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Plate LIX


p. 120

Bell-shaped Vase.


IN both sides of this campana may be seen male and female Bacchants offering crowns and garlands to Priapus. It is easy here to recognise the hierophant, the Bacchus, the priest entrusted with the ablutions, and the female Bacchants.

The figures are well executed. They bear peplos or chlamydes skilfully draped.

Of all the writers who have declaimed against the immodesty of the Pagan deities, few have done so with such force as Arnobius. Here is a rather curious fragment of his Treatise on the Images of the Gods (de Deorum Simulacris):--

"Why should I thus laugh at the false gods, at their horns; and ridiculous attributes, when I am well aware that they represent the habits of certain men and the features of certain infamous courtezans? Who does not know that the Athenians fashioned their Mercuries in imitation of the body of Alcibiades? And who, on looking again into Posidippus, does not know that Praxiteles sculptured the Gnidian Venus after the courtezan Gratina, with whom the unfortunate sculptor was madly in love? But this Venus is not the only one whose face reproduces the features of a prostitute. Phryne herself, at the period when her beauty shone in all its splendour, and her youth was in

p. 121

all its freshness, served, it is said, as a model for the diverse figures of Venus, whether in the Greek cities or elsewhere where the worship of idols was admitted. The artists of that period strove in turn to surpass each other in reproducing the likeness of this courtezan in their statues of Venus, not in order that the goddess might become more august by it, but in order that Phryne might pass for the real Venus. The thing was carried so far that prostitutes received the sacrifices due to the immortal gods. We may cite the example of the celebrated Phidias, who, having made a statue of colossal size of Jupiter Olympius, graved on the finger of the god the name of a young and beautiful youth for whom he cherished an obscene passion . . . . .

"Thus, in bestowing a sex on the gods, if we invest them with the male organs of generation, we must expect to see them abandon themselves to acts which a chaste tongue could not even name. We must see them fired with passion like animals, wallow in the most degraded libertinism, and at last sink down into lassitude, weakened by excess of enjoyment; while, if we attribute the feminine sex to them, we must imagine the goddesses subject to the inconveniences of monthly terms, long and troublesome child-bearings, occasional abortions, and dreadful sufferings in their accouchement, &c."

Next: Plate LX: Langelle Vase