The head of Bulgaria's National History Museum has announced that an ancient temple dedicated to the Greek penis-god Priapus, was unearthed in the Black Sea town of Sozopol.
According to Sofia Globe, National History Museum chief Bozhidar Dimitrov, said that archaeologists found a clay phallus dedicated "to Priapus," during a dig in the Black Sea town already famous on the archaeological world map for its claim of relics such as the hand bones of John the Baptist, and the great temple of Poseidon.
Gadling notes the special propensity of Bulgaria for weird archaeological finds including graves of vampires.
According to Sofia Globe, Dimitrov speaking to reporters, referred to the well-known mythical story of Priapus and the donkey. He related the version of the Greek myth which says that the donkey disputed that he was better endowed that Priapus, but lost the dispute and was punished by crucifixion in sacrifice to the god. God Discussion reports a better known version of the story:
"Priapus gave rise to a genre of poetry collectively termed Priapeia…In Ovid's Fasti the nymph Lotis fell into a drunken slumber at a feast, and Priapus seized this opportunity to advance upon her…just before he could embrace her, Silenus's donkey alerted the party with "raucous braying". Lotis awoke and pushed Priapus away…To punish the donkey for spoiling his opportunity, Priapus bludgeoned it to death with his gargantuan phallus…Ovid's anecdote served to explain why donkeys were sacrificed to ."Sofia Globe reports that the cult of Priapus was believed to have originated along the coast of Asia Minor. The god was associated with sexual potency and sensual pleasure. Men with STDs and erectile dysfunction made votive offerings to the deity. Argophilia.com reports that men offered clay models of the phallus to the god in the hope of receiving blessings.
According to God Discussion, like all other penis-gods, Priapus was also associated with the fertility and regenerative powers of nature. He was thus the patron saint of gardens, cultivated lands and other open places where a scarecrow-like figure of him would be placed as warning to thieves. The pagan god was also closely associated with the practice of crucifixion in punishment of criminals.God Discussion provides a fascination discussion of the intermingling of the Christian crucifixion tradition with the mythological traditions of the Greek 'penis-god' Priapus:
Probably the most interesting allusion to the Ancient Roman procedure for impaling criminals on a stake, to which Meissner refers, comes from a text by Horatius Flaccus (Horace) (65-8 BCE) in his Satyrarum libri (1.8.1-7), in which Priapus, the executioner of criminals, speaks of himself:
"When the artificer, in doubt whether he should make a stool or a Priapus of me, determined that I should be a God. Henceforward I became a God, the greatest terror of thieves and birds: for my right hand restrains thieves, and a bloody looking pole on my frightful middle: but a reed fixed upon the crown of my head terrifies the mischievous birds, and hinders them from settling in these new garden."Meissner directs our attention to the scarecrow "reed fixed upon the crown of my head…" as bearing an "uncanny" similarity to the "crown of thorns" the Gospel accounts say was fixed upon Jesus' head at execution....
A very interesting piece of corroborating evidence that criminals were typically impaled by Roman executioners on a pointed crux/stauros comes from a graffito Meissner refers us to and described by Dr Tim Moore of the University of Texas:
"Graffito depicting a crucifixion, from the Palatine Hill, Rome, first half of 3rd cent. AD. The crude graffito shows a crucifix with a donkey's head…To the left stands a man with… his arm raised. Between the two figures is a Greek graffito: “Alexemenos sebete theon” (Alexamenos worships his god). Apparently, the author of the drawing is making fun of a Christian, Alexamenos, who is praying to a god with a donkey's head. The Y visible on the plaster, to the right, at the top, has been interpreted as a symbol of a gallows, or a transcription of a scream of pain. This is one of the oldest representations of the crucifixion."
According to Sofia Globe, Priapus' "place in popular legend [was] enhanced by mentions in the Satyricon by Petronius, in the works of Ovid, and in Chaucer."
Sofica Globe also reports that discoveries of temples dedicated to Priapus are very rare because the god was a minor deity. Argophilia.com, however, reports that he was a patron deity for sailors, which may explain the discovery at Sozopol, which was a thriving port during Roman times.