Mar 13 17 4:37 AM

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 As you approach this sculpture from the rear, near the end of the Met’s sprawling “Pergamon” exhibition, you might guess that it depicts Venus. But the front side reveals something unexpected, a surprise originally intended as a joke at the viewer’s expense.In imperial Rome, sculptures like this filled the homes and gardens of wealthy people, said Carlos Picón, curator of Greek and Roman art at the Met. They were seen as light amusements, signifiers of good taste. And it is believed that there were hundreds of them because at least nine copies of the “Sleeping Hermaphrodite” have survived.This one, on loan from the National Museum of Rome, dates from the second century A.D. Like the others, it is believed to be a copy of an earlier Greek bronze, now lost. For Romans, evoking Greek culture was another way of showing off.But it would be a mistake to interpret the popularity of these works as a sign of ancient tolerance, Mr. Picón said. The birth of intersex people was seen as a bad omen; those born with ambiguous genitals were usually killed.Photo


Last Edited By: lal2828 Mar 13 17 4:42 AM. Edited 1 time

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Mar 22 17 4:34 AM

I have seen the one in the Louvre. What I find interesting is that the body is completely feminine. The only "transgression" is found between their legs.

I am not so sure that sculptures like these are meant as a joke. The Roman view of sexuality was not based on a divide between biological sexes, but on behavior. A man having proactive sex with a feminine man was not considered an affront, but the partner should preferably be feminine and preferably young. In one way the "hermaphrodite" represents a continuation of that logic.

By the way, the hermaphrodie is named after Hermes (the messenger of the gods) and Aphrodite (the goddess of love), which points in the direction of the ancient shamanistic idea that intersex and transgender people represent a bridge between heaven and earth, uniting opposites with love.


Although intersex kids were considered bad omens and often killed after birth during the republic, the Roman empire also provides proof of other attitudes.

– The attitude towards intersex people appears to have changed over time. Initially, as we have seen above, intersex children were thought of with fear and disgust. By the 1st century CE, intersex people were regarded with fascination. Phelgon of Tralles (FGrH F36.6) recorded how a high-born girl, on her wedding day, began to experience incapacitating stomach pains and within days had physically transformed into a man. The case was brought to Claudius’ attention and he celebrated the ‘rebirth’, honouring the gods’ intervention with an altar. Males were highly prized in patriarchal Roman society and Claudius’ celebration of the transition appears to reinforce the importance of males and male heirs within society and elite families.

You will find examples like this one all the way up till the 18th century. The transformations were explained on the basis of humorology: Men have more blood/heat than women, so if you add heat to a woman, she may become a man. The opposite is impossible, as you could not substract perfection from a man. Sexist Romans!

Last Edited By: jackmolay Mar 22 17 4:43 AM. Edited 1 time.

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Mar 22 17 4:53 AM

I found an interesting article over at Wikipedia on the predecessor of Hermaphroditus: Aphroditus.

Aphroditus (Greek: Ἀφρόδιτος Aphroditos) was a male Aphrodite originating from Amathus on the island of Cyprus and celebrated in Athens in a transvestite rite. Aphroditus was portrayed as having a female shape and clothing like Aphrodite's but also a phallus, and hence, a male name.[2] This deity would have arrived in Athens from Cyprus in the 4th century BC. In the 5th century BC, however, there existed hermae of Aphroditus, or phallic statues with a female head.[3] According to Macrobius, who mentions the goddess in his Saturnalia, Philochorus, in his Atthis (referred to by Macrobius), identifies this male-female god with the Moon and says that at its sacrifices men and women exchanged clothing. Philostratus, in describing the rituals involved in the festivals, said that the image or the impersonator of the god was accompanied by a large train of followers in which girls mingled with men because the festivals allowed "women to act the part of men, and men put on woman's clothing and play the woman."[2]

What to you know: A crossdressing religious cult


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Mar 22 17 5:23 AM

[Do you know how internally active I am?  My heart beat is faster than the average person, but still within "normal" range (as the doctors tell me as they yawn and kick me out of their office.)]

The (sexist) Romans may have been thinking about athletic females.  Olympic female althletes who train too much, as in having too much heat, do experience a rise of testosterone and a cessation to their ...their .... lunar ...... events.  I'm no althlete, but this phenomenon is quite known in sports medicine.  So the Romans are right in this regards.  But males still outperfrom females in sports.  In recently investigating the Russians' interference in past Olympic games, it was discovered that some "female" althletes had male DNAs.  Again, this proves the physically-active-prone Romans right.  

Do you know why the scrotum in the "male" have to be located outside the body?  From kids' science books, I learned that it is because too much heat will kill off sperms and render a "perfect" man infertile.  Men with occupations where they have to sit for a long time, like taxi/cab drivers and office workers, experience this.  When the conventional wisdom is to "save these men from a terrible fate of having no kids (boooo-hooooo-hoooo)", I understand why there is the push to have people stand more and use the stairs (besides reducing obesity.) 

You can understand why castration was and still is considered a punishment.  Denying these guys progeny (which equals $$$$$$$$$$$$$$) is one thing, but making them go back to the "default" is reducing them from perfection, in a sense.  My own argument has always been, "why not just employ the defaults (females) then?  Well, apparently, there has been, and always will be, a recognition that gender is in the head as well.  Mutilate the body, but leave the head alone, at least in men because they matter. 

I agree that in the majority of world views, intersex people are considered good, not evil.   Much of world mythology proves this so.  Yes.  


Last Edited By: lal2828 Mar 22 17 5:34 AM. Edited 2 times.

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