A number of ancient deities combine male and female characteristics. Perhaps the most archetypal is Hermaphroditus, from whose name we get the word hermaphrodite. In Greek mythology, Hermaphroditus was the offspring of the Goddess Aphrodite and the God Hermes. Originally a boy, he was transformed into a male-female hybrid through union with a water nymph. The cult of Hermaphroditus was popular in ancient Rome, where he was worshipped as the deity of bisexuality and effeminacy. The statue shown here is from Monte Porzio in Italy, and dates from the 2nd century AD. It is now in the Louvre Museum in Paris.
Archive for the Mythology Category
In Greek mythology, the God Zeus (a.k.a. Jupiter in Roman mythology) had a huge number of lovers, including Io, Europa, Ganymede and Callisto, who gave their names to the four largest moons of the planet Jupiter. As mentioned in a previous post, Ganymede was the only male among them. But surprisingly there was another same-sex relationship as well. Callisto was a female follower of the Goddess Diana (also known as Artemis). In order to seduce her, Zeus shape-shifted into female form, posing as Diana herself in order to copulate with Callisto.
In Greek mythology, the God Zeus (a.k.a. Jupiter in Roman mythology) had a huge number of lovers, including Io, Europa, Ganymede and Callisto, who gave their names to the four largest moons of the planet Jupiter. Of these, Ganymede was the odd one out because he was male rather than female. According to legend, he was a young hero of legal age but extremely youthful appearance, with whom Zeus/Jupiter indulged in energetic sessions of deep-thrusting anal intercourse. Ganymede has become a symbol for the beautiful young male who attracts homosexual desire.
In Greek mythology, Andromache was the wife of the Trojan hero Hector. According to some versions of the legend, Andromache was an Amazon – a powerful female warrior – and her name (which is pronounced “Andromaki”) literally means “she fights like a man”.
Because of her powerful, dominant nature, Andromache has given her name to a position for sexual intercourse in which the women straddles the male partner and rides on top of him. This position is also popular in Tantra, which has its roots in the female-dominant, Goddess-worshipping tradition of ancient India. The Sanskrit word for this sexual position, as used in the Kama Sutra, is Purushayita, meaning “virile behaviour”.
A thick, heavy penis, the ultimate symbol of sexual potency and physical power, has always been associated with heroism. The heroes of ancient mythology, like the heroes of popular culture today, were imagined to be endowed with superhumanly oversized sex organs as well as massively muscled physiques. In many cases, heroes were depicted in ithyphallic form—with erections, in other words—but on other occasions their penises were shown in a flaccid but still heavily muscular form as seen here in the case of the Graeco-Roman hero Hercules.
Ithyphallic is a word meaning “with an erect penis”, but it is normally only used in the context of artistic representations of gods and demons. In the Christian world, the Devil is often depicted in ithyphallic form, particularly in images dating from the Middle Ages. A number of ancient Egyptian gods are also depicted in this way, most notably Min-Amun. In Graeco-Roman mythology the most common ithyphallic gods are Pan and Priapus. The popular Hindu God Shiva is often depicted in ithyphallic form, as were the ancient pagan gods Baal and Moloch. The image depicts one of the less familiar ithyphallic figures: the Babylonian demon Pazuzu.
Priapus was an ancient Greek fertility God who was usually depicted in ithyphallic form, in other words with an erect penis. In Roman times Priapus became more explicitly associated with Phallic Worship, or what in modern terms would be called “cock worship”. Priapus was commonly depicted in classical erotic art as a goat-legged male figure with a vastly oversized erection – or in some cases simply as a gigantic phallus on goat-like legs!
There was a resurgence of interest in Priapic worship during the renaissance, when people began to rediscover the ancient pagan Gods. This picture is adapted from an engraving by the Italian renaissance artist Agostino Carracci.