The Marriage of Roman Soldiers (13 BC-AD 235): Law and Family in the Imperial Army

By Sara Elise Phang | Go to book overview
Save to active project


1. Introduction

The preceding chapter’s discussion of Roman soldiers’ sexual relations with slaves and prostitutes has assumed the slaves and prostitutes to be female. Roman soldiers’ homosexual practices have rarely been considered by historians of the Roman army, who have traditionally confined their commentary to Polybius 6.37.9, assuming that the army severely punished all homosexual relations.1 More recent studies of Roman homosexuality have usually discussed Valerius Maximus’s anecdotes (6.1.10–12) concerning scandals in the army of the middle and late Republic, in which officers were accused of sexually molesting young subordinates.2 The social attitudes and policy of the imperial army have not been discussed in detail; it is often assumed that the army still harshly punished homosexual relations.3 The next section will argue that imperial Roman soldiers were permitted to have homosexual relations with male slaves and prosti

1 Polybius 6.37.9 is translated only as “Unzucht” by Mommsen (1899), 30; 703
n. 2; Fiebiger (1903), col. 1178 l. 43–5; Neumann (1965), col. 151. Sander (1960),
292–3 interprets Polybius 6.37.9 as “Päderastie.” Polybius 6.37.9 will be discussed
more fully in this chapter.

2 The only independent study of homosexuality in the Roman army is Gray-Fow
(1986), 449–460. Other works mention Val. Max. 6.1.10–12 and briefly discuss the
Roman army’s attitude: Balsdon (1979), 226; Boswell (1980), 63–64; MacMullen,
“Greek love” (1982), 484–502 at 490; Lilja (1983), 107–111; Grimal (1986), 104;
Fantham (1991), 280–2; Cantarella (1992), 105–6, 158–60; C. Williams (1992);
Richlin (1993), 523–73 indiv. refs. passim; Edwards (1993); C. Williams (1995),
517–539 at 528; Friedl (1996), 231–4; Walters (1997), 29–43, at 40–42; Wesch-
Klein (1998), 110–11; C. Williams (1999), 40, 67, 102, 192–93, 307 n. 14.

3 Grimal (1967), 104: “Soldiers guilty of this practice were in principle condemned
to death.” Jung, “Rechtsstellung” (1982), 964 on Polyb. 6.37.9: “Homosexualität als
Zeichen der Verweichlichung wurde von der Soldatengemeinschaft strikt abgelehnt.”
Lilja (1983), 129: “Roman soldiers were at all times sentenced to death for
homosexual crimes.” Friedl (1996), 233: “Obwohl homosexuelles Verhalten in den
ersten beiden Jahrhunderten n. Chr. in Rom zwar akzeptiert wurde, sofern es sich
bei dem passiven Partner nicht um einen freien Bürger handelte, und mit Sicherheit
in der Oberschicht verbreitet war, war es in der Armee verboten.” McGinn, Prostitution
(1998), 40: “Homosexual behavior among the troops was severely repressed.”


Notes for this page

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Cite this page

Cited page

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited page

Bookmark this page
The Marriage of Roman Soldiers (13 BC-AD 235): Law and Family in the Imperial Army
Table of contents

Table of contents



Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this book

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen
/ 471

matching results for page

Cited passage

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?