Lustful, depraved satyrs, in particular, were rendered with very large, erect genitals, sometimes almost as tall as their torsos. According to mythology, these creatures were part-man, part-animal, and totally lacked restraint—a quality reviled by Greek high society. “Big penises were vulgar and outside the cultural norm, something sported by the barbarians of the world,” writes Chrystal. Indeed, across many an amphora pot and frieze, well-endowed satyrs can be seen drinking and pleasuring themselves with abandon.
In Greek comedy, fools also routinely sported large genitals—“the sign of stupidity, more of a beast than a man,” according to Chrystal. So, too, did artistic representations of the Egyptians, says Lear, who were long-time enemies of the Greeks.
In this way, satyrs, fools, and foes served as foils to male gods and heroes, who were honored for their self-control and intelligence (along with other qualities requiring restraint, like loyalty and prudence). If large phalluses represented gluttonous appetites, then “the conclusion can be drawn that the small, flaccid penis represented self-control,” explains Lear.