Monday 14 December 2009

Ancient Sex

I’m rather sorry not to be in Athens just at the present, for an exhibition has just opened telling the story of love and desire in the ancient world, the erotica of Eros! Over two-hundred and seventy objects d’art have been put on display in the Museum of the Cycladic Art, where they will remain on show for the next six months. It’s quite an achievement as the artefacts, dating from the sixth century BC to the fourth century AD, have been gathered together from more than fifty international museums.

The exhibition centres on a unifying theme: the evolution of Eros, a powerful Greek god, into the Roman Cupid, an altogether tamer, less potent figure, the mere companion of Venus. But this kind of axis has produced a superabundance of all kinds of sexually inspired artefacts. The director of the museum says that that there was no deliberate intention to shock, though some of the depictions, particularly of Eros’ cruelty towards the goddess Psyche, seems to have caused some unease among early visitors. One cameo shows him dragging her by the hair and hitting her with a mallet, illustrating, one supposes, the dual nature of desire.

After that one proceeds to the upper galleries, where children under sixteen are warned not to enter ‘unattended’ which I imagine will have the said children arriving in hordes, especially as there is no insistence that they be attended! There, in three rooms, ancient sexual union is depicted in all of its inventiveness and variety; from pederasty, anal sex, mutual oral sex to what the exhibition quaintly terms the ‘bucolic love affair’. There are giant phalluses, manufactured as lucky charms, as well as engravings of furious orgies involving satyrs and silens. In a text highlighted on the wall one scribe gives note of his own particular enthusiasm;

I delight in the prime of a boy at twelve. One of thirteen is much more desirable. He who is fourteen is a still sweeter flower of the lovers. And one who is beginning his fifteenth year is yet more delightful. The sixteenth year is that of the gods. And as for the seventeenth, it is not for me but for Zeus to seek it.

So, there! Oh, yes, it would be super to be in Athens. Still better to be there in the company of Aristophanes.:-))


  1. Celebrate sex I say. None of this unhealthy repressive stuff. Bad for you that. I bought a couple of Greek vases in Athens in the early 60's for my Mum which she loved. Her friends were less sure about them being displayed in the prominent position they enjoyed in the house. Well done Imp.

  2. Thatnks again, John. Yes, it should be celebrated, a key part of human existence.

  3. Sex, again, is essential part of nature and as Prince Charles said recently 'The future of mankind can be assured only if we rediscover ways in which to live as a part of nature, not apart from her.' I am totally against all abuses of sexuality, the worst kind being of the repressive.

  4. wow.. those look really beautiful. i always wanted to visit rome for the statues. ironically older civilizations where more civil in respect to such things. you sure as hell don't want kids to be roaming around those places wondering.. "isn't that what daddy and mommy was doing at home the other night??" ahh. kids these days :P

  5. Yes, they are beautiful. The ancient world in general had no inhibitions at all about sexuality.