Abstracts - alphabetically listed by contributor surname
Luxuria and homosexuality in pagan Rome and the early Christian tradition
Taking start from the association of the vitium sodomiticum with luxuria in the writings of Thomas Aquinas, I argue that the understanding of homosexuality as a vice against nature does not rely exclusively on his (mis)reading of St Augustine’s Confessions (M. Jordan, The Invention of Sodomy in Christian Theology, 1997). To appreciate the pedigree of this connection we ought to shift focus from Aquinas’ dependence on Aristotle to his familiarity with Stoic thinking and the works of St. Jerome that expounded it. St. Augustine was equally familiar both with Stoic thinking and the works of his opponent Jerome. In this paper, I undertake a close reading of the Epitome of Stoic Ethics by Arius Didymus vis-à-vis the references of the Christian fathers to homosexuality; the Christian vices correspond to the Stoic passions, defined as emotional excesses that could blur reason leading to deeds against nature – such passions could never elude the wise man (SVF3.638). In addition, later Stoic philosophers, such as Musonius Rufus writing under the Flavians, condemned homosexuality and every form of sex that was not dedicated to procreation (Mus. Ruf. 12.5-10 in Lutz 1947: 86; cf. Diotogenes the Pythagorean apud Stob. 7.62). The Stoic oeuvre on virtues and vices blended nicely with the widespread descriptions of the rhetorical tyrant which Roman writers systematically explored from the time of the late Republic and which emphasized the proclivity of tyrants to luxuria and homosexuality as a symptom of it (C. Edwards, The Politics of Immorality in Ancient Rome, 1993). In his Lives of the Twelve Caesars which inspired St. Jerome to write his De Viris Illustribus Ecclesiasticus Suetonius employs luxuria in relation to homosexuality on a number of occasions as an indication of the tyrannical character of certain emperors. His influence along with that of more systematic Stoic philosophy on the early Christian writers could offer further insights into the Christian understanding of homosexuality as luxuria against nature.
Putting the words in his mouth – Elagabalus the emperor-queen as monster and martyr
Despite some interesting studies, the young and short-lived Roman emperor Elagabalus remains a riddle. Due to his damnatio memoriae, contemporary sources are few and unreliably polemical, resembling scandalous tabloids rather than historical accounts. Later reception has slowly shifted from utterly condemning to celebratory, first presenting Elagabalus as the debauched sexual deviant but more recently reclaiming him as historical hero and martyr for gay and transsexual rights.
This paper will discuss negative stereotypes concerning male “homosexual” behaviour in the ancient accounts of Elagabalus, presenting him as a passive, promiscuous queen, obsessed with sex, his appearance and the size of his partners' genitals, out to convert others to his debauched lifestyle and threatening the wellbeing of the entire state. In short, it will attempt to demonstrate how all the key elements of the stereotyped male homosexual were already in place during Elagabalus’ time. It will then make a brief foray into Elagabalus’ Nachleben and use select examples from literature and visual arts to explore how uses of Elagabalus reflects changing attitudes towards male homosexuality.
The paper aims to emphasise how Elagabalus the historical person is constructed, deconstructed and reconstructed to serve different purposes at different times and how he constantly has words put into his mouth by polemics and supporters alike, and thus can be made to express anything. Like marginalized groups ever since, he is constantly spoken about by artists, scholars and political activists, but his own voice is effectively silenced. In light of this, this paper aims to show how negative and positive reception in ancient and modern times uses the strategy of selective abstraction (Kantor 2009, 135) to appropriate Elagabalus as proof for varying causes, making him the symbol for the male homosexual as monster and martyr.
Camp Style and Queer Identity in the Poems of Catullus, Martial, and Juvenal
Catullus, Martial, and Juvenal: three Roman poets notorious for their aggressive sexual
humor and harsh homophobic invective. Their poems have long been regarded either as morally appropriate condemnations of effeminacy or as homophobic hate speech. But if these poems are so antithetical to my own queer existence, then why do I take such pleasure in reading them? I enjoy the hostile humor of this Roman verse because it speaks the language of camp, the language of “fun and artifice and elegance,” in the words of British novelist Christopher Isherwood. The language in which queer people for centuries have poked fun at the things they take most seriously, embracing our own stigmatized identity and softening the sting of homophobia with mordant wit or self-deprecating laughter. This may seem like a perverse way to interpret the aggressive sexual humor of these poets. Queer readers have long been told that these poems are foundational texts of Western homophobia. By rejecting that claim, however, and reading these poems as camp, we reclaim them for queer history and reinscribe ourselves into a part of the Western literary tradition from which the hegemonic discourse has long excluded us.
In this paper, I will offer queer/camp readings of selected poems by Catullus,
Martial, and Juvenal. I will conclude that this poetry is not merely legible as camp, but is a
fundamental source of camp for the queer Western imagination. We can trace a clear line from the sexually aggressive poetic humor of Rome to ribald poetry of the Renaissance both in Latin and in the European vernacular languages and finally to the camp texts and performances of the Aesthetic Movement, the Victoria Era, and the Queer Era inaugurated by the life and death of Oscar Wilde.
Solus formosior ille cui daberis: Domitian and his puer delicatus Earinus
With this paper, my aim is to investigate a representation of the special relationship between the emperor Domitian and his puer delicatus Earinus, mainly featured in Statius’ Silv. 3.4 and a cycle of Epigrams of Martial (Ep. 9. 11, 12, 16, 17, 36).
My paper will focus on the portrait of Earinus within the frame of the imperial court, analysing in particular the mythic frame in which this special connection is set. The comparison with the divine counterparts of Jupiter and Ganymede (together with other mythical couples) heightens the reality of the role of Earinus as a sex slave. As usual in the tradition of encomia, the laudandi surpass their divine counterparts. The impression of their mutual affection emerging from the poem is in fact a way to legitimate a specific kind of homoerotic love within the logic of the imperial propaganda. The openly subordinated position of the young boy is transformed into a servitium amoris for Domitian.
Due to the prominent position of Earinus at the court, my aim is also to show how Statius describes the puer delicatus as a reflection of the emperor, both in his physical appearance (forma) and in his overall qualities (god-like beauty, luminosity). In order to fulfil this intent, Statius also refers to the edict against castration promoted by Domitian. As exemplified by the speculum Earinus receives at the end of the poem, the boy's beauty, luminosity and general decus mirrors the topoi of the imperial encomium.
A comparison with two other poems in the Silvae (2.1 and 2.6) will show how this language balanced between erotic and fatherly affection also features in other master-slave relationships.
Therefore, the language of love employed in these poems corresponds to an overall tendency of the Silvae and the lexicon of encomia in the imperial age: to create and ideal world of amor and amicitia, where social relationships (at every level and of any kind) are portrayed in an idealised way.
Sex and the City: Petronius’ Satyricon and Gore Vidal’s The City and the Pillar
In his autobiography Palimpsest, Gore Vidal recalls that when he first read Petronius, “an electrical current was switched on.” In Vidal’s The City and the Pillar (1948, revised 1965), usually considered the first gay American novel, Jim Willard, the protagonist, is in search of “his other half”; he wants “an ideal brother, a twin”; he longs for “a sense of identity, of twins, complementing one another.” While critics (myself included) have traced this quest back to Aristophanes in Plato’s Symposium, I now would like to investigate Vidal’s appropriation of the Satyricon. Just as Aristophanes envisions love as the pursuit of one’s other half (or “twin”), Petronius has Encolpius search for a frater. However, Petronius’ world of heightened reality, life as theater, exuberant camp, sexual superlatives… seems an altogether more suitable erotic universe than Socratic sobriety (albeit enlivened by Aristophanic hiccups). Throughout his long career, Vidal has been keenly interested in queering Roman antiquity. While his most famous examples are probably the homoerotic bond between Ben-Hur (Charlton Heston) and Messala (Stephen Boyd) in the movie Ben-Hur (whose film script Vidal co-wrote) and Tinto Brass’ notorious near-pornographic movie Caligula (whose script Vidal also contributed), The City and the Pillar offers a more sustained engagement with Roman masculinity and same-sex desire. Vidal, I argue, took from Petronius’ Encolpius and Ascyltus an erotic model that is more valued in the modern gay world than Greek paiderastia. First, it is a sexual paradigm that transcends the categories of erastes and eromenos (thus offering both equality and reciprocity); second, because it is independent of the lovers’ age, it tantalizes with the possibility of a long-term relationship; and third, it unabashedly celebrates sex in all its complexities.
Fisher, Kate, Funke, Jana, and Langlands, Rebecca
Materialistic Spirit and Noble Passion: Sexological Uses of Rome
The reception of Greece in sexological writings of the late nineteenth- and early twentieth century has received considerable scholarly attention. The way in which sexologists interpret and use Roman sexualities, however, has often been ignored. While it is true that sexological discussions of Rome are often less elaborate than those of Greece, Roman sexualities proved central to the sexologists’ interest in diverse types or subcategories of sexuality subsumed under the umbrella terms ‘homosexuality’ or ‘sexual inversion’. In contrast to Greece, Rome offered the sexologists a much more diverse picture of human sexuality. It is through an engagement with Roman history and literature that sexologists could develop and reinforce distinctions between congenital and acquired, natural and abnormal, idealised and physical, cultured or degenerative sexualities, to name but a few. Since the discussion of these different types of homosexuality feeds into the more general sexological concern with the classification of sexuality in terms of deviance and normalcy, and pathology and health, Rome emerges as a significant site in the construction of modern figurations of homosexuality that has so far been overlooked.
To explore the different ways in which Rome is used in sexological texts, the paper focuses on English sexologist Havelock Ellis and authors that are more loosely positioned in a sexological context, such as Edward Carpenter or John Addington Symonds. The paper explores similarities and differences between the representation of Greek and Roman sexualities, and pays attention to the way in which English authors use French and German sources in the reception of Rome. It also comments on the conflicted ways in which Rome is integrated into the narrative of an affirmative history of male homosexuality that starts to emerge in some sexological writings at the time.
Homosexuality in the Fourth Century: the Construction of a Homoerotic Discourse in the Epigrams of Ausonius
The fourth century A.D. can be considered a “turning point” in attitudes towards homosexuality: in this period the Roman West became increasingly intolerant towards gay people, passing a series of repressive laws to crack down on homosexual behaviour. The aim of this paper is to examine the depiction of homosexuality in the epigrams of an important figure of the time, Ausonius, who was both a refined man of letters and a public figure. His political career and his influence at the imperial court are well known: his attitude towards homosexuality is thus likely to reflect not simply a personal point of view but the “official” mentality of the fourth-century élite.
Some of Ausonius’ epigrams on homosexuals are openly condemnatory (e.g. 73 Green, against a man who corrupts young boys); others seem to “advertise” the moral superiority of the author with respect to the subjects he describes (e.g. 43 Green, about three men performing four sexual acts). Others, however, betray an attempt to “adapt” homoerotic themes, which had played an important role in the literature of the previous centuries, to the taste of the times so as to make them “acceptable” (53 Green, where the pederastic theme is “softened” through a complex conflation of erotic and funerary topoi, or the epigrams which play with Ovid’s sexually ambiguous figures, such as Narcissus or Hermaphroditus). These last epigrams can be explained as a tribute paid to the literary tradition by an author who is much indebted to it, but it is nevertheless of great interest to evaluate the differences with respect to earlier classical treatments of the same themes, differences which seem to be deliberately introduced in order “safely” to conform to the morals of the time.
The Hellenification of Rome: the legacy of Winkelmann and the aesthetics of sexuality
This paper is concerned with the hermeneutics of homosexuality, and the difficulties presented to the history of scholarship in apprehending the contribution of ancient literature to the construction of modern mentalities. The paper centres upon the idea of decency, singling it out as the largest single obstacle to a continuity between ancient and modern conceptions of homosexuality. In spite of the importance of his own homosexuality to Winckelmann’s veneration for Greek art, and for the influence his views had on how the relationship between modern and ancient society has been conceived, there is no ambiguity concerning the homophobic climate in which Winckelmann was working. Nor should we underestimate the general influence of that prudery which would become more powerful in the Victorian era, and which would have a decisive effect upon the reception of ancient sexuality. The paper argues that the canonical status of some of the Latin authors who deal with homosexual material grants them a special status, so that they could, within certain constraints, escape the repressive reception of ancient homosexuality which operated more powerfully for Greek authors. Concurrently, it explores the manner in which those same Latin authors were engaged in a trans-cultural dialogue with Greek models, which makes it difficult to locate the ‘reality’ or ‘normativity’ of their gay references. The appeal of the Classical to Winckelmann’s was aesthetic; thus the paper relates 18th century ideas of decency in the reception of Classical texts to the notions of aesthetics prevalent at the time, in order to provide a context for the moralizing aesthetic which is so characteristic of Winckelmann’s idealization of Greek culture. It also argues that rather than seeing homosexual representations themselves as constructing a tradition, it was Roman ideas of decorum that contributed to the framework in which Roman sexuality was understood.
Strange Love within and without Commentaries: toward a philological history of the reception of homosexuality in the Roman schoolroom.
The classroom was a fundamental forum for the reception of Rome and for knowledge transfer since Antiquity. Thus, the role and importance of school cannot be ignored in order to correctly understand the construction of sexual identities. An analysis of this phenomenon is possible only through a close examination of texts on which education was based: auctores and commentari. After a review of critical literature on the topic, I found that there have been no contemporary contributions to the treatment of homosexuality in Latin commentaries. Therefore, I focus on the authors and the explanatory commentaries to their works used in the Roman school system to philologically trace its influence on the popular Western tradition of homosexual identity. Specifically, the common Latin school canon consisted of and dealt with a certain number of auctoritates of the Classical Age and Late Antiquity, such as Virgil and Martianus Capella. This textual corpus over time was modified in both the quantity and quality of authors, each change in accordance with regnant cultural currents and pedagogical imperatives. These texts comprised the Roman lectio, and their commentaries still represent for researchers the cultural filter through which canonical texts were read, how they were interpreted, and for what didactic purpose. Verily, the relationship between texts and their criticism in the classroom are ineluctable elements in understanding the socio-historical problematic of the reception of gender identities.
This is the principal object of my analysis. I highlight the textual modalities through which commentators discursively treated homosexuality in myth, history, and social descriptions of homosexuality in the authorial texts of Cicero, Virgil, Horace, and Juvenal; I analyze a congruous group of examples dealing with homosexual themes from these author’s works. For each work, I also provide a critical analysis of the exegetical commentary. I conclude that this phenomenon - male and female homosexuality - is strongly connoted in terms of negation, either ex silentio or tout court pejoratively: from embarrassed silence to allegorical interpretation, from a simple synonymic explanation to a moralistic condemnation. The negative tone toward, or exclusion of, homosexuality in the works of Roman commentators also assumes an emblematic meaning, when compared, for example, with commentaries to works that do not belong to the school curriculum. Specifically, this is observed in the scholia on Ovid’s Ibis where the joyful treatment of pederastic love is an exception. Finally, the peculiarity of the general tendency of Roman commentators can be valued better in the comparison I draw with Greek-Byzantine school commentaries that spoke freely about homosexuality; specifically, Greek commentators read too much in same-sex friendships, such as in the relationship between Patroclos and Achilles.
The role of Roman artefacts in E. P. Warren’s “paederastic evangel”
Edward Perry Warren (1860-1928), American-born Classical collector and activist for the modern revival of ideal Greek pederasty, is best known for his eponymous “Warren Cup”, which features explicit images of Roman male-male sex. However, the importance of Roman material culture for Warren’s campaign goes far beyond this. They played a fundamental role in what he called his ‘paederastic evangel’: his creation of the Classical departments at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts. This was a deliberate attempt to expose his Puritanical home-town to ancient culture and art in the hope that it would encourage a ‘healthier’ attitude to the sexes, nudity and sexuality: specifically an erotic appreciation of the male body, a more masculine-centred society and particularly the emancipation of pedagogical-erotic relationships between men and youths.
Although, like others within the cult of Victorian ‘Uranianism’ (a discourse which played a primary role in late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century debates about same-sex desire) Warren took his primary inspiration from Ancient Greece, he drew upon Roman material to develop and promulgate this ideal. He collected hundreds of antiquities from Rome, including homoerotic images, on the cup and on Arretine Ware, and a substantial collection of Roman male nudes and phallic objects. For Warren, this material, which demonstrates a Roman appropriation of Greek art, aesthetics and sexual ethics, allowed access to ideas which he thought the modern world should embrace, often in a more effective way than the available Greek material.
21st Century African Homophobia and the Roman Laws on Same-Sex Sexual Acts
In recent years there has been a surge of homophobia across Africa. Among the arguments of this African homophobic discourse is that homosexuality is unAfrican, an import from the West and against the law. However, the laws they refer to are the colonial laws on sodomy brought in from the West. These sodomy laws can all be traced back to the influence of the first codified laws against same-sex sexual acts in the West, namely the laws from the Roman Empire. This means that the concept of sexuality on which modern sodomy laws are based is derived from the Romans. This paper will examine the way in which a Roman concept of sexuality is being used to help justify and perpetuate homophobia in Africa and how understanding the socio-historical context of Roman sexuality may assist in subverting the law argument of the African homophobic discourse.
Romosexuality: Greek virtue versus Roman vice and the subversive case of the anonymous Teleny
This paper explores responses to ancient Roman examples of homosexuality in the late ninenteenth century, a crucial period for the forging of a modern homosexual identity. The importance of receptions of Greek homosexuality in constructing and legitimating a gay identity in this era is well known, but contemporary responses to Rome have been overlooked in previous scholarship, despite being found in tandem with comments on Greece as a model of a society which accepted same-sex relations.
The first part of this paper briefly analyses the way in which 'Greek love' was presented as purified of sexual connotations and deployed by early gay activists as a defence of and plea for the tolerance of same-sex relations while such writers simultaneously censured Roman examples of homosexuality because of their perceived obscenity. Texts under consideration include John Addington Symonds' A Problem in Greek Ethics (1883), and Edward Carpenter's The Intermediate Sex (1908) and Ioläus: An Anthology of Friendship (1902). The second part of the paper explores a sharply contrasting approach to such assimilationist tactics in the same period: the anonymous, privately published pornographic novel Teleny (1893) subverts the deployment of antiquity in contemporary apologies for homosexuality in a number of different ways. These include challenging the desexualised portrayals of 'Greek love' found elsewhere in the period; employing a Roman rather than a Greek model of devoted erotic partnership as a parallel for the relationship between the novel's narrator, Camille Des Grieux, and the Hungarian musician he loves, Rene Teleny; and engaging with the discourse of Roman sexuality (in particular, responding to Rome's fascination with outsized male members and the Roman concept and vocabulary of 'irrumation').
The paper's conclusion then traces the later reverberations of these early polarized approaches to classical homosexuality and to Roman depictions of relations between men in particular.
Johnston, John J.
The Cult of Antinous: 1,882 Years and Counting?
This paper considers the reception of Antinous, as historical figure, cultural icon, and deity in contemporary Western culture.
Over the last decade or so, within academia, Antinous and his numerous sculptural images have served as the first ancient subject of an exhibition at the Henry Moore Institute, played a prominent role in the ‘blockbuster’ Hadrian exhibition at the British Museum, been the subject of noteworthy conservation work in Paris and Berlin, generated increased numbers of publications and articles, and continued to provide excavators at Tivoli with clues as to the location of his tomb. How far, though, is this apparent upsurge of academic interest reflected in Antinous’ ongoing relevance within mainstream culture and, specifically, within the LGBT canon?
Drawing, in part, upon audience reaction and evaluation following the writer’s public lectures dealing with Antinous, both in isolation and within wider Egyptological and Classical contexts, the paper will endeavour to answer these questions and, in so doing, examine the recent resurgence of the Antinous cult, particularly as an online, global phenomenon, and its role as a faith of choice for gay and bisexual men in an increasingly secular society.
The Warren Cup in Victorian Homosexual Utopia
The Warren Cup, an imperial silver Roman drinking vessel depicting scenes of male on male lovemaking, has been controversial since its rediscovery and purchase by the British Museum. Aside from its value as evidence for Roman art and attitudes, the cup was a trophy for the personal interests of its collector. Edward Perry Warren wrote A Defence of Uranian Love, his life’s work justifying pederasty, and sought to live out his ideals of masculine society in an all-male household at Lewes House in Sussex. By the time the first volume appeared in 1928, however, this elite and erudite defence of male homosexuality was already out of fashion. Warren advocated a return to pagan, Grecian pederasty: the erotic as well as pedagogical connection between boys and men. In doing so he went several steps beyond the scope of the Victorian Uranian writers (D’Arch Smith 1970; Kaylor 2006), but his misogyny and rejection of Christianity did not endear the book to its potential audience (Sox 1991). The Defense remains an interesting text for its Warren’s biographical sketch of the boy-lover’s psychology, and using this evidence Warren’s views illuminate aspects of the iconography discussed upon the Warren cup's modern rediscovery. Contemporary scholars still differ over whether the figures depicted are meant to be Greek, Roman, or fantastic (Clarke 1998; Williams 2006); the body types and sexual poses however are distinct from Athenian pottery and closely akin to later Hellenistic and Roman examples (Clarke 1993; Pollini 1999). The particulars of this ambiguity allow a speculative reading based on Warren’s concept of “reflexion”, and suggest how his ideals were shaped by the Roman as well as Greek art and literature on which they were based.
‘Gay’ Pompeii: Pompeian Art and Homosexuality in the Early Twentieth Century
Eduard von Mayer’s Pompeii as an Art City (1907), ostensibly a guidebook to the ancient town, strikes the modern reader for its attention to male beauty and homoeroticism in Pompeian art. Ultimately, von Mayer points to the ancient practice of homoeroticism in ‘everyday life’, as seen through Pompeii’s ‘humble’ (7) art, to call for a return to the enlightened sexual mores of the Roman past.
I first discuss how von Mayer bolsters his claims of a celebrated homoeroticism in Pompeian art, addressing the choice and placement of illustrations, as well as his treatment of heteroerotic versus homoerotic art. Moreover, I argue that von Mayer’s emphasis on continuity between the past and present, as well as his benign portrayal of the status of slaves and women, allows him to present the Roman past as a moral paradigm for the present.
I then turn to the early twentieth-century context of the homosexual rights movement in Germany (on which, see J. Steakley, The Homosexual Emancipation Movement in Germany), showing how the guidebook builds upon contemporary goals of finding homoeroticism in past literature and art. For example, Elisar von Kuppfer’s 1899 anthology of homoerotic literature (Leiblingminne und Freundesliebe in der Weltliteratur) focused on male virtue, companionship, and homoeroticism, foreshadowing the qualities highlighted by von Mayer. The two were in fact partners, and even co-founded their own doctrine combining aesthetics and homoerotics (called Klarismus; see H. Oosterhuis, Homosexuality and Male Bonding in Pre-Nazi Germany: 90), for which they built a temple/museum housing Kuppfer’s own homoerotic art (W. Davis, “Homoerotic Art Collection from 1750 to 1920” in Other Objects of Desire: Collectors and Collecting Queerly: 87).
In sum, I argue that Pompeii’s unique ability to provide ‘everyday’ art in its original context makes it particularly useful in early twentieth-century arguments promoting homosexuality.
Gallus as Cinaedus: A Problem for Roman Identity
Although Cybele was welcomed into the Roman pantheon in the 3rd century BC, her cult always posed a problem of identity for ethnicity, gender, and especially sexuality which flew in the face of tradition and norm. Anatolian in origin but later Hellenized, the religion of the Mater Deum elicited from Roman writers a schizophrenic reaction. Profoundly disturbing to Roman sensibilities was the priest figure of the gallus, the self-castrated eunuch often depicted as a dancing, frenzied transvestite. As men who had given up their masculine identity the galli or semiviri naturally invited the association with cinaedi, that is, passive homosexuals who were often the object of satire and invective.
The tension presented by the galli is apparent in Vergil’s Aeneid. Although this epic celebrates Greek love (cf. Nisus and Euryalus), it is clear that the cult with its ambiguity of gender and sexuality presents a problem for the poet. Vergil does a deft balancing act in extolling the goddess as patroness of future Rome but also exploiting native Roman bias against oriental androgyny. Vergil’s solution to the problem comes at the end of the poem when the Aeneadae must give up their Asian ways and in their new identity adopt the masculine manners and dress of Italic peoples. For later Roman writers (Juvenal, Apuleius, St. Augustine) the gallus continued to be an object of both fascination and repulsion because of his emasculation, the perception of him as faux woman, indeed his total “otherness”. A survey of the gallus through republican, imperial, and Christian times raises significant questions about gender, ethnicity, and religion.
“Of that I know many examples ...”: On the Relationship of Greek Theory and Roman Practices in Karl Heinrich Ulrichs’ Writings on the Third Sex
In a dramatic address to the Congress of German Jurists in Munich on 29th August 1867, Karl Heinrich Ulrichs (1825-1895) took the unprecedented step to publically demand the decriminalisation of sex between men, making him in the eyes of many ‘the first gay man’ to have ‘come out’. The preceding struggle of coming to terms with his same-sex attraction is documented in his writings: in dialogue with his family, the Bible and classical literature, his developing thoughts crystallise in a series of pamphlets which constitute the first full-scale attempt to conceptualise same-sex desire in the nineteenth century. As I have shown elsewhere (Matzner 2010), Greek literature and thought, and especially Plato’s Symposium, are of fundamental importance to the formation, elaboration, defence and critique of sexual object choice theories in philhellenic Germany during this period. Yet Rome, too, retained an important place in cultural discourse. Ulrichs himself is a prime example for the continued appreciation of Latin: having won a state prize in Latin composition as a university student, he spent the last years of his life in Italian exile editing the journal Alaudae which aimed at restoring Latin as an international language. Indeed, he chose to summarise his own understanding of same-sex desire in the form of a self-composed Latin hexameter: sunt mihi barba maris, artus, corpusque virile; | his inclusa quidem: sed sum maneoque puella (Ulrichs 1864). Given the centrality of Greek ‘theory’ for the development of Ulrichs’ conceptualisation of same-sex desire, what role do Roman sources play in his writings? This contribution sets out to locate the argumentative and aesthetic place of Roman literature in the writings of the ‘grandfather of gay emancipation’ (Lauritsen/Thorstad 1984) by assessing which authors and texts are cited, what they contribute to Ulrichs’ arguments and how they relate to their fundamental Greek theorems.
When a Kiss is More Than Just a Kiss… or Rather Less.
Alleged homosexual kisses in Catullus and Martial as a specimen of the latest scholarly reception of Roman homosexuality .
The interpretation of well-known works of Latin literature in the last decades of the 20th century has been heavily influenced by contemporary theories on sexual behavior. Such approaches have been exploited mainly by Classicists of Anglo-Saxon heritage, as it is in the USA and in the UK of the Seventies and the Eighties that gender studies and, broadly speaking, the psychoanalytic approach, have been systematically applied to the interpretation of literary texts. (For an esquisse on the history of the studies on Roman sexual ideology, and its terminology, see the “Introduction” by Marylin Skinner to the collection of essays Roman Sexualities, Princeton 1997, especially 3-8). So, e.g. the “feminist tools of analysis” have uncovered and linked to one another a large set of issues, thus providing a new, and often useful, way to the understanding of a Classical literary text. Much of this published work has proved extremely influential; perhaps too much. Whereas it is undeniable that psychoanalytic analysis and its related tools have marked a huge step forward in the study of Classical antiquity, several studies in this subject have gone as far as to see a sexual, or a “sexualised”, discourse (here, more specifically, homosexual implications) in literary passages where other (perhaps less fashionable) interpretations seem to be more probable. To put it simply, some scholars have seen in a given set of Latin literary texts a depiction of, or hints to, more numerous - and more meaningful for their own purposes - “homosexual” acts and behaviour than the texts themselves actually describe.
In the current surge of such work building up on gender studies and the Classics I have chosen to discuss literary depictions of kissing in two Classical Latin authors, G. Valerius Catullus and M. Valerius Martialis, whose poetics appears to be openly built on certain kinds of sexual discourse. Whereas some Catullan or Martialian passages explicitly demand an interpretation that should take into account one or more aspects of the Roman conceptions of homosexualy, none the less I must contend that in a number of cases these literary texts have been forced in order to serve a specific exegetical purpose.
As to Catullus, I challenge some enticing but extremely tortuous interpretations on the so-called “basia poems”. In interpreting poem 5 M. Fontaine argues, building on previous (somewhat misleading) bibliography (e.g. Skinner 1997), that it might conceal either a bilingual pun alluding to a fellatio performed by Catullus himself (Fontaine 2008, 63), or at least an allusion to a request of fellatio; the same request other critics have seen in the Catullan poems where recurring words are basium and its derivatives basiare (Holzberg 2000).
Another example concerns Martial. The author of a recent book (Borgo 2005), commenting on a “cycle” of five poems (2.10, 12, 21, 22, 23), argues for a romance between Martial's persona and what she believes to be a puer delicatus bearing the cryptonym “Postumus”. This view allows Borgo to embark upon a discussion about homosexuality in ancient Rome, and a sketch of Catullus' basia poems. Such interpretation of Postumus as delicatus and a former lover of Martial seems to me completely unconvincing. Indeed, the sole hint which could justify this view is that Martial repeatedly uses the terms basia and basiare instead of osculum, which is believed to properly describe the salutation kiss. It it easy to show how these two terms are indeed used as synonyms. Specificaly, in Mart. 2.10 and 2.21 the word basium so obviously describes the salutation kiss that any other “concealed” allusions to other “kinds of kiss” can be comfortably discarded. On this basis, I argue that no fixed rule existed, at least in Martial’s time, on this lexical issue, despite the views of some authoritative but later grammarians that are still currency in our textbooks and commentaries.
An unprejudiced analysis of some recent work devoted to poems of alleged homosexual content is likely to show that several studies published during the last decade tend to present a biased over-estimation of the number of allusions to same-sex relationships or to homosexual behaviour in Latin Classical authors; that is to say, I believe to have noticed a tendency towards an over-sexualisation of such texts to fit them into an ideological discourse that is actually appropriate for only a percentage of them.
Oscula iungit, nec moderata satis nec sic a virgine danda: the Callisto episode in Ovid’s Metamorphoses and the typology of female homoeroticism
Scholarly formulations based on the normative model of ancient sexuality, both Roman and Greek, tend to reduce sexual behaviours to activity/passivity, and, in the case of female-female sexuality, to focus on sexually explicit texts (primarily those that represent the figure of the tribas). This paper seeks to point to the possibilities of a more supple model that encompasses erotic sensuality as well as genital sexuality, examining the Callisto episode in Ovid’s Metamorphoses as a case study.
Indeed, the Callisto episode can be seen to have played a surprisingly important role in the formation of modern identity categories surrounding sexuality. As Valerie Traub argues, the Callisto myth frequently became a site for the representation of female homoerotic desire in early modern art and literature (The Renaissance of Lesbianism in Early Modern England, Cambridge, 2002, chapter 6). Against the background of the exclusively homosocial community of Diana’s nymphs, authors presented ambiguously erotic relationships between women, without condemning the women involved as deviant, monstrous, masculinised, et cetera. These authors can be argued to have taken their cue from Ovid himself, who, far from portraying a ‘tribadic’ scenario of monstrously active wo/man and normative (?) passive partner, represents a perceptibly homoerotic relationship in which neither partner is a tribas. In this way, the reception history of the Callisto episode casts a different light on the original text, and allows productive reformulation of the place of female/female desire in Latin literature and its tradition.
Roman and Pre-Modern Dandies: Sexuality and Affect
In Roman antiquity, dress strongly intersected with ideas about masculinity, status, and sexuality. Generally, the sartorial code of everyday appearance for men was in part dictated by conservative Roman tastes, and normal appearance for an elite man was staid, even plain: aristocratic maleness was to be expressed by independence from the servitude of fashion. Because overly-rich or brightly-colored clothing and ornament was generally encoded as feminine in Roman culture, the man who dressed in this way was thought by certain authors to be a cinaedus: effeminate and apt to be anally penetrated. Since the Romans did not distinguish between aesthetics and ethics, such a man’s sexual morals, and thus his political legitimacy, was questionable.
What has been previously overlooked by scholars was that such men might have been dandies, urban young men of fashion, rather than cinaedi (dandies or trossuli are specifically mentioned by Sen. Epp. 76.2, 87.9, 114.21; Pers. 1.80-82; Diod. Fr. 37.3.4; Pliny Nat. 33.35-36, among others). Perhaps it is a fine distinction, but a dandy (or a metrosexual, in modern parlance) was a man whose defining features were love of self-display and, most importantly, sexual ambiguity: although they were often labeled cinaedi, the dandy could be active cross-sexually or homosexually. This complicated connection between sexuality and affect was one that dictated (as in the pre-modern period, and today) the man who spent too much time on his looks was thought to be homosexual; yet a dandy's sexual preferences were often "indecipherable to an audience, concealed by artful arrangements of manner and dress.” To call someone a cinaedus (rather than a trossulus, for example) was likely a deliberate put-down, a result of intergenerational tension or discomfort with the confusion of sexual categories.
To my knowledge, no specific term existed for this figure in Greek antiquity. Certainly Athenian men who were driven by their appetites and wants and who spent lavishly to support them violated the masculine ideal of self-restraint, more closely resembling the Athenian stereotype of women as consumers. And in Roman times “an effeminate appearance and excessive preoccupation with one’s looks could be presented as typical of a Greek.” But in ancient Greek culture, except for Paris, the Greeks seem not to have had a recognized figure like the trossulus. If there was a ‘dandy’ figure in Greek antiquity it did not generate the kind of censure as it did in Roman society; thus the pre-modern dandy may represent a continuity of Roman sexual and social ideology which is often overlooked.
Both the dandy and the cinaedus were figures which functioned as loci for Roman social anxieties concerning homosexuality, masculinity, and political authority— much as they did in later pre-modern Western culture. The two figures intersected (and were confused) inasmuch as they both embodied sexually or socially disruptive modes of dressing and behavior. As in later times, there was a difficult and unstable relationship in Roman antiquity between masculinity and clothing.
Roman Receptions/ Receptions of Rome: Walter Pater's Marius the Epicurean
Foucault caverlierly dated the invention of the homosexual to the year 1870. At that time, several writers turned back to ancient Greece to understand their desires and identities in the context of competing religious, medical and legal definitions of sexuality. This turn back to Greece was an attractive strategy for intellectuals such as John Addington Symonds, Walter Pater and Oscar Wilde because Greece provided a set of tools for life that pre-dated Christian ethics. This would have been an especially alluring tactic to those Victorian writers who wrote at the end of the nineteenth century, which had witnessed protracted and painful debates about Christian doctine and metaphysics. This is what makes Pater's 1885 novel "Marius the Epicurean" so unusual, in that it sort to work out how a young man who loved other men might combine pagan aesthetics with Christian morality. Whereas the turn to Greece obviated this difficult issue, when Pater turned to Second Sophistic Rome, a melting-pot of religious beliefs and cultural practices, he addressed this problem head on for his 1885 audience, who themselves lived in the morally complex urban, imperial world of the Victorian fin de siècle.
Subjective Narratives and Sexuality: Rejecting a Homosexual Marcus Aurelius.
The 1815 discovery of the letters of Marcus Cornelius Fronto were greeted with considerable excitement by the classical establishment. Not only were the letters by an orator the ancients perceived to have been equal to Cicero, but contained a correspondence with his pupil in rhetoric the future emperor Marcus Aurelius. Yet within a few decades the letters had been relegated to an obscurity that continues today. Not only were Fronto’s oratorical writings considered disappointing but also in the letters there was a level of affection between the young Marcus and his tutor that readers found uncomfortable. Marcus and Fronto’s correspondence is full of expressions of love, joy and a passionate longing and love for one another. This aspect the letters was politely ignored for nearly two centuries.
This paper will not argue for or against a historical romance between Marcus Aurelius and Fronto. Rather it is the reaction in historical scholarship to the letters that is of interest, the way the letters have been presented, disregarded and reinterpreted and what this can tell us about modern attitudes to ancient sexuality. This paper will consider how writers and historians have reacted to the letters possible romantic content both as a signifier of their socio-cultural conditions but also their contemporary trends in scholarship. Today the minority of scholars argues in favor of a romantic reading whilst the vast majority vehemently denies it. This paper will attempt to consider why there has been such a diverse set of reactions to the letters and their potential implications. Is ancient homosexuality only acceptable when it conforms to existing preconceptions? Why is a homosexual Marcus Aurelius so unpalatable? What does this say about how our narratives of ancient sexuality have been formed and disseminated?
Making an example of ‘ancient drag queens’: a postmillennial reevaluation of the cinaedus
In the early ‘90’s – a full generation after land mark works on Greek Homosexuality (Foucault 1976; Dover 1978) - a succession of Classicists began to explore the significance of inter-male erotic behavior in the ancient Roman world. In response to the Foucauldian concept of sexuality as a societal construct, one specific figure from Latin literature was repeatedly held up as an example that either confirmed or negated the idea of sexual essentialism (Richlin 1993; Winkler 1990; Williams 1999). This figure was the cinaedus: a pathic male whose sexual desire was to be penetrated by other men and who outwardly displayed this desire with effeminate clothing and extravagant performative behavior.
This paper seeks not to argue for either side of this essentialist/ constructionist discourse but rather to explore how, through developments since the 1990’s (both in the field of Classics and Gender studies), the contradictory nature of the cinaedus might be reevaluated in a constructive rather than a divisive manner. The paper will seek to examine moments of contradiction in the cinaedus’ behavior (both performative and sexual) as presented in Latin texts. Secondly it will suggest that contradiction is the defining feature of this much fought-over figure. Finally the paper seeks to argue that it is the cinaedus’ contradictory nature that has allowed this figure to have been so useful to both camps of the essentialist/ constructionist discourse; and that ultimately, rather than reifying such a binary opposition, through his ability to embody both ends of it, the cinaedus, wears down the very power of this dyad.
“nam dum lingant naso tantum respirat”: Cunnilingus in Renaissance Martial and Juvenal Commentaries
This paper tracks the consolidation and transmission of humanist “knowledge” about sex between women in a heretofore unexplored vector: Renaissance commentaries on the works of Martial and Juvenal. Composed by scholars such as Domizio Calderino, Niccolò Perotti and Giorgio Merula in the last decades of the fifteenth century, they included extensive and at times strikingly graphic discussions about sex between women. These cluster around the “Bona Dea” section of Juvenal’s 6th satire and Martial’s Epigrams I.90 and VII.67. In light of the research of historians of sexuality working on somewhat later vernacular traditions, much of the commentary is expected, including the almost ritualized discussion of the Greek etymology of the word “tribades” and characterizations of Sappho as a tribade (although certain details of this characterization are worthy of note and it predates what some scholars have suggested is the popularization of the link between Sappho and sex between women). Two other elements are more surprising. Women from Lesbos are identified as having invented certain sexual practices. There is some equivocation however about precisely what practice they invented: oral sex on the one hand or the practice of mutual rubbing (cf. the tribade) on the other. Moreover, the commentaries include extensive discussion of the practice of cunnilingus between women. Calderino’s extremely graphic discussion of cunnilingus in his Juvenal commentary leads some subsequent glossators to critique details of his account but for the most part they do not refute his suggestion that Juvenal alludes to oral sex between women. The majority of the talk will focus on these two related surprising elements. I will identify the sources for claim in Martial and Juvenal commentaries that the women of Lesbos invented certain sexual practices and the subsequent history of that link in other humanist works. I propose that “heterosexual” fellatio comes largely to occlude the already equivocal potential female same-sex origin story of oral sex, although a nominal trace of the lesbian remains. I will also track how the evocation of oral sex between women is treated in subsequent commentaries and in manuscript marginalia in editions of Martial and Juvenal. The paper concludes with a meditation on the implications of the extensive humanist discussions of cunnilingus between women in the context of the overwhelming focus on the tribade in vernacular texts considering sex between women and on the part of recent scholars of the early modern history of sex between women.
Romantic Visions: Collecting, Display and Homosexual Self-fashioning
This paper revisits the relationship between domestic space and homo-sociality in nineteenth-century England in particular. Despite this focus, its span is deliberately longue-durée, encompassing examples from the 1760s through to the 1980s and from Italy as well as Britain, so as to put pressure on ‘homo-sociality’ as a term and its fit with philhellenism, aestheticism, and, at the very end of the nineteenth-century, the emerging discourse of homosexuality. It is less interested in art-works that circulated privately than in the ways in which men such as Alessandro Albani (1692-1779), William John Bankes (1786-1855) and Edward Perry Warren (1860-1928) performed their masculinity through the art and architecture of their home, and the place of Greece and Rome within these performances. For all that Victorian novels often make the interior of houses speak of the social and sexual status of their owners, what about the love that dare not speak its name when located within real bricks and mortar? Was it visible, even if coded? And if so, was it Platonic, Winckelmannian, Italian or Roman? What about change over time? This paper exposes the range of solutions that were found for constructing an identity visually (and by what was not made visible) which championed male-male desire without seeming overly normative or effeminate. It discovers that any ‘Romo-sexuality’ here was less in the nature of the objects displayed than in the act of collecting.
Representing Ancient Roman Sexuality in Contemporary Fiction, TV and Film
This paper considers the challenges of representing ancient Roman sexuality in fiction, film and TV plausibly for a modern audience - without losing the ethical and cultural loyalty to the era in which the story is set.
A tension exists between authentically representing the sexuality of ancient Roman characters and making them engaging for a modern audience. Contemporary novelists, film and TV directors must decide where to position the pivot of authenticity.
Ancient Roman definitions of sexuality, the language and roles deployed to describe and exhibit one’s sexual identity, were drastically different to modern Western ideologies of sexual behaviour.
To bridge the historical gap, directors and TV producers often overlay modern homosexual and heterosexual identity definitions upon the ancient Romans, risking loosing the characters’ historical sexual identities. Examples are cited from BBC/ HBO TV series, Rome and the 1964 film, Carry On Cleo.
Reconstructions of the persona of the cinaedus, a mature passive male, for consumption by modern TV audiences and readers of Neo-ancient Roman fiction are compared. Reference to the work of Harris, Saylor and Yourcenar, demonstrates how their fiction strives to preserve authentic voices.
This paper suggests, with reference to the work of Hallett (1997), Parker (1997) and Williams (1999), that modern English discourse of sexual power relations offers modern audiences access to the ancient Roman sexual paradigm.
The paper concludes that the pivot of authenticity is not static in fiction, TV and film. Authors and directors shift it, overlaying the ancient world with varying degrees of modern morality, and sexual norms.
“Those hairy old toughs of centurions”:
Greek and Roman homosexualities from C.S. Lewis to Robert Harris
This paper discusses some representative examples of English-language popular writing on Rome from the mid- to late twentieth century, drawing attention to the models for gender and sexual systems in general, and sexual desire and acts between males in particular, which they simultaneously assume and propagate. After opening with C.S. Lewis’ Four Loves, Robert Graves’ I, Claudius, and Mary Renault’s Greek novels, I consider the reception of Roman sexuality in several recent examples of the highly successful genre of the historical novel, Steven Saylor’s Gordianus murder mysteries and Robert Harris’ Pompeii in particular. Reading paratextual material as well as characteristic passages from the novels, I argue that over the past decades there has been a detectable (though by no means uniform or complete) shift away from heteronormativity in two kinds of English-language writing about Rome: historical novels on the one hand, scholarly writing on the other. Finally, I consider the complex relationship between these two distinct but not entirely independent kinds of writing about the past and contemporary discourses on masculinity, sexuality, and identity, themselves hardly uniform or stable.
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