HomoSexuality in the Roman Legions

Aug 2014
7
United Kingdom
#1
Hi,

Okay so this is really intriging me. What was the opinion on Homosexuality in the roman legions? Ive read a few books which says it was 'Fine everybody loved a bit of bum fun' and others which say 'BY JUPITER HAVE HIM KILLED IMMEDITELY'. I coudnt really find much online just wandering if anyone could let me know whether it was accepted or fround upon. Between fellow legionaries as well as during a sack.

Cheers :)
 

BenSt

Ad Honorem
Aug 2013
4,565
Canada, originally Clwyd, N.Wales
#2
Hi,

Okay so this is really intriging me. What was the opinion on Homosexuality in the roman legions? Ive read a few books which says it was 'Fine everybody loved a bit of bum fun' and others which say 'BY JUPITER HAVE HIM KILLED IMMEDITELY'. I coudnt really find much online just wandering if anyone could let me know whether it was accepted or fround upon. Between fellow legionaries as well as during a sack.

Cheers :)
Homosexuality was a very complex subject. Generally, a slave of any gender was open game for an owner's sexual appetites, but for citizens the social rules were different. If you were the receiver (the person being penetrated) and was a man, you were looked down upon whilst the giver (the person doing the penetrating) wasn't looked down upon. Likewise, fellatio in general was seen negetively

Ofcourse we're talking over a good 500 year period so sexual mores changed as much as they did for our own society over the past 500 years.

I expect that rape was a fact of life and Roman Legionaries may rape boys when they were on campaign.

The wikipedia article gives us an interesting selection:

The Roman soldier, like any free and respectable Roman male of status, was expected to show self-discipline in matters of sex. Augustus (reigned 27 BC–14 AD) even prohibited soldiers from marrying, a ban that remained in force for the Imperial army nearly two centuries.[144] Other forms of sexual gratification available to soldiers were prostitutes of any gender, male slaves, war rape, and same-sex relations.[145] The Bellum Hispaniense, about Caesar's civil war on the front in Roman Spain, mentions an officer who has a male concubine (concubinus) on campaign. Sex among fellow soldiers, however, violated the Roman decorum against intercourse with another freeborn male. A soldier maintained his masculinity by not allowing his body to be used for sexual purposes.[146]
In warfare, rape symbolized defeat, a motive for the soldier not to make his body sexually vulnerable in general.[147] During the Republic, homosexual behavior among fellow soldiers was subject to harsh penalties, including death,[148] as a violation of military discipline. Polybius (2nd century BC) reports that the punishment for a soldier who willingly submitted to penetration was the fustuarium, clubbing to death.[149]
Roman historians record cautionary tales of officers who abuse their authority to coerce sex from their soldiers, and then suffer dire consequences.[150] The youngest officers, who still might retain some of the adolescent attraction that Romans favored in male-male relations, were advised to beef up their masculine qualities by not wearing perfume, nor trimming nostril and underarm hair.[151] An incident related by Plutarch in his biography of Marius illustrates the soldier's right to maintain his sexual integrity despite pressure from his superiors. A good-looking young recruit named Trebonius[152] had been sexually harassed over a period of time by his superior officer, who happened to be Marius's nephew, Gaius Luscius. One night, having fended off unwanted advances on numerous occasions, Trebonius was summoned to Luscius's tent. Unable to disobey the command of his superior, he found himself the object of a sexual assault and drew his sword, killing Luscius. A conviction for killing an officer typically resulted in execution. When brought to trial, he was able to produce witnesses to show that he had repeatedly had to fend off Luscius, and "had never prostituted his body to anyone, despite offers of expensive gifts." Marius not only acquitted Trebonius in the killing of his kinsman, but gave him a crown for bravery.[153]
there is also a sizeable preview from Oxford's "Roman Homosexuality, Second Edition"

Roman Homosexuality: Second Edition - Craig A. Williams - Google Books
 

okamido

Forum Staff
Jun 2009
29,885
land of Califia
#3
If you can find a copy of this paper, it will probably help quite a lot. As it stands, I believe it is the only in-depth look at homosexuality taking place in the Legions.

"pederasty, the scantinian law, and the roman army."

Gray-For, M. The Journal of Psychohistory, XIII, 4, 449-460, 1986
 
Mar 2014
451
Lost in Yharnam
#4
Adrian Goldsworthy reveals in his biography of Caesar, that homosexuality was punishable by death in the Roman army since 200 BC, and cites several cases of men who were punished for it, or were rewarded for resisting it.
 

Mrbsct

Ad Honorem
Jul 2013
2,617
USA
#5
Sex in the Roman army was strict in general I believe. Only Officers and Centurions were allowed to marry and bring their significant other on campaign.(although regulars can have prostitutes and camp followers) If its slaves taken from campaign it was okay, since raping your opponent was a sign of victory.

Homosexuality was prohibited between soldiers. If its a slave its okay. Rape of a soldier is punishable by death.

The Romans viewed homosexuality in a different way. Males had to be masculine and dominant and show it. If you were homosexual, you had to be in the dominant top role. If you were penetrated, it was socially unacceptable. In the Army, even more unnacceptable.
 
Aug 2014
951
United States of America
#6
Speaking of homosexuality in antiquity is generally the wrong way of going about it. Such a category did not exist for the Romans, or at least it's very different than modern, Western conceptions.
 

Otranto

Ad Honorem
May 2013
2,083
Netherlands
#7
Adrian Goldsworthy reveals in his biography of Caesar, that homosexuality was punishable by death in the Roman army since 200 BC, and cites several cases of men who were punished for it, or were rewarded for resisting it.
The most famous case being of Trebonius. Plutarch, Life of Marius:

"Caius Lusius, a nephew of [Marius], had a command under him in the army. In other respects he was a man of good reputation, but he had a weakness for beautiful youths. This officer was enamoured of one of the young men who served under him, by name Trebonius, and had on made unsuccessful attempts to seduce him. But finally, at night, he sent a servant with a summons for Trebonius. The young man came, since he could not refuse to obey a summons, but when he had been introduced into the tent and Caius attempted violence upon him, he drew his sword and slew him. Marius was not with the army when this happened; but on his return he brought Trebonius to trial. Here there were many accusers, but not a single advocate, wherefore Trebonius himself courageously took the stand and told all about the matter, bringing witnesses to show that he had often refused the solicitations of Lusius and that in spite of large offers he had never prostituted himself to anyone. Then Marius, filled with delight and admiration, ordered the customary crown for brave exploits to be brought, and with his own hands placed it on the head of Trebonius, declaring that at a time which called for noble examples he had displayed the most noble conduct"

Plutarch, Moralia:

"In his second consulship Lusius, his nephew, attempted an indecent assault on one of the youths in the army, by the name of Trebonius, and the youth killed Lusius. When many accused him of the crime, he did not deny that he had killed the officer, and disclosed the circumstances; whereupon Marius ordered the crown which is given for deeds of supreme valour to be brought, and this he placed upon Trebonius."

Valerius Maximus, Memorable Deeds and Sayings:

"This army spirit led the general, Marius, to declare that Gaius Lusius had been justifiably killed by Gaius Plotius, even though Lusius was the son of Marius' own sister and a military tribune, whereas Plotius was just a common soldier. The reason was that Lusius had dared to approuch Plotius for sexual favors."

Interestingly, Trebonius was already considered to have been justified in using violence before the "indecent assault". Just having been approached for sexual favors by the officer was sufficient justification to kill him.

Another case described in Memorable Deeds and Sayings:

"The story of this lecherous centurion's punishment is followed by the story of the equally disgraceful end of a military tribune, Marcus Laetorius Mergus. Cominius, a tribune of the plebs, summoned him before the people because he had approached his adjutant for sexual favors. Laetorius could not bear his guilty feeling, and before the date of the trial he punished himself by exile and then death. He had paid the penalty that nature required, but even though he was dead, he was found guilty on that charge of sexual immorality by the verdict of the entire plebs. The army standards, the consecrated eagles, and that most reliable guardian of the Roman Empire, our strict military discipline, followed him all the way into the Underworld, because although he should have been his adjutant's role model in virtue, he tried to become the corrupter of his integrity."
 
Last edited:
Jul 2013
1,003
America
#8
The most famous case being of Trebonius. Plutarch, Life of Marius:

"Caius Lusius, a nephew of [Marius], had a command under him in the army. In other respects he was a man of good reputation, but he had a weakness for beautiful youths. This officer was enamoured of one of the young men who served under him, by name Trebonius, and had on made unsuccessful attempts to seduce him. But finally, at night, he sent a servant with a summons for Trebonius. The young man came, since he could not refuse to obey a summons, but when he had been introduced into the tent and Caius attempted violence upon him, he drew his sword and slew him. Marius was not with the army when this happened; but on his return he brought Trebonius to trial. Here there were many accusers, but not a single advocate, wherefore Trebonius himself courageously took the stand and told all about the matter, bringing witnesses to show that he had often refused the solicitations of Lusius and that in spite of large offers he had never prostituted himself to anyone. Then Marius, filled with delight and admiration, ordered the customary crown for brave exploits to be brought, and with his own hands placed it on the head of Trebonius, declaring that at a time which called for noble examples he had displayed the most noble conduct"

Plutarch, Moralia:

"In his second consulship Lusius, his nephew, attempted an indecent assault on one of the youths in the army, by the name of Trebonius, and the youth killed Lusius. When many accused him of the crime, he did not deny that he had killed the officer, and disclosed the circumstances; whereupon Marius ordered the crown which is given for deeds of supreme valour to be brought, and this he placed upon Trebonius."

Valerius Maximus, Memorable Deeds and Sayings:

"This army spirit led the general, Marius, to declare that Gaius Lusius had been justifiably killed by Gaius Plotius, even though Lusius was the son of Marius' own sister and a military tribune, whereas Plotius was just a common soldier. The reason was that Lusius had dared to approuch Plotius for sexual favors."

Interestingly, Trebonius was already considered to have been justified in using violence before the "indecent assault". Just having been approached for sexual favors by the officer was sufficient justification to kill him.

Another case described in Memorable Deeds and Sayings:

"The story of this lecherous centurion's punishment is followed by the story of the equally disgraceful end of a military tribune, Marcus Laetorius Mergus. Cominius, a tribune of the plebs, summoned him before the people because he had approached his adjutant for sexual favors. Laetorius could not bear his guilty feeling, and before the date of the trial he punished himself by exile and then death. He had paid the penalty that nature required, but even though he was dead, he was found guilty on that charge of sexual immorality by the verdict of the entire plebs. The army standards, the consecrated eagles, and that most reliable guardian of the Roman Empire, our strict military discipline, followed him all the way into the Underworld, because although he should have been his adjutant's role model in virtue, he tried to become the corrupter of his integrity."
If the evidence has proven that homosexuality was greatly frowned upon Romans serving in the legions, why have some historians asserted that it was completely acceptable for men to penetrate other men? Is it PC historical revisionism?
 
Mar 2013
3,909
Texas, USA
#9
If the evidence has proven that homosexuality was greatly frowned upon Romans serving in the legions, why have some historians asserted that it was completely acceptable for men to penetrate other men? Is it PC historical revisionism?
You're mixing up modern terms like homosexuality with the ancient Roman context of it. The ancients didn't label men on whether they had sex with men or women, they labeled them by whether they were masculine or feminine. Being penetrated meant surrendering manhood, therefore a relationship between two soldiers would be illegal, as it would put one of them in a feminine position, which destroys virtus, the masculine virtue of a warrior. So you can't have soldiers in feminine positions, its bad for discipline and morale. Therefore it was criminal as a soldier to penetrate or receive when it came to their dealings with other soldiers. But it was fine for them to stick whatever they wanted in things that don't matter, like male slaves, concubinus, or trollops.
 
Jul 2013
1,003
America
#10
You're mixing up modern terms like homosexuality with the ancient Roman context of it. The ancients didn't label men on whether they had sex with men or women, they labeled them by whether they were masculine or feminine. Being penetrated meant surrendering manhood, therefore a relationship between two soldiers would be illegal, as it would put one of them in a feminine position, which destroys virtus, the masculine virtue of a warrior. So you can't have soldiers in feminine positions, its bad for discipline and morale. Therefore it was criminal as a soldier to penetrate or receive when it came to their dealings with other soldiers. But it was fine for them to stick whatever they wanted in things that don't matter, like male slaves, concubinus, or trollops.
Ok, just playing devil's advocate, how often did legionaries take male sex slaves? And how often did male on male war rape occur within the legions? Was it as frequent as male on female?
 

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