aesthetic or practical object having penis-like quality, generally associated with rites and ceremonies of nature-worship supposed to have a magic influence in inducing fertility among the flocks and herds, as well as in the soil of the earth

The word phallus refers to an erect penis, to a penis-shaped object such as a dildo, or to a mimetic image of an erect penis.

A fresco (type of wall painting) of Mercury with a giant erect penis that was found on a wall in the Roman city of Pompeii. The fresco, now in the National Archaeological Museum in Naples, is believed to have been painted between 89 B.C. and 79 A.D.
Herma of Demosthenes on the market place of Athens, work by Polyeuktos ~280 BC.
Giant lingam from Wat Pho in Bangkok
Three lingams from Goa

Any object that symbolically resembles a penis may also be referred to as a phallus, or as being phallic (as in 'phallic symbol'). Such symbols represent the fertility associated with the male sexual organ, and the male orgasm.

Culture change

Symbol of sex and fertility change

When an erect penis is shown in art, it is often called a phallus (pronounced FA-ləs). Erotic (sexually exciting) art has shown phalluses for a very long time. Pictures of men with erections appear on ancient objects and in paintings.

The erect penis was also a symbol or sign of health and fertility (the ability to give life). The Hohle Fels phallus was found in a cave in Germany. It is a piece of stone carved to look like a penis that is about 28,000 years old.[1]

From the fourth millennium B.C. (4000–3001 B.C.), Ancient Egyptians worshipped Min as the god of reproduction and the maker of all things.[2] Min was shown in statues and on wall carvings as having an erect penis.

Ancient Greece change

The Ancient Greeks believed in a god called Priapus who had a very large penis that was always erect. He was thought to protect livestock (animals kept by humans for food, milk, leather or wool), fruit plants and gardens, and men's sex organs. He was also seen as able to chase away evil, and as a protector of sailors, fishermen and others needing good luck.[3] The oldest piece of writing about Priapus that is known is a comedy (a funny or silly play) written some time in the fourth century B.C. (400–301 B.C.).[4] In Greek mythology, Priapus tried to attack a nymph (a female spirit) named Lotis who was sleeping so he could force her to have sex. However, a donkey brayed – it gave a loud cry. This made him lose his erection, and also woke Lotis up. To save Lotis, the gods turned her into a lotus plant.[5] In the end, Priapus's lust – his strong desire to have sex – made him have an erection all the time, and his penis grew so large that he could not move.[6] Although some temples were built for people to pray to Priapus, he was mostly worshipped in people's homes or gardens. Donkeys would sometimes be killed and offered to him, but gifts of fish, flowers, fruit and vegetables were also very common.[4] Statues of Priapus were often placed at doorways and crossroads (places where two roads crossed). To make Priapus happy, people passing by would stroke the statue's penis.[6]

Herma change

A Herma, or herm, is a sculpture with a head, and perhaps a torso, above a plain, usually squared lower section, on which male genitals may also be carved at the appropriate height. The form originated in Ancient Greece, and was adopted by the Romans, and revived at the Renaissance.

In ancient Greece the statues had an apotropaic function, and were placed at crossings and borders as protection. Hermes was a phallic god, associated with fertility, luck, roads and borders. His name comes from the word herma. In Athens, they were placed outside houses for good luck and protection. They would be adorned with garlands or wreaths and anointed with olive oil to obtain luck.

Modern views change

Today, phalluses do not often appear in artworks or movies (except in pornographic movies which show people having sex with each other). This is because many people think that showing a man's penis when it is erect is obscene (not decent).

References change

  1. Jonathan Amos (25 July 2005). "Ancient phallus unearthed in cave". BBC News.
  2. F. Bechtel (1907). "Ammon". The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. I. New York, N.Y.: Robert Appleton Company. Retrieved 2008-08-04.
  3. Hugh Chisholm, ed. (1910–1911). "Priapus". The Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  4. 4.0 4.1 Robert Christopher Towneley Parker (2003). "Priapus". In Simon Hornblower, Antony Spawforth (ed.). The Oxford Classical Dictionary (3rd ed.). Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0198606419.
  5. Egerton Sykes; Alan Kendall (2002). "Priapus". Who's Who in Classical Mythology. London; New York, N.Y.: Routledge. ISBN 978-0-5854-6130-4.
  6. 6.0 6.1 Kevin McLeish (1996). "Priapus". Bloomsbury Dictionary of Myth. London: Bloomsbury.