The pious Emperor Theodosius abstained from destroying the not very decent statues and other relics of the heathen, in order to perpetuate and expose all the absurdity and infamy of false religions, and to inspire contempt and hatred of them."--Sylvain Mareschal.
THE recollection of the past is the delight and the consolation of old age. In all times the generation about to die out has declaimed against the morals of the rising generation. This concordance of opinion having been transmitted from century to century, it might be expected that as we go back towards the epoch of the Creation we should, come to a golden age of virtue and purity. By the same reasoning, we should as we pass on in fancy to the series of centuries to come, reach an epoch of such depravity that the mind might well refuse to conceive all its enormity. But let us reassure ourselves: this is only the sport of an uneasy imagination, a weakness incidental to humanity. Civilization, far from corrupting manners, tends rather to mollify them. While there was yet in the world but one man and one woman, there existed between them a partnership in guilt. While there were yet only three men, there was already a hoary perjurer, a fratricide, and an innocent victim.
The Holy Scriptures, as well as the profane histories of the first and greatest peoples of the world, present nothing but a series of revolting atrocities. Nimrod founds slavery: entire populations given up to the most shameless debauchery perish by fire from heaven, and the lake Asphaltites swallows up in its poisoned waters the foul remnants of Sodom and Gomorrha; Lot lies with his own daughters; a king of Jerusalem has the feet and hands of seventy princes and nobles cut off, and makes them crawl under his table; Abimelech ascends the throne, borne on the corpses of his brothers whom he has assassinated; Aristobulus condemns his mother to die of hunger; Herod orders the children under two years of age to be massacred. Let
us draw the curtain on the bloody and shameful pictures which the histories of Greece and Rome display: they have been sufficiently described.
"Are you inclined to fancy that our race is for ever deteriorating? beware of the illusion and the paradoxes of the misanthropist. Man, discontented with the present, imagines a deceitful perfection in the past, which is only the mask of his own discontent. He extols the dead out of hatred to the living; he beats the children with the bones of their fathers.
"To prove the existence of this pretended retrograde perfection, you must ignore the testimony of facts and reason; and if there remains a doubt about past facts, you must ignore the unchanging fact of man's organization; you must prove that he is born with an enlightened perception of the use of his senses; that he can without experience distinguish poison from food; that the child is wiser than the old man, the blind man surer in his step than the clear-sighted; that the civilized man is more unhappy than the cannibal; in a word, that there no longer exists a progressive ladder of experience and instruction," &c.--Volney: Les Ruines, chap. xiii.
Evil and ignorance were born with the world itself, and God willed that man should in course of time grow better as he grew more enlightened. He left him the task of perfecting His work as soon as he knew all its beauty. Knowledge and virtue will reign on the surface of the globe; but, alas! their power, when it has reached the culminating point, will descend again to the cradle; and the end of a great period will be signalised by a reawakening of evil and ignorance. Such is the immutable law: everything is born to die; everything dies to be born again!
It is the office of a voice more eloquent than ours to proclaim these great truths. We who are only obscure lovers of science are contented to examine certain relics and traditions appertaining to the epochs of antiquity, and we say with sincere conviction that manners are now sweeter and purer than they were then; that, in a word, we have with greater knowledge acquired greater virtue.
We are not unaware that certain blind partisans of ancient times pretend that the obscene nudities which continually appear in the literature and art of the palmy period of Greece and Rome, are only indications of simplicity and candour. The savage tribes even of our own day may serve, they say, as a further support to this hypothesis. But what should we thus have to admit? That modesty is only hypocrisy; that the ancients whose language and customs were impregnated with such obscenity, were better men than we who throw a thick veil of mystery over our most innocent weaknesses. You talk to us of savage tribes; but consult those travellers who are most worthy of belief, and they will all tell you that there exists in them an innate feeling of modesty which civilization rapidly develops. And is the rude islander better than the civilized man because he is less modest? Is it
also from his simplicity and candour that he attaches such value to staining his tomahawk with the blood of his fellow-man; that he makes a hideous cup of his skull, and finds so much pleasure in a feast of human flesh?
Or did Petronius when he sang a shameful victory over a young stripling; Virgil when he sighed for the beautiful Alexis; Ovid and Horace when they celebrated incest and adultery in pompous verse; deserve to obtain civic crowns together with the poetic palm?
Before Christianity had revealed to the world its great civilizing secrets, men rendered a strange worship to those material objects which acted most directly on their senses. It may even be supposed that a very long time before the Christian era there was no other worship than that of symbols. The divinity who presided over the reproduction of the human species, the miracle of all epochs, deserved the purest homage. That vague desire which precedes the union of two lovers, the burning pleasure which marks its accomplishment, the soft languor that follows, all received a name, a soul, an attribute, and Love was hailed as king of heaven by the acclamation of the world:
Not safely shall we seem Love's lightest law:
He reigns, and holds the highest gods in awe.--Ovid. Epist. iv.
A worship born with the first feeling of love was above all consecrated to the emblem of virility. Even to this day the Arabs call it to witness when they desire to make a solemn oath: and the peasants of Apulia call it "the holy member (il membro santo)." It was raised into a divinity who presided alternately over marriage, pregnancy, country pastimes, the preservation of fruits, streams, fountains, and groves.
The water woos the soft green grass,
And the green grass attracts the lover.--Desmoustiers.
Legislators felt the necessity of consecrating a worship which singularly favoured the development of population, and they consequently themselves set the example of fanatic devotion to a religion which they inwardly despised.
If Diodorus, Plutarch, Pausanias, Origen, Saint Jerome, Ruffinus, and several other writers both ancient and modern, may be credited, the worship rendered to the phallus, or Priapic emblem, connects itself with the history of Osiris. Here in a few words is what is related on this point:--
Osiris, an Egyptian prince, the husband of Isis, went off to a distant war, leaving to his brother Typhon the charge of governing his kingdom during his absence. The latter cruelly betrayed the confidence of his brother; he sought to seize the throne and to corrupt his sister-in-law. Osiris on his return endeavoured to conciliate his brother by gentleness and forbearance; but the traitor, hiding his perfidy under the mask of hypocrisy, conceived the. horrible project of putting an
end to his rival's life. With this object he invited him to a great feast at which several officers of his court, who were devoted to him, were present. After the repast a large chest was brought in, and Typhon proposed to each guest to try if he could enter it, and fill up the inside. He tried it himself first; and when his brother's turn came, the conspirators threw themselves above him and shut him in. The chest containing the royal victim was thrown into the Nile.
Isis, in despair at the death of her husband, walked along the banks of the river in the hope of finding there his precious remains. At last she learnt that they were in Phnicia, hidden under reeds: she proceeded thither without delay, found the object of her ardent search, and carried them back to Egypt. But the implacable Typhon, being informed of this circumstance, had his brother's body taken away, and cut into several pieces which were dispersed in diverse directions. The unfortunate Isis collected them with care, procured them to be buried, and consecrated the genital parts which she had not been able to find: at her death, which happened a short time after this event, the Egyptians placed both her and her husband in the rank of the gods. Festivals and mysteries were instituted in their honour. The representation of the phallus of Osiris, consecrated by Isis, was home in public processions, and the worship of this emblem of conjugal love soon became general in Egypt. Herodotus speaks of a famous feast among the Egyptians and Greeks, which he designates by the name of Φαλλαγώγια or Περιφαλλέα, 'the feast of the phallus, (II. 48, 49,) 1 and adds that women suspended to their neck little figures representing the organ of virility. Osiris became, in the mind of the people, the symbol of the sun, the principle of fire, the generator of all nature, and it is remarkable, in fact, that all ancient religions have agreed on the same doctrine, only differing in the liturgy by which they expressed it. The Scythian, the Egyptian, the Phoenician, the Persian, the Babylonian, the Indian, the Greek, the Etruscan, and the Roman, were all agreed on this point. The famous worship of Mithra is no other than that of the Sun, of Osiris, of the lingam, of fecundating virtue. It is the same with that of Bacchus, of Apollo, of Vesta, &c. It is not unknown also that the Zend-Avesta is the book of a similar religion, as its name "living fire," indicates. In short this same worship has followed the long roads of civilization, and arrived even to us. In several of the departments of France the custom still exists of lighting great fires on the eve of St. John's Day, the period when the sun is at its highest; that is to say, the summer solstice. The same custom existed not so very long ago at Paris: in Dulaure's history it may be seen that the kings of France accounted it a duty to be present on these occasions. And in order that nothing may be wanting to complete the resemblance, the custom of certain towns in France,
and notably of the South, is to intersperse the bonfires of the feast of St. John with besprinklings of cold water, which the common people liberally bestow on each other, amidst laughter and noisy demonstrations of joy. Who can fail to see here a disfigured remnant of the sacerdotal and the mystic ablutions of antiquity?
The Phoenicians, in adopting the worship of Osiris, transmitted it to the Eastern populations. The phallus was worshipped by the Moabites and Midianites under the name of Belphegor. In effect, Baal, a divinity often mentioned in the Holy Scriptures, and to whose name the Moabites added the name of Phegor, signifies with this addition naked god, an attribute agreeing with that of Priapus. According to what we read in the Book of Numbers, fornication was consecrated to Belphegor; and--to sum up all--the Vulgate translates the name of Mipheletzeth, which is the same thing, by that of Priapus (Vossius De Idol,, lib. II. cap. 7). The Phrygians took from the Moabites the worship of this strange divinity, and it received among them, particularly at Lampsacus, the greatest development. This people worshipped the idol under the name of Priapus, whom they supposed to be a son of Venus and of Bacchus, and they instituted feasts and mysteries in his honour. From them ultimately the worship was transmitted to the Greeks, as we learn in Herodotus, and from the Greeks it passed on to the Romans. St. Augustine declares that in several towns of Italy, not only was the phallus borne in triumph in public processions, but that obscene songs were sung in its honour; and in fine, that it was solemnly crowned by the gravest of the matrons (St. Augustine, City of God).
Among these peoples the exhibition of the phallus or lingam in the temples was originally a consequence of the mutilation of certain priests who, that they might the better honour their Divinity, denied themselves those pleasures which seemed made only for Him: but later, the priests retained the symbol, and abstained from mutilation.
The mysteries to which this religion gave rise are known under many names we will mention the most famous of them:--
Dionysia, or Dionysiac festivals, in honour of Dionysus, the Bacchus of the Greeks, so called from Dios, the genitive of Zeus (Jupiter), the father of Bacchus, and from Nusa, his birthplace.
Bacchanalia, of Egyptian origin, which differed little from the Dionysia. In the latter a pig and in the former a he-goat was sacrificed.
Lupercalia, derived from lupus, because the dog, another emblem of the phallus, is the enemy of the wolf 1.
Brauronia, licentious mysteries.
Homophagia, in which the jugglers who ate raw meat played a part.
Orgies, from the word orge (ὀργὴ), rage, anger.
Thyes, from Thya, the mistress of Bacchus, whence the Bacchantes have been called Thyades.
Pyrodulia, the worship of fire.
Orphic feasts, orgies of Bacchus, instituted by Orpheus.
Orneas, Priapeas, festivals of Priapus.
Cotyttia, festivals in honour of Cotytto, the goddess of debauchery.
It remains for us to add that superstition, born of the excesses of a burning imagination in southern climates, attributed extraordinary virtues to the priapic sign. Women who were barren suspended little phalluses in bronze or stone to their necks; men followed by maleficent genii also carried it about them to keep off sorceries; pilgrimages were performed to the temples of Priapus; the knee was bent in worship before the phallus; at a certain period of the year the virginity of a young girl was sacrificed to the god. On these occasions the victim was placed on the virile attribute of the statue of the god, and there remained during the entire accomplishment of this shameful and cruel homage. "The newly married woman was wont to be placed on the upright instrument, which was fixed in her privy parts, in order that the god might seem to have the first outpouring of her virginity" (Lactantius).
Lactantius here speaks of the god Mutinus, who had a temple at Rome; but it may be safely inferred from a passage in St. Augustine that this divinity was no other than Priapus himself (City of God, vi.)
At last Christianity came and sapped the foundations of this abominable worship. The idols were overturned; but men kept the recollection of them at the bottom of their hearts; and, with pain it must be said that, while, varying the forms of these impure rites, they have perpetuated the usage of them. Thus in Italy, where superstition has struck deep roots, the attribute of virility is considered a sure safeguard against evil spirits. In Naples especially, and in Sicily, every one carries about them (women on their bosoms, and men on their watch-chains) little horns of coral, lava, ivory, &c. Some of immense size may be seen in the antechambers of persons one would never have suspected of such a weakness, and no one blushes to admit that they are talismans against witchcraft. Modesty has substituted these for the phallus of the ancients, to which also were attributed preservative virtues against witchcraft. Indeed we may see several of these obscene presentations furnished with a quantity of little bells; it cannot therefore be doubted that these objects were used as amulets, seeing that bells were consecrated to Priapus, who was also called The Noisy (Βριήπυος). Theocritus said that the noise of bronze chased away impurities (ἀπελασικὸν τῶν μιασμάτων). May it not be a traditional remnant
of this superstition that makes the country people believe that the noise of the bells keeps away storms?
Nothing is more curious to observe than the veneration of certain modern populations for these ornaments considered as talismans. In Italy, when a man happens to have neglected to take with him one of these singular amulets, it is not unusual to see him place his hand affectedly on his genital parts, at the sight of any person whose untoward features awaken suspicions of evil hap. Further than this we have ourselves many times seen credulous men in Sicily, and women too, testify the greatest possible respect to a priest or monk, by lightly touching his virile parts with the tip of their fingers, and afterwards devoutly kissing their own hands. In Spain it is the same; and among the Mahometans pregnant women hold it as a great consolation to be able to kiss the sexual parts of a madman. In the East the worship of the phallus has been perpetuated with still greater unreserve; and the lingam or pulleiar worshipped amongst the Indians, is, as is well known, a symbol of the union of the two sexes.
Another tradition, resting on testimony too doubtful to deserve serious examination, has caused some writers to say that the worship of the phallus had its origin at Athens, after the cessation of a venereal epidemic. In sign of joy and gratitude, processions took place, of which the gravest matrons formed part, bearing on their necks representations of the genital parts of their husbands restored to health. Whatever we may think as to the truth of this tradition, it is unquestionable that these obscene images were for a long time an ornament much in request among ladies. Portraits of women have been brought to light, otherwise very decently clad with necklaces composed of a series of little phalluses; voluntary exvotos to which another image of the god was added by the lady as often as he heard her prayer. In the same manner the daughter of Augustus put as many garlands every morning on the image of Priapus as she had offered sacrifices to him during the night.
Let not the reader deceive himself as to the expressions 'grave matrons' and 'respectable ladies,' which we borrow from writers of the middle ages! The customs to which the women of antiquity devoted themselves, were dissolute and scandalous; the nudities of that epoch, and the impure writings of its authors, are unchallengeable witnesses to the libertinism which then prevailed in all classes. It was a time when men did not blush to make known to the world that they had obtained the favours of a fair youth, and when women honoured themselves with the name of Tribades. These latter were themselves living memories of the fabulous hermaphrodites, on the subject of whom we must now enter into some details.
A son of Mercury and Venus, endowed with rare beauty, stopped one day near a fountain whose pure and tranquil water invited him to bathe. The Naias
[paragraph continues] Salmacis became so smitten with this beautiful youth, that she offered him her most secret favours; but finding him either too timid or too insensible, she died of grief The gods took pity on the unhappy woman, raised her to life again and united her with her lover by confounding their sexes, "so that they can neither be said to be woman or boy; and seem both neither and either." 1
This singular being, at the same time man and woman, was called hermaphrodite, from Hermes, the Greek name of Mercury, and Aphrodite, the surname of Venus born of the sea-foam. Did not fable intend to designate by this allegory those women who, born under a burning climate, seek after every kind of pleasure with both the sexes? Some few, favoured or rather afflicted by nature with an extraordinary conformation, which physiology understands and explains, are in a condition to obtain for their accomplices an ephemeral enjoyment without end or object, and consequently without excuse. It is moreover an attested fact, that real hermaphrodism exists not, and cannot exist except in the Vegetable kingdom, and among a few imperfect animals, such as molluscs and zoophytes; but never among perfect animals, especially mammiferous ones.
The Greeks gave also to the hermaphrodites the name of Androgynes, a word which explains itself. It is not extraordinary that populations, given up by education and temperament to all the excesses of amorous passions, should have accorded the honours of deification to individuals whom they considered as the most happily organised; since they could at the same time give and receive pleasure. Resisting the one in order to prolong the charm of an amorous struggle, attacking the other with the fire and daring of an inflamed lover, the hermaphrodites seemed created solely to love and to enjoy all. They were generally represented with a woman's breast, which confirms our opinion that such beings had no real type among the ancients, except in individuals of the female sex whose conformation presented a deformity. They held a leaf of water-lily in their hands: this plant was consecrated to them, because it floats on the surface of limpid waters, and has the quality, it is said, of calming amorous desires, circumstances which recall the history of Salmacis.
The Satyrs and Fauns were considered at the same epoch as rural duties, at the head of whom was placed the god Pan, or Priapus, whom mythologists often confound: they were represented with the figure and bust of a strong and hairy man, and with the horns, tail, and feet of a goat. It was said that these maleficent divinities dwelt in the woods, where they were the terror of the shepherdesses. We need only suppose the satyrs to be nomadic shepherds, such as still exist in Sicily. These rude and barbarous men were clad in goat skins; and living constantly in
the midst of rural solitudes, the sight of a woman excited their amorous desire do the highest point, and they passed entire days occupied in watching for their prey. When the favourable moment came, they flung themselves impetuously upon the victim, and by force and threats obtained an imperfect pleasure. The terror which these pretended divinities inspired was such that sacrifices were everywhere offered to them, and the statue of their chief, Pan or Priapus, was placed as a scarecrow on the border of estates to keep off robbers and intruders. On these occasions the god was represented with the bust of a man, and the lower part of the body ended in quadrangular stone. He was then called Hermes, and he was confounded with Mercury, the god of thieves. But what is most remarkable is that the statue generally bore a gigantic phallus, an object of fear and respect.
Pliny, the Naturalist, thinks that the Satyrs were nothing but great apes; yet their existence was for a very long time believed in; and grave men still credited it in the Middle Ages. Regarding this, a curious work of Conrad Lycosthenes, entitled "A Chronicle of Prodigies and Wonders," may be consulted. The following is what he writes on the subject of Satyrs; we give a literal translation:--
"Satyrs. Quadrupeds living in the mountains of the East Indies, endowed with extreme swiftness, with a human face and the feet of a goat, having the body covered all over with hair, having nothing of human character, but delighting in sombre forests and fleeing the society of men. The ancients worshipped these monsters as rural divinities, saying that Fauns, Sylvans, and Satyrs were the forest-gods. The Pans presided over the fields, and the Sylvans over the woods, although poets have confounded them. Saint Jerome thus expresses himself on this subject: 'I have seen,' he says, 'a little man with a hooked nose, whose forehead was furnished with horns, and the lower part of whose body ended in feet like those of a goat.' Having then made the sign of the cross, Saint Jerome asked him who he was, and he is said to have replied to him: 'I am a mortal, one of the inhabitants of this solitude, whom ignorant paganism, in its vulgar error, calls Satyrs, incubi, &c.'"
We also find in the "Historia Monstrorum" of Aldrovandus, the following passage:--
"Several authors rightly place Satyrs, Tritons, Nymphs, Nereids, and Sirens, tinder the nomenclature of men of the woods. It is here proper to speak of each of these beings. As for the Satyrs, so called from the word σάθη, which signifies the virile member, because they are always disposed to libertinism, we adopt as most reasonable the opinion of antiquity. Pliny assures us in several parts of his writings that there exists in the equatorial mountains of India, a country called Cartadules, where live the Satyrs, a species of horned men, hairy, very agile, having the human face,
feet like a goat's, with nothing of the character of man, delighting themselves in the obscure recesses of forests; their velocity is such that they can only be taken when they are old or ill. Pomponius Mela adds that these men are half savage and have nothing human except the face; and he says elsewhere it has often happened that fires have been seen to glow during the night in the mountains of Mauritania, beyond Atlas, and that the noise of cymbals and pipes has been heard whilst in the daytime nothing was discovered there; whence it follows positively that they are Faun and Satyrs."
Such are the absurdities which were repeated in the sixteenth century!
Here all important question presents itself. Were these supernatural beings who appear to us in the night of ages as a strange phantasmagoria, created by the fruitful imagination of the sages of antiquity to serve as symbols of the laws which sway the intellectual world? Should we see in the hermaphrodite only an ingenious hieroglyph indicating the necessary and absolute union of the sexes in entire nature and in the god Pan, with the bust of a man and the feet of a he-goat, only the great All, the universe, a wonderful aggregation of beings of every kind? or indeed is not this interpretation given to fable itself only a reasoning by induction, a philosophical explanation of those conceptions which, false as they were in their consequences, were true in their principle? We are inclined to hold the latter opinion. In short, we do not think there were first found poet-philosophers who conceived the Pans, the Satyrs, the Venuses, the hermaphrodites, as pure symbols, and that afterwards their disciples personified these chimerical conceptions by applying the names and attributes of the divinities to shepherds, apes, courtezans, and exceptionally-organised women. Such a feeling appears to us absurd, since to adopt it we must admit that science has pre-existed; that the world had no infancy; that civilization was not the result of a kind of progressive groping in the dark. It seems to us much more natural to suppose that the earliest societies, composed as they were of beings ignorant, inquisitive, and fear-stricken, were led to deify the creatures, from whom by divers means, they received impressions of joy or grief, delight or terror, and to suppose in them qualities they did not really possess. In all ages the marvellous has held the greatest empire over our mind. At a later period, enlightenment spread among men: the wisest among them felt the impossibility of maintaining a worship based on ignorance; but the time was not yet come for proclaiming the truths which it was reserved for Christianity to unveil, and for several centuries they were compelled to content themselves with allegorical explanations which were given to vulgar errors into which the earliest forms of society had fallen. When it is said that Bacchus and Osiris are only personified emblems of the sun, it must not be supposed that these divinities were always symbolic. There existed in the beginning of
societies beneficent men, and illustrious chiefs, who were the primitive type of Bacchus, Jupiter, Hercules, and several other gods of paganism, whom it is very easy to distinguish from those who are purely symbolical. It was not till long afterwards that more enlightened men made of them emblems of pure imagination, and it must be admitted that nothing is so easy as to symbolize thus all the phenomena of nature by the aid of men of genius and talent, or by help of their most remarkable actions. Nor does this imply any contradiction of the motives we suppose to have guided the chisel or pencil of the artists of antiquity: we may clearly see with our own eyes that in seizing upon the foolish ideas of his predecessors, the statuary who caused a beautiful hermaphrodite or ardent Satyr to start forth from a formless block, had no other object than to exercise his talent in the reproduction of all kinds of beauty. Tatian has bequeathed us a catalogue of painters and statuaries who had represented the celebrated women of their epoch under emblems of divinities. Tatian, Πρὸς Ἕλληνες, pp. 168, s. 99. Arnobius, Clement of Alexandria, and Pliny declare that artists took pleasure in making Venuses and Satyrs, solely to give scope to their capricious imagination, and to flatter the unruly passions of their contemporaries. Arnobius, Adv. Gent. vi., Clement of Alex. Προτρεπτ., p. 35. Pliny, xxxv. 110.
Therefore, to sum up in a few words the solution of this question, we think that in the beginning of societies, men believed at first in the real existence of their gods, and that only long afterwards they began to consider them as symbols.
The Greeks had the pride to give a national origin to their divinities, and yet they could not be ignorant that they had become acquainted with them through the Phoenician or Egyptian colonists. It may be remarked further, that other peoples whose origin dates back to far antiquity, such as the Etruscans, had the same symbols and the same groundwork of religious ideas as the Greeks. Only a few years ago there were discovered in certain localities of ancient Etruria, at Cornetol, Canino, Chiusi, Cortone, and other places, some antiquities of purely Etruscan origin, necropolises, numerous hypogea, and also vases and paintings where the principal subjects of Hellenic mythology may be seen represented.
As soon as the imagination of poets had invaded the domain of divinity, it created a mythology. The gods were classed in several orders, and the most powerful among them, Love and Venus, presided over the pleasures of the senses and over physical enjoyment. Jupiter merited the first place in the palace of the gods, because he was considered as the most powerful athlete in amorous combats. It was by similar exploits likewise that Hercules merited his apotheosis. The noisy troop of divinities of the lowest order also presided over carnal pleasures, or seemed created solely to use them with excess. Pan, endowed with the lustfulness of a he-goat, was represented with the horns and feet of that animal. The god Faunus
approached nearer to humanity; he differed from man only by a hairy excrescence resembling a tail, by his pointed ears, and sometimes by two little horns partially concealed under his hair.
The Satyrs were the companions and in some sort the subjects of Pan; the Fauns obeyed the god from whom they derived their name.
Redoubtable divinities had been created in honour of women: it became necessary to imagine some that should satisfy the passions of men. The fields and woods were peopled with creatures equally beautiful and passionate, with lovely and voluptuous nymphs. Daughters of Ocean, they made the plants fruitful. Arnongst them the Oreads presided over the mountains, the Dryads over the forests, the Hamadryads over trees, with which they were united without power to detach them selves, the Naiads over rivers, and the Nereids over the sea-waves.
This pompous retinue of the most lascivious divinities was well calculated to exercise the ardent genius of the poets of Egypt, Greece, and Rome. Aided by the multitude of ambitious, of greedy, or of sensual men, they placed the mythological worship on broader bases; they instituted feasts, mysteries, and processions of every kind. They celebrated games in honour of Jupiter, the lord of thunder, father of the sun, the principle of fire which fertilises the universe; mysteries under invocation of Isis and Osiris of whom we have already spoken; Bacchanalia in commemoration of Bacchus, the conqueror of India, a god who also presided over generation, and who some learned men declare to be the same as Pan, Jupiter, and Osiris; and lastly solemnities consecrated to the generative principle.
In the Ithyphallic feasts consecrated to Bacchus, the priests called Ithyphalli or Ithyphallophores, carried in evidence of their office an enormous virile member, of red leather, attached to their haunches with straps.
We have already spoken of the phallophores.
All these infamies flattered man's senses; but they became more and more intolerable as civilization assumed a higher development. The religion of materialism was at last annihilated before a religion of spirituality; morality was revealed to the earth, and the idols of the temple were shivered at the church-porch.
Notwithstanding this, several of those relics in which science takes so lively an interest, have survived the lapse of centuries. They have been preserved in the womb of the earth to transmit to future generations the lessons of history. Those which we have chosen to form the subject of this book were discovered in some of those towns situated on the side of Vesuvius, which had been buried under its volcanic ashes. We allude to Herculaneum, Pompeii, and Stabia.
There exists a multitude of works written in all the languages of Europe in which interesting details have been given of the towns just named. It therefore appears
to us superfluous to repeat here what has already been said so often, and notably by Mazois, in his great work on Pompeii; by Sylvain Mareschal, in his explanation of the paintings of Herculaneum; and by the learned Canon Jorio, in several of his writings. It will suffice us to recal to mind that these towns of Greek origin, the foundation of which dates back to fabulous epochs, and which became subject to the Roman dominion about three hundred years B.C., were buried under the eruptions of Vesuvius in the year 63 of the Christian Era according to some authors, and 65 according to several others, under the reign of Nero; it seems, also, that the city of Herculaneum survived those of Pompeii and Stabia for several years, and was not swallowed up till the year 79, under the reign of Titus Vespasian. Every one knows that the elder Pliny died at Stabia, suffocated by the volcanic smoke, a victim of his love for science. The memory of this event has been transmitted to us in a letter of Pliny the younger.
During more than sixteen hundred years even the site of the destroyed cities was unknown; learned men were still at controversy on the subject at the beginning of the eighteenth century, when chance led to the discovery in a country-seat of the Duke of Lorraine, at Portici, of a fruitful mine of objects of art and antiquities of all kinds. The King of the Two Sicilies caused excavations to be made, and in the month of December 1738 the theatre of Herculaneum was found. The excavations made at this period, and continued down to our own days, have furnished the Neapolitan government with the richest, most instructive, and most interesting collection of antiquities. However, Herculaneum, which had not been swallowed up by a torrent of lava, as Sylvain Mareschal and other writers have erroneously maintained, but which had been buried under a shower of those little pumice-stones which the Neapolitans call grapillio, and of which whole mountains are found in the neighbourhood of Naples, was not destined to come forth from its tomb: in order to dig out this city entirely it would have been necessary to destroy the towns of Portici and Resina. It was thought sufficient to make explorations by means of subterranean caves which were filled up again from time to time. So that, with the exception of the theatre, to which you descend by a species of well and survey by the glimmer of torches, and of a few houses discovered and dug out only a few years ago, a visit to Herculaneum offers but little interest; and it is the same with Stabia.
At last, a few years after the discovery of Herculaneum, a peasant digging the ground at a mile's distance from the town called Torre d'Annunziata, and six miles from Naples, broke with his spade the capital of a column. He carried the fragments to Naples, and Pompeii was discovered.
The operations which have been successively carried on by order of Charles III., Ferdinand I., Joachim Murat, Francis I., and which are daily being continued,
have led to the excavation of about a fourth part of the city. An enclosure of walls irregularly surrounded the town, which might contain from thirty to forty thousand inhabitants. You reach it through the village of Augustus the Happy (Pagus Augusti felicis). This is the consular way, lined with magnificent tombs. In this village we find a house of which the proprietor was a freedman of Augustus, named Arius Diomedes. We will give further on a few details respecting the architecture of this house. After having surveyed the dwelling (illegible--JBH)owed of its masters, and read with emotion the touching inscriptions graven eighteen centuries ago through maternal tenderness and filial piety, we enter Pompeii. The rays of a burning sun once more penetrate into those streets which the earth had concealed in its recesses during a long series of centuries. We survey with unspeakable emotion that Roman city, whose inhabitants, we might suppose, have temporarily gone away to escape from a contagion. Does an open door present itself to you? Make haste and enter the house before its owner returns from the fields! What would he say if he saw you impertinently directing your steps into the interior of his apartments, if he perceived that you had collected together the household utensils which the negligence of his slaves had forgotten, into the comer of the house? Would you know the name the master of this abode? Read it on his door as you enter; it is written there in red ink; read also that of the neighbours, you will soon know the whole quarter: "Albinus, Modestus, Pansa, Salustius, &c.
It is a subject of no little astonishment to see in this town, which otherwise was inconsiderable, this immense quantity of temples, columns, and monuments of every kind, irrefragable witnesses of that love of the arts carried among the ancients to so high a degree. We visit successively, and not far apart from each other, a vast amphitheatre capable of holding eight thousand spectators, the basilica, a magnificent palace devoted to purposes of justice; the temples of Venus, Mercury, Isis, and Jupiter, the Pantheon, and others.
These buildings belong to the Grecian style of architecture; and the Doric order may be remarked there throughout, giving to these imposing ruins an air of solemnity which commands respect. What a multitude of sensations begin to crowd on the traveller who casts his curious eye over such noble remains! He wanders alone through the streets, the markets, the public places, where once a numerous population thronged and stirred on every side to satisfy its passions, interests, and wants . . . A mournful silence now reigns in all the thoroughfares of the deserted city; everything in it bears the impress of profound sadness; we should say in a word that the walls plunged for so long a time in the night of the tomb, can no longer bear the light of day.
The Neapolitan government 1 has reserved to itself the exclusive right of
causing excavations to be made in the precincts of Pompeii; but by going through some formalities, an authorization may be obtained to make researches at Nola, in Apulia, in the Basilicata, and other provinces. The minister of the king's household then solely exercises the right of becoming first buyer; that is to say, of purchasing any objects which may suit him, at a valuation fixed by a commission consisting of the Director and three conservators of the Museum.
The architecture of the private houses, being very nearly uniform, we intend to describe one of these dwellings in order to give an idea of all the others: we choose that of Arius Diomedes, in the village of Augustus the happy.
The house has two stories, of which one is above and the other below the level of the street; in the middle is a sufficiently large square court, around which is a straight peristyle (impluvium) sustained by brick columns coated with stucco. Under this peristyle we perceive a series of rooms placed one after the other, without communication between them. These rooms are small and not very commodious, like all those in the town. In fact we know that the ancients lived much out of doors, in the middle of the court we see two large cisterns in which rain-water was kept.
The first apartment to the right is a reception-saloon called exedra, after which comes a gallery called basilica.
To the left are apartments consisting of bath-rooms, or nymphæa. They are five in number, each one being devoted to a special purpose: in the first, nymphæum, the bath-water was made hot; in the second, apodyterium, the bather relieved himself of his clothes; in the third, balneum, was the bath; the fourth, unctorium, contained perfumes and essences for rubbing the skin after leaving the bath, and the fifth and last was used for vapour baths.
By the side of these nymphæa, or saloons, are found the bedrooms, cubicula, three in number.
The lower story comprises the festal saloons, the triclinium and cænaculum, and the cellars where may still be seen vessels called dolia, for keeping liquors.
The house, like all the others, is built of brick; the rooms are paved with little stones of about half an inch square, of diverse colours, and artistically grouped in mosaic. The walls are covered with stucco and with paintings which, according to the destination of the rooms, represent fruits, flowers, animals, and mythological subjects.
Among the well-to-do persons there was a retreat consecrated solely to the worship of Venus; the Greeks called it Aphrodision and the Latins, Venereum. It was preceded by a sort of antechamber (procæton) where the cubicular slave lodged
[paragraph continues] His employment was to watch over the safety of this chapel of love; he drove away intruders; and he kept in a casket the shoes, which were an object of great luxury with the Roman ladies, and which they often laid aside during the day, even before sitting down to table: the slave bringing them when wanted out of the casket in which he had placed them. Plautus calls these servants Sandaligerulæ and Menander Sandalothekas.
The cubicular slave was also entrusted with the bringing of the water and the perfumes for ablutions.
It is in places like these that erotic paintings have been discovered.
The use of obscene representations was frequent in antiquity. There were few houses without some of those lascivious paintings which the Greeks called grylli and the Latins libidines. 1 Two painters, Polignotes and Parrhasius, are often referred to by Pausanias and Pliny as having excelled in this kind of composition. 2
Several paintings on marble have been discovered; but those which form the subject of this book are frescoes which decorated the walls of houses in Pompeii and Herculaneum.
Vitruvius has made known with some detail the methods used in this kind of painting; and as the explanations given on this subject by M. Mazois leave nothing to be desired, I shall, confine myself to relating succinctly that these methods consisted in covering the partition of the wall requiring to be painted with several coatings of a kind of mortar made of lime and pozzolani. When the last coat of plastering was perfectly dry, a finer paste called opus albarium or opus marmoratum was passed over it. This was what we call stucco. Then the painter's task began. (Vitruvius, Book 7, chap. 3.)
The ancients had two ways of mixing colours; diluting them in some water with gum and glue, or mixing them with melted wax. The latter method produced the colours called encaustic. Paintings were called monochromes or polychromes according as they were produced with one or with several colours. Cinnabar was generally used in monochromes. It often prevails in polychromes. These frescoes are for the most part of very mediocre quality; but we must remember with Pliny that the most skilful artists of antiquity did not amuse themselves by painting on walls; this task was confided to painters of the lowest class. PLINY. VITRUVIUS, ubi suprà. The drawing is often incorrect, and always hard and dry. The laws of perspective are ill observed, and the medley of colours is as strange and capricious as it is fatiguing to the eye.
Independently of the rooms called venerea in private houses, there were, in the Roman towns, places of debauchery called lupanaria. MARTIAL, Epig. I. 35; xi. 46. TERENCE'S Comedies. Several of these have been discovered at Pompeii. Over the entrance-door of one of these may be seen a large Priapic sign in stone; in others, lascivious paintings have been discovered. And to conclude, in a quantity of private houses, both at Pompeii, at Stabia and at Herculaneum, erotic subjects have been found, sculptures in bronze, marble, rock-crystal, terra cotta, et cetera;--phalluses, Bacchic amulets and other obscenities.
These objects have been deposited in a private cabinet of the Royal Museum at Naples. Admission, forbidden to women and children, is only granted to men of mature age by means of special permission from the minister of the king's household. This collection is the richest of its kind; but there also exist Florence, Dresden, London, and Madrid, private galleries where obscene relics, brought from Egypt, Greece, and Etruria are kept.
Independently of the objects of which we give copies and explanations, the secret cabinet of the Museum of Naples possesses several cupboards in which a large quantity of phalluses in bronze, bone, ivory, or isinglass, of various dimensions, have been placed. We considered it superfluous to reproduce all of them; this long and difficult labour would have been without interest, after giving and explaining those which appeared to us to deserve the preference.
From the study and comparison of these antiquities, the mere inspection of which gives alarm to our modesty, results the fact that before the Christian era there was no other creed than that which might be called the theophallic. The universe, that marvellous assemblage of beauty of every order, would soon have ceased to exist without that generating principle perpetuated in animals and plants, and everywhere vivifying, inert matter. If a man impregnated his consort, he thought he had created; and when it happened to him to carry his thoughts back to a first man, he supposed that two divine beings, supernatural, pre-existent, and of different sex, had carnally united to create the human race. The first sons of the gods inherited a wider share of the paternal power; of which they availed to metamorphose themselves into animals of every kind, according as pleasure called them to the bosom of the waters, to the plains of the air, or the entrails of the earth. Thence arose the origin and worship of animals.
It was thus that a voluptuous mythology established itself on earth, and modified a thousand times by place and circumstance, perpetuated itself during a long series of centuries.
We need not regret the departure of those times when modesty had no cloak when, like the brute, man and woman stood before each other, unabashed at their nakedness. The facility of enjoyment gave birth to satiety and disgust. A frightful
corruption of morals was the inevitable consequence of this state of things, for excess of debauchery could alone reanimate desire, the prime mover of enjoyment.
Eternal glory to the religion which overturning these impure idols into the mire, and unrolling the code of chastity before our eyes, has made our sensations purer and our pleasures keener. Thanks to it, the end of existence has ceased to be a disgrace, and the principle of all that is has shewn itself in its purity.
xiv:1 The priests charged with carrying the phallus were called phallophores; and this was a dignity much sought after.
xv:1 There was in Egypt a country named Lycopolis, where wolves were worshipped. Tradition, according to Diodorus, said that Isis and Horus, her son, preparing to give battle to Typhon, Osiris returned from Hades in the shape of a wolf, and aided them in their enterprise. Might not this be the real origin of the Lupercalia?
xxiv:1 The original was published in 1857.
xxvi:1 Grylli, from γρύλλος, a pig. The etymology of libidines requires no explanation.
xxvi:2 PLINY, xxxv. 7, 10; xxxvi. 5. PROPERT. Eleg. II. &C., MARTIAL, EPIG. xii. SUETON. xliii. 2. 12 & 13. PAUSANIAS, Description of Greece.