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Papyrus, Serpents, and Loincloths: The Ancients and the Condom

Pages 22-23:

[The] commitment to small families was not a minor footnote in the history of the Roman Empire. It was a contributing factor to its fall. Because the small-family philosophy was so widespread, by the first century CE the population of free Roman citizens had plummeted, making it difficult to fill the ranks of the huge army and to provide the infrastructure necessary to maintain history's largest empire. In fact, Augustus was so worried about the common practice of "family limitation" that he demanded the Senate pass legislation making any kind of contraception illegal. Roman literature, however, makes it clear that in spite of the heavy penalty for breaking this law, Romans remained dedicated to small-family size.

Page 27:

One of the many odd Roman condoms was also purported to have had magcal qualities that protected the users from pregnancy and evil spirits. Magic or not, it was definitely unique not only for being a joint effort but also because of the material it was fashioned from. To make the magic condom, the woman was directed to collect a large handful of fur from a she-mule's mane. As a sort of foreplay, the man and the woman hand-wove a furry condom and then she helped him put it on.

The origins of this she-mule-hair condom have been lost to time, but it leaves the modern reader wondering which would be the greatest obstacle to enjoyment and safety: the possible leakage or the incredible itch. Maybe that was the magic ... managing to have sex wearing the strange contraption.


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March 2012

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