When did you last really think about your bottom
? Too many of us sadly take them for granted, but it could be argued that the bottom is the most important part of your body. Every day we sit down
on it, waggle
it around as we walk, stick things up it for pleasure
, crane round to admire
it in the mirror, and poo
out of it. Can such a thing that gives us so much pleasure ever be praised too much? Yet how much of the fascinating, chequered history of the human bottom do you know? Time to put that right!
Because bottoms don't fossilize we can't be sure when they evolved. Could Homo erectus
and the later Homo antecessor
sit down for a rest on a comfy
mossy rock, or were they obliged to lie down a prey to every passing scavenger; or did they perhaps just walk around unceasingly, without hope of rest, like a basking shark
? The arrangement of the pelvis in Neanderthals suggests they were carrying a bit of weight around the old backside
, but they were certainly poor specimens, probably floppy or saggy. There are no confirmed finds of coprolite
s, ancient piles of poo. This might indicate that early Homo sapiens
hadn't invented pooing
yet, or that they had but were obsessively neat about it. The whopper on the Venus of Willendorf
is proof that modern humans even at an early stage appreciated the very real and moving beauty of the bottom
, even if they hadn't yet realized its full potential.
The ancient Egyptians and Babylonians were unimaginative, warlike peoples who never used their bottoms. This explains the stiff pose and pained gait visible in all their wretched carvings. It was those blithe bottom-lovers the Greeks who, as with so many other discoveries our civilization is based on, found the pleasures of swinging your bottom round in a free and naturalistic manner, and sticking things up it. From about 500 BCE red figure increasingly ware depicts riotously happy Greeks doing nice things to each other's firm, plump bottoms. Literature too abounds in references.
'Tell me, Philorrhus, do we prefer big bottoms or small bottoms?'
'Big ones, assuredly, Socrates.'
'And soft ones, do we not? Or do we prefer hard ones?'
'No, it is as you say, soft ones are better.'
'With a good unblemished complexion?'
'And is it only freeborn men who prefer their bottoms as we have described, or do slaves and women also prefer the ideal bottom?'
'They too like a good bottom, Socrates.'
Plato, Philorrhus, tr. Benjamin Jowett
Those bastards the Romans didn't use bottoms at all, difficult as this is to believe today. They lay down on their stomachs on couches to eat, and after they'd eaten they threw up all the undigested parts. They had no mirrors, just pissy little bits of bronze where you could barely distinguish the smoothest from the hairiest of bottoms, and they invented goosestepping and acquired a vast empire to provide them with a feeble excuse not to let their bottoms waggle at all at any time during the day. The baring of bottoms was outlawed under the lex fundamentalis passed by Cato the Elder, a notorious killjoy.
Mediaeval and Renaissance bottoms
Life in mediaeval times was undeniably hard. You had to smear mud and animal filth all over your body and wear strange clothes with liripipe
s hanging down the back. Gigantic ball-shaped priests scoffed all your crops and plague-carrying rats
nipped your bottom whenever you took it out for a surreptitious
bit of personal relief
. Demented kings like Louis IX
vowed never to use their bottoms again, and had to use specially-designed saddle
s when they went into battle.
The Arab world was split along theological lines, with the Fatimid rulers of Cairo and the Umayyad caliphs in Spain being enthusiastic adherents of the somewhat stylized depiction of the human bottom in the form of carefully placed domes on mosques and entwined in the arabesques of their calligraphy. It is no coincidence that these gentle, enlightened rulers also fostered Greek science, tolerated Jews and Christians, and banned blood sports, whaling, and musket ownership; while the dour, pinched, crabbed Seljuk emirs of Iconium and the wall-eyed, stammering Black Sheep Turks did little with their bottom-deprived lives but sack cities and drink the blood of domestic animals.
Portuguese travellers took a supply of extra bottoms in their voyages around the southern coast of Africa, having been fooled by dodgy Roman treatises claiming the natives had no bottoms at all. The simpletons.
Bottoms in the Industrial Revolution
The possibility of mechanical bottoms
had been investigated by Leonardo da Vinci
, and surviving sketches show they would indeed have been able to function, at least in a rudimentary way, for sitting on furniture and emitting satisfying
streams of poo. They would however not have had the gorgeous
we associate with our diurnal bottom-based pleasures, so it's a good thing he got interested in other things. The sketches of Mona Lisa's sfumato
bum-crack are a corker
, by the way. It's a shame the finished painting was cut in half and the lower part isn't taken out of the Vatican collection
more often. This is really Renaissance, I'm just making the point that Leonardo was as usual way ahead on the bottom front.
The first steam-driven bottom was invented by a French madman in 1698, but it didn't work very well because it hadn't been invented by anyone British. The first proper British steam-driven bottom burst onto the scene in 1706, and worked just fine and dandy. It exploded on its second outing, covering assembled dignitaries in steam, gearwheels, and just masses of steaming poo, but the principle was established as sound, and the precision engineering of clockwork bottoms, ancestors of today's snazzy digital bottoms, was less than a century off.
This brings us more or less up to date with everyone's favourite body part.