Roman Homosexuality: Ideologies of Masculinity in Classical Antiquity / Edition 1

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This book provides a thoroughly documented discussion of ancient Roman ideologies of masculinity and sexuality with a focus on ancient representations of sexual experience between males. It gathers a wide range of evidence from the second century B.C. to the second century A.D.--above all from such literary texts as courtroom speeches, love poetry, philosophy, epigram, and history, but also graffiti and other inscriptions as well as artistic artifacts--and uses that evidence to reconstruct the contexts within which Roman texts were created and had their meaning. The book takes as its starting point the thesis that in order to understand the Roman material, we must make the effort to set aside any preconceptions we might have regarding sexuality, masculinity, and effeminacy.

Williams' book argues in detail that for the writers and readers of Roman texts, the important distinctions were drawn not between homosexual and heterosexual, but between free and slave, dominant and subordinate, masculin and effeminate as conceived in specifically Roman terms. Other important questions addressed by this book include the differences between Roman and Greek practices and ideologies; the influence exerted by distinctively Roman ideals of austerity; the ways in which deviations from the norms of masculine sexual practice were negotiated both in the arena of public discourse and in real men's lives; the relationship between the rhetoric of "nature" and representations of sexual practices; and the extent to which same-sex marriages were publicly accepted.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

" important and ground-breaking study."--Choice

"It has become increasingly apparent that although a very wide range of sexual activity appears in Latin literature, the Romans did not classify people as 'homosexuals' or 'heterosexuals,' and that when moral judgement was passed on a sexual act it was not the identity or difference of sex in the participants that mattered--it was taken for granted that the lust of a 'real man' was aroused by young, smooth bodies--but their relative civic status. Craig Williams has now given us an admirably thorough, clear, and perceptive survey of all the relevant evidence for the Romans' evaluation of homosexual acts."--Sir Kenneth Dover

"For an introduction to Roman ideas of masculinity, and Roman attitudes toward same-sex erotic relations, this is the book to read. It is sophisticated, elegantly written, offers a wealth of examples, and explains with exemplary clarity just how Roman views of sex and identity differed from our own. Williams is a first-rate guide to this difficult and fascinating territory."--David Konstan, Brown University

"A tour de force. Roman Homosexuality is a significant contribution to the historical and cross-cultural study of same-sex relations, and a marvellous addition to our knowledge of the erotics of masculinity in Ancient Rome. Not only does the book advance classical studies--it provides a critical commentary on modernity and sexuality in our times."--Gilbert Herdt, San Francisco State University

"...a lucid and enlightening survey of Roman ideas about masculinity and same-sex relations. An important contribution to innovative scholarship in classics."--David Larmour, Texas Tech University

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780195125054
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
  • Publication date: 6/28/1999
  • Series: Ideologies of Desire Series
  • Edition description: Older Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 416
  • Product dimensions: 9.00 (w) x 6.00 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Table of Contents

Introduction 3
1 Roman Traditions: Slaves, Prostitutes, and Wives 15
2 Greece and Rome 62
3 The Concept of Stuprum 96
4 Effeminacy and Masculinity 125
5 Sexual Roles and Identities 160
Conclusions 225
App. 1 The Rhetoric of Nature and Same-Sex Practices 231
App. 2 Marriage between Males 245
App. 3 A Note on the Sources 253
Notes 259
Works Cited 367
Index of Passages Cited 376
General Index 391
Photos follow page 124
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