Directly it becomes a question of studying the diseases of a particular part or organ, diseases occasioned by the nature of the use made of that particular part or organ, it is primarily requisite to investigate more precisely the different forms of this use. Then and then only shall we be in a position to define the share which secondary influences are competent to have in producing the said diseases. The natural use of the genital organs is simply the performance of the acts necessary to beget children. On this depends the preservation of the whole species. It is therefore improbable that Nature should have made such use liable to produce disease. As a matter of fact the experience of all ages shows that in a judicious marriage, the natural aim and object of which is the procreation of children, diseases of the genitals seldom, if ever, arise.
There must then be a secondary use of the genital organs, which is carried out without any view of begetting offspring, or in which this plays only a subordinate part, and consequently some other than the natural object is that pursued. This object is Sensual gratification, which is associated with the use of the genital organs, and the use of the genital organs for the attainment of this object is Sensuality. Every misuse of any given organ cannot but be associated with detriment both to the organ itself and to the whole organism as well. This must of course also be the case with the genitals,10 and it is in the misuse of them, in Sensual practices, that the most prominent efficient cause of maladies of these organs must be sought. Now it is our business to give a history of the maladies of the genital organs; and this is only possible on the condition that we have first of all gained a clear insight into the history of Sensuality.
Doubtless it is a melancholy task for the Historian to follow up and reveal the moral degradation of Peoples and Nations even to its most revolting details, and the Ethical philosopher might find not a few objections to raise against an undertaking of the kind. None the less is the Physician compelled to search out under all forms the traces of Vice in its most secret hiding-places, and so fathom the nature of the Disease in each individual case; and still more with Nations as a whole is he permitted,—nay! it is his bounden duty, to fix his eyes on their doings and those of each of their component parts. Thus only can he detect the nature of a Disease, which destroys the marrow of Peoples more surely and more terribly for this very reason that its genesis proceeds in secret.
The reproach that the Moral repute of Nations is hereby ruined, and the general mass saddled with the guilt of vices which of course only individuals ever committed, has no place here, for it is solely through the precise knowledge of the doings of these individuals that a due appreciation is possible of the danger that threatens the whole body politic from this source. Had not a false ideal of Morality hitherto restrained the individual, as it did the mass, from speaking out the truth, we should be much farther advanced than we are in the knowledge of a Disease, whose characteristic symptom it is that those who suffer from it endeavour, as far as they possibly can, to conceal its cause!
The Cult of Venus11.
The imaginative son of the South, already of his very nature prone to attribute all that his unpractised intellect failed to comprehend to the influence of a special Deity, was bound to do this pre-eminently in the case of an act that is even yet to us moderns wrapped in impenetrable obscurity,—the act of generation and conception. How could he think of this Deity12, that used his own body as its instrument and in so doing bestowed on him the highest pleasure of the senses, otherwise than under the shape of a Being equally alluring and loving, convinced that this Being must be infinitely more alluring13 than even the beloved form that he held in his arms? “The young man’s fancy” craves a lovely maiden; the maiden needed a loving sister, into whose arms she could trustingly throw herself, who intuitively divined all her soft, sweet emotions, to express which she sought in vain for words, which she scarce dared to own to herself that she was conscious of, and understood them!
To the Goddess’ Temple she wandered, before her poured out the longings that filled her heart to overflowing14, and at the last offered up herself a gift at the holy place, that so Aphrodité Ἀφροδίτη εὔκαρπος, κουροτρόφος, γενετύλλις,—Aphrodité rich in fruit, giving offspring, of the birth-hour) might be glorified in her, and herself be a participant in the highest happiness of Woman,—the joys of Motherhood. First she prepared herself by bodily purification15 before she trod the Temple threshold, then at the Temple altar she received spiritual purity; and thus thrilled through and through with the influence of the holiest, the Priest’s hand16 led her to the arms of her Lover, who as unspoiled yet and unsophisticated as she, had not sought to unveil the most august secrets of Nature with audacious hand. Intoxicated with rapture he drew his darling on to the Torus (sacred couch) bedecked with fragrant blossoms, and almost unconsciously to himself, became the creator of a being wherein both saw themselves made young again.
If Man is really the noblest of created Beings, made by the Creator in his own image, in very truth then the power that unconsciously raises Man to the level of his Maker must be a divine power too, and that act in the exercise of which it comes itself into play an act of most sublime worship. Are we to suppose there never was a time when Man, pure as he came from the hand of his Creator, followed in the singleness of his heart no other law but that written in his heart? Surely not merely in the dreams of the Poet was found the legend of an Eden, from which Man was driven out by his own guilt; more true to say that to this day we are all of us born therein. But alas! others’ guilt or our own tears us away from out the garden of Paradise, ere we have yet been able often to raise our eyes to take delight in its glory. Thus it is that many a man now and again has the memory of a Dream, that accompanies him on his pilgrimage through life, and he hopes to find in the future what long ago, before he grew conscious of its existence, became a thing of the past. Perchance it may be the fatal tasting of the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge was nothing else than the misuse of the genital organs, to content bestial longings, to arouse the titillation of an enervating pruriency17. “And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked!” The bestial had won the victory over the divine, which fled away from the desecrated altar; and the Genius of Mankind wept over their Fall!
Here is the History at once of Man individually and of whole Peoples. Over the Temple-worship of Aphrodité also impended such a crisis; and sooner or later the holy courts of Venus Urania (Heavenly Venus) changed into the Lupanar of Venus Vulgivaga (Brothel of Venus of the Streets).
A precise knowledge of the extension of the Venus-cult in chronological order would readily supply us the means of following up historically the moral deterioration of the Peoples of Antiquity; but so long as we do not possess this, History cannot be expected to give us anything of great value. All that we are for the present in a position to give, pertinent to the object we aim at, is as follows:
“The worship of this Urania,” says Pausanias18, “the Assyrians first introduced amongst themselves, after the Assyrians the Paphians in Cyprus19, and among the Phoenicians20 the inhabitants of Ascalon in Palestine. From the Phoenicians the inhabitants of Cythera21 learned to know and worship her. At Athene Aegeus introduced her worship.” It was at Babylon then that the cult of Venus originated as Mylitta worship, spread over the inland parts to Mesopotamia as the Sabaean22 religion, and was passed on by the Phoenicians to the seaboard peoples as Astarté-worship. For at the spot where this cult first arose, it lasted longest in its original purity, and Herodotus23 could report how at Babylon the daughters of the country were compelled once in their life-time to give themselves for money to a strange man to win the favour of the goddess, then to return to their dwelling all the more virtuous for the sin, and neither promises nor gifts, however great these might be, availed ever again to draw them into the arms of a stranger. Later indeed it was different even here, perhaps through the influence of the Phoenicians, who had manifold dealings with them. For Herodotus himself relates elsewhere (Bk. I. 196), that after the capture of Babylon by the Persians, the poorer classes, dreading the forcible abduction of their daughters, if means of subsistence failed them, made them harbour-wenches24. And accordingly Q. Curtius25 felt bound to write of Babylon:
“Nihil urbis eius corruptius moribus, nihil ad irritandas illiciendasque immodicas voluptates instructius. Liberos coniugesque cum hospitibus stupro coire, modo pretium flagitii detur, parentes maritique patiuntur…. Feminarum convivia ineuntium in principio modestus est habitus, dein summa quaeque amicula exuunt, paulatimque pudorem profanant: ad ultimum … ima corporum velamenta proiiciunt; nec meretricum hoc dedecus est sed matronarum virginumque apud quas comitas habetur vulgati corporis vilitas.”
(Nothing can well be more corrupt than the manners of this City, nothing more artfully adapted to excite the passions and allure to voluptuous excesses. Strangers are permitted by parents and husbands, provided the price of shame is forthcoming, to have lustful intercourse with their children and their wives…. At their first entrance to the banquet-room the women’s dress is modest, presently they remove their outer robes one by one, and little by little violate all modesty, … at the last stripping off the innermost coverings of their persons. And this is no mere abomination of harlots, but the habit of matrons and maids, who consider that in thus making themselves cheap and exposing their bodies they are showing courtesy). This custom we find again carried still further amongst the Armenians, who Strabo2627 says consecrate their daughters for some considerable length of time to Anaitis, and only after this suffer them to marry. Herodotus28 relates the same custom of the Lydians, degenerated in the same way as had been the case in later times at Babylon, for here too the lower classes used to abandon their daughters to prostitution for a livelihood. Still in its original purity the usage reached the Phoenicians29, but with them also would seem to have early degenerated, although in particular towns of Phoenicia the practice appears to have been followed only under certain circumstances. Lucian30 relates that the women, of Byblus, where was a Temple of Ἀφροδίτη βυβλίη (Venus of Byblos), if they would not allow their hair to be cut off at the Funeral-feast of Adonis, were bound in honour of Venus for one whole day to abandon their bodies to strangers. Among the Carthaginians31 also, as in Cyprus32, maidens had to earn their dowry, and the Tyrant Dionysius introduced the same custom, no doubt with a secondary design of a profit for himself, amongst the people of Locri.33
As to the reason for this custom, one might be found in the opinion that prevailed almost universally in Antiquity amongst the Asiatic peoples, that the first-fruits of everything were consecrate to the Deity, and accordingly the virgin’s hymen must be offered up to Venus. But this will not in any way explain why the self-surrender must nearly always take place with a Stranger (ἀνδρὶ ξείνῳ) of all people in the world. Heyne34 and Fr. Jacobs35, who paid special attention to this custom, are it is true agreed in thinking that a religious motive lay at the bottom of it, though they differ in their conception of what it was; but neither of them hit on the right explanation. A careful distinction must be made between the Ceremony and the Act of the self-surrender. The first was a matter of religion, the second not; for the women were conveyed at Babylon outside the Temple-precincts, in Cyprus to the sea-shore, for the purpose of yielding their bodies to strangers36. Had the act been regarded at that period as a religious one, it would of necessity have been practised, as was the case before and again later, in the Temple or at least within its precincts, and of course with fellow-countrymen, strangers not being allowed to take part in any native religious practice.
The discrepancies however soon disappear if it is remembered that in Antiquity, as to this day amongst many savage peoples, not only was the menstrual blood (of which more fully later) held to be impure, but also the blood that flowed, when a virgin was deflowered, from the rupture of the hymen, and consequently the act of defloration as well. The same held good in the case of coition with widows, because it was believed that with them the menstrual blood accumulated in greater quantity, then was discharged on occasion of the first coition, and must necessarily cause injury to the man. This also explains why Herodotus (loco citato) says γυναῖκες (women) and not simply κόραι or παρθένοι (girls, virgins); and removes at once Heyne’s doubts (p. 32) and the difficulties raised by Heeren37.
The dwellers on the sea-coast, who enjoyed more active intercourse with the rest of the world, left to strangers the polluting act of defloration, whilst among inland peoples this office was undertaken for those of the higher classes38 by the priests, or else an idol, specially appropriated for the purpose, a Priapus or Lingam (see later) was employed. Subsequently several mistaken reasons may well have been alleged for the custom; the only idea that continued to be consistently held was that defloration was not a proper function of the bridegroom. It was rather made a matter of honour, and accordingly brides offered themselves first to the wedding-guests, as among the Nasomonians in Africa39 and in the Balearic Islands40, where the right of preference went by age.
We must then take into consideration several causal factors to help us to an explanation of the custom in question. The original motive may very well have been in every case the consecration of the maiden’s virginity to the goddess,41—Hieroduli (Temple hand-maids) in the earlier meaning. Further again the maiden was bound to pay her tribute to the goddess of sexual Pleasure42, so as to co-operate with the husband with a view to the procreation of children. Little by little the custom lost its purer character. After a time it ceased to be any longer one of universal obligation, and became binding only for the poorer classes, who found in it an opportunity of earning a dowry43 for their daughters. Meantime the rich adopted the habit of presenting female slaves to the temple of the goddess, thereby giving occasion for the establishment of the regular Hieroduli,—who subsequently grew into filles de joie in the proper sense, and laying the foundation of the brothel system (see later). Out of the idea of consecration was subsequently developed on the one hand that of initiation for the married state,—an idea found again in the “proof-nights” custom of the Middle Ages, and on the other the idea of bondage that grew into the “Jus primae noctis” (Right of first night).
As second factor then must be reckoned the belief in the harmfulness of the blood resulting from rupture of the hymen at defloration; and connected with this the actual injury that the man’s genital organs are occasionally exposed to in deflowering a maid with narrow vaginal orifice, or at any rate the effort necessarily called for to perforate the hymen, a motive not without actual weight amongst indolent Asiatics44. To this day the bridegroom at Goa gives thanks to the Priapus (Lingam), that has loosed his bride’s virgin-zone, with marks of the deepest adoration and gratitude for having performed this honourable service and so relieved him of a heavy task45.
For the maid defloration is yet more painful, and as she had to go through it once and once only with a stranger, she might readily get the idea that it was the stranger alone that was to blame; consequently that every surrender to a stranger must involve the same sufferings. This would deter her from a second experience of the kind, and all the more so because the subsequent embraces of the husband stirred in her only pleasurable sensations. So the wife had no inducement to break the marriage vow.
When and under what circumstances the cult of Venus first came into Greece can hardly be discovered, though indeed Pausanias states in the passage quoted above that it was Aegeus (Erechtheus) who brought it to Athens. For a long period it played only a subordinate part, being kept under by the primeval god Eros (Love)46. No doubt the physical element may have come in early times from abroad47, but before long the stamp of the spiritual was strongly impressed upon it (the Graces were added as handmaidens to Aphrodité!),—so strongly that the idea of the procreating power fell henceforth into the background, to give place to that of Love, an idea that was entirely foreign to Asia. The amalgamation of Eros and Aphrodité, who was now first hallowed by him, or as the poet puts it, now first brought forward into the assemblage (Order) of the Gods, came about so gradually and imperceptibly that it would hardly be possible to obtain a clear conception of the views of the Greeks on the point. In consequence of the growing intercourse with the peoples of Asia, and particularly the Phoenicians48, foreign customs and usages came to be introduced and adopted with ever increasing frequency; and during the flourishing period of Greece we see the Asiatic character of the Venus ritual come into ever greater prominence, and the goddess herself in a sense re-introduced. Especially was this the case in the Islands and the seaport-towns, where as a rule the worship of Aphrodité first arose. Hence she was entitled the goddess “born of the (Sea) Foam”, and temples were built to her as “Protectress of Havens.”49
But the Greek genius found this physical Cult too strongly opposed to its own spirit. The Greek could not bring it into unison with his Eros-worship; and accordingly distinguished his goddess, under the name of Aphrodité Urania (Heavenly Aphrodité)50, from that worshipped by other Peoples as Aphrodité Pandemos51 (Aphrodité Common to all Men). The latter was relegated to the Islands52, and particularly Cyprus; and never properly speaking became a national Deity.
It is very interesting as a general fact that the Venus Urania always belongs, so it appears, to the inland regions, the Venus Pandemos on the contrary to the sea-ports and islands53; for it was as a rule from East to West along the coast-lines that the Asiatic form of the Cult spread, a thing that could not have happened except through the instrumentality of a people early practising navigation, such as the Phoenicians.
It cannot fail to have an important bearing on our subject to make a more precise acquaintance with the geographical distribution of the Venus-cult. We propose to give here a brief enumeration of the localities where she had her temples. The passages in evidence for this will be found given with tolerable completeness in Manso,—p. 46, also pp. 158 sqq.
In Cyprus: at Paphos, whither came yearly a great concourse of people at the festival time54; in Pamphilia; in Asia Minor; along the Coast-line of the Aegean; in Caria (Cnidos); Halicarnassus; Miletus; Ephesus; Sardis; Pergamus; Pyrrha; Abydos (Aphrodité πόρνη—harlot); in Thessaly; at Tricca; in Boeotia, (Tanagra—on the Sea); in Attica, (Athens, Colias, Pera55, on the Cephissus); in the Islands of the Aegean Sea, (Ceos, Cos, Samos, where the temple was built from the earnings of the Hetaerae); in the Peloponnese: at Argolis, Epidaurus, Troezen, Hermioné, (was visited by maids and widows before their marriage); in Laconia, (Amyclae, Cythera); Arcadia, (Megalopolis, Tegea, Orcomenus); Elis, (Olympia, Elis); Achaia, (Patrae, Corinth); on the Coast of the Corinthian Gulf. From Greece we come to Sicily, where the temple of Venus on Mount Eryx was hardly inferior to that of Paphos, also at Syracuse56.
Not without importance for our purpose is the statement of Strabo57, that in the island of Cos in the temple of Aesculapius was an effigy of Venus Anadyomené (coming from the bath), while according to Pausanias58 in a wood near the temple of the same god at Epidaurus was built a chapel of Aphrodité, since very possibly this may throw some light on the question of the knowledge of complaints of the genital organs possessed by the physicians of Cos. Böttiger59 is of opinion that it was from the infirmaries and lazarettos of the Phoenicians that the earliest medical science of the Greeks was introduced—to the island of Cos; to Aegina, on the Peloponnesian coasts, especially at Epidaurus. Probably these establishments were originally under the protection of the national deity, until the latter was superseded by the god Aesculapius.
As regards the cult of Aphrodité itself and the manner in which it was celebrated in Greece, there appears to be a great lack of particulars capable of supplying a general knowledge of the subject, and especially so where the Pandemian Aphrodité is concerned. Accordingly we will limit ourselves here to mentioning the female Hieroduli60 who as bondswomen of Aphrodité dwelt within the precinct of her Temple, and performed the necessary observances in her honour. These were, as already pointed out, of Asiatic origin, and to be found in greater numbers particularly at Ameria61 and Comana62 in Pontus, where they united with the temple-service the traffic of their bodies, (τῶν ἐργαζομένων ἀπὸ τοῦ σώματος—of women who traffic with their body), just as in later times male Hieroduli gave up their persons for Paederastia.
When the cult of Venus came into Greece, the Hieroduli were introduced along with it. But they stripped off in Greece their Asiatic character, which they assumed again only in particular sea-port towns at the period of the decline of the moral greatness of the Nation, in places where the temple of Aphrodité Πόρνη (Harlot) was found. Specially was this so at Corinth63, in which city were more than a thousand female Hieroduli, who were presented as slaves to the Temple. These attracted a great concourse of strangers to the place, and in particular used to prey upon sea-faring visitors. Possibly however in this case as in others a confusion took place between the Hieroduli properly so-called and the Hetaerae (Lady-Companions), who were euphemistically entitled Priestesses, Handmaids of Aphrodité, because they were under the patronage of that goddess, just as in a general way sexual enjoyment was called an offering to Venus.
This would offer the best solution of the question, early debated, of the morality of the Hieroduli. It was quite opposed to Greek feeling to worship Aphrodité after the Asiatic manner in her temples; and so the Greek distinguished his Venus Urania from the Venus Pandemos, and on the same principle separated her temples into two categories, and made the temples of Aphrodité Pandemos, Porné and Praxis (Common to All, Harlot, Sexual Intercourse) into the οἰκήματα τῆς Ἀφροδίτης (houses of Aphrodité) serving as ordinary brothels, the latter being only intended for Foreigners originally.
How and under what form the cult of Venus came into Italy is uncertain, but the legend represents Aeneas as having brought it from Troy to Lavinium and Laurentum64, and already in the time of Romulus a Venus Myrtea (Venus of the Myrtle) was venerated at Rome. In addition a Venus Cloacina, Erycina, Victrix, and Verticordia (Venus—the Purifier, of Mount Eryx, of Victory, the Turner of Hearts) are mentioned, as also a Venus Calva (bald), whose worship King Ancus is said to have introduced, at a time when the Roman women had lost their hair through a plague and it had grown again by the help of Venus65. Not only are the notices as to Venus worship in Italy very scanty, but everything on the subject points to the fact that what there was of it in later times showed little of the Asiatic impress; and we can conveniently leave the matter where it is. Some questions belonging to the subject will be discussed later under the heading Brothels. In Spain too the worship of Venus was so unimportant that there is no need to enter more closely into the point.