Homosexuality in ancient Rome
Same-sex attitudes and behaviors in ancient Rome often differ markedly from those of the contemporary West. Latin lacks words that would precisely translate "homosexual" and "heterosexual". The primary dichotomy of ancient Roman sexuality was active/dominant/masculine and passive/submissive/"feminized". Roman society was patriarchal, and the freeborn male citizen possessed political liberty (libertas) and the right to rule both himself and his household (familia). "Virtue" (virtus) was seen as an active quality through which a man (vir) defined himself. The conquest mentality and "cult of virility" shaped same-sex relations. Roman men were free to enjoy sex with other males without a perceived loss of masculinity or social status, as long as they took the dominant or penetrative role. Acceptable male partners were slaves, prostitutes, and entertainers, whose lifestyle placed them in the nebulous social realm of infamia, excluded from the normal protections accorded a citizen even if they were technically free. Although Roman men in general seem to have preferred youths between the ages of 12 and 20 as sexual partners, freeborn male minors were strictly off-limits, and professional prostitutes and entertainers might be considerably older.
Same-sex relations among women are less documented. Although Roman women of the upperclasses were educated, and are known to have written poetry and corresponded with male relatives, very few fragments of anything that might have been written by women survived. Male writers took little interest in how women experienced sexuality in general. During the Republic and early Principate, little is recorded of sexual relations among women, but better and more varied evidence, though scattered, exists for the later Imperial period.
- 1 Background
- 2 Homoerotic literature and art
- 3 Male-male sex
- 4 Female-female sex
- 5 Gender identity
- 6 Under Christian rule
- 7 See also
- 8 Notes
- 9 Literature
- 10 External links
During the Republic, a Roman citizen's political liberty (libertas) was defined in part by the right to preserve his body from physical compulsion, including both corporal punishment and sexual abuse. Roman society was patriarchal (see paterfamilias), and masculinity was premised on a capacity for governing oneself and others of lower status. Virtus, "valor" as that which made a man most fully a man, was among the active virtues. Sexual conquest was a common metaphor for imperialism in Roman discourse, and the "conquest mentality" was part of a "cult of virility" that particularly shaped Roman homosexual practices. Roman ideals of masculinity were thus premised on taking an active role that was also, as Craig A. Williams has noted, "the prime directive of masculine sexual behavior for Romans." In the late 20th and early 21st centuries, scholars have tended to view expressions of Roman male sexuality in terms of a "penetrator-penetrated" binary model; that is, the proper way for a Roman male to seek sexual gratification was to insert his penis in his partner. Allowing himself to be penetrated threatened his liberty as a free citizen as well as his sexual integrity.
It was expected and socially acceptable for a freeborn Roman man to want sex with both female and male partners, as long as he took the penetrative role. The morality of the behavior depended on the social standing of the partner, not gender per se. Both women and young men were considered normal objects of desire, but outside marriage a man was supposed to act on his desires only with 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.
In the Imperial era, anxieties about the loss of political liberty and the subordination of the citizen to the emperor were expressed by a perceived increase in voluntary passive homosexual behavior among free males, accompanied by a documentable increase in the execution and corporal punishment of citizens. The dissolution of Republican ideals of physical integrity in relation to libertas contributes to and is reflected by the sexual license and decadence associated with the Empire.
Homoerotic literature and art
Homoerotic themes are introduced to Latin literature during a period of increasing Greek influence on Roman culture in the 2nd century BC. The consul Quintus Lutatius Catulus was among a circle of poets who made short, light Hellenistic poems fashionable. One of his few surviving fragments is a poem of desire addressed to a male with a Greek name. The elevation of Greek literature and art as models of expression promoted the celebration of homoeroticism as the mark of an urbane and sophisticated person. No assumptions or generalizations should be made about any effect on sexual orientation or real-life behavior among the Romans.
"Greek love" influences aesthetics or the means of expression, not the nature of Roman male-male erotics as such. Greek male-male erotics differed from Roman 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. Since Roman women were active in educating their sons and mingled with men socially, and women of the governing classes often continued to advise and influence their sons and husbands in political life, homosociality was not as pervasive in Rome as it had been in Classical Athens, where it is thought to have contributed to the particulars of pederastic culture.
The "new poetry" introduced at the end of the 2nd century came to fruition in the 50s BC with Gaius Valerius Catullus, whose poems include several expressing desire for a freeborn youth explicitly named "Youth" (Iuventius). The Latin name and freeborn status of the beloved subvert Roman tradition. Catullus's contemporary Lucretius also recognizes the attraction of "boys" (pueri, which can designate an acceptable submissive partner and not specifically age). 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). Vergil describes their love as pius, linking it to the supreme virtue of pietas as possessed by the hero Aeneas himself, and endorsing it as "honorable, dignified and connected to central Roman values."
By the end of the Augustan period Ovid, Rome's leading literary figure, proposed a radically new agenda focused on love between men and women: making love with a woman is more enjoyable, he says, because unlike the forms of same-sex behavior permissible within Roman culture, the pleasure is mutual. Ovid does include mythological treatments of homoeroticism in the Metamorphoses, but Thomas Habinek has pointed out that the significance of Ovid's rupture of human erotics into categorical preferences has been obscured in the history of sexuality by a later heterosexual bias in Western culture.
In literature of the Imperial period, the Satyricon of Petronius is so permeated with the culture of male-male sex that in 18th-century European literary circles, his name became "a byword for homosexuality." The poet Martial often derides women as sexual partners, and celebrates the charms of pueri.
Sex, art, and everyday objects
Representations of male-male and female-female sex are less well represented in the erotic 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 a male-male and a female-female couple, and same-sex pairings within scenes of group sex.
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 man in the center may be a cinaedus, a male who liked to receive anal sex but who was also considered seductive to women. Foursomes also appear in Roman art, typically with two women and two men, sometimes in same-sex pairings.
Roman attitudes toward male nudity differ from those of the ancient Greeks, who regarded idealized portrayals of the nude male as an expression of masculine excellence. The wearing of the toga marked a Roman man as a free citizen. Negative connotations of nudity include defeat in war, since captives were stripped, and slavery, since slaves for sale were often displayed naked.
At the same time, the phallus was displayed ubiquitously in the form of the fascinum, a magic charm thought to ward off malevolent forces; it became a customary decoration, found widely in the ruins of Pompeii, especially in the form of wind chimes (tintinnabula). The outsized phallus of the god Priapus may originally have served an apotropaic purpose, but in art it is frequently laughter-provoking or grotesque. Hellenization, however, influenced the depiction of male nudity in Roman art, leading to more complex signification of the male body shown nude, partially nude, or costumed in a muscle cuirass.
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. It has been argued that the two sides of this cup represent the duality of pederastic tradition at Rome, the Greek in contrast to the Roman. 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". The cup may have been designed as a conversation piece to provoke the kind of dialogue on ideals of love and sex that took place at a Greek symposium. The antiquity of the Warren Cup has been challenged, and it may instead represent perceptions of Greco-Roman homosexuality at the time of its manufacture, possibly the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries.
A man or boy who took the "receptive" role in sex was variously called cinaedus, pathicus, exoletus, concubinus (male concubine), spintria ("analist"), puer ("boy"), pullus ("chick"), pusio, delicatus (especially in the phrase puer delicatus, "exquisite" or "dainty boy"), mollis ("soft," used more generally as an aesthetic quality counter to aggressive masculinity), tener ("delicate"), debilis ("weak" or "disabled"), effeminatus, discinctus ("loose-belted"), and morbosus ("sick"). 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.
Some terms, such as exoletus, specifically refer to an adult; Romans who were socially marked as "masculine" did not confine their same-sex penetration of male prostitutes or slaves to those who were "boys" under the age of 20. Some older men may have at times preferred the passive role. Martial describes, for example, the case of an older man who played the passive role and let a younger slave occupy the active role. An adult male's desire to be penetrated was considered a sickness (morbus); the desire to penetrate a handsome youth was thought normal.
Cinaedus is a derogatory word denoting a male who was gender-deviant; his choice of sex acts, or preference in sexual partner, was secondary to his perceived deficiencies as a "man" (vir). Catullus directs the slur cinaedus at his friend Furius in his notoriously obscene Carmen 16. Although in some contexts cinaedus may denote an anally passive man and is the most frequent word for a male who allowed himself to be penetrated anally, a man called cinaedus might also have sex with and be considered highly attractive to women. Cinaedus is not equivalent to the English vulgarism "faggot," except that both words can be used to deride a male considered deficient in manhood or with androgynous characteristics whom women may find sexually alluring.
The clothing, use of cosmetics, and mannerisms of a cinaedus marked him as effeminate, but the same effeminacy that Roman men might find alluring in a puer became unattractive in the physically mature male. The cinaedus thus represented the absence of what Romans considered true manhood, and the word is virtually untranslatable into English.
Originally, a cinaedus (Greek kinaidos) was a professional dancer, characterized as non-Roman or "Eastern"; the word itself may come from a language of Asia Minor. His performance featured tambourine-playing and movements of the buttocks that suggested anal intercourse.
Some Roman men kept a male concubine (concubinus, "one who lies with; a bed-mate") before they married a woman. Eva Cantarella has described this form of concubinage as "a stable sexual relationship, not exclusive but privileged." Within the hierarchy of household slaves, the concubinus seems to have been regarded as holding a special or elevated status that was threatened by the introduction of a wife. In a wedding hymn, Catullus portrays the groom's concubinus as anxious about his future and fearful of abandonment. His long hair will be cut, and he will have to resort to the female slaves for sexual gratification—indicating that he is expected to transition from being a receptive sex object to one who performs penetrative sex. The concubinus might father children with women of the household, not excluding the wife (at least in invective). The feelings and situation of the concubinus are treated as significant enough to occupy five stanzas of Catullus's wedding poem. 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).
The relationship with a concubinus might be discreet or more open: male concubines sometimes attended dinner parties with the man whose companion they were. Martial even suggests that a prized concubinus might pass from father to son as an especially coveted inheritance. A military officer on campaign might be accompanied by a concubinus. Like the catamite or puer delicatus, the role of the concubine was regularly compared to that of Ganymede, the Trojan prince abducted by Jove (Greek Zeus) to serve as his cupbearer.
Pathicus was a "blunt" word for a male who was penetrated sexually. 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." The English word "passive" derives from the Latin passus.
Pathicus and cinaedus are often not distinguished in usage by Latin writers, but cinaedus may be a more general term for a male not in conformity with the role of vir, a "real man", while pathicus specifically denotes an adult male who takes the sexually receptive role. A pathicus was not a "homosexual" as such. 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 discourse of sexuality, puer ("boy") was a role as well as an age group. Both puer and the feminine equivalent puella, "girl," could refer to a man's sexual partner, regardless of age. As an age designation, the freeborn puer made the transition from childhood at around age 14, when he assumed the "toga of manhood", but he was 17 or 18 before he began to take part in public life. A slave would never be considered a vir, a "real man"; he would be called puer, "boy," throughout his life. Pueri might be "functionally interchangeable" with women as receptacles for sex, but freeborn male minors were strictly off-limits. To accuse a Roman man of being someone's "boy" was an insult that impugned his manhood, particularly in the political arena. The aging cinaedus or an anally passive man might wish to present himself as a puer.
The puer delicatus was an "exquisite" or "dainty" child-slave chosen by his master for his beauty as a "boy toy", also referred to as deliciae ("sweets" or "delights"). Unlike the freeborn Greek eromenos ("beloved"), who was protected by social custom, the Roman delicatus was in a physically and morally vulnerable position. The "coercive and exploitative" relationship between the Roman master and the delicatus, who might be prepubescent, can be characterized as pedophilic, in contrast to Greek paiderasteia. The boy was sometimes castrated in an effort to preserve his youthful qualities; the emperor Nero had a puer delicatus named Sporus, whom he castrated and married.
Pueri delicati might be idealized in poetry. In the erotic elegies of Tibullus, the delicatus Marathus wears lavish and expensive clothing. The beauty of the delicatus was measured by Apollonian standards, especially in regard to his long hair, which was supposed to be wavy, fair, and scented with perfume. The mythological type of the delicatus was represented by Ganymede, the Trojan youth abducted by Jove (Greek Zeus) to be his divine companion and cupbearer. In the Satyricon, the tastelessly wealthy freedman Trimalchio says that as a child-slave he had been a puer delicatus servicing both the master and the mistress of the household.
The lexicographer Festus provides a definition and illustrates with a comic anecdote. Quintus Fabius Maximus Eburnus, a consul in 116 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. It was joked that he was marked as "Jove's chick" (pullus Iovis), since the characteristic instrument of the king of the gods was the lightning bolt (see also the relation of Jove's cupbearer Ganymede to "catamite"). 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." Perhaps tellingly, this same member of the illustrious Fabius family ended his life in exile, as punishment for killing his own son for impudicitia.
Pusio is etymologically related to puer, and means "boy, lad." It often had a distinctly sexual or sexually demeaning connotation. Juvenal indicates the pusio was desirable because he was more compliant and undemanding to sleep with than a woman. Pusio was also used as a personal name (cognomen).
Scultimidonus ("asshole-bestower") was rare and "florid" slang that appears in a fragment from the early Roman satirist Lucilius. It is glossed as "Those who bestow for free their scultima, that is, their anal orifice, which is called the scultima as if from the inner parts of whores" (scortorum intima).
The abstract noun impudicitia (adjective impudicus) was the negation of pudicitia, "sexual morality, chastity." As a characteristic of males, it often implies the willingness to be penetrated. Dancing was an expression of male impudicitia.
Impudicitia might be associated with behaviors in young men who retained a degree of boyish attractiveness but were old enough to be expected to behave according to masculine norms. 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. Seneca the Elder noted that "impudicita is a crime for the freeborn, a necessity in a slave, a duty for the freedman": Male-male sex in Rome asserted the power of the citizen over slaves, confirming his masculinity.
Latin had such a wealth of words for men outside the masculine norm that some scholars argue for the existence of a homosexual subculture at Rome; that is, although the noun "homosexual" has no straightforward equivalent in Latin, literary sources reveal a pattern of behaviors among a minority of free men that indicate same-sex preference or orientation. Plautus mentions a street known for male prostitutes. Public baths are also referred to as a place to find sexual partners. 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.
Other scholars, primarily those who argue from the perspective of "cultural constructionism", maintain that there is not an identifiable social group of males who would have self-identified as "homosexual" as a community.
Marriage between males
Although in general the Romans regarded marriage as a male-female union for the purpose of producing children, a few scholars believe that in the early Imperial period some male couples were celebrating traditional marriage rites in the presence of friends. Male-male weddings are reported by sources that mock them; the feelings of the participants are not recorded. Both Martial and Juvenal refer to marriage between males as something that occurs not infrequently, although they disapprove of it. Roman law did not recognize marriage between males, but one of the grounds for disapproval expressed in Juvenal's satire is that celebrating the rites would lead to expectations for such marriages to be registered officially. As the empire was becoming Christianized in the 4th century, legal prohibitions against marriage between males began to appear.
Various ancient sources state that the emperor Nero celebrated two public weddings with men, once taking the role of the bride (with a freedman Pythagoras), and once the groom (with Sporus); there may have been a third in which he was the bride. The ceremonies included traditional elements such as a dowry and the wearing of the Roman bridal veil. In the early 3rd century AD, the emperor Elagabalus is reported to have been the bride in a wedding to his male partner. Other mature men at his court had husbands, or said they had husbands in imitation of the emperor. Although the sources are in general hostile, Dio Cassius implies that Nero's stage performances were regarded as more scandalous than his marriages to men.
The earliest reference in Latin literature to a marriage between males occurs in the Philippics of Cicero, who insulted Mark Antony for being a slut in his youth until Curio "established you in a fixed and stable marriage (matrimonium), as if he had given you a stola," the traditional garment of a married woman. Although Cicero's sexual implications are clear, the point of the passage is to cast Antony in the submissive role in the relationship and to impugn his manhood in various ways; there is no reason to think that actual marriage rites were performed.
Roman law addressed the rape of a male citizen as early as the 2nd century BC, when it was ruled that even a man who was "disreputable and questionable" (famosus, related to infamis, and suspiciosus) had the same right as other free men not to have his body subjected to forced sex. The Lex Julia de vi publica, recorded in the early 3rd century AD but probably dating from the dictatorship of Julius Caesar, defined rape as forced sex against "boy, woman, or anyone"; the rapist was subject to execution, a rare penalty in Roman law. Men who had been raped were exempt from the loss of legal or social standing suffered by those who submitted their bodies to use for the pleasure of others; a male prostitute or entertainer was infamis and excluded from the legal protections extended to citizens in good standing. As a matter of law, a slave could not be raped; he was considered property and not legally a person. The slave's owner, however, could prosecute the rapist for property damage.
Fears of mass rape following a military defeat extended equally to male and female potential victims. According to the jurist Pomponius, "whatever man has been raped by the force of robbers or the enemy in wartime" ought to bear no stigma.
The threat of one man to subject another to anal or oral rape (irrumatio) is a theme of invective poetry, most notably in Catullus's notorious Carmen 16, and was a form of masculine braggadocio. Rape was one of the traditional punishments inflicted on a male adulterer by the wronged husband, though perhaps more in revenge fantasy than in practice.
In a collection of twelve anecdotes dealing with assaults on chastity, the historian Valerius Maximus features male victims in equal number to female. In a "mock trial" case described by the elder Seneca, an adulescens (a man young enough not to have begun his formal career) was gang-raped by ten of his peers; although the case is hypothetical, Seneca assumes that the law permitted the successful prosecution of the rapists. Another hypothetical case imagines the extremity to which a rape victim might be driven: the freeborn male (ingenuus) who was raped commits suicide. The Romans considered the rape of an ingenuus to be among the worst crimes that could be committed, along with parricide, the rape of a female virgin, and robbing a temple.
Same-sex relations in the military
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 for nearly two centuries. Other forms of sexual gratification available to soldiers were prostitutes of any gender, male slaves, war rape, and same-sex relations. 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.
In warfare, rape symbolized defeat, a motive for the soldier not to make his body sexually vulnerable in general. During the Republic, homosexual behavior among fellow soldiers was subject to harsh penalties, including death, 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.
Roman historians record cautionary tales of officers who abuse their authority to coerce sex from their soldiers, and then suffer dire consequences. 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. 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 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.
In addition to repeatedly described anal intercourse, oral sex was common. A graffito from Pompeii is unambiguous: "Secundus is a fellator of rare ability" (Secundus felator rarus). In contrast to ancient Greece, a large penis was a major element in attractiveness. In Petronius is a description of how a man with such a large penis in a public bathroom looked up, excited. Several emperors are reported in a negative light for surrounding themselves with men with large sexual organs.
"Three men in bed together: two are sinning, two are sinned against."
"Doesn't that make four men?"
"You're mistaken: the man on either end is implicated once, but the one in the middle does double duty."
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 ... among all animals no female is seized by desire for female." During the Roman Imperial era, sources for same-sex relations among women are more abundant, in the form of love spells, medical writing, texts on astrology and the interpretation of dreams, and other sources. A graffito from Pompeii expresses the desire of one woman for another:
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.
Greek words for a woman who prefers sex with another woman include hetairistria (compare hetaira, "courtesan" or "companion"), tribas (plural tribades), and Lesbia; Latin words include the loanword tribas, fricatrix ("she who rubs"), and virago. An early reference to same-sex relations among women is found in the Roman-era Greek writer Lucian (2nd century CE): "They say there are women like that in Lesbos, masculine-looking, but they don't want to give it up for men. Instead, they consort with women, just like men."
Since Romans thought a sex act required an active or dominant partner who was "phallic", male writers imagined that in female-female sex one of the women would use a dildo or have an exceptionally large clitoris for penetration, and that she would be the one experiencing pleasure. Dildos are rarely mentioned in Roman sources, but were a popular comic item in Classical Greek literature and art. There is only one known depiction of a woman penetrating another woman in Roman art, whereas women using dildos is common in Greek vase painting.
Martial describes women acting sexually actively with other women as having outsized sexual appetites and performing penetrative sex on both women and boys. Imperial portrayals of women who sodomize boys, drink and eat like men, and engage in vigorous physical regimens, may reflect cultural anxieties about the growing independence of Roman women.
Transgender and cross-dressing
Cross-dressing appears in Roman literature and art in various ways to mark the uncertainties and ambiguities of gender:
- as political invective, when a politician is accused of dressing seductively or effeminately;
- as a mythological trope, as in the story of Hercules and Omphale exchanging roles and attire;
- as a form of religious investiture, as for the priesthood of the Galli;
- and rarely or ambiguously as transvestic fetishism.
A section of the Digest by Ulpian categorizes Roman clothing on the basis of who may appropriately wear it: vestimenta virilia, "men's clothing," is defined as the attire of the paterfamilias, "head of household"; puerilia is clothing that serves no purpose other than to mark its wearer as a "child" or minor; muliebria are the garments that characterize a materfamilias; communia, those that are "common," that is, worn by either sex; and familiarica, clothing for the familia, the subordinates in a household, including the staff and slaves. A man who wore women's clothes, Ulpian notes, would risk making himself the object of scorn. Female prostitutes were the only women in ancient Rome who wore the distinctively masculine toga. The wearing of the toga may signal that prostitutes were outside the normal social and legal category of "woman."
A fragment from the playwright Accius (170–86 BC) seems to refer to a father who secretly wore "virgin's finery." An instance of transvestism is noted in a legal case, in which "a certain senator accustomed to wear women's evening clothes" was disposing of the garments in his will. In the "mock trial" exercise presented by the elder Seneca, the young man (adulescens) was gang-raped while wearing women's clothes in public, but his attire is explained as his acting on a dare by his friends, not as a choice based on gender identity or the pursuit of erotic pleasure.
Gender ambiguity was a characteristic of the priests of the goddess Cybele known as Galli, whose ritual attire included items of women’s clothing. 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 63.
Hermaphroditism and androgyny
In contemporary English, "hermaphrodite" is used in biology but has acquired pejorative connotations in referring to people born with physical characteristics of both sexes (see intersex); in antiquity, however, the figure of the so-called hermaphrodite was a primary focus of questions pertaining to gender identity. 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 Sicilian historian Diodorus (latter 1st-century BC) wrote that "there are some who declare that the coming into being of creatures of a kind such as these are marvels (terata), and being born rarely, they announce the future, sometimes for evil and sometimes for good." Isidore of Seville (ca. 560–636) described a hermaphrodite fancifully as those who "have the right breast of a man and the left of a woman, and after coitus in turn can both sire and bear children." Under Roman law, a hermaphrodite had to be classed as either male or female; no third gender existed as a legal category. The hermaphrodite thus represented a "violation of social boundaries, especially those as fundamental to daily life as male and female."
In traditional Roman religion, a hermaphroditic birth was a kind of prodigium, an occurrence that signalled a disturbance of the pax deorum, Rome's treaty with the gods. But Pliny observed that while hermaphrodites were once considered portents, in his day they had become objects of delight (deliciae) who were trafficked in an exclusive slave market.
In the mythological tradition, Hermaphroditus was a beautiful youth who was the son of Hermes (Roman Mercury) and Aphrodite (Venus). Ovid wrote the most influential narrative of how Hermaphroditus became androgynous, emphasizing that although the handsome youth was on the cusp of sexual adulthood, he rejected love as Narcissus had, and likewise at the site of a reflective pool. There the water nymph Salmacis saw and desired him. He spurned her, and she pretended to withdraw until, thinking himself alone, he undressed to bathe in her waters. She then flung herself upon him, and prayed that they might never be parted. The gods granted this request, and thereafter the body of Hermaphroditus contained both male and female. As a result, men who drank from the waters of the spring Salmacis supposedly "grew soft with the vice of impudicitia". The myth of Hylas, the young companion of Hercules who was abducted by water nymphs, shares with Hermaphroditus and Narcissus the theme of the dangers that face the beautiful adolescent male as he transitions to adult masculinity, with varying outcomes for each.
Depictions of Hermaphroditus were very popular among the Romans:
Artistic representations of Hermaphroditus bring to the fore the ambiguities in sexual differences between women and men as well as the ambiguities in all sexual acts. ... (A)rtists always treat Hermaphroditus in terms of the viewer finding out his/her actual sexual identity. ... Hermaphroditus is a highly sophisticated representation, invading the boundaries between the sexes that seem so clear in classical thought and representation.
Macrobius describes a masculine form of "Venus" (Aphrodite) who received cult on Cyprus; she had a beard and male genitals, but wore women's clothing. The deity's worshippers cross-dressed, men wearing women's clothes, and women men's. The Latin poet Laevius wrote of worshipping "nurturing Venus" whether female or male (sive femina sive mas). The figure was sometimes called Aphroditos. 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.
Under Christian rule
Attitudes toward same-sex behavior changed as Christianity became more prominent in the Empire. The modern perception of Roman sexual decadence can be traced to early Christian polemic. Apart from measures to protect the liberty of citizens, the prosecution of male-male sex as a general crime began in the 3rd century of the Christian era when male prostitution was banned by Philip the Arab. 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.
By the end of the 4th century, anally passive men under the Christian Empire were punished by burning. "Death by sword" was the punishment for a "man coupling like a woman" under the Theodosian Code. It can be argued, however, that legislation under Christian rule was an extension of traditional Roman views on appropriate gender roles, and not an abrupt shift based on Christian theology. It is in the 6th century, under Justinian, that legal and moral discourse on male-male sex becomes distinctly Christian: all male-male sex, passive or active, no matter who the partners, was declared contrary to nature and punishable by death. Male-male sex was pointed to as cause for God's wrath following a series of disasters around 542 and 559.
The circumstances surrounding the massacre of Thessalonica in 390 suggest that even in the late 4th century male-male sex was still accepted in large parts of the population, while officially prosecuted. When a popular charioteer was arrested for having sexually harassed an army-commander or servant of the emperor, the people of the town were calling for his release, though this may have been due to his popularity rather than to the nature of the allegation.
- Societal attitudes toward homosexuality
- History of homosexuality
- Lex Scantinia, a poorly documented Roman law that protected minors from sexual predators
- LGBT history in Italy
- Craig Williams, Roman Homosexuality (Oxford University Press, 1999, 2010), p. 304, citing Saara Lilja, Homosexuality in Republican and Augustan Rome (Societas Scientiarum Fennica, 1983), p. 122.
- Williams, Roman Homosexuality, passim; Elizabeth Manwell, "Gender and Masculinity," in A Companion to Catullus (Blackwell, 2007), p. 118.
- Thomas A.J. McGinn, Prostitution, Sexuality and the Law in Ancient Rome (Oxford University Press, 1998), p. 326. See the statement preserved by Aulus Gellius 9.12. 1 that " it was an injustice to bring force to bear against the body of those who are free" (vim in corpus liberum non aecum ... adferri).
- Eva Cantarella, Bisexuality in the Ancient World (Yale University Press, 1992, 2002, originally published 1988 in Italian), p. xii.
- Elaine Fantham, "The Ambiguity of Virtus in Lucan's Civil War and Statius' Thebiad," Arachnion 3; Andrew J.E. Bell, "Cicero and the Spectacle of Power," Journal of Roman Studies 87 (1997), p. 9; Edwin S. Ramage, “Aspects of Propaganda in the De bello gallico: Caesar’s Virtues and Attributes,” Athenaeum 91 (2003) 331–372; Myles Anthony McDonnell, Roman manliness: virtus and the Roman Republic (Cambridge University Press, 2006) passim; Rhiannon Evans, Utopia Antiqua: Readings of the Golden Age and Decline at Rome (Routledge, 2008), pp. 156–157.
- Davina C. Lopez, "Before Your Very Eyes: Roman Imperial Ideology, Gender Constructs and Paul's Inter-Nationalism," in Mapping Gender in Ancient Religious Discourses (Brill, 2007), pp. 135–138.
- Cantarella, Bisexuality in the Ancient World, p. xi; Marilyn B. Skinner, introduction to Roman Sexualities (Princeton University Press, 1997), p. 11.
- Craig A. Williams, Roman Homosexuality (Oxford University Press, 1999), p. 18.
- Rebecca Langlands, Sexual Morality in Ancient Rome (Cambridge University Press, 2006), p. 13.
- For further discussion of how sexual activity defines the free, respectable citizen from the slave or "un-free" person, see Master-slave relations in ancient Rome.
- Amy Richlin, The Garden of Priapus: Sexuality and Aggression in Roman Humor (Oxford University Press, 1983, 1992), p. 225.
- Catharine Edwards, "Unspeakable Professions: Public Performance and Prostitution in Ancient Rome," in Roman Sexualities, pp. 67–68.
- Amy Richlin, "Sexuality in the Roman Empire," in A Companion to the Roman Empire (Blackwell, 2006), p. 329. The law began to specify harsher punishments for the lower classes (humiliores) than for the elite (honestiores).
- This is a theme throughout Carlin A. Barton, The Sorrows of the Ancient Romans: The Gladiator and the Monster (Princeton University Press, 1993).
- Cantarella, Bisexuality in the Ancient World, p. 120; Edward Courtney, The Fragmentary Latin Poets (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1992), p. 75.
- Ramsay MacMullen, "Roman Attitudes to Greek Love," Historia 31.4 (1982), pp. 484–502.
- David M. Halperin, "The First Homosexuality?" in The Sleep of Reason: Erotic Experience and Sexual Ethics in Ancient Greece (University of Chicago Press, 2002), pp. 242 and 263, with criticism of MacMullen.
- Cantarella, Bisexuality in the Ancient World, p. xi; Skinner, introduction to Roman Sexualities, p. 11.
- Cantarella, Bisexuality in the Ancient World, pp. xi–xii; Skinner, introduction to Roman Sexualities, pp. 11–12.
- Catullus, Carmina 24, 48, 81, 99.
- John Pollini, "The Warren Cup: Homoerotic Love and Symposial Rhetoric in Silver," Art Bulletin 81.1 (1999), p. 28.
- Lucretius, De rerum natura 4.1052–1056). See also Sexuality in ancient Rome#Epicurean sexuality.
- Amy Richlin, "Not before Homosexuality: The Materiality of the cinaedus and the Roman Law against Love between Men," Journal of the History of Sexuality 3.4 (1993), p. 536.
- Tibullus, Book One, elegies 4, 8, and 9.
- Propertius 4.2.
- Williams, Roman Homosexuality, pp. 116–119.
- Mark Petrini, The Child and the Hero: Coming of Age in Catullus and Vergil (University of Michigan Press, 1997), pp. 24–25.
- James Anderson Winn, The Poetry of War (Cambridge University Press, 2008), p. 162.
- Ovid, Ars Amatoria 2.683–684; Pollini, "Warren Cup," p. 36.
- As at Metamorphoses 10.155ff.
- Habinek, "The Invention of Sexuality in the World-City of Rome," p. 31 et passim.
- Louis Crompton, Byron and Greek Love (London, 1998), p. 93.
- John R. Clarke, Looking at Lovemaking: Constructions of Sexuality in Roman Art 100 B.C.–A.D. 250 (University of California Press, 1998, 2001), p. 234.
- Clarke, Looking at Lovemaking, pp. 234–235.
- Clarke, Looking at Lovemaking, p. 255.
- Habinek, "The Invention of Sexuality in the World-City of Rome," in The Roman Cultural Revolution, p. 39.
- Williams, Roman Homosexuality, pp. 69–70.
- Amy Richlin, "Pliny's Brassiere," in Roman Sexualities, p. 215.
- David Fredrick, The Roman Gaze: Vision, Power, and the Body (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2002), p. 156.
- Paul Zanker, The Power of Images in the Age of Augustus (University of Michigan Press, 1988), pp. 239–240, 249–250 et passim.
- John Pollini, "The Warren Cup: Homoerotic Love and Symposial Rhetoric in Silver," Art Bulletin 81.1 (1999) 21–52. John R. Clarke, Looking at Lovemaking: Constructions of Sexuality in Roman Art 100 B.C.–A.D. 250 (University of California Press, 1998, 2001), p. 61, asserts that the Warren cup is valuable for art history and as a document of Roman sexuality precisely because of its "relatively secure date."
- Pollini, "The Warren Cup," passim.
- Pollini, "Warren Cup," pp. 35–37, 42.
- Pollini, "Warren Cup," p. 37.
- M.T. Marabini Moevs, “Per una storia del gusto: riconsiderazioni sul Calice Warren,” Ministero per i Beni e le Attività Culturali Bollettino d’Arte 146 (Oct.–Dec. 2008) 1-16.
- Richlin, "Not before Homosexuality," p. 531.
- Williams, Roman Homosexuality, p. 85 et passim.
- Martial, 3.71.
- Williams, Roman Homosexuality, p. 200.
- Williams, Roman Homosexuality, p. 197.
- Williams, Roman Homosexuality, p. 181ff. and 193.
- Williams, Roman Homosexuality, p. 197.
- Williams, Roman Homosexuality, p. 193.
- Williams, Roman Homosexuality, p. 197.
- Williams, Roman Homosexuality, p. 6.
- James L. Butrica, "Some Myths and Anomalies in the Study of Roman Sexuality," in Same-Sex Desire and Love in Greco-Roman Antiquity, p. 223, compares cinaedus to "faggot" in the Dire Straits song "Money for Nothing", in which a singer referred to as "that little faggot with the earring and the make-up" also "gets his money for nothing and his chicks for free."
- Williams, Roman Homosexuality, p. 197.
- Williams, Roman Homosexuality, pp. 203–204.
- Williams, Roman Homosexuality, pp. 55, 202.
- Williams, Roman Homosexuality, p. 193.
- Cantarella, Bisexuality in the Ancient World, p. 125.
- Catullus, Carmen 61, lines 119–143.
- Butrica, "Some Myths and Anomalies in the Study of Roman Sexuality," pp. 218, 224.
- Richlin, "Not before Homosexuality," p. 534; Ronnie Ancona, "(Un)Constrained Male Desire: An Intertextual Reading of Horace Odes 2.8 and Catullus Poem 61," in Gendered Dynamics in Latin Love Poetry (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2005), p. 47; Mark Petrini, The Child and the Hero: Coming of Age in Catullus and Vergil (University of Michigan Press, 1997), pp. 19–20.
- Williams, Roman Homosexuality, p. 229. note 260: Martial 6.39.12-4: "quartus cinaeda fronte, candido voltu / ex concubino natus est tibi Lygdo: / percide, si vis, filium: nefas non est."
- Cantarella, Bisexuality in the Ancient World, pp. 125–126; Robinson Ellis, A Commentary on Catullus (Cambridge University Press, 2010), p. 181; Petrini, The Child and the Hero, p. 19.
- Quintilian, Institutio Oratoria 1.2.8, who disapproves of consorting with either concubini or "girlfriends" (amicae) in front of one's children. Ramsey MacMullen, "Roman Attitudes to Greek Love," Historia 31 (1982), p. 496.
- Williams, Roman Homosexuality, p. 24, citing Martial 8.44.16-7: tuoque tristis filius, velis nolis, cum concubino nocte dormiet prima. ("and your mourning son, whether you wish it or not, will lie first night sleep with your favourite")
- Caesarian Corpus, The Spanish War 33; MacMullen, "Roman Attitudes to Greek Love," p. 490.
- "They use the word Catamitus for Ganymede, who was the concubinus of Jove," according to the lexicographer Festus (38.22, as cited by Williams, Roman Homosexuality, p. 332, note 230.
- Butrica, "Some Myths and Anomalies in the Study of Roman Sexuality," in Same-Sex Desire and Love in Greco-Roman Antiquity, p. 212.
- Williams, Roman Homosexuality, p. 193.
- Richlin, "Not before Homosexuality," p. 531.
- Holt N. Parker, "The Teratogenic Grid," in Roman Sexualities, p. 56; Williams, Roman Homosexuality, p. 196.
- Parker, "The Teratogenic Grid," p. 57, citing Martial 5.61 and 4.43.
- Richlin, "Not before Homosexuality," p. 535.
- Williams, Roman Homosexuality, p. 75.
- Richlin, "Not before Homosexuality," p. 547.
- Richlin, "Not before Homosexuality," p. 536; Williams, Roman Homosexuality, p. 208.
- Richlin, "Not before Homosexuality," p. 536.
- Elaine Fantham, "Stuprum: Public Attitudes and Penalties for Sexual Offences in Republican Rome," in Roman Readings: Roman Response to Greek Literature from Plautus to Statius and Quintilian (Walter de Gruyter, 2011), p. 130.
- Richlin, "Not before Homosexuality," p. 538.
- Williams, Roman Homosexuality, p. 199.
- As analyzed by John Pollini, "The Warren Cup: Homoerotic Love and Symposial Rhetoric in Silver," Art Bulletin 81.1 (1999) 21–52.
- Elizabeth Manwell, "Gender and Masculinity," in A Companion to Catullus (Blackwell, 2007), p. 118.
- Guillermo Galán Vioque, Martial, Book VII: A Commentary (Brill, 2002), p. 120.
- Manwell, "Gender and Masculinity," p. 118.
- Beert C. Verstraete and Vernon Provencal, introduction to Same-Sex Desire and Love in Greco-Roman Antiquity and in the Classical Tradition (Haworth Press, 2005), p. 3.
- Caroline Vout, Power and Eroticism in Imperial Rome (Cambridge University Press, 2007), p. 136 (for Sporus in Alexander Pope's poem "Epistle to Dr Arbuthnot", see Who breaks a butterfly upon a wheel?).
- Alison Keith, "Sartorial Elegance and Poetic Finesse in the Sulpician Corpus," in Roman Dress and the Fabrics of Roman Culture, p. 196.
- Fernando Navarro Antolín, Lygdamus. Corpus Tibullianum III.1–6: Lygdami Elegiarum Liber (Brill, 1996), pp. 304–307.
- Vioque, Martial, Book VII, p. 131.
- William Fitzgerald, Slavery and the Roman Literary Imagination (Cambridge University Press, 2000), p. 54.
- As at Horace, Satire 1.3.45 and Suetonius, Life of Caligula 13, as noted by Dorota M. Dutsch, Feminine Discourse in Roman Comedy: On Echoes and Voices (Oxford University Press, 2008), p. 55. See also Plautus, Poenulus 1292, as noted by RIchard P. Saller, "The Social Dynamics of Consent to Marriage and Sexual Relations: The Evidence of Roman Comedy," in Consent and Coercion to Sex and Marriage in Ancient and Medieval Societies (Dumbarton Oaks, 1993), p. 101.
- The words pullus and puer may derive from the same Indo-European root; see Martin Huld, entry on "child," Encyclopedia of Indo-European Culture (Fitzroy Dearborn, 1997), p. 107.
- Amy Richlin, The Garden of Priapus: Sexuality and Aggression in Roman Humor (Oxford University Press, 1983, 1992), p. 289.
- Festus p. 285 in the 1997 Teubner edition of Lindsay; Williams, Roman Homosexuality, p. 17; Auguste Bouché-Leclercq, Histoire de la divination dans l'antiquité (Jérôme Millon, 2003 reprint, originally published 1883), p. 47.
- Richlin, The Garden of Priapus, p. 289.
- Richlin, The Garden of Priapus, p. 289, finds Eburnus's reputation as "Jove's chick" and his later excessive severity against the impudicitia of his son to be "thought-provoking".
- Cicero, Pro Balbo 28; Valerius Maximus 6.1.5–6; Pseudo-Quintilian, Decl. 3.17; Orosius 5.16.8; T.R.S. Broughton, The Magistrates of the Roman Republic (American Philological Association, 1951, 1986), vol. 1, p. 549; Gordon P. Kelly, A History of Exile in the Roman Republic (Cambridge University Press, 2006), pp. 172–173; Richlin, The Garden of Priapus, p. 289.
- Williams, Roman Sexuality, p. 17.
- As at Apuleius, Metamorphoses 9.7; Cicero, Pro Caelio 36 (in reference to his personal enemy Clodius Pulcher); Adams, The Latin Sexual Vocabulary (Johns Hopkins University Press, 1982), pp. 191–192; Katherine A. Geffcken, Comedy in the Pro Caelio (Bolchazy-Carducci, 1995), p. 78.
- Juvenal, Satire 6.36–37; Erik Gunderson, "The Libidinal Rhetoric of Satire," in The Cambridge Companion to Roman Satire (Cambridge University Press, 2005), p. 231.
- Richlin, The Garden of Priapus, p. 169.
- Williams, Roman Homosexuality, p. 193.
- Richlin, The Garden of Priapus, p. 169.
- Glossarium codicis Vatinici, Corpus Glossarum Latinarum IV p. xviii; see Georg Götz, Rheinisches Museum 40 (1885), p. 327.
- Williams, Roman Homosexuality, p. 193.
- RIchlin, "Not before Homosexuality," p. 531.
- RIchlin, The Garden of Priapus, pp. 92, 98, 101.
- Suetonius, Life of the Divine Julius 52.3; Richlin, "Not before Homosexuality," p. 532.
- As quoted by Cantarella, Bisexuality in the Ancient World, p. 99.
- Cantarella, Bisexuality in the Ancient World, p. 100.
- Primarily Amy Richlin, as in "Not before Homosexuality."
- Plautus, Curculio 482-84
- Williams, Roman Homosexuality, p. 201.
- As summarized by John R. Clarke, "Representation of the Cinaedus in Roman Art: Evidence of 'Gay' Subculture," in Same-sex Desire and Love in Greco-Roman Antiquity, p. 272.
- Martial 1.24 and 12.42; Juvenal 2.117–42. Williams, Roman Homosexuality, pp. 28, 280; Karen K. Hersh, The Roman Wedding: Ritual and Meaning in Antiquity (Cambridge University Press, 2010), p. 36; Caroline Vout, Power and Eroticism in Imperial Rome (Cambridge University Press, 2007), pp. 151ff.
- Williams, Roman Homosexuality, p. 280.
- Williams, Roman Homosexuality, p. 280.
- Suetonius, Tacitus, Dio Cassius, and Aurelius Victor are the sources cited by Williams, Roman Homosexuality, p. 279.
- Williams, Roman Homosexuality, p. 279.
- Williams, Roman Homosexuality, pp. 278–279, citing Dio Cassius and Aelius Lampridius.
- Dio Cassius 63.22.4; Williams, Roman Homosexuality, p. 285.
- Cicero, Phillippics 2.44, as quoted by Williams, Roman Homosexuality, p. 279.
- Williams, Roman Homosexuality, p. 279.
- Richlin, "Not before Homosexuality," p. 561.
- As recorded in a fragment of the speech De Re Floria by Cato the Elder (frg. 57 Jordan = Aulus Gellius 9.12.7), as noted and discussed by Richlin, "Not before Homosexuality," p. 561.
- Digest 220.127.116.11 and 18.104.22.168.
- Richlin, "Not before Homosexuality," pp. 562–563. See also Digest 48.5.35  on legal definitions of rape that included boys.
- Richlin, "Not before Homosexuality," pp. 558–561.
- Cantarella, Bisexuality in the Ancient World, pp. 99, 103; McGinn, Prostitution, Sexuality and the Law, p. 314.
- Williams, Roman Homosexuality, pp. 104–105.
- Digest 22.214.171.124, as noted by Richlin, "Not before Homosexuality," p. 559.
- Richlin, The Garden of Priapus, pp. 27–28, 43 (on Martial), 58, et passim.
- Williams, Roman Homosexuality, p. 20; Skinner, introduction to Roman Sexualities, p. 12; Amy Richlin, "The Meaning of irrumare in Catullus and Martial," Classical Philology 76.1 (1981) 40–46.
- Williams, Roman Homosexuality, pp. 27, 76 (with an example from Martial 2.60.2.
- Catharine Edwards, The Politics of Immorality in Ancient Rome (Cambridge University Press, 1993), pp. 55–56.
- Valerius Maximus 6.1; Richlin, "Not before Homosexuality," p. 564.
- Richlin, "Not before Homosexuality," p. 564.
- Quintilian, Institutio oratoria 4.2.69–71; Richlin, "Not before Homosexuality," p. 565.
- Richlin, "Not before Homosexuality," p. 565, citing the same passage by Quintilian.
- Men of the governing classes, who would have been officers above the rank of centurion, were exempt. Pat Southern, The Roman Army: A Social and Institutional History (Oxford University Press, 2006), p. 144; Sara Elise Phang, The Marriage of Roman Soldiers (13 B.C.–A.D. 235): Law and Family in the Imperial Army (Brill, 2001), p. 2.
- Phang, The Marriage of Roman Soldiers, p. 3.
- Sara Elise Phang, Roman Military Service: Ideologies of Discipline in the Late Republic and Early Principate (Cambridge University Press, 2008), p. 93.
- Phang, Roman Military Service, p. 94. See section above on male rape: Roman law recognized that a soldier might be raped by the enemy, and specified that a man raped in war should not suffer the loss of social standing that an infamis did when willingly undergoing penetration; Digest 126.96.36.199, as discussed by Richlin, "Not before Homosexuality," p. 559.
- Thomas A.J. McGinn, Prostitution, Sexuality and the Law in Ancient Rome (Oxford University Press, 1998), p. 40.
- Polybius, Histories 6.37.9 (translated as bastinado).
- Phang, The Marriage of Roman Soldiers, pp. 280–282.
- Phang, Roman Military Service, p. 97, citing among other examples Juvenal, Satire 14.194–195.
- The name is given elsewhere as Plotius.
- Plutarch, Life of Marius 14.4–8; see also Valerius Maximus 6.1.12; Cicero, Pro Milone 9, in Dillon and Garland, Ancient Rome, p. 380; and Dionysius of Halicarnassus 16.4. Discussion by Phang, Roman Military Service, pp. 93–94, and The Marriage of Roman Soldiers, p. 281; Cantarella, Bisexuality in the Ancient World, pp. 105–106.
- CIL 4, 9027; translation from Hubbard, Homosexuality, 423
- Petronius: Satyricon
- Aelius Lampridius: Scripta Historia Augusta, Commodus, 10.9
- The Latin joke is hard to translate: Ausonius says that two men are committing stuprum, a sex crime; "sin" is generally a Christian concept, but since Ausonius was at least nominally a Christian, "sin" may capture the intention of the wordplay.
- Ausonius, Epigram 43 Green (39); Matthew Kuefler, The Manly Eunuch: Masculinity, Gender Ambiguity, and Christian Ideology in Late Antiquity (University of Chicago Press, 2001), p. 92.
- Ovid, Metamorphoses 9.727, 733–4, as cited by Richlin, "Sexuality in the Roman Empire," p. 346.
- Bernadette J. Brooten, Love between Women: Early Christian Responses to Female Homoeroticism (University of Chicago Press, 1996), p. 1.
- The Latin indicates that the I is of feminine gender; CIL 4.5296, as cited by Richlin, "Sexuality in the Roman Empire," p. 347.
- Brooten, Love between Women, p. 4.
- Lucian, Dialogues of the Courtesans 5.
- Jonathan Walters, "Invading the Roman Body: Manliness and Impenetrability in Roman Thought," pp. 30–31, and Pamela Gordon, "The Lover's Voice in Heroides 15: Or, Why Is Sappho a Man?," p. 283, both in Roman Sexualities; John R. Clarke, "Look Who's Laughing at Sex: Men and Women Viewers in the Apodyterium of the Suburban Baths at Pompeii," both in The Roman Gaze, p. 168.
- Richlin, "Sexuality in the Roman Empire," p. 351.
- Diana M. Swancutt, "Still before Sexuality: 'Greek' Androgyny, the Roman Imperial Politics of Masculinity and the Roman Invention of the tribas," in Mapping Gender in Ancient Religious Discourses (Brill, 2007), pp. 11–12.
- Martial 1.90 and 7.67, 50; Richlin, "Sexuality in the Roman Empire," p. 347; John R. Clarke, Looking at Lovemaking: Constructions of Sexuality in Roman Art 100 B.C.–A.D. 250 (University of California Press, 1998, 2001), p. 228.
- Clarke, Looking at Lovemaking, p. 228.
- Ovid adduces the story of Hercules and Omphale as an explanation for the ritual nudity of the Lupercalia; see "Male nudity in ancient Rome" and Richard J. King, Desiring Rome: Male Subjectivity and Reading Ovid's Fasti (Ohio State University Press, 2006), pp. 185, 195, 200, 204.
- Digest 188.8.131.52, as cited by Richlin, "Not before Homosexuality," p. 540.
- Edwards, "Unspeakable Professions," p. 81.
- Cum virginali mundo clam pater: Kelly Olson, "The Appearance of the Young Roman Girl," in Roman Dress and the Fabrics of Roman Culture (University of Toronto Press, 2008), p. 147.
- Digest 34.2.33, as cited by Richlin, "Not before Homosexuality," p. 540.
- See above under "Male-male rape."
- Seneca the Elder, Controversia 5.6; Richlin, "Not before Homosexuality," p. 564.
- Stephen O. Murray, Homosexualities (University of Chicago Press, 2000), pp. 298–303; Mary R. Bachvarova, "Sumerian Gala Priests and Eastern Mediterranean Returning Gods: Tragic Lamentation in Cross-Cultural Perspective," in Lament: Studies in the Ancient Mediterranean and Beyond (Oxford University Press, 2008), pp. 19, 33, 36.
- Clarke, Looking at Lovemaking, p. 49; Rabun Taylor, The Moral Mirror of Roman Art (Cambridge University Press, 2008), p. 78.
- Pliny, Natural History 7.34: gignuntur et utriusque sexus quos hermaphroditos vocamus, olim androgynos vocatos; Veronique Dasen, "Multiple Births in Graeco-Roman Antiquity," Oxford Journal of Archaeology 16.1 (1997), p. 61.
- Diodorus Siculus 4.6.5; Will Roscoe, "Priests of the Goddess: Gender Transgression in Ancient Religion," in History of Religions 35.3 (1996), p. 204.
- Isidore of Seville, Eytmologiae 11.3. 11.
- Lynn E. Roller, "The Ideology of the Eunuch Priest," Gender & History 9.3 (1997), p. 558.
- Roscoe, "Priests of the Goddess," p. 204.
- Veit Rosenberger, "Republican nobiles: Controlling the Res Publica," in A Companion to Roman Religion (Blackwell, 2007), p. 295.
- Plutarch, Moralia 520c; Dasen, "Multiple Births in Graeco-Roman Antiquity," p. 61.
- Ovid, Metamorphoses 4.287–88.
- Taylor, The Moral Mirror of Roman Art, p. 77; Clarke, Looking at Lovemaking, p. 49.
- Taylor, The Moral Mirror of Roman Art, p. 78ff.
- Paulus ex Festo 439L; Richlin, "Not before Homosexuality," p. 549.
- Taylor, The Moral Mirror of Roman Art, p. 216, note 46.
- Clarke, Looking at Lovemaking, pp. 54–55.
- Macrobius, Saturnalia 3.8.2. Macrobius says that Aristophanes called this figure Aphroditos.
- Venerem igitur almum adorans, sive femina sive mas est, as quoted by Macrobius, Saturnalia 3.8.3.
- Dominic Montserrat, "Reading Gender in the Roman World," in Experiencing Rome: Culture, Identity, and Power in the Roman Empire (Routledge, 2000), pp. 172–173.
- Alastair J.L. Blanshard, "Roman Vice," in Sex: Vice and Love from Antiquity to Modernity (Wiley-Blackwell, 2010), pp. 1–88.
- John Boswell, Christianity, Social Tolerance, and Homosexuality: Gay People in Western Europe from the Beginning of the Christian Era to the Fourteenth Century (University of Chicago Press, 1980), p. 70.
- Michael Groneberg, "Reasons for Homophobia: Three Types of Explanation," in Combatting Homophobia: Experiences and Analyses Pertinent to Education (LIT Verlag, 2011), p. 193.
- Codex Theodosianus 9.7.3 (4 December 342), introduced by the sons of Constantine in 342.
- Christopher Records, "When Sex Has Lost its Significance": Homosexuality, Society, and Roman Law in the 4th Century", in UCR Undergraduate Research Journal, Volume IV (June 2010)
- Groneberg, "Reasons for Homophobia," p. 193.
- Michael Brinkschröde, "Christian Homophobia: Four Central Discourses," in Combatting Homophobia, p. 166.
- Boswell, John: Christianity, Social Tolerance and Homosexuality (University of Chicago) 1980, "Rome: The Foundation", pp 61–87
- Thomas K. Hubbard: Homosexuality in Greece and Rome, a Sourcebook of Basic Documents. Los Angeles, London 2003. ISBN 0-520-23430-8
- Craig Williams: Roman Homosexuality, Ideologies of Masculinity in Classical Antiquity. in: Oxford University Press (Editor): Ideologies of Desire. Oxford 1999
- William Percy: The Age of Marriage in Ancient Rome, Lewiston, New York: The Edwin Mellen Press, 2003 (together with Arnold Lelis and Beert Verstraete)
- Media related to LGBT history in Italy at Wikimedia Commons