Priapea 68

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Priapus with double phallus. Fresco from the Lupanar in Pompeii. North wall, between rooms c and d. Ca. 70-79 CE

Priapeia 68 or Priapea 68 is the sixty-eighth poem in the Priapeia, a collection of Latin poetry of uncertain authorship. The ninety-five poems lack a unified narrative, but share Priapus, an ithyphallic god of fertility worshiped in both Ancient Hellenic and Roman religions, as by turns a speaker and subject. While the Priapeia’s author is unknown, Franz Bücheler has claimed that the poems are Augustan in style, and probably were the work of a single writer in the circle of Marcus Valerius Messalla Corvinus, a Roman general and art enthusiast who “like other distinguished men of that age, occupied himself with amusements of this kind.”[1] Earlier traditions credited Vergil with the authorship of at least some of the Priapeia.[2]

Summary[edit]

Priapeia 68 considers the events of the Iliad and the Odyssey from the point of view of a wooden statue of Priapus, a common sight in Roman gardens as a protector of fruits and a symbol of fertility.[3] Like most of the other poems in the collection, it features by “a focus on the god’s aggressive, anally-fixated sexuality, by the absence of any discernible religious sentiment, and by the almost invariable treatment of Priapus as a figure of fun.”[4] The servant irreverently posits that sex, and not the great Olympian gods or heroic virtues, was responsible for the events of the Epic Cycle. According to the poem, lust, sexual aggression, and male arousal, themes often associated with Priapus, are the driving forces behind such plot points as the abduction of Helen of Troy, Penelope’s faithfulness, and Odysseus (Ulixes in Latin, whence Ulysses)'s entanglements with mortal and divine women in the course of his homecoming. The poem attributes to Odysseus Priapus’ own comically large penis, and places the organ at the very center of the epic. The statue argues that the memory of her husband Odysseus’ “fine tool” left Penelope reluctant to settle for the less-impressive suitors courting her, but also attracted the attentions of women—Circe, Calypso, and Nausicaa—for both good and ill in the course of the poem. Where Homer emphasizes Odysseus’ kingliness and manifest excellence, Priapeia 68 claims that Homer alludes euphemistically to the king’s genitals.

Text[edit]

W.H. Parker’s 1988 translation of the poem reads:

Interpretation[edit]

Scholarship on Priapeia 68 has largely agreed that the poem was intended as a light-hearted work of satire. However, academics have disagreed somewhat on particular target of the humor. Catherine Connors, for example, has read the poem as a joke that largely falls on Priapus, parodying his obsession with sex as even inhibiting his ability to understand a foundational work of Hellenic culture.[6] Others, however, have proposed that the poem lampoons the Epic Cycle itself, and that Priapus is not so much the target of the humor as is the wildly heterodox interpretation of Homer’s work.[7] Despite the poem’s relative obscurity, some scholars have drawn on Priapeia 68 for reasons largely unconnected to its language or topic. A.K. Gavrilov comments that others have often the narrator’s claim to have often heard his master reading (dominum totiens audire legentem) as evidence that the ancients almost invariably read aloud. He summarizes Franz Bücheler, “How should Priapus know Homeric texts to laugh at them if not from his master reading them aloud in the garden?”[8][9]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Connors, Catherine. Petronius the Poet: Verse and Literary Tradition in the Satyricon. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998. pp 27.
  2. ^ http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/pwh/suet-vergil.asp
  3. ^ Peck, Harry Thurston. Harper's Dictionary of Classical Literature and Antiques. New York: Harper & Brothers,1898. pp. 1311. Referencing: Bücheler, Franz. Petronii Saturae et Liber Priapeorum. Berlin: Apud Weidmannos, 1922.
  4. ^ Price, Simon and Kearns, Emily. The Oxford Dictionary of Classical Myth and Religion. New York: Oxford University Press USA. 2003. pp. 448-449.
  5. ^ Peck, Harry Thurston. Harper's Dictionary of Classical Literature and Antiques. New York: Harper & Brothers,1898. pp. 1311. Referencing: Bücheler, Franz. Petronii Saturae et Liber Priapeorum. Berlin: Apud Weidmannos, 1922.
  6. ^ Connors, Catherine. Petronius the Poet: Verse and Literary Tradition in the Satyricon. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998. pp 27.
  7. ^ Ed. Byrne, Shannon; Cueva, Edmond; Alvares, Jean. Authors, Authority, and Interpreters in the Ancient Novel: Essays in Honor of Gareth L. Schmeling. Groningen: Barkhuis Publishing, 2006.
  8. ^ Gavrilov, A.K. Techniques of Reading in Classical Antiquity. The Classical Quarterly, New Series, Vol. 47, No. 1 (1997), . Published by Cambridge University Press on behalf of The Classical Association. pp. 73. Citing Bücheler, Franz. Petronii Saturae et Liber Priapeorum. Berlin: Apud Weidmannos, 1922.
  9. ^ Bücheler, Franz. Petronii Saturae et Liber Priapeorum. Berlin: Apud Weidmannos, 1922.

Bibliography[edit]

Brill's New Pauly : Encyclopaedia of the Ancient World. Leiden Boston: Brill. 2002. ISBN 9789004122598. 

Turner, Patricia and, Coulter, Charles (2001). Dictionary of Ancient Deities. New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0195145046. 

Room, Adrian (1983). Room's Classical Dictionary : The Origins of the Names of Characters in Classical Mythology. London Boston: Routledge & Kegan Paul. ISBN 0710092628. 

Price, Simon and, Kearns, Emily (2003). The Oxford Dictionary of Classical Myth and Religion. Oxford New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0192802887. 

Peck, Harry Thurston. Harpers Dictionary of Classical Antiquities. New York: Harper and Brothers, 1898

Hornblower, Simon and, Spawforth, Antony (1996). The Oxford Classical Dictionary. Oxford New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 019866172X. 

Mercatante, Anthony (2009). The Facts on File encyclopedia of World Mythology and Legend. New York: Facts On File. ISBN 9780816073115. 

Jones, Lindsay (2005). Encyclopedia of Religion. Detroit: Macmillan Reference USA. ISBN 9780028657394. 

Connors, Catherine. Petronius the Poet: Verse and Literary Tradition in the Satyricon. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998.

Gavrilov, A.K. Techniques of Reading in Classical Antiquity. The Classical Quarterly, New Series, Vol. 47, No. 1 (1997), . Published by Cambridge University Press on behalf of The Classical Association. pp. 73. Citing Bücheler, Franz. Petronii Saturae et Liber Priapeorum. Berlin: Apud Weidmannos, 1922.

Bücheler, Franz. Petronii Saturae et Liber Priapeorum. Berlin: Apud Weidmannos, 1922.