BRONZE. Of the size of the original.
AN old man, whose left hand is enveloped in the chlamys, after the manner of athletes, pours on his phallus the liquor contained in a vase of elegant form.
Here, as perhaps in the preceding plate, the allegorical meaning constitutes one of the most important degrees of initiation into the mysteries of Isis and Osiris, of Bacchus or of the Sun. Ablution was a symbol dear to the ancients; it indicated at one and the same time the union of water and fire, at the period when baths are necessary to temper the ardour of the latter. Thence, as we have already said, is derived the origin of the
fires of the festival of St John, and of the sprinklings of cold water still in use at that period of the year in some parts of France.
In the application, the positive meaning is, we think, the representation of a custom very common among the Romans. 1 The vase which the old man holds in his right hand is supposed to contain an aphrodisiac essence: and indeed it may be remarked that figures of this kind all represent old men, the young not needing to have recourse to these irritant preparations in order to prepare themselves for the act of coition.
To the details we have given on this subject in the preceding article, we may add the following:
Antony, having become desperately enamoured of Cleopatra, fell for some time into a strange dilemma. The excesses in which he had at first indulged in the arms of his royal mistress had weakened him to such a degree as to disable him for a long time from satisfying her ever-impetuous and ever-increasing desires. And assuredly Cleopatra was, both by temperament and habit, the least likely woman in the World to content herself with a meagre ration. History has preserved the remembrance of the truly prodigious prowess of this celebrated woman: "In one night, having assumed a veil, she lay with a hundred and six men in a public brothel."
Antony, on hearing of the numerous infidelities of his mistress, became greatly enraged, and even threatened to destroy her if she did not alter her behaviour. Cleopatra, terrified, resigned herself to abstinence, but at the expense of her health. She fell so dangerously ill that Antony, in despair, thought it his duty to apply forthwith to Quintus Soranus, a learned doctor and grave philosopher. He laid before him, with great frankness, the causes
of the malady which was ravaging the beautiful Cleopatra, importunately entreating him to point out both the means of tempering the ardour which internally devoured the passionate Queen, and those of reviving in himself desire and vigour. Quintus Soranus justified the confidence reposed in him by the Consul, and wrote him a letter on the subject, which Latin antiquity has preserved for us, and which contains the following passages:--
"Touched with your troubles, as a devoted friend should be, I have long sought by what means I could alleviate, or even entirely destroy, the anxiety you have confessed to me. I have consulted several books, and interrogated the secrets of nature, both in the class of animals, in that of stones, of trees, and of herbs; and although I found many remedies to cool the ardours of lust, I did not, however, discover the means of extinguishing the fire of libertinism, until at last, in following out my researches to the temple of Venus in the island of Scio, I found there a book which contained the veritable recipe, and the virtue of this ointment I now send you, as also some other preparations preserved for the use of women; you will be able to judge of its efficacy both by what I tell you and by your own experience. The virtue of this ointment is such that any woman feels herself so absorbed in the love of the man who makes use of it, in holding intercourse with her, that the memory of every other passion immediately vanishes. This is the way in which you must at first proceed: Abstain during nine days from all venereal labour, so as to lose none of your strength. Make use of warm aliments, as also of cheese, eggs, strong wine, and spices. If you were old, or your temperament naturally cold, I might point out to you the stimulants used in medicine; but as you have no need of them, you can make use of ordinary meat. What you must especially attend to, in the next place, is that, after the ninth day, when you prepare yourself for the amorous combat, your instrument shall not be less than ten inches long. If you cannot obtain this naturally, you must do it by means of art."
36:1 See the explanation of Plate XV.