Contents

Trans-substantial Catholics

Watch this. What are the priests doing? Catholic Litmus Test If you are Catholic, then I hope for the sake of your soul you said he is welcoming Christ bodily into the world. If you didn’t you aren’t looking too […]


Poor Hanno

According to the pop-psychologist-pseudo-science writer Malcolm Gladwell in his magnum lite-opus, the Tipping Point we as a species need risk takers. Individuals who are willing to put it all on the line in pursuit of a goal will, if they […]


Intelligence and Happiness?

A while ago, the Inquisition pondered the nature of intelligence, and whether a certain outlook or attendant mental abilities are guides to or from happiness. This has been obliquely in the news of late…


Buried by the Sea

Its odd. Most graveyards in Connemara appear to be near water, if not actually right on the coast. Why? West Galway, or Connemara, has a lot of unused space. Admittedly, much of the land Connemara is industrially and agriculturally useless, […]


Cycling Two Abreast

Cycling two abreast in Ireland is legal, a protected practice, and it is safer.


Indoors / Outdoors (Defuse)

A talk given by The Inquisition at Defuse, on Wednesday 7th November 2012, as part of Designweek in Dublin, Ireland


Nürnburg’s Extra Bombs

Nürnburg got ripped to shreds by Bomber Harris’ boys. By how much appears to be open to debate.


Law & Morality

The preface to HLA Hart’s publication of his 1961 lecture series on the meeting of law and morality is as prevalent today as it ever was.


Foy – The Bodiless Head

A bodiless head is revered as being Saint Foy, who died a cruel death.


Coffee Haters

There are people out there who pretend to like coffee. Coffee Haters – you have been warned.


False Flags 2

False flag, covert ops by Americans against Americans? Sounds crazy, and so it was deemed.


Plastic 55 Years Ago

55 years ago Roland Barthes considered the importance of plastic and what it meant, as a substance and a symbol.


Cesare Borgia’s Party

The Pope, his son and fifty prostitutes – Cesare Borgia’s party.


Marriage – A Potted History

Marriage is thought by many to be a fixed rite, one which is immovable and inflexible. The truth is that it has not always seemed so…


Blinking Morse

The world was shocked when a victim of torture started blinking morse. The story of a US aviator captured in Vietnam.


Synecdoche

Synecdoche is a powerful, expressive linguistic device


The Inquisition by Ronan McDonnell - Contents Page
The Inquisition by Ronan McDonnell - Semper Quarens - Always Looking

Nice One Centurion

Bronze tripod with ithyphallic satyrs, from Pompeii, House Hotel of Julia Felix

Bronze tripod with ithyphallic satyrs, from Pompeii, House Hotel of Julia Felix

Prior to the revival of interest in artifact collecting and classical history in general that precipitated the Renaissance in Italy, Ancient Rome was widely considered to be very ideal of a utopian society of high morals and even higher culture. Several finds early on challenged this view and began the process of broadening our understanding of classical culture in general. Indeed, as more finds surfaced, the concrete expression of Roman decadence, which would have been previously understood to a certain degree, could no longer be ignored.

Which is to say, what art could be more fun than statues with giant boners?

The Secret Cabinet

In post-medieval Europe, ancient artifacts of an erotic nature were highly collectable to those that could afford such frivolities. Due to its proximity to the to the 18th century Vesuvian excavations, the National Archaeological Museum of Naples (called The Royal Bourbon Museum at the time) drew many of the greatest finds into its collections. The works of an erotic nature drew huge crowds and created a scandal and a quandary for the Kingdom of Naples. The finds were segregated and visitors were required to have permits. This only intrigued visitors further and they tried everything to get in. A trade in false permits even began.

roman-quote

After the Restoration in Italy Francesco I visited with his young family; ‘It would be as well to confine all the obscene objects, of whatever material, in one room, the only people allowed to visit this room being of mature age and proven morality.’ Indeed.

Various Italian political movements of the 19th century used the museum as a bargaining chip, portraying its restrictions as a suppression of liberty and vowing to make it public, as a straightforward record of the moral outlook and mentality of ancient times. The museum was even walled closed in 1851, remaining an off-and-on entity until its eventual re-opening in 1976.

The Collection

The contentious artifacts date from pre-Roman Italian society such as Attic pottery, to Grecian works, but are predominantly Roman in nature. The collection includes sculptures, votive offerings, ornaments, plaster sections of graffiti, cups and tableware, jewellery, oil lamps and more. The medium best represented is fresco. Through the collection’s variety every aspect of daily life is covered, objects have humourous qualities, represent threatening demons, spiritual requests made to the gods and domestic ornament.

Many artifacts are centred around banquet use. This would tally with Roman literature’s descriptions of the licentious atmospheres at these gatherings. The word ‘orgy’ retains these connotations today.

It appears from the archaeological record that there was loads of this stuff. Ancient Roman (and indeed Greek) society thrived on this myriad erotic imagery, giant phalluses, vaginas, compromised nymphs, ithyphallic satyrs, aroused bestiaries, hermaphrodites, compromised ex-virgins, winged members and all other matter of bacchanalia. Sex for the Romans fell between the spheres of influence of Venus and Bacchus.

And so without further ado here is a very small selection of the ancient world’s greatest knobs and knockers (to bolster this learned debate):

Getting down to business (image courtesy of Flickr user Get Directly Down)

Getting down to business (image courtesy of Flickr user Get Directly Down)


Two grotesques as vases (image courtesy of Flickr user Get Directly Down)

Two grotesques as vases (image courtesy of Flickr user Get Directly Down)


Caricature wall painting with ithyphallic Hermes, shop sign (image courtesy of Flickr user Get Directly Down)

Caricature wall painting with ithyphallic Hermes, shop sign (image courtesy of Flickr user Get Directly Down)


House of the Stags, Herculaneum - a drunken Hercules

House of the Stags, Herculaneum - a drunken Hercules


Graffito from exterior wall of house in Herculaneum

Graffito from exterior wall of house in Herculaneum


The amazing level of preservation at Herculaneum, is one of the main reasons this collection could be assembled

The amazing level of preservation at Herculaneum, is one of the main reasons this collection could be assembled


Ivory statuette of the goddes Laksme, from India, found at Pompeii

Ivory statuette of the goddes Laksme, from India, found at Pompeii

More filth?

Like ancient Roman filth? Have you seen the Inquisition article on collecting widdles?

Bibliography
The Secret Cabinet,Electa Napoli, 2000
Roman Art and Architecture, Mortimer Wheeler, Thames and Hudson, 1964
Pompeii & Herculaneum, The Glory and the Grief, Marcel Brion, Elek Books, 1960

This article was posted by on Thursday, September 10th, 2009 at 03:53.
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