Monday, March 31, 2008

Julius Caesar, Hadrian, Tiberius, Nero, Commodus, Elagabalus, Virgil, Ovid, Lucretius, Horace, Martial, Juvenal and Firmicus.

The Warren Cup, portraying a man and youth

Eros and Silenus

The Romans were bisexual.

Cato the Censor complained about 200 B.C.E. that a handsome slave boy cost as much as a farm. ( glbtq >> literature >> Roman Literature)

Handsome slave boys were much in demand.

Of Julius Caesar, Suetonius wrote:

"When Thermus sent Caesar to Bithnyia, he wasted so much time at King Nicomedes' court that a homosexual relationship between them was suspected, and suspicion gave way to scandal when, soon after his return to headquarters, he returned to Bithynia: ostensibly collecting a debt incurred there by one of his freedmen." (The Twelve Caesars, Book 2, Penguin Classics version).

Suetonius describes ten of the twelve emperors that he writes of as being bisexual.

Hadrian loved Antinous, a young ex-slave who was famous for his beauty. In 134 A.D. Antinuous died at the age of 21 under mysterious circumstances. The 58-year-old Hadrian was so upset over Antinuous' death that he declared him a god, built a temple for him, and named an Egyptian city after him.

According to / Time traveller's guide to the Roman Empire:

Tiberius, who spends most of the later years of his reign as emperor – from AD 26 to 37 – on the island of Capri, is said to have a special penchant for his spintriae (groups of young boys), with whom he surrounds himself and indulges in all manner of promiscuous behaviour. The walls of his bedrooms at Capri are reported to be decorated with various sexual acts and positions 'in case a performer should need an illustration of what [is] required'...

Nero's reported sexual activities range from being seduced by his mother Agrippina to forcing his unwanted attentions on married women and boys. Famously, he takes two homosexual lovers, Pythagoras and Sporus, in 'marriage'. Nero is said to behave as the wife to Pythagoras and husband to Sporus, whom he has had castrated. Taken together with his 'artistic' performances when he will often take on a female part and dress accordingly, Nero's behaviour scandalises Rome and plays an important part in his downfall.

Commodus emperor from AD 180 to 192, is said to have a harem of 300 girls and the same number of boys and to put on great orgies.

But for sheer shock value, none can compare with the Syrian,
Elagabalus, emperor from 218 to 222, who believes himself to be a living god.

Elagabalus is remarkable not only for being only 14 years old when he becomes absolute ruler of the Roman empire but also for his sexual activities while holding that office... shocking in the eyes of respectable Roman society is his 'marriage' to a slave named Hierocles. Elagabalus likes nothing better than to dress as a woman and go around with his 'husband', who is even encouraged to beat the emperor as if he is his real wife. Sometimes Elagabalus plays out scenes in which Hierocles finds him with another man and punishes him for his 'infidelity'.


Louis Crompton wrote:

The Romans condoned sex with captured or purchased slaves of either sex.

Since slaves formed a large part of the population in late republican and imperial times, young male bedmates were available in abundance and freely enjoyed without censure....

Homoerotic poems are part of the repertory of nearly all the major Latin love poets...

Virgil, as the author of Rome's national epic the Aeneid, ranks as Rome's greatest poet.

He is of importance for the gay literary heritage for two reasons. He wrote the most famous of Latin homoerotic poems (his second, or Corydon, eclogue) and he also made a serious attempt to introduce the heroic tradition of Greek love into Latin literature...

Ovid, however, stories of the loves of the gods for beautiful boys were simply raw material to be exploited poetically.

As a result, Ovid was the main source for such myths in the middle ages, when he became, somewhat surprisingly, the favorite poet of Christian Europe, much admired and widely quoted and imitated in what has been called "the Age of Ovid."

...Not all the homoerotic stories of the Metamorphosis are in book ten. Book three tells the tale of Narcissus. In Ovid's version, Narcissus is loved by girls and boys, but it is specifically a boy he scorns who sets the curse on him; he falls fatally in love with another "lovely boy" when he sees his image reflected in a pool.

Eugene Rice , at , wrote :

The Epicurean poet Lucretius (94-55 B.C.E.) took it to be a self-evident law of nature that attractive adolescent males, before they grew up and began to be desired by women, should be desired by men....

The sex of one's partner could be a matter of surprising indifference.

Horace, who never married, "burned with desire, sometimes for tender boys, sometimes for girls."

Martial writes, in the (fictive) first person singular, of penetrating males anally, penetrating females vaginally and anally, and being fellated by both male and female partners.

What mattered ... was role, age, and status.

The freeborn adult Roman who liked to copulate with males penetrated slave boys, eunuchs, and male prostitutes with as little reproach as he penetrated his female slaves, his female concubine, or female prostitutes.

In contrast, seducing a puer praetextatus, a freeborn male Roman who had not yet put on the toga virilis (this rite of passage happened at about age fifteen), was a serious offense; and fathers tried hard to protect the pudicitia (sexual modesty, chastity) of their sons. No easy task: "A handsome son," notes
Juvenal, "keeps his parents in constant fear and misery, so rarely do pudicitia and good looks go together."

Nor did citizens who valued their reputations have sex with each other. For a free adult male to be penetrated anally or orally by another free adult male, by a freedman, by a boy, by a male prostitute, or by a slave was a disgrace.

Roman male homosexuality was predominantly a form of pederasty that did not exclude relationships with women and was governed by a firm distinction of role that stigmatized adult male passivity as servile and effeminate.

The contrast between Roman and Greek homosexuality is most striking in how the two societies tried to regulate the sexual relations of adult citizens and freeborn boys.

In Athens, ideally, both parties were freeborn and social equals; the tie between them was consensual; and (in some instances) educational as well as sexual.

At Rome, the typical same-sex relationship was between a citizen (active) and his adolescent slave (passive)....

Firmicus, like Ptolemy before him, recognizes all the commoner inflections of sexual taste. For example: "If Mercury and Venus are in conjunction in the 19th degree of Aries, they make the natives impure of mouth" (inpuros ore=fellators). Saturn in aspect with Venus in any way "will make the natives molles, cinaedos, men who give themselves to slavish acts." It is the celestial ambient that produces professional and amateur prostitutes, even lesbian prostitutes (mulieres vero viragines meretrices).

But what is most useful for us to retain from the ancient theorists is a renewed sense of the range of sexual categories available to Romans, of the elasticity and variety their sexual tastes, and of the candor with which they report and picture their sexual acts.


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