Wednesday, 27 March 2013

"Sex and the Satyr"

As a follow-up to what I wrote yesterday, this is what the Daily Mail thinks of Roman sex ... (And I have to say, I wish that I'd come up with 'sex and the satyr').

It's a shame, actually, that the DM finds it necessary to use shock headlines to capture interest as, despite the odd factual inaccuracy and an over-blown description of the eruption that both Pliny the Younger and Mortimer Wheeler would be proud of, the article is not that bad (!).

It does try to focus on the human side of the exhibition, (having pulled the reader in by highlighting the Romans' "hedonistic" habits), detailing individual stories, the lives of families, and, of course, individual brothel prostitutes. (There were probably not as many brothels as have been previously thought. Just because a building has small cubicula and erotic paintings does not necessarily mean that it's a brothel).

As Paul Roberts, who is senior curator of the exhibition, points out, the phallus was a protective symbol of luck and, rather than being shocked by the statue of Pan and the goat, the Romans would have found it amusing. And so should we. It presents a lightness and a sense of humour amongst the casts of dead families and the carbonised remains of daily life.

As, thankfully, the Guardian emphasises, we should not be viewing this exhibition as 'sinful'; these are facts of every day life and entertainment. And that doesn't mean we can't enjoy them, either appreciating them for their artistic value, their historical interest, or simply because we find them 'a bit naughty' today.

And in case you missed that image, here it is again, courtesy of the DM:

[Edit] And to add, with reference to this article, that if divine epiphany was the purpose of gods appearing as animals and having sex with women (and not just amusing stories of horny gods), then this piece is even more (pardon the pun) satirical. Satyrs, like pygmies, were frequently used in Roman art to create a mockery of situation. Here the divine epiphany is turned on its head, with the god-like satyr having sex with an animal, rather than taking the full form of the animal itself. Come on, it's amusing!

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