The reign of the phallus : sexual politics in ancient Athens

by Eva C. Keuls

Hardcover, 1985




New York : Harper & Row, 1985.


At once daring and authoritative, this book offers a profusely illustrated history of sexual politics in ancient Athens. The phallus was pictured everywhere in ancient Athens: painted on vases, sculpted in marble, held aloft in gigantic form in public processions, and shown in stage comedies. This obsession with the phallus dominated almost every aspect of public life, influencing law, myth, and customs, affecting family life, the status of women, even foreign policy. This is the first book to draw together all the elements that made up the "reign of the phallus"--men's blatant claim to general dominance, the myths of rape and conquest of women, and the reduction of sex to a game of dominance and submission, both of women by men and of men by men. In her elegant and lucid text Eva Keuls not only examines the ideology and practices that underlay the reign of the phallus, but also uncovers an intense counter-movement--the earliest expressions of feminism and antimilitarism. -- Publisher description.… (more)

User reviews

LibraryThing member marfita
Part archaeology, part mystery! Who's been breaking off the willies on the Herms in Ancient Athens? Keuls has an answer with compelling arguments. Oh, how I wish it were true! Chalk one up for the mad Maenads! Anyway, it certainly is interesting if only for the photos of kalices etc. that are usually hidden in the back rooms of museums for propriety's sake. Hmmm, I wonder if my fingerprints are still on file at the Metropolitan?… (more)
LibraryThing member JDHomrighausen
Keuls’ book uses ancient Greek vases as a source for understanding the sexual politics of ancient Athens. She argues that Athens were a “phallocracy” in which phallic symbols dominated the life of the polis. Her book is really interesting, because she talks about prostitution, concubines, pederasty, marriage, myth, tragedy, and other juicy subjects. I suspect she is right that the writing of social history of ancient Athens has ignored artistic sources, but then again, reading this book, I can understand why; artwork is too vague to often be of much help. Often I found myself wondering, how the heck did she get a particular conclusion from a particular vase? Still, she raises a lot of good questions and writes very provocatively, even if her conclusions often seem stretched.… (more)


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