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 wife 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 (mulier) Marina seems not to have been sexually satisfied. Perhaps her husband wasn’t sufficiently chivalrous. In any case, she 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.

{ Primos passa toros et adhuc placanda marito
merserat in nitidos se Cleopatra lacus,
dum fugit amplexus. sed prodidit unda latentem;
lucebat, totis cum tegeretur aquis:
condita sic puro numerantur lilia vitro,
sic prohibet tenuis gemma latere rosas.
insilui mersusque vadis luctantia carpsi
basia: perspicuae plus vetuistis aquae. }

Martial, Epigrams 4.22, Latin text and English translation (adapted slightly) from Shackleton Bailey (1993) vol. 1, pp. 276-7. 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.