Hidden Sexuality of the Ancients

With regard to their attitude towards sexuality, the Greeks, Etruscans, and Romans fundamentally different from today’s Christian-occidental, Jewish or Islamic world. For a long time, classical studies avoided the subject; today it is a natural topic of research.

Eroticism and sexuality were present in all areas of ancient life. Be it at a banquet, at sports in the palaestra, on walls or in the gardens of Roman villas, in the Lupanar (brothel), in temples or even in the grave – everywhere there were pictures or allusions with a sexual connotation, depictions of genitalia, symbols of fertility and lust.

Even children were adorned with phallic amulets around their necks as talismans. Ancient literature dealt with the subject in all imaginable facets. The Ars Armatoria (Art of Love) by the Roman author Ovid is one of the most subtle poems on the subject ever written.

“Nay, seeing how very beautiful you are, I won’t deny you a few frailties. But what I don’t want, and can’t stand, is to know about them.” – Ovid, Ars Armatoria, Elegy XIV, ‘To His Mistress’

In the Archaeological National Museum of Naples, objects with erotic content from Pompeii and Herculaneum were collected in a room with limited access for centuries, known as the Gabinetto Segreto (secret cabinet).

In 1849, the collection was bricked off and remained off limits to women, youngsters, and the general public. For a century and a half the collection remained out of sight, it was only opened to the public in 2000 and moved into a separate gallery in 2005.

Some of the most famous objects in the former secret collection of the Naples Museum are the ‘Satyr Pan Copulating With Goat’ and the ‘Venus Kallipygos’ (Venus with the lovely ass); the museum also hold one of the world’s most famous collection of assorted Roma terra cotta penises – in Roman times, they were used for good luck, obviously.

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Strabo, in his Geographica, described the Irish as man-eaters who had sex with their mothers and sisters.

Hummingbirds, bees and ants spend 80% of their day doing absolutely nothing.

Religion was illegal in Albania until 1990.

Napoleon had a naked statue of himself commissioned, with a strategically placed leaf hiding his manhood. The British Government later purchased the item and presented it to Wellington.

There are more Irish in New York City than in Dublin, Ireland; more Italians in New York City than in Rome, Italy; and more Jews in New York City than in Tel Aviv, Israel.

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The official US State sport of South Dakota, Wyoming and Texas is Rodeo.

“Waltzing Matilda” is not about dancing, nor about a girl called Matilda. It is Aussie slang for drifting around the outback on foot with a bedroll – your ‘matilda’ – slung around your shoulder.

The Greeks introduced the olive to Italy around 600 BCE.

The 1982 American comedy series Police Squad!, which starred Leslie Nielsen and was produced by ABC, was cancelled after just six episodes. Then-ABC entertainment president Tony Thomopoulos said “Police Squad! was cancelled because the viewer had to watch it in order to appreciate it.” What Thomopoulos meant was that the viewer had to actually pay close attention to the show in order to get much of the humour, while most other TV shows did not demand as much effort from the viewer. In its annual Cheers and Jeers issue, TV Guide magazine quite rightly called the explanation for the cancellation “the most stupid reason a network ever gave for ending a series.”

Catherine the Great was famous for making five mistakes in a word containing only three letters. Not being a native Russian speaker, she once misspelled the word ‘eщё’ as ‘истчо’.

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All the carrots in the world originally came from Afghanistan.

Carrot diversity

A variety of carrots

According to the Bible, Solomon had 700 wives and 300 concubines. (I Kings 11:3)

The poet AE Housman (1859-1936) kept a notebook in which he jotted down useful insults and unpleasant remarks that occurred to him.

Advertisements for wristwatches almost always show the time as ten past ten.

In the 1850’s, the term bunga bunga was the name given by local natives to a location near Moreton Bay on the eastern coast of Australia. In present day Italy, the definition of bunga bunga ranges from ‘a sort of underwater orgy where nude young women encircle the nude host in a swimming pool’ to ‘an African-style ritual performed for male spectators by twenty naked young women’. In the Malaysian Malay language, bunga-bunga means flowers; it is the plural form of bunga which means flower. The similar phrase bonggang-bongga is Tagalog slang for something fashionable. In Indonesian language it means ‘a field of flowers’.

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Avernus or Lago d’Averno is a lake of Campania, Italy. To be more precise, it is an old volcanic crater 2 km (1.2 mi) in circumference which has been filled with water at least since Roman times.

Lake Avernus or lago d'Averno

Lake Avernus or lago d’Averno

In ancient times it was surrounded by dense forests, and was the centre of many legends.

It was represented as the entrance by which both Odysseus and Aeneas descended to the infernal regions, the entrance to Hades.

It was also thought to be the abode of the Cimmerii – an ancient people of the far north or west of Europe, first spoken of by Homer who describes them as living in perpetual darkness.

It was also believed that all birds flying over lake Avernus were destined to fall dead because of the toxic fumes that mouths of the crater gave off into the atmosphere. It is unclear whether the lake actually was as deadly as its reputation held it to be – it certainly holds no fears for birds today.

Despite the alleged dangers of the lake, the Romans were happy to settle its shores, on which villas and vineyards were established. In fact, general Hannibal visited the lake in 214 BC.

The lake was owned by the Bourbon rulers of Naples and ceded in 1750 to an aristocratic family which sold up in 1991 to the Cardillo family. In 2010 the lake was confiscated by the police after the owner was accused of being a mafia frontman.

Principality of Seborga

The Principality of Seborga is a micronation located in the north-western Italian Province of Imperia in Liguria. The principality is in coexistence with, and claims the territory of, the town of Seborga, which is an Italian municipality.

Italiano: Bandiera del Principato di Seborga

The flag of The Principality of Seborga

During the Middle Ages it became part of the feudal holdings of the Counts of Ventimiglia. By 954 it became the property of the Benedictine Monks of Santo Onorato of Lerins. In 1079 the Abbot of this monastery was made a Prince of the Holy Roman Empire, with temporal authority over the Principality of Seborga.

On 20 January 1729, this independent principality was sold to the Savoy dynasty’s Kingdom of Piedmont-Sardinia, then ruled by Victor Amadeus II.

The argument for Seborga’s present-day status as an independent state is founded on the claim that this sale was never registered by its new owner, resulting in the principality falling into what has been described as a legal twilight zone.

Subsequently, in 1815, the Congress of Vienna overlooked Seborga in its redistribution of European territories after the Napoleonic Wars, and there is no mention of Seborga in the Act of Unification for the Kingdom of Italy in 1861.

Palace of the government

The Palace of the government of Seborga

In the early 1960s, Giorgio Carbone, then head of the local flower-growers co-operative, began promoting the idea that Seborga retained its historic independence as a principality. By 1963 the people of Seborga were sufficiently convinced of these arguments to elect Carbone as their Head of State. He then assumed the self-styled title Giorgio I, Prince of Seborga, which he held until his death in 2009.

Carbone’s status as Prince was confirmed on 23 April 1995, when, in an informal referendum, Seborgans voted 304 in favour, 4 against, for the Principality’s constitution, and in favour of independence from Italy. Carbone reigned until his death on 25 November 2009.

At present, Italy does not recognize the principality and considers Seborga a part of its territory. Italy also has not explicitly challenged the evidence laid out by Carbone due to lack of evidence on their part. Meanwhile the government of Italy provides all services for the citizens of Seborga, which implies the power of Italy over the principality.

In general, Seborgans do not object against Italian governance in the area.They still receive services from Italy and participate in the activities of the Italian government.

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Lederhosen and Inverted Snobbery‏

Lederhosen are breeches made of leather; they may be either short or knee-length. Formerly, lederhosen were worn for hard physical work; they were more durable than a fabric garment and easier to clean. Today, they are mostly worn as leisure wear.

Knopflatz Lederhose, a traditionnal german lea...

A so-called Knopflatz Lederhose

Lederhosen were once widespread among Germanic men of the Alpine and surrounding regions, including Bavaria, Austria, and the German-speaking part of Italy’s province of South Tyrol, but they were not usually worn in south-western Germany or Switzerland.

The popularity of lederhosen in Bavaria dropped sharply in the 19th century. They began to be considered as uncultured peasants’ clothing that was not fitting for modern city-dwellers. However, in the 1880s a resurgence set in, and several clubs were founded in Munich and other large cities devoted to preserving traditional rural clothing styles. After this time, traditional wear such as the lederhosen became an object of inverted snobbery as the upper classes began to hold festivities in a remade traditional atmosphere and dressed up as peasants.

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