Wednesday, June 26, 2019


Holy Objects

Lucian, On the Syrian Goddess. Edited with Introduction, Translation, and Commentary by J.L. Lightfoot (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004), p. 257 (translation of § 16):
There are many signs in the temple that Dionysus is its founder, among them barbarian costume and Indian stones and horns of ivory which Dionysus brought from Aethiopia, and two extremely large phalli standing in the porchways bearing some such inscription as the following: 'I Dionysus dedicated these phalli to my step-mother Hera.' This is enough for me, but I shall mention another of Dionysus' mystic objects in the temple. The Greeks erect phalli for Dionysus, upon which they mount the following sort of thing: little wooden men with large penises. They call these neurospasta. This too is found in the temple: on the right of the sanctuary sits a little bronze man with a large organ.
Greek text (id., p. 256):
καὶ ἔστι πολλὰ ἐν τῷ ἱρῷ Διονύσου ποιητέω σήματα, ἐν τοῖσι καὶ ἐσθῆτες βάρβαροι καὶ λίθοι Ἰνδοὶ καὶ ἐλεφάντων κέρεα, τὰ Διόνυσος ἐξ Αἰθιόπων ἤνεικεν, καὶ φαλλοὶ δὲ ἑστᾶσιν ἐν τοῖσι προπυλαίοισι δύο κάρτα μεγάλοι, ἐπὶ τῶν ἐπίγραμμα τοιόνδε ἐπιγέγραπται, "τούσδε φαλλοὺς Διόνυσος Ἥρῃ μητρυιῇ ἀνέθηκα." {τὸ} ἐμοὶ μέν νυν καὶ τάδε ἀρκέει, ἐρέω δὲ καὶ ἄλλ᾿ ὅ τι ἐστὶν ἐν τῷ νηῷ Διονύσου ὄργιον. φαλλοὺς Ἕλληνες Διονύσῳ ἐγείρουσιν, ἐπὶ τῶν καὶ τοιόνδε τι φέρουσιν, ἄνδρας μικροὺς ἐκ ξύλου πεποιημένους, μεγάλα αἰδοῖα ἔχοντας· καλέεται δὲ τάδε νευρόσπαστα. ἔστι δὲ καὶ τόδε ἐν τῷ ἱρῷ· ἐν δεξιᾷ τοῦ νηοῦ κάθηται μικρὸς ἀνὴρ χάλκεος ἔχων αἰδοῖον μέγα.
Commentary (id., pp. 365-366):
The other link between Lucian's Dionysus and Hierapolis is phallicism. No Greek god is more strongly associated with phallic cult than Dionysus,12 although phalli are known in the cult of Atargatis as well.13 The worship of sacred stones, whether round, egg-shaped, domed, conical, or in the form of pillars, is characteristic of Canaanite, Phoenician, and Punic religion. But the phallus itself is distinctive. In Atargatis' temple in Delos—where phalli are known above all from the sanctuary of Dionysus, with a choregic monument surmounted by a monumental phallus, and several smaller fragments besides—a marble phallus was inscribed and dedicated by a temple-servant, Dionysios.14 An inscription from her temple in Dura also mentions the setting-up of votive phalli.15 In Hierapolis, Dionysus is supposed to have set up two huge φαλλοί 'in the propylaea' and left an inscription on them—in Greek—to say so.

12 RE xix (1938), s.v. Phallos, 1701-10 (H. Herter); Csapo, 253-95.

13 A distant link to Canaanite goddesses? The OT mentions the setting-up of an apparently ithyphallic idol in Jerusalem, 1 Kgs. 15:13 and 2 Chron. 15:16; E. Lipiriski, OLP 3 (I972), 113, who connects the Hebrew mipleṣet with the root blṭ, 'protrude', though the latter does not exist in biblical Hebrew. (I thank Dr Holford-Strevens for the suggestion that the Yahwite monotheists, encountering a Canaanite word from a root that did not exist in their own language, adapted it to one that did, namely plṣ, 'shudder', thereby expressing their opinion of the object in question.) LXX has σύνοδος ('coition'), Vulgate simulacrum turpissimum, simulacrum Priapi.

14 IDél 2243; Roussel, 269, 424; Morin, 111-I2, 126-7; Marcadé, 382, 385; Bruneau, 473; Will 1985, 147, pl. xxxix.1. For the choregic monument of Carystius, G.M. Sifakis, Studies in the History of Hellenistic Drama (London, 1967), 8; Bruneau, 298-9 and pl. III.

15 Ϝμτ' Ἀμμώνιος | Ἀπολλοφάνου | ἀνήγειρεν το|ὺς φάλλους ὑ|πὲρ τῆς ἑαυτοῦ | καὶ τέκνων σωτηρίας. The inscription (Seleucid year 346 = AD 34-5) is the second earliest from the site. Ed. M. Rostovtzeff, CRAI 1937, 204; Frye et al., 128-9, no. 1; cf. R. Mouterde, MUSJ 36 (1959), 54; Downey 1977, 174; ill. in Matheson, 133 fig. 11. See too K.W. Slane and M.W. Dickie, Hesperia 62 (1993), 488: 'Their part in the cult of the goddess Atargatis ... has merged with their use as apotropaic devices affording safety.'

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