Much has been written about ancient Greece’s contribution to modern discourses of homosexuality, but Rome’s significant rôle has been overlooked. Ancient Rome and the Construction of Modern Homosexual Identities explores responses to Roman antiquity in areas such as literature, the visual arts, popular culture, scholarship, and pornography. Interdisciplinary essays analyse various attempts to write Rome out of the history of homosexuality, such as the efforts of the activist John Addington Symonds, who believed that Rome had corrupted ‘Greek love’ through decadence and sexual licentiousness. The contributors also investigate the identification with Rome by men and women seeking an alternative ancestry for their desires. The volume asks what it means to look to Rome instead of Greece, theorizes the way in which Rome itself appropriates Greece, and explores the consequences of such appropriations and identifications. From learned discussions of lesbian cunnilingus in Renaissance commentaries, to disgust at the sexual excesses of the emperors, to the use of Rome by the early sexologists, to modern pornographic films that linger on the bodies of gladiators and slaves, Rome has been central to homosexual desires and experiences. By interrogating the desires that create engagements with the classical past, the volume illuminates both classical reception and the history of sexuality.
Print ISBN-13: 9780199689729