Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Excerpt from Chapter 6: Roman Sexual Omnivores

Think about the sexual morality valued by Roman society: The relationships which were the most proscribed and frowned upon were consensual sex between members of the citizen class. It was perfectly fine for a man to have sex with a slave child; but, not with a man of his own rank and certainly not with someone else’s wife or daughter. The ideal elite marriage was based on financial and political considerations. However, there is evidence of marriages of choice and women’s rights in marriage improved over the course of the Roman Empire. Women enjoyed the greatest freedom just prior to the advancement of the Catholic Church. Women’s rights deteriorated again under Christian dominion.
A large percentage of the people who were the most abused in ancient society were children. Most obviously, the human sacrifice rites (discussed in a later section) involved children. But, many of the males and females used in sacred sex rites and profane prostitution were also children. The ubiquitous slaves in ancient households usually entered slavery as children. Slaves were the sexual property of their owners. Both slave boys and slave girls were regularly used sexually by their masters and it was publicly accepted. Also, the sanctified pederasty, idealized by philosophers, involved a sexual initiation ritual between boys and men.

PHOTO: The Warren Cup. Silver, Roman artwork, middle of the 1st century CE. Said to be from Bittir (ancient Bethther), near Jerusalem.  (This cup is not only contemporary with the first Christians, it is from their neighborhood.)

Photo by Marie-Lan Nguyen (Jastrow) Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

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