Undergraduate Honors Theses

Thesis Defended

Spring 2015

Document Type

Thesis

Type of Thesis

Departmental Honors

Department

Classics

First Advisor

Andrew Cain

Second Advisor

Sarah James

Third Advisor

Zygmunt Frajzyngier

Abstract

This thesis explores the dichotomy between sexuality and socialization in ancient Rome; namely how sexuality is expressed and communicated in Roman society as a whole. While modern perceptions seem to paint ancient sexuality as something significantly fluid, I postulate that the cultural openness to matters of a sexual nature actually hindered sexual expression by categorizing and compartmentalizing human sexuality to certain categories of conduct. In the first chapter I use, as the main scholarly frame of reference of my study, the magisterial work of J.N. Adams on, Roman sexual linguistics, but I expand upon his work by connecting sexual phraseology to Roman socialization using the latest advancements in academic linguistic theory. In this chapter I argue that Roman social-sexual evolution runs parallel to and is preserved by the linguistic evolution of Latin sexual constructions. Furthermore, I expand beyond the work of Adams and argue that sexual catharsis is the primary force driving both the social views on sexuality and the sexual traditions of classical Rome. In the second chapter I examine an eclectic range of primary sources (literary, epigraphic, art-historical, archaeological, etc.) through which I explore Roman sexual traditions such as marriage, prostitution, and homosexuality from a distinctly Roman perspective while comparing and contrasting those perspectives with both modern perceptions of ancient sexuality and current theories of modern sexual conduct. I argue that each, rather than facilitating sexual autonomy, serves to limit Roman sexuality by forcing Romans to comply with strict social expectations. After examining Roman sexuality in these ways, I conclude that Roman society developed a culturally consistent approach to systematically institutionalize sexuality in such a manner as to result in wide-spread sexual repression among all demographic subsets of Roman society.

Share

COinS