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The explosive history of the 2,000-year-old Pompeii ‘masturbating’ man

The Explosive History of the 2000-Year-Old Pompeii 'Masturbating' Man

Around 1870, Giuseppe Fiorelli introduced a method that provided for making a cast of liquid plaster in the cavities left by the bodies decomposed in the volcanic material left at Pompeii. Credit: Parco Archeologico di Pompeii

If you were suddenly frozen in time, there are a few things (I can imagine) that you’d rather not get caught. This is the unfortunate fate that many believe befell the “masturbating man” of Pompeii.

In 79 BCE, the ancient Roman city of Pompeii was buried in the volcanic ash of Vesuvius, a volcano in the Italian Gulf of Naples. The bodies of more than 1,000 residents were frozen at the time of the eruption, including one suspected of having its own eruption at the time.

The plaster cast of this 2000-year-old man can still be seen, clutching himself tightly with his right hand. The photo was initially shared on Pompeii Archaeological Park’s Instagram in 2017 and quickly exploded across the internet. The masturbating man became an immortal meme.

But was this guy really caught getting a boner while the volcano was heating up?

The Horny City of Pompeii

Pompeii is remembered as a place of surprising generosity. Tourists continue to flock to the ruins of this once vibrant city, often shocked by the number of stone phalluses carved into the pavement and walls (some even hanging invitingly over doorways and ovens).

Stories have been doing the rounds. These phalluses served as an early form of advertising; if you follow the direction of the shafts, it is claimed, you’d be at the nearest brothel – “penis pointers,” if you will.

Such establishments were popular in Pompeii. Prostitution was not only legal, but was widely regarded as the social norm for men (and, in some cases, wealthier women) to frequent such establishments.

Sexuality and sexual behavior did not carry the same shameful stigmas that we know today. As far as we can understand, sexual behavior was considered no different from other physical behaviors, such as eating and defecating; it also came up with its own social rules about the acceptable ways to engage in the behavior, but it was otherwise considered an immutable aspect of human life.

One brothel in town remains open to customers today (albeit of the tourist variety, rather than the one it was originally built for). The Lupanar of Pompeii began to be excavated in 1862. This two-storey establishment is of particular interest to the curious traveler for the erotic (and generally humorous) graffiti and artwork found within.

More than 150 of the scribbles on the walls have now been translated for the general public, including Hic ego puellas multas futui (“Lots of girls poked here”) and Felix bene futuis (“Lucky dude, you’re getting a good fuck”). The art throughout the establishment is equally captivating and clears any doubt that people have experimented with positions and their bodies since ancient times.

As for our penis pointers, it’s much more likely that these phalluses in ancient Rome were in fact powerful symbols rather than advertisers for their beloved brothels.

They acted as an emblem of good fortune and protection that could ward off the malicious visitors and the evil eye. The prominence given to the penis at the time might explain why our infamous man was so eager to protect it from the explosion.

Unfortunately, the real explanation is not so nice.

The Explosive History of the 2000-Year-Old Pompeii 'Masturbating' Man

The Lupanar of Pompeii is the ruins of a brothel in the ancient Roman city of Pompeii. Credit: Wikimedia Commons

What really happened to the masturbating guy?

As the masturbating man exploded on the internet, experts were asked to guess what they really believed had happened.

Along with the other victims who lived around Vesuvius, this man was killed by a hot pyroclastic wave

The effect this heat has on the body is responsible for the flexion of arms and limbs. This effect occurs not only during a collision, but also after death, meaning the bodies remain Change position after death.

This is believed to be why many of the bodies – not just our masturbating man – have been found in strange poses, many of which look as if they are gripping or groping parts of their bodies.

What happened to the people of Pompeii is a real tragedy that still affects us centuries later. If there’s a silver lining to this undying devastation, it’s that the effects of the disaster have given us unprecedented access to the ancient world.

The history of Pompeii has remained a point of academic interest, especially for those curious minds interested in the history of human sexuality. And, as far as we can estimate, its treasures are far from completely uncovered.


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Provided by The Conversation


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Quote: The Explosive History of the 2000-Year-Old Pompeii ‘Masturbating’ Man (2022, June 14) Retrieved June 14, 2022 from https://phys.org/news/2022-06-explosive-history-year-old-pompeii – masturbate.html

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