This section is from the book "Aphrodisiacs And Anti-Aphrodisiacs", by John Davenport. Also available from Amazon: Love Stimulants, Aphrodisiacs and Anti-aphrodisiacs.
Among the ancients, as well as among many modern nations, the laws of chastity and the restraints of honour appeared scarcely sufficient to hinder the sexes from uniting, in spite of all the obstacles opposed by a vigilant watch and strict seclusion. ‡ Indeed, what Roman virgin could entertain very strict ideas of modesty while she saw the goddess of love honoured in the temple, or the amours of Venus and Mars celebrated, while the poor cuckolded Vulcan, after seizing the amorous couple in his net, was only thereby exposed to the ridicule of the Olympic Divinities. There can be little doubt but that excess of this description bastardized and corrupted the ancient Greeks and Romans, and that recourse was necessarily had to the fibula when the deities themselves set the example. Of what use, indeed, could be the moral lessons of a Plato or a Socrates, even when enforced by infibulation, if vice was thus sanctioned by divine example ? The only aim of such a state of things was to vanquish obstacles.
The art of eluding nature was studied, marriage was despised, notwithstanding the edicts of Augustus against bachelors; the depopulated republic wallowed in the most abandoned lust, and, as a natural consequence, the individual members of it became corrupted and enervated from their very infancy.
The infibulation of boys, sometimes on account of their voice, and not unfrequently, to prevent masturbation, was performed by having the prepuce drawn over the glans; it was then pierced, and a thick thread was passed through it, remaining there until the cicatrizing of the hole; when that took place, a rather large ring was then substituted, which was not removed but with the permission of the party ordering the operation.* The Romans infibulated their singers in order to preserve their voice:
* Odyssey VIII. line 477.
‡ Annals of Gallantry.
"Si gaudet cantu; nullius fibula durat Vocem vendentis praetoribus." † "But should the dame in music take delight, The public singer is disabled quite; In vain the praetor guards him all he can, She slips the buckle (fibula) and enjoys her man." They even subjected to the same operation most of their actors:
"Solvitur his magno cornoedi fibula. Sunt, quae Chrysogonum cantare vetent."‡ "Take from Chrysogonus the power to sing, Loose, at vast prices, the comedian's ring." "Dic mihi, simpliciter, comoedis et citharoedis, Fibula, quod prastat? . . . carius ut futuunt. § "Tell me, clasp! frankly, of what advantage are you to actresses and lute-players? To enhance their favours." "Menophili, penem tarn grandis fibula vestit Ut sit comoedis omnibus, una satis.
* Celsus has described the operation, in detail. Medicina, lib. VII. c. 25.
† Juvenal, Sat. VI. v. 379-80.
‡ Ibid., v. 73-74.
§ Martialis, lib. XIV. Ep. 215.
Hunc ego credideram (nam saepe lavamur in unum).
Sollicitum voci parcere, Flacce, suae;
Dum ludit media populo spectante palaestra, Delapsa est misero, fibula; verpus erat,"* "Una si gran fibula copre il membro di Menofila, che sola basterebbe a tutti i commenianti. Io O Flacco, avevo creduto (imperocche si siamo sovente lavati insieme) che esso sollecito avesse cura delle sua voce; lotta in mezzo la palestra a vista del popolo, la fibula casco allo sventvrato; era un' inciso".
Nor were dancers and gladiators exempted from the same operation, especially the latter, in order that they might preserve all the vigour required in their horrible and degrading occupation.
The best description of the fibula is that given by Holiday: "The fibula," says he, "does not strictly signifie a button, but also a buckle or clasp, or such like stay. In this place, the poet expresses by it the instrument of servilitie applied to those that were employed to sing upon the stage; the Praetor who set forth playes for the delight of the people, buying youths for that purpose, and that they might not, by lust, spoil their voice, their overseers closed their shame with a case of metal having a sharp spike of the same metal passing by the side of it, and sometimes used one of another form; or by a nearer crueltie, they thrust a brazen or silver wire thought that part which the Jew did lose in circumcision.
"The form of the first, and also another fashion, the curious reader may here see (being without any immodestie) as they are represented by Pignerius, de servis, p. 82. But whatsoever the fashion or invention was, the trust was but fond that was committed to them, seeing that the art of lust and gold could make them as vain as the Italian engines of jealousy in this day."Thus,'O Lentulus,' says the poet, speaking figuratively to some noble-man, ' it is that thou art married; but it is some musician's or fencer's bastard that is born under thy lordly canopie.'*
* Martialis, lib. VII. Ep. 81.
Winkleman furnishes us with a description of an infibulated musician,† it being a small bronze statue representing a naked deformed individual, as thin as a skeleton, and carrying a ring in his enormi mentula. Martial, who laughs at everything, speaks of these singers sometimes breaking their ring, and says that it becomes necessary to send them to the fibula-makers in order to have the damage repaired: ‡ "Et cujus refibulavit turgidum, faber, penem, Il di cui turgido membro abbia il fabro fibbiato".