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Homosexuality in ancient Rome

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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".[1]
The primary dichotomy of ancient Roman sexuality was
active/dominant/masculine and passive/submissive/"feminized".
Roman society was patriarchal, and the freeborn male citizen
possessed political liberty (libertas) and the right to rule both himself
and his household (familia). "Virtue" (virtus) was seen as an active
quality through which a man (vir) defined himself. The conquest
mentality and "cult of virility" shaped same-sex relations. Roman
men were free to enjoy sex with other males without a perceived loss
of masculinity or social status, as long as they took the dominant or
penetrative role. Acceptable male partners were slaves, prostitutes,
and entertainers, whose lifestyle placed them in the nebulous social
realm of infamia, excluded from the normal protections accorded a
citizen even if they were technically free. Although Roman men in
general seem to have preferred youths between the ages of 12 and 20
as sexual partners, freeborn male minors were strictly off-limits, and
professional prostitutes and entertainers might be considerably older.[2]

Male couple on an oil lamp

Same-sex relations among women are less documented. Although Roman women of the upperclasses were
educated, and are known to have written poetry and corresponded with male relatives, very few fragments
of anything that might have been written by women survive. Male writers took little interest in how women
experienced sexuality in general; the Augustan poet Ovid takes an exceptionally keen interest, but advocates
for a heterosexual lifestyle contrary to Roman sexual norms.[3] During the Republic and early Principate,
little is recorded of sexual relations among women, but better and more varied evidence, though scattered,
exists for the later Imperial period.

1 Background
2 Homoerotic literature and art
2.1 Sex art and everyday objects
2.1.1 Warren Cup
3 Male-male sexuality
3.1 Roles
3.1.1 Cinaedus
3.1.2 Concubinus
3.1.3 Pathicus
3.1.4 Puer Puer delicatus
3.1.5 Pullus
3.1.6 Pusio
3.1.7 Scultimidonus
3.2 Impudicitia
3.3 Subculture
3.4 Gay marriage

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3.5 Male-male rape

3.6 Same-sex relations in the military
3.7 Sex acts
4 Female-female sexuality
5 Gender identity
5.1 Transgender and cross-dressing
5.2 Hermaphroditism and androgyny
6 Under Christian rule
7 See also
8 Notes
9 Literature
10 External links

During the Republic, a Roman citizen's political liberty (libertas) was defined in part by the right to preserve
his body from physical compulsion, including both corporal punishment and sexual abuse.[4] Roman society
was patriarchal (see paterfamilias), and masculinity was premised on a capacity for governing oneself and
others of lower status.[5] Virtus, "valor" as that which made a man most fully a man, was among the active
virtues.[6] Sexual conquest was a common metaphor for imperialism in Roman discourse,[7] and the
"conquest mentality" was part of a "cult of virility" that particularly shaped Roman homosexual practices.[8]
Roman ideals of masculinity were thus premised on taking an active role that was also, as Craig A. Williams
has noted, "the prime directive of masculine sexual behavior for Romans."[9] In the late 20th and early 21st
centuries, scholars have tended to view expressions of Roman male sexuality in terms of a "penetratorpenetrated" binary model; that is, the proper way for a Roman male to seek sexual gratification was to insert
his penis in his partner.[10] Allowing himself to be penetrated threatened his liberty as a free citizen as well as
his sexual integrity.[11]
It was expected and socially acceptable for a freeborn Roman man to want sex with both female and male
partners, as long as he took the penetrative role.[12] The morality of the behavior depended on the social
standing of the partner, not gender per se. Both women and young men were considered normal objects of
desire, but outside marriage a man was supposed to act on his desires only with slaves, prostitutes (who were
often slaves), and the infames. Gender did not determine whether a sexual partner was acceptable, as long as
a man's enjoyment did not encroach on another man's integrity. It was immoral to have sex with another
freeborn man's wife, his marriageable daughter, his underage son, or with the man himself; sexual use of
another man's slave was subject to the owner's permission. Lack of self-control, including in managing one's
sex life, indicated that a man was incapable of governing others; too much indulgence in "low sensual
pleasure" threatened to erode the elite male's identity as a cultured person.[13]
In the Imperial era, anxieties about the loss of political liberty and the subordination of the citizen to the
emperor were expressed by a perceived increase in voluntary passive homosexual behavior among free men,
accompanied by a documentable increase in the execution and corporal punishment of citizens.[14] The
dissolution of Republican ideals of physical integrity in relation to libertas contributes to and is reflected by
the sexual license and decadence associated with the Empire.[15]

Homoerotic literature and art

Homoerotic themes are introduced to Latin literature during a period of increasing Greek influence on
Roman culture in the 2nd century BC. The consul Quintus Lutatius Catulus was among a circle of poets who

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made short, light Hellenistic poems fashionable. One of his few surviving fragments is a poem of desire
addressed to a male with a Greek name.[16] The elevation of Greek literature and art as models of expression
promoted the celebration of homoeroticism as the mark of an urbane and sophisticated person.[17] No
assumptions or generalizations should be made about any effect on sexual orientation or real-life behavior
among the Romans.[18]
"Greek love" influences aesthetics or the means of expression, not the nature
of Roman homosexuality as such. Greek homosexuality differed from Roman
primarily in idealizing eros between freeborn male citizens of equal status,
though usually with a difference of age (see "Pederasty in ancient Greece").
An attachment to a male outside the family, seen as a positive influence
among the Greeks, within Roman society threatened the authority of the
paterfamilias.[19] Since Roman women were active in educating their sons
and mingled with men socially, and women of the governing classes often
continued to advise and influence their sons and husbands in political life,
homosociality was not as pervasive in Rome as it had been in Classical
Athens, where it is thought to have contributed to the particulars of
pederastic culture.[20]
The "new poetry" introduced at the end of the 2nd century came to fruition
in the 50s BC with Gaius Valerius Catullus, whose poems include several
Heroic portrayal of Nisus and
expressing desire for a freeborn youth explicitly named "Youth" (Iuventius).
Euryalus (1827) by
Jean-Baptiste Roman: Vergil
The Latin name and freeborn status of the beloved subvert Roman
described their love as pius in
Catullus's contemporary Lucretius also recognizes the attraction
keeping with Roman morality
of "boys"[23] (pueri, which can designate an acceptable submissive partner
and not specifically age[24]). Homoerotic themes occur throughout the works
of poets writing during the reign of Augustus, including elegies by Tibullus[25] and Propertius,[26] the second
Eclogue of Vergil, and several poems by Horace. In the Aeneid, Vergil draws on the Greek tradition of
homosexuality in a military setting by portraying the love between Nisus and Euryalus,[27] whose military
valor marks them as solidly Roman men (viri).[28] Vergil describes their love as pius, linking it to the
supreme virtue of pietas as possessed by the hero Aeneas himself, and endorsing it as "honorable, dignified
and connected to central Roman values."[29]
By the end of the Augustan period Ovid, Rome's leading literary figure, proposed a radically new
heterosexual agenda: making love with a woman is more enjoyable, he says, because unlike the forms of
same-sex behavior permissible within Roman culture, the pleasure is mutual.[30] Ovid does include
mythological treatments of homoeroticism in the Metamorphoses,[31] but Thomas Habinek has pointed out
that the significance of Ovid's rupture of human sexuality into categorical preferences has been obscured in
the history of sexuality by a later heterosexual bias in Western culture.[32]
In literature of the Imperial period, the Satyricon of Petronius is so permeated with the culture of male-male
sexuality that in 18th-century European literary circles, his name became "a byword for homosexuality."[33]
The poet Martial often derides women as sexual partners, and celebrates the charms of pueri.

Sex art and everyday objects

See also: Erotic art in Pompeii and Herculaneum
Representations of male-male and female-female sexuality are less well represented in the erotic art of
ancient Rome than are male-female sex acts. A frieze at the Suburban Baths in Pompeii shows a series of

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sixteen sex scenes, including a male-male and a female-female couple, and same-sex pairings within scenes
of group sex.

Threesome from the

Suburban Baths in Pompeii,
depicting a sexual scenario as
described also by Catullus,
Carmen 56

Threesomes in Roman art typically show two men penetrating a woman, but
one of the Suburban scenes has one man entering a woman from the rear
while he in turn receives anal sex from a man standing behind him. This
scenario is described also by Catullus, Carmen 56, who considers it
humorous.[34] The man in the center may be a cinaedus, a male who liked to
receive anal sex but who was also considered seductive to women.[35]
Foursomes also appear in Roman art, typically with two women and two
men, sometimes in same-sex pairings.[36]
Roman attitudes toward male nudity differ from those of the ancient Greeks,
who regarded idealized portrayals of the nude male as an expression of
masculine excellence. The wearing of the toga marked a Roman man as a
free citizen.[37] Negative connotations of nudity include defeat in war, since
captives were stripped, and slavery, since slaves for sale were often

displayed naked.[38]
At the same time, the phallus was displayed ubiquitously in the form of the
fascinum, a magic charm thought to ward off malevolent forces; it became a
customary decoration, found widely in the ruins of Pompeii, especially in the
form of wind chimes (tintinnabula).[39] The outsized phallus of the god
Priapus may originally have served an apotropaic purpose, but in art it is
frequently laughter-provoking or grotesque.[40] Hellenization, however,
influenced the depiction of male nudity in Roman art, leading to more
complex signification of the male body shown nude, partially nude, or
costumed in a muscle cuirass.[41]

Gallo-Roman bronze
examples of the fascinum, a
phallic amulet or charm

Warren Cup
Main article: Warren Cup
The Warren Cup is a piece of convivial silver, usually dated to the time of the Julio-Claudian dynasty (1st
century AD), that depicts two scenes of male-male sex.[42] It has been argued[43] that the two sides of this
cup represent the duality of pederastic tradition at Rome, the Greek in contrast to the Roman. On the
"Greek" side, a bearded, mature man is mounted by a young but muscularly developed male in a rear-entry
position. The young man, probably meant to be 17 or 18, holds on to a sexual apparatus for maintaining an
otherwise awkward or uncomfortable sexual position. A child-slave watches the scene furtively through a
door ajar. The "Roman" side of the cup shows a puer delicatus, age 12 to 13, held for intercourse in the
arms of an older male, clean-shaven and fit. The bearded pederast may be Greek, with a partner who
participates more freely and with a look of pleasure. His counterpart, who has a more severe haircut, appears
to be Roman, and thus uses a slave boy; the myrtle wreath he wears symbolizes his role as an "erotic
conqueror".[44] The cup may have been designed as a conversation piece to provoke the kind of dialogue on
ideals of love and sex that took place at a Greek symposium.[45] The antiquity of the Warren Cup has been
challenged, and it may instead represent perceptions of Greco-Roman homosexuality at the time of its
manufacture, possibly the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries.[46]

Male-male sexuality

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A man or boy who took the "receptive" role in sex was variously
called cinaedus, pathicus, exoletus, concubinus (male concubine),
spintria ("analist"), puer ("boy"), pullus ("chick"), pusio, delicatus
(especially in the phrase puer delicatus, "exquisite" or "dainty boy"),
mollis ("soft," used more generally as an aesthetic quality counter to
aggressive masculinity), tener ("delicate"), debilis ("weak" or
"disabled"), effeminatus, discinctus ("loose-belted"), and morbosus
("sick"). As Amy Richlin has noted, "'gay' is not exact, 'penetrated' is
not self-defined, 'passive' misleadingly connotes inaction" in
translating this group of words into English.[47]
The Warren Cup, portraying a mature
bearded man and a youth on its
"Greek" side

Some terms, such as exoletus, specifically refer to an adult; Romans

who were socially marked as "masculine" did not confine their
same-sex penetration of male prostitutes or slaves to those who were
"boys" under the age of 20.[48] Some older men may have at times
preferred the passive role. Martial describes, for example, the case of an older man who played the passive
role and let a younger slave occupy the active role.[49] An adult male's desire to be penetrated was
considered a sickness (morbus); the desire to penetrate a handsome youth was thought normal.[50]
Cinaedus is a derogatory word denoting a male who was gender-deviant; his choice of sex acts, or
preference in sexual partner, was secondary to his perceived deficiencies as a "man" (vir).[51] Catullus
directs the slur cinaedus at his friend Furius in his notoriously obscene Carmen 16.[52] Although in some
contexts cinaedus may denote "passive homosexual"[53] and is the most frequent word for a male who
allowed himself to be penetrated anally,[54] a man called cinaedus might also have sex with and be
considered highly attractive to women.[55] Cinaedus is not necessarily equivalent to the English vulgarism
"faggot,"[56] except that both words can be used to deride a male considered deficient in manhood or with
androgynous characteristics whom women may find sexually alluring.[57]
The clothing, use of cosmetics, and mannerisms of a cinaedus marked him as effeminate,[58] but the same
effeminacy that Roman men might find alluring in a puer became unattractive in the physically mature male.
The cinaedus thus represented the absence of what Romans considered true manhood, and the word is
virtually untranslatable into English.[60]
Originally, a cinaedus (Greek kinaidos) was a professional dancer, characterized as non-Roman or
"Eastern"; the word itself may come from a language of Asia Minor. His performance featured tambourineplaying and movements of the buttocks that suggested anal intercourse.[61]
Some Roman men kept a male concubine (concubinus, "one who lies with; a bed-mate") before they married
a woman. Eva Cantarella has described this form of concubinage as "a stable sexual relationship, not
exclusive but privileged."[62] Within the hierarchy of household slaves, the concubinus seems to have been
regarded as holding a special or elevated status that was threatened by the introduction of a wife. In a
wedding hymn, Catullus[63] portrays the groom's concubinus as anxious about his future and fearful of
abandonment.[64] His long hair will be cut, and he will have to resort to the female slaves for sexual

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gratificationindicating that he is expected to transition from being a receptive sex object to one who
performs penetrative sex.[65] The concubinus might father children with women of the household, not
excluding the wife (at least in invective).[66] The feelings and situation of the concubinus are treated as
significant enough to occupy five stanzas of Catullus's wedding poem. He plays an active role in the
ceremonies, distributing the traditional nuts that boys threw (rather like rice or birdseed in the modern
Western tradition).[67]
The relationship with a concubinus might be discreet or more open: male concubines sometimes attended
dinner parties with the man whose companion they were.[68] Martial even suggests that a prized concubinus
might pass from father to son as an especially coveted inheritance.[69] A military officer on campaign might
be accompanied by a concubinus.[70] Like the catamite or puer delicatus, the role of the concubine was
regularly compared to that of Ganymede, the Trojan prince abducted by Jove (Greek Zeus) to serve as his
The concubina, a female concubine who might be free, held a protected legal status under Roman law, but
the concubinus did not, since he was typically a slave.[72]
Pathicus was a "blunt" word for a male who was penetrated sexually. It derived from the unattested Greek
adjective pathikos, from the verb paskhein, equivalent to the Latin deponent patior, pati, passus, "undergo,
submit to, endure, suffer."[73] The English word "passive" derives from the Latin passus.[74]
Pathicus and cinaedus are often not distinguished in usage by Latin writers, but cinaedus may be a more
general term for a male not in conformity with the role of vir, a "real man", while pathicus specifically
denotes an adult male who takes the sexually receptive role.[75] A pathicus was not a "homosexual" as such.
His sexuality was not defined by the gender of the person using him as a receptacle for sex, but rather his
desire to be so used. Because in Roman culture a man who penetrates another adult male almost always
expresses contempt or revenge, the pathicus might be seen as more akin to the sexual masochist in his
experience of pleasure. He might be penetrated orally or anally by a man or by a woman with a dildo, but
showed no desire for penetrating nor having his own penis stimulated. He might also be dominated by a
woman who compels him to perform cunnilingus.[76]
In the discourse of sexuality, puer ("boy") was a role as well as an age group.[77] Both puer and the feminine
equivalent puella, "girl," could refer to a man's sexual partner, regardless of age.[78] As an age designation,
the freeborn puer made the transition from childhood at around age 14, when he assumed the "toga of
manhood", but he was 17 or 18 before he began to take part in public life.[79] A slave would never be
considered a vir, a "real man"; he would be called puer, "boy," throughout his life.[80] Pueri might be
"functionally interchangeable" with women as receptacles for sex,[81] but freeborn male minors were strictly
off-limits.[82] To accuse a Roman man of being someone's "boy" was an insult that impugned his manhood,
particularly in the political arena.[83] The aging cinaedus or a passive homosexual might wish to present
himself as a puer.[84]
Puer delicatus

The puer delicatus was an "exquisite" or "dainty" child-slave chosen by his master for his beauty as a "boy
toy",[86] also referred to as deliciae ("sweets" or "delights").[87] Unlike the freeborn Greek eromenos

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("beloved"), who was protected by social custom, the Roman delicatus was
in a physically and morally vulnerable position.[88] The "coercive and
exploitative" relationship between the Roman master and the delicatus,
who might be prepubescent, can be characterized as pedophilic, in contrast
to Greek paiderasteia.[89] The boy was sometimes castrated in an effort to
preserve his youthful qualities; the emperor Nero had a puer delicatus
named Sporus, whom he castrated and married.[90]
Pueri delicati might be idealized in poetry. In the erotic elegies of Tibullus,
"Roman" side of the Warren
the delicatus Marathus wears lavish and expensive clothing.[91] The beauty
Cup, with the wreathed "erotic
of the delicatus was measured by Apollonian standards, especially in regard
conqueror" and his puer
to his long hair, which was supposed to be wavy, fair, and scented with
delicatus ("dainty boy")[85]
perfume.[92] The mythological type of the delicatus was represented by
Ganymede, the Trojan youth abducted by Jove (Greek Zeus) to be his
divine companion and cupbearer.[93] In the Satyricon, the tastelessly wealthy freedman Trimalchio says that
as a child-slave he had been a puer delicatus servicing both the master and the mistress of the household.[94]
Pullus was a term for a young animal, and particularly a chick. It was an affectionate word[95] traditionally
used for a boy (puer)[96] who was loved by someone "in an obscene sense."
The lexicographer Festus provides a definition and illustrates with a comic anecdote. Quintus Fabius
Maximus Eburnus, a consul in 116 BC and later a censor known for his moral severity, earned his cognomen
meaning "Ivory" (the modern equivalent might be "Porcelain") because of his fair good looks (candor).
Eburnus was said to have been struck by lightning on his buttocks, perhaps a reference to a birthmark.[97] It
was joked that he was marked as "Jove's chick" (pullus Iovis), since the characteristic instrument of the king
of the gods was the lightning bolt[98] (see also the relation of Jove's cupbearer Ganymede to "catamite").
Although the sexual inviolability of underage male citizens is usually emphasized, this anecdote is among the
evidence that even the most well-born youths might go through a phase in which they could be viewed as
"sex objects."[99] Perhaps tellingly,[100] this same member of the illustrious Fabius family ended his life in
exile, as punishment for killing his own son for impudicitia.[101]
The 4th-century Gallo-Roman poet Ausonius records the word pullipremo, "chick-squeezer," which he says
was used by the early satirist Lucilius.[102]
Pusio is etymologically related to puer, and means "boy, lad." It often had a distinctly sexual or sexually
demeaning connotation.[103] Juvenal indicates the pusio was desirable because he was more compliant and
undemanding to sleep with than a woman.[104] Pusio was also used as a personal name (cognomen).
Scultimidonus ("asshole-bestower")[105] was rare and "florid" slang[106] that appears in a fragment from the
early Roman satirist Lucilius.[107] It is glossed[108] as "Those who bestow for free their scultima, that is, their
anal orifice, which is called the scultima as if from the inner parts of whores" (scortorum intima).[109]

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The abstract noun impudicitia (adjective impudicus) was the negation of pudicitia, "sexual morality,
chastity." As a characteristic of males, it often implies the willingness to be penetrated.[110] Dancing was an
expression of male impudicitia.[111]
Impudicitia might be associated with behaviors in young men who retained a degree of boyish attractiveness
but were old enough to be expected to behave according to masculine norms. Julius Caesar was accused of
bringing the notoriety of infamia upon himself, both when he was about 19, for taking the passive role in an
affair with King Nicomedes of Bithynia, and later for many adulterous affairs with women.[112] Seneca the
Elder noted that "impudicita is a crime for the freeborn, a necessity in a slave, a duty for the freedman":[113]
Homosexual practice in Rome asserted the power of the citizen over slaves, confirming his masculinity.[114]

Latin had such a wealth of words for men outside the masculine norm that some scholars[115] argue for the
existence of a homosexual subculture at Rome; that is, although the noun "homosexual" has no
straightforward equivalent in Latin, literary sources reveal a pattern of behaviors among a minority of free
men that indicate same-sex preference or orientation. Plautus mentions a street known for male prostitutes.
Public baths are also referred to as a place to find sexual partners. Juvenal states that such men
scratched their heads with a finger to identify themselves.
Apuleius indicates that cinaedi might form social alliances for mutual enjoyment, such as hosting dinner
parties. In his novel The Golden Ass, he describes one group who jointly purchased and shared a concubinus.
On one occasion, they invited a "well-endowed" young hick (rusticanus iuvenis) to their party, and took
turns performing oral sex on him.[117]
Other scholars, primarily those who argue from the perspective of "cultural constructionism", maintain that
there is not an identifiable social group of males who would have self-identified as "homosexual" as a

Gay marriage
Although in general the Romans regarded marriage as a heterosexual union for the purpose of producing
children, in the early Imperial period some male couples were celebrating traditional marriage rites in the
presence of friends. Same-sex weddings are reported by sources that mock them; the feelings of the
participants are not recorded. Both Martial and Juvenal refer to marriage between men as something that
occurs not infrequently, although they disapprove of it.[119] Roman law did not recognize marriage between
men, but one of the grounds for disapproval expressed in Juvenal's satire is that celebrating the rites would
lead to expectations for such marriages to be registered officially.[120] As the empire was becoming
Christianized in the 4th century, legal prohibitions against gay marriage began to appear.[121]
Various ancient sources state that the emperor Nero celebrated two public weddings with men, once taking
the role of the bride (with a freedman Pythagoras), and once the groom (with Sporus); there may have been
a third in which he was the bride.[122] The ceremonies included traditional elements such as a dowry and the
wearing of the Roman bridal veil.[123] In the early 3rd century AD, the emperor Elagabalus is reported to
have been the bride in a wedding to his male partner. Other mature men at his court had husbands, or said
they had husbands in imitation of the emperor.[124] Although the sources are in general hostile, Dio Cassius
implies that Nero's stage performances were regarded as more scandalous than his marriages to men.[125]
The earliest reference in Latin literature to a marriage between men occurs in the Philippics of Cicero, who
insulted Mark Antony for being a slut in his youth until Curio "established you in a fixed and stable marriage

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(matrimonium), as if he had given you a stola," the traditional garment of a married woman.[126] Although
Cicero's sexual implications are clear, the point of the passage is to cast Antony in the submissive role in the
relationship and to impugn his manhood in various ways; there is no reason to think that actual marriage rites
were performed.[127]

Male-male rape
Roman law addressed the rape of a male citizen as early as the 2nd century BC,[128] when a ruling was
issued in a case that may have involved a male of same-sex orientation. It was ruled that even a man who
was "disreputable and questionable" (famosus, related to infamis, and suspiciosus) had the same right as
other free men not to have his body subjected to forced sex.[129] The Lex Julia de vi publica,[130] recorded
in the early 3rd century AD but probably dating from the dictatorship of Julius Caesar, defined rape as
forced sex against "boy, woman, or anyone"; the rapist was subject to execution, a rare penalty in Roman
law.[131] Men who had been raped were exempt from the loss of legal or social standing suffered by those
who submitted their bodies to use for the pleasure of others; a male prostitute or entertainer was infamis and
excluded from the legal protections extended to citizens in good standing.[132] As a matter of law, a slave
could not be raped; he was considered property and not legally a person. The slave's owner, however, could
prosecute the rapist for property damage.[133]
Fears of mass rape following a military defeat extended equally to male and female potential victims.[134]
According to the jurist Pomponius, "whatever man has been raped by the force of robbers or the enemy in
wartime" ought to bear no stigma.[135]
The threat of one man to subject another to anal or oral rape (irrumatio) is a theme of invective poetry, most
notably in Catullus's notorious Carmen 16,[136] and was a form of masculine braggadocio.[137] Rape was one
of the traditional punishments inflicted on a male adulterer by the wronged husband,[138] though perhaps
more in revenge fantasy than in practice.[139]
In a collection of twelve anecdotes dealing with assaults on chastity, the historian Valerius Maximus features
male victims in equal number to female.[140] In a "mock trial" case described by the elder Seneca, an
adulescens (a man young enough not to have begun his formal career) was gang-raped by ten of his peers;
although the case is hypothetical, Seneca assumes that the law permitted the successful prosecution of the
rapists.[141] Another hypothetical case imagines the extremity to which a rape victim might be driven: the
freeborn male (ingenuus) who was raped commits suicide.[142] The Romans considered the rape of an
ingenuus to be among the worst crimes that could be committed, along with parricide, the rape of a female
virgin, and robbing a temple.[143]

Same-sex relations in the military

The Roman soldier, like any free and respectable Roman male of status, was expected to show
self-discipline in matters of sex. Augustus (reigned 27 BC14 AD) even prohibited soldiers from marrying, a
ban that remained in force for the Imperial army nearly two centuries.[144] Other forms of sexual
gratification available to soldiers were prostitutes of any gender, male slaves, war rape, and same-sex
relations.[145] The Bellum Hispaniense, about Caesar's civil war on the front in Roman Spain, mentions an
officer who has a male concubine (concubinus) on campaign. Sex among fellow soldiers, however, violated
the Roman decorum against intercourse with another freeborn male. A soldier maintained his masculinity by
not allowing his body to be used for sexual purposes.[146]
In warfare, rape symbolized defeat, a motive for the soldier not to make his body sexually vulnerable in
general.[147] During the Republic, homosexual behavior among fellow soldiers was subject to harsh penalties,
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including death,[148] as a violation of military discipline. Polybius (2nd century BC) reports that the
punishment for a soldier who willingly submitted to penetration was the fustuarium, clubbing to death.[149]
Roman historians record cautionary tales of officers who abuse their authority to coerce sex from their
soldiers, and then suffer dire consequences.[150] The youngest officers, who still might retain some of the
adolescent attraction that Romans favored in male-male relations, were advised to beef up their masculine
qualities by not wearing perfume, nor trimming nostril and underarm hair.[151] An incident related by
Plutarch in his biography of Marius illustrates the soldier's right to maintain his sexual integrity despite
pressure from his superiors. A good-looking young recruit named Trebonius[152] had been sexually harassed
over a period of time by his superior officer, who happened to be Marius's nephew, Gaius Luscius. One
night, having fended off unwanted advances on numerous occasions, Trebonius was summoned to Luscius's
tent. Unable to disobey the command of his superior, he found himself the object of a sexual assault and
drew his sword, killing Luscius. A conviction for killing an officer typically resulted in execution. When
brought to trial, he was able to produce witnesses to show that he had repeatedly had to fend off Luscius,
and "had never prostituted his body to anyone, despite offers of expensive gifts." Marius not only acquitted
Trebonius in the killing of his kinsman, but gave him a crown for bravery.[153]

Sex acts
In addition to repeatedly described anal intercourse, oral sex was common. A graffito from Pompeii is
unambiguous: "Secundus is a fellator of rare ability." ("Secundus felator rarus")[154] In contrast to ancient
Greece, a large penis was a major element in attractiveness. In Petronius is a description of how a man with
such a large penis in a public bathroom looked up, excited.[155] Several emperors are reported in a negative
light for surrounding themselves with men with large sexual organs.[156]
The Gallo-Roman poet Ausonius (4th century AD) makes a joke about a male threesome that depends on
imagining the configurations of group sex:
"Three men in bed together: two are sinning,[157] two are sinned against."
"Doesn't that make four men?"
"You're mistaken: the man on either end is implicated once, but the one in the middle does
double duty."[158]

Female-female sexuality
See also: History of lesbianism and Tribadism
References to sex between women are infrequent in the Roman literature of the Republic and early
Principate. Ovid, who advocates generally for a heterosexual lifestyle, finds it "a desire known to no one,
freakish, novel ... among all animals no female is seized by desire for female."[159] During the Roman
Imperial era, sources for same-sex relations among women are more abundant, in the form of love spells,
medical writing, texts on astrology and the interpretation of dreams, and other sources.[160] A graffito from
Pompeii expresses the desire of one woman for another:
I wish I could hold to my neck and embrace the little arms, and bear kisses on the tender lips.
Go on, doll, and trust your joys to the winds; believe me, light is the nature of men.[161]

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Greek words for a woman who prefers sex with another woman
include hetairistria (compare hetaira, "courtesan" or "companion"),
tribas (plural tribades), and Lesbia; Latin words include the
loanword tribas, fricatrix ("she who rubs"), and virago.[162] An early
reference to same-sex relations among women as "lesbianism" is
found in the Roman-era Greek writer Lucian (2nd century CE):
"They say there are women like that in Lesbos, masculine-looking,
but they don't want to give it up for men. Instead, they consort with
women, just like men."[163]
Since Romans thought a sex act required an active or dominant
partner who was "phallic", male writers imagined that in lesbian sex
one of the women would use a dildo or have an exceptionally large
Female couple from a series of erotic
clitoris for penetration, and that she would be the one experiencing
paintings at the Suburban Baths,
Dildos are rarely mentioned in Roman sources, but
were a popular comic item in Classical Greek literature and art.
There is only one known depiction of a woman penetrating another woman in Roman art, whereas women
using dildos is common in Greek vase painting.[166]
Martial describes lesbians as having outsized sexual appetites and performing penetrative sex on both
women and boys.[167] Imperial portrayals of women who sodomize boys, drink and eat like men, and engage
in vigorous physical regimens, may reflect cultural anxieties about the growing independence of Roman

Gender identity
Transgender and cross-dressing
Cross-dressing appears in Roman literature and art in various ways to
mark the uncertainties and ambiguities of gender:
as political invective, when a politician is accused of dressing
seductively or effeminately;
as a mythological trope, as in the story of Hercules and
Omphale exchanging roles and attire;[169]
as a form of religious investiture, as for the priesthood of the
and rarely or ambiguously as transvestic fetishism.

Hercules and Omphale cross-dressed

(mosaic from Roman Spain, 3rd
century AD)

A section of the Digest by Ulpian categorizes Roman clothing on the

basis of who may appropriately wear it: vestimenta virilia, "men's
clothing," is defined as the attire of the paterfamilias, "head of
household"; puerilia is clothing that serves no purpose other than to mark its wearer as a "child" or minor;
muliebria are the garments that characterize a materfamilias; communia, those that are "common," that is,
worn by either sex; and familiarica, clothing for the familia, the subordinates in a household, including the
staff and slaves. A man who wore women's clothes, Ulpian notes, would risk making himself the object of
scorn.[170] Female prostitutes were the only women in ancient Rome who wore the distinctively masculine
toga. The wearing of the toga may signal that prostitutes were outside the normal social and legal category of
A fragment from the playwright Accius (17086 BC) seems to refer to a father who secretly wore "virgin's

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finery."[172] An instance of transvestism is noted in a legal case, in which "a certain senator accustomed to
wear women's evening clothes" was disposing of the garments in his will.[173] In the "mock trial" exercise
presented by the elder Seneca,[174] the young man (adulescens) was gang-raped while wearing women's
clothes in public, but his attire is explained as his acting on a dare by his friends, not as a choice based on
gender identity or the pursuit of erotic pleasure.[175]
Gender ambiguity was a characteristic of the priests of the goddess Cybele known as Galli, whose ritual
attire included items of womens clothing. They are sometimes considered a transgender or transsexual
priesthood, since they were required to be castrated in imitation of Attis. The complexities of gender identity
in the religion of Cybele and the Attis myth are explored by Catullus in one of his longest poems, Carmen

Hermaphroditism and androgyny

Main articles: Hermaphroditus and Aphroditus

Hermaphroditus in a wall
painting from Herculaneum
(first half of 1st century AD)

In contemporary English, "hermaphrodite" is used in biology but has

acquired pejorative connotations in referring to people born with physical
characteristics of both sexes (see intersex); in antiquity, however, the figure
of the so-called hermaphrodite was a primary focus of questions pertaining to
gender identity.[177] Pliny notes that "there are even those who are born of
both sexes, whom we call hermaphrodites, at one time androgyni" (andr-,
"man," and gyn-, "woman," from the Greek).[178] The Sicilian historian
Diodorus (latter 1st-century BC) wrote that "there are some who declare that
the coming into being of creatures of a kind such as these are marvels
(terata), and being born rarely, they announce the future, sometimes for evil
and sometimes for good."[179] Isidore of Seville (ca. 560636) described a
hermaphrodite fancifully as those who "have the right breast of a man and
the left of a woman, and after coitus in turn can both sire and bear children."
Under Roman law, a hermaphrodite had to be classed as either male or
female; no third gender existed as a legal category.[181] The hermaphrodite
thus represented a "violation of social boundaries, especially those as
fundamental to daily life as male and female."[182]

In traditional Roman religion, a hermaphroditic birth was a kind of prodigium, an occurrence that signalled a
disturbance of the pax deorum, Rome's treaty with the gods.[183] But Pliny observed that while
hermaphrodites were once considered portents, in his day they had become objects of delight (deliciae) who
were trafficked in an exclusive slave market.[184]
In the mythological tradition, Hermaphroditus was a beautiful youth who was the son of Hermes (Roman
Mercury) and Aphrodite (Venus).[185] Ovid wrote the most influential narrative[186] of how Hermaphroditus
became androgynous, emphasizing that although the handsome youth was on the cusp of sexual adulthood,
he rejected love as Narcissus had, and likewise at the site of a reflective pool.[187] There the water nymph
Salmacis saw and desired him. He spurned her, and she pretended to withdraw until, thinking himself alone,
he undressed to bathe in her waters. She then flung herself upon him, and prayed that they might never be
parted. The gods granted this request, and thereafter the body of Hermaphroditus contained both male and
female. As a result, men who drank from the waters of the spring Salmacis supposedly "grew soft with the
vice of impudicitia".[188] The myth of Hylas, the young companion of Hercules who was abducted by water
nymphs, shares with Hermaphroditus and Narcissus the theme of the dangers that face the beautiful
adolescent male as he transitions to adult masculinity, with varying outcomes for each.[189]

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Depictions of Hermaphroditus were very popular among the Romans:

Artistic representations of Hermaphroditus bring to the fore the
ambiguities in sexual differences between women and men as well as
the ambiguities in all sexual acts. ... (A)rtists always treat
Hermaphroditus in terms of the viewer finding out his/her actual sexual
identity. ... Hermaphroditus is a highly sophisticated representation,
invading the boundaries between the sexes that seem so clear in
classical thought and representation.[190]
Macrobius describes a masculine form of "Venus" (Aphrodite) who received
cult on Cyprus; she had a beard and male genitals, but wore women's
clothing. The deity's worshippers cross-dressed, men wearing women's
clothes, and women men's.[191] The Latin poet Laevius wrote of worshipping
"nurturing Venus" whether female or male (sive femina sive mas).[192] The
figure was sometimes called Aphroditos. In several surviving examples of
Greek and Roman sculpture, the love goddess pulls up her garments to reveal her male genitalia, a gesture
that traditionally held apotropaic or magical power.[193]

Under Christian rule

Attitudes toward same-sex behavior changed as Christianity became more prominent in the Empire. The
modern perception of Roman sexual decadence can be traced to early Christian polemic.[194] Apart from
measures to protect the liberty of citizens, the prosecution of homosexual acts as a general crime began in
the 3rd century of the Christian era when male prostitution was banned by Philip the Arab. A series of laws
regulating homosexual acts were promulgated during the social crisis of the 3rd century, from the statutory
rape of minors to gay marriage.[195]
By the end of the 4th century, passive homosexual acts under the Christian Empire were punishable by
burning.[196] "Death by sword" was the punishment for a "man coupling like a woman" under the
Theodosian Code.[197] It can be argued, however, that legislation under Christian rule was an extension of
traditional Roman views on appropriate gender roles, and not an abrupt shift based on Christian theology. It
is in the 6th century, under Justinian, that legal and moral discourse on homosexuality becomes distinctly
Christian:[198] all same-sex acts, passive or active, no matter who the partners, were declared contrary to
nature and punishable by death.[199] Homosexual behaviors were pointed to as causes for God's wrath
following a series of disasters around 542 and 559.[200]
The circumstances surrounding the massacre of Thessalonica in 390 suggest that even in the late 4th century
same-sex behavior was still accepted in large parts of the population, while officially prosecuted. When a
popular charioteer was arrested for having sexually harassed an army-commander or servant of the emperor,
the people of the town were calling for his release, though this is more likely due to his popularity than to the
nature of the allegation.

See also
Societal attitudes toward homosexuality
History of homosexuality
Lex Scantinia, a poorly documented Roman law that protected minors from sexual predators
LGBT history in Italy

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1. Craig Williams, Roman Homosexuality (Oxford
University Press, 1999, 2010), p. 304, citing Saara
Lilja, Homosexuality in Republican and Augustan
Rome (Societas Scientiarum Fennica, 1983), p.
2. Williams, Roman Homosexuality, passim;
Elizabeth Manwell, "Gender and Masculinity," in A
Companion to Catullus (Blackwell, 2007), p. 118.
3. Thomas Habinek, "The Invention of Sexuality in
the World-City of Rome," in The Roman Cultural
Revolution (Cambridge University Press, 1997), p.
31 et passim.
4. Thomas A.J. McGinn, Prostitution, Sexuality and
the Law in Ancient Rome (Oxford University Press,
1998), p. 326. See the statement preserved by
Aulus Gellius 9.12. 1 that " it was an injustice to
bring force to bear against the body of those who
are free" (vim in corpus liberum non aecum ...
5. Eva Cantarella, Bisexuality in the Ancient World
(Yale University Press, 1992, 2002, originally
published 1988 in Italian), p. xii.
6. Elaine Fantham, "The Ambiguity of Virtus in
Lucan's Civil War and Statius' Thebiad,"
Arachnion 3; Andrew J.E. Bell, "Cicero and the
Spectacle of Power," Journal of Roman Studies 87
(1997), p. 9; Edwin S. Ramage, Aspects of
Propaganda in the De bello gallico: Caesars
Virtues and Attributes, Athenaeum 91 (2003)
331372; Myles Anthony McDonnell, Roman
manliness: virtus and the Roman Republic
(Cambridge University Press, 2006) passim;
Rhiannon Evans, Utopia Antiqua: Readings of the
Golden Age and Decline at Rome (Routledge,
2008), pp. 156157.
7. Davina C. Lopez, "Before Your Very Eyes: Roman
Imperial Ideology, Gender Constructs and Paul's
Inter-Nationalism," in Mapping Gender in Ancient
Religious Discourses (Brill, 2007), pp. 135138.
8. Cantarella, Bisexuality in the Ancient World, p. xi;
Marilyn B. Skinner, introduction to Roman
Sexualities (Princeton University Press, 1997), p.
9. Craig A. Williams, Roman Homosexuality (Oxford
University Press, 1999), p. 18.
10. Rebecca Langlands, Sexual Morality in Ancient
Rome (Cambridge University Press, 2006), p. 13.
11. For further discussion of how sexual activity
defines the free, respectable citizen from the slave
or "un-free" person, see Master-slave relations in
ancient Rome.
12. Amy Richlin, The Garden of Priapus: Sexuality
and Aggression in Roman Humor (Oxford
University Press, 1983, 1992), p. 225.

13. Catharine Edwards, "Unspeakable Professions:

Public Performance and Prostitution in Ancient
Rome," in Roman Sexualities, pp. 6768.
14. Amy Richlin, "Sexuality in the Roman Empire," in
A Companion to the Roman Empire (Blackwell,
2006), p. 329. The law began to specify harsher
punishments for the lower classes (humiliores) than
for the elite (honestiores).
15. This is a theme throughout Carlin A. Barton, The
Sorrows of the Ancient Romans: The Gladiator
and the Monster (Princeton University Press,
16. Cantarella, Bisexuality in the Ancient World, p.
120; Edward Courtney, The Fragmentary Latin
Poets (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1992), p. 75.
17. Ramsay MacMullen, "Roman Attitudes to Greek
Love," Historia 31.4 (1982), pp. 484502.
18. David M. Halperin, "The First Homosexuality?" in
The Sleep of Reason: Erotic Experience and
Sexual Ethics in Ancient Greece (University of
Chicago Press, 2002), pp. 242 and 263, with
criticism of MacMullen.
19. Cantarella, Bisexuality in the Ancient World, p. xi;
Skinner, introduction to Roman Sexualities, p. 11.
20. Cantarella, Bisexuality in the Ancient World, pp.
xixii; Skinner, introduction to Roman Sexualities,
pp. 1112.
21. Catullus, Carmina 24, 48, 81, 99.
22. John Pollini, "The Warren Cup: Homoerotic Love
and Symposial Rhetoric in Silver," Art Bulletin
81.1 (1999), p. 28.
23. Lucretius, De rerum natura 4.10521056). See
also Sexuality in ancient Rome#Epicurean
24. Amy Richlin, "Not before Homosexuality: The
Materiality of the cinaedus and the Roman Law
against Love between Men," Journal of the
History of Sexuality 3.4 (1993), p. 536.
25. Tibullus, Book One, elegies 4, 8, and 9.
26. Propertius 4.2.
27. Williams, Roman Homosexuality, pp. 116119.
28. Mark Petrini, The Child and the Hero: Coming of
Age in Catullus and Vergil (University of Michigan
Press, 1997), pp. 2425.
29. James Anderson Winn, The Poetry of War
(Cambridge University Press, 2008), p. 162.
30. Ovid, Ars Amatoria 2.683684; Pollini, "Warren
Cup," p. 36.
31. As at Metamorphoses 10.155ff.
32. Habinek, "The Invention of Sexuality in the
World-City of Rome," p. 31 et passim.
33. Louis Crompton, Byron and Greek Love (London,
1998), p. 93.

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34. John R. Clarke, Looking at Lovemaking:

Constructions of Sexuality in Roman Art 100
B.C.A.D. 250 (University of California Press,
1998, 2001), p. 234.
35. Clarke, Looking at Lovemaking, pp. 234235.
36. Clarke, Looking at Lovemaking, p. 255.
37. Habinek, "The Invention of Sexuality in the
World-City of Rome," in The Roman Cultural
Revolution, p. 39.
38. Williams, Roman Homosexuality, pp. 6970.
39. Amy Richlin, "Pliny's Brassiere," in Roman
Sexualities, p. 215.
40. David Fredrick, The Roman Gaze: Vision, Power,
and the Body (Johns Hopkins University Press,
2002), p. 156.
41. Paul Zanker, The Power of Images in the Age of
Augustus (University of Michigan Press, 1988), pp.
239240, 249250 et passim.
42. John Pollini, "The Warren Cup: Homoerotic Love
and Symposial Rhetoric in Silver," Art Bulletin
81.1 (1999) 2152. John R. Clarke, Looking at
Lovemaking: Constructions of Sexuality in Roman
Art 100 B.C.A.D. 250 (University of California
Press, 1998, 2001), p. 61, asserts that the Warren
cup is valuable for art history and as a document
of Roman sexuality precisely because of its
"relatively secure date."
43. Pollini, "The Warren Cup," passim.
44. Pollini, "Warren Cup," pp. 3537, 42.
45. Pollini, "Warren Cup," p. 37.
46. M.T. Marabini Moevs, Per una storia del gusto:
riconsiderazioni sul Calice Warren, Ministero per
i Beni e le Attivit Culturali Bollettino dArte 146
(Oct.Dec. 2008) 1-16.
47. Richlin, "Not before Homosexuality," p. 531.
48. Williams, Roman Homosexuality, p. 85 et passim.
49. Martial, 3.71.
50. Williams, Roman Homosexuality, p. 200.
51. Williams, Roman Homosexuality, p. 197.
52. Williams, Roman Homosexuality, p. 181ff. and
53. Williams, Roman Homosexuality, p. 197.
54. Williams, Roman Homosexuality, p. 193.
55. Williams, Roman Homosexuality, p. 197.
56. Williams, Roman Homosexuality, p. 6.
57. James L. Butrica, "Some Myths and Anomalies in
the Study of Roman Sexuality," in Same-Sex
Desire and Love in Greco-Roman Antiquity, p.
223, compares cinaedus to "faggot" in the Dire
Straits song "Money for Nothing", in which a singer
referred to as "that little faggot with the earring and
the make-up" also "gets his money for nothing and
his chicks for free."
58. Williams, Roman Homosexuality, p. 197.
59. Williams, Roman Homosexuality, pp. 203204.
60. Williams, Roman Homosexuality, pp. 55, 202.
61. Williams, Roman Homosexuality, p. 193.
62. Cantarella, Bisexuality in the Ancient World, p.

63. Catullus, Carmen 61, lines 119143.

64. Butrica, "Some Myths and Anomalies in the Study
of Roman Sexuality," pp. 218, 224.
65. Richlin, "Not before Homosexuality," p. 534;
Ronnie Ancona, "(Un)Constrained Male Desire: An
Intertextual Reading of Horace Odes 2.8 and
Catullus Poem 61," in Gendered Dynamics in
Latin Love Poetry (Johns Hopkins University
Press, 2005), p. 47; Mark Petrini, The Child and
the Hero: Coming of Age in Catullus and Vergil
(University of Michigan Press, 1997), pp. 1920.
66. Williams, Roman Homosexuality, p. 229. note 260:
Martial 6.39.12-4: "quartus cinaeda fronte,
candido voltu / ex concubino natus est tibi Lygdo:
/ percide, si vis, filium: nefas non est."
67. Cantarella, Bisexuality in the Ancient World, pp.
125126; Robinson Ellis, A Commentary on
Catullus (Cambridge University Press, 2010), p.
181; Petrini, The Child and the Hero, p. 19.
68. Quintilian, Institutio Oratoria 1.2.8, who
disapproves of consorting with either concubini or
"girlfriends" (amicae) in front of one's children.
Ramsey MacMullen, "Roman Attitudes to Greek
Love," Historia 31 (1982), p. 496.
69. Williams, Roman Homosexuality, p. 24, citing
Martial 8.44.16-7: tuoque tristis filius, velis nolis,
cum concubino nocte dormiet prima. ("and your
mourning son, whether you wish it or not, will lie
first night sleep with your favourite")
70. Caesarian Corpus, The Spanish War 33;
MacMullen, "Roman Attitudes to Greek Love," p.
71. "They use the word Catamitus for Ganymede, who
was the concubinus of Jove," according to the
lexicographer Festus (38.22, as cited by Williams,
Roman Homosexuality, p. 332, note 230.
72. Butrica, "Some Myths and Anomalies in the Study
of Roman Sexuality," in Same-Sex Desire and
Love in Greco-Roman Antiquity, p. 212.
73. Williams, Roman Homosexuality, p. 193.
74. Richlin, "Not before Homosexuality," p. 531.
75. Holt N. Parker, "The Teratogenic Grid," in Roman
Sexualities, p. 56; Williams, Roman
Homosexuality, p. 196.
76. Parker, "The Teratogenic Grid," p. 57, citing
Martial 5.61 and 4.43.
77. Richlin, "Not before Homosexuality," p. 535.
78. Williams, Roman Homosexuality, p. 75.
79. Richlin, "Not before Homosexuality," p. 547.
80. Richlin, "Not before Homosexuality," p. 536;
Williams, Roman Homosexuality, p. 208.
81. Richlin, "Not before Homosexuality," p. 536.
82. Elaine Fantham, "Stuprum: Public Attitudes and
Penalties for Sexual Offences in Republican
Rome," in Roman Readings: Roman Response to
Greek Literature from Plautus to Statius and
Quintilian (Walter de Gruyter, 2011), p. 130.
83. Richlin, "Not before Homosexuality," p. 538.
84. Williams, Roman Homosexuality, p. 199.

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85. As analyzed by John Pollini, "The Warren Cup:

Homoerotic Love and Symposial Rhetoric in
Silver," Art Bulletin 81.1 (1999) 2152.
86. Elizabeth Manwell, "Gender and Masculinity," in A
Companion to Catullus (Blackwell, 2007), p. 118.
87. Guillermo Galn Vioque, Martial, Book VII: A
Commentary (Brill, 2002), p. 120.
88. Manwell, "Gender and Masculinity," p. 118.
89. Beert C. Verstraete and Vernon Provencal,
introduction to Same-Sex Desire and Love in
Greco-Roman Antiquity and in the Classical
Tradition (Haworth Press, 2005), p. 3.
90. Caroline Vout, Power and Eroticism in Imperial
Rome (Cambridge University Press, 2007), p. 136
(for Sporus in Alexander Pope's poem "Epistle to
Dr Arbuthnot", see Who breaks a butterfly upon a
91. Alison Keith, "Sartorial Elegance and Poetic
Finesse in the Sulpician Corpus," in Roman Dress
and the Fabrics of Roman Culture, p. 196.
92. Fernando Navarro Antoln, Lygdamus. Corpus
Tibullianum III.16: Lygdami Elegiarum Liber
(Brill, 1996), pp. 304307.
93. Vioque, Martial, Book VII, p. 131.
94. William Fitzgerald, Slavery and the Roman
Literary Imagination (Cambridge University Press,
2000), p. 54.
95. As at Horace, Satire 1.3.45 and Suetonius, Life of
Caligula 13, as noted by Dorota M. Dutsch,
Feminine Discourse in Roman Comedy: On
Echoes and Voices (Oxford University Press,
2008), p. 55. See also Plautus, Poenulus 1292, as
noted by RIchard P. Saller, "The Social Dynamics
of Consent to Marriage and Sexual Relations: The
Evidence of Roman Comedy," in Consent and
Coercion to Sex and Marriage in Ancient and
Medieval Societies (Dumbarton Oaks, 1993), p.
96. The words pullus and puer may derive from the
same Indo-European root; see Martin Huld, entry
on "child," Encyclopedia of Indo-European
Culture (Fitzroy Dearborn, 1997), p. 107.
97. Amy Richlin, The Garden of Priapus: Sexuality
and Aggression in Roman Humor (Oxford
University Press, 1983, 1992), p. 289.
98. Festus p. 285 in the 1997 Teubner edition of
Lindsay; Williams, Roman Homosexuality, p. 17;
Auguste Bouch-Leclercq, Histoire de la
divination dans l'antiquit (Jrme Millon, 2003
reprint, originally published 1883), p. 47.
99. Richlin, The Garden of Priapus, p. 289.
100. Richlin, The Garden of Priapus, p. 289, finds
Eburnus's reputation as "Jove's chick" and his later
excessive severity against the impudicitia of his
son to be "thought-provoking".

101. Cicero, Pro Balbo 28; Valerius Maximus 6.1.56;

Pseudo-Quintilian, Decl. 3.17; Orosius 5.16.8;
T.R.S. Broughton, The Magistrates of the Roman
Republic (American Philological Association,
1951, 1986), vol. 1, p. 549; Gordon P. Kelly, A
History of Exile in the Roman Republic
(Cambridge University Press, 2006), pp. 172173;
Richlin, The Garden of Priapus, p. 289.
102. Williams, Roman Sexuality, p. 17.
103. As at Apuleius, Metamorphoses 9.7; Cicero, Pro
Caelio 36 (in reference to his personal enemy
Clodius Pulcher); Adams, The Latin Sexual
Vocabulary (Johns Hopkins University Press,
1982), pp. 191192; Katherine A. Geffcken,
Comedy in the Pro Caelio (Bolchazy-Carducci,
1995), p. 78.
104. Juvenal, Satire 6.3637; Erik Gunderson, "The
Libidinal Rhetoric of Satire," in The Cambridge
Companion to Roman Satire (Cambridge
University Press, 2005), p. 231.
105. Richlin, The Garden of Priapus, p. 169.
106. Williams, Roman Homosexuality, p. 193.
107. Richlin, The Garden of Priapus, p. 169.
108. Glossarium codicis Vatinici, Corpus Glossarum
Latinarum IV p. xviii; see Georg Gtz, Rheinisches
Museum 40 (1885), p. 327.
109. Williams, Roman Homosexuality, p. 193.
110. RIchlin, "Not before Homosexuality," p. 531.
111. RIchlin, The Garden of Priapus, pp. 92, 98, 101.
112. Suetonius, Life of the Divine Julius 52.3; Richlin,
"Not before Homosexuality," p. 532.
113. As quoted by Cantarella, Bisexuality in the Ancient
World, p. 99.
114. Cantarella, Bisexuality in the Ancient World, p.
115. Primarily Amy Richlin, as in "Not before
116. Plautus, Curculio 482-84
117. Williams, Roman Homosexuality, p. 201.
118. As summarized by John R. Clarke, "Representation
of the Cinaedus in Roman Art: Evidence of 'Gay'
Subculture," in Same-sex Desire and Love in
Greco-Roman Antiquity, p. 272.
119. Martial 1.24 and 12.42; Juvenal 2.11742.
Williams, Roman Homosexuality, pp. 28, 280;
Karen K. Hersh, The Roman Wedding: Ritual and
Meaning in Antiquity (Cambridge University Press,
2010), p. 36; Caroline Vout, Power and Eroticism
in Imperial Rome (Cambridge University Press,
2007), pp. 151ff.
120. Williams, Roman Homosexuality, p. 280.
121. Williams, Roman Homosexuality, p. 280.
122. Suetonius, Tacitus, Dio Cassius, and Aurelius
Victor are the sources cited by Williams, Roman
Homosexuality, p. 279.
123. Williams, Roman Homosexuality, p. 279.
124. Williams, Roman Homosexuality, pp. 278279,
citing Dio Cassius and Aelius Lampridius.

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125. Dio Cassius 63.22.4; Williams, Roman

Homosexuality, p. 285.
126. Cicero, Phillippics 2.44, as quoted by Williams,
Roman Homosexuality, p. 279.
127. Williams, Roman Homosexuality, p. 279.
128. Richlin, "Not before Homosexuality," p. 561.
129. As recorded in a fragment of the speech De Re
Floria by Cato the Elder (frg. 57 Jordan = Aulus
Gellius 9.12.7), as noted and discussed by Richlin,
"Not before Homosexuality," p. 561.
130. Digest and
131. Richlin, "Not before Homosexuality," pp. 562563.
See also Digest 48.5.35 [34] on legal definitions of
rape that included boys.
132. Richlin, "Not before Homosexuality," pp. 558561.
133. Cantarella, Bisexuality in the Ancient World, pp.
99, 103; McGinn, Prostitution, Sexuality and the
Law, p. 314.
134. Williams, Roman Homosexuality, pp. 104105.
135. Digest, as noted by Richlin, "Not before
Homosexuality," p. 559.
136. Richlin, The Garden of Priapus, pp. 2728, 43 (on
Martial), 58, et passim.
137. Williams, Roman Homosexuality, p. 20; Skinner,
introduction to Roman Sexualities, p. 12; Amy
Richlin, "The Meaning of irrumare in Catullus and
Martial," Classical Philology 76.1 (1981) 4046.
138. Williams, Roman Homosexuality, pp. 27, 76 (with
an example from Martial 2.60.2.
139. Catharine Edwards, The Politics of Immorality in
Ancient Rome (Cambridge University Press, 1993),
pp. 5556.
140. Valerius Maximus 6.1; Richlin, "Not before
Homosexuality," p. 564.
141. Richlin, "Not before Homosexuality," p. 564.
142. Quintilian, Institutio oratoria 4.2.6971; Richlin,
"Not before Homosexuality," p. 565.
143. Richlin, "Not before Homosexuality," p. 565, citing
the same passage by Quintilian.
144. Men of the governing classes, who would have
been officers above the rank of centurion, were
exempt. Pat Southern, The Roman Army: A Social
and Institutional History (Oxford University Press,
2006), p. 144; Sara Elise Phang, The Marriage of
Roman Soldiers (13 B.C.A.D. 235): Law and
Family in the Imperial Army (Brill, 2001), p. 2.
145. Phang, The Marriage of Roman Soldiers, p. 3.
146. Sara Elise Phang, Roman Military Service:
Ideologies of Discipline in the Late Republic and
Early Principate (Cambridge University Press,
2008), p. 93.
147. Phang, Roman Military Service, p. 94. See section
above on male rape: Roman law recognized that a
soldier might be raped by the enemy, and specified
that a man raped in war should not suffer the loss
of social standing that an infamis did when
willingly undergoing penetration; Digest, as
discussed by Richlin, "Not before Homosexuality,"
p. 559.

148. Thomas A.J. McGinn, Prostitution, Sexuality and

the Law in Ancient Rome (Oxford University Press,
1998), p. 40.
149. Polybius, Histories 6.37.9
/Texts/Polybius/6*.html#37) (translated as
150. Phang, The Marriage of Roman Soldiers, pp.
151. Phang, Roman Military Service, p. 97, citing among
other examples Juvenal, Satire 14.194195.
152. The name is given elsewhere as Plotius.
153. Plutarch, Life of Marius 14.48; see also Valerius
Maximus 6.1.12; Cicero, Pro Milone 9, in Dillon
and Garland, Ancient Rome, p. 380; and Dionysius
of Halicarnassus 16.4. Discussion by Phang,
Roman Military Service, pp. 9394, and The
Marriage of Roman Soldiers, p. 281; Cantarella,
Bisexuality in the Ancient World, pp. 105106.
154. CIL 4, 9027; translation from Hubbard,
Homosexuality, 423
155. Petronius: Satyricon
156. Aelius Lampridius: Scripta Historia Augusta,
Commodus, 10.9
157. The Latin joke is hard to translate: Ausonius says
that two men are committing stuprum, a sex crime;
"sin" is generally a Christian concept, but since
Ausonius was at least nominally a Christian, "sin"
may capture the intention of the wordplay.
158. Ausonius, Epigram 43 Green (39); Matthew
Kuefler, The Manly Eunuch: Masculinity, Gender
Ambiguity, and Christian Ideology in Late
Antiquity (University of Chicago Press, 2001), p.
159. Ovid, Metamorphoses 9.727, 7334, as cited by
Richlin, "Sexuality in the Roman Empire," p. 346.
160. Bernadette J. Brooten, Love between Women:
Early Christian Responses to Female
Homoeroticism (University of Chicago Press,
1996), p. 1.
161. The Latin indicates that the I is of feminine gender;
CIL 4.5296, as cited by Richlin, "Sexuality in the
Roman Empire," p. 347.
162. Brooten, Love between Women, p. 4.
163. Lucian, Dialogues of the Courtesans 5.
164. Jonathan Walters, "Invading the Roman Body:
Manliness and Impenetrability in Roman Thought,"
pp. 3031, and Pamela Gordon, "The Lover's
Voice in Heroides 15: Or, Why Is Sappho a
Man?," p. 283, both in Roman Sexualities; John R.
Clarke, "Look Who's Laughing at Sex: Men and
Women Viewers in the Apodyterium of the
Suburban Baths at Pompeii," both in The Roman
Gaze, p. 168.
165. Richlin, "Sexuality in the Roman Empire," p. 351.

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166. Diana M. Swancutt, "Still before Sexuality: 'Greek'

Androgyny, the Roman Imperial Politics of
Masculinity and the Roman Invention of the
tribas," in Mapping Gender in Ancient Religious
Discourses (Brill, 2007), pp. 1112.
167. Martial 1.90 and 7.67, 50; Richlin, "Sexuality in
the Roman Empire," p. 347; John R. Clarke,
Looking at Lovemaking: Constructions of
Sexuality in Roman Art 100 B.C.A.D. 250
(University of California Press, 1998, 2001), p.
168. Clarke, Looking at Lovemaking, p. 228.
169. Ovid adduces the story of Hercules and Omphale
as an explanation for the ritual nudity of the
Lupercalia; see "Male nudity in ancient Rome" and
Richard J. King, Desiring Rome: Male Subjectivity
and Reading Ovid's Fasti (Ohio State University
Press, 2006), pp. 185, 195, 200, 204.
170. Digest, as cited by Richlin, "Not before
Homosexuality," p. 540.
171. Edwards, "Unspeakable Professions," p. 81.
172. Cum virginali mundo clam pater: Kelly Olson,
"The Appearance of the Young Roman Girl," in
Roman Dress and the Fabrics of Roman Culture
(University of Toronto Press, 2008), p. 147.
173. Digest 34.2.33, as cited by Richlin, "Not before
Homosexuality," p. 540.
174. See above under "Male-male rape."
175. Seneca the Elder, Controversia 5.6; Richlin, "Not
before Homosexuality," p. 564.
176. Stephen O. Murray, Homosexualities (University
of Chicago Press, 2000), pp. 298303; Mary R.
Bachvarova, "Sumerian Gala Priests and Eastern
Mediterranean Returning Gods: Tragic Lamentation
in Cross-Cultural Perspective," in Lament: Studies
in the Ancient Mediterranean and Beyond (Oxford
University Press, 2008), pp. 19, 33, 36.
177. Clarke, Looking at Lovemaking, p. 49; Rabun
Taylor, The Moral Mirror of Roman Art
(Cambridge University Press, 2008), p. 78.
178. Pliny, Natural History 7.34: gignuntur et
utriusque sexus quos hermaphroditos vocamus,
olim androgynos vocatos; Veronique Dasen,
"Multiple Births in Graeco-Roman Antiquity,"
Oxford Journal of Archaeology 16.1 (1997), p. 61.
179. Diodorus Siculus 4.6.5; Will Roscoe, "Priests of
the Goddess: Gender Transgression in Ancient
Religion," in History of Religions 35.3 (1996), p.
180. Isidore of Seville, Eytmologiae 11.3. 11.

181. Lynn E. Roller, "The Ideology of the Eunuch

Priest," Gender & History 9.3 (1997), p. 558.
182. Roscoe, "Priests of the Goddess," p. 204.
183. Veit Rosenberger, "Republican nobiles: Controlling
the Res Publica," in A Companion to Roman
Religion (Blackwell, 2007), p. 295.
184. Plutarch, Moralia 520c; Dasen, "Multiple Births in
Graeco-Roman Antiquity," p. 61.
185. Ovid, Metamorphoses 4.28788.
186. Taylor, The Moral Mirror of Roman Art, p. 77;
Clarke, Looking at Lovemaking, p. 49.
187. Taylor, The Moral Mirror of Roman Art, p. 78ff.
188. Paulus ex Festo 439L; Richlin, "Not before
Homosexuality," p. 549.
189. Taylor, The Moral Mirror of Roman Art, p. 216,
note 46.
190. Clarke, Looking at Lovemaking, pp. 5455.
191. Macrobius, Saturnalia 3.8.2. Macrobius says that
Aristophanes called this figure Aphroditos.
192. Venerem igitur almum adorans, sive femina sive
mas est, as quoted by Macrobius, Saturnalia
193. Dominic Montserrat, "Reading Gender in the
Roman World," in Experiencing Rome: Culture,
Identity, and Power in the Roman Empire
(Routledge, 2000), pp. 172173.
194. Alastair J.L. Blanshard, "Roman Vice," in Sex:
Vice and Love from Antiquity to Modernity
(Wiley-Blackwell, 2010), pp. 188.
195. John Boswell, Christianity, Social Tolerance, and
Homosexuality: Gay People in Western Europe
from the Beginning of the Christian Era to the
Fourteenth Century (University of Chicago Press,
1980), p. 70.
196. Michael Groneberg, "Reasons for Homophobia:
Three Types of Explanation," in Combatting
Homophobia: Experiences and Analyses Pertinent
to Education (LIT Verlag, 2011), p. 193.
197. Codex Theodosianus 9.7.3 (4 December 342),
introduced by the sons of Constantine in 342.
198. Christopher Records, "When Sex Has Lost its
Significance": Homosexuality, Society, and Roman
Law in the 4th Century", in UCR Undergraduate
Research Journal, Volume IV (June 2010)[1]
199. Groneberg, "Reasons for Homophobia," p. 193.
200. Michael Brinkschrde, "Christian Homophobia:
Four Central Discourses," in Combatting
Homophobia, p. 166.

Boswell, John: Christianity, Social Tolerance and Homosexuality (University of Chicago) 1980,
"Rome: The Foundation", pp 6187
Thomas K. Hubbard: Homosexuality in Greece and Rome, a Sourcebook of Basic Documents. Los
Angeles, London 2003. ISBN 0-520-23430-8

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Craig Williams: Roman Homosexuality, Ideologies of Masculinity in Classical Antiquity. in: Oxford
University Press (Editor): Ideologies of Desire. Oxford 1999
William Percy: The Age of Marriage in Ancient Rome, Lewiston, New York: The Edwin Mellen
Press, 2003 (together with Arnold Lelis and Beert Verstraete)

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