Same-sex relationships and hierarchy in the army of Rome

Same-sex relationships and hierarchy in the army of Rome

In ancient times, it was easy to find same-sex relations in Rome. And it was acceptable as a reflection of Roman-self of soldiers.

Roman did not find being gay as something shameful. At the same time, men were not proud of that fact. Homosexual lifestyle was not punished at all. Meanwhile, people didn’t humiliate anyone deep in same-sex love.

It is known that Romans did not pay much attention to sexualism as people do now. Ancient people were indifferent to gender identity. People were rather focused on submissive or feminine. Not on the background in same-sex relationships. They defended the domination of the tops or the person who makes the fuck.

In the long run, all went down to the essential social position in Ancient Rome. Roman people accepted the fact that a man could have sexual relations both with a male or a female – as long as he belonged to the elite.

Roots of same-sex relations of Roman soldiers

What did it mean to be a Roman? Domination was at the very core of that.

When Emperor Augustus climbed to power in 27 BC, Roman dominance influenced on 50 per cent of the familiar realm.

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The real Empire began in Syria and Egypt in the East and reached Northern France and Germany in the West. Britain would come into being 70 years afterwards with Emperor Claudius. Thus, the Roman Empire got this ascendancy through hundred and hundred years of merciless wars and the subjugation of neighboring people. The well-known philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche calls this phenomenon “the will to power.”’

And this obsession with power fed all aspects of Roman society, including sex.

Elite and Valetry

Same-sex relationships and hierarchy in the army of Rome

Conquered countries brought new subjects to command. In general, it meant living as valetry. Roman elite bought or sold human beings to improve their status. Just watch the current situation: the more people follow you, the more heavyweight you are. It is our cold reality.

Roman elite maintained the same principle. The only difference was that Roman valetry followed their lords in real life, not online. They had to do whatever their upstairs ordered them. And it was legitimate. Active part in sex was a “free” human being. While the passive side getting fucked was lined up with valetry.

The same rule worked in all aspects of Roman life, not only in sexual relations. Valetry did not have their personal desires or preferences. Only upstairs took decisions and acted as they preferred. 

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Louis Crompton wrote a book about homosexuality and civilization. He is sure that Roman same-sex relations were built on this principle of “master and slave”. However, the situation became even worse if one’s ass was “free”, even if a person did not belong to valetry.

Roman soldiers became too “mellow”

There were behavioral differences in Roman society if we compare their way to proceed with the way of contemporary people. For instance, it was the way they went to the toilet.

Everywhere, in various life situations, the Roman elite and usual soldiers shared public lavatories. Public lavatories were not isolated places, but communal benches with holes cut through them. One can still see particularly famous samples of this installation today in the Fort at Hadrian’s wall.

Moreover, bathhouses were one more way to demonstrate supremacy. Do not think that it was just about revealing how many centimeters one had. Men used communal public baths as communal areas and places to hold meetings and solve business issues, and usually to discuss their wealth. This is, of course, when they did not undress, bathe, sweat, massage, or rest naked.

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Washhouses were not just a luxury, but an essential part of the life of Roman society. And that is why even fortification of the Roman army often had rather complex bathhouses with warm and cold emplacements.

Literature evidence of same-sex relations 

Same-sex relationships and hierarchy in the army of Rome

Well, there were some variations in same-sex relations of Rome. There is literature evidence of the II and I centuries BC. In general, lyrics of that time show both the delight of love, longing and power.

For instance, there is a poem “Insatiable’, where the author begs to steal kisses from “your tender eyes, Juventus”. Please note, thus the poet offended against the rule, as he expressed an appetence to a free person.

Another poet Tibullus in his verse “The Love of Boys” demonstrated the beauty of mind and personality. He placed them above appealingness and sexualism.

How one emperor affronted people by his same-sex relations

The top of same-sex love historically belonged to the elite. For instance, to a Roman Emperor.  Emperor Hadrian was first of all a governor before even the fact that he was a fag. He tried his best to bring the borders back to a more defensible position. It did not go well with the Romans – but ensured the safety of the empire.

That unusual Emperor was against expansion. At the same time, he openly showed his sexual attractiveness and personal preferences. He had a beloved young man named Antoninus. Together they visited many places. Antoninus died during a visit to Egypt. Emperor Hadrian suffered much. As a result of his grief, many monuments to Antoninus were created.

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Their same-sex love affair was discussed much because the Emperor falls in love with his boyfriend. The beloved person was “inferior” towards him. Such a scheme of relations ruined the “Elite and valetry” scheme. This is because the very patriarchal Romans saw women as a weakness. Consequently, overwork in female romantic actions was weak as well.

Changes towards same-sex relationship after the decline of the Roman Empire

Why did hardline’s homophobia permit Roman society? Religion was one of the reasons for that.

In part, this was an attempt to make 1st-century Judaism more palatable to liberal Greco-Roman readers. They did this by taking advantage of an aversion to passive, effeminate men to introduce an anti-gay relationship.

Just see! This is evident when the Jewish philosopher Philo (30 – 40 CE) wrote:

“Far more serious than [adultery] is another evil… we are talking about showing off not only active, but also passive partners who are used to carrying the disease of genemania, allow the body and soul to run away from wastefulness, and do not allow to solder single coal of their male sexual nature.”

However, more decisive was when Emperor Constantine converted to Christianity on his deathbed in 337 AD. This decision would forever change the religious identity of the Roman Empire.

It sealed the thought that a sexual and romantic union should be between a man and a woman. It changed what has so far been the mainstream acceptance that gay sex has happened.

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Historical novelist Richard Blake explains how it was always harder to have a gay relationship sometimes the Romans had a population in decline. But, going on, this was true even when the Empire was in aggressive expansion. This is due to the Roman civilization, which was always fighting in bloody wars, a high birth rate was the key to its survival.

The essential duty of the Roman man was to create future soldiers to strengthen the borders of the Empire. Consequently, if one did one’s duty too-who fucked you after wasn’t a problem for the rest of people. As long as one was riding.

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