There’s something weird going on in the Bulgarian Black Sea port of Sozopol.
Last year, Bulgarian archaeologists dug up the graves of two vampires and analyzed the purported bones of John the Baptist. Now the Sofia Globe reports they’ve found a temple to the Classical god Priapus. This deity, best known for his huge erect penis, was the god of fertility and its opposite – erectile dysfunction. He acted as a sort of metaphysical Viagra.
Bozhidar Dimitrov, head of the National History Museum, said archaeologists excavating in Sozopol have found a clay phallus inscribed with the words “to Priapus.” This sort of item was common as a votive offering to the god. There’s no report on whether a building was found on the site. Actual temples to Priapus are rare, since he was a minor god worshiped mostly in the countryside or in gardens. His fertility extended to plants as well as people and he was also the god of merchant sailors, which would have been important in a thriving port such as Sozopol.
Priapus was a popular god in the Roman Empire. The above image, courtesy Wikimedia Commons, is of a fresco in Pompeii. You can find statues of the god and little phallic amulets in any large collection of Roman antiquities. The British Museum has several. Jump the cut to see a cute little figurine of Priapus with a little surprise.
This is actually two shots of the same bronze figurine dating to the first century AD and found in Picardy, France. On the right it appears as a man walking with a cloak wrapped around him, but pull the top off and presto! Instant fertility. It’s on display in the Musée de Picardie à Amiens. Image courtesy Wikimedia Commons.
Relaxed regulations and cheap costs have made India a hotbed for in vitro fertilization (IVF). Couples looking to conceive through artificial means are coming from all over the globe to take advantage of these fertility services. The Indian Society for Assisted Reproduction (ISAR) claims that there are nearly 400 fertility clinics in the country. These were visited by 30,000 patients in the past year. According to some doctors, half of their patients come from overseas. And why not? Quality IVF procedures at a clinic in a major city like Mumbai cost about one-third of what they do in the US. Even after airfare, a couple stands to save thousands of dollars.
The boom means that there is a big demand for egg donors, who can earn between $200 and $1000 per donation. Medical tourism, in general, is on the rise in India. Elective procedures cost a fraction of what the do in the US and Europe and most top Indian doctors have been trained in Western medical schools, meaning their skills are on par with the best American and European surgeons. Because of these factors, India expects medical tourism to account for $2 billion in revenue by 2012.
Thailand used to be a destination for exotic travel, perhaps even for sex travel. Now, it is a well-established member of the ever-increasing ranks of surgery destinations. Yes, travel is not just for the well or even the well-heeled, now it’s for the wellness-seeking. too. It’s not just cosmetic surgery, either. While cosmetic surgery comprises about 80% of the travel, laser eye surgery and fertility treatments make up reasons to travel, too.
A while back, our own Erik Olsen blogged about a crazy offer to get extra frequent flyer miles to get your eyes done, and also posted an article by Casey Kittrell about medical tourism. Then, earlier this year, I wrote an article about growing cosmetic surgery tourism to the Czech Republic. Since then, the pace of this traffic has exploded, and the places have gotten even more exotic. So much so, it’s worth revisiting this issue: according to the National Coalition on Health Care, over half a million Americans left the country last year for medical or dental work. A recent article even noted a man sent by his North Carolina company to New Delhi, for gall bladder and rotator cuff surgery, to save $50,000!
Tired of travelocity? A host of surgery-tourism companies have set up shop all over the internet. Costmeticsurgerytravel.com squatted on a good web address, offering “medical travel concierge” service, as well as assurance that the doctors in foreign lands are “appropriate for your procedure or treatment.” Prague a little to run-of-the-mill for you? Try Tunisia, for example, through Cosmeticatravel.com. Or Turkey or El Salvador, through Medretreat.com. Or Brazil, through Medicaltourism.com. A quick google search turns up a page-topping, paid ad for medical tourism to “Bumrungrad” hospital. Is that where you get that hemorrhoid treatment done?
Follow up: The NY Times just posted an article on the same topic.