1-14 of 14 Results

  • Keywords: sexuality x
Clear all



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.


Petronius (1), Roman author, d. 66 CE  

Stephen J. Harrison

Petronius (1), author of the extant Satyrica (Σατυρικά), probably identical with *Petronius (2), the politician and arbiter elegantiae at the court of Nero, forced to suicide in 66 ce. Given that most scholars now agree that the Satyrica belongs stylistically and in terms of factual detail to the Neronian period (though some still hold to a later date) and that *Tacitus (1)’s account of the courtier Petronius describes a hedonistic, witty, and amoral character which would well suit the author of the Satyrica (Ann. 16.17–20), many find it economical to identify the two, but the matter is beyond conclusive proof; the occurrence of the name T. Petronius Arbiter in the MSS of the Satyrica gives no aid, since this may simply be the supplement of a later copyist who had read Tacitus.Of the Satyrica itself we seem to have fragments of books 14, 15, and 16, with book 15 practically complete, containing the Cena Trimalchionis (26.


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.



Allison Glazebrook

Hetairai (“female companions,” sing. hetaira), according to Plutarch, is an Attic euphemism for women who were paid for sexual favours (Plu. Sol. 15.3; see prostitution, secular). The term first appears with modifiers (Hdt. 2.134.1, hetaires gynaikos “woman companion”; 2.135.5, epaphroditoi hetairai “especially attractive companions”—a word derived from Aphrodite; Metagenes, Aurai fr. 4 K–A, 411 bce, orchestridas hetairas, “entertainer companions”). Aristophanes (1) is the first to use the word without a modifier (Pax 439–440, produced 421 bce; Thesm. 346, produced 411 bce; but cf. Hymn. Hom. Merc. 31–32). The hetaira emerged as a feature of the status display of elite men in the archaic period in the context of the symposium (all-male drinking party) from which wives were excluded. Hetaira echoes hetairos (male companion) and suggests these women reclined and drank with the male symposiasts. Representations of the symposium on black-figure and red-figure vases portray women in such fashion (see sexual representation, visual).



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.


postmodernism and Classics  

Paul Allen Miller

Postmodernism is an intellectual movement that eschews grand narratives in favour of the fragmentary and the historically contingent. As such, it counterposes itself to the great synthetic theories that characterized the “modernism” of the first half of the twentieth century. Postmodernism does not use Classics as a way to found an identity, a tradition, or a history, but as a way to think differently about who we are, where we come from, and what we can be. The postmoderns use ancient texts to rethink the self and its limits, as a form of profound historicization of the subject and its modes of formation. Many of the most important postmodern thinkers have written important commentaries on ancient texts. These thinkers include figures such as Jacques Lacan, Jacques Derrida, Michel Foucault, Gilles Deleuze, Hélène Cixous, Luce Irigaray, Julia Kristeva, and Sarah Kofman. The commentaries that they produced have had a clear impact on recent classical scholarship, with special relevance to work on ancient philosophy and tragedy.



Helen King

Almost all information about women in antiquity comes to us from male sources. Some women could read and write (see literacy), at least to the level needed for their role as guardians of the *household stores (e.g. Xen.Oec. 7.5 and 9.10; see housework), but, although there are many references to literary works by women, very few texts survive. The known exceptions to male authorship include women poets (e.g. *Sappho, *Corinna, *Erinna, *Nossis, Sulpicia (1 and 2)), early philosophers (e.g. *Hypatia; some Hellenistic pamphlets are attributed to Pythagorean women; see women in philosophy), personal letters from women, and the 5th-century ce travel diary of Egeria (*Itinerarium Egeriae). Many attributions to women are problematic. Were women's letters written by scribes? Is a text ascribed to a woman simply in order to attack a man (e.g. Aspasia's alleged authorship of *Pericles(1)'s speeches)?The central source problems, and the strategies developed to overcome them, underpin the large amount of work on ancient women produced since the 1980s.


sexual representation, visual  

John R. Clarke

This article treats visual representations of sex between human beings, hypersexual humans and demigods, and phalli in terms of their meanings for ancient Greeks and Romans and their viewing contexts. Building on the research of scholars holding that contemporary concepts of sexuality, homosexuality, and bisexuality have no bearing on ancient attitudes and can only lead to anachronistic judgements if applied to the ancient world, the aim is to combine the evidence of classical texts with that of visual representations to determine the meanings of so-called erotica for ancient viewers. Many portrayals deemed pornographic by modern standards constituted proper decoration, whether they appear in the frescoed interiors of Roman houses or on drinking vessels, mirrors, and gemstones. Artists also created hypersexual creatures such as pygmies, Priapus, and Hermaphroditus primarily as apotropaia; representations of the phallus and of phallic deities installed on the streets and in the shops of cities had a similar apotropaic function.


Catullus (1), Gaius Valerius, Roman poet  

Julia Haig Gaisser and Gail Trimble

Gaius Valerius Catullus (c. 84–54 bce) was a Roman poet. A major figure in the group known as the neoteric poets, he is the only one of them for whom a substantial body of work remains extant. This corpus, whose present order may or may not preserve an arrangement by Catullus himself, is unparalleled in its variety. Catullus’s collection includes tender love poetry, obscene invective, humorous anecdote, and learned mythological narrative; lyric, iambic, and dactylic metres; epigrams, hymns, and a miniature epic. His poems respond to literary influences from archaic Greece, Hellenistic Alexandria, and earlier Rome, and reflect the social and political world of the late Roman Republic. Their common quality is an intensity and apparent sincerity of feeling combined with artful technique. Catullus’s presentation of his love for the woman he calls Lesbia was particularly influential on Latin love elegy and on his own later reception, but the role played by sexuality and gender in his work is a wide-ranging and complex one. Catullus’s poetry greatly influenced the Augustan poets, but (except for one anthologized poem) survived the Middle Ages in a single manuscript. Modern reception has often focused at least as much on Catullus the person or biographical subject as on his poetry.


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.



Kelly L. Wrenhaven

In ancient Greece and Rome, masturbation was viewed with good-humored disdain. Although it was not apparently subject to the same kinds of scathing attacks that Greek comedy makes on male same-sex activity, it was certainly connected with a lack of sophistication. In line with sexual subjects in general, references are found primarily in Greek comedy and sympotic art of the Archaic and Classical periods, where it is typically associated with barbarians, slaves, and satyrs, all of whom fall into the category of the “Other,” or the anti-ideal. All were deemed lacking in sophrosyne (“moderation”) and enkratia (“self-control”) and were associated with uncivilized behavior. The Greeks had a varied terminology for masturbation. The most commonly found verb is dephesthai (“to soften”), but several other words and euphemisms were used (e.g. cheirourgon, “self-stimulation”).1The comedies of Aristophanes (1) provide the majority of references to masturbation and largely associate it with slaves. The lengthiest reference is a joke that occurs near the beginning of Knights, when Slave B tells Slave A to masturbate in order to give himself courage.


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).