Tawdry Tuesday: Failing to Rise to the Occasion

Greek Anthology, 5.47 Rufinus

To Thaleia, his escort

“I often yearn to take you at night, Thaleia,
And fill my heart with your warm lust-madness.
But now when you are naked next to me with sweet limbs,
I am spent, and my limb is worn with sleepy exhaustion.
Cowardly heart, what have you suffered? Rise up, don’t be weary!
Someday you will seek such excessive good luck again.”

εἰς Θάλειαν, τὴν ἑαυτοῦ ἑταίραν
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.

C. 490 BCE Red Figure attributed to Euphronius Painter, British Museum

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 Priapic Poem That’s A Tad Too Defensive

Warning: this is potentially just awful trash.

Carmina Priapea, 28

“Mercury’s form has the power to please.
And Apollo’s body sticks out especially.
Lyaeus in pictures has a shapely line,
And Cupid is still finest of the fine.

My body lacks a certain beauty, I confess
But, look, my dick’s a jewel beyond the rest.
Any girl should prefer it to the gods I named,
And if she doesn’t, then a greedy pussy’s to blame.”

Forma Mercurius potest placere,
forma conspiciendus est Apollo,
formosus quoque pingitur Lyaeus,
formosissimus omnium est Cupido.
me pulchra fateor carere forma,
verum mentula luculenta nostra est:
hanc mavult sibi quam deos priores,
si qua est non fatui puella cunni.

Woman painting a statue of Priapus, from a fresco at Pompeii

Tawdry Tuesday, Sacred Object Edition

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: Frustrated in Isolation? Use a Sinister Replacement

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.

Tawdry Tuesday: Wanton Verse, Pure Heart. And Dicks for Sale (NSFW)

Hadrian, fr. II [A minor Latin Poet and a Major Roman Emperor]

“You were wanton in verse, but pure of thought”

Lascivus versu, mente pudicus eras.

 Martial, 12.97

“Even though your wife is a girl of a kind
A man would scarcely seek with inappropriate prayers
(rich, noble, erudite, chase, what a find!)
You bust your nut, Bassus, but on the hair
Of the the men you buy with your wife’s money.

And when to its mistress your dick is returned
Though it was for so many thousands bought
It is so limp that its full size cannot be earned
Even if by sweet whispers or soft strokings sought.

For once, have some shame or let’s go to court.
Bassus, you sold it—your dick ain’t yours.”

Uxor cum tibi sit puella qualem
votis vix petat improbis maritus,
dives, nobilis, erudita, casta,
rumpis, Basse, latus, sed in comatis,
uxoris tibi dote quos parasti.
et sic ad dominam reversa languet
multis mentula milibus redempta
ut nec vocibus excitata blandis
molli pollice nec rogata surgat.
sit tandem pudor aut eamus in ius.
non est haec tua, Basse: vendidisti.

Image result for Priapus weighing penis pompeii
Wall-painting: Priapus weighing his phallus (Pompeii)

Tawdry Tuesday: Failing to Rise to the Occasion

Greek Anthology, 5.47 Rufinus

To Thaleia, his escort

“I often yearn to take you at night, Thaleia,
And fill my heart with your warm lust-madness.
But now when you are naked next to me with sweet limbs,
I am spent, and my limb is worn with sleepy exhaustion.
Cowardly heart, what have you suffered? Rise up, don’t be weary!
Someday you will seek such excessive good luck again.”

εἰς Θάλειαν, τὴν ἑαυτοῦ ἑταίραν
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.

C. 490 BCE Red Figure attributed to Euphronius Painter, British Museum

Obscenity Watch: Walk Like an Egyptian

We are happy to have new contributions from the Fabulous Dr. Amy Coker. She shares a certain scatalogical interest, but brings considerable expertise to the matter.

This latest word is not to do with sex, but rather with another bodily action which is often a source of taboo words, excretion. More specifically, this post is about words I have been affectionately characterising as denoting ‘solid waste’ (or ‘poo’, ‘faeces’, etc.). One of the words in ancient Greek for the noun ‘poo’ is κόπρος (ko-pross), the word which gives us English scientific words beginning with ‘copro-‘ such as ‘coprolite’ – fossilised faeces – coined in the early nineteenth century.

Despite the unpleasantness of the substance κόπρος indicates, the word itself is not really ‘taboo’ or offensive, and is found in a range of Classical works from Homer’s epics to medical works in the Hippocratic corpus: κόπρος is milder in tone than the English four-letter word, ‘sh*t’. What sparked this post is an example in our ancient texts of a word similar to κόπρος – κόπριον (ko-pree-on). In technical parlance, this word is the stem κοπρ- plus the diminutive suffix -ιον (-ee-on): this last part is a segment which makes a word meaning the same thing as the stem, or a smaller version of it, or indicates affection from the speaker to the object (a bit like English ‘toe’, diminutive ‘toe-sie’).

The example of κόπριον we are interested in comes from a papyrus letter written in Egypt in the late 2nd or 3rd century AD, known as P.Oxy. 1761. Greek was the dominant language of Egypt for around a thousand years from the conquest of Alexander the Greek to the Arab conquest in the mid 7th century AD, so that fact that this letter is written in Greek in Egypt is not unusual. This letter is in other respects too typical of those written in vast numbers by individuals about everyday matters; these people are otherwise lost to history, but their correspondence by chance survives. (See picture for an example of what a papyrus letter looks like).

P.Oxy. 1672 Oxyrhynchus, Egypt, AD 37-41. Image courtesy of The Garstang Museum, University of Liverpool.
The first two lines read: Δημήτριος καὶ Παυσανίας Παυσαν[ί]αι | τῶι πατρὶ πλεῖστα χαίρειν καὶ ὑγι(αίνειν)- ‘Demetrius and Pausanias to their father Pausanias very many greetings and wishes for good health.’
It is lines 6-7 of P.Oxy. 1761 where the surprise lies: as Grenfell and Hunt put it in their edition in the early twentieth century, here ‘A very singular symptom of regret for an absent friend is specified’. Here is a full translation of the letter, as given by Montserrat’s Sex & Society in Graeco-Roman Egypt (1996, 8); the bold words are the ones which concerns us:

Callirhoë to her dear Sarapis, greetings. I say a prayer for you every day in the presence of the lord Sarapis. Since you have been away I go on the trail of your shit in my desire to see you. Greet Thermouthis and Helias and Ploution and Aphrodite and Nemesianus. Carabus and Harpocration greet you, and everyone at home. I pray for your health.

The Greek text which lies behind this ‘singular symptom of regret’ is: ἐπιζῃητοῦμέν σου τὰ κόπρια, literally, ‘I/we look for (or miss?) your κόπριον-s’ (κόπρια is the plural of κόπριον). There is no wandering about here, despite the impression the translation might give. A slightly more recent translation by Bagnall & Cribiore in their collection of women’s letters (2006, 392) renders these words as the striking ‘we are searching for your turds’.

Is Callirhoë really looking through the dunghill because she misses her friend? Even when we accept that ancient peoples did things differently, this seems a stretch. We could be tempted to think that this is an idiom peculiar to Egypt, perhaps stemming from a native expression, but there seems to be no obvious parallel (suggestions are welcome). I think rather the best explanation comes back to what κόπρος/κόπριον means.

Both these words are also used more broadly of ‘rubbish’, or things which can be taken away to be used as fertiliser: remember that most ancient waste was organic. κόπριον is found in this kind of sense in the Magical Papyri, an ancient collection of spells, where it is something picked up from the ground where a corpse has lain (PGM 4.1395-8, 4.1441-2). Dieter Betz translates this as ‘polluted dirt’, but the pollution comes only from the context of the spell.

I think here and in our letter we should rather take κόπρια as indicating ‘useless remains’ or ‘traces’, akin to English ‘crap’: note how ‘crap’ has just this double meaning of ‘excrement’ and ‘rubbish’ in contemporary UK English (e.g. ‘there is so much crap in my house’). The result is that Callirhoë is not looking for any particular bodily waste produced by her dear Sarapis, but rather for indications that she has been around: a rather loose translation of this sentiment might therefore be ‘I go through your crap wanting to find you there’.

Thanks to the Gartang Museum for use of the image of P.Oxy. 1672: follow the Museum’s blog at: http://garstangmuseum.wordpress.com.

Copyright © 2014/2019 Amy Coker. Not to be reproduced without permission.

Amy Coker has over the last decade held positions in Classics and Ancient History at the Universities of Manchester, Liverpool and Bristol in the UK. After undergraduate studies in Classics at Downing College, Cambridge, and an MA in Linguistics at the University of Manchester, she was awarded funding from the Arts & Humanities Research Council to support her doctoral work on gender variation in Ancient Greek (2007-2009, PhD Manchester 2010). She later secured a Leverhulme Trust Early Career Fellowship (2013-2016) for a project on Greek sexual and scatological vocabulary, and ancient offensive language. She was a Visiting Fellow at the Institute for Classical Studies, University of London (2017-2018), and is now an Honorary Research Fellow of the University of Bristol (2018-), and teacher of Classics at Cheltenham Ladies College (2018-).

She has published work in the fields of historical linguistics, pragmatics, and classics, and has pieces about to appear on the treatment of obscene language in the most well-known lexicon of Ancient Greek, Liddell and Scott, and on a filthy joke told by Cleopatra involving a ladle.

She is a keen supporter of outreach and public engagement, and has worked with the UK charity Classics for All running projects to bring Latin and Greek teaching to schools which have no tradition of teaching these subjects. She can be found on Twitter at @AECoker.

 

Tawdry Tuesday: A Lesson in Personal Economics

Content Warning: strong language, sexual content, prostitution, and castration threat

Greek Anthology 5.126 Philodemos

Mocking invective against a wasted lover still giving much to “girlfriends”

“The clever man gives a clever girl five talents for one round
And he shakes while fucking her, though, by god, she’s not even pretty.
I give Lusianissa twelve drachmas for twelve turns,
Both to fuck a better woman and do it openly.
Either I am completely senseless or what’s left to do
But chop of his balls with an ax.”

126 ΦΙΛΟΔΗΜΟΥ
τωθαστικὸν ἐπί τινι ἐρῶντι σαπρῷ καὶ πολλὰ παρεχομένῳ ταῖς ἑταίραις

Πέντε δίδωσιν ἑνὸς τῇ δεῖνα ὁ δεῖνα τάλαντα,
καὶ βινεῖ φρίσσων καί, μὰ τόν, οὐδὲ καλήν·
πέντε δ᾽ ἐγὼ δραχμὰς τῶν δώδεκα Λυσιανάσσῃ,
καὶ βινῶ πρὸς τῷ κρείσσονα καὶ φανερῶς.
πάντως ἤτοι ἐγὼ φρένας οὐκ ἔχω, ἢ τό γε λοιπὸν
τοὺς κείνου πελέκει δεῖ διδύμους ἀφελεῖν.

Banqueters Met 1979.11.8

Tawdry Tuesday: Raising the Dead

Greek Anthology 5.129 Automedon

“I praise the dancer from Asia, the one who moves
From the tips of her fingernails with devious positions,
Not because she shows every passion or because she throws
Her delicate hands delicately this way and that,
But because she knows how to dance around a worn out stump
And doesn’t try to flee its aging wrinkles.
She tongues it, kneads it, throws her hands around it–
And if she throws her leg over me, she raises my staff back from hell.”

129 ΑΥΤΟΜΕΔΟΝΤΟΣ
εἰς πόρνην ὀρχηστρίδα

Τὴν ἀπὸ τῆς Ἀσίης ὀρχηστρίδα, τὴν κακοτέχνοις
σχήμασιν ἐξ ἁπαλῶν κινυμένην ὀνύχων,
αἰνέω, οὐχ ὅτι πάντα παθαίνεται οὐδ᾽ ὅτι βάλλει
τὰς ἁπαλὰς ἁπαλῶς ὧδε καὶ ὧδε χέρας,
ἀλλ᾽ ὅτι καὶ τρίβακον περὶ πάσσαλον ὀρχήσασθαι
οἶδε καὶ οὐ φεύγει γηραλέας ῥυτίδας·
γλωττίζει, κνίζει, περιλαμβάνει· ἢν δ᾽ ἐπιρίψῃ
τὸ σκέλος, ἐξ ᾅδου τὴν κορύνην ἀνάγει.

 Detail from a Paestan red-figure skyphos, ca. 330-320 BC.