Archive issues

Author: Nina Willburger   |   Pages: 737–746



The group of bronze statuettes showing an emaciated hunchback with a large phallus and carrying a cock and lagynos, can be divided into three types: - Type 1, represented by statues in Stuttgart, Augst, Paris, New York, Florence and Heidelberg, show the man carrying the cock under his right arm and the lagynos in his left hand. The cock is pecking the hunchback’s lips. - Type 2 is represented by figurines in London and Strassburg, and is similar to Type 1, but with an enhancement of grotesque elements. In this version the man resembles the cock: two tuffs of his beard assume the appearance of a rooster’s wattle. This type should be seen as a development from Type 1. - Type 3, represented by just one statuette at Bonn, deviates from Types 1 and 2. In this type the hunchback carries the lagynos in his right hand and the cock in his left, along with a basket or a bag. The cock looks at the man, but the man averts his gaze to the other side. Most scholars believe the figurines to represent a man carrying a lagynos and sacrificial bird to the Lagynophoria – the drinking festival in honour of Dionysus established by Ptolemy IV Philopator. The cock was not intended for sacrifice, however, and is more correctly understood as the hunchback’s companion, perhaps a fighting cock. In Types 1 and 2 the cock is not pecking to hurt its owner, but is leaning attentively towards the old man, who reciprocates the gesture. In type 3, the cock sits calmly on the man’s arm, watching him. Again, the impression is of a companion rather than a sacrificial animal.
Perhaps this consideration must go further. The cock could have been intended as a comic innuendo, given that such birds were a widespread gift of love in classical times. The image of an old, emaciated hunchback with a large phallus, gaining affection from a cock, may have been intended for another comical and grotesque effect, particularly as the cock was a symbol both of fighting spirit and virility. Certainly, the association between cocks and a festival of Dionysos are not incongruous; cockfights are connected with the cult of the god. Whether the hunchback is on his way to Lagynophoria or to another festival, however, remains inconclusive. (Für die Korrektur der englischen Zusammenfassung danke ich Dr. Stuart Brookes, UCL)



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