erasing woman raping man: the old virgin in Codex Salmasianus

Apparently unknown for nearly a thousand years, Luxorius brilliant, transgressive collection of epigrams have survived in only one manuscript. Luxorius seems to have authored his epigrams early in the sixth century GC. A manuscript containing 91 of Luxorius’s epigrams was written in the late seventh or early eighth century. That manuscript is called the Codex Salmasianus. Luxorius’s epigram collection apparently was unknown until the Codex Salmasianus was found and presented to a prominent scholar in 1615.[1] Yet establishing what Luxorius wrote still requires careful study and analysis.

Codex Salmasianus: Luxorius epigram on old virgin woman

How many generations of copies separate the Codex Salmasianus from Luxorius’s autograph or dictated manuscript isn’t known. When scribes copied texts, they sometimes made mistakes. Moreover, scribes would sometimes change text to reflect their views of what should be written. A scholar of Luxorius’s poetry stated in 1961:

the text became more and more corrupt in the course of successive copying and recopying. Copious emendations were required; much work in that respect still remains. [2]

A scholarly work published in 2011 explained, “reading of many passages is still a matter of debate.”

Behavioral philology can help to elucidate Luxorius’s text. The fundamental principle of behavioral philology is that stable patterns exist in human discourse across thousands of years. Human biology and human groups have considerable stability across thousands of years. Language emerged within that biological-cultural stability.[3] Behavioral philology brings to the reading of ancient manuscripts insights from current, deeply rooted patterns of discourse.

Consider Luxorius’s epigram “To an aged virgin who is getting married.” Here’s an English translation of the best current Latin reading, along with a proposed emendation (in parentheses) of the last line:

To an aged virgin who is getting married

Virgin, whom Phlegethon calls his sister,
old enough that you could be Saturn’s parent,
you whom Nyx and Erebus and Chaos bore,
with many heavy wrinkles as numerous as your years,
you to whom an elephant gave his face and skin,
whose mother was an old monkey who gave birth
to you in the fields of Libya when the world was new,
who long ago fittingly, in the place of Ceres’s daughter,
could have been given as wife to Dis to live among the dead:
why do you burn with such wanton passion,
now and for some time since death for you has been all that remains?
Is it that you yearn for a large inscription on your tomb,
so that widespread fame will thus speak of you:
old woman raped by a guilty man
(old woman guilty of raping man)

{In vetulam virginem nubentem

Virgo, quam Phlegethon vocat sororem,
Saturni potior parens senecta,
quam Nox atque Erebus tulit Chaosque,
cui rugae totidem graves, quot anni,
cui vultus elefans dedit cutemque,
mater simia quam creavit arvis
grandaeva in Libycis novo sub orbe,
olim quae decuit marita Diti
pro nata Cereris dari per umbras:
quis te tam petulans suburit ardor,
nunc cum iam exitium tibi supersit?
An hoc pro titulo cupis sepulcri,
Ut te cognita fama sic loquatur,
quod stuprata viro est anus nocenti
(quod stupratus vir est anu nocenti)} [4]

Combining learned classical allusions with animal imagery, Luxorius’s epigram ridicules a lustful old woman who has never had sex. While anyone daring to utter such words today would be harshly punished, freedom of expression was much greater under the Roman emperors and within the early Islamic caliphates. Yet the last line in the epigram, as received in the Codex Salmasianus, makes no sense in context. Why would a man rape an ugly, lustful old woman? Even if a man were to do that, what does such action have to do with the rest of the epigram?

Behavioral philology provides a clear answer. The best available statistics on rape today show that men raping women is about as prevalent as women raping men. The former issue is widely described as a major public problem. The latter issue is commonly ignored. Public discourse is strongly biased toward declaring men to be rapists, and ignoring women raping men under the same meaning of words. A female teacher sexually abusing a middle-school boy and receiving no jail time attracts almost no mainstream media attention.[5] Such a communicative effect can best be understood as a deeply rooted bias of gynocentric society. Such bias can easily account for a scribe re-writing the last line of Luxorius’s epigram to change a woman raping a man into a man raping a woman. Behavioral philology provides reasonable grounds for emending the last line to reverse its subject and object.

Luxorius himself is unlikely to have obscured women raping men. In a poem about Marina, Luxorius celebrated and honored men’s sexuality in a context associated with falsely accusing men of rape. Luxorius taunted a woman for hating men. Moreover, Luxorius was unafraid to challenge and expose corrupt intellectual practices. Even narrowly within the received Latin text of the epigram, the titular, sepulchral inscription “old woman raped by a guilty man” subverts itself. The “guilty man” is a presumptive construct of anti-men bias in discussing rape.

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[1] For discussion of the textual record of Luxorius’s epigrams, Rosenblum (1961) pp. 97-108. A few of Luxorius’s epigrams appear in other manuscripts dating from the late ninth through the eleventh centuries.

[2] Id. p. 102. The subsequent quote is from Wasyl (2011) p. 170, n. 32.

[3] Henrich (2013) Ch. 13.

[4] Anthologia Latina 296, Latin text from Wasyl (2011) p. 198, my translation with help from the translations of Rosenblum (1961), p. 121, and Beck (2012), p. 47. Rosenblum and Beck number the poem 15. In Riese & Shackleton Bailey (1982), this epigram is n. 296; in Reise (1894), n. 301. I’ve used the Wasyl text, with minor changes to editorial paratext, as the best version of the text according to the most current scholarship. The Latin texts in all these versions are nearly identical. The titles to Luxorius’s epigrams are thought to be later additions.

Rosumblum translated the last line of Luxorius’s epigram as: ‘“Old lady raped by a sex criminal”?’ Rosenblum (1961) p. 121. The quotation marks and question mark are editorial, as is clear from the manuscript image above. While providing the Latin text but no specific translation note, Beck translated the final line as: ‘“Here lies an old woman, convicted of raping a man”?’ Beck (2012) p. 47. Beck thus reversed what a leading classical scholar has described as the clear meaning of the received Latin text. Beck’s poetic insight, however, is penetrating.

[5] The structural anti-men bias has produced astonishing effects. Under the operation of current U.S. law, men are forced to pay “child support” to their rapists, e.g., the case of a 15-year-old boy whom a female teacher raped.

[image] Codex Salmasianus, last eight lines (ll. 7-14) from Luxorius’s epigram Virgo, quam Phlegethon vocat sororem. The scribe mis-ordered lines 4-7 as {6,7,4,5}. In the final line, the scribe corrected the final e with a faint line through it and with an i inserted above the final t. In addition, Claude Saumaise (Salmasius), the scholar who received the text in 1615, corrected stubrata to stuprata in the final line. In the image, see the caret (^) above the s of stubrata, and stuprata written in the left margin. Detail from p. 162 in Anthologia latina {Anthologie dite de Saumaise}, Bibliothèque nationale de France Latin 10318, ark:/12148/btv1b8479004f. Thanks to BnF’s Gallica.


Beck, Art, trans. 2012. Luxorius. Opera omnia or, a Duet for Sitar and Trombone. Los Angeles: Otis Books | Seismicity Editions.

Henrich, Joseph. 2015. The secret of our success: how culture is driving human evolution, domesticating our species, and making us smarter. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

Riese, Alexander, and David R. Shackleton Bailey. 1982. Anthologia latina: sive poesis latinae supplementum. Pars. 1. Carmina in codicibus scripta. Fasc. 1. Libri Salmasiani aliorumque carmina. Stutgardiae: In aedibus Teubneri. Online prior edition: Riese (1894).

Rosenblum, Morris. 1961. Luxorius: a Latin poet among the Vandals; together with a text of the poems and an English translation. New York: Columbia University Press.

Wasyl, Anna Maria. 2011. Genres rediscovered: studies in Latin miniature epic, love elegy, and epigram of the Romano-Barbaric age. Krakow: Jagiellonian University Press.

more than six months incarceration for not paying “child support”

USA: incarceration nation

The Court of Appeals of New York State, the highest court in the State, recently authorized incarceration for more than a six months for not paying “child support.” Men have no reproductive rights whatsoever. Men are also subject to state-institutionalized cuckolding and enormous anti-men bias in child custody proceedings. These weighty legal burdens constraint men’s freedom to engage in consensual sex of reproductive type. The court’s decision further disproportionately burdens men’s sexuality.

Law, policy, and public discussion concerning “child support” is filled with twisted words and deceptive statements. “Child support” doesn’t mean loving and supporting a child in the many ways in which children need support. “Child support” means one adult paying money to another adult, with no legal obligation on the recipient of that payment to spend it in any particular way. Moreover, the magnitude of the state-mandated payments between adults has no relation to the actual monetary needs of a child. The payments are indexed to the relevant adult’s income, not a child’s monetary needs. The state-mandated payments between adults are based on legal establishment of parenthood. For a man, that can mean nothing more than having sex one night with a woman and then years later being informed that she had a child and that he has been legally designated as the father of the child. “Child support” is actually a bizarre, income-based sex tax vastly disproportionately imposed on men. In a civilized, rational, law-based society, courts would refuse to use the deceptive term “child support.”

In its decision, the highest court in New York State buttressed the web of public deception about “child support.” The court began its discussion of the case with the observation:

Enforcing child support obligations has long been a priority in New York.

Is there any rational basis for that priority other than anti-men animus? In the U.S. in 2008, 19% of children lived in poverty. Prioritizing enforcement of child support obligations has had little effect on the large problem of child poverty. The child support system is designed to uphold family income inequality. It supports financially interested adults. A decent respect for justice should make judges reluctant to authorize more punishment within a patently unjust, grossly discriminatory system. The court ignored these problems, in accordance with dominant elite practice, and pretended that they don’t have any relevance to justice.

The court emphasized that the father “willfully” did not pay child support impositions. Like the “best interests of the child” farce, claims about “willfully” did not pay are obfuscatory. Willfully refusing to pay could mean refusing to transfer financial resources above a level necessary for a minimal standard of living for oneself. While that’s a common-sense interpretation of willfully refusing to pay, it has little practical relevance. A court can simply seize a portion of a person’s financial resources and transfer them to another person. Willingness to pay becomes an issue when a judge believes that a person could acquire financial resources, e.g. get a job or get a better paying job, but hasn’t. Hence “willfully did not pay” actually means that person failed to meet the state-determined quota for income earning imposed on him. “Willfully did not pay” often means that the state willfully imposed too high of an income-earning quota and willfully impeded lowering of the income-earning quota.

Imprisoning persons for non-payment of child support isn’t likely to increase their ability or willingness to pay child support. Prisoners have very little opportunity to earn money. Yet child support obligations continue to accrue, with punitive interest rates, while a child-support debtor is imprisoned. A person imprisoned for child support debt ends his prison term with much greater child support debt and much worse job-market prospects as an ex-prisoner. Incarceration thus increases the problem of child support debt. Moreover, a man demoralized with the injustices of the child support system is likely to be even more disgusted with those injustices after he finishes a spell of debtor’s imprisonment. Incarceration may make persons with a sense of justice even less willing to make extraordinary effort to pay patently unjust child support debts.

Justice in the child support system means nothing. The recent decision of New York State’s highest court to extend child-support debtors’ imprisonment beyond six months underscores that travesty of justice.

imprisoned man

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The court decision discussed above is Court of Appeals of New York State, No. 82, In the Matter of Columbia County Support Collection Unit, &c., Respondent, v. Joshua A. Risley, Appellant (decided June 7, 2016). Here’s analysis of “child support” in New York State, with realistic scenarios. Mainstream media covers this decision, if at all, as merely a technical matter of far less public importance than transgender bathrooms and the sex ratio among elite scientists. Philip Greenspan’s blog, which is far superior to any other news outlet in investigative and muckraking journalism on the child support system, covered this case.

[images] (1) USA: Incarceration Nation. Image thanks to Babawawa on Pixabay, CCO Public Domain. (2) Old man in Fort Dodge Jail, Dodge City, Kansas. Thanks to J. Stephen Conn on flickr. Image available under CC By NC 2.0.

Jason to Hypsipyle, crazy stalker from the androcidal Lemnian women

Hypsipyle writing to Jason

I remember when I, Jason, son of King Aeson, lost my sandal on my way home. How could I have foreseen that my lost sandal would take me into the child-desperate embraces of you, crazy Hypsipyle? Why didn’t my father’s brother just kill me? I would have suffered less if he had mercifully cut off my all-too-active head.

Phineus offered sure prophecy to us, heroic Argonauts, blinded with our own folly. Phineus, a man who lived on his own, for dinner would prepare for himself a peanut-butter sandwich and some chips. What goddess would object to a man asking only for a sandwich? You would. You never got me a sandwich when I asked for one.

Phineus made his own sandwiches. But then horrid harpies would swoop down from their supervisory position, snatch his sandwich, and shit all over his plate. They watched and harassed him like you stalk and harass me. We chased the harpies away for Phineus. We would have killed them if the messenger goddess Iris hadn’t compelled us not to.

Phineus is now able to eat a peanut butter sandwich and chips for dinner in peace. I can’t eat dinner in peace because I fear for the children that I, too proud to practice a well-known Greek method of birth control, unintentionally had with you. Will you kill our children? Will you dismember their bodies and throw the pieces into the sea? Thinking of you makes me too sick to eat even a peanut-butter sandwich. I just want freedom from thoughts of you. I just want peace. May my children have a normal, wholesome life!

When we landed on your island of Lemnos, all of us smelled the sexual eagerness of you Lemnian women. We should have asked why no men lived on Lemnos. Instead, we joyfully imaged ourselves to be the first men who had gotten to you. You never told us that you had ceased the rites of Venus with your husbands, and that you had even ceased bathing. What husband wouldn’t then seek another woman? When your husbands did, you killed all the men on the island. You even killed the men wise enough never to have married. You never told me any of this.

Phineus had prophesied your Lemnian deeds. We were deaf and blind. Now I get letter after letter from you, begging me to return to you as if I remember nothing of your deeds. You threaten to stain your face with the blood of my new mistress Medea. You spread vicious falsehoods about what she has done. You utter horrid curses against her and obsessively refer to me being in bed with her. You are beyond crazy, and I long to be rid of you. Why shouldn’t I enjoy Medea’s gentle, loving embraces?

I beg you not to leave our children alone where a deadly snake might bite them. If you insist on chasing after soldiers for the same reason you chased after me, at least employ a servant girl to watch over the children. You have no reason to loiter around the spring until late into the night. Dear Hypsipyle, offering yourself for free to soldiers should be enough for you.

I never loved you the way I love Medea. Medea has a magic that thrills me beyond all understanding. She will do anything for me, unlike you, who only did what you desired. How many times did you punch me, kick me, and throw things at me, knowing that because you are a woman, I would never hurt you no matter how much you abused me. Medea would never hurt me or anyone else. You will never be Medea to me. I wish Medea could be the mother of the children I had with you.

Cease writing to me. I don’t want letters from you, except for you to write to me to tell me about our children. How I long to hug them, and to hear their voices, and to give them little gifts to light up their eyes. You have no right to keep them from me. I will return to Lemnos. Then you must let me be with my children. If you don’t, my men and I will kill you and any Lemnian women who support you as quickly as Achilles killed the Amazon queen Penthesileia.

I will be with you again soon at Lemnos. For the sake our children, seek herbs or potions that might right your mind. Farewell.

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The chorus in Aeschylus’s Cheophoroi (The Libation Bearers) declares (l. 631f), “of all the appalling deeds ever told, that deed by the Lemnian women holds first place.” The Bibliotheca of Pseudo-Apollodorus gives the following account:

These {the Argonauts} with Jason as admiral put to sea and touched at Lemnos. At that time it chanced that Lemnos was bereft of men and ruled over by a queen, Hypsipyle, daughter of Thoas. The reason was as follows. The Lemnian women did not honor Aphrodite, so she imposed on them a foul smell. Their husbands thus took captive women from the neighboring country of Thrace and bedded with them. Dishonored in that way, the Lemnian women murdered their fathers and husbands. Hypsipyle alone saved her father Thoas by hiding him. So having put in to Lemnos, at that time ruled by women, the Argonauts had intercourse with the women. Hypsipyle slept with Jason and bore from him sons, Euneus and Nebrophonus. … Having come to Nemea, of which Lycurgus was king, they {Argive soldiers} sought for water. Hypsipyle showed them the way to a spring, leaving behind an infant boy Opheltes, whom she nursed, a child of Eurydice and Lycurgus. For the Lemnian women, afterwards learning that Thoas had been saved alive, put him to death and sold Hypsipyle into slavery. She then served in the house of Lycurgus as a purchased bondwoman. But while she showed the spring, the abandoned boy was killed by a serpent.

Bibliotheca 1.9.17, 3.6.4, from Greek trans. James George Frazer (1921) for the Loeb Classical Library. I’ve adapted the translation non-substantially for readability. For a more detailed narrative of the Argonauts’ visit to Lemnos, Apollonius Rhodius, Argonautica 1.609-909. In that account, the old nurse Polyxo points out the Lemnian women’s need for men to plow the fields, reap the harvest, and engender children.

The above letter is a counterpart to Ovid, Heroides 6 (Hypsipyle’s letter to Jason). Here’s the Latin text, and English translations by James M. Hunter and A. S. Kline. Hunter has provided a useful introduction to Heroides 6. Vaiopoulos (2013) insightfully discusses intertextuality between Heroides 6 and Heroides 12 (Medea to Jason).

Hypsipyle’s letter to Jason continues to resonate today. A recent work explained:

Who is Crazy? … Crazy is an ex who is unwilling or incapable of letting go of her former partner and does her level best to continue to control and interfere with his life. … Crazy is often very entitled. She acts as if she is owed the sun and the moon and everything in between just because she was once married to and bred with your husband. When trying to describe Crazy and her antics to your family, friends, attorney or therapist, you probably find yourself using words and phrases like controlling, bully, entitled, self-obsessed, hypocrite, liar, hateful, terrorist, vampire, bitch, Jekyll and Hyde, psycho bitch from hell, personality disordered, stalker, whack job and, well, crazy.

Palmatier & Elam (2016) p. 9.

[image] Hypsipyle writing to Jason. Illumination on folio 36r of manuscript Ovide, Héroïdes, traduction d’ Octavien de Saint-Gelais, copied by Jean Michel in 1497. Bibliothèque nationale de France, Département des Manuscrits, Français 875, ark:/12148/btv1b8427253m. Thanks to Gallica.


Palmatier, Tara, and Paul Elam. 2016. Say goodbye to crazy: how to get rid of his crazy ex and restore sanity to your life. (review)

Vaiopoulos, Vaios. 2013. “Between Lament and Irony: Some Cross-References in Ovid’s Heroides 6 and 12.” Mediterranean Studies. 21 (2): 122-148.

taunting woman for hating men in late Roman misandristic culture

male gaze, US c. 1935

The social construction of the male gaze expresses misandristic culture. It constructs men using their eyes and seeing as threatening and damaging to women. Although misandristic theory of the male gaze has been ornately elaborated in recent decades of academic scholarship, this social construction dates back to no later than late Roman antiquity. Luxorius memorably interrupted its hegemonic blinding with a poem ridiculing hatred of the male gaze.

Attempts to prevent men from seeing have dichotomized the male gaze by means of boundaries and divisions. An epigram preserved within the Anthologia Latina shows the mundane correlates of this ideological work:

About a sedan chair

The gleaming sedan chair encloses modest matrons.
It sparkles broadly on both sides as it is carried.
A pair of mules carry it under two poles,
and they move the swaying cocoon forward gradually,
taking care to move through public places such that
a chaste, married woman shouldn’t be darkened by the sight of men.

{De basterna

Aurea matronas claudit basterna pudicas,
quae radians latum gestat utrimque latus.
Hanc geminus portat duplici sub robore burdo,
provehit et modico pendula saepta gradu.
Provisum est caute, ne per loca publica pergens
fuscetur visis casta marita viris.} [1]

The mules who carry the highly privileged woman undoubtedly are male. Her gleaming, sparkling sedan chair contrasts with the darkening threat of men’s gaze. This epigram epitomizes hatred of men seeing within gynocentric society.

With his characteristically timeless brilliance, Luxorius ridiculed hatred of the male gaze. Men who rebel against gynocentric society and go their own way are commonly taunted as being gay. Given men’s lack of reproductive rights and the criminalization of men seducing women, men have good reason to strive to develop gay desire to be happy. But the intent of calling men gay is not to praise them, but to bury them as losers. Luxorius turned the table on that disparagement:

To a beautiful woman favoring chastity

With your beautiful, snow-white body,
you desire to keep all the laws of chastity.
You so laudably govern your nature — it’s a wonder
that your way of life is like Athena and your body like Venus.
You take to yourself none of the solaces of marriage
and you often shun the tender looks of men.
Nonetheless, this bodily pleasure that you hate arouses your soul;
can’t you find another woman like yourself?

{In mulierem pulcram castitati studentem

Pulcrior et nivei cum sit tibi forma coloris
cuncta pudicitiae iura tenere cupi.
mirandum est quali naturam laude gubernes,
moribus ut Pallas, corpore Cypris eas.
te neque coniugii libet excepisse levamen
saepius et iactas molle videre mares.
haec tamen est animo quamvis exosa voluptas,
numquid non mulier conparis esse potes?} [2]

The first two lines of Luxorius’s epigram implicitly associates the frigidity of snow with the laws of chastity.[3] In medieval Latin poetry, reason, figured as Athena, contrasts with carnal love, figured as Venus. Luxorius incarnates these goddesses more concretely in contrasting way of life and beautiful body. More importantly, Luxorius figures the male gaze not as threatening, but as tender (molle). Luxorius ridicules the beautiful woman who hates the tender looks of men (the male gaze) with the suggestion that she seek a fellow lesbian. That’s the inverse of the still prevalent practice of questioning the sexual orientation of men strong and courageous enough to engage in men’s sexed protests.

Despite gynocentric blinding and oppression, men throughout the ages have found ways to appreciate women. With his deep sympathy for men’s lived experience, Luxorius provides an epigrammatic testament:

On a blind man who knew beautiful women by touch

Deprived of light, with a widowed brow,
losing his way, the blind lover
touches and strokes the soft bodies
and judges the limbs of women,
their beautiful, snow-white forms.
I believe that he doesn’t wish to have
eyes with which he could see,
he to whom trained lust has given many.

{In caecum, qui pulchras mulieres tactu noscebat

Lucis egenus, viduae frontis
iter amittens, caecus amator
corpora tactu mollia palpat
et muliebres iudicat artus
nivei cui sit forma decoris.
credo quod ille nolit habere
oculos, per quos cernere possit,
cui det plures docta libido.} [4]

The final phrase “has given many” has masterful poetic ambiguity across eyes and women.

Men should not be disparaged for looking at and seeing women. Holding men in socially constructed blindness through ideological suppression of the male gaze perpetuates ignorance and tyranny. Men held in darkness should be allowed to see the light.

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[1] Anthologia Latina 90 (R101), Latin text from Kay (2006), p. 41, English translation adapted from id. p. 97. Riese & Shackleton Bailey (1982), p. 83 has fucetur for fuscetur above. Id. provides the most current numbering of the epigrams in Anthologia Latina. This epigram is numbered 101 in Riese (1894). Reise’s numbering is indicated as “(Rnnn)”.

[2] Anthologia Latina 359 (R364), Latin text from Riese & Shackleton Bailey (1982), p. 280, my English translation with help from Rosenblum (1961) pp. 157, 159, and Beck (2012) p. 173. In the later two volumes, the poem is numbered 78.

My translation embodies what seems to me the most plausible meaning of the last line. The poem, however, has ambiguity in the narrator’s proposal for the woman. A scholar who has carefully studied the poem perceived a suggestion of bestiality. On the interpretative range of the poem, Wasyl (2011) pp. 196-8.

[3] Beck highlights this metaphor in his translation by using the phrase “the icy rules of chastity.” Beck (2012) p. 173. While the adjective “icy” isn’t in the Latin, it’s insightful. Beck describes his translations of Luxorius as interpretive. Beck’s translation similarly brings out the reversal of chiding men for being gay. My translations above, in contrast, are meant to be faithful to plausible meaning of the specific Latin words.

[4] Anthologia Latina 352 (R357), Latin text from Riese & Shackleton Bailey (1982), p. 276, my English translation with help from Rosenblum (1961) p. 153, and Beck (2012) p. 159. In the later two volumes, the poem is numbered 71.

Wasyl considers this epigram in relation to Martial 8.51:

Asper’s in love with a beauty, to be sure, but he’s blind.
So Asper, as the fact is, loves more than he sees.
{Formosam sane, sed caecus diligit Asper.
plus ergo, ut res est, quam videt Asper amat.}

Latin text and English translation from Shackleton Bailey (1993) pp. 196-7. Wasyl appropriately concludes that Luxorius is a “fine artist of eroticism” and that his blind-lover epigram is “a little masterpiece.” Wasyl (2011) p. 204.

[image] Floyd Burroughs, cotton sharecropper. Hale County, Alabama. Photo made in 1935 by Walker Evans for the U.S. Farm Security Administration. Thanks to the Library of Congress and flickr.


Beck, Art, trans. 2012. Luxorius. Opera omnia or, a Duet for Sitar and Trombone. Los Angeles: Otis Books | Seismicity Editions.

Kay, N. M. 2006. Epigrams from the Anthologia Latina: text, translation and commentary. London: Duckworth.

Riese, Alexander, and David R. Shackleton Bailey. 1982. Anthologia latina: sive poesis latinae supplementum. Pars. 1. Carmina in codicibus scripta. Fasc. 1. Libri Salmasiani aliorumque carmina. Stutgardiae: In aedibus Teubneri. Online prior edition Riese (1894).

Rosenblum, Morris. 1961. Luxorius: a Latin poet among the Vandals; together with a text of the poems and an English translation. New York: Columbia University Press.

Shackleton Bailey, D.R., trans. 1993. Martial. Epigrams. Loeb Classical Library 94, 480. Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press.

Wasyl, Anna Maria. 2011. Genres rediscovered: studies in Latin miniature epic, love elegy, and epigram of the Romano-Barbaric age. Krakow: Jagiellonian University Press.

Marina, love goddess as well as saint, is true heroine to men

Venus Anadyomene

Probably first known from the fifth century GC, Saint Marina the Monk is a saint for men falsely accused of rape. But the demonization and criminalization of men goes beyond rape-hate culture and castration culture to broad lack of appreciation for men’s genitals and men’s sexual labor. The sixth-century Vandal poet Luxorius almost surely knew of Saint Marina. Expanding poetic understanding of Marina, Luxorius figured her as the traditional Greco-Roman love goddess Aphrodite in a brilliant poem that honored and celebrated men’s sexuality.

About a woman called Marina

A certain man fucked Marina like a raging hot concubine.
The adultery is making salty waves.
Not with blame, but rather with praise is this to be reported;
it commemorates Venus, who was born in the sea.

{De muliere Marina vocabulo

Quidam concubitu futuit fervente Marinam.
fluctibus in salsis fecit adulterium.
non hic culpandus, potius sed laude ferendus,
qui memor est Veneris, quod mare nata foret.} [1]

In the ancient world, husbands not sexually satisfied with their wives might take concubines. Such an affair wouldn’t count as a violation of the marital bond (adultery) in Greco-Roman understanding. In this poem, the wife seems not to have been sexually satisfied. Perhaps her husband wasn’t sufficiently chivalrous. In any case, the wife took up the position of a passionate concubine to another man.[2] That poetic configuration challenges the typical practice of blaming men for adultery.

The sea figures in multiple ways within this poem. The name Marina comes from the feminine form of the Latin word marinus, which means “of the sea.”[3] The poem metaphorically associates passionate, sweaty sex with the pounding, salt-water waves of the sea. Moreover, Venus Anadyomene (Venus Rising from the Sea) is an iconic representation of the birth of Venus from Uranus’s castrated genitals that fell into the sea. This birth of Venus was the subject of a much admired painting that the Greek artist Apelles made in the fourth century BGC. Luxorius’s concluding reference to “Venus, who was born in the sea” associates Marina with Venus Anadyomene.

Like Bernardus Silvestris with his Cosmographia, Luxorius with his Marina poem completely rejects castration culture. Venus, born from castration, Luxorius recalls through vigorous sex with Marina in the sea. Saint Marina might intercede on behalf of Christians today who castigate Luxorius’s poem for immorality. Given her experience, Marina, saint and goddess, surely appreciated Luxorius’s poetic work and sought to welcome him into heaven.

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[1] Luxorius, Quidam concubitu futuit, Anthologia Latina 363, Latin text from Riese & Shackleton Bailey (1982) p. 282, my translation with help from Rosenblum (1961) p. 161 (poem 82) and Beck (2012) p. 181. The title may not be Luxorious’s.

[2] An earlier epigram of Martial on a water affair makes clear Luxorius’s greater concern for men. Leaving both the husband and the narrator sexually unsatisfied, Martial evokes the gynocentric orthodoxy of innocent woman and predatory man:

Cleopatra, new to the marriage bed and not yet reconciled to her husband, had plunged into a gleaming pool, fleeing embraces. But the water betrayed her hiding place; covered by all of it, she still shone. So lilies enclosed in clear glass are counted, so thin crystal does not let roses hide. I leapt and plunged into the pond and snatched reluctant kisses. The pellucid waters forbade more.

Martial, Epigrams 4.22, from Latin trans. Shackleton Bailey (1993) vol. 1, p. 277, adapted slightly. Id. ft. 31 notes that the husband is “presumably the poet (cf. v. 7) for the purpose of this epigram.” In the context of Martial’s poetry, such a presumption isn’t warranted. More generally, Martial’s poem positions the man to be guilty of a sex offense. Luxorius plausibly was challenging that culturally entrenched anti-men bias.

Another of Martial’s epigram’s on a water affair depicts the man as an obtuse, insensate brute. After describing Lydia’s unusually wide vagina, the poetic “I” declares:

I am said to have fucked her in a marine fishpond.
I don’t know; I think I fucked the fishpond.
{hanc in piscina dicor futuisse marina.
nescio; piscinam me futuisse puto.}

Martial, Epigrams 11.21,11-2, from Latin trans. Shackleton Bailey (1993) vol. 2, p. 21. Here’s the full Latin text and an English translation. In context, the play between Martial’s use of the Latin word marina and Luxorius’s Marina suggests intertextuality. More significantly, Martial’s epigram bestializes the man’s sexuality, while Luxorius’s epigram celebrates it. Luxorius may have been drawing on a Christian sense of the importance of incarnation. That Christian understanding probably wasn’t available to Martial, who wrote his epigrams between 86 and 103 GC. Saint Marina, of course, lived centuries after Martial’s time.

[3] Some time between the fifth and ninth centuries, Mary, the mother of Jesus, acquired the title “Our Lady, Star of the Sea {Stella Maris}.” Perhaps Luxorius also drew upon this Christian link of incarnation to the sea in associating Marina with the goddess Aphrodite. Luxorius lived in an early sixth-century north African culture in which traditional Greco-Roman beliefs and Christianity both were culturally vibrant.

[image] Venus Anadyomene. Fresco from Pompei, Casa di Venus, 1st century GC. Thanks to Stephen Haynes and Wikimedia Commons.


Beck, Art, trans. 2012. Luxorius. Opera omnia or, a Duet for Sitar and Trombone. Los Angeles: Otis Books | Seismicity Editions.

Riese, Alexander, and David R. Shackleton Bailey. 1982. Anthologia latina: sive poesis latinae supplementum. Pars. 1. Carmina in codicibus scripta. Fasc. 1. Libri Salmasiani aliorumque carmina. Stutgardiae: In aedibus Teubneri. Online prior edition Riese (1894).

Rosenblum, Morris. 1961. Luxorius: a Latin poet among the Vandals; together with a text of the poems and an English translation. New York: Columbia University Press.

Shackleton Bailey, D.R., trans. 1993. Martial. Epigrams. Loeb Classical Library 94, 480. Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press.

Lynceus to virgin Hypermnestra, whose sisters murdered his brothers

Danaides kill their husbands

I, Lynceus, send this letter to my virgin wife Hypermnestra, sister of my brothers’ murderers, the Danaides.

My dreams recall you, dreams brighter than the beautiful day, and I find you there, although you are absent from this place. Sleep does not hold onto its delights long enough. Often I dream that your arms are around my neck, and I recognize in sleep your kisses that you used to give and take with your tongue. Sometimes I delude myself and speak words that seem like the truth. Then my mouth keeps watch over my senses. Yet I’m ashamed to mention the things that happen beyond this … but I’m not permitted to sleep dryly, all happens, and I delight.

Why did I take more pleasure than I should in your golden hair, and your comeliness, and the lying favors of your tongue? If not, once your hostile ship had beached on our sands, and had brought you young Danaides here, what great treachery would have died with you, you wicked women! What great evils would have been averted from my brothers’ lives!

My father is betrayed, kingdom and country forsaken, for which my reward is to suffer exile. Your virginity remains the prize of a frigid wife, my most dearly beloved sister, meant to be my lover. Where is divine power? Where are the gods? Justice is near us in the deep, you punished for fraud, I for credulity. I wish that the clashing rocks, the Symplegades, had crushed us, so that my bone might bang against your bones. Or ravening Scylla might have caught us, you to be eaten by her dogs. Scylla is destined to harm frigid women with murderous sisters. And Charybdis, who so often swallows and spews out the tide, should also have sucked me beneath Sicilian waters.

As you ordered, I left the house, unaccompanied by my brothers, and, what will pursue me always, with my love of you. When suddenly the songs of Hymen came to my ears, and the torches shone with illuminating fire, and the flutes poured out the marriage tunes for me, and I mournfully dreamed of you. I was afraid. I hadn’t thought till now so much wickedness could be, but still I was chilled to my bone. In my dream the crowd rushed on, continually shouting, ‘Hymen, Hymenaee!’ and the nearer they came, the worse it was for me. The servants in the morning would weep — who wants to be the bearer of such evil news?

It would have been better for me not to know what happened. My brothers’ shades find in me offerings to the dead. I abandon my lost kingdom, my country, my home, my virgin wife, who loved me only not to kill me. The day does not please me. I awake from wet dreams to the bitterness of being alone at night. I beg you, by the gods, by the light of the Sun, by my grandfather’s fire, by my kindness to you, and by the specter of your childless future, return to the bed for which my brothers, insanely, have been so brutally murdered! Add truth to your words, and love me in a way you would not love your father.

That you live, that you have a father and beautiful siblings — all that’s been slashed away from me. I remember I used to say: “Lying, faithless whores!” Then my brothers married your murderous virgin sisters, and you became my virgin wife. Now I cry, “Men, never trust in women!” My love is betrayed: only the wind has changed. The worm will turn … but why should I be concerned to warn you of your punishment? My anger throngs with monstrous warnings. Where my anger leads, I’ll follow. Perhaps I’ll regret my deeds. I regret having concern for a frigid woman with murderous sisters. Let the god see to it, who now disturbs my heart. Something momentous surely now drives my mind!

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Greek myth about Danaus and Aegyptus and their fifty daughters (the Danaides) and fifty sons dates to the archaic period. References to this myth exist in surviving fragments of Hesiod’s Catalogue of Women. The myth is recalled in the early fifth-century BGC works of Aeschylus (The Suppliants, Prometheus Bound) and odes of Pindar (Pythian 9, Nemean 10). Pseudo-Apollodorus’s Bibliotheca (Library), written perhaps in the second century GC, provides a summary of central aspects of the myth:

Both {the brothers Aegyptus and Danaus} had children by many wives; Aegyptus had fifty sons, and Danaus fifty daughters. As they afterwards quarreled concerning the kingdom, Danaus feared the sons of Aegyptus, and by the advice of Athena he built a ship, being the first to do so, and having put his daughters on board he fled. … But the sons of Aegyptus came to Argos, and exhorted Danaus to lay aside his enmity, and begged to marry his daughters. Now Danaus distrusted their professions and bore them a grudge on account of his exile; nevertheless he consented to the marriage and allotted the damsels among them. … When they had got their brides by lot, Danaus made a feast and gave his daughters daggers; and they slew their bridegrooms as they slept, all but Hypermnestra; for she saved Lynceus because he had respected her virginity. In response, Danaus shut her up and kept her under guard. But the rest of the daughters of Danaus buried the heads of their bridegrooms in Lerna and paid funeral honors to their bodies in front of the city. Athena and Hermes purified them at the command of Zeus. Danaus afterwards united Hypermnestra to Lynceus, and bestowed his other daughters on the victors in an athletic contest.

Apollodorus, Biblioteca 2.1.4, 2.1.5, from Greek trans. James George Frazier (1921) for the Loeb Classical Library. That men raced to win as brides the husband-murdering Danaides underscores men’s folly in marriage.

Ovid’s Heroides 14 is a letter that Hypermnestra wrote to Lynceus. Hypermnestra describes herself as a virgin and a sister to Lynceus. Heroides 14.55, 123.  Hypermnestra asserts that she is wholly innocent of the murder of Lynceus’s brothers. She claims that she deserved to be honored for not killing her husband after she nearly did so three times. She implores Lynceus to come and rescue her, at considerable risk to himself. In short, Hypermnestra’s letter is completely self-centered. Moreover, as Vaiopoulos (2014) shows, Hypermnestra seems to have implicitly expressed sexual interests.

The above text is adapted from Ovid’s Heroides 15 (Sappho to Phaon), Heroides 12 (Medea to Jason), and Fasti 3 (March 8, Ariadne’s lament). In the later, Ariadne declares:

I remember I used to say: “Perjured, faithless Theseus!”
He abandoned me: now Bacchus commits the same crime.
Now once more I’ll cry: “Woman, never trust in man!”
My fate’s repeated, only his name has changed.

From Latin trans. A.S. Kline. The text above is adapted from the translations of Kline and James M. Hunter.

Hunter’s site provides an excellent resource for studying the text of the Heroides. For critical perspectives, Vessey (1976) and Fulkerson (2005) are helpful. The Latin text of the Heroides is available online.

[image] The Danaides kill their husbands (detail, enhanced). Folio 170v in Les Epistres d’Ovide,… translatées par feu monsieur l’evesque d’Angoulesme, nommé Octovien de Saint Gelais, 1496-1498. Bibliothèque nationale de France (BNF), Français 874, through BnF Gallica.


Fulkerson, Laurel. 2005. The Ovidian heroine as author: reading, writing, and community in the Heroides. Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press.

Vaiopoulos, Vaios. 2014. “Hypermestra as Soror Querens. Reading Ovid’s Her., 14.” Rivista Di Cultura Classica E Medioevale. 56 (2): 273-314.

Vessey, D. W. T. 1976. “Humor and Humanity in Ovid’s Heroides.” Arethusa 9(1): 91-110.

castration is Satanic: penis at center of man’s earthly being

Vitruvian Man: penis at center of square

In cosmography from more than two millennia ago, heaven is a circle and earth is a square. Leonardo da Vinci’s famous, late-fifteenth-century Vitruvian Man drawing shows a naked man inscribed in a circle and in a square. The circle’s center is the man’s navel. The square’s center is the root of the man’s penis. Leonardo, now appreciated as a genius, understood that the center of a man’s earthly being is his penis.[1]

Leonardo built upon the work of the ancient Roman architect Vitruvius. In his work De architectura (On architecture), Vitruvius wrote:

The navel is naturally placed in the center of the human body. If a man lying with his face upward, and his hands and feet extended, is circumscribed, the circle will have his navel as the center and will touch his fingers and toes. The human body is not only thus circumscribed by a circle. It may be placed within a square. For measuring from the feet to the crown of the head, and then across the arms fully extended, we find the latter measure equal to the former. Lines at right angles to each other, enclosing the figure, will form a square. [2]

The navel as the center of the human body has cosmic correspondence. In traditional Greco-Roman belief, the oracle at Delphi was the site of the navel at the center of the world (omphalos). Jewish tradition described Jerusalem as the navel of the earth.[3] These beliefs were part of broader understanding of the human body as a microcosm of the universe.

David: penis at center

Bernardus Silvestris’s brilliant twelfth-century Cosmographia recognized the penis’s cosmic significance. Bernardus explicitly described creation in terms of the megacosmus (the physical universe) and microcosmus (man). In describing the creation of man, Bernardus emphasized the importance of man’s penis to women and to all of the physical universe.

Dante in his Divine Comedy placed Satan’s crotch at the center of the earth. Within the Inferno, Dante climbed upon Virgil’s back. Then Virgil climbed down Satan’s fur and across Satan’s crotch to reverse direction through the center of the earth:

he took fast hold upon the shaggy flanks
and then descended, down from tuft to tuft,
between the tangled hair and icy crusts.

When we had reached the point at which the thigh
revolves, just at the swelling of the hip,
my guide, with heavy strain and rugged work,

reversed his head to where his legs had been
and grappled on the hair, as one who climbs.
I thought that we were going back to Hell.

“Hold tight,” my master said — he panted like
a man exhausted — “it is by such stairs
that we must take our leave of so much evil.”

{appigliò sé a le vellute coste;
di vello in vello giù discese poscia
tra ‘l folto pelo e le gelate croste.

Quando noi fummo là dove la coscia
si volge, a punto in sul grosso de l’anche,
lo duca, con fatica e con angoscia,

volse la testa ov’ elli avea le zanche,
e aggrappossi al pel com’ om che sale,
sì che ‘n inferno i’ credea tornar anche.

“Attienti ben, ché per cotali scale,”
disse ‘l maestro, ansando com’ uom lasso,
“conviensi dipartir da tanto male.”} [4]

Dante and Virgil reversed direction in traversing Satan’s crotch because it is at the center of the earth. While Dante didn’t explicitly describe Satan’s crotch, he characterized it as frozen in ice. A late sixteenth-century illustration draws out the meaning. It shows Satan’s body with an empty space in the place that a man’s genitals normally occupy.[5] Satan is a castrated male:

Here we find Lucifer {Satan}, and with Lucifer the Augustinian idea that evil is the perversion, distortion, antithesis of good. … The grandeur of what Lucifer was stands in stark contrast to the monstrous vacancy of what he now is. … Lucifer’s irretrievably lost beauty — and the quantity of that lost beauty — provides the measure whereby we can construe his current ugliness.[6]

Castrating a man, whether physically or socially, deprives him and the cosmos of his masculine beauty.

Satanic castration: Lucifer in Dante's Inferno

Within gynocentric society, castration culture constructs the demonic male. The center of man’s earthly being is his penis. In Heaven, man’s center rises to his navel, or perhaps even higher. Persons can aspire to Heaven and hope for a new creation that makes the earth like Heaven. But the reality of current earthly existence must be truthfully acknowledged. Castrating earthly men, whether physically or socially, doesn’t make them into Heavenly men. Castration culture creates a Hell on earth and makes men into demons.

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[1] For a poignant recent interpretation of the Vitruvian Man, see Rich Brimer’s Threshold.

[2] Marcus Vitruvius Pollio, De architectura 3.1.3, from Latin trans. Joseph Gwilt (1826), with my modernization. The Latin text:

 item corporis centrum medium naturaliter est umbilicus. inamque si homo conlocatus fuerit supinus manibus et pedibus pansis circinique conlocatum centrum in umbilico eius, circumagendo rotundationem utrarumque manuum et pedum digiti linea tangentur. non minus quemadmodum schema rotundationis in corpore efficitur, item quadrata designatio in eo invenietur. nam si a pedibus imis ad summum caput mensum erit eaque mensura relata fuerit ad manus pansas, invenietur eadem latitudo uti altitudo, quemadmodum areae quae ad normam sunt quadratae.

Vitruvius wrote De architectura probably between 30 and 15 BGC.

[3] Ezekiel 38:12. See also Ezekiel 5:5.

[4] Dante Alighieri, Divine Comedy, Inferno 34.73-84, from Italian trans. Allen Mandelbaum (1980). Both the Italian text and English translation are from the University of Virginia’s excellent World of Dante site.

Satan was frozen in ice up to his chest. Inferno 34.29. Carrying Dante, Virgil apparently climbed down a crack in the ice to Satan’s crotch. Ruda (2006) p. 326, n. 36, observes, “Dante’s focus on Satan’s groin seems not to have been addressed in modern scholarship.” The gynocentrism of modern scholarship supports such blindness. Ruda shows no awareness of castration culture, considers emasculation in terms of feminization and disparagement of women rather brutal physical abuse of men, and only slightly complicates conventional invocations of misogyny in support of dominant gynocentric ideology. See, e.g. pp. 327-8.

Subsequent thinkers challenged Vitruvius and followed Dante in placing a man’s crotch, specifically the root of his penis, at the center of this body. Lorenzo Ghiberti, writing his Commentarii about 1450, stated:

I still do not think that the navel is the center; it seems to me that this must be where the genital member arises, at the position of the man’s crotch. And it still seems to me that this center cannot be in any other than that said place.
{Ancora non mi pare del centro sia el bellico, parmi debba essere dove è ‘l membro genitale e dove e’ nasce, overo ov’è la inforcatura humana. Ancora mi pare el suo centro non possa in altro luogo poter porsi, altro che in detto luogo.}

Italian text and English translation from Salvi (2016) p. 266. Salvi has translated ‘l inforcatura humana as “the human’s crotch.” In context, a better translation is “the man’s crotch.” I’ve made that change above. Cf. Dante use of forcata (junction of lower limbs to trunk), Inferno 14.108.

In his Tabulae dimensionum hominis within his work De statua (On sculpture), Leon Battista Alberti ascribed the center of man “to the bone below which hangs the penis {ad os sum quo pendet penis}.” Salvi (2016) p. 259. Alberti wrote De statua in 1464.

The Codex Huygens, an early-sixteenth-century manuscript attributed Carlo Urbino, contains drawings showing a man’s midpoint at his penis. See, e.g. folio 9. For more general discussion, Salvi (2016).

[5] In the illustration, that empty space is explicitly labeled centrum mundi (“center of the world”).

[6] Barolini (2015). Castrating a man produces an evil man from a good man. Castration kills the creative dynamism of persons and societies:

The essence of Lucifer is indeed the essence of Hell itself, for Hell is the place whose denizens—because they sinned and did not repent their sins—are not afforded the opportunity to continue becoming. They are fixed, as Lucifer is fixed: fitto è ancora sì come prim’era {Inferno 34.120: “(he) is still fixed, even as he was before”}.

Id., reformatted slightly. Deprivation of becoming (being fixed) applies equally to women and men in Hell.

[images] (1) Vitruvian Man. Drawing by Leonardo da Vinci, made c. 1490. Thanks to Luc Viatour and Wikimedia Commons. (2) David. Marble sculpture by Michelangelo, made 1501-1504. Held in Galleria dell’Accademia (Florence). Thanks to Jörg Bittner Unna and Wikimedia Commons. (3) Lucifer. Engraving for Dante’s Inferno, Canto 34, by Cornelis Galle the Elder (Flanders), made c. 1595.  Adapted from a drawing by Lodovico Cardi, also called as Cigoli. The image apparently was included in a printing of Dante con l’espositione di Christophoro Landino, et di Alessandro Vellutello. Thanks to John Coulthart. Additional image sources here and here.


Barolini, Teodolinda. 2015. “Inferno 34 : Satanic Physics and the Point of Transition.” Commento Baroliniano, Digital Dante. Center for Digital Research and Scholarship. New York, NY: Columbia University Libraries, 2015.

Ruda, Jeffrey. 2006. “Satan’s Body: Religion and Gender Parody in Late Medieval Italy.” Viator. 37: 319-350.

Salvi, Paola. 2016. “The Midpoint of the Human Body in Leonardo’s Drawings and in the Codex Huygens.” Ch. 19 (pp. 259-284) in Pedretti, Carlo, Constance J. Moffatt, and Sara Taglialagamba, eds. Illuminating Leonardo: a festschrift for Carlo Pedretti celebrating his 70 years of scholarship (1944-2014) Leiden: Brill.