Sexuality in ancient Rome

Sexuality in ancient Rome

Sexuality in ancient Rome generally lacked the modern categories of "heterosexual" or "homosexual." [] Instead, the differentiating characteristic was activity versus passivity, or penetrating versus penetrated.

Male sexuality

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 [*/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): [ "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]

Female sexuality

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.

See also

*Homosexuality in ancient Rome

Further reading

*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. [ 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.


External links

* [ Sexuality and Gender in Greece and Rome] Course offered at Oxford University
* [ CLA 331-001 Gender and Sexuality in Greece and Rome] Course offered at University of Kentucky
* [ Standard Roman Sexuality] Article on
* [ Non-Standard Roman Male Sexuality] Article on

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Ancient Rome — For the modern day city, see Rome. For Other uses, see Ancient Rome (disambiguation). The Roman Forum, the political, economic, cultural, and religious center of the city during the Republic and later Empire, now lies in ruins in modern day Rome …   Wikipedia

  • Ancient Rome and wine — Expansion of the Roman Empire Ancient Rome played a pivotal role in the history of wine. The earliest influences of viticulture on the Italian peninsula can be traced to Ancient Greeks and Etruscans. The rise of the Roman Empire saw an increase… …   Wikipedia

  • Homosexuality in ancient Rome — Male couple on an oil lamp Same sex attitudes and behaviors in ancient Rome often differ markedly from those of the contemporary West. Latin lacks words that would precisely translate homosexual and heterosexual. The primary dichotomy of ancient… …   Wikipedia

  • Culture of ancient Rome — Julius Caesar, from the bust in the British Museum, in Cassell s History of England (1902). Ancient Roman culture existed throughout the almost 1200 year history of the …   Wikipedia

  • Marriage in ancient Rome — Roman couple joining hands; the bride s belt may show the knot symbolizing that the husband was belted and bound to her, which he was to untie in their bed (4th century sarcophagus)[1] Marriage in ancient Rome had mythical precedents, starting… …   Wikipedia

  • Religion in ancient Rome — Ancient Roman religion Marcus Aurelius (head covered) sacrificing at the Temple of Jupiter …   Wikipedia

  • Music of ancient Rome — Less is known about Ancient Roman music than is known about the music of ancient Greece. There is a number of at least partially extant sources on the music of the Greeks. For example, much is known about the theories of Pythagoras and… …   Wikipedia

  • Clothing in ancient Rome — Statue of the Emperor Tiberius showing the draped toga of the 1st century AD. Clothing in ancient Rome generally consisted of the toga, the tunic, the stola, brooches for these, and breeches. Contents …   Wikipedia

  • Cosmetics in Ancient Rome — Cosmetae applying cosmetics to a wealthy Roman woman.‎ Cosmetics, first used in Ancient Rome for ritual purposes,[1] were part of daily life for women, especially prostitutes and the wealthy. Some fashionable cosmetics, such as those imported… …   Wikipedia

  • Portal:Ancient Rome — Wikipedia portals: Culture Geography Health History Mathematics Natural sciences People Philosophy Religion Society Technology …   Wikipedia

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”

We are using cookies for the best presentation of our site. Continuing to use this site, you agree with this.