Roman Homosexuality: Ideologies of Masculinity in Classical Antiquity

By Craig A. Williams | Go to book overview
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Roman Traditions
Slaves, Prostitutes, and Wives

Some of the most fascinating problems in the study of Roman cultural traditions arise from the complex interactions between Rome and Greece that resulted in what is often called Greco-Roman culture, a term that points to the extraordinary influence exerted by Greece, nominally the captive nation, on Rome. Roman writers were themselves fully aware of this phenomenon. The poet Horace's lapidary phrase, although concerned specifically with literary influences, is often cited as a typical perspective on the relationship between the two civilizations: "Captive Greece captured its barbarian conqueror." 1 In recent times the project of teasing out the native Roman from the imported Greek threads in the fabric of Greco- Roman culture (or, alternatively, of denying the utility or even possibility of such an attempt) has engaged scholars interested in the history and nature of the Roman literary tradition and in the more general development of a Roman cultural identity in opposition to the established traditions of the Greeks. 2

In view of the much-discussed Hellenic tradition of pederasty, 3 the question of Greek versus Roman becomes especially important for inquiries into Roman ideologies of masculinity and sexual experience. Scholarly focus on Greek traditions has generally resulted in a belief that, whether in historical reality or in ancient perceptions of that reality, native Roman ideals of masculinity before the advent of the corrupting influence of Greek customs encouraged an exclusive heterosexuality. According to this view, the acceptance of homosexuality—more


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Roman Homosexuality: Ideologies of Masculinity in Classical Antiquity


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