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Discussion in 'Et Cetera, Et Cetera' started by earllogjam, May 22, 2007.
Why are the dicks so small on classic Greek and Roman statues?
This keeps me up nights....really.
you try posing in a cold workshop for days or weeks and see if you don't shrivle a little ;-)
Because they are not erect AND the focus is on the total body image...the simple answer anyway
The ancient Greeks wanted to portray the entire body as beautiful and in proportion. The Greeks considered an over sized penis to be "not art" material. Many of their statues were of young men who might not have been completely developed when they were models for the sculpture
Further, they found a big throbber only suitable for actual sex scenes, and even then, often smaller, while turgid. The only place you'll see really big ones, are the overly enormous ones portrayed on satyrs, which considering the other features, and ill-proportions, that they give them, they obviously didn't find attractive.
I don't have it handy, but there was an entire chapter, from various contributors, in a text that I have somewhere on their pottery.
In the above, I'm refering strictly to the Greeks. In Roman art, many pieces, especially marbles, were copies of Greek originals, so proportions were just carried over, but I don't recall Romans having this size "issue" like the Greeks did. Which again, the "issue" was strictly their ideas of "ideal" or "perfect" proportions.
The statues were done in the classical Greek style of a youth . The whole body being beautifully proportioned and the smaller penis to add to the statue's youthful appearance.
BigA did a similar thread here:
Actually, the real answer comes from Galen of Pergamum, the first great medical theorist. Ancient Greeks believed that brain matter, bone marrow and semen were all the same basic stuff of life, and that if you had a big dick, like the barbarians, it was like a hose, and you would lose more semen every time you came. The proof of this was that barbarians were not as smart as the Greeks, and their men seemed to shrivel up faster with age and become fragile.
So Galen said it was the less perfect and weaker males who had the big dicks. This is why you don't see them on representations of "perfect" male beauty. There are plenty of comic statues and paintings, greek and roman, that show idiot satyrs with huge cocks, but people thought they were ridiculous, not sexy.
It had nothing to do with adolescent models, since greek men of all ages exercised in the nude and bathed together. Men of every size & type were available for sculptors. It was just the greek (and later roman) belief that the perfect man was one who would remain balanced, healthy, vigorous & intelligent well into old age. That was more likely if you had a smaller spigot and didn't shoot much when you came.
exactly. Peter Brown has some great references in Body & Society (about medical anthropology in the ancient & early christian world.)
The Greek body ideal was undeveloped and youthful. Hence, a small penis. I read that in Ancient Greece a smaller, uncircumcised penis was considered desirable, while a larger penis was thought of as laughable, even animal like. Another theory is that artists intentionally depicted the penis as smaller so that it would not distract from the art itself.
Well, I've seen lots of non-youth statues with small peni both Roman and Greek - statues of Zeus and Posidon come to mind. Could it be that they had a different ideal of what was the perfect dick size. A different concept of what was a beautiful dick. Small was better to them? Maybe cock size just didn't matter to them. Wow what a concept.
I don't really buy the proportion / beauty theory because when I see nudes of well endowed men their dicks look perfectly proportioned to their bodies -Lucian Freud paintings come to mind. It also is strange that everything else on these statues is anatomically correct, an exact replica of the human form, even down to the last muscle - everything except the dick. Is it just their attempt at "airbrushing"? Maybe it was for practical reasons that smaller dicks on these statues didn't snap off as much as bigger dicks.
Those were the days before growth hormones and such were introduced into meat, poultry and other consumer foodstuffs.
All of the above theories are correct in some degree, but it seems cultural with the Greeks in general that the larger penis was held to be undesirable. It showed a lack of balance, a sign of sexual obsession and hinted at mental weakness. (It took 2400 years more to found LPSG and prove them correct. )
It was not so much youthfulness that was being caputured, as a general sense of proportion and balance.
That's it in a nutshell.
But that is a modern taste, trained through much modern exposure to pictures of not just big, but enormous penises.
You are mistaken if you think that those dicks are not anatomically correct. Most dicks are much smaller than is held to be true in contemporary culture. Those are real sizes, just not the size we idealize now.
The artists who created these statues used a formula to sculpt the penis of the statue.
The flacid penis of all statues is the same size as the smallest finger of the statue. This was so all statues were proprtionate.
This is kind of the basis of the joke in my handle. or at least one aspect of it.
I guess they are anatomically correct but they do seem on the small side, some even look prepubescent if there was no pubic hair. This ideal of a smaller dick spanned from the Ancient Greeks to the Renaissance and I imagine it was reflected in all nude male art for a long time. Seems like large penises as you said were considered vulgar for a very long time.
I wonder when the notion of bigger is better came into being. Is it some American thing that has happened within the last 40 years? I don't think other cultures are as penis size obsessed as ours.
This is actually the first post I've made here--I haven't even introduced myself yet (I'll do that later)...but as you'll recognize from my alias, the ancients are a particular subject of interest and study for me, so I thought I'd throw in some comments.
Much of what has been written in this thread is very correct (but not all of it:smile: ). Among the classical Greeks (that is, of the 5th to say 3rd c. BC) the small penis was "officially" considered more visually attractive and (as one person has already said) more "elevated" in the sense of more civilized. Thus the gods--as immortals superior to humans--are uniformly shown with small penises, sometimes even smaller than those of boys. The exceptions would be the "woodland" rather than the "city" gods such as Silenus or Pan (as opposed to Zeus and Apollo). Satyrs in particular have not only large penises but erections. This was considered vulgar to the Greeks, because although they had no problem with exposed penises, it was considered EXTREMELY rude to let the penis-head show. Hence, in many vase paintings you will see men with a string tied around the foreskin holding it shut in order to ensure that the glans is never accidently revealed publically. It is not necessarily the case that the statues of the Greeks represent pre-adolescents, or emulate their features; certainly not given the mature musculature that many of figures have. What one has to bear in mind is that the use of the small penis in art was a *convention* and so we cannot reliably extrapolate from the statues to say what Greeks in "practice" in the privacy of their homes actually preferred or admired. There is a divide between conventions and reality--you can all cite many of these in the modern world. Ancient Greek erotic pottery, for example, which falls on the edge or even outside the realm of "official conventional art," when it shows intercourse usually depicts average sized adult male genitals--and I remember seeing some that were well above average, making me wish the potter had included a phone number! (Although, even in these cases, a nice bulbous head is never shown--the penis, even erect, ends in a point--except in the case of intentionally comic or vulgar scenes. How arbitrary are such conventions!)
In Greek theatre the situation was the same. Many hoity-toity folk today who speak in reverent tones about ancient Greek theatre blush (or refuse to admit) that actors playing male roles (all actors were male then) routinely wore the "phallos"--that is, a leather penis on top of the costume dangling in the proper location. For heroes and gods, the phalloi were small, while for comic characters, drunks, and slaves, the phalloi were large. Thus penis size seems to have been an artistic convention for showing status--smaller penises higher status, and vice versa. (Sort of the way old westerns show outlaws in black hats and good guys in white ones.) The only possible exception to this rule that we know of--used for comic effect--MAY have been in Aristophanes' Lysistrata, where the women (joined by Agathon the most famous big 'ol queen of 5th c. BC Athens:smile in order to force their husbands to stop a war, refuse to have sex with them until peace is declared. It has been suggested by some that the phalloi were made progressively larger in each scene to mimic the "blue-ball" effects the women's refusal was having. There are some lines in the play that can be read to support this possibility--but again, note this was in a comedy.
As for the Romans, the situation was probably quite different. Check out Juvenal's Satires, for example. Additionally, some of the phallic mystery rites (often held where we would hold a bachelorette party, but for different reasons) featured enormous sculpted penises. The participants would dance around them and burn incense before them in honor--something I've been tempted to do myself when looking at some of the photos on this site....anybody here "up" to having their erection feature in a Roman mystery cult??
I should stop now or I'll just drone on. Sorry if I'm being a pedant, but thought you might be interested....and it's always fun to talk about dicks!!
That's facinating aristarchus. Thanks for the post. Welcome aboard - glad you're here! It's not a subject they often discuss in history class.
Even though you say small penises were a convention and we can't speculate what ancient Greeks actually preferred, weren't these statues public statements of the culture's ideal of beauty and what people would want to emulate?
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