CE; NMA; CE; Sparta; CE; Messene; CE; Maktar; CE; El Jem; BCE-1 c. CE; BM; Preface The contents of this book This encyclopedia concentrates on the sexual practices, expressions, and attitudes of the Greeks and Romans in the lands around the Mediterranean in the period between BCE and CE; occasionally it will stray into peripheral cultures, into times earlier and later, and into subjects that may not seem like sex at all. Sex and sexuality are difficult to define. In English, "sex" denotes primarily the biological sex of a person male, female, other; in Greek and Latin, one's genus ; gender is the way a person is expected to act in society because they are male or female.
Sex secondarily means activities that involve the genitals and related body areas. Sexuality is more personal and seems to allude to the individual's promise of or availability for sexual activity. Behind this personal quality lies, however, the social construction of sexuality, how society views sex and the individual. For some ancient cultures, sexual practices are virtually invisible Celtic and Minoan- Mycenaean. Greeks and Romans, however, depicted and wrote about sex candidly and constantly.
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In general, sex was for procreation, recreation, and political advancement. Within this broad spectrum, details of ancient sex sometimes seem peculiar. For instance, their favorite position for intercourse was rear entry "a tergo" ; they thought ravens conceived their young through fellatio; they put phalluses everywhere indoors and outdoors for good luck; Greeks and Romans men and women used their slaves sexually; and both Greeks and Romans made their politicians out to be sex-crazed profligates.
In other words, Greeks and Romans were not sexually repressed. I have tried to keep this encyclopedia focused on specific ancient subjects: people, behavior, and attitudes, words, works of literature, depictions, artifacts. I have tried to focus more on sex and less on gender. I have tried to keep the entries factual, without too much over-interpretation; sometimes, however, the evidence warrants a more interpretive statement. I have also avoided illustrating those objects that are commonly found in handbooks see Works of art cited. Our sources for classical sex and sexuality are limited in several ways.
Most ancient writings have been lost due to neglect, to the practice of anthologizing texts for teaching, to the male bias against the writings of women, and to the prudish Bowdlerism of late and post-antique scholarship. Much of our artifactual evidence was deliberately lost or locked away in "secret cabinets" and "curiosity collections," which only recently have been opened for a more appreciative and tolerant public.
It is still, however, a separate collection, reflecting our tendency to see sex apart from the rest of culture. Because almost all of our sources are male-authored, it is difficult to obtain a balanced view of men's and women's sexuality, sex practices, and desires. Nonetheless, it is well worth the effort. For instance, though representations of vaginas are rare, one woman dedicated a sculptural representation of hers "to Aphrodite, for her favors: rejoice all you passers-by!
If my vocabulary seems dry, perhaps it will help the reader concentrate on the differences between ancient and modern practices and behaviors. Similarly, I have tried not to use a vocabulary that is inappropriate for describing what the ancients did and thought. Most men were, and were assumed to be, attracted to both young women and boys and almost all got married. Within these parameters, the term "bisexual" is inappropriate. The term "heterosexual" applies only to those few men like Ovid and Claudius who liked women almost exclusively. In some instances, it is possible to show women's "heterosexual" desires for men, but for others a "lesbian" desire is more appropriate.
Similarly, men who were attracted to boys and youths will be discussed under Greek "paiderastia," which is an anthropologically attested, eroticized male socialization ritual, and under Roman "boy-love," which citizen men felt almost exclusively for youthful non-citizen males. For those few men who maintained same-sex relationships into adulthood, I use the term "male homosexual. Dates are specified as BCE or CE; dates of authors are given in the "Ancient sources cited" section at the end of the book.
Bold numbers in the entries refer to the items in the "Works of art cited" section at the end of the book. Quotations are abbreviated; the intention here is not to mislead the reader but to make them more readable. All translations are the author's, unless otherwise stated. As always, I am grateful to Paul Rehak who read this manuscript, heard my thoughts, and gave me many suggestions, criticisms, and some difficult questions.
Paul passed away while this book was in press; I dedicate it to him in loving memory and in memory of our love. Theory and modern scholarship Theories Essentialism and constructionism Essentialism holds that human beings have in-grained behaviors and attitudes.
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Constructionism holds that some behaviors are dependent on the particular society, time, and place. What about sex? Is it "natural"? Is it socially constructed? If the preference for a sexual position has changed, what about other preferences? For instance, there was greater tolerance for homoerotic behavior in antiquity. Was there therefore "homosexuality" in antiquity? Some scholars say "no" the term was only coined in ; see Padgug ; Halperin , ; Halperin et al. A few scholars like Boswell and , however, have identified what look like modern homosexuals and modern homosexual behavior in antiquity cf.
If so, then it is the practice that is constructed, not the basic desire Stein Many studies then concluded, rightly I feel, that men had sexual access to all those beneath them in society unmarried females, non- citizen males, slaves; Richlin xviii; Sutton ; only proper women and citizen males were off limits. The assumption turns on the subordination of the penetrated. My own experience as a gay man tells me, however, that who has power during sexual activity can be negotiated.
For instance, the penetrated could exercise control. We hear how LAIS 2 so perfected the "a tergo" technique that she called the posture her own, the leaina the lioness. The second most popular sexual position, the equestrian, had the woman on top where she could control sexual stimulation cf.
Johns ; Myerowitz And in Roman practice there were two kinds of oral-penis stimulation, fellatio performed by the mouth of the penetrated and irrumation performed by the penis of the penetrator [i.
The Romans therefore distinguished between who had control of the sexual stimulation, the penetrator irrumatio or the penetrated fellatio. The origin of homosexuality Many scholars have written much about early paiderastia — since Homer does not mention it, some scholars argue that it must be an innovation of the later Iron Age.
Scholars then look for causes population control [Percy ], or a byproduct of athletic nudity [Scanlon ]. Paiderastia, however, is not homosexuality; it is a coming-of-age rite, and as such it has anthropological parallels that situate it in a stage of state- formation, at the tribal level. In that case, paiderastia should originate in the Bronze Age Cantarella , and I myself would put its development no later than the Middle Bronze Age ca. Men and women In antiquity men and women saw each other as different; accordingly, they developed complex taxonomies philosophical explanations for understanding anatomical, physiological, emotional, and rational differences.
Some of these differences seem profoundly odd to us moderns. For instance, women had many pockets in their body that needed to be broken through to hence the necessity for penetrative intercourse and women's bodies were moist hence the need to menstruate ; conversely, men's bodies were dense hence the need for physical exercise and hot and dry hence the need to stay active and outdoors. In modern society, masculinity is primarily performed as a set of repeated and routinized behaviors men are taught to be "tall, dark, handsome, restrained, strong, unemotional".
Femininity is also performed, but with seemingly greater variety women are taught to be "flighty, indecisive, emotional, and conscious of appearance". In antiquity we find similar performances: women's thoughts and emotions are fluid, men's controlled. With women constructed as closer to unmanageable nature Aristotle, Problems 29; Ortner , men may have felt constantly in danger: surely spending too much time with women emasculates a man.
Erotic art and pornography Modern discussions about erotic art have often concerned the place of women: to what extent are they objects of social manipulation, to what extent can they be subjects? Since men probably made most art and most literature, many scholars have concluded that ancient women are basically unknowable Rabinowitz ; Kappeler and MacKinnon As an archaeologist, however, I feel that too much emphasis has been placed on literature and not enough on the artifactual evidence.
Women viewed erotic art; they undoubtedly saw the Greek sympotic drinking cups and contemplated the wall paintings in their Roman homes. And in doing so, they must have speculated on their own sexuality.
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Much of the debate over pornography concerns two issues: its objectification of all participants and the effects of that objectification. Will erotic objectification cause people men to objectify their actual partners during sex, or will pornography cause a catharsis of such negative feelings? Since homosexual pornography is rampant today but homosexual rape is rare, homosexual pornography at least may have little negative effect on behavior Shapiro Moral decay A common attitude in antiquity was that toleration of immoderation luxury, food, drink, sex would induce cultural decline.
That culture has declined is an assumption in Hesiod, and that present laxity overturns accepted morality is a theme in Aristophanes 's Clouds. In the Justinianic codes, sexual immorality was an offence to God, and since God could exact revenge on the state, the state's punishment was capital. For sexual morality, the topic turned, and still turns, on the participants what biological sex, what class, what age , activities what positions, penetrations of what , and reasons procreation, pleasure, political ambition. As Winkler clearly saw, what is "natural" in human behavior is usually cultural.
For antiquity, I take no moral stance; they practiced sex because they could. Modern scholarship By the late eighteenth century Greek culture was being castigated for inspiring "pederasty" "Greek," "Socratic" love. In the early nineteenth century Friedrich Welcker  made a strong case for Sappho as a heterosexual, ideal mother, which brought Sappho's poetry back into the classical canon.
William Mure demolished Welcker's view, opening the dialogue on ancient sexual behaviors. John Addington Symonds published privately two essays , that discussed Greek paiderastia and the characterization of modern homosexuality. Early twentieth-century scholars thus tried to approach Greek and Roman sexuality with some objectivity Licht , ; Vorberg In the late twentieth century lavishly illustrated books e. Marcade and ; Grant and Mulas ; Boardman and LaRocca ; Johns allowed an interested public to examine ancient erotic art leisurely; and Brendel discussed it in comfortable art historical terms.
Wilhelm Krenkel's remarkable series of articles on ancient sexual practices went unduly neglected, but they deserve careful reading.
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Ancient homoeroticism was a major theme in the s e. From to the present day ancient sexuality has gone mainstream, being offered in university classrooms and quoted in America's lawcourts Nussbaum ; Skinner ; and the Supreme Court decision that overturned sodomy laws. Abortions for citizen women, however, were avoided since they gave women a power over their own bodies OVID, Amores 2.
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The statement in the Hippocratic oath, "I will not give to a woman a pessary to procure an abortion," does not forbid other means and does not specify when this prohibition should apply; consequently, doctors made their own decisions based on individual cases. Abortion was apparently not illegal in antiquity, nor was it hateful to the GODS. Under Septimius Severus and Caracalla a few cases criminalized abortion because the husband did not consent. The Digest mentions abortion only because of dangerous drugs Richlin ; Kapparis In general, it was thought to preserve potency. Continence contributed to good health, allowing a man "to store up his seed" Plutarch, Mor.
Prolonged abstinence, however, could do harm. In contrast, Aristotle Gen. Abstinence from intercourse was practiced by singers Horace, Ars P.