From the #HistoryOfUs series: Satyr and Hermaphrodite, 2nd century
Sex & sexuality is a topic – confusing, fascinating and awesome in equal measure.
Many cultures throughout history have been more open-minded than you might think.
In Ancient Rome, for example, you could demonstrate good taste and a sophisticated mindset by putting a statue of an hermaphrodite in your garden, preferably depicted in an erotically charged situation.
Often the statue was carefully positioned to get a reaction from guests when they discovered the hermaphrodite's unexpected male genitalia.
Much like the Satyr in this scene, who first has to deal with an unexpected discovery (oops, that's not a woman, and she isn't defenselesse either) and then with the tight grip of his opponent. Suddenly he is less certain about where he wants this encounter to go.
The hermaphrodite, with a somewhat ambiguous smile...
...and slightly-less-ambiguous leg brace, seems determined to take things to the next level.
What does this tell us about power, sexual identity and gender? Here we have two hybrid beings, human and animal in the Satyr, man and woman in Hermaphrodite, engaged in an erotic struggle.
... a fight that reminds us of the origin of the hermaphrodite: According to legend, Hermaphroditos was once a young demigod, son of Hermes and Aphrodite.
...until the water nymph Salmakis fell in love with him so hard she prayed to be joined with him forever. Her wish was fulfilled.
Whether the end result was quite what she had in mind we’ll never know.
Satyr and Hermaphrodite by UnknownAltes Museum, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin
Staatliche Museen zu Berlin – Preußischer Kulturbesitz