Roman Homosexuality

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Concerning Roman homosexuality, Bruce W. Frier in a 1999 book review for Bryn Mawr Classical Review wrote:

In Rome of the early Empire, there were many men who threw off the conventions of traditional Roman manhood and instead assumed an "effeminate" appearance and manner, thereby, in the usual case, advertising their eagerness for sexual encounters with other males. These were the "softies" (molles), the cinaedi. Their numbers cannot even be guessed, but, in a city of a million persons, they might easily have numbered in the tens of thousands; Juvenal saw them flocking into Rome on every available transport (9.130-133)....The Apostle Paul...adduces overt homosexual behavior as his chief example of the capital's decadence (Romans 1.26-27).[1]

Nathaniel Blake wrote concerning Roman homosexuality:

The Roman Empire has often been portrayed as possessing a moral tolerance of homosexuality, and there is some truth in this. But, the Roman conception of same-sex relationships was very different than that of the modern West. The most important factors in the Roman view seem to have been the status and role of the partners.

The Romans did not consider homosexual or heterosexual identities as exclusive from one another. While bisexuality was common, strict homosexuality was all but unknown.

Unlike the modern view, social class mattered a great deal in the acceptability of homosexual relations. The upper classes were much more likely to indulge in homosexual acts, and masters had the sexual use of their slaves. But homosexual relations between freeborn Romans were regarded as disgraceful....

There was no equality between the sexes in regard to homosexual acts. While subject to certain strictures, male homosexuality was tolerated in many cases. Lesbianism, however, was much less common and seems to have been universally considered as reprehensible.

Finally, many of the differences between the imperial Roman view of homosexuality and the modern perception of it can be traced to the rise of Christianity. Christian views shaped the West for almost two millennia, suffusing the perspectives even of those who now reject its sexual morals....

Today, little to no distinction is made between partners or the sex of homosexual couples. Many of these differences can be traced to the influence of Christian views on Western culture.

In addition, Nathaniel Blake states that in Roman homosexuality the "preservation of a man’s masculinity" was predicated upon his taking the masculine role in every sexual encounter and that "the slur was to have taken on the woman’s role in such acts."

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