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Sexual Life in Ancient Rome

Nature volume 135, page 251 (16 February 1935) | Download Citation



IN matters relating to sex, the ancient Romans displayed the practical qualities which they brought to bear on all the problems of their lives, both public and private. It affected their attitude generally to all forms of erotic emotion, as well as in the relation of the sexes. For it has to be remembered that the ancient Romans, if not universally, very commonly, were indifferently homo- and heterosexual, and accepted that as a matter of course. Dr. Kiefer, in the work of which this is a translation, has explored the records of the reactions of the Roman world in marriage, in religion, in literature and in art, and finds not only that there is little of the spiritualisation of this emotion such as existed among many of the Greeks, but also that there is in it no little of a sadistic element. He is, however, by no means a supporter of the view which would ascribe the downfall of the Empire to decadent mores in relation to sex. An acute analysis of the sexual element in the character of certain of the early emperors and members of their entourage, discounts the scandals of their biographers in some, but not all, instances.

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