Sex in Ancient Rome: Behind the Tales of Wild Eroticism, a Different Truth | Mary Beard
Cambridge professor and author Mary Beard explores the mythical sex stories of the Roman Empire, before she lays down the realities. Beard’s latest book is “S.P.Q.R.: A History of Ancient Rome” (http://goo.gl/MMAUkn).
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Transcript – Sex is one of the things that has always absolutely enticed us about the Roman Empire. And the Roman Empire is always represented as the place where people did frightful things and where in a sense there were no sexual rules. Anything went. Everybody had a good time. And there are indeed wonderful stories about the excesses of Roman emperors and their wives. One of everybody’s favorites is the story of the Roman Emperor Tiberius who used to go off to his villa in Capri where he had a great swimming pool. And he had specially trained little boys who swam underwater while the emperor was swimming and nibbled his genitals. And he called them his little minnows. And it wasn’t just the emperors. There was a very famous Roman Empress Messalina who’s the wife of a slightly doddery old emperor Claudius. And she was supposed to have challenged the prostitutes of Rome to a competition to see how many men they could sleep with in a single night. And of course Messalina beat all the prostitutes.
Now some of this might be going on some of this but I suspect that just as those kind of exploits of Roman emperors are all fantasies, can we think of the most amazing things that people can get up to. So also they would have fantasies of Roman writers too when they kind of invented these stories about people in power. And, you know, I think there are very, very important differences between ancient sexual behavior and our own. But not quite so clearly in the level of absolute excess. And I think for a woman the biggest thing, the biggest difference you’d see is a complete double standard. That’s to say in an ordinary Roman household the woman was expected to be absolutely faithful to her husband, no sex with anyone else. The husband it was quite all right for him to sleep with the slaves, male and female, anybody he fancied. There was no such restraint on him. And of course that relates in a way back to basic anxieties and worries of a very patriarchal community such as Rome. Read Full Transcript Here: http://goo.gl/NVJdci.
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