- Sexuality in ancient Rome
Sexuality in ancient Rome generally lacked the modern categories of "
heterosexual" or " homosexual." [http://ccat.sas.upenn.edu/bmcr/2000/2000%2D02%2D23.html] Instead, the differentiating characteristic was activity versus passivity, or penetrating versus penetrated.
Romans thought that men should be the active participant in all forms of sexual activity. Male passivity symbolized a loss of manliness, the most prized Roman virtue. This is in stark contrast to the
Pederasty in ancient Greece, in which young boys became men through relations with adult males. It was socially and legally acceptable for Roman men to have sex with both female and male prostitutes as well as slaves, as long as the Roman man was the active partner. Laws such as the " Lex Scantinia," "Lex Iulia," and "Lex Iulia de vi publica" regulated against same-sex activities among free-born males, "Lex Scantinia" as well as especially legislations for the Roman military put capital punishments upon same-sex activities. [On "supplicium fustuarium", public beating to death for same-sex behavior among free-born men in the Roman military since long before "Lex scantinia", see Polybius, "The Histories", book VI: "The Roman Constitution", chapter VI: "The Roman Military System", section 37 (including [http://penelope.uchicago.edu/Thayer/E/Roman/Texts/secondary/SMIGRA*/Fustuarium.html comment] by William Smith, D.C.L., LL.D, "A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities", John Murray, London, 1875)] A man who liked to be penetrated was called "pathicus" or "cinaedus", roughly translated as "bottom" in modern sex terminology, and was considered to be weak and feminine.
However, these laws were circumvented to an unknown extent with slaves and barbarians to whom these laws did not extend as they were considered no human beings, with men performing the passive role and vice versa, even though any Roman male allowing himself to be penetrated was looked down upon. Slaves were regarded as "res", as things, and could be freely used for any activity otherwise illegal, even though, other than opposite-sex activities, same-sex activities with slaves were not encouraged as a form of sexual pleasure. In fact, these were rather regarded as punishment for bad slaves, inherently identical to beatings. [Craig A. Williams (Brooklyn College and the Graduate Center): [http://ccat.sas.upenn.edu/bmcr/1998/1998%2D10%2D16.html "Review of "Roman Sexualities" by Judith P. Hallett, Marilyn B. Skinner, Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1997. Pp. 343. ISBN 0-691-01178-8."] , Bryn Mawr Classical Review 1998.10.16]
Women were not granted freedom of sexuality. Men considered female homosexuality disgusting and dangerous. A woman who wanted to be an active partner in intercourse was a "tribade" (the meaning of which has now changed).
Literature and homosexuality
Few accounts of love between women exist through the eyes of women, so we only know the viewpoint of Roman men. Multiple ancient Roman authors wrote about love affairs between men, including Catullus, Tibullus, Propertius, Lucretius, Virgil, Horace, and Ovid. Catullus wrote of his love for the young man Juventius, while Tibullus dedicated two elegies to his lover Marathus and wrote particularly about how devastated he was that Marathus had left him for a woman.
Homosexuality in ancient Rome
*Adams, J. N. "The Latin Sexual Vocabulary", 1982, ISBN 0-8018-4106-2
*Cantarella, Eva. "Bisexuality in the Ancient World". Yale University Press, 1992. ISBN 0-300-04844-0
*Halperin, David M. "homosexuality" (pp. 722-3) in "The Oxford Classical Dictionary", third edition, 1996, ISBN 0-19-866172-X
*Hubbard, Thomas K. "Homosexuality in Greece and Rome: A Sourcebook of Basic Documents". University of California Press. ISBN 0-520-23430-8.
*Radford, R. [http://www.amazon.com/dp/1430311584 La prostitution féminine dans la Rome antique] , Morrisville, Lulu, 2007. 168 p. ISBN: 978-1-4303-1158-4.
*Skinner, Marilyn. "Sexuality in Greek And Roman Culture". Blackwell Publishing. ISBN 0-631-23234-6.
*Thomas A.J. McGinn. "The Economy of Prostitution in the Roman World". Ann Arbor: The University of Michigan Press, 2004.
* [http://www.weblearn.ox.ac.uk/site/human/classics/teaching/ah/sexgen/ Sexuality and Gender in Greece and Rome] Course offered at
* [http://www.uky.edu/AS/Classics/CLA331flyer.pdf CLA 331-001 Gender and Sexuality in Greece and Rome] Course offered at
University of Kentucky
* [http://ancienthistory.about.com/cs/sexuality/a/aa011400a.htm Standard Roman Sexuality] Article on About.com
* [http://ancienthistory.about.com/library/weekly/aa011500a.htm Non-Standard Roman Male Sexuality] Article on About.com
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