In a claim certain to prick the interest of followers of archaeology and mythology everywhere, the head of Bulgaria’s National History Museum has said that an ancient temple to the Greek god Priapus has been found in the Black Sea town of Sozopol.
National History Museum chief Bozhidar Dimitrov, who hails from Sozopol, said that archaeologists had found a clay phallus inscribed “to Priapus” during a dig in the Black Sea town, which in the past 24 months has boasted everything from the finding of the purported hand bones of Christian saint John the Baptist to a temple to Poseidon.
Dimitrov reminded local media of the legend of Priapus and a donkey having disputed who was the better-endowed, with the donkey losing the dispute and its life into the bargain, ending as a sacrifice to the god.
The cult of Priapus, Dimitrov said, was believed to have originated along the coast of Asia Minor. In Hellenistic and Roman times, Priapus became associated with sensual pleasure.
Votives were made to Priapus, he said, from men who had genital diseases or otherwise had problems with erectile dysfunction or potency.
Priapus, Dimitrov omitted to mention, also is seen as something of a pagan patron saint of gardens (think: fertility) and his place in popular legend has been enhanced by mentions in the Satyricon by Petronius, in the works of Ovid, and in Chaucer.
Priapus, interestingly, also had a less obviously sexually prominent place in the figurines used as pointers in artefacts used in ancient Greece and Rome as navigational aids.
(Photo: Clive Leviev-Sawyer)