discrimination against transwomen: Iphis & Ianthe, Leucippus & Daphne

Modern societies ideologically deny manifestly oppressive gynocentrism and castration culture. In these circumstances, about 75% more men than women transition across the gender binary.[1] Men becoming transwomen isn’t sufficient to eliminate the horrid gender protrusion of four times more men than women committing suicide. Moreover, even after men become transwomen, they continue to endure historically entrenched, systemic gender discrimination. That gender discrimination is exemplified in the starkly contrasting ancient myths of Iphis & Ianthe and Leucippus & Daphne.

Authorities throughout history have tended to highlight examples of women transitioning to men while marginalizing examples of men transitioning to women. So it was about two thousand years ago for the Roman naturalist-scholar Pliny the Elder. Ignoring transwomen, Pliny described only transmen:

The transformation of women into men is no fictitious story. We find in the Annals that in the consulship of Publius Licinius Crassus and Gaius Cassius Longinus a girl in her parents’ custody at Casinum became a boy. At the order of the forecasters he was deported to a deserted island. Licinius Mucianus recorded that he personally saw at Argos a man named Arescon who had received as a baby girl the name of Arescusa. She married a man, then grew a beard, developed masculine attributes, and subsequently had a wife. Licinius Mucinius also saw at Smyrna a boy who had experienced this same change. I myself saw in Africa a person who had turned into a man on her marriage day. This person was Lucius Constitius, a citizen of Thysdritum.

{ Ex feminis mutari in mares non est fabulosum. invenimus in annalibus P. Licinio Crasso C. Cassio Longino coss. Casini puerum factum ex virgine sub parentibus, iussuque harispicum deportatum in insulam desertam. Licinius Mucianus prodidit visum a se Argis Arescontem, cui nomen Arescusae fuisset, nupsisse etiam, mox barbam et virilitatem provenisse uxoremque duxisse; eiusdem sortis et Zmyrnae puerum a se visum. ipse in Africa vidi mutatum in marem nuptiarum die L. Constitium civem Thysdritanum. }[2]

Women are the socially privileged sex. Human society in general, not just the special bigotry of trans-exclusive radical feminists, discriminates against transwomen and works to marginalize them. The privileged need exclusivity to protect their privilege.

Metamorphoses: two women embracing

Metamorphoses, an influential work that Ovid wrote about two thousand years ago, tells of Iphis and Ianthe. They lived near the important Cretan city Phaestus, not far from the royal Cretan city Cnossus. Iphis’s parents were Telethusa and her husband Ligdus. A humbly born, poor man who probably worked long hours as a maker of clay pots, Ligdus was a morally good man: “his life was one of honesty and blamelessness {vita fidesque inculpata fuit}.” Just as for many men through the ages, a woman’s pregnancy created pressing issues for him:

When the time was near for his wife to give birth,
he whispered in her ear these words of counsel:
“I pray for two things: that your delivery
have the least possible pain, and that you give birth
to a baby boy. Girls are a much greater burden,
and fortune denies us the resources to support one.
I hate to say it, but if you have a girl —
Heaven forgive me! — she will have to be killed.”
He said this, and their checks flowed with tears

{ gravidae qui coniugis aures
vocibus his monuit, cum iam prope partus adesset:
“quae voveam, duo sunt: minimo ut relevere dolore,
utque marem parias. onerosior altera sors est,
et vires fortuna negat. quod abominor, ergo
edita forte tuo fuerit si femina partu —
invitus mando; pietas, ignosce! — necetur.”
dixerat, et lacrimis vultum lavere profusis }[3]

Fathers love their children, girls and boys alike. Yet under gynocentrism, fathers are required to provision girls much more extensively than boys. Hence if poverty necessitates a terrible life choice, girls are more likely to be sacrificed than boys. In wealthy societies, the situation tends to be reversed: men and boys are left to die on sinking ships, in violence, and in wars.

At midnight, Telethusa saw, or thought she saw, Inachus, the first King of Argos, looking and acting like Isis, an Egyptian goddess. The goddess instructed Telethusa not to worry, ignore what her husband said, and keep any child she birthed. Telethusa soon birthed a baby girl. She and her nurse pretended that the girl was a boy. Perhaps at Telethusa’s request, Ligdus named the child Iphis. She thought that name ideal because it wasn’t gender-specific.[4] With Ligdus forced to spend long hours at work, he had little time to enjoy caring for his child Iphis. He never learned that Iphis was actually a girl.

Ligdus believed in gender equality. Defying the instrumental valuation of males, he appreciated that Iphis had an extraordinarily beautiful face. Despite fathers’ subordinate role in arranging marriages, Ligdus took the initiative to arrange an equal marriage for Iphis with Ianthe:

For all the women of Phaestus thought
Ianthe was the city’s most beautiful girl. The two
were matched in age and equally lovely.
They had gone to school together, and love
touched their innocent hearts with equal longing,
but not equal hope. Ianthe looked forward
to her wedding day, believing that Iphis,
whom she thought was a man, would be her man.
But Iphis loved someone she never hoped to have.

{ Inter Phaestiadas quae laudatissima formae
dote fuit virgo, Dictaeo nata Teleste.
par aetas, par forma fuit, primasque magistris
accepere artes, elementa aetatis, ab isdem.
hinc amor ambarum tetigit rude pectus, et aequum
vulnus utrique dedit, sed erat fiducia dispar:
coniugium pactaeque exspectat tempora taedae,
quamque virum putat esse, virum fore credit Ianthe;
Iphis amat, qua posse frui desperat, et auget
hoc ipsum flammas, ardetque in virgine virgo }[5]

Iphis didn’t understand gender. She actually had a good basis for hope. If gynocentric society can in any way act to get women or girls what they want, it will.[6]

Telethusa worried about Ianthe’s love for Iphis. Seizing control of the wedding arrangements, she repeatedly had the wedding postponed. Then she brought Iphis to pray and make vows to Inachus, transformed into the Egyptian goddess Isis. Telethusa and Iphis prayed to the goddess for pity. They shed tears. Their actions were effective:

The goddess seemed to move, did move, her altar.
The temple doors shook, and the horns of the goddess
shone like the moon as the bronze sistrum rattled.
Not yet carefree, but gladdened by this omen,
Telethusa left the temple, followed by Iphis,
whose stride was longer than before. Her complexion
was now more tan than white, her features more chiseled,
her hair now shorter and unadorned. There was more strength
in that frame than a girl would have, and in fact you were
no longer a girl, but a boy. Go make offerings
at the temple, rejoice and be glad! The two of them
made offerings together, and in the temple
set up a votive plaque with this inscription:

{ visa dea est movisse suas et moverat aras,
et templi tremuere fores, imitataque lunam
cornua fulserunt, crepuitque sonabile sistrum.
non secura quidem, fausto tamen omine laeta
mater abit templo. sequitur comes Iphis euntem,
quam solita est, maiore gradu, nec candor in ore
permanet, et vires augentur, et acrior ipse est
vultus, et incomptis brevior mensura capillis,
plusque vigoris adest, habuit quam femina. nam quae
femina nuper eras, puer es! date munera templis,
nec timida gaudete fide! dant munera templis,
addunt et titulum: titulus breve carmen habebat:
dona puer solvit quae femina voverat iphis. }[7]

The transman Iphis then married Ianthe. Iphis’s transformation from girl to boy was a path to equal love. The story of Iphis and Ianthe contains no shadow of discrimination, exclusion, or othering of transmen.

The ending for the transwoman Leucippus is much different in the myth of Leucippus and Daphne. Daphne was a gender-nonconforming girl:

She would not go down to the city at all, nor would she mix with the other girls. Gathering together a pack of dogs, she would go hunting in the Laconian countryside and sometimes strayed further into other Peloponnese mountains. For this reason she was very dear to Artemis, who taught her to shoot accurately.

{ αὕτη τὸ μὲν ἅπαν εἰς πόλιν οὐ κατῄει, οὐδ᾿ ἀνεμίσγετο ταῖς λοιπαῖς παρθένοις· παρασκευασαμένη δὲ πολλοὺς κύνας ἐθήρευεν καὶ ἐν τῇ Λακωνικῇ καὶ ἔστιν ὅτε ἐπιφοιτῶσα εἰς τὰ λοιπὰ τῆς Πελοποννήσου ὄρη· δι᾿ ἣν αἰτίαν μάλα καταθύμιος ἦν Ἀρτέμιδι καὶ αὐτὴν εὔστοχα βάλλειν ἐποίει. }[8]

Perhaps himself uncomfortable within the constraining gender binary, Leucippus fell in love with Daphne. Men have long carried the unjust gender burden of having to be active in soliciting love relations. So it was for Leucippus:

Despairing of making any other sort of attempt to win Daphne’s love, Leucippus put on female garments and in the guise of a girl went hunting with Daphne. Somehow or other he came to please her. She would never let go of him, embracing and clinging to him at all times.

{ εἰς ἐπιθυμίαν ἦλθε καὶ τὸ μὲν ἄλλως πως αὐτῆς πειρᾶσθαι ἀπέγνω· ἀμφιεσάμενος δὲ γυναικείαις ἀμπεχόναις καὶ ὁμοιωθεὶς κόρῃ συνεθήρα αὐτῇ. ἔτυχε δέ πως αὐτῇ κατὰ νοῦν γενόμενος, οὐ μεθίει τε αὐτὸν ἀμφιπεσοῦσά τε καὶ ἐξηρτημένη πᾶσαν ὥραν. }

This transgender love story with a charming beginning ends horribly:

But Apollo himself was in love with the girl, and he was possessed with rage and jealousy when he saw Leucippus associating with her. So Apollo put it into Daphne’s mind to go bathing in a stream along with the other women. When they got there they all stripped their clothes. Seeing Leucippus’s reluctance to do likewise, they tore the clothes from his back. Then, his treachery and duplicity laid bare, they all cast their javelins at him.

{ Ἀπόλλων δὲ καὶ αὐτὸς τῆς παιδὸς πόθῳ καιόμενος ὀργῇ τε καὶ φθόνῳ εἴχετο τοῦ Λευκίππου συνόντος καὶ ἐπὶ νοῦν αὐτῇ βάλλει σὺν ταῖς λοιπαῖς παρθένοις ἐπὶ κρήνην ἐλθούσαις λούεσθαι. ἔνθα δή, ὡς ἀφικόμεναι ἀπεδιδύσκοντο καὶ ἑώρων τὸν Λεύκιππον μὴ βουλόμενον, περιέρρηξαν αὐτόν· μαθοῦσαι δὲ τὴν ἀπάτην καὶ ὡς ἐπεβούλευεν αὐταῖς, πᾶσαι μεθίεσαν εἰς αὐτὸν τὰς αἰχμάς. }[9]

Describing Leucippus’s gender transition as “treachery and duplicity” is ungenerous or worse. Tearing off Leucippus’s clothes is a form of sexual assault. Why did these women sexually assault the transwoman Leucippus? Why did Daphne apparently do nothing while the person she loved was assaulted? Those unanswered questions point to these women’s intense hostility towards transwomen and suggest the social acceptability of such hatred. More importantly, the relative literary invisibility of man-to-woman gender transitions underscores deeply rooted systemic gender discrimination against transwomen.

In the ancient Mediterranean world, male-to-female gender transition was closely associated with the brutal inhumanity of castration culture. For example, the first-century Roman Emperor Nero was a gender-fluid person who ostentatiously rejected the gender binary:

He prostituted his own modesty such that, after defiling every part of his body, he at last devised a newer game. Covered with the skin of a wild animal, he was let loose from a cage. He then attacked the genitals of men and women bound to stakes. When he had thus sated his savage lust, he was finished off by his freedman Doryphorus. Nero was married to Doryphorus just as he himself had married Sporus. Nero even imitated the cries and lamentations of a young woman forcefully being sexually penetrated.

{ Suam quidem pudicitiam usque adeo prostituit, ut contaminatis paene omnibus membris novissime quasi genus lusus excogitaret, quo ferae pelle contectus emitteretur e cavea virorumque ac feminarum ad stipitem deligatorum inguina invaderet et, cum affatim desaevisset, conficeretur a Doryphoro liberto; cui etiam, sicut ipsi Sporus, ita ipse denupsit, voces quoque et heiulatus vim patientium virginum imitatus. }[10]

Few today would object to such sexual behavior among consenting adults or to non-hetero-normative marriages. But Sporus was a boy that Nero had castrated:

Nero castrated the boy Sporus and attempted to transform him to a woman’s nature. He married Sporus in solemn nuptials with a dowry and a bridal veil. Nero took him to his house attended by famous officials and had Sporus as his wife. The witty jest that someone made is still current: it would have been better for the human world if Nero’s father Domitius had married such a wife.

{ Puerum Sporum exsectis testibus etiam in muliebrem naturam transfigurare conatus cum dote et flammeo per sollemnia nuptiarum celeberrimo officio deductum ad se pro uxore habuit; exstatque cuiusdam non inscitus iocus bene agi potuisse cum rebus humanis, si Domitius pater talem habuisset uxorem. }

Castrating a boy without his fully informed, completely understanding consent is evil. Sporus apparently suffered a terrible injustice like that of Earinus, the beloved boy of the Roman Emperor Domitian. Yet Roman officials accompanied and validated this evil behavior. Some Romans even responded by jesting about transwomen’s inability to procreate. Given the circumstances of Sporus’s gender transition, how could humans be so morally obtuse and heartlessly cruel?

Pretentious ideological inanity enables the outrageous injustices of gynocentrism and castration culture. Men and women warmly accept transmen. No one today attempts to exclude transmen from any groups, spaces, or activities. Transwomen, in contrast, have faced marginalization, hatred, and discrimination through all of human history right up to the present day. Transwomen represent a gender gap in gynocentrism’s fragile ideological superstructure. Through that gender gap fundamental contradictions of gynocentrism and its female supremacist interests are transformed into understanding in newly developing minds.

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[1] The most statistically sophisticated national estimate to date indicates that for the U.S. in 2014:

Transgender individuals made up 0.53% (95% confidence interval [CI] = 0.46, 0.61) of the population, with a larger proportion of individuals identifying as male-to-female (0.28% of the population; 95% CI = 0.23, 0.33) than female-to-male (0.16%; 95% CI = 0.12, 0.21) or gender nonconforming (0.08%; 95% CI = 0.06, 0.13).

From Crissman et al. (2017). The ratio 0.28 / 0.16 is 1.75. Various studies of various populations, many with unknown statistical bases, have male-to-female / female-to-male transgender ratios above 2. Meier & Labuski (2013) pp. 298-9 (Table 16.1).

[2] Pliny the Elder, Natural History 7.36-7, Latin text from Rackham (1942) p. 531, my English translation, benefiting from that of id. The consulship over the Roman Republic of Publius Licinius Crassus and Gaius Cassius Longinus was in 171 BGC.

Pliny rarely engages in autopsy. Thysdritum (Thysdrus) was a Roman colony near present-day El Djem, Tunisia. On female-to-male transgender examples as understood by medical authorities in the sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries, Beecher (2005).

Medieval literature celebrates women who disguised themselves as men. See, e.g. Saint Eugenia, Saint Pelagia, Saint Marina, and a baker’s wife. The thirteenth-century chanson de geste Yde and Olive {Yde et Olive} celebrates Yde’s transformation from women to man. For the text with English translation, Abbouchi (2018); for some analysis, Durling (1989).

[3] Ovid, Metamorphoses 9.673-80, Latin text from Alpheios (with minor changes to editorial presentation), English translation (modified slightly) from Lombardo (2010). Subsequent quotes from Ovid’s Metamorphoses are similarly sourced, unless otherwise specified. The quoted phrase vita fidesque / inculpata fuit is from Metamorphoses 9.672-3, with my English translation.

For vires fortuna negat in 9.677, Lombardo translated: “it is their {girls’} misfortune to be weak.” Reading vires as “resources” with an indirect object “us” seems to me better in context. On different interpretations of this phrase, Wheeler (1997) pp. 196-7.

For his account of Iphis and Ianthe, Ovid drew upon the myth of Leucippus {Λεύκιππος}, probably from Nicander of Colophon’s Metamorphoses (Heteroeumena). Nicander’s Metamorphoses has not survived. Antonius Liberalis’s Metamorphoses 17 provides a summary of Nicander’s story. For English translation, Celorai (1992).

In Ovid’s poetry, etymology often signifies. In Nicander’s version as represented by Antonius Liberalis, Leucippus, who corresponds to Iphis, has as parents Galatea and Lamprus. The names Galatea (“white as milk”), Lamprus (“shining”), and Leucippus (“white horse”) suggest brilliance and whiteness. Moreover, Lamprus was from a family with high social status. His father was Pandion, a prestigious name shared with an ancient Athenian king. Lamprus, however, was poor. Ligdus, in contrast, was both low-born and poor. The name Ligdus was very unusual at Ovid’s time. Ligdus lived on the island of Crete. The common Latin word for clay is creta. The Greek word λíγδος is “the standard word for the clay mold used by the potter.” Wheeler (1997) p. 193. The etymology of Ligdus apparently indicates that he had the humble status of potter. These transformations in names and characteristics have general significance for the retold myth:

Ovid thus appears to be “correcting” the source by making his a tale of humble piety rewarded rather than nobility recognized.

Id. p. 192. A pun with the Greek word for white marble, λνγδóς, perhaps provides a simultaneous link to the etymologies of the names in Ovid’s source. Id. p. 193.

In telling about Leucippus, Antonius Liberalis recounted the existence of other transgender persons: Tiresias, Caenis / Caeneus the Lapith, Hypermestra, and the Cretan Siproites. Tiresias changed from man to woman and then from woman back to man. Tiresias thus understood relative sexual pleasure by gender. Poseidon, who loved the girl Caenis, granted her wish to be transformed into a boy. She thus became Caeneus. Unlike Danaus’s daughter Hypermestra, who refused to slaughter her husband, another Hypermestra changed from woman into a man or other animals to defraud repeatedly men who married her. Siproites {Σιπροιτεσ}, also called Sypretes {Συπρετεσ}, was a hunter from Crete. He was transformed from man into woman because he gazed upon Artemis bathing in the woods. Nothing more is known of Siproites. Celoria (1992) p. 83, n. 204.

[4] Irrespective of who formally specifies the baby’s name, mothers have always had enormous influence on baby names. Mothers, after all, can choose to not use a particular baby name and can substitute another name (a “nickname”) instead. Ovid doesn’t make clear whether Iphis was Telethusa’s father’s name, or Ligdus’s father’s name. It could have been either. Ovid tells of Telethusa’s ironic delight in the name Iphis:

The mother rejoiced in this name,
for it had non-specific gender; she wouldn’t be in any way deceiving her husband.

{gavisa est nomine mater,
quod commune foret, nec quemquam falleret illo. }

Metamorphoses 9.709-10, my English translation.

Men engage in gender-specific, relatively strenuous sexual labor without receiving any monetary compensation. Men’s physical strength is also exploited in the social institutions of physical labor. Iphis’s name indicates this gender inequality:

Iphis is derived from the Greek ἶφι (“by force”), the instrumental of ἴς, a form found in Homer and in his epic imitators. Given the prevalence of bilingual etymologizing in the Metamorphoses, it is probable that Ovid’s learned audience would equate Iphis with the Latin vis, which is the same in meaning, gender, and declination as ἴς.

Wheeler (1997) p. 194. Underscoring the historical bias toward violence against men, “Romans often etymologize vir with reference to vis.” Id. p. 195. Moreover, vires, understood as male sexual potency, is associated with the socially constructed brutalization of men’s sexuality.

[5] Ovid, Metamorphoses 9.716-25. Ovid emphasizes Iphis and Ianthe’s equal passion for each other: “no less hotly the other young woman / burned in love {nec lenius altera virgo / aestuat}.” Id. 9.764-5, my English translation.

In Nicander, as summarized by Antonius Liberalis, Leucippus has no love interest. But he / she is also very beautiful: “As the girl grew up {presenting herself as a boy}, she became unutterably beautiful.” Celoria (1992) p. 17. Nicander’s myth thus turns on the impossibility of a boy being as “unutterably beautiful” as a girl. That socially constructed problem reflects the social instrumentalization of men.

[6] Ovid’s story of Iphis and Ianthe includes characteristic indications of gynocentrism: the husband is burdened with providing material resources for the family, female children require more resources, what the husband says is ignored, the husband is marginalized in the life of his children, a husband must be wary of being cuckolded, men must struggle for sexual access to women, and the controlling deity is female. Cf. Pintabone (2002) p. 262.

[7] Ovid, Metamorphoses 9.782-94. Ovid’s telling of the myth of Iphis and Ianthe concludes with nuptial joy:

After the sun’s rays had revealed the world’s broadness,
when Venus, Juno, and Hymen convened the marriage fires,
the boy Iphis was encompassed by his Ianthe.

{ postera lux radiis latum patefecerat orbem,
cum Venus et Iuno sociosque Hymenaeus ad ignes
conveniunt, potiturque sua puer Iphis Ianthe. }

Metamorphoses 9.795-7, my English translation.

In Nicander, as summarized by Antonius Liberalis, the myth of Leucippus ends with the establishment of a festival and a pre-marriage ritual:

Leto took pity on Galatea because of her unremitting and distressed prayers and changed Leucippus’s sex into that of a boy. In memory of this change the citizens of Phaestus still sacrifice to Leto the Engenderer because she had sprouted a penis and testicles on the girl. They gave her festival the name Ecdysia because the girl had stripped off her female dress. It is now a custom before marriages to lie down beside the statue of Leucippus.

Translation from ancient Greek from Celoria (1992) p. 17, with my minor changes. For “Leto the Engenderer” the ancient Greek text is “Λητώ Φυτία {Leto Phytia}.” Phytia {Φυτία} means in ancient Greek “causer of sprouting.” In this context, Phytia refers to the emergence of male genitals on Leucippus. Celoria translated the phrase as “Leto the Grafter.” The festival Ecdysia {ὲκδύσια} is etymologically rooted in the Greek “to undress {ἑκδύω}.” Celoria noted that Antonius Liberalis’s text doesn’t explicitly specify whether brides or grooms lie down beside the statue of Leucippus. The text specifies the female dress as a “peplos {πέπλος}.”

[8] Parthenius of Nicaea, Sufferings in Love {Ἐρωτικὰ Παθήματα} 15.1 (About Daphne {Περὶ Δάφνης}), ancient Greek text and English translation (modified slightly to be more easily readable) from Lightfoot (2009). Subsequent quotes from the myth of Daphne and Leucippus are similarly sourced. Here’s the Greek text of Hercher (1858).

Parthenius here provides the earliest surviving account of the myth of Daphne. The manchette for this story states, “The story is told by Diodorus of Elaea in his elegies and in the fifteenth book of Phylarchus {Ἡ ἱστορία παρὰ Διοδώρῳ τῷ Ἐλαΐτῃ ἐν ἐλεγείαις καὶ Φυλάρχῳ ἐν ιε΄}.” Lightfoot (2009). Diodorus of Elaea is “almost entirely unknown”; Phylarchus flourished in the third century BGC. Lightfoot (1999) p. 471, n. 209.

Leucippus’s love for Daphne is largely missing in the literary history of the myth of Daphne. Pausanias is the only other ancient author to mention it. Pausanias, Description of Greece 8.20.2-4; Lightfoot (1999) p. 471. On other ancient stories, not referring to Daphne, in which Leucippus / Leucippi / Leucippae / Leucippe undergoes a gender transformation, id. pp. 474-5.

[9] After the women cast their javelins at Leucippus, Parthenius’s text cryptically states:

The gods willed it that he disappeared.

{ καὶ ὁ μὲν δὴ κατὰ θεῶν βούλησιν ἀφανὴς γίνεται}

Pausanias provides more detail:

seeing that Leucippus was not a woman, they killed him with their javelins and daggers.

{ ἰδοῦσαι δὲ οὐ παρθένον τοῖς τε ἀκοντίοις αὐτὸν καὶ ἐγχειριδίοις τύπτουσαι διέφθειραν. }

Description of Greece 8.20.4 (concerning Arcadia), Greek text and English translation (changed insubstantially) from Jones (1933). The young women apparently saw that Leucippus had male genitals. They then assumed that he was a man and sought to kill him. Some transmen endure similar risk.

[10] Suetonius, Lives of the Caesars 6 (Nero) 29, Latin text from Rolfe (1913) via Bill Thayer’s LacusCurtius, my English translation, benefiting from that of id. The subsequent quote is similarly sourced. Rolfe’s translation specifies a maiden being “deflowered.” The verb “deflower” reflects historical disparagement of men’s heterosexual activity of reproductive type. Particularly in the context of gender-bigoted representations of rape, disparaging terms such as “deflower” should be avoided.

Nero’s spouse Doryphorus seems to refer to a man elsewhere called Pythagoras:

Nero himself, polluted by every licit and illicit lust, had left no abomination to make himself more perverted. Nonetheless, a few days later he basely became the wife of one from that marriage-dirtying swarm — the groom’s name was Pythagorus — in solemn wedding rites. With the bridal veil placed over the emperor’s face, then were sent forth witnesses, dowry, the marital bed, and wedding torches. All that nightime covers for a woman was open to view at length.

{ Ipse per licita atque inlicita foedatus nihil flagitii reliquerat, quo corruptior ageret, nisi paucos post dies uni ex illo contamina-torum grege (nomen Pythagorae fuit) in modum sollemnium coniugiorum denupsisset. Inditum imperatori flammeum, missi auspices, dos et genialis torus et faces nuptiales, cuncta denique spectata, quae etiam in femina nox operit. }

Tacitus, Annals 15.37, Latin text from Jackson (1937), my English translation, benefiting from that of id.

Doryphorus is a Latin transliteration of the Greek Δορυφόρος, meaning literally “spear bearer.” Doryphorus / Pythagoras sexually “finishing off” the savage Nero evokes gladiator hunts of wild animals (venatio).

Nero associated himself with hermaphroditic animals:

Nero always used to show off harnessed to his chariot hermaphrodite mares that he had found in the Trier district in Gaul — as if the emperor of the world sitting in a portentous carriage was a thing to be plainly seen.

{ ostentabat certe hermaphroditas subiunctas carpento suo equas, in Treverico Galliae agro repertas — ceu plane visenda res esset principem terrarum insidere portentis. }

Pliny the Elder, Natural History 11.262, Latin text from Rackham (1940), my English translation, benefiting from that of id.

[image] Two women lying together, with the woman below apparently resisting. From photo of Augustes Rodin’s plaster sculpture entitled “The Metamorphosis of Ovid.” Rodin made this sculpture about 1886. Preserved as accession # A.117-1937 in the Victoria and Albert Museum (London, UK). Source image thanks to va_va-val and Wikimedia Commons.


Abbouchi, Mounawar. 2018. “Yde and Olive.” Medieval Feminist Forum. Subsidia Series no. 8. Medieval Texts in Translation 5.

Beecher, Donald. 2005. “Concerning Sex Changes: The Cultural Significance of a Renaissance Medical Polemic.” The Sixteenth Century Journal. 36 (4): 991-1016.

Celoria, Francis, trans. 1992. The Metamorphoses of Antoninus Liberalis: a translation with commentary. London: Routledge.

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