Statue of Antinous Delphi , polychrome Parian marble depicting Antinous , made during the reign of Hadrian r. Williams has noted, "the prime directive of masculine sexual behavior for Romans". Both women and young men were considered normal objects of desire, but outside marriage a man was supposed to act on his desires with only slaves, prostitutes who were often slaves , and the infames. Gender did not determine whether a sexual partner was acceptable, as long as a man's enjoyment did not encroach on another man's integrity.
It was immoral to have sex with another freeborn man's wife, his marriageable daughter, his underage son, or with the man himself; sexual use of another man's slave was subject to the owner's permission. Lack of self-control, including in managing one's sex life , indicated that a man was incapable of governing others; too much indulgence in "low sensual pleasure" threatened to erode the elite male's identity as a cultured person.
Greek cultural attitudes differed from those of the Romans primarily in idealizing eros between freeborn male citizens of equal status, though usually with a difference of age see " Pederasty in ancient Greece ". An attachment to a male outside the family, seen as a positive influence among the Greeks, within Roman society threatened the authority of the paterfamilias. One of his few surviving fragments is a poem of desire addressed to a male with a Greek name.
Vergil described their love as pius in keeping with Roman morality " New poetry " introduced at the end of the 2nd century included that of Gaius Valerius Catullus , whose work include expressing desire for a freeborn youth explicitly named "Youth" Iuventius. Homoerotic themes occur throughout the works of poets writing during the reign of Augustus , including elegies by Tibullus  and Propertius ,  the second Eclogue of Vergil , and several poems by Horace.
In the Aeneid , Vergil draws on the Greek tradition of pederasty in a military setting by portraying the love between Nisus and Euryalus ,  whose military valor marks them as solidly Roman men viri.
Sex, art, and everyday objects[ edit ] See also: Erotic art in Pompeii and Herculaneum Representations of male—male and female—female sex are less common in art of ancient Rome than are male—female sex acts. A frieze at the Suburban Baths in Pompeii shows a series of sixteen sex scenes, including same-sex couples, and same-sex pairings as a part group sex acts.
Threesome from the Suburban Baths in Pompeii, depicting a sexual scenario as described also by Catullus, Carmen 56 Threesomes in Roman art typically show two men penetrating a woman, but one of the Suburban scenes has one man entering a woman from the rear while he in turn receives anal sex from a man standing behind him.
This scenario is described also by Catullus, Carmen 56, who considers it humorous. The wearing of the toga marked a Roman man as a free citizen. Warren Cup The Warren Cup is a piece of convivial silver, usually dated to the time of the Julio-Claudian dynasty 1st century AD , that depicts two scenes of male—male sex. On the "Greek" side, a bearded, mature man is mounted by a young but muscularly developed male in a rear-entry position. The young man, probably meant to be 17 or 18, holds on to a sexual apparatus for maintaining an otherwise awkward or uncomfortable sexual position.
A child-slave watches the scene furtively through a door ajar. The "Roman" side of the cup shows a puer delicatus , age 12 to 13, held for intercourse in the arms of an older male, clean-shaven and fit.
The bearded pederast may be Greek, with a partner who participates more freely and with a look of pleasure. His counterpart, who has a more severe haircut, appears to be Roman, and thus uses a slave boy; the myrtle wreath he wears symbolizes his role as an " erotic conqueror ". As Amy Richlin has noted, "' gay ' is not exact, 'penetrated' is not self-defined, ' passive ' misleadingly connotes inaction" in translating this group of words into English.
Martial describes, for example, the case of an older man who played the passive role and let a younger slave occupy the active role. His performance featured tambourine -playing and movements of the buttocks that suggested anal intercourse. Eva Cantarella has described this form of concubinage as "a stable sexual relationship, not exclusive but privileged". In a wedding hymn , Catullus  portrays the groom's concubinus as anxious about his future and fearful of abandonment.
He plays an active role in the ceremonies, distributing the traditional nuts that boys threw rather like rice or birdseed in the modern Western tradition. It derived from the unattested Greek adjective pathikos, from the verb paskhein, equivalent to the Latin deponent patior, pati, passus, "undergo, submit to, endure, suffer". His sexuality was not defined by the gender of the person using him as a receptacle for sex, but rather his desire to be so used.
Because in Roman culture a man who penetrates another adult male almost always expresses contempt or revenge, the pathicus might be seen as more akin to the sexual masochist in his experience of pleasure. He might be penetrated orally or anally by a man or by a woman with a dildo , but showed no desire for penetrating nor having his own penis stimulated. He might also be dominated by a woman who compels him to perform cunnilingus.
In the erotic elegies of Tibullus , the delicatus Marathus wears lavish and expensive clothing. It was an affectionate word  traditionally used for a boy puer  who was loved by someone "in an obscene sense". The lexicographer Festus provides a definition and illustrates with a comic anecdote. Quintus Fabius Maximus Eburnus , a consul in BC and later a censor known for his moral severity, earned his cognomen meaning " Ivory " the modern equivalent might be " Porcelain " because of his fair good looks candor.
Eburnus was said to have been struck by lightning on his buttocks, perhaps a reference to a birthmark. Although the sexual inviolability of underage male citizens is usually emphasized, this anecdote is among the evidence that even the most well-born youths might go through a phase in which they could be viewed as "sex objects". It often had a distinctly sexual or sexually demeaning connotation. Scultimidonus[ edit ] Scultimidonus "asshole-bestower"  was rare and "florid" slang  that appears in a fragment from the early Roman satirist Lucilius.
As a characteristic of males, it often implies the willingness to be penetrated. Julius Caesar was accused of bringing the notoriety of infamia upon himself, both when he was about 19, for taking the passive role in an affair with King Nicomedes of Bithynia , and later for many adulterous affairs with women.
Plautus mentions a street known for male prostitutes. Juvenal states that such men scratched their heads with a finger to identify themselves. Apuleius indicates that cinaedi might form social alliances for mutual enjoyment, such as hosting dinner parties. In his novel The Golden Ass , he describes one group who jointly purchased and shared a concubinus. On one occasion, they invited a "well-endowed" young hick rusticanus iuvenis to their party, and took turns performing oral sex on him.
Both Martial and Juvenal refer to marriage between males as something that occurs not infrequently, although they disapprove of it. Other mature men at his court had husbands, or said they had husbands in imitation of the emperor. The slave's owner, however, could prosecute the rapist for property damage.
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. Polybius 2nd century BC reports that the punishment for a soldier who willingly submitted to penetration was the fustuarium , clubbing to death. A good-looking young recruit named Trebonius  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. A graffito from Pompeii is unambiguous: Petronius describes a man with a large penis in a public bathroom. The first two are "sinning", while the last two are being "sinned against".
History of lesbianism and Tribadism Female couple from a series of erotic paintings at the Suburban Baths, Pompeii References to sex between women are infrequent in the Roman literature of the Republic and early Principate. Ovid finds it "a desire known to no one, freakish, novel I wish I could hold to my neck and embrace the little arms, and bear kisses on the tender lips. Go on, doll, and trust your joys to the winds; believe me, light is the nature of men. Instead, they consort with women, just like men.
Gender presentation[ edit ] Hercules and Omphale cross-dressed mosaic from Roman Spain , 3rd century AD Cross-dressing appears in Roman literature and art in various ways to mark the uncertainties and ambiguities of gender: A section of the Digest by Ulpian categorizes Roman clothing on the basis of who may appropriately wear it: A man who wore women's clothes, Ulpian notes, would risk making himself the object of scorn.
The wearing of the toga may signal that prostitutes were outside the normal social and legal category of "woman". They are sometimes considered a transgender or transsexual priesthood, since they were required to be castrated in imitation of Attis.
The complexities of gender identity in the religion of Cybele and the Attis myth are explored by Catullus in one of his longest poems, Carmen The deity's worshippers cross-dressed, men wearing women's clothes, and women men's. In several surviving examples of Greek and Roman sculpture, the love goddess pulls up her garments to reveal her male genitalia, a gesture that traditionally held apotropaic or magical power.
Intersex in history Pliny notes that "there are even those who are born of both sexes, whom we call hermaphrodites, at one time androgyni " andr-, "man", and gyn-, "woman", from the Greek. The modern perception of Roman sexual decadence can be traced to early Christian polemic. A series of laws regulating male—male sex were promulgated during the social crisis of the 3rd century , from the statutory rape of minors to marriage between males.