A courtesan of the name of Flora, having become wealthy in her profession, and desiring to perpetuate her posthumous fame in her own line, just as one man builds libraries, and another endows colleges, for the same purpose in our day, gave a large sum to the state to purchase the honor of having an annual festival of prostitution named after her. Thus arose the Floral Games; in which, with the worship of the now deified Flora as a cloak, such debaucheries were indulged in as would be a startling revelation even to the "red-light" districts of our large cities.
In the processions of the goddess, it was no uncommon sight, as wine was a part of the religion, to see naked men and women, some of the latter the loveliest on earth, too drunken to perform the normal sexual act, foolishly trying to masturbate each other before the multitude; maidens, leading men along by their penises; girls dancing, locked in one another's embrace, covered with roses, and imitating the sexual movements, as they whirled madly about; those who were more sober, publicly cohabiting under the trees in the temple gardens; lovely young priestesses, stark naked, carried astride men's necks, their privates pressed against the cheeks, and sometimes the mouths, of the latter; palms fluttering, flowers blooming, music playing, wine sparkling, voices singing—oh, what a mad sexual revelry and bacchanalian orgie J1
And at the head of the procession—representing the deity of their worship—Priapus, the amorous god, with his enormous erect penis, of cypress-wood, astride of which not infrequently a young girl sat, going through the movements of masturbating it.
1 In the Dionysinn Festivals in honor of Bacchus and Priapus, first introduced by Melampsus into Greece, from Egypt, and thence passing to Rome, the procession was headed by an amphora of wine, adorned with vines; this was followed by a goat, the symbol of lasciviousness, a basket of figs, and the huge artificial penis, or <,W/t,..-, carried on the end of a pole. The festival was celebrated in Egypt in honor of Isis; in Greece in honor of Bacchus—by some thought to correspond to Isis; and in Rome the orgies of the bacchanalia grew so frenzied and outrageous, in the grossness of their licentious impurity, that they were abolished, finally, by decree of the senate, and at the instance of the consuls, Posthumius Albinus and Martius Philippua. In these processions, it is said, no fewer than 7000 votaries, young men and women, indulged publicly in prostitution in the groves and gardens of the temples, each participant being bound under oath not to reveal what was seen. (Vid. Eurip. in Batch. Virgil. .Eneid, 11, 737; Ovid. Met., 3, 533.)