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Mark Golden

Achilles's father hoped he would become "a speaker of words and a doer of deeds" (Hom. Il. 9.443–444), and this amalgam—realized better by Odysseus—remained the ideal of masculinity throughout antiquity. But it was not open to all: boys, slaves, the poor (like Homer's Thersites), and foreigners could not be real men. (The Persians, who wore pantaloons rather than a virile cloak or tunic, were especially suspect.) Even the citizen elite found masculinity difficult to reach and maintain; it is perhaps indicative that the most common terms—Greek andreia, Roman virtus—are feminine in gender. Sexual performance made a difference: men took the active, penetrating role; passively permitting penetration rendered them effeminate. But, since self-control too was preeminent among masculine virtues, too much sexual activity or pleasure in penetration also likened them to women. (So did a fondness for soft living—fine clothes, warm baths—or undisciplined speech.) Only in times of social turmoil did unreckoning rashness earn the label of manliness (andreia) and moderation become a mask for its lack (Thuc.


homosexuality, male  

Craig Williams

The textual and visual material surviving from ancient Greece and Rome is informed by systems for categorizing and evaluating sexual desires and acts in which, rather than the question of whether partners are of the same or opposite sex, various gendered criteria are of fundamental importance. Masculinity is associated with the penetrative role, regardless of the sex of the partner; the penetrated role is coded as feminine; performing oral sex, whether with female or male partners, is seen as disreputable. The assumption that men, as a group, will naturally and normally experience desire for beautiful and preferentially young people of both sexes goes unquestioned. While a handful of philosophical texts urge that sexual acts be limited to the procreative, no surviving text condemns desire of male for male as such.

Specifically characteristic of Greek culture are pederastic relationships joining bearded men and younger, beardless males; allusions to other kinds of male-male relationship represent them as scandalous or exotic departures from a norm. A Roman code of sexual behaviour protecting the integrity of freeborn citizens means that pederastic relationships on the Greek model can be described as disgraceful, but this is not because they involved sexual desire or acts between males. Even in the quintessentially masculine sphere of the military, it was taken for granted that soldiers might experience and act on sexual desire for males as well as females, and Roman writers of the classical period assume that these understandings of masculine desire were shared by their venerated ancestors.



Laura McClure

Gender, the social construction of sexual difference, was central to how the Greeks and Romans understood themselves and explained their world. Classical texts and visual media, almost exclusively created by men, articulate gender norms based on biological sex, representing them as critical to the construction and maintenance of social and political hierarchies. At the same time, they explore the rupture of these categories through gender-fluid figures that challenge the boundaries of anatomical sex and social categories, like the gynaecocratic warrior women, the Amazons; or the Galli, the castrated male followers of the goddess Cybele; and the ambiguously sexed hermaphrodites. The blind seer Teiresias transforms from a man into a woman and back again, experiencing two sexualities in the process (Ov. Met. 3.314). The woman Caenis requests to be turned into a man after her brutal rape by the god Apollo, so that she might never be sexually violated again (Ov.


sexuality, textual representation of  

Marilyn B. Skinner

The basic dominance-submission model of sexual relations, involving a hierarchical distinction between the active and passive roles, was the same in Greek and Roman cultures and remained unchanged throughout classical antiquity. However, we find subtle modifications reflected in the literary tradition from the Homeric age to imperial Rome. In Homer and Hesiod, heterosexual relations are the only recognized form of sexual congress, and consensual sex is mutually pleasurable. Forced sex, in the form of abduction and rape, also occurs in epic narrative. Pederasty became a literary theme in Greek lyric poetry of the archaic age. In classical Athens, discourses of sexuality were tied to political ideology, because self-control was a civic virtue enabling the free adult male householder to manage his estate correctly and serve the city-state in war and peace. Tragedy illustrates the dire impact of unbridled erōs, while comedy mocks those who trespass against moderation or violate gender norms, and forensic oratory seeks to disqualify such offenders from participating in government. Philosophical schools disagreed over the proper place of erōs in a virtuous life.



Katharine T. von Stackelberg

A physical condition whereby a living organism has both male and female reproductive parts, hermaphroditism is a well-established phenomenon in the ancient world. In Greek and Roman literature and art, hermaphroditism in humans had cultural significance as divine portent, erotic subject, mediating or transgressive condition, and symbol of marital union. The most significant literary accounts of human hermaphroditism are found in Plato’s Symposium and Ovid’s Metamorphoses; the greatest concentration of visual evidence is to be found in the environs of Pompeii and Herculaneum.Hermaphroditism is not acknowledged in Greek texts before the 4th century bce, when it is identified in three distinct ways: as a mythical and philosophical concept in Plato’s Symposium (189d–190c); as a natural phenomenon in Aristotle’s Generation of Animals (770b, 30–35); and as an eponymous figure in the title of a lost play by Posidippus of Pella. The earliest physical evidence also dates from the same period as an Athenian terracotta figurine, probably a cult votive, raising the hem of hir skirt in a ritual gesture (see .



Vassiliki Panoussi

Cross-dressing is the act of dressing in clothing considered appropriate for a different gender. The practice, ancient or modern, is studied alongside issues of gender identity and sexuality and falls into the purview of both gender studies and transgender studies. Ancient Greek and Roman examples of cross-dressing of male to female are many, whilst female to male are very few. Ancient attitudes to the practice vary: cross-dressing is socially permitted in the case of theatre actors who performed female roles dressed as women and as part of religious custom. Hostility and condemnation are also frequent in both Greek and Roman sources, as cross-dressing by men is also linked to effeminacy and homosexuality. The modern theoretical framework of transgender studies can help in the study of cross-dressing in Greece and Rome. In turn, ancient concepts associated with cross-dressing can shed light on modern concepts and practices.Cross-dressing is the act of dressing in clothing associated with members of the opposite gender. As a practice it is attested in all cultures throughout history, often disturbing established notions of what constitutes male and female .



Laurence Totelin and Helen King

The ancient body emerged as a topic of research in the 1980s, and the discipline has grown dramatically since then. It aims at studying the ways in which people in the ancient world experienced their bodies, and how those experiences might have differed from modern ones. The discipline examines constructions of sex and gender; concepts of beauty and ugliness; the constituent parts of the body, its fluids, its limits, and the role that clothing plays in setting those boundaries; and the senses. Specific attention is paid to bodies that do not conform to ancient ideals of beauty and wellness (such as disabled and ageing bodies) and to bodies that elicited fascination and concern in antiquity (such as non-binary and intersex bodies). In the ancient world, anxieties towards non-normative bodies were addressed by attempting to control the body from infancy onward. That control was exercised both at the level of the family and at that of the state, which established links between the body and political order.



Alan H. Griffiths, Christopher Burden-Strevens, and Aedan Weston

In Classical mythology, centaurs were half-man, half-equine beasts whose representation in art and literature changed significantly throughout antiquity.Centaurs (Κένταυροι; for the etymology, and their ancestry, see Ixion), a tribe of “beasts” (φῆρες, Aeol. for θῆρες, Il. 1.268, 2.743), human above and horse below, the wild and dangerous counterpart of the more skittish satyrs, who are constructed of the same components but conceived of as amusing rather than threatening creatures. In both cases it is the very closeness of the horse to humanity that points up the need to remember that a firm line between nature and culture must be drawn. Pirithous, the king of the Lapiths, a Thessalian clan, paid for his failure to absorb this lesson when he invited the Centaurs to his wedding-feast: the party broke up in violence once the guests had tasted wine, that quintessential product of human culture (Pind., fr. 166 Snell–Maehler), and made a drunken assault on the bride (see the west pediment of the temple of Zeus at .


female life-course  

Kelly Olson

The female life-course in ancient Greece and Rome ideally followed a set path, a path which would look different depending on one’s rank, status, race, and geographical location. Women of the upper and middling classes in Athens and Rome, however, were supposed to progress through childhood and marry almost immediately after puberty, producing children in their turn, raising them, and perhaps becoming widowed before dying in what people today would consider the prime of life.

The female life cycle changed according to rank, status, race, and geographical location across the Mediterranean. Thus, an urban slave-woman’s life cycle would have looked significantly different from that of a married citizen woman, as would that of a lower-class woman, or a foreign woman living in Athens or Rome, which in turn may have been very dissimilar to (for instance) a woman living in a rural Roman province. What follows is what is known of the life stages of a middling-to-upper-class woman, since this is where literary and artistic sources pool.


art, funerary, Greek  

Nathan T. Arrington

Art was an essential component of funeral practices in ancient Greece. From inexpensive vases deposited with the dead to monumental statues standing over tombs, graves are one of the most important sources of evidence for Greek material culture. These archaeological contexts provide data on the chronology and regional variation of Greek art. The funeral setting allows scholars to study the relation of art to its social, political, and cultural contexts. Literary sources, such as texts that describe burial rituals or attitudes toward the dead, complement this study. The picture, detailed as it is, remains selective. Some physical materials, such as textiles, do not survive well in the archaeological record, despite their ancient value, and poor or simple graves may remain invisible to excavators. The looting of archaeological sites and the absence of detailed publications from excavated sites preclude scholarly access to the full spectrum of material culture in funeral settings.


feminism and ancient literature  

Helen Morales

Feminism does not refer to one coherent theory, doctrine, or political movement. The range of movements and ideologies that thrive under the term feminism, however, are all committed to political and social change. Feminism recognises that we live in a patriarchal world, that is to say a world in which women are, and have historically been, oppressed by and unequal to men. It opposes this, and strives to change existing power structures so that people of all genders and races have control over their own bodies, have equal opportunities and value, can participate fully in community life, and are allowed to live with dignity and freedom.

What has this to do with ancient literature? There are several significant ways in which feminism and ancient literature interact. Ancient literature, particularly ancient Greek tragedy and myth, has played a formative role in shaping feminist theory. Feminism encourages scholars to uncover and reevaluate a tradition of women’s writing. Feminism has provided the tools for us better to understand how ancient literature functioned to promote, and sometimes to challenge, the misogynist practices of ancient Greek and Roman societies. Scholars have detected feminism, or proto-feminism, in ancient writing. Queer theory and feminism join forces to mine ancient literature for alternatives to hetero, cisgender, and gender binary models of identity. Feminism has changed the field of ancient literary studies by valuing authors and genres that are sensitive to the perspectives of women of all ethnicities and statuses. Finally, ancient literature is used to serve contemporary activism: Greek and Latin texts are used by modern feminist authors who rewrite and creatively adapt ancient literature, and classicists resist the use of ancient literature to promote misogyny and white supremacy.


the self in Latin literature  

Thomas Habinek

Although the Latin language has no single term equivalent to the English expression “the self,” Latin literature has been understood by scholars to rely upon and engage with various concepts of selfhood or personal identity. Inquiry into the Roman self or selves is a relatively recent phenomenon, with antecedents in social scientists’ longstanding concern with culturally specific models of identity.1 Despite such precedents, classical scholars have generally focused more on the possible resemblance of the Roman self to modern Euro-American concepts than on analyzing Roman notions of individual identity on their own terms.

Perhaps the best-represented type of self in Latin literature is a rhetorical self, that is, an identity projected to the public by means of speaking, writing, and other types of social performance. Elite Romans would have received training in personal image construction as part of their literary and rhetorical education, which was explicitly concerned with the practice of and selection among various possible projections of character.


queer theory and ancient literature  

Sebastian Matzner

Queer theory takes its name from a derogatory term for persons considered “odd” or “abnormal”, notably those whose sexual behaviour, gender expression, or other characteristics do not conform to established social norms. It harnesses the experience and perspective of gender non-conformists and sexual deviants as a vantage point for understanding—and dismantling—the coercive workings of social structures and discursive regimes. Since queerness marks a position outside or at the margins of—and thus relative to—the social order, it necessarily takes on different forms under different normative regimes: while different kinds of queers have existed at all times and in all places, what counts as “queer” in any given time and place depends on what counts as “normal”.Ancient literature’s queerness, consequently, has two dimensions: (a) accounts—real and imagined—of sexual behaviours, erotic desires, intimate relationships, and notorious figures recognizably at odds with the sociosexual norms of Greece and Rome (“ancient queers”); and (b) accounts that, whatever their status in antiquity, appear strikingly odd in their later reception (“queer ancients”). These two dimensions can and do converge, as in the development of modern Western sexual identity categories (homosexual, bisexual, etc.), which drew heavily on ancient “case studies.”Frank about their committed stance in the present, queer readings of ancient literature interrogate interconnected formations and histories of misogyny, transphobia, homophobia, racism, and classism; ponder and celebrate pre-modern instances of resistance to sexual norms; and tap into the classical past in order to open new possibilities for erotic and social relations and subjectivities.


homosexuality, female  

Sandra Boehringer

Sexual and amorous relationships between females constitute, as a heuristic category, an illuminating field of research for the construction of sexual categories in antiquity, as well as for the prevailing gender system of the time. In Greece and Rome, sexuality did not have the identity function that we attribute to it today: in these societies “before sexuality,” the category of female homosexuality, like those of heterosexuality or homosexuality in general, did not exist per se. Yet we have access to over forty documents (containing both substantial treatments and brief mentions), along with the terms hetairistria and tribas, associated with this semantic field.In Archaic Greece, the privileged expression of erotic desire between women can be found without ambiguity in the verses of Alcman and Sappho. In this community context, the force of eros is celebrated, and the joys and pains generated by its power are sung without differentiation based on gender categories. In Classical and Hellenistic Greece, the sources become rarer: female homosexuality disappears from our evidence for the possible configurations of eros, with the notable exception of Plato’s account (Symposium, Laws).