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To Priapus

Nota Suburanas inter Telethusa puellas,
   quae, puto, de quaestu libera facta suo est,
cingit inaurata penem tibi, sancte, corona:
   hunc pathicae summi numinis instar habent.

Yon Telethusa befamèd amid the damsels Suburran
(Who by her gains I hold freedwoman now is become)
Girds with a gilded crown, O Holy! thine inguinal organ,
Held by the pathic girls like in degree to a god.

Telethusa, notorious amongst the damsels of the Via Subura,[1] who, I believe, has bought her freedom with the profits of prostitution,[2] encircles thy penis, O venerable one, with a golden crown, for these pathic women consider it equal in eminence to a god.

[1. The Via Subura was a street in Rome, in the second region, under the eastern wall of the Carinae, at the foot of the Coelian Hill, where provisions were chiefly sold, and where many thieves and prostitutes dwelt. Martial writes, of Subura: 'Then hand over the tyro to a Suburan mistress in the art. She will make a man of him; but a virgin is an inexperienced teacher.' And: 'A young lady of not over good reputation, such as sit in the middle of the Subura.'

2. For the female slaves to gain their freedom by prostitution was not uncommon. Plautus writes: 'You will speedily be free if you will often lie on your dowry in the same manner. Plautus attributes this to the Tuscans, Augustus to the Phoenicians, Justinus to the Cyprians and Strabo to the Armenians. Herodotus under Clio states that the women of Lydia prostituted themselves to obtain their marriage portion, and that it was a custom amongst the Babylonians that every woman should once in her life prostitute herself at the temple of Venus to a stranger. This practice is confirmed by Jeremiah and Strabo; The prostitution of women, considered as a religious institution, was not only practised in Babylon, but at Heliopolis; at Aphace, a place betwixt Heliopolis and Biblus; at Sicca Veneria, in Africa, and also on the Isle of Cyprus. It was at Aphace that Venus was supposed, according to the author of the Etymologicum Magnum, to have first received the embraces of Adonis. At Argalae, in Africa, women were prostituted on the wedding night. The Loricans, when hard pressed in war, vowed to offer up their daughters to be deflowered in a festival in honour of Venus, if they should be victorious. The Marquis de Sade in his priapistic book La Philsophie dans le Boudoir states Babylonian children were deflowered at the temple of Venus at an early age; and gives some curious details on the subject of prostitution in Pegu and Tartary.]

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