HomoSexuality in the Roman Legions

Apr 2019
, and it was more or less than same in the Empire (with some changes obviously, like the Emperor could get away with a bit more than most).
Oh, for sure, man. Only the emperors were out. And the poets. And the men, friends as well as enemies, whom the poets wrote about (see Martial's and Statius' poems about friends of theirs and their own slave-boys). And the men who openly visited gay brothels. And also the men who boasted of having gay sex in the graffiti. But these men are exceptions - they could get away with it. No one else could! But who's even left in this "no one else"?

This belief by you that there is no problem with this fact, that the absence of any public homosexuals of any kind in many centuries means nothing, is pretty astoundingly uncritical of you.
What absence?? This is insane.

From the beginning I spoke of the republican-era poets. But you and that other guy always have an excuse to ignore evidence that you don't like.

Obviously being a passive lover was worse; but to the average Roman on the street any sort of male love was overwhelmingly a negative attribute.
There is no evidence of this, quit bullshitting. This goes against much of what scholars today believe, many of whom I have already quoted, but whom you just ignore. IOt goes against what people said in those times, too. Like Plutarch.

For the third time, I present what Plutarch said of Roman men, "it was neither disreputable nor shameful for the men of old to love male slaves in the bloom of youth."

"Neither disreputable nor shameful."

Do you understand what that means? It's the opposite of what you're arguing. And since he was a Roman citizen, who could see many of these facts with his own eyes rather than wish them this or that way like you're doing to win some stupid internet discussion, I'd rather rely on his testimony than on yours.

This combined with the fact it was always used as a slur,
There are no "homosexual slurs" in Latin. There are not even normal words for "homosexual" in that language. There are separate words for the active partner and for the passive, which argues in favor of the thesis that you are splitting hairs to deny: that the Romans judged the active partner of homosexual encounters differently from the passive. It's societies like those based on Judeo-Christianity, in which religious prejudice attacks with equal force both partners, that forged words that apply to both: homosexual, sodomite, etc. Neither Latin nor Greek has equivalents.

The words that the Romans used to denote the active partner - "pedico", for example - were never used as slur. When they appear in Latin graffiti, "pedico" has a positive sense, conveying a masculine boast, similar to the more heterosexualized term futuitor. It is something that Roman men would employ to proudly describe themselves. Ask yourself: why are there graffiti in which men boast of ******* another, but never of being fucked, if the two positions were stigmatized among the Romans?

The words that were used as slurs, cinaedus, for example, refer only to passive partners, and, in addition, they denote all kinds of passivity, including heterosexual. And "cunnilingus", which, as said above, the Romans interpreted as passivity on the part of man, is also used in these kinds of slur. Unlike "pedico", Romans never used those words on themselves.

Cinaedus was never used for the active partner. In fact, there are Roman writers, such as Martial and Catullus, who made of the cinaedus a figure of mockery, but who never apply the term to themselves despite the fact they openly had homosexual relationships, or even preferred them, as in the case of Martial.

When Roman soldiers laughed at Julius Caesar for having had a relationship with King Nicomedes, they made a point of introducing him as the passive of the relationship - as the King's "queen". There is, on the other hand, no account of Domitian, Hadrian, or Trajan being mocked by their soldiers, at least not for their homosexuality, probably because they were not thought to be passive with their boyfriends. These emperors, after all, were older than their boyfriends, so in the Roman mind that meant they must have been in the active position. Whereas Julius Caesar, at the time of the alleged relationship with Nicomedes, was much younger, and so was assumed to be the passive.

In the Roman imaginary, there was a great distance between the active partner and the passive partner. Another proof: the Lex Scantinina, which penalized relationships between freeborn Romans, targeted only the passive, and the penalty was a fine rather than death. The person who published the law, the emperor Domitian, was himself known for homosexual relationships - only as a top, however.

That you do not know this, or any of the things I've been saying, proves only your ignorance of Roman culture and society, and that you do not accept arguments demonstrating this fact, including from experts with renowned publications and from people who lived in the Roman times, as Roman citizens, shows your dogmatism and immaturity.
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Ad Honoris
Oct 2011
Italy, Lago Maggiore
- - - - NOTE no.2 - - - -
[I'm still at the level of notes]

Making it clear that my comment is not about contents [which are valid] ... "Dogmatic" and "immature" risk to stay in the group of "delusional", I suggest [I'm still suggesting ...] to focus the attention on the arguments, not on the other poster/s. Also an immature and dogmatic poster can present valuable arguments. Undermining the poster you don't undermine his arguments on the net [this is a common misbehavior, or better communication mistake, I have noted many times].

- - - - End of NOTE - - - -

This said, knowing the Latin sources [in Latin], I would expect to see quotations of works in Latin. But here it's the history lover to talk, not the assistant moderator.
Jan 2015
Rafe I'm not going to respond to a wall of repetition, where you rehash points that were already answered repeatedly, until you answer my question; what public figure in the history of the Republic was openly with a male sexual partner of any kind? I'll wait.


Ad Honorem
Feb 2012
active v.s passive" participants, etc. That is frankly wrong.
No, it's a very real aspect of Roman sexuality. The Roman male was supposed to be the virile active participant (penis = penetrating member, which is why thrusting swords were called gladius as well).. Any man acting passively during sex was behaving like a woman, and despised for that, though clearly it didn't stop Roman men seeking male partners but then should one be a male slave then he was property and could not refuse. Sex with another man's slave was messing with someone elses property and illegal. Prostitution was not frowned upon (the moralist Cato actually praises a man for seeking prostitutes because then he didn't foist his unwanted attentions on women of good character) and male prostitutes were available.

Some people talk about gladiators being pimped by their lanista, partly because of interpretations of graffiti, but this seems unlikely. Of course some Roman women were known to seek sex with their favourite gladiators, something disapproved of by men except the owner who no doubt found profit from the arrangement in some way, but I do believe casual pimping of gladiators was not ordinary activity - the Romans knew full well that sex tended to pacify a man, which is why they frowned upon masturbation and one reason for denying legionaries marriage, besides the domestic ties.

Openly seeking homosexual partners? Well, to be honest, this was not considered unusual and Julius Caesar was heavily criticised for his supposed homosexual liaisons not because they happened, but on the accusation of his passive compliance. Since generally public figures were not going to publicise their sex lives, evidence is bound to be lacking. However, for the sake of argument, Hadrian and Antinuous.

When discussing the republican period there were much stronger moral expectations but don't confuse theirs with ours.
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Jan 2015
Try reading my whole post Cal. Nobody is saying it's not a real thing, unless they read fragments of people's posts out of context (like you just did). Passive was worse, but non-passive wasn't popular either; which is why nobody who wanted a public life could have acknowledged male sexual partners of any kind. We have a vast amount of evidence of the female sexual partners of Romans who were public figures, both illicit and official. It's bizarre that supposedly homosexuality was widely accepted, provided it was non-passive, yet there is not a single example of a Roman in public life who had such a partner they would recognise. How would one even practically prove they were "the non-passive" member of the sexual partnership? For all the public knows you take turns being passive; who knows? It's one reason it was too dangerous to have a male sexual partner in public of any kind, because it's going to be spun in the worst way possible.
Mar 2012
Apuleius wrote homoerotic poems about boys. In fact, all his erotic poems in Ludica are homosexual, and in addition, some scholars today think that certain homoerotic epigrams, attributed to Plato or cited...

Rafe, somehow this is set up so I cannot do a point by point by pressing the quote box. Let me address some of this as best I can.

1. Dio called Trajan's homosexuality as a fault. Period.


Please explain what part of "fault" you don't understand .

2. Apuleius may have written homo-erotic poetry, because he might have been gay. But is prose reflects that fact that homosexuality was illegal, as the "perverts," as it is translated, are run out of town. We are talking about Roman societal values here, and the fact that the townspeople did not allow homosexulity in their midst confirms what we know: it was illegal.

There is no part of the text that says that the priests allowed themselves to be penetrated, or even that they were fellating another man, only that they were kissing him. You invented the rest, strongly indicating that you never read it. The fact that the narrator describes what they were doing in the eyes of the townspeople as "unnatural" says it all.

3. I make no bones about the fact that what Romans did with slaves was there business--that is not an argument for sexual tolerance. That is an argument for not investigating what is done in the dark with your PROPERTY.

It was shameful to penetrate boys, hence the quote above about Trajan, and Cicero's condemnation about Cataline. There are things you can only know by actually reading the sources.

4. I am going to repeat exactly the same about Cicero. You can only know this by reading him, not Amy Richlin, who has apparently never read him either: Cicero condemned Caesar, Cataline and Clodius for homosexual practices (Cataline active and passive explicitly).

You made some allusion of Pliny talking about Cicero's homosexuality and I challenged you to produce it so we can look at the context. Can we have it? Does it actually exist? Was he condemning it?

5. Polybius was condemning those engaging in "the foul Greek practice of homosexuality." Again, a massive, unequivocal piece of evidence that this was NOT a positive or even neutral societal value. All that you are showing is that you haven't read these sources, and are just looking them up on google to try to turn them. They won't be turned. The sources said what they said, and I have actually read them,

Homosexuality was also illegal in civilian life. I know this because I have read the sources and know that various people were charged with it, such as one of Agrippina's sons.

Apparently, "all students of Roman sexuality living today" have read the sources no more than you have.

6. The wine comment is asinine and childish. The quote clearly says that Pederasty was a fault. So was drunkeness. You can't undo the sources. Try reading them instead.

7. Hadrian's homosexuality was problematic. Again, helps to read the sources:


Again, you are citing one of these modern authors who have never read the ancient texts.

Hadrian's reputation was mixed, by the way.

8. I left out a letter from typing fast. I was citing Ammianus. At least we know that you have not really read that either, or you could have figured this out pretty easily.

9. WOW! In researching what you said about Plutarch, I found the ONE website you are culling your information from:

Greek love at Rome. - Free Online Library

He "suggested" that it was all right for Roman men to have sex with slaves, and I make no bones about that, because what men did with slaves, as their property, was their own business. That is not an affirmation of homosexual values, but again, that what a man did with his property would not be investigated.

Plutarch said what he said, and I quoted it. You are misquoting something you found on the internet.

Can you just admit that you have read no actual source on any of this, and you are talking about what you have read from google? It would save everyone a lot of time.

10. Sorry, forgot to mention the Augustan Scribe as the source on Commodus and some of the others, but then again, you have no idea who that is. Another source that you haven't read.

11. Suetonius does not paint Augustus' sexuality as negative as all that. Again, if you had ACTUALLY READ the source you would know as much. It is negative, but not that bad.

Suetonius mentions the spying theory as a quiet endorsement. That is obvious.

He does put the words in Anthony's mouth. Again, why not read the sources?

12. Tacitus says that Galba preferred sex in the "unnatural way," which says all that you need to know about what Romans thought of homosexuality. Again, if you had read the source, you would know this.
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Likes: Caesarmagnus
Apr 2019
Your position in this last post is even more unsophisticated and dogmatic than in the previous one. Instead of debating the arguments I have made, you simply reaffirm your previous position and then add "PERIOD". This is not how debates should be conducted. You give more proof of stubbornness than of true knowledge on the subject being discussed.

How is it that being a homosexual was considered a moral fault so great by Dio, if he also says, about Trajan's homosexuality, that "in his relation with boys he harmed no one"? It is clear that, unlike you, Dio conceived that it was possible to be homosexual and not to incur in moral faults, just as it was possible for him to be fond of wine and not to be an out-of-control drunkard.

Dio's approach is far from new. He simply followed the line taken by several moral thinkers of Greco-Roman antiquity who opposed, not the indulgence of carnal pleasures in themselves, but excesses which either cause harm to health or lead to conflict between the individual and the law. In Dio's view, Trajan's homosexual habits led to neither of these results - neither to harm to himself nor to the empire and its laws, unlike the love affairs of many other emperors, whether with men or with women.

If it is your wish to see in his text that sex with boys was the subject of moral condemnation among the Romans, then the same must be true of drinking wine, for, as said before, boys and wine occupy the same place in the text of Dio's that we are debating. They are both objects of pleasure to Trajan. They are both pleasures whose use Dio defends for having been taken in moderation in his case. Forcing a difference between these two objects is to commit special pleading, ie, to ignore facts or treat a fact differently from another that is similar simply because doing so fits the argument you are making.

And I have to laugh at this phrase of yours: "He called Trajan's homosexuality as a fault. Period."


Here is the translation to Dio's text on Trajan: AT NO POINT DOES HE USE THE WORD "FAULT".

Your position is of such dogmatism that it is leading you (unconsciously, I want to believe) to misrepresent the texts being discussed.

And why should I 'explain what part of "fault" don't understand', if it was never used in the text - if it is merely a projection ON YOUR PART?

Suetonius, by the way, adopts the same ethical approach in his biographies. Instead of simply praising so-called heterosexuals and condemning homosexuals, as you think he did, he instead evaluates the behavior of the subject, using the standard criterion typical in the classic texts: praising moderate behavior and condemning the excessive. That is why the homosexual Virgil he paints as a most virtuous man, and Claudius, of whom he says that he was been exclusively heterosexual, he condemns for letting himself be dominated by his women.

That is why, of homosexual or bisexual emperors like Galba and Titus, Suetonius says much more positive things than of Claudius and Augustus.

And that is also why many of the worst anecdotes on bisexual emperors concern, not sex with men, but with women: Nero raped Vestal virgins and Caligula slept with his own sisters.

Speaking of Augustus, you say this:

Suetonius does not paint Augustus' sexuality as negative as all that. Again, if you had ACTUALLY READ the source you would know as much. It is negative, but not that bad.”
Is it even possible to call that an argument?? Again, you are content to simply affirm an opinion as absolute truth, without bothering to produce evidence or make an argument.

This is what Suetonius says of Augustus: “That he was given to adultery not even his friends deny, although it is true that they excuse it as committed not from passion but from policy, the more readily to get track of his adversaries' designs through the women of their households. … He could not dispose of the charge of lustfulness and they say that even in his later years he was fond of deflowering maidens, who were brought together for him from all quarters, even by his own wife.”

Both of these charges are of utmost gravity. Despite the fact that, as I myself have been saying from the beginning, it was forbidden to seduce free-born boys (likewise freeborn girls), it was adultery that most bothered the Roman moralists. Marilyn Skinner says in this book: "Anecdotal evidence indicates that seductions of boys occurred, but concerns about adultery with matrons were far more prevalent."

That is why Roman law pressed a cuckolded husband to press charges his adulterous wife in court, failure of which would expose the husband himself to the accusation of complicity, whereas no law pressed anyone to denounce a case of seduction of free-born boys. That was left to the individual's discretion.

And note that Suetonius defends Augustus against neither of those accusations. The excuse that Augustus only practiced adultery to get an edge over his rivals, he puts in the mouth of Augustus' friends, whom readers would expect to be as biased in Augustus' favor as his enemies were against him.

And do not even try to convince me that using one's own wife as a pimp wouldn't be something "all that" negative in the eyes of an ordinary Roman, let alone of such a dour moralist as Suetonius.

And against the use you make of the "deified" Augustus as proof that the Romans only had a high opinion of "heterosexual" emperors, I can cite Suetonius himself to the effect that the Romans thought their "straight" emperor Augustus liked to take it from behind:

"What is more, one day when there were plays in the theatre, all the people took as directed against [Augustus] and loudly applauded the following line, spoken on the stage and referring to a priest of the Mother of the Gods, as he beat his timbrel: 'See'st how a wanton's finger sways the world?'"

"Wanton" is a vague translation of "cinaedus" in the original Latin text, which, as anyone knows who’s minimally informed about Roman sexual vocabulary, denotes above all the man who allows himself to be penetrated.

7. Hadrian's homosexuality was problematic. Again, helps to read the sources:

As you sloppily did not mention a reference, I had to go get the source of this quote on Google.

Here is the complete quote:

"In fact this practice has been regarded as a very bad fault in Hadrian; added to this are the assertions about his passion for adult males and the adulteries with married women."

I notice three things:

1) That you cropped the part of the text that says "adulteries with married women," which gives evidence that heterosexual behavior was also problematized. How honest of you!

2) The fact that people allegedly had trouble with Hadrian's "passion for adult males" does not refute the argument I have made here, that among the Romans it was normal to feel attraction for teenage boys and legal to have sex with them as long as they were slaves or prostitutes. That is just what Plutarch says in the quote that I was the first to adduce, that "it was neither disreputable nor shameful for the men of old to love male slaves in the bloom of youth." "The bloom of youth" is, of course, just a poetic way of saying "adolescence". (As to where I found that quote from Plutarch, you're wrong. I found it in this book.)
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Apr 2019
Anyway, I never said anything about the love for grown men having a good reputation among the Romans. I myself would expect the contrary, for, according to an article about the historical existence of different subtypes of male homosexuality across the world, in societies that embrace pederasty, like the Romans, hostility to love between adult men is the rule.

3) This little anecdote probably never happened. It is based on the Historia Augusta, a document produced centuries after the supposed facts it narrates and which, in the view of modern scholars, is full of blatant falsehoods. (Wikipedia, incidentally, has an interesting section on fraud contained in the Historia.) This passage that you have highlighted has been the object of skepticism on the part of modern historians.

In his book about Hadrian, Anthony Everett, for example, says the following about it: "The Historia Augusta cites reports of his 'passion for males and adulteries with married women' but there's not a sliver of supporting evidence for the latter in any of the sources. Whatever the exact nature of [Trajan's and Hadrian's] sexuality, it was not felt to be of political significance since they never allowed their private lives to influence their public decisions, and no one complained."

Note what he says in the end: "no one complained". This directly contradicts the words of the Historia to which you are clinging so tightly.

Note also what he says about the homosexuality of these two men, that it had no political implications, which suggests that this orientation was considered normal among the Roman public.

What are you going to say now? That Everett never read old texts? That of the seven or eight scholars and professors I have already mentioned here to the effect that homosexuality was both common and well accepted among the Romans, none have ever studied ancient texts? That it is possible to publish books about Rome and become a classics professor without having read any of classics? Do you honestly believe yourself when you say that?

Back to Hadrian, the evidence we have shows, on the contrary, that his affair with the young Antinous was far more popular than any of the heterosexual adventures of the emperors who preceded him or succeeded him.

Skinner again: "What cannot be debated is that the new cult of divine Antinous immediately gripped the imagination of the populace. Even when we take imperial promotion and encouragement into account, its rapid spread appears to have been a spontaneous response – impelled, perhaps, by sentimental or erotic recollections of other doomed mythic youths such as Hyacinthus and Narcissus. In a short time Antinoöpolis became a holy city to which pilgrims flocked to be cured or hear oracles pronounced. From Egypt, worship of Antinous as a savior god expanded rapidly across the Roman world. In Greece, Asia Minor, and along the North African coast, and to a lesser but still sizable extent in Italy, Spain, and northwestern Europe, images and dedicatory inscriptions attest to formal or private veneration. Scattered traces of his worship have been found from Britain to the Danube. Cities struck coins and medallions in his honor. Out of countless sculptures produced during the eight remaining years of Hadrian’s reign – posthumous representations of the new god in one or another of his divine aspects – approximately a hundred still exist. Their survival is remarkable because worship of Antinous provoked the rage of Christian apologists, who cited the apotheosis of a disgusting catamite as proof of the moral bankruptcy of paganism. Hatred of this rival cult (which, in celebrating a young man’s sacrifice and supposed rebirth, was curiously analogous to Christianity) guaranteed that its temples and icons would be targeted for obliteration when the latter creed finally triumphed."

And according to Wikipedia, "In Egypt, Athens, Macedonia, and Italy, children would be named after the deity [Antinous]."

Oh, and whether you like it or not, Hadrian was himself one of the most popular emperors of all Roman history. Only Trajan can be compared to him.

As for what you said about Tacitus and Galba, I would like to see a direct quote, preferably in Latin. For it is becoming increasingly clear to me that much of your position here is based not on the original text, but on poor translations made in the last century, when translators of more homophobic decades were imposing their personal biases on the text.

As such, when Suetonius speaks of Claudius' heterosexuality, Loeb Classical Library's 1914 translation has him say the following: "He was immoderate in his passion for women, but wholly free from unnatural vice." The University of Chicago, which has the text both in English and in Latin on its website, helpfully added the following note to that passage: 'The moral judgments are those of the translator; neither one is to be found in Suetonius himself, who simply writes Libidinis in feminas profusissimae, marum omnino expers. "(He was) very strongly attracted to women, altogether uninvolved with men."'

The same is true of Suetonius's biography of Galba. According to the translator, Suetonius says the following: "He was more inclined to unnatural desire, and in gratifying it preferred full-grown, strong men." The Latin text, however, says nothing of "unnatural vice". This is a prejudice of 20th-century Christianity, not of the Roman ethics of the time of Trajan or Hadrian. The Latin text says: "Libidinis in mares pronior et eos non nisi praeduros exoletosque...", that is, "He was more prone to the love of males, preferring those who were overgrown and hard in body".

Despite the fact that Galba's preference for adult men was fairly unusual in Rome, what Suetonius says in this respect is completely free of moral judgment, as has been remarked by scholars. Craig Williams says: "Suetonius records that the emperor Galba was particularly fond of men who were “very hard and grown up,” and it is worth noting that Galba’s fondness for mature men seems to have caused no eyebrows to rise, presumably because he was observing the two basic protocols of masculine sexual comportment: maintaining the appearance of an appropriately dominant stance with his partners and keeping himself to his own slaves and to prostitutes."

I am not aware of what Tacitus said about Galba, but it is possible that you have been misled here by that same tendency of Western translators, that of peppering their translations of Greco-Roman texts with Christian prejudices.

If I am correct, that you are relying upon, not in the original Latin, but modern translations, may I suggest that you be more humble about your knowledge and stop doubting academics who do speak Latin when their words are quoted here and they happen to disagree with your arguments?

It was shameful to penetrate boys, hence the quote above about Trajan, and Cicero's condemnation about Cataline. There are things you can only know by actually reading the sources.
Plutarch, for the forth time: "it was neither disreputable nor shameful for the men of old to love male slaves in the bloom of youth."

How could this kind of love have been so stigmatized among the Romans if the gods they worshiped themselves indulged in it, if some of the male lovers of the gods (such as Ganymede) were worshiped the same as the gods, and if poets celebrated this kind of love as often as they celebrated women?

Even if there were social restrictions against every form of homosexuality (and you have not offer any proof of that), over time that would have changed since most of the giants of Roman culture (Catullus, Virgil, Horace, Tibullus) - men who were adored not only among the educated but were also well-known among the populace, as Suetonius's biography of Virgil proves - celebrated and sometimes recommended pederastic love. Over the years, this would have softened the Roman resistance to homosexuality (assuming such resistance ever happened). We have a good indication of that in our own times, for modern culture, with its sympathetic portrayals of homosexuals and bisexuals, has much to do with the fact that people are becoming less intolerant to sexual minorities than in years past.

As for Cicero:

1) Catiline was never accused of homosexuality, because such an offense did not exist. He was charged with impudicitia, illicit sexual practice involving freeborn Romans. It was forbidden to practice penetration with a freeborn Roman of either sex in the receptive position out of wedlock.

2) Cicero himself, in his attacks on Mark Antony, attests to this fact, that homosexuality involving a master and his slave was not illegal.
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Apr 2019
3) The poem Pliny The Younger wrote is as follows:

When I was reading the books of Gallus in which he dared
to award the prize and glory to his father, not Cicero,
I found a sexy play-piece of Cicero, to be watched
with the same state of mind in which he wrote serious things,
and by which he shows that the minds of great men rejoice
in human wit, in many and various graces.
For he complains Tiro cheated his lover by trickery;
Tiro owed him a few little kisses after dinner,
but, in the nighttime, absconded. When I read this,
“Why, after this,” I said, “should I hide my own loves,
too timid to publish a thing? Why don’t I confess
that I’ve known the tricks of a Tiro, the fleeting flirtations
of Tiro, and teases that only add new flames to old ones?

This translation can be found in the chapter that Professor Amy Richlin wrote for this book.

Professor Thomas Hubbard also mentioned this poem in his discussion of Greek and Roman homosexuality in another book.

As you can see, Pliny makes clear that the relationship between Cicero and Tiro was amorous, and there is no sign of moral condemnation from his part against Cicero. On the contrary, the tone is playful and Pliny even identifies himself with Cicero, saying that he, too, had his own Tiro, that is, a flirty but malicious slave-boy who played with his feelings.

By gratuitously raising the suspicion that there would be moral condemnation in the poem, you show how out of touch you are with Roman attitudes.

10. Sorry, forgot to mention the Augustan Scribe as the source on Commodus and some of the others, but then again, you have no idea who that is. Another source that you haven't read.
Ah, now I see. The "Augustan Scribe" is the Historia Augusta. How was I to know that this was the source you were referring to? You are the only person ever who refers to it by that name. It's the same book that I discussed above in relation to Hadrian -- the same book that, as I have already shown above, modern historians consider unreliable and full of falsehoods.

5. Polybius was condemning those engaging in "the foul Greek practice of homosexuality."
This quote does not exist. Either you invented it, or, again, you're being misled by outdated translations made in past and more homophobic decades.

There are two passages in which Polybius mentions the homosexual habits of the Romans.

Craig Williams translated both as follows:

1) "For some of the young men had given themselves over to boyfriends, others to female prostitutes, and many to musical entertainments and drinking parties and the extravagance that goes along with them, having swiftly adopted the permissiveness of the Greeks in this regard during the war with Perseus."

Note that there is no condemnation of homosexuality as such - only of extravagance, which includes both heterosexual (with female prostitutes) and non-sexual (indulgence in parties) versions. Note, too, that indulging in boyfriends (probably male prostitutes) does not appear to have been more of a "foul Greek practice" (to use your flawed quote) than buying the services of female prostitutes. As Williams demonstrates, when Romans condemn Greek habits, their focus is usually on over-spending in (female) prostitutes and in entertainment.

2) "So great a lack of self-control with regard to such things had fallen upon the young men that many of them bought a boyfriend for a talent, or a jar of smoked fish from the Black Sea for three hundred drachmas. Greatly upset at this, Cato once said before the people that they could most clearly perceive the country’s turn for the worse from these events, when pretty boys fetched more on the market than fields, jars of smoked fish more than ox-drivers."

Williams demonstrates that this passage is wholly consistent with Cato's ethics, which condemn hedonistic endeavors that weigh heavily on the pocket of the Roman citizen. What Cato is bemoaning is that empty pleasures (boys and fish) are costing more than productive acquisitions (ox-drivers).

The purchase of "boyfriends" (again, most likely male prostitutes or slave-boys) is completely analogous to the consumption of expensive sea-food, one being no more of a moral concern than the other. But you're probably going to deny that this is the case, just as you deny the obvious parallel between boys and wine in Dion's biography of Trajan.

Ancient writers, however, have come to the same conclusion as Williams: "Plutarch observes that Cato was out to “attack extravagance” and Diodorus says that Cato was launching an assault on the luxurious lifestyle that increasingly took hold of Rome, while Athenaeus reports that Cato complained of the importation of “foreign luxury” into Rome. To use Athenaeus’ terms, what Cato saw as foreign was neither homosexuality nor pederasty but the luxury exemplified by indulgence in expensive delicacies, boy prostitutes, female prostitutes, and the like."

And Skinner: "As for the elder Cato, when he inveighs against the purchase of boys for sexual use, is he denouncing pederasty? Not in itself, any more than he is denouncing smoked fish. Rather, his anger is directed at rich young men who lavish enormous amounts of cash on personal gratification rather than earmarking wealth for productive agricultural projects."

And, incidentally, if homosexuality was so illegal, can you tell me which action did the Roman state take against these young, hedonistic outlaws? Were they prosecuted for homosexuality? And how, in a country where supposedly homosexuality is banned, would it be possible to openly buy these 'pleasure boys' on the market?

2. Apuleius may have written homo-erotic poetry, because he might have been gay. But is prose reflects that fact that homosexuality was illegal, as the "perverts," as it is translated, are run out of town. We are talking about Roman societal values here, and the fact that the townspeople did not allow homosexulity in their midst confirms what we know: it was illegal.
Do you know the context in which Apuleius discussed his homoerotic poems? He was in court, being tried. If homosexuality were illegal in Rome, he would have hidden that fact, wouldn't he? He did not.

And before you try to insinuate that he was being tried for homosexuality, I will say this: he was not. He was being tried for witchcraft. His ignoramus accusers believed that many of the poems in the Ludicra, including his "boy love" compositions, concealed codes for spells.

Your comments on that portion of the Metamorphoses indicate to me that, again, you're being ill served by coy translations made by conservative minds.

Here's how that passage was translated in Thomas Hubbard's sourcebook of Greco-Roman homoerotic texts: "The young man was stripped and laid on his back, and crowding round him they made repeated demands on his services with their loathsome mouths."

It is not kissing what is being described here, otherwise the young man wouldn't have to undress and lie down. Moreover, if the only sexual act that took place were simple kisses, the use of the euphemism wouldn't be necessary. Such use makes it clear that what is being described is a second-rate, rather filthy sexual act, which is how the Romans conceptualized oral sex.

This is how Hubbard himself describes the passage: "Apuleius (10.15) narrates a story about effeminate eunuch priests of Cybele who lure a young peasant into their midst and then force him to be serviced orally by the whole troupe."

The priests committed several crimes in this single act. Kidnapping and rape, for example. Yet you pretend that the only reason those priests met such a strong reaction from the public was the fact that they were homosexual. Pray tell, what do you think would have happened if they had tried that on a female? Do you think the Romans rewarded the gang-raping of girls?

And by the way, the priests were never kicked out of the village, as you said before. They left voluntarily: "Demoralized by this scandal, news of which soon spread and naturally got them loathed and detested by one and all, they packed up everything and left the place surreptitiously at about midnight."

By the way, speaking of Roman novels, what do you think of the Satyricon? The Satyricon has a lot of homosexuality - more than any other Greco-Roman novel - and yet it seems the characters have no fear of the law. On the contrary, they discuss their homoerotic cases in public; many even make sexual advances on one another, also in public. And this is not because the law is never applied. It is, a character is even exiled from the land over sexual conduct: it's a woman, convicted of adultery, a heterosexual crime.

Fear of punishment, or even of supposed social stigma, there is none among the male characters, basically all of whom are bisexual. This is of great interest to our debate because the Satyricon is the only Roman novel with some claim to the label "realist". How do you reconcile this with your belief that the Romans condemned homosexuality to the fifth circle of hell?
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