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Special Features Index  

 
Spotlight Writers of Ancient Greece and Rome
 
Roman LiteratureAncient Greek literature openly celebrated same-sex love in its poetry and prose. For the most part, Roman writing on homosexual themes followed the Greek models, though the two cultures held sharply differing attitudes toward love between males.
 
 
  Augustine of HippoHostility toward all non-procreative sexuality led Augustine of Hippo (334-430) to condemn homosexuality, though same-sex friendships played an important role in his own emotional life.  
 
 
  Roman poet Catullus (ca 85-ca 55 B.C.E.) incorporated homoerotic themes in his verse that both reflected the passionate character of same-sex friendships and described several of his own homosexual adventures.  
 
 
  Horace (65-8 B.C.E.) reflects the easy bisexuality of the first century B.C.E. Roman upper class in his accomplished and influential poetry.  
 
 
  Juvenal (ca 55 or 60-ca 130) was a famously sharp-tongued author of satires that often lampooned Roman sexual practices. In places, the satires suggest that a subculture similar to modern gay subcultures existed in ancient Rome, but the satirical nature of these texts makes them complicated to interpret.  
 
 
  Lucian (ca 120-ca 185) is best known as a satirical author of seventy to eighty prose pieces in Greek. Some treat homosexuality as a personal trait associated with villainy, pretension, and ignorance.  
 
 
  Classical MythologyThe Greco-Roman myths concerning same-sex love have been of crucial importance to the Western gay and lesbian literary heritage, both as texts and as icons.  
 
 
  Both the elegiac and the romantic pastoral have been associated with homoerotic desire from their beginnings in classical literature to their echoes in contemporary literatures.  
 
 
  Patristic WritersPatristic Writers, also known as the "Church Fathers," were Christian authors who appropriated currents of hostility to homoeroticism in pagan thought and used them to strengthen the prohibitions of Leviticus and Paul, while also expressing their own hostile interpretations.  
 
 
  Saint PaulSt. Paul (d. ca 66), a Christian Apostle, condemns same-sex eroticism in his New Testament Epistle to the Romans and his first Epistle to the Corinthians. The views he expresses there have been used to justify church-sanctioned homophobia for centuries; and they continue to shape many Christians' attitudes toward male and female homosexuality today.  
 
 
  Petronius (ca 27-66) is the author of The Satyricon, a brilliant satire of excesses in Nero's Rome that remains one of the most bumptious homoerotic picaresque narratives ever written.  
 
 
  PlatoPlato (427-327 B.C.E.) is preeminent among Greek writers on homosexual themes as both a philosopher and a master of Greek prose.  
 
 
  Plutarch (ca 46-ca 120) was a prolific author who wrote extensively on male-male love in Greece and Rome. While no ancient author is more instructive about pederasty than Plutarch, he also described love between adult males.  
 
 
  SapphoSappho (b. ca 630 B.C.E.) has been admired through the ages as one of the greatest lyric poets of ancient Greece and is today esteemed by lesbians around the world as the archetypal lesbian and their symbolic mother.  
 
 
  Theocritus (ca 308-240 B.C.E.), an ancient Greek poet, is the first great voice in the homoerotic pastoral tradition in Western literature. His significance for gay literary history resides in the fact that five of his thirty Idylls map the emotional and poetic terrains of intense--especially frustrated--homosexual desire that later poets would explore in greater detail.  
 
 
  VirgilVirgil (70-19 B.C.E.) wrote approvingly of male love in many works, and his second eclogue became the most famous poem on that subject in Latin literature.  
 
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  Related Entries  
  Classical Art 
Greece: Ancient 
Pederasty 
Poetry: Gay Male 
Romantic Friendship: Male 
Rome: Ancient 
 
 
 
 

 
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