The famous lover Casanova reportedly started each day with 50 oysters to prepare himself for the afternoon’s exertions. Oysters were also said to be present at the equally famous Roman orgies, and Roman doctors even prescribed them as a cure for impotence. Part of the reason for their association with love is their distinctly labial appearance, but the association also comes from the animal’s reproductive cycle.
Oysters release a flood of reproductive material directly into the water. This allows fertilization to occur externally, but people picturing the lumpy little creatures reproducing fire-hose style imagined an exhibition of great sexual prowess. And well before we knew just how oysters reproduce, they were closely associated with Aphrodite, the goddess of love and desire. All shellfish were sacred animals to her; she was said to have been born inside a clam shell, and the pearl was her sacred stone.
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