In the human species, there is probably no field to which Solomon's aphorism—nihil sub sole novum1 —more appropriately applies than masturbation. As sexuality itself is congenital, its perversions and abuses are without doubt prehistoric. When we find in the literature of a country like China, which measures its life by ssons rather than centuries, distinct reference to masturbation at a period thirty-two hundred years prior to the Christian era;9 among the Hindus almost, if not quite, as early;4 and among the Greeks, Hebrews and Babylonians, at the very beginning of their written history,* it is but fair to assume that we are entering upon the study of a subject to which the word, pre, very properly applies.
Indeed the East—which Beaconsfield called the "cradle of religion"— is not less the nursery of sexual vice.
Eram, speaking from an extended medical experience, declares masturbation to be indigenous among the girls of India; and Ellis records a wealthy Mohammedan widow, of the same country, as admitting to a missionary that she began to masturbate at a very early age, "just like all other women." 8
On the façade of a Buddhist temple, in Orissa, are bas-reliefs, representing men and women masturbating, and women masturbating men; and, in a country where Lingam practices, already alluded to, have flourished from time immemorial, it can scarcely be wondered at that this, the simplest of all forms of artificial erotism, should have been so early practised.
In Cochin-China, according to Lorion, it is practised by both sexes, but by married women particularly;1 and, among the Visayans and other races of the Philippines, not only was masturbation found to be common when the Spaniards first arrived there, but the artificial penis, and other erotic contrivances, were in habitual use.
The ancient Greeks, Egyptians and Romans, we have no difficulty in gathering, were confirmed masturbators. Aristophanes, Hippocrates, Galen, Oribasius, Alexander of Tralles, and particularly the Greek and Latin poets, while giving greater prominence to the heterosexual abuses of the timeB, and regarding masturbation as a mere matter of course, do not by any means neglect the latter vice in their medical and satirical writings; while Plutarch, Herodotus, and Lucretius, are equally candid in reference to it. The monstrous debaucheries of the Orient, what St. Augustine calls "Asiatic luxury," 1 which in Athens and Thrace had only gangrened society, found in the wealth and idleness of Rome a soil admirably prepared to receive it.
The nobles of the Eternal City, intoxicated with conquest, and finding, in the rivers of tribute which flowed in from the ends of the earth, ample resources to support the most extravagant voluptuousness, distanced, in a short time, even their Asiatic teachers in this respect; the famous cry of the populace—panem et circenscs!B—being a fair index of the common mind on the question of pleasure.
•"Fames arnica virgin it at i est, in ¡mira lascivia?; sat tiritas vero cast itat era perdit, et nutril ¡Ilécebras." (Ambrose.)
For similar reasons, wine, in those hot countries, was forbidden to women for fear of exciting their passions; and its use punished as was adultery itself. "Non minus si vinum bibissent ac si adulterium admisissent." (Gellius, 10, 23.)
The centers of luxury have always been the centers of lust. Canopus in Egypt, Rome, Bata?, Cyprus, Constantinople, Sybaris, Lampsacus, Venice, Naples and Florence, where," of ninety thousand of population, ten thousand were prostitutes," are memorable examples of the truth of this statement of Maximus Tyrius—"libido consequuta quum fuerit mnteriam improham, et praruptam licentiam, et effrenatam audaeiam."