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Being a Man in Ancient Rome

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  1. Introduction
  2. Roman view of homosexuals
  3. An inclination towards feminine behavior
  4. Strict regulations on sexual behavior
  5. Conclusion

?The Etruscans, early Rome's powerful neighbors to the north, were known to have an interest in Greek pederasty and were one of the chief export markets for Athenian vases displaying pederastic themes.? (Hubbard 2003, 308.) It is difficult to tell whether Romans adopted this same heightened interest, as many Roman texts were written well after the time they were alleged to have taken place.

Romans as a whole encouraged this behavior, or merely accepted it, same-sex interactions did play some role in their society. Ovid claimed to have a dislike for pederasty because of the lack of mutual pleasure, ?I hate sex that doesn't gratify both partners, and that is why I'm less enthralled with boys.? (Hubbard 2003, 8.19) From most of the examples provided in Hubbard, it would appear that a majority of people were accepting as long as actions were discrete and did not involve the violation of a citizen.

Even if a man were to get involved with another citizen, he would not be looked down upon too harshly unless he were the submissive party. A few examples may be found that imply any homosexual activity is looked at as being Greek, and disassociated from Roman culture; ?he still kept certain young men bound by love of the Greek sort.? (Hubbard 2003, 7.56)

[...] Cinaedus is uniquely a term of sexual passivity, but more fundamentally of sexual excess.? (Hubbard 2003, 309.) If one was found to be sexually corrupt in terms of being a cineadus, adulterer or womanizer, risk of serious consequences followed. Adulterers were often punished by having objects inserted in their anus in a most unpleasant manner, ?feet spread and strapped, back-passage widely gaping, reamed all its length with radishes and mullets!? (Hubbard ) However it is also possible for someone to avoid criminalization by admitting to their submissive role, as a jury would not believe someone so epicene may be brave or bold enough to commit certain crimes. [...]

[...] Even if a man is married, it is acceptable for him to save sex with a male without being labeled adulterer' as long as it falls within the society's guideline for proper sexual behavior otherwise. It is however seen to be shameful for a man to keep a woman for a relationship without entering the bonds of matrimony. (Williams, 101.) Naturally, the opinions of people within a society are liable to change through the times; and individuals may record feelings outside the norm, Romans are certainly no exception. [...]

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