Some sexual attitudes and behaviors in ancient Roman culture differ markedly from those in later Western societies. Price, Religions of Rome: A silver gilt plate with an erotic scene. From the House of the Centenary ; the woman is wearing a form of brassiere. It puzzles me that the Romans, who valued integrity and gravitas, were so obsessed with gore.
Ancient erotica: art through the ages
The corresponding ideal for a woman was pudicitia , often translated as chastity or modesty, but a more positive and even competitive personal quality that displayed both her attractiveness and self-control. Different cultures view the same things in different ways. Women in Roman Law and Society. A fragment from the early satirist Lucilius refers to penetrating a "hairy bag",  and a graffito from Pompeii declares that "a hairy cunt is fucked much better than one which is smooth; it's steamy and wants cock". Since , the collection has been displayed in a separate room; the objects have still not been reunited with contemporary non-sexual artefacts as they were in antiquity. However, the repressive view of sexuality espoused by the Church in the Middle Ages, and then the repressed sexuality of the Victorian era have left many in the Western world believing that few if any in the past were willing and able to accept and even revel in their sexuality. Marcus Aurelius in Love.
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While perceived effeminacy was denounced, especially in political rhetoric, sex in moderation with male prostitutes or slaves was not regarded as improper or vitiating to masculinity, if the male citizen took the active and not the receptive role. Erotic images and depictions of genitalia, the phallus in particular, were incredibly popular motifs across a wide range of media in ancient Greece and Rome. Actors who performed in satyr plays during dramatic festivals took to the stage and orchestra with fake phallus costumes to indicate that they were not humans, but these mythical beasts of Dionysus. Views Read Edit View history. Ancient Rome was a civilization that grew from a small agricultural community founded on the Italian Peninsula circa the 9th century BC to a massive empire straddling the Mediterranean Sea. As was the case for men, free women who displayed themselves sexually, such as prostitutes and performers, or who made themselves available indiscriminately were excluded from legal protections and social respectability. Encouraged to think of adultery as a matter of law rather than morality, a few socially prominent women even chose to avoid prosecution for adultery by registering themselves as prostitutes.
Ovid lists a number of writers known for salacious material whose works are now lost. Classical cultural ideals valued a smaller penis over a larger, often to the surprise of modern audiences. We know what little we do about early Roman religion not through contemporary accounts, but from later writers who sought to salvage old traditions from the desuetude into which they were falling, such as the 1st century BC scholar Marcus Terentius Varro. If she had not consented, she was still considered an accomplice, "on the grounds that she could have saved herself by screaming for help". The toga , by contrast, distinguished the body of the sexually privileged adult Roman male.