Homosexuality in Ancient Rome

© Copyright Vittorio Carvelli 2016

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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 boys 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 upper-classes 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.

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, 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, the prime directive of masculine sexual behavior for Romans, therefore Roman male sexuality should be understood 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 boys 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.


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.
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 quite 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."

Satyricon of Petronius
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 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.
The poet Martial often derides women as sexual partners, and celebrates the charms of pueri (boys).

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, 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.

Crucified Thief
Corinth Lovis
Male Nudity - Ancient Rome
© Copyright Vittorio Carvelli 2018
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 naked, slavery, since slaves for sale were displayed naked, and judicial punishment of slaves.
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 out-sized phallus of the god Priapus may originally have served an apotropaic purpose, but in art it is frequently laughter-provoking, or grotesque.
Hellenisation, 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 
The Warren Cup
The Warren Cup
The Warren Cup is a piece of convivial silver, usually dated to the time of the Julio-Claudian dynasty (1st century AD), that depicts two scenes of male-male sex. 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. 


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, "beautiful 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").
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 boy, however, was thought to be completely normal.

© Copyright Vittorio Carvelli 2018
Catamite (Latin 'catamitus') was a pubescent boy who was the intimate companion of a young man in ancient Rome, usually in a pederastic relationship.
It was usually a term of affection and literally means "Ganymede" in Latin.
It was also used as a term of insult when directed toward a grown man.
The word derives from the proper noun 'Catamitus', the Latinized form of Ganymede, the beautiful Trojan youth abducted by Zeus to be his companion and cupbearer.
The Etruscan form of the name was 'Catmite', from an alternate Greek form of the name, Gadymedes.
The word appears widely, but not necessarily frequently, in the Latin literature of antiquity, from Plautus to Ausonius.
It is sometimes a synonym for 'puer delicatus', "beautiful boy" (see below).
Cicero uses the term as an insult.
The word became a general term for a boy groomed for sexual purposes.
Also appears in Meditations by Marcus Aurelius.

© Copyright Vittorio Carvelli 2018
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 c'inaedus' 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' (boy), 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 'cinaedu's (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.

© Copyright Vittorio Carvelli 2018
Some Roman men kept a male concubine ('concubinus', "one who lies with; a bed-mate") before they married a woman.
This form of concubinage is "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'.
Slave-Boy with Concubinus
Like the 'catamite' or 'puer delicatus' (beautiful boy), 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.
The 'concubina', a female concubine who might be free, held a protected legal status under Roman law, but the 'concubinus' did not, since he was typically a slave.
Occasionally very favoured slaves were provided, by their master, with a 'concubinus' of their own.
Such a boy would also be a slave, and normally younger than the 'favoured slave' he was expected to 'service'.


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.

© Copyright Vittorio Carvelli 2018
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'.

Puer Delicatus
Puer Delicatus'
© Copyright Vittorio Carvelli 2018
The 'puer delicatus' was an "exquisite" slave-boy, chosen by his master for his beauty.
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 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.

© Copyright Vittorio Carvelli 2018
'Pullus' was a term for a young animal, and particularly a chick.
It was an affectionate word traditionally used for a boy (puer) who was loved by someone "in an physical, sexual sense."
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.
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'.

© Copyright Vittorio Carvelli 2018


'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).


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.


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 for citizens 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.
Slaves convicted of raping a Roman citizen were always raped, prior to castration and execution.
In a collection of twelve anecdotes dealing with assaults on chastity, the historian Valerius Maximus features male victims in equal number to female.
The Romans considered the rape of an 'ingenuus' (see below) to be among the worst crimes that could be committed, along with parricide, the rape of a female virgin, and robbing a temple.
Ingenui or ingenuitas (singular ingenuus), was a legal term of ancient Rome indicating those freemen who were born free, as distinct from, for example, freedmen, who were freemen who had once been slaves.
Sex Acts

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.
The Gallo-Roman poet Ausonius (4th century AD) makes a joke about a male threesome that depends on imagining the configurations of group sex:
"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."

The Lex Scantinia (less often Scatinia) is an ancient Roman law that penalized a sex crime (stuprum) against a freeborn male minor (ingenuus or praetextatus).
The law may also have been used to prosecute adult male citizens who willingly took a passive role in having sex with other men.
It was thus aimed at protecting the citizen's body from sexual abuse (stuprum), but did not prohibit homosexual behavior as such, as long as the passive partner was not a citizen in good standing.
The primary use of the Lex Scantinia seems to have been harassing political opponents whose lifestyles opened them to criticism as passive homosexuals or pederasts in the Hellenistic manner.
The law, which did not protect male slaves, may have made stuprum against a minor a capital crime, but this is unclear: a large fine may have been imposed instead, as executions of Roman citizens were rarely imposed by a court of law during the Republic.
The conflation of the Lex Scantinia with later or other restrictions on sexual behaviors has sometimes led to erroneous assertions that the Romans had strict laws and penalties against homosexuality in general.
Latin has no words that are straightforwardly equivalent to "homosexual" and "heterosexual."The main dichotomy within Roman sexuality was active/dominant/masculine and passive/submissive/"feminized."The adult male citizen was defined by his libertas, "liberty," and allowing his body to be used for pleasure by others was considered servile or submissive and a threat to his integrity.A Roman's masculinity was not compromised by his having sex with males of lower status, such as male prostitutes or slaves, as long as he took the active, penetrating role.Same-sex relations among Roman men thus differed from the Greek ideal of homosexuality among freeborn men of equal social status, but usually with some difference in age.The adult Roman male who enjoyed receiving anal sex or performing oral sex was thought to lack virtus, the quality that distinguished a man (vir).

Ancient Roman Bulla
© Copyright Peter Crawford 2018
The protective amulet (bulla) worn by freeborn Roman boys was a visible sign that they were sexually off-limits.
A Bulla was an amulet worn like a locket, was given to male children in Ancient Rome nine days after birth. Roman bullae were enigmatic objects of lead, for the well-off covered in gold. A bulla was worn around the neck as a locket to protect against evil spirits and forces. A bulla was made of differing substances depending upon the wealth of the family. Before the age of manhood, Roman boys wore a bulla, a neckchain and round pouch containing protective amulets (usually phallic symbols), and the bulla of an upper-class boy would be made of gold. Other materials included leather and cloth.

Puberty was considered a dangerous transitional stage in the formation of masculine identity.
Adult Male Citizen and
Slave-Boy between 12 and 20
© Copyright Peter Crawford 2018
When a boy came of age, he removed his bulla, dedicated it to the household gods, and became sexually active under the patronage of Liber, the god of both political and sexual liberty.
Pederasty among the Romans involved an adult male citizen and a boy, who was typically a slave between the ages of 12 and 20.
Although the Lex Scantinia is mentioned in several ancient sources, its provisions are unclear.
It penalized the debauchery (stuprum) of a youth, but may also have permitted the prosecution of citizens who chose to take the pathic ("passive" or "submissive") role in homosexual relations (see above).
Suetonius mentions the law in the context of punishments for those who are "unchaste," which for male citizens often implies 'pathic' behavior - (see above).
Ausonius has an epigram in which a semivir, "half-man," fears the Lex Scantinia.
It has sometimes been argued that the Lex Scantinia was mainly concerned with the rape of freeborn youth, but the narrowness of this interpretation has been doubted.
The law may have codified traditional sanctions against stuprum involving men, as a forerunner to the Lex Julia de adulteriis coercendis that criminalized adultery involving women.
Only boys from freeborn families in good standing were protected under the law; boys born or sold into slavery, or those who fell into slavery through military conquest, were subject to prostitution or sexual use by their masters (see above).
Male prostitutes and entertainers, even if technically "free," were considered 'infames', of no social standing, and were also excluded from the protections afforded the citizen's body.
In ancient Roman culture, infamia (in-, "not," and fama, "reputation") was a loss of legal or social standing. As a technical term of Roman law, infamia was an official exclusion from the legal protections enjoyed by a Roman citizen, as imposed by a censor or praetor. More generally, especially during the Republic and Principate, infamia was informal damage to one's esteem or reputation. A person who suffered infamia was an infamis (plural infames).Infamia was an "inescapable consequence" for certain professionals, including prostitutes and pimps, entertainers such as actors and dancers, and gladiators. Infames could not, for instance, provide testimony in a court of law. They were liable to corporal punishment, which was usually reserved for slaves. The infamia of entertainers did not exclude them from socializing among the Roman elite, and entertainers who were "stars", both men and women, sometimes became the lovers of such high-profile figures as the dictator Sulla and Mark Antony. A passive adult homosexual who was "outed" might also be subject to social infamia, though if he was a citizen he might retain his legal standing.
Male slaves - particularly boys, were often used as a form of entertainment parties, - 'convivia' - where they were required to perform sexual acts of various kinds with one another.
Being 'non-persons', it was of no matter who penetrated who - who was dominant or who was passive - and the variety of sexual acts and sexual roles added to the amusement that they provided for guests.
Such displays were often included in 'gymnastic' displays, and displays of dancing.
Suetonius describes Tiberius indulging in such activities.
Strangely to modern sensibilities, it was not the fact that these activities were undertaken by mainly underage boys - under coercion, but rather that Tiberius enjoyed these activities in private - as that was considered 'unnatural' and 'offensive'.
Public displays of such activities, at well attended parties, in the theater or in the arena, however, were considered quite acceptable.
It is partly because of such 'private' behaviour, on the part of Tiberius, that he gained such an odus reputation.

Slave-Boys Perform Sexually
at a Convivia
© Copyright Peter Crawford 2018
Slave-Boys Perform Sexually at a Convivia
© Copyright Peter Crawford 2018
'Once the guests were relaxed and chatting it was time for some entertainment. The first diversion was a number of young slave-boys who performed some gymnastics. As the name suggests, ('gymnazein' - to exercise naked) the boys performed completely nude. The boys had been carefully trained by Gracchus' coaches, and were able to put on a show that was not only very skillful and athletic, but was also intensely erotic. The eroticism, of course was facilitated by the fact that the boys were nude. Agathon (Gracchus 'in-house' Greek physician) also enabled the boys to perform erotically by providing them with a mixture of a red-leafed root in the orchid family' called, appropriately, 'Satyrion', combined with the juice of an exotic tuber called 'Skirret'. (Readers are not recommended to try these herbs). More prosaically, most of the boys were fitted with silver rings, which were worn round the base of the penis, behind the scrotum, and which constricted the flow of blood from the penis, thus ensuring a strong and long lasting erection. One of the most startling performances on this particular evening was one involving a young slave-boy in an act of auto-fellatio. This was about as immodest and salacious as one could get in Roman terms'.

Although male slaves were sometimes granted freedom in recognition of a favored sexual relationship with their master, in some cases of genuine affection, they may have remained legally slaves, since under the Lex Scantinia the couple could have been prosecuted if both were free citizens.

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A 'continuing' adult novel, featuring the amazing adventures of a Roman teenage boy.
The story features pirates, gladiators, the wealthiest man in the Roman Empire, freedmen and slaves, Roman Emperors, the Gods and their helpers - oracles, fauns and 'the Mysteries' - all spread on the vast canvass of the Roman Empire, from the Acropolis, Athens to the boy-brothels and the Palaces of Rome - the Thermae and Amphitheatres, the temples of Alexandria and Egypt, the woodland glades of Tibur, the slopes of Vesuvius and the glories of Mount Parnassus - and, of course, an owl...

© Copyright Peter Crawford 2016