Wednesday, 22 July 2009

WILLIAMS, C A: Roman homosexuality:

ideologies of masculinity in classical antiquity
Oxford University Press US, 1999

History, Roman, Sexuality, Homosexuality

This book provides a thoroughly documented discussion of ancient Roman ideologies of masculinity and sexuality with a focus on ancient representations of sexual experience between males. It gathers a wide range of evidence from the second century B.C. to the second century A.D. -- above all from such literary texts as courtroom speeches, love poetry, philosophy, epigram, and history, but also graffiti and other inscriptions as well as artistic artifacts -- and uses that evidence to reconstruct the contexts within which Roman texts were created and had their meaning. The book takes as its starting point the thesis that in order to understand the Roman material, we must make the effort to set aside any pre-conceptions we might have regarding sexuality, masculinity, and effeminacy.

“Williams' thorough, unrelenting demonstration of the active/passive paradigm and its indifference to female/male distinctions is a critical step in clearing away modern preconceptions and understanding Roman attitudes and values on their own terms. His broom effectively sweeps aside modern assumptions projected by progressive ‘essentialists' like Taylor — who identifies the cult of Cybele as a gay subculture but whose own comparison of Cybele's devotees with Indian hijras shows that these priests were not essentially same-sex oriented so much as transgender individuals — as well as by conservative classicists, who casually apply to Romans even such culturally laden expressions as “overt homosexual practice”. – James Jopes, International Gay & Lesbian Review

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