A Note on the Sources
The great majority of the sources used in this study are literary texts of various genres; I here offer a brief overview of the most commonly cited texts, grouped by genre. This survey does not pretend to do justice to the various literary issues involved in the interpretation of these texts, but is merely intended both as an introductory guide for those unfamiliar with the Roman literary tradition and as an indication of how various types of ancient texts are useful to a study such as mine.
Dramatic texts are especially helpful in an attempt to reconstruct popular conceptions of gender and sexual behavior. This is above all true of the scripts of Roman comedies. For their humor to be successful, the playwrights must have been responding to beliefs and prejudices found among their audiences. Thus we can ask: What was funny to Romans in the area of sexual behavior, and what was not? The characters in comedy may well represent extremes, and the jokes may be outrageous, but in order for them to have raised a laugh, they must in the end have been an exaggeration of real phenomena. In other words, there must have been a difference in quantity rather than in quality between what Roman audiences saw and heard on stage and what they saw and heard around them in everyday life.
The interpretation of the earliest surviving plays, those of Plautus (d. ca. 184 B.C.) and Terence (ca. 190 B.C.-159 B.C.), is complicated by the fact that their comedies are adaptations of Greek originals. But, as we saw in chapter 1, in the case of Plautus in particular the plays are securely anchored in the Roman realities