Homosexuality in ancient Rome often differs markedly from the contemporary West. Latin lacks words that would precisely translate " homosexual " and " heterosexual ". Roman society was patriarchal , and the freeborn male citizen possessed political liberty libertas and the right to rule both himself and his household familia. 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.
See section above on male rape : Roman law recognized that marrriage soldier might be Homosexaul by the enemy, and specified that a man Homosexual roman marriage in war should not suffer the loss of social standing that an infamis did when willingly undergoing penetration; Digest 3. Languages Italiano Edit links. In the year AD, homosexuality was declared illegal throughout the empire for any freeborn Romans under condemnation of burning. Most scholars assume they were lovers because Homosexual roman marriage Antinous died tragically Hadrian had a large of amount of deified statues made of him and placed all over the Empire. Go Scary bitches, doll, and trust your joys to the winds; believe me, light is the nature of men. In Italy.
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Although not extensively documented, there were homosexual romantic relationships between Roman men. Murray, Homosexualities University of Chicago Press,pp. Harvard University Press. Although in general the Romans regarded marriage as a male—female union for the purpose of producing children, a few scholars believe that in the early Imperial period some male couples were celebrating traditional marriage rites in the presence of friends. It is now believed that this may be Eating dick pics artistic convention provoked by reluctance on the part of the Greeks to openly acknowledge that Greek males Teaching sex techniques enjoy taking on a "female" role in an erotic relationship;  reputation for such pleasure could Homosexual roman marriage consequences to the future image of the former eromenos when he turned into an adult, and hinder his ability to participate in Homosexkal socio-political life of the polis as a respectable citizen. His most famous work was Homosexual roman marriage Satires. Their use to draw conclusions about Roman marriage or morals, however, is controversial because these works are all based on Greek originals. However, in none of these same sex unions is the Greek word for "marriage" ever mentioned. Among the works of Roman literature that can be read today, those of Plautus are the earliest to survive in full to modernity, and also the first to mention homosexuality. From his writing, it's easy to discern a world where gay marriage raised no eyebrows whatsoever.
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- Homosexuality in ancient Rome often differs markedly from the contemporary West.
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- This is a history of same-sex unions in cultures around the world.
- The following op-ed article by columnist and author, Craig Turner, gives an historical account of so-called same-sex marriage and other practices in the Roman Empire that were eventually banned by the Theodosian Code.
Homosexuality in ancient Rome often differs markedly from the contemporary West. Latin lacks words that would precisely translate " homosexual " and " heterosexual ". Roman society was patriarchal , and the freeborn male citizen possessed political liberty libertas and the right to rule both himself and his household familia.
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 and former 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 off limits at certain periods in Rome, though professional prostitutes and entertainers might remain sexually available well into adulthood.
Same-sex relations among women are far less documented  and, if Roman writers are to be trusted, female homoeroticism may have been very rare, to the point that one poet in the Augustine era describes it as "unheard-of".
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.
Williams has noted, "the prime directive of masculine sexual behavior for Romans". 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. Both women and young men were considered normal objects of desire, but outside marriage a man was supposed to act on his desires with only 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. Homoerotic themes are introduced to Latin literature during a period of increasing Greek influence on Roman culture in the 2nd century BC. Greek cultural attitudes differed from those of the Romans 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. In the Imperial era, a perceived increase in passive homosexual behavior among free males was associated with anxieties about the subordination of political liberty to the emperor, and led to an increase in executions and corporal punishment.
Love or desire between males is a very frequent theme in Roman literature. In the estimation of a modern scholar, Amy Richlin , out of the poems preserved to this day, those addressed by men to boys are as common as those they addressed to women.
Among the works of Roman literature that can be read today, those of Plautus are the earliest to survive in full to modernity, and also the first to mention homosexuality.
Their use to draw conclusions about Roman customs or morals, however, is controversial because these works are all based on Greek originals.
However, Craig A. Williams defends such use of the works of Plautus. He notes that the homo- and heterosexual exploitation of slaves, to which there are so many references in Plautus' works, is rarely mentioned in Greek New Comedy, and that many of the puns that make such a reference and Plautus' oevre, being comic, is full of them are only possible in Latin, and can not therefore have been mere translations from the Greek.
The consul Quintus Lutatius Catulus was among a circle of poets who 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. Thus, the use of Greek names in homoerotic Roman poems does not mean that the Romans attributed a Greek origin to their homosexual practices or that homosexual love only appeared as a subject of poetic celebration among the Romans under the influence of the Greeks.
References to homosexual desire or practice, in fact, also appear in Roman authors who wrote in literary styles seen as originally Roman, that is, where the influence of Greek fashions or styles is less likely. In an Atellan farce authored by Quintus Novius a literary style seen as originally Roman , it is said by one of the characters that "everyone knows that a boy is superior to a woman"; the character goes on to list physical attributes, most of which denoting the onset of puberty, that mark boys when they are at their most attractive in the character's view.
In a work of satires, another literary genre that Romans saw as their own,  Gaius Lucilius , a second-century BC poet, draws comparisons between anal sex with boys and vaginal sex with females; it is speculated that he may have written a whole chapter in one of his books with comparisons between lovers of both sexes, though nothing can be stated with certainty as what remains of his oeuvre are just fragments.
In other satire, as well as in Martial's erotic and invective epigrams, at times boys' superiority over women is remarked for example, in Juvenal 6. Other works in the genre eg, Juvenal 2 and 9, and one of Martial's satires also give the impression that passive homosexuality was becoming a fad increasingly popular among Roman men of the first century AD, something which is the target of invective from the authors of the satires.
Homoerotic themes occur throughout the works of poets writing during the reign of Augustus , including elegies by Tibullus  and Propertius ,  several Eclogues of Vergil , especially the second, and some poems by Horace.
In the Aeneid , Vergil — who, according to a biography written by Suetonius , had a marked sexual preference for boys   — draws on the Greek tradition of pederasty in a military setting by portraying the love between Nisus and Euryalus ,  whose military valor marks them as solidly Roman men viri.
By the end of the Augustan period Ovid , Rome's leading literary figure, was alone among Roman figures in proposing a radically new agenda focused on love between men and women: 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.
Several other Roman writers, however, expressed a bias in favor of males when sex or companionship with males and females were compared, including Juvenal , Lucian , Strato ,  and the poet Martial , who often derided women as sexual partners and celebrated the charms of pueri.
Homosexuality appears with much less frequency in the visual art of Rome than in its literature. Male homosexuality occasionally appears on vessels of numerous kinds, from cups and bottles made of expensive material such as silver and cameo glass to mass-produced and low-cost bowls made of Arretine pottery.
This may be evidence that sexual relations between males had the acceptance not only of the elite, but was also openly celebrated or indulged in by the less illustrious,  as suggested also by ancient graffiti. When whole objects rather than mere fragments are unearthed, homoerotic scenes are usually found to share space with pictures of opposite-sex couples, which can be interpreted to mean that heterosexuality and homosexuality or male homosexuality, in any case are of equal value.
The treatment given to the subject in such vessels is idealized and romantic, similar to that dispensed to heterosexuality. The artist's emphasis, regardless of the sex of the couple being depicted, lies in the mutual affection between the partners and the beauty of their bodies. Such a trend distinguishes Roman homoerotic art from that of the Greeks. It is now believed that this may be an artistic convention provoked by reluctance on the part of the Greeks to openly acknowledge that Greek males could enjoy taking on a "female" role in an erotic relationship;  reputation for such pleasure could have consequences to the future image of the former eromenos when he turned into an adult, and hinder his ability to participate in the socio-political life of the polis as a respectable citizen.
A wealth of wall paintings of a sexual nature have been spotted in ruins of some Roman cities, notably Pompeii , where there were found the only examples known so far of Roman art depicting sexual congress between women.
A frieze at a brothel annexed to the Suburban Baths ,  in Pompeii, shows a series of sixteen sex scenes, three of which display homoerotic acts: a bisexual threesome with two men and a woman, intercourse by a female couple using a strap-on, and a foursome with two men and two women participating in homosexual anal sex, heterosexual fellatio , and homosexual cunnilingus. Contrary to the art of the vessels discussed above, all sixteen images on the mural portray sexual acts considered unusual or debased according to Roman customs: e.
Therefore, their portrayal may have been intended to provide a source of ribald humor rather than sexual titillation to visitors of the building. 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. Roman attitudes toward male nudity differ from those of the ancient Greeks, who regarded idealized portrayals of the nude male. The wearing of the toga marked a Roman man as a free citizen.
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.
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. On the "Greek" side, a bearded, mature man is penetrating 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 ".
More recently, academic M. Marabini Moevs has questioned the authenticity of the cup, while others have published defenses of its authenticity. Marabini Moevs has argued, for example, that the Cup was probably manufactured by the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries and that it supposedly represents perceptions of Greco-Roman homosexuality from that time,  whereas defenders of the legitimacy of the cup have highlighted certain signs of ancient corrosion and the fact that a vessel manufactured in the 19th century, would have been made of pure silver, whereas the Warren Cup has a level of purity equal to that of other Roman vessels.
The analysis concluded that the silverware was indeed made in classical antiquity. 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" , pisciculi, spinthriae, 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.
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 Martial describes, for example, the case of an older man who played the passive role and let a younger slave occupy the active role.
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. The clothing, use of cosmetics, and mannerisms of a cinaedus marked him as effeminate ,  but the same effeminacy that Roman men might find alluring in a puer became unattractive in the physically mature male.
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 tambourine -playing and movements of the buttocks that suggested anal intercourse. 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". In a wedding hymn , Catullus  portrays the groom's concubinus as anxious about his future and fearful of abandonment.
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. The relationship with a concubinus might be discreet or more open: male concubines sometimes attended dinner parties with the man whose companion they were. 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.
Exoletus pl. In their texts, Pomponius and Juvenal both included characters who were adult male prostitutes and had as clients male citizens who sought their services so they could take a "female" role in bed see above. In other texts, however, exoleti adopt a receptive position. The relationship between the exoletus and his partner could begin when he was still a boy and the affair then extended into his adulthood. For even if there was a tight bond between the couple, the general social expectation was that pederastic affairs would end once the younger partner grew facial hair.
As such, when Martial celebrates in two of his epigrams 1. Continuing the affair beyond that point could result in damage to the master's repute. Some men, however, insisted on ignoring this convention. Exoleti appear with certain frequency in Latin texts, both fictional and historical, unlike in Greek literature, suggesting perhaps that adult male-male sex was more common among the Romans than among the Greeks.
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".
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. 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. In the discourse of sexuality, puer "boy" was a role as well as an age group. The puer delicatus was an "exquisite" or "dainty" child-slave chosen by his master for his beauty as a " boy toy ",  also referred to as deliciae "sweets" or "delights". Pueri delicati might be idealized in poetry and the relationship between him and his master may be painted in strongly romantic colors.
Roman attitudes toward male nudity differ from those of the ancient Greeks, who regarded idealized portrayals of the nude male. See also Digest Marriage Performed. Marabini Moevs has argued, for example, that the Cup was probably manufactured by the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries and that it supposedly represents perceptions of Greco-Roman homosexuality from that time,  whereas defenders of the legitimacy of the cup have highlighted certain signs of ancient corrosion and the fact that a vessel manufactured in the 19th century, would have been made of pure silver, whereas the Warren Cup has a level of purity equal to that of other Roman vessels. The New York Times. 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. Juvenal states that such men scratched their heads with a finger to identify themselves.
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Roman Law and the Banning of ‘Passive’ Homosexuality | Ancient Origins
Contrary to the popular view—both among proponents and opponents—gay marriage is not a new issue. Gay marriage was—surprise! Gay marriage was, along with homosexuality, something the first Christians faced as part of the pagan moral darkness of their time.
So, what was happening in ancient Rome? Homosexuality was just as widespread among the Romans as it was among the Greeks a sign of which is that it was condoned even by the stolid Stoics. The Romans had adopted the pederasty of the Greeks aimed, generally, at boys between the ages of 12 to There was nothing shameful about such sexual relations among Romans, if the boy was not freeborn.
Slaves, both male and female, were considered property, and that included sexual property. But the Romans also extended homosexuality to adult men, even adult free men.
And it is likely that this crossing of the line from child to adult, unfree to free—not homosexuality as such—was what affronted the more austere of the Roman moralists. And so we hear from Tacitus AD , the great Roman historian, of the shameful sexual exploits of a string of Roman emperors from Tiberius to Nero. Nero was the first imperial persecutor of the Christians. His tutor and then advisor was the great Stoic moralist Seneca himself. When he took the imperial seat, complete with its aura of self-proclaimed divinity, no trace of Stoic austerity remained.
But he now refuted any surmises that no further degradation was possible for him. For…he went through a formal wedding ceremony with one of the perverted gang called Pythagoras. The emperor, in the presence of witnesses, put on the bridal veil.
Dowry, marriage bed, wedding torches, all were there. Indeed everything was public which even in a natural union is veiled by night. Such was only one instance.
Martial, the first-century A. Roman poet, reports incidences of male-male marriage as kinds of perversions, but not uncommon perversions, speaking in one epigram I. The torches shone in front, the bridal veils covered his face, and wedding toasts were not absent, either. A dowry was also named. Does that not seem enough yet for you, Rome? Are you waiting for him to give birth? The notoriously debauched emperor Elagabalus ruled married and then divorced five women.
Elagabalus loved to dress up as a queen, quite literally. Our reports of homosexual marriage from Rome give us, I hope, a clearer understanding of what is at stake. As is the case today, it appears that the incidence of male-male marriage followed upon the widespread acceptance of homosexuality; that is, the practice of homosexuality led to the notion that, somehow, homosexual unions should share in the same status as heterosexual unions.
We must also add that heterosexuality among the Romans was also in a sad state. Both concubinage and prostitution were completely acceptable; pornography and sexually explicit entertainment and speech were entirely normalized; the provision of sex by both male and female slaves was considered a duty by masters.
Paeans to the glory of marriage were made, not because the Romans had some proto-Christian notion of the sanctity of marriage, but because Rome needed more citizen-soldiers just when the Romans were depopulating themselves by doing anything to avoid having children.
The heterosexual moral disrepair in Rome therefore formed the social basis for the Roman slide into homosexual marriage rites. We hear of them from critics bent on satirizing such unions.
Christians had a problem with the whole Roman sexual scene. We are, of course, not surprised to find that the first Christians accepted and carried forward the strict rejection of homosexuality inherent in Judaism, but this was part of its more encompassing rejection of any sexuality outside of heterosexual, monogamous marriage.
Christians are not to be lauded for affirming that marriage must be defined as a union of a man and a woman, because that is the natural default of any people intent on not disappearing in a single generation.
What was peculiar to Christianity again, not just following Judaism, but intensifying it was the restriction of sexuality only to monogamous, heterosexual marriage. The Christians found themselves in a pagan culture where there were few restrictions on sexuality at all, other than the imagination—a culture that, to note the obvious but exceedingly important, looks suspiciously like ours. The first-century A. I include the prohibitions against sexual practices heartily affirmed by the Romans alongside prohibitions against contraception, abortion, and infanticide for a very important reason.
Christians defined the goal of sexuality in terms of the natural ability to procreate. What was different, again, was not recognizing the obvious need for a man and a woman to make a child—Stoics argued along the same lines. What was peculiar to Christianity was removing all other expressions of sexuality from legitimacy many Stoic men had male paramours.
The Roman elevation of sexual pleasure above procreation, and hence outside this tightly-defined area of sexual legitimacy defined by Christianity, led to the desire for contraceptive potions, abortifacients, and infanticide. It also led to seeing marriage as nothing but an arena for sexual pleasure, which in turn allowed for an equivalency of heterosexual and homosexual marriage. The Theodosian Code, drawn up by Christian emperors in the fifth century, A.
We can see, then, that Christians face nothing new in regard to the push for gay marriage. In fact, it is something quite old, and represents a return to the pagan views of sexuality that dominated the Roman Empire into which Christianity was born. If you value the news and views Catholic World Report provides, please consider donating to support our efforts.
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