Why Do Ancient Greek Statues Of Men Have Small Penises? — Historian Professor Provides Insight Into Why Classic Renaissance Sculptures Are Lacking Downstairs

If there is one era of art considered to be the standard which most artists either live up to or find inspiration in, it is easily the Renaissance. Consisting mostly of artwork inspired by both Greek and Roman Mythology, the era gave us some of the most renowned artists including Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, Sandro Botticelli, Raphael, and many others.

As for their art, they have survived the test of time as they are remembered to this day. Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa and The Last Supper are some of the most iconic paintings in existence. Michelangelo’s painting of the Sistine Chapel and sculpture of David are sought out by millions of tourists who visit Italy annually. Sandro Botticelli’s painting Birth of Venus is probably the most recognizable artistic interpretation of Greek goddess Aphrodite outside of the Venus de Milo by Alexandros of Antioch.

However, there is one question many today have asked about Renaissance art, specifically when it comes to the statues. Why do ancient Greek statues of men all have small penises? It seems like a valid argument given that in today’s society, especially in the United States, a large penis is often promoted as a symbol of masculinity. So why was it opposite during the Renaissance? Thankfully, a historian professor has provided the reasons why sculptures of men are often lacking downstairs.

The sculpture, "Laocoon and His Sons," is one of the most-praised statues found. [Photo by Hagesandros, Athenedoros, and Polydoros - LivioAndronico (2014)/Wikimedia Commons]

Apparently, a small penis in ancient Greece was sought out for the look of an alpha male, as reported by Quartz. Andrew Lear, a professor who taught at Harvard, Columbia, and NYU, provided a statement on the reason why.

“Greeks associated small and non-erect penises with moderation, which was one of the key virtues that formed their view of ideal masculinity. There is the contrast between the small, non-erect penises of ideal men (heroes, gods, nude athletes etc) and the over-size, erect penises of Satyrs (mythic half-goat-men, who are drunkards and wildly lustful) and various non-ideal men. Decrepit, elderly men, for instance, often have large penises.”

ancient greek statues

The Greek viewpoint pertaining to penises are not exclusive to Greek statues. Similar ideas are reflected in ancient Greek literature. For example, in Clouds by Aristophanes, a large penis is listed along a pallid complexion, narrow chest, and great lewdness as a characteristic of a dishonorable Athenian youth. Ellen Oredsson, a history blogger, also said that the small penis in association with the alpha male body is both an emphasized balance and idealism.

With the aforementioned details provided, it should be known there are ancient Greek statues of male figures who have large penises. However, they are often subjects considered unsavory in nature. For example, the statue known as Satyr is shown with a large penis, but it should be noted that in Greek mythology, satyrs are often grotesque creatures that try to make love to a number of women.

As for why society now idolizes a large penis, it is suggested that the rise of adult entertainment along with an ideological push to subject men to body shaming that women particularly face are the reasons. Ultimately though, it is a theory. However, if it be true or not, the way people used to idolize the small penis back in the Renaissance is just a theory.

[Image via Jörg Bittner Unna | Wikimedia Commons | Cropped and resized | CC BY 3.0]