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"With the Bacchic comus, which turned a noisy festal banquet into a boisterous procession of revellers, a custom was from the earliest times connected, which was the first cause of the origin of comedy. The symbol of the productive power of nature was carried about by this band of revellers, and a wild, jovial song was recited in honour of the god in whom dwells this power of nature, namely, Bacchus himself, or one of his companions. Such phallophoric or ithyphallic songs were customary in various regions of Greece. The ancients give us many hints about the variegated garments, the coverings for the face, such as masks or thick chaplets of flowers, and the processions and songs of these comus singers. Aristophanes, in his Acharnians, gives a most vivid picture of the Attic usages in this respect : in that play, the worthy Dicaeopolis, while war is raging around, alone peacefully celebrates the country Dionysia on his own farm ; he has sacrificed with his slaves, and now prepares for the sacred procession; his daughter carries the basket as Canephorus; behind her the slave holds the phallus aloft; and, while his wife regards the procession from the roof of the house, he himself begins the phallus song, "O Phales, boon companion of Bacchus, thou nightly reveller!" with that strange mixture of wantonness and serious piety which was possible only in the elementary religions of the ancient world."--History of the Literature of Ancient Greece (1841) by Karl Otfried Müller

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  1. Of or pertaining to the erect phallus that was carried in bacchic processions.
  2. by extension lascivious or obscene.


Borrowed from Late Latin ithyphallicus, from Ancient Greek ἰθυφαλλικός (ithuphallikós), from ῑ̓θῠ́φαλλος (īthúphallos, “phallus carried in festivals of Bacchus; ode sung in honour of the phallus; dance accompanying such an ode; dancer performing such a dance”) + -ῐκός (-ikós, suffix forming adjectives meaning ‘of or pertaining to’). ῑ̓θῠ́φαλλος is derived from ἰθῠ́ς (ithús) (variant of εὐθῠ́ς (euthús, “straight”)) + φαλλός (phallós, “penis; image of a penis, phallus”). The English word can be analysed as ithyphallus +‎ -ic.

As regards the noun, compare Latin ithyphallicum (“poem with the same metre as the hymns to Priapus”).

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