Friday, 7 August 2015

Herm herm

Two of my favourite subjects come together today: art and naughty bits:

Roman windchime, British museum

You have to understand, in the Classical world, penuses peni the phallus was not just a symbol of manliness and/or sexy fun, it was a potent magical protection against bad luck, the evil eye and wicked spirits. (Talk about a phallocentric worldview!)

Taking them out for exercise was very time-consuming though.

For the public good, therefore, pillars were erected by the sides of roads, at market places, and in front of temples. They were rectangular in form with a depiction of a knob on:
In the Yorkshire Museum
... though not always as elaborate as this one from the island of Delos, which has a dong-headed chicken carved on the front as well as the eye-watering topper.
"It's a COCK, geddit?"
These pillars were called Herms - and in fact, that's where the god Hermes (patron of boundaries, crossings and travellers) got his name from.

(from Wikipedia, under creative commons license)
Eventually carved portraits of the great and good came to be substituted for the god himself, in a display of civic pride. Which leads to the frankly ridiculous situation that a orator like Demosthenes here is depicted as a head and a knob, and nothing else.

In the Munich Glyptothek
You've got to wonder whether he looked at that and thought, "Yeah, good likeness."

There is by the way a fable of Aesop's in which "A dog of a pious turn of mind salutes the god's herm, a statue of the kind used to mark boundaries and stages along a road. When the animal announces its intention to anoint him, the god hastily begs it not to and says he does not need to be honoured any further."



Jeremy Edwards said...

So using a condom = "hermetically sealed"?

Jo said...

I really don't know what to say to this. Aren't people funny? And so close to the magic moment uninfancy when they discover their own willies.

You're hilarious, however. I think the doggy-cock creatures I quite sweet, but I expect they'd leave a terrible mess on the carpet.

Janine Ashbless said...

Oh very good, Jeremy!

Janine Ashbless said...

Re detached cock-creatures - I wrote about some (normal sized) of them in "Named and Shamed." Great fun!