Ancient History Competition 28

Which Roman author describes in detail the sexual encounter of Aphrodite’s statue with a homosexual man?

Economic historian and numismatic consultant


  1. Hmm, that should be Pliny the Elder, referring to the statue of Cnidian Aphrodite made by Praxiteles (Historia naturalis, 36.4.21). The story is reported also by Lucian (Imagines), pseudo-Lucian (Amores) and others.
    However, the homosexual part is a bit troubling.
    Might this be after all the other case of ‘agalmatophilia’ (again mentioned by Pliny) of Alketas the Rhodian, who left marks of his affection on the statue of Eros at Parium?

  2. Ha! You are right. I should not have used the word homosexual, since the Greeks and Romans were probably multisexual! Agalmatophilia is, though, a word I have not heard before. I am sure the readers will enjoy it and would like to know how it translates in English.

  3. Quoting from the article by A. Scobie (classicist) and A. J. W. Taylor (clinician), ‘Perversions ancient and modern: I. Agalmatophilia, the statue syndrome’, in the Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences, Vol. 11, Issue 1 (January 1975), 49-54:
    “Agalmatophilia is the pathological condition in which some people establish exclusive sexual relationships with statues”. The term derives of course from the Greek words ‘agalma’ (statue) and ‘philia’ (love); the definition can be also extended to dolls and mannequins!

    On a second thought, the description of pseudo-Lucian (Amores, 15-16) about the incident with the statue of Cnidian Aphrodite is rather the more detailed one.

  4. Richard von Krafft-Ebing refers to this classic case, and modern analogues, in Psychopathia Sexualis. See, for instance, the English translation on p. 396 in the text at

  5. And here’s a German text of that passage from an 1894 edition of Krafft-Ebing’s PP:

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