Rhaphanidosis is the act of inserting the root of a plant of the genus Raphanus (commonly known as Radish) into the anus. In Classical Athens, throughout the 5th and 4th century BC, this was a common punishment for adultery and sex-related crimes such as promiscuity and sodomy. It is perhaps most notably referenced in Aristophanes play ‘The Clouds’ as a medium for moral debate.
Shawn O’Bryhim in ‘Catullus’ Mullets and Radishes’ comments how the practice was used to feminise the adulterer. It was used to give the male adulterer a gaping hole with which the prosecutor, commonly the husband, could “…reassert his masculinity over the adulterer by giving the cuckolding offender a vaginal cavity.”.
In Nigette Spike’s ‘Dictionary of Torture’, it is recorded that when used as an act of capital punishment, the roughest radishes would be chosen with the intention on causing death by internal hemorrhaging.
In Roman Londinium, from the 1st-5th century AD, invaders overcome in battle would be raped by the roman soldiers. Alternatively, there is evidence that Romans inherited the Athenian vegetable punishment, they would be returned to the settlements and raped by the male citizens- infamously with a long white british icicle radish, which would grow up to 10 inches long.
The act is understood as one of public humiliation; evidenced that pseudo-phallic insertions into the anus were used to impose ‘feminine humiliation’ amongst men.
It was in Ancient Rome where the most common form of same sex love occurred between master and slave. Only the passive partner, the one who embodied effeminacy, would be punished for his homosexual activities. Sodomitical passivity (bottoming) was feared for its power to ‘collapse the sex binary’ and the potential for the ‘destruction of society’. This selective passive-prosecutive paradigm was used to preserve authority in a male dominated environment.
Whilst the concept of radish punishment was popular in comedy, its application as a common punishmental practice is epigraphically questioned. Its legend bestows sentiment of what understanding can be found between the interlinking gaps of dedicated monographs. Where, so long as we inspect, we will surely find the luminous juices of queerness that trickle and freeze-thaw open the foundational cracks within bias histories that have forever erased people and communities with its complex power structures.
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