The Joy of Sexus: Lust, Love, and Longing in the Ancient World

Overview

In her previous books, Vicki León put readers in the sandals of now obsolete laborers, ranging from funeral clowns to armpit pluckers, and untangled the twisted threads of superstition and science in antiquity. Now, in this book of astonishing true tales of love and sex in long-ago Greece, Rome, and other cultures around the Mediterranean, she opens the doors to shadowy rooms and parts the curtains of decorum.

León goes far beyond what we think we know about sex in ancient ...

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The Joy of Sexus: Lust, Love, and Longing in the Ancient World

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Overview

In her previous books, Vicki León put readers in the sandals of now obsolete laborers, ranging from funeral clowns to armpit pluckers, and untangled the twisted threads of superstition and science in antiquity. Now, in this book of astonishing true tales of love and sex in long-ago Greece, Rome, and other cultures around the Mediterranean, she opens the doors to shadowy rooms and parts the curtains of decorum.

León goes far beyond what we think we know about sex in ancient times, taking readers on a randy tour of aphrodisiacs and anti-aphrodisiacs, contraception, nymphomania, bisexuality, cross-dressing, and gender-bending. She explains citizens' fear of hermaphrodites, investigates the stinging price paid for adultery despite the ease of divorce, introduces readers to a surprising array of saucy pornographers, and even describes the eco-friendly dildos used by libidinous ancients. Love also gets its due, with true tales of the lifelong bonds between military men, history's first cougar and her devoted relationship with Julius Caesar, and the deification of lovers.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
In concise entries divided into nine readable sections, León (Working IX to V) delivers a snappy ride into the stunning, sometimes barbaric, and always entertaining sexuality of the ancient world. From aphrodisiacs and diaphanous silks to abduction and the very upsetting practice of infibulation, she minces no words exposing the truth behind ancient sex practices. Infamous emperors with a penchant for young boys riddle the pages, but so too do unsung tales of intimacy and affection. For example, the epitaph of a young girl written by her husband, a construction worker: “To the eternal memory of Blandinia... You who read this, go bathe in the baths of Apollo, as I used to do with my wife. I wish I still could.” Not limited to personal histories, the book casts a wide net on ancient sexuality, detailing the extravagant and the plebeian alike. Papyrus pornography, orgiastic festivals, and “breadstick dildo” abound. León’s descriptions are plentiful and detailed, and a vibrant, playful tone runs throughout—a Roman politician is introduced as a “utinous army officer, political turncoat, gang leader, cross-dresser, pirate hostage, and zestful incest aficionado.” This is a fun, enlightening trip into the ancient world not covered in high school textbooks. B&w images. Agent: David Forrer, Inkwell Management. (Jan.)
From the Publisher
"A snappy ride into the stunning, sometimes barbaric, and always entertaining sexuality of the ancient world...This is a fun, enlightening trip into the ancient world not covered in high school textbooks."

Publishers Weekly (starred review)

 

"In concise entries divided into nine readable sections, León delivers a snappy ride into the stunning, sometimes barbaric, and always entertaining sexuality of the ancient world. From aphrodisiacs and diaphanous silks to abduction and the very upsetting practice of infibulation, she minces no words exposing the truth behind ancient sex practices."

Publishers Weekly, a "best new book of the week"

 

"Enjoyable, edifying, and humorous."

Kirkus Reviews

Kirkus Reviews
Occasionally intriguing but too-cute history of eroticism in the ancient world. Until modern times, marriage was never about love, physical or otherwise; it was political and economic. Sensual enjoyment was much easier to find and enjoy with little consequence, and the Greeks, Romans and Egyptians mastered the art. Authors that attempt to make antiquities cute and bring them into the 21st century play a dangerous game. León (How to Mellify A Corpse: And Other Human Stories of Ancient Science & Superstition, 2010, etc.) has written enough to know better than to toss in silly phrases like "round-the-sundial witness protection," or marrying the prostitute because the man "didn't want to time-share." Mythology abounds naturally in a work about a subject in which the players all believe they perform like gods. The business of sex, not only in those who offer it for sale or for their own safety, has been around since Genesis, and the first published manual was distributed by the Chinese 5,000 years ago. Many readers will think that there is nothing new, and of course, there really isn't--just a new way of presenting a catalog of what people have always done. The author provides a redeeming amount of etymology--e.g., about fornices, beneath which the ladies of the night developed their job description. Forms, positions, aberrations and self-pollution methods eventually give way to a list of famous love affairs, real and mythological, from Orpheus' love of Eurydice to Cleopatra's passion for just about anyone who happened to be near. León seems to have been unable to decide whether to write about myths, history or just plain sex, so she just tossed them all into one basket. At times enjoyable, edifying and humorous, but the conversational style tends too much toward the sophomoric in its attempts to be cute.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780802719973
  • Publisher: Walker & Company
  • Publication date: 1/29/2013
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 320
  • Sales rank: 777,348
  • Product dimensions: 6.90 (w) x 6.90 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Vicki León calls the central coast of California home but returns often to her Mediterranean sources. Having honed her research skills by unearthing nine hundred achievers for her Uppity Women series of books, she's delved deeply into the ancient world with Working IX to V, How to Mellify a Corpse, and, of course, The Joy of Sexus. Visit her website at www.vickileon.com.

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