In some ways comparable to Priapus in the religion of the ancient Romans, Mutunus Tutunus or Mutinus Titinus was a phallic marriage deity.
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According to legend, his shrine had been there since Rome’s inception and remained there until the first century BC. According to Church Fathers who saw this act as an obscene loss of virginity, Roman brides are reported to have straddled the phallus of Mutunus during preliminary marital ceremonies to prepare themselves for sex. Arnobius, a Christian apologist, claims that Tutunus’s “awful phallus” and its “immense shameful parts” were used to ride-horse with Roman matrons (inequitare), but other sources claim that it was the brides who learned through the ritual not to be ashamed by sex: “Tutinus, upon whose shameful lap sit brides, so that the god seems to sample their shame before the fact.”
The only ancient Latin source to mention the deity is the 2nd-century grammarian Festus, and Christian authors’ descriptions of the ritual are either unfavorable or prejudiced.
Festus claims that although being regarded as one of the oldest landmarks, the Mutunus Tutunus temple on the Velia was destroyed to create a private bath for the pontifex and Augustan supporter Domitius Calvinus. Robert Palmer asserts that Father Liber, who was variably connected with or shared characteristics with Jupiter, Bacchus, and Lampsacene Priapus, fused with the previous religion of Mutunus.
Featured image: Mutunus Tutunus. Denarius minted by Quintus Titius.
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