Who is Priapus in Greek Mythology?
Priapus, in Greek religion, was a deity of animal and vegetable fertility whose cult originated in the Hellespontine areas, particularly at Lampsacus. He was shown as a grotesquely malformed human caricature with a huge phallus. The ass was sacrificed in his honour, most likely because it represented lechery and was linked with the god’s sexual prowess.
His father was Dionysus, the wine god, and his mother was either a local nymph or Aphrodite, the goddess of love, according to Greek mythology. Priapus is distinguished by his erectile dysfunction, which gave birth to the medical name priapism. He became a prominent character in Roman sexual art and Latin literature, and he is the topic of the frequently amusingly filthy collection of poems known as the Priapeia.
You would think that applying your contemporary prism to the issue, Priapus, being the well-endowed god that he was, probably did well with the ladies. But you see, his massive organ wasn’t a genetic gift. Rather, it was but one symptom of a very permanent and very encompassing curse.
Yes, his appearance was overflowing with more virility than a stampede of marauding centaurs. But when it came to it, he became, shall we say, deflated. He was cursed with Impotence. However, because he was also cursed with an everlasting, throbbing erection, his penis only lost its vigour and drooped like a wilted stalk during moments of intimacy.
Priapus Attempt to Rape Hestia
A well-known instance in which Priapus is stricken with flaccidity is during his attempted rape of the goddess Hestia. Priapus came upon her while she was sleeping, but before he could consummate his surprise attack, the loud braying of a donkey took the wind out of his sails.
With his rape thwarted, as every attempt at intercourse was or will be, the incident left Priapus with a lasting hatred of donkeys. Because of this, those who sought to garner favour with the god sacrificed donkeys, knowing that killing them in the god’s honour would bring Priapus pleasure.
The Curse by Hera on Priapus
The most interesting telling of Priapus’ myth has him cursed by Hera while he’s nothing more than a helpless foetus in Aphrodite’s womb. Hera cursed him with an impish and lecherous mind, an unwieldy, ever-erect phallus cursed with impotence, and, for good measure, an all-around homely and misshapen look.
I mean, this is the same person that sent snakes to strangle an infant Hercules while he slept, so pulling out all the stops to exact revenge against something prenatal really shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise.
Under normal circumstances, you would think to yourself, “Woo! This is an abominable curse of unsurpassed wickedness. She must have a really good reason for unleashing it on a complete innocent.” But then you realized this is Hera we’re talking about, and while much of her ire is righteous indignation that blazed into existence from Zeus’ innumerable infidelities, she’s also vicious, vindictive, and perfectly capable of wanton cruelty for nothing more than minor slights, like the one I’m about to expound on.
Why did Hera Curse Priapus?
To understand why Hera cursed Priapus, you must look to what started the Trojan war. According to Greek myth, there was a divine party in which all the Greek gods were in attendance. A commotion at the door led to Eris, the goddess of discord, being turned around.
But before departing, Eris lobbed her gift into the mix where all the gods were hobnobbing. Her gift, a golden apple inscribed with the words, “to the fairest”, was claimed by three goddesses, Hera, Athena, and Aphrodite, who all quibbled, each one asserting that she was the most beautiful.
To have the matter adjudicated, it was brought before Paris who was chosen to act as arbiter and proclaim which of the three was the greatest beauty. Each of the goddesses sought to entice him, offering him bribes, but it was Aphrodite’s proposition, which was the love of the most beautiful woman in all the world, that won out.
And from this decision came two events: the trojan war was started, and Priapus was loaded up with more curses than a voodoo doll stabbed-full of needles.
Things didn’t improve after Priapus was born. The other gods didn’t think he met local standards, meaning they didn’t like his face, so he was thrown off Mt. Olympus. He landed on a hillside where he was found and raised by shepherds.
When he was older, Priapus linked up with Pan, the god of the wilds, shepherds, and flocks, and a gaggle of cavorting satyrs. And so, he capered around, frolicking in the forest, losing his stiffness at the cusp of penetration, until the end of his days.
Art Credit: Wikimedia.