Online Encyclopedia

PRIAPUS

Online Encyclopedia
Originally appearing in Volume V22, Page 313 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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PRIAPUS, in Greek mythology, son of Dionysus (or Adonis or Hermes) and Aphrodite (or Chione). He is unknown to Homer and Hesiod. The chief seat of his worship was the coast of the Hellespont, especially at Lampsacus, which claimed to be his birthplace. Thence his cult extended to Lydia, and by way of the islands of Lesbos and Thasos to the whole of Greece (especially Argolis), whence it made its way to Italy, together with that of Aphrodite. Priapus is the personification of the fruit-fulness of nature. Sailors invoked him in distress and fishermen prayed to him for success. He gradually came to be regarded as the god of sensuality. His symbol was the phallus, an emblem of productivity and a protection against the evil eye. The first fruits of the gardens and fields, goats, milk and honey, and occasionally asses, were offered to him. He was sometimes represented as an old man, with a long beard and large genitals, wearing a long Oriental robe and a turban or garland of vine-leaves, with fruit and bunches of grapes in his lap. Amongst the Romans, rough wooden images, after the manner of the hermae, with phallus stained with vermilion, were set up in gardens. His image was placed on tombs, as symbolizing the doctrine of regeneration and a future life, and his name occurs on sepulchral inscriptions. In his hand he carried a bill-hook or club, while a reed on his head, shaking backwards and forwards in the wind, acted as a scarecrow.
End of Article: PRIAPUS
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