Historical story

Was the August Forum in the shape of… a huge penis? Sex in Ancient Rome

Last updated:2022-07-25

As ridiculous as the above concept might seem, there is the authority of some pretty serious scientists behind it. Anyway, the Romans assigned male members completely different symbols and meanings than modern people. The sexual revolution of the 20th century and the smoking of bras is a bet compared to what they were doing.

In ancient Rome, sex literally penetrated all spheres of life. As in Greece, at every step you could come across images of proud penises - on cobblestones, in public baths, on the walls of houses. Famous paintings have been preserved in Pompeii. They are wonderful testimonies of ancient culture, but are rarely found in textbooks. Well, they probably fall under pornography by today's standards. In one of them, the Greco-Roman "god with a huge penis", Priapos, weighs his phallus on a scarf counterbalanced by a bag of coins. In others, he proves true juridicality… by carrying a vase of fruit on his penis.

About how the big penis god will rape thieves ...

Sexuality was also present in the everyday language of the Romans. Oxford professor James Noel Adams has published an entire dictionary of Latin Sexual Vocabulary ( The Latin Sexual Vocabulary ). As it turns out, the citizens of the most powerful empire in the history of the Mediterranean world were fond of inventing words to describe the penis. They had their dick ( mentula ) and - excuse me - dick ( verpa ).

Roman sex. Nothing more, nothing less

Among the memorable works of Cicero and Virgil, Roman poetry also included much simpler and more frivolous texts. The poem Katallus joked about a certain dignitary whose tiny vein, flabbier than the Sicilian lettuce, never rises in the middle of the tunic . Marcjalis, on the other hand, praised his friend's paternity: If you hear a juicy applause from the bathhouse, the reason is probably Maron's huge dick . There is also a collection of over 80 priapic poems, written by the idol according to the legend. You can find there, inter alia, warnings for thieves. The punishment for their evil deeds was to be administered by the scepter requested by lascivious girls :

Into the thief's guts it will go so deep

That it will reach all the way to the bag where it carries the testicles

In the military too, the penis was of utmost importance. Some Roman commanders have promoted soldiers based solely on the size of their birthright. For a similar reason, Emperor Commodus raised a certain generously endowed man to the priesthood at least once.

… and about special Roman boy amulets

You cannot omit the bull - medallions received by adolescent boys. As David M. Friedman, author of the book Pan rebellious. The cultural history of the penis ”was:

(…) a locket containing a copy of the erect penis. (…) This copy of the penis, called fascinum, meant the boy's status and power as a future viri. The bull meant he was out of reach for sexual intercourse.

Similar amulets have also been used on other occasions. For example they protected the triumphant generals against the envy of people of equal rank. They have become so part of the tradition that to this day in many languages ​​ we say that everything that has the power and ability to intrigue as an erection is "fascinating". Also papal bulls as you can see, they have an obvious sexual etymology.

Roman fascinas - phallic amulets

And finally, ad rem:Forum of Augustus and its shape

But what about the August Forum with which we started this short article? David M. Friedman, based on the work of Barbara Kellum, argued that:

The penis was such a powerful symbol of Roman strength and power that, according to some, the architectural center of the Empire, the Forum of Augustus could have been designed to resemble it. Although this structure has never been fully excavated, the preserved outline shows a long hall, flanked at the base by two hemispheres. Viewed from above, the plan is reminiscent of the largest fascinum ever built.

Such an explanation would fit the role played by this structure in which rituals related to masculinity took place. It was there that the young men changed their boyish robes, pratexta toga with a purple stripe and a bull for a completely white toga virilis . More recent archaeological research indicates that the presented concept, however, does not correspond to reality. It is a pity, because the Forum of Augustus in the shape of a huge penis would be a pretty good summary of the whole Roman approach to sexuality.