Famous Roman Painting of Priapus May Include Painful Penis Condition

In Depth

Uh-oh, it looks like not even gods of sex and virility can avoid problems in their dick game. New research speculates that a famous Pompeiian painting of Priapus depicts the deity not just packing a huge cock, but also strutting around with a painful and embarrassing medical condition.

Discovery has delved deep into issue, speaking to M.D. Francesco Maria Galassi, author of the recent paper. He speculates that the god in the fresco may be suffering from phimosis, an inability to retract the foreskin. Not only that, but he believes that Priapus’ phimosis (say that ten times fast) is of the highest grade, with his penis being shut all the way.

To be honest, it’s not that surprising that an ancient god would have a penis disorder (Zeus, who stuck his dick in anything that moved, and probably some things that didn’t, comes to mind). But it’s ironic that Priapus’ giant schlong might be afflicted with a condition that can contribute to infertility—probably the biggest problem for a fertility god to have.

So why is Priapus depicted with his portal of power shut tight? It might be that phimosis was common and men of the time were making offerings to the god in order to have it removed. This, says classical studies lecturer Jessica Hughes, might be the reason that phimosis was so often depicted on votives. (The condition can now be handled with steroids or circumcision, so you figure the Romans’ treatment options weren’t great.) In addition, Priapus’ phimosis may have been a way to show that gods had such power that they could overcome a condition that left mere mortals unable to conceive.

Image via Wikimedia Commons.

Contact the author at [email protected].

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