Magazine article The Spectator

Ancient & Modern

Magazine article The Spectator

Ancient & Modern

Article excerpt

Ancient & modern

AN Oxford classical tutor has undergone a `gender reassignment' and now wishes to be known as 'Isabel'. This is a thoroughly classical thing to do. Tiresias led the way, with fascinating consequences.

Tiresias was wandering through a wood one day and saw two snakes copulating. He walloped them with his stick and promptly found himself transformed into a woman. Seven years later, he came across the same snakes hard at it and walloped them again, on the sound assumption that it would effect another transformation. It did. and Tiresias found himself restored to his former state. This remains a salutary enough lesson for golfers hacking their way through the rough (doubtless there is a rule somewhere about sexchanges in mid-tournament, possibly in the section devoted to losing and finding balls), but had further serious implications for Tiresias.

One day Jupiter and his wife Juno were arguing about who got more pleasure out of sex. Since Tiresias was in a unique position to deliver the definitive judgment, he was summoned and revealed that women got ten times more pleasure than men. Juno was furious that Tiresias had given away woman's great secret and blinded him, but Jupiter, being incapable of undoing the work of a fellow divinity, compensated Tiresias for his inability to see in the here-and-now by turning him into a prophet with an infallible insight into the future. …

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