10 Bizarre Sex Facts From The Ancient World
Sex has fascinated mankind from the very beginning. While most conservatives argue that sex has become too central in today’s liberal-minded society, a far cry from the pious nature of our ancient forebears, some of the sexual practices of the ancients were too bizarre even for our modern standards.
The ancient pre-Islamic Arabs were into a strange custom known as wife lending. This custom was not merely for gaining political or economic leverage—it served as an early form of eugenics. It was practiced mostly by families of low rank who wanted more prestigious offspring to ennoble their line. But husbands didn’t lend their wives to just anyone. Only men of distinction who possessed desirable attributes were allowed to have sex with another man’s wife. The goal: to impregnate her. Children born out of this custom were considered the children of the husband, not the biological father.
Lending one’s wife was pretty straightforward: The husband would simply send her to the home of the chosen man, where she would stay until she got pregnant, whether it took days or months. However, in order for the husband to claim that the child born from the union was his, he must abstain from sex during the time his wife lived with the other man. If the husband was able to contain himself during that time, the child was considered his in the eyes of the community.
Pederasty was big in ancient Greece. In a time when universities and schools were not yet thought of, tutoring by way of pederasty was the primary form of educating the youth and passing on important manly skills, like hunting and warfare. For the ancient Cretans, however, pederasty was less academic and more along the lines of pseudo-rape, kidnapping, and a romantic camping getaway.
Since the Greeks, especially the Cretans, were heavily into theater, the courtship phase of the whole affair was highly ritualized, and any deviation from it was strongly condemned. It went like this.
A Cretan man (an erastes), having sighted a potential lover, would first notify the boy’s friends that he intended to have the boy (the eromenos) as his lover. This formal proposal was necessary in order to give the boy an opportunity to hide if he did not want the man, or to prepare himself for what came next. After several days had elapsed, the erastes would then seek out the eromenos and kidnap him in the presence of his friends; they, in turn, would give chase and try to retrieve their friend. The chase was only considered over when the eromenos was taken to the kidnapper’s andreion (common mess).
With this part of the “courtship” done, the erastes would then take the eromenos to the countryside so that they could have some quality time together. It was common practice to have the boy’s friend come along as well. The time away from civilization was spent in masculine pursuits like hunting, feasting, fishing, and sex. However, the whole romantic getaway was only allowed to last for a couple of months; anything more meant severe censure.
Upon their return, the eromenos was then presented by his erastes with expensive gifts, which usually included a soldier’s uniform, oxen, a drinking cup, and fine clothes. A sacrifice to Zeus with the gifted ox was required, followed by a feast for family, friends, and all those who took part in the kidnapping ceremony. After this was done, the boy became a parastathentes and was given great honors by society. As the Greek historian Strabo noted, “They have the foremost places at the dances and races, and are allowed clothing superior to everybody else’s—the clothing given them by their lovers.” Boys who were not parastathentes were considered of lesser stature by the public and were thought to have possessed some failing in character that men found off-putting.
8Sex Without Ejaculating
Taoism is centered upon the belief of qi (or chi), the life force that is within everything in existence. Taoist philosophy generally divides qi into two—yin and yang (positive and negative energy)—and it is in maintaining balance between the two forces that one can achieve perfect spiritual harmony and physical well-being. When it comes to the human body, the chi takes the form of jing (the essence that gives us life) and Taoists believe that the loss of jing may cause illness and even death when it becomes totally expended.
Of all the substances in the body, the one that is said to contain the most jing is the semen. This belief led the ancient practitioners of Taoism to believe that a man should not lose too much of his semen. Due to this, ancient Chinese men were advised to not ejaculate during sex. Since jing is the essence that gives life, you wouldn’t want to lose too much of it. However, there is a twist to this whole philosophy: One of the most effective ways to get more jing was to have more sex, especially with beautiful virgins. Thus, ancient Chinese were compelled to have more sex, but to not ejaculate while they were doing it.
7Fellatio Comes From The Gods
The earliest account of fellatio dates back to the ancient Egyptian myth of the resurrection of Osiris. The story goes that Osiris was killed by his brother, Seth, who chopped him to pieces and scattered him all over the world. Isis, Osiris’s sister-wife, embarked on a dangerous journey to collect all of Osiris’s pieces in order to bring him back to life, but, regrettably, she was unable to find his penis. Not wanting to surrender her lover to the shadows of death, she fashioned a penis for him out of clay and blew life back into Osiris. Perhaps it is due to this religious tradition that fellatio was not viewed as morally abhorrent to the ancient Egyptians. In fact, it was the Egyptians, along with the ancient Phoenicians, who were among the first to use red lipstick as a way to advertise their expertise in giving oral pleasure.
Unlike the Egyptians, however, the ancient Romans were strongly against fellatio, seeing it as a vice worse than anal sex. There was even a widespread belief among the Romans that fellators (the ones giving) had bad breath. Roman society’s loathing for fellators was so high that most Romans would not even dare have a known fellator as a dinner guest. This practice of shunning known fellators might have been aggravated by the fact that the Roman form of social greeting, or salute, was a kiss on the lips.
But while giving received a bad rap, the Romans had no problem with the one receiving it. In fact, Romans were known to have their slaves or prostitutes give them fellatio.
We have already covered in an earlier list the ancient Egyptian’s bizarre creation myth involving their god Atum (or Ra, depending on the myth). In the myth, the universe started as a black primordial chaotic soup, but out of nothingness an egg was formed. Out of this egg sprung the god Atum. Apparently, the first thing Atum did upon gaining sentience was masturbate, and from his semen came forth the race of gods who helped him create and rule over the universe. The idea that ejaculation was the driving force of creation was so central to the ancient Egyptian society that they even associated the ebb and flow of the Nile with Atum’s godly act.
Since the ancient Egyptians believed that the Pharaoh was the representative of their god Ra to the world, it was his job to help the gods maintain balance. One of the onerous jobs he had to perform each year was the ritual re-enactment of Atum’s act of creation to help Atum maintain the life-giving force of the Nile and keep it flowing. During the feast of the god Nim, the Pharaoh, along with the public, would go down to the shores of the Nile to perform this very important and holy rite.
The Pharaoh would walk to the edge of the river bank, disrobe, and masturbate, with particular emphasis on making his semen fall in the river and not on land. Afterward, all the men who came along for the ceremony would do the same thing. By so doing, they ensured that the life-giving force of the river blessed their kingdom, securing a bountiful harvest for another year.
The oldest sex toy ever found was a stone dildo dated to around 26,000 years ago. But how prevalent was the use of sex toys in ancient civilizations? It seems “very” is the answer. A fabulous account coming from Egypt tells us that Cleopatra was the first ever to use a vibrator. Not satisfied with the usual dildo, Cleopatra was said to have a vibrator made using a hollow gourd filled with live bees. Though the veracity of this tale may be debatable, it’s well known that Egyptians were into their toys.
The ancient Greeks and Romans also liked their dildos and even put some effort into improving them. Finding that the texture of wood or stone dildos wasn’t real enough, they had leather sheaths put on them to better simulate the feeling of an actual penis. These leather-sheathed dildos (known as olisbos) were so popular that, in the play Lysistrata, the Greek women staged a sex strike to end the Peloponnesian War partly because they could no longer import good leather dildos. If a leather-sheathed dildo didn’t do the trick, the ancient Greeks simply baked loaves of really hard bread called olisbokollikes and used those instead.
4Top And Bottom
Homosexuality, in today’s society, is largely defined as the sexual attraction toward the same sex. The ancient Greeks and Romans, however, did not share this concept. In fact, our idea of same-sex sexual behavior is so different from theirs that there is no direct Latin or ancient Greek word for “homosexual.” Some people may argue that “arsenokoites” is Greek for “gay,” but most scholars agree that the word was first recorded in the Bible, and it’s unlikely that it was used to designate homosexuality in the modern sense.
Back then, gay sex raised no eyebrows as long as it did not stray from their cultural views on masculinity. Due to this concept, a masculine man must always take the dominant role when it comes to sex. It was all right to have gay relationships as long as there was no penetration involved or you were the one doing the penetrating. However, this liberality toward gay sex did not extend to the passive partner. To be the bottom guy was something abominable in the eyes of our ancient forebears, for it meant that he had surrendered control and was taking on a feminine role.
Back then, calling someone gay was not considered derogatory, but to call someone a bottom (“cinaedus” or “exoletus“) was one of the worst insults a man could give.
Mayan nobles were very hands-on when it came to raising their sons. They considered it part of a parent’s obligation to not only provide their boys with financial and emotional support, but also to cater to their sexual needs. When sons of noble families reached adolescence, their parents would look for the most handsome youth from commoner families to be their son’s sexual partner before marriage.
Ancient Mayan mythology attributes the introduction of homosexuality to their god Chin, a dwarfish-looking nature spirit. Chin was said to have sodomized a demon to demonstrate to the Mayans how gay sex is done and allowed the nobles to have sex with those from a lower rank. This union between the boys was considered akin to an actual marriage and was acknowledged under their tribal laws. Young Mayan men even lived with each other until they married at around the age of 20. This practice was so widespread that one missionary who went there wrote that sodomy was one of their greatest sins.
Although homosexual relationships between boys were accepted, even encouraged, the sons of nobles were barred from being sodomized. The penalty for that was equivalent to that of rape.
The writer Herodotus had a lot to say about the Assyrians, and one thing he focused on was their prostitution rituals. While there isn’t any evidence to back up his claims, he wrote that, in ancient Assyria, it was not only legal but mandatory for all unmarried women to prostitute themselves. The Assyrians were very devoted to the Cult of Aphrodite, or Mylitta (Ishtar), as the Assyrians called her. They believed that in order for a woman to receive her grace, she must have sex with a stranger in Aphrodite’s temple. Every woman in the Assyrian empire, from the highest member of society down to the lowest, had to present herself at least once in her lifetime to the temple of Aphrodite for this sacred rite.
A woman taking part had to wear a crown of cords on her head to distinguish herself from other women who were not participating. She then sat on the temple steps—or on the sacred plot of Aphrodite—to await the attention of customers. The women had to accept the first man who came along.
This ancient religious practice drew in a considerable crowd of interested men. Once a man found a woman he liked, he would toss money onto her lap and say, “I demand thee in the name of Mylitta.” After they performed the ritual intercourse, the woman was deemed holy in the eyes of the goddess and could no longer be forced or bribed for sex.
The Greek historian Herodotus noticed the drawback of this ritual, remarking that the tall and fair women got to go home first, but the ugly ones usually had to stay behind much longer, sometimes for years.
The practice of having sex with animals is as ancient as it gets. A carving on a bone rod dated to be 25,000 years old shows a lioness licking the opening of either a huge penis or a vagina. Another early depiction of bestiality was a picture of a man having sex with a donkey found on a cave painting in Italy from the seventh century B.C. Bestiality in ancient times was common enough that even the Bible had to mention it specifically, promising death for those who were caught.
The ancient Romans brought bestiality to an art form. Roman women were known to have kept snakes for sexual purposes. Bestiality was even a center of attraction at the Coliseum and the Circus Maximus, where men and women were brought in to be raped by animals.
Unlike the ancient Romans, however, who practiced bestiality for pleasure or entertainment, the ancient Greeks were into bestiality for religious reasons, turning it into a central rite during the Bacchanalia and part of the ceremony at the Temple of Aphrodite Parne. But, according to ancient writers, the Egyptians might have taken the bestial cake. It was said that there was nothing more common in ancient Egypt than young women having intercourse with bucks. According to Herodotus, goats were said to be part of the religious practice in the Temple at Mendes. Crocodiles were not even excused when it came to bestiality—ancient Egyptian crocodile hunters supposedly had sex with female crocodiles before killing them.
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