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16.3.Walin


I intend to establish beyond doubt that chutra ("pot") is sometimes used in Aristophanic comedy as a metaphor for the combined vagina and uterus (the imagined pot is upside down). This term should join the other comic sexual metaphors derived from kitchen utensils usefully enumerated by Henderson (142-44). I briefly explore the implications of this realization for the interpretation of several passages.

Achutra is clearly imagined as a kind of womb at Thesmophoriasuzae 505-16(where an infant brought into the home hidden in a chutrais said to kick its stomach) and Antiphanes fr. 55.5 K.-A. (where achutra is described as pregnant with the meat it contains). It seems to have this function,too, in the cunnilingus joke at Ecclesiazusae845-47, where the women's vaginal secretion (literally "pea-soup";for etnos in this sense, see Henderson 145) which Smoios licks from their "bowls"(trublia) has first been boiled in chutrai.

AtWasps 904 a slave character remarks that the Dog of Cydathenaeum (an obvious Cleonfigure) is "good at licking pots clean"(agathos...dialeichein tāschutrās). This closely resembles the cunnilingus joke at Cleon's expense atKnights 1030-34 (for which see Henderson, 144). There too the politician is characterized as a dog who licks clean (again a form of dialeichein)his master's lopadas ("shallow dishes", a metaphor for the vulva, which has been pluralized because Demos stands in for the entire Athenian populace). Leicheinis otherwise employed to indicate cunnilingus in comedy (unambiguously so at Knights1285); the prefix dia-,which makes of cunnilingus a form of gluttony, finds its parallel in diakathairei inthe well-recognized joke at Ecclesiazusae 847(probably also in diaknaisēiat Ar. fr. 926 K.-A.). It seems likely that the comic coinagekatachutrisai (Ar. fr.833 K.-A.), which the testimonia gloss as "to harm"(blapsai), is actually contrived on the basis of this metaphor, on analogy with the many other such creative compounds with kata-enumerated by Henderson.

This metaphor strengthens Anderson's argument for extended sexual innuendo at Knights 1166-76,since at 1174-76 Athena is said to hold a chutra ofzōmos("meat-broth",a comic metaphor for vaginal secretion) over Demos' head. For the humorous sexualization of goddesses we could comparePeace978–90andBirds1253–56.

Perhaps the most interesting consequence of this meaning of chutraconcerns the behavior of the slave Cario at Wealth672-95. In that scene the slave, describing the incubation of Wealth,exploits this meaning of chutra,coupled with a sexualized word for broth (atharē)and in conjunction with other suggestive phrasing (most notably the climactic use of anapauesthai,which is attested as a sexual euphemism beginning with Euripides' Cyclops,but also the possibility of hearing in pollēnephlōnalso poll'anephlōn),to provide an alternative interpretation of his theft of food in thetemenos of Asclepius as a sexual adventure with an old woman. This coheres well with his characterization as a sexually obsessed slave character elsewhere in Wealth(particularly in his song-exchange with the chorus at 290-322). Moreover, it takes advantage of the slave's impersonation of Asclepius' serpent familiar(689-90), since it is clear from the near-contemporary Epidaurian miracle inscriptions (especially B 19 and 22; see LiDonnici) that women who had come to consult the god about their infertility sometimes dreamed of asexual encounter with this serpent. This argument, if correct, would be another example of the sexual obsession of certain comic slave characters emphasized by Walin.

Bibliography

  • Anderson, Carl. 2008. "Athena’sBig Finger: An Unnoticed Sexual Joke in Aristophanes’ Knights." CPh 103, 175-81.
  • LiDonnici, Lynn. 1995. The Epidaurian Miracle Inscriptions: Text, Translation, and Commentary.Atlanta.
  • Henderson, Jeffrey. 1991. The Maculate Muse: Obscene Language in Attic Comedy.2nd ed. New York.
  • Walin, Daniel. 2009. "An Aristophanic Slave: Peace819-1126." CQ59, 30-45.

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