thing. One of our oldest werewolf tales comes from Petronius’ Satyricon (61-62):

“Trimalchio turned to Niceros and said: “You used to be more pleasant company—I don’t know why you are now so quiet and subdued. If you want to make me happy, please tell us what happened to you.

Niceros, excited at his friend’s request, replied: “May all profit escape me, if I cannot deflate your joy—when I see how you are. Nevertheless, may happiness be ours, even if I am afraid that these scholars will laugh at me. Let them look on: I will tell the story nonetheless, what difference is it to me? It is better to tell a joke than be one.”

werewolf

Once he had uttered these words, he began the following tale:

‘When I was a slave, we were living in a narrow street where the home of Gavus is now. There is was where the gods decided I would fall in love with the wife of Terence the Innkeeper. You do remember Melissa from Tarentum—that most beautiful little package? By god, I loved her less for her body and sexcapades than I did for her fine morals. She didn’t deny me anything I sought. She made a penny, I got half! I put everything I had into her lap, and I was never cheated.

Her husband passed away at the inn one day. As you can imagine, I risked Skylla and Charybdis so I could get to her: for, as they say, Friends are present in times of need.

By chance, my master was visiting Capua in pursuit of some business. I took my chance and compelled a guest to accompany me to the fifth milestone. He was a soldier and as strong as Orcus. We blundered off around the time of the cock’s crow while the moon was shining as bright as midday. We went among the graves and my friend went among the stones to defecate. I sat singing and counting gravemarkers. And then, as I looked for my companion, he appeared and placed all his clothes near the road.

My breath nearly jumped out my nose—I was standing like a corpse. But he pissed around his clothes and suddenly became a wolf! Don’t you dare imagine I am joking, that I am lying. I make up nothing for such an inheritance as this! But, back to what I started to say, after he turned into a wolf, he began to howl and fled into the forest. At first, I didn’t remember where I was: then I went to gather up his clothes, but they had transformed into stones! What could I do but die from fear?

I drew my sword and struck all the shadows before me until I made it to my girlfriend’s home. I entered as pale as a ghost with sweat rushing down to my groin, my eyes nearly dead. I could hardly regain myself. My Melissa was at first surprised because I had gone out so late. And then she said “I wish you had come earlier, you could have helped us: a wolf entered the house and loosed more blood from the ship than a butcher! He escaped, but he didn’t laugh: an older slave tore his throat with a spear.”

Once I heard these words, I could not sleep any longer. At first light I fled the home of Gaius like an angry landlord. But once I came to the place where his clothing had turned into stone, I found nothing but blood. Honestly, I went home and my soldier was lying like a bull on his bed as a doctor was tending to his neck. I knew that he was a shapeshifter* then, and I wouldn’t have been able to share a meal with him even if you threatened to kill me. Let these men believe what they want about this, but if I am lying, let the gods hate me.”

*”shapeshifter”: Latin, versipellis (lit. “pelt-changer”) is used several times for form-changing in Latin literature. Often, this example and that of Pliny EN 8.80 (cf. LSJ s.v.) are translated as “werewolf”. I chose the more general sense.

[LXI] … Trimalchio ad Nicerotem respexit et: “Solebas, inquit, suavius esse in convictu; nescio quid nunc taces nec muttis. Oro te, sic felicem me videas, narra illud quod tibi usu venit.” Niceros delectatus affabilitate amici: “Omne me, inquit, lucrum transeat, nisi iam dudum gaudimonio dissilio, quod te talem video. Itaque hilaria mera sint, etsi timeo istos scolasticos ne me rideant. Viderint: narrabo tamen, quid enim mihi aufert, qui ridet? satius est rideri quam derideri.”

Haec ubi dicta dedit talem fabulam exorsus est:

“Cum adhuc servirem, habitabamus in vico angusto; nunc Gavillae domus est. Ibi, quomodo dii volunt, amare coepi uxorem Terentii coponis: noveratis Melissam Tarentinam, pulcherrimum bacciballum. Sed ego non mehercules corporaliter aut propter res venerias curavi, sed magis quod benemoria fuit. Si quid ab illa petii, nunquam mihi negatum; fecit assem, semissem habui; in illius sinum demandavi, nec unquam fefellitus sum. Huius contubernalis ad villam supremum diem obiit. Itaque per scutum per ocream egi aginavi, quemadmodum ad illam pervenirem: nam, ut aiunt, in angustiis amici apparent.

[LXII] “Forte dominus Capuae exierat ad scruta scita expedienda. Nactus ego occasionem persuadeo hospitem nostrum, ut mecum ad quintum miliarium veniat. Erat autem miles, fortis tanquam Orcus. Apoculamus nos circa gallicinia; luna lucebat tanquam meridie. Venimus inter monimenta: homo meus coepit ad stelas facere; sedeo ego cantabundus et stelas numero. Deinde ut respexi ad comitem, ille exuit se et omnia vestimenta secundum viam posuit. Mihi anima in naso esse; stabam tanquam mortuus. At ille circumminxit vestimenta sua, et subito lupus factus est. Nolite me iocari putare; ut mentiar, nullius patrimonium tanti facio. Sed, quod coeperam dicere, postquam lupus factus est, ululare coepit et in silvas fugit. Ego primitus nesciebam ubi essem; deinde accessi, ut vestimenta eius tollerem: illa autem lapidea facta sunt. Qui mori timore nisi ego? Gladium tamen strinxi et umbras cecidi, donec ad villam amicae meae pervenirem. In larvam intravi, paene animam ebullivi, sudor mihi per bifurcum volabat, oculi mortui; vix unquam refectus sum. Melissa mea mirari coepit, quod tam sero ambularem, et: ‘Si ante, inquit, venisses, saltem nobis adiutasses; lupus enim villam intravit et omnia pecora tanquam lanius sanguinem illis misit. Nec tamen derisit, etiamsi fugit; senius enim noster lancea collum eius traiecit’. Haec ut audivi, operire oculos amplius non potui, sed luce clara Gai nostri domum fugi tanquam copo compilatus; et postquam veni in illum locum, in quo lapidea vestimenta erant facta, nihil inveni nisi sanguinem. Vt vero domum veni, iacebat miles meus in lecto tanquam bovis, et collum illius medicus curabat. Intellexi illum versipellem esse, nec postea cum illo panem gustare potui, non si me occidisses. Viderint quid de hoc alii exopinissent; ego si mentior, genios vestros iratos habeam.”

A Penetrating Inquiry – The Suda on Kinaidia (NSFW!)

When I was an undergraduate reading Petronius’ Satyricon, I remember being struck by the word cinaedus (the Latinized form of the Greek kinaidos) in the phrase Intrat cinaedus (Satyricon 28).

My professor at the time gleefully shared his preferred translation:

“In walked a fucker…”

The word is somewhat difficult to translate because we have no clear English equivalent, and as delightful as the simple “fucker” may sound, it is not perfect. Most dictionaries try to shroud the meaning somewhat with a veil of circumlocution. (Liddell and Scott give us “a lewd fellow,” and translate kinaidia as “lust.”) This memory occurred to me this afternoon, so I decided to spend a bit of time with that most learned of tracts, the Suda, and see what sort of clarification I could find.

cinaedus2

The Suda provides a few entries bearing upon the kinaidos or kinaidia, the state of being a kinaidos. As with most other Suda entries, these range from laughable etymologies to displays of wondrously obscure pedantry.

Κίναιδα· καὶ Κιναιδία: ἡ ἀναισχυντία. ὅτι ὁ τῆς Κλεοπάτρας κίναιδος Χελιδὼν ἐκαλεῖτο.

Kinaidia: A lack of shame; Cleopatra’s kinaidos was called Chelidon.

Κίναιδος: ἀσελγής, μαλακός. καὶ ἐν ᾿Επιγράμμασι· ὡς μεγάλου κιναίδου.

Kinaidos: A licentious person, someone soft. This is found in epigrams: “…like a giant kinaidos.”

The Suda also has an entry for the privative a-kinaidos.

᾿Ακίναιδος: ὁ μὴ κινῶν τὰ αἰδοῖα, ὁ σώφρων. καὶ ᾿Ακίναιδα.

Akinaidos : One not moving (kinon) his genitals (aidoia).

cinaedus1

Some Suda entries also provide examples of people who were noted kinaidoi. The reputation of being a kinaidos seems to be wrapped up with other traits such as effeminacy and gourmandizing, and is always mentioned with a hint of reproach about it.

Κλεόκριτος· οὗτος ἐκωμῳδεῖτο ὡς γυναικίας καὶ κίναιδος καὶ ξένος καὶ δυσγενὴς καὶ Κυβέλης υἱός· ἐπεὶ ἐν τοῖς μυστηρίοις τῆς ῾Ρέας μαλακοὶ παρῆσαν. ἦν δὲ καὶ τὴν ὄψιν ὀρνιθώδης. εἴρηται οὖν ἐπὶ τῶν κιναίδων ἡ παροιμία.

Kleokritos: He was lampooned as a weakling, a kinaidos, a foreigner, of low birth, and a son of Cybele, since effeminate men were present at the mysteries of Rhea (Cybele). He also looked like a bird. Thus goes the saying about kinaidoi.

Κυβέλης υἱός: ὁ Κλεόκριτος, ὃς ἐκωμῳδεῖτο ὡς γυναικίας καὶ κίναιδος.

The son of Cybele: Kleokritos, who was lampooned as a weakling and a kinaidos.

ἦν δὲ ὁ Τελέας σκωπτικὸς ἄνθρωπος καὶ εὐμετάβλητος τοὺς τρόπους· πρὸς γὰρ τῇ κιναιδίᾳ καὶ δειλίᾳ καὶ ὀψοφαγίᾳ καὶ νοσφισμῷ καὶ πονηρίᾳ διεβάλλετο. καὶ Πλάτων ἐν Σύρφακι περὶ τοῦ Τελέου φησί· νοεῖ μὲν ἕτερα, ἕτερα δὲ τῇ γλώττῃ φθέγγεται.

Teleas was an irreverent man and easily changed his ways. He was slandered for kinaidia, cowardice, meat-eating, running away, and knavery. And Plato*, in his Surphax, says about Teleas: ‘He thinks one thing, but says another.’

*Note: This is not Plato the philosopher, but rather the comic author.

cinaedus3

Other entries focus on providing synonyms:

Γύνανδρος: κίναιδος. ὁ γύνανδρός τε καὶ μάλθων τύραννος. ἀντὶ τοῦ ἔκλυτος.

Woman-man: A kinaidos. ‘He was a woman man and an effeminate tyrant.’ Used in place of ‘easy’ or ‘dissolute.’

 

Καταπύγους: κιναίδους.

Katapugos: [synonymous with] Kinaidos

The rest of the Suda’s entries dealing with kinaidia are primarily associative and conjure up the irrational but long-held masculine fear of being in some way dainty or effeminate. This entry, however, hints more strongly that the kinaidos is specifically a man who submits to anal (pugos = buttocks) penetration. Consider also the entries for katapugon:

Καταπυγῶν: κατασελγαίνων

Katapugon: Kataselgainon (Committing outrageous acts.)

Καταπύγων: ὁ λάγνης. ἡ δὲ μεταφορὰ ἀπὸ τῶν ἀλφίτων οὕτως λεγομένων ἰχθύων, ὅτι ἕπονται κατ’ οὐράν. ἡ γενικὴ δὲ καταπύγωνος· καὶ καταπύγωνα ἡ αἰτιατικὴ καὶ αἱ ἄλλαι πτώσεις εὕρηνται. εὕρηται καὶ τὸ θηλυκὸν καταπύγων. καὶ ἡ πρᾶξις καταπυγοσύνη, τουτέστιν ἡ μαλακία. Καταπυγωνέστερον: μαλακώτερον, πορνικώτερον. οὐκέτι δόξειέ τι ἄλλο τι καταπυγωνέστερον εἶναι.

Katapugon: A lustful man. This is a metaphor from the ‘barley meal’ (so to speak) of fish, because they follow the tail. The genitive case is katapugonos, and the accusative case is katapugona, and all of the other cases can be found. Katapugon is also found in the feminine. The practice is known as katapugosune, that is, effeminacy. ‘ Katapugonesteron = malakoteron (more effeminate) = pornikoteron (more like a harlot). [The Suda is here quoting the Scholia to Arisophanes’ Lysistrata.]

cinaedus4

Throughout, the association with effeminacy appears to be linked primarily to the state of being the sexually passive partner. This is transmuted by deeply-entrenched misogyny into the broader notion that if a man is sexually passive, he is in some way transformed into a “girly man” and a model of sexual indecency. [One may note that a certain penile polupragmosune will earn no reproach for a man, but his submission to another will.]

Ultimately, it is true that we have no single English term which is synonymous with kinaidos or fully captures its rather broad semantic range. This is perhaps no surprise, since the Romans apparently did not have one either, and appear to have adopted the Greek term outright with a certain lascivious enthusiasm.

cinaedus5

Werewolf Week Continues: A Ghost Story from Petronius

Earlier this week we saw how Plato makes being a tyrant equivalent to a type of lycanthropy. The Romans were also into that kind of thing. One of our oldest werewolf tales comes from Petronius’ Satyricon (61-62):

“Trimalchio turned to Niceros and said: “You used to be more pleasant company—I don’t know why you are now so quiet and subdued. If you want to make me happy, please tell us what happened to you.

Niceros, excited at his friend’s request, replied: “May all profit escape me, if I cannot deflate your joy—when I see how you are. Nevertheless, may happiness be ours, even if I am afraid that these scholars will laugh at me. Let them look on: I will tell the story nonetheless, what difference is it to me? It is better to tell a joke than be one.”

werewolf

Once he had uttered these words, he began the following tale:

‘When I was a slave, we were living in a narrow street where the home of Gavus is now. There is was where the gods decided I would fall in love with the wife of Terence the Innkeeper. You do remember Melissa from Tarentum—that most beautiful little package? By god, I loved her less for her body and sexcapades than I did for her fine morals. She didn’t deny me anything I sought. She made a penny, I got half! I put everything I had into her lap, and I was never cheated.

Her husband passed away at the inn one day. As you can imagine, I risked Skylla and Charybdis so I could get to her: for, as they say, Friends are present in times of need.

By chance, my master was visiting Capua in pursuit of some business. I took my chance and compelled a guest to accompany me to the fifth milestone. He was a soldier and as strong as Orcus. We blundered off around the time of the cock’s crow while the moon was shining as bright as midday. We went among the graves and my friend went among the stones to defecate. I sat singing and counting gravemarkers. And then, as I looked for my companion, he appeared and placed all his clothes near the road.

My breath nearly jumped out my nose—I was standing like a corpse. But he pissed around his clothes and suddenly became a wolf! Don’t you dare imagine I am joking, that I am lying. I make up nothing for such an inheritance as this! But, back to what I started to say, after he turned into a wolf, he began to howl and fled into the forest. At first, I didn’t remember where I was: then I went to gather up his clothes, but they had transformed into stones! What could I do but die from fear?

I drew my sword and struck all the shadows before me until I made it to my girlfriend’s home. I entered as pale as a ghost with sweat rushing down to my groin, my eyes nearly dead. I could hardly regain myself. My Melissa was at first surprised because I had gone out so late. And then she said “I wish you had come earlier, you could have helped us: a wolf entered the house and loosed more blood from the ship than a butcher! He escaped, but he didn’t laugh: an older slave tore his throat with a spear.”

Once I heard these words, I could not sleep any longer. At first light I fled the home of Gaius like an angry landlord. But once I came to the place where his clothing had turned into stone, I found nothing but blood. Honestly, I went home and my soldier was lying like a bull on his bed as a doctor was tending to his neck. I knew that he was a shapeshifter* then, and I wouldn’t have been able to share a meal with him even if you threatened to kill me. Let these men believe what they want about this, but if I am lying, let the gods hate me.”

*”shapeshifter”: Latin, versipellis (lit. “pelt-changer”) is used several times for form-changing in Latin literature. Often, this example and that of Pliny EN 8.80 (cf. LSJ s.v.) are translated as “werewolf”. I chose the more general sense.

[LXI] … Trimalchio ad Nicerotem respexit et: “Solebas, inquit, suavius esse in convictu; nescio quid nunc taces nec muttis. Oro te, sic felicem me videas, narra illud quod tibi usu venit.” Niceros delectatus affabilitate amici: “Omne me, inquit, lucrum transeat, nisi iam dudum gaudimonio dissilio, quod te talem video. Itaque hilaria mera sint, etsi timeo istos scolasticos ne me rideant. Viderint: narrabo tamen, quid enim mihi aufert, qui ridet? satius est rideri quam derideri.”

Haec ubi dicta dedit talem fabulam exorsus est:

“Cum adhuc servirem, habitabamus in vico angusto; nunc Gavillae domus est. Ibi, quomodo dii volunt, amare coepi uxorem Terentii coponis: noveratis Melissam Tarentinam, pulcherrimum bacciballum. Sed ego non mehercules corporaliter aut propter res venerias curavi, sed magis quod benemoria fuit. Si quid ab illa petii, nunquam mihi negatum; fecit assem, semissem habui; in illius sinum demandavi, nec unquam fefellitus sum. Huius contubernalis ad villam supremum diem obiit. Itaque per scutum per ocream egi aginavi, quemadmodum ad illam pervenirem: nam, ut aiunt, in angustiis amici apparent.
[LXII] “Forte dominus Capuae exierat ad scruta scita expedienda. Nactus ego occasionem persuadeo hospitem nostrum, ut mecum ad quintum miliarium veniat. Erat autem miles, fortis tanquam Orcus. Apoculamus nos circa gallicinia; luna lucebat tanquam meridie. Venimus inter monimenta: homo meus coepit ad stelas facere; sedeo ego cantabundus et stelas numero. Deinde ut respexi ad comitem, ille exuit se et omnia vestimenta secundum viam posuit. Mihi anima in naso esse; stabam tanquam mortuus. At ille circumminxit vestimenta sua, et subito lupus factus est. Nolite me iocari putare; ut mentiar, nullius patrimonium tanti facio. Sed, quod coeperam dicere, postquam lupus factus est, ululare coepit et in silvas fugit. Ego primitus nesciebam ubi essem; deinde accessi, ut vestimenta eius tollerem: illa autem lapidea facta sunt. Qui mori timore nisi ego? Gladium tamen strinxi et umbras cecidi, donec ad villam amicae meae pervenirem. In larvam intravi, paene animam ebullivi, sudor mihi per bifurcum volabat, oculi mortui; vix unquam refectus sum. Melissa mea mirari coepit, quod tam sero ambularem, et: ‘Si ante, inquit, venisses, saltem nobis adiutasses; lupus enim villam intravit et omnia pecora tanquam lanius sanguinem illis misit. Nec tamen derisit, etiamsi fugit; senius enim noster lancea collum eius traiecit’. Haec ut audivi, operire oculos amplius non potui, sed luce clara Gai nostri domum fugi tanquam copo compilatus; et postquam veni in illum locum, in quo lapidea vestimenta erant facta, nihil inveni nisi sanguinem. Vt vero domum veni, iacebat miles meus in lecto tanquam bovis, et collum illius medicus curabat. Intellexi illum versipellem esse, nec postea cum illo panem gustare potui, non si me occidisses. Viderint quid de hoc alii exopinissent; ego si mentior, genios vestros iratos habeam.”

A Penetrating Inquiry – The Suda on Kinaidia (NSFW!)

When I was an undergraduate reading Petronius’ Satyricon, I remember being struck by the word cinaedus (the Latinized form of the Greek kinaidos) in the phrase Intrat cinaedus (Satyricon 28).

My professor at the time gleefully shared his preferred translation:

“In walked a fucker…”

The word is somewhat difficult to translate because we have no clear English equivalent, and as delightful as the simple “fucker” may sound, it is not perfect. Most dictionaries try to shroud the meaning somewhat with a veil of circumlocution. (Liddell and Scott give us “a lewd fellow,” and translate kinaidia as “lust.”) This memory occurred to me this afternoon, so I decided to spend a bit of time with that most learned of tracts, the Suda, and see what sort of clarification I could find.

cinaedus2
“Hermadion is a kinaidos.”

Continue reading “A Penetrating Inquiry – The Suda on Kinaidia (NSFW!)”

Happy Halloween: Learning about Werewolves from Ancient Texts

This week I went full speed down a lykanthropic rabbit-hole. (Well, maybe I should call it a wolf-hole or something?).  Having the time to pursue sudden and intense interests is one of the nice things about having tenure.  The ability to do so with some speed and knowledge is the nice thing of so many years flipping through dictionaries and sneezing in libraries.

One of the many reasons we started this site (in addition to combating all the false and unattributed quotations online, bringing lesser known material to wider audiences, and entertaining ourselves) is that we wanted the impetus and opportunity to explore material only tangentially connected to our work inside and outside the classroom. More often than not, these boundaries blur–sometimes the classroom spills over here.  Other times, our ‘discoveries’ and fleeting obsessions start here and end up back in the classroom.

Did the Wolf Win or Lose this FIght?
Did the Wolf Win or Lose this Fight?

This interest in ancient werewolves started on a Monday morning.  I wanted to do something thematic for Halloween.  I ended up devoting a week to it.  Here are the sources I’ve gathered in rough chronological order. Most of the material is mentioned in the Oxford Classical Dictionary, although the entry says nothing about the medical texts.

  1. Herodotus’ Histories: A Description of the Neuri, a tribe near the Skythians who could turn into wolves and back.
  2. Plato’s Republic: Lycanthropy is used as a metaphor for the compulsive behavior of tyrants.
  3. Pliny the Elder’s Natural History: Pliny describes the origins of ideas about lycanthropy and blames the traditions on the credulity of the Greeks!
  4. Petronius’ Satyricon: A character tells the story of a companion transforming into a wolf at night and back at day.
  5. Pausanias’ Geography of Greece: Like Pliny, Pausanias tells the story of the human sacrifice performed by Lykaon as an origin of lycanthropic narratives.
  6. Greek Medical Treatises on the Treatment of Lycanthropy: Medical authors from the time of Marcus Aurelius to the fall of Byzantium treat lycanthropy as a mental illness.
  7. Augustine of Hippo, City of God:  St. Augustine (5th Century CE) gives an account similar to Pliny’s, but attributes it to Varro.
  8. Michael Psellus, Poemata 9.841:An 11th century CE monk wrote a book of didactic poems about medicine. His description of lycanthropy is clearly influenced by the Greek medical treatises.

What I have learned from these texts:

  1. The early Greek tradition is harmonious with some structural aspects of Greek myth.  Lycanthropy is related to sacrilegious eating–in a system where what you eat communicates who you are, human flesh is taboo (monsters eat it).  In the Greek lycanthropic tradition, this is non mono-directional. Werewolves who abstain from human flesh can turn back again.
  2. The later ‘folkloric’ tradition (e.g. Petronius) is separate from this structural logic. in the earlier tradition, men transform for 9-10 years (in something of a purificatory period). The other tradition has shorter periods (nightly) that don’t correlate with sacrilege: Petronius’ werewolf doesn’t eat human flesh (that we know of).
  3. The moon-association may be a later accretion on the tradition. All of the medical texts associate werewolves with the night; the Roman texts agree. The lunar cycle may be implied in the Petronius tale (where the transformation happens when the light is almost as bright as day) or in the later medical texts vis a vis the connection with menstrual cycles.
  4. There is one hint of a dog-bite being associated with lycanthropy, but no foundational notion that you contract lycanthropy from a werewolf.  In addition, there are no specific suggestions or methods for how to kill a werewolf.

Continue reading “Happy Halloween: Learning about Werewolves from Ancient Texts”

Don’t Let a Wolf See You First! Pliny the Elder on Superstition and Lycanthropy

It seems that this week of Halloween is turning into Werewolf week for me. To be honest, while doing esoteric things like folding laundry, I have been watching the Netflix show Hemlock Grove (which has recently been described as “bad and strange”). Its werewolf has made me think back to lycanthropy in Greek and Roman myth. I started with Plato and Petronius yesterday.

Today, we have the rather famous account from Pliny the Elder’s Natural History 8.34) (for the full text: see Perseus). The Latin text on Perseus is incorrect, but fortunately Lacus Curtius is there to save the day.

Pliny, NH 8.34 80-83

“But it Italy they also believe that the gaze of a wolf is harmful—specifically that it will take the voice from any man they see first. Africa and Egypt have wolves that are slow and small, while the colder climates produce fierce and wild animals. We ought to believe with certainty that accounts of men turning into wolves and then back to themselves again are false; or we should be prepared  to believe all the tales that are fantastic from as many generations.

Nevertheless, since the tale is popular enough that it has earned the curse-term “versepellis”, I will explain its origin. Euanthes, not unknown among Greek authors, reports that the Arcadians hold that a member of a family of a certain Anthus is selected by lot, transported to a certain lake in the region, and, after he hangs his clothes on an oak tree, he crosses the lake and enters the desert where he turns into a wolf and joins with others of his kind for nine years.

If he keeps himself from humans for this period of time, he returns to the same lake and once he has crossed it regains his form, except that nine years of age have accumulated. Fabius adds to this tale that he also regains his clothing. It is amazing how far Greek gullibility will go! There is no lie so shameful that it will lack partisans.

Similarly, the author Apollas who wrote the Olympionics, claims that Demaenetus of Parrhasia, when they Arcadians were still performing human sacrifices to Jupiter Lycaeus, sampled the entrails of a child who had been sacrificed, and transformed into a wolf. That same man transformed back 10 years later, became an athlete, and returned to the Olympic games as a victor.

It is also believed that there is a thin tip of hair on the tail of this animal which acts as an aphrodisiac—when the animal is caught, it has no force unless it is plucked while the animal is still alive.

Sed in Italia quoque creditur luporum visus esse noxius vocemque homini, quem priores contemplentur, adimere ad praesens. inertes hos parvosque Africa et Aegyptus gignunt, asperos trucesque frigidior plaga. homines in lupos verti rursusque restitui sibi falsum esse confidenter existimare debemus aut credere omnia quae fabulosa tot saeculis conperimus. unde tamen ista vulgo infixa sit fama in tantum, ut in maledictis versipelles habeat, indicabitur.

Euanthes, inter auctores Graeciae non spretus, scribit Arcadas tradere ex gente Anthi cuiusdam sorte familiae lectum ad stagnum quoddam regionis eius duci vestituque in quercu suspenso tranare atque abire in deserta transfigurarique in lupum et cum ceteris eiusdem generis congregari per annos VIIII. quo in tempore si homine se abstinuerit, reverti ad idem stagnum et, cum tranaverit, effigiem recipere, ad pristinum habitum addito novem annorum senio. id quoque adicit, eandem recipere vestem.

mirum est quo procedat Graeca credulitas! nullum tam inpudens mendacium est, ut teste careat. item Apollas, qui Olympionicas scripsit, narrat Demaenetum Parrhasium in sacrificio, quod Arcades Iovi Lycaeo humana etiamtum hostia facebant, immolati pueri exta degustasse et in lupum se convertisse, eundem X anno restitutum athleticae se exercuisse in pugilatu victoremque Olympia reversum.

quin et caudae huius animalis creditur vulgo inesse amatorium virus exiguo in villo eumque, cum capiatur, abici nec idem pollere nisi viventi dereptum.