gay emperors

i’m reading the memoirs of hadrian, and it spends an insane amount of time talking about how he’s gay. what’s the deal with this? is this like a common quality in emperors?

I didn’t read his memoirs, but given that homosexuality was quite common and wasn’t particulary frowned upon (except for some particuliar practices which were considered unfit for a free citizen) at this time, I assume that it’s similar to a politician in our era writing about the love affairs he had with various women.

By the way, Julius Caesar, though he never became empror was himself well known for his sexual overactivity, which included both men and women…

By the way, Julius Caesar, though he never became empror was himself well known for his sexual overactivity, which included both men and women…

When it comes to sex and sleaze, Rome has got the lot, starting right at the top …

The “find out more” link at the bottom of the page contains, among others, the URL to a site discussing the relationship between Hadrian and Antinous.

In The Twelve Caesars, Suetonious offered that the fourth emperor, Claudius (he of Robert Graves’ I, Claudius and Claudius the God) appeared to be the only emperor of the first twelve who was exclusively heterosexual.

Julius Caesar has already been discussed above. In the legendary “Prophecy of the Six Hairy Men”, which, if authentic, appears to have predicted the ascendancy of Julius Caesar and the first five emperors, it is said of the first man that he is “a man to women and a woman to men”.

Keep in mind that the Roman conceptions of homosexuality were very different from our own. As I understand it, men were permitted to do whatever, as long as they were dominant (penetrating rather than penetrated). One of the major objections to Nero in Livy* is that Nero was rather publicly seen being penetrated by another man.

*I think I mean Livy. I don’t have my books handy.

Are we talking only Roman Emperors here, or Emperors (or even other monarchs) generally?

I don’t want to turn this into an outing thread but it is commonly known in Muscat (although never talked about in public) that Qaboos bin Said, Sultan of Oman, is gay for example.

If we are talking Romans only then my 2c’s worth is that they inherited their attitudes to homosexuality from the Greeks, including the penetrator versus penetratee distinction. IIRC you could be a receiver whilst a youth without shame but not when adult. It was considered normal for older men to have very young male lovers, educating and mentoring them in life generally as well as homosexual sex.

Yes and no. First of all, let’s keep in mind that Rome lasted, in one form or another, from the 8th-7th century BCE to 1453 CE. That’s plenty of time for societal attitudes to change pretty drastically.

In the early and mid Republic, at least, male homosexuality was frowned upon. Cato the Elder condemned it as a Greek vice (Tolerance of homosexuality was one of the charges Cato alleged against Scipo Africanus, IIRC), and homosexuality in the Roman millitary was punishable by death.

In the later Republic and early Empire, it seems to have been more tolerated, among the elite, at least, if not really accepted. It seems to have grown in acceptabilty in the middle Empire period, then, after the Christianization of the Empire, tolerance of homosexuality seems to have decreased.

Yes and no. First of all, let’s keep in mind that Rome lasted, in one form or another, from the 8th-7th century BCE to 1453 CE. That’s plenty of time for societal attitudes to change pretty drastically.

In the early and mid Republic, at least, male homosexuality was frowned upon. Cato the Elder condemned it as a Greek vice (Tolerance of homosexuality was one of the charges Cato alleged against Scipo Africanus, IIRC), and homosexuality in the Roman millitary was punishable by death.

In the later Republic and early Empire, it seems to have been more tolerated, among the elite, at least, if not really accepted. It seems to have grown in acceptabilty in the middle Empire period, then, after the Christianization of the Empire, tolerance of homosexuality seems to have decreased.

Good point. I made the common error of thinking “Rome = Augustus to Nero.”

Does anyone really think that homosexuality is anything new?
It has been around for ever and will be around forever. It is part of the human condition. As many have said here, the only thing that changes are the views of the larger society towards it.
It’s been normal behaviour and abnormal behaviour; encouraged and frowned upon; illegal and legal.
Who knows - the day might dawn when it’s compulsory.
/:wink:

I would be very surprised if in all of history there had never been a homosexual head of state, be he the head honcho by virtue of succession, military coup or election. Very surprised indeed.
People are people are people and what the head of state at any time gets up to is probably much the same as what any number of other people in his bailiwick are getting up to at precisely the same time, regardless of what they or he might admit to or what is acceptable in the society of the day.

Whenever discussion arises about homosexuality in history, usually someone will dash in and say that concepts were different back then and that “homosexuality” and “bisexuality” are modern terms for expressions of human sexuality and are therefore inaccurate when discussing the distant past, etc. etc. I figured I’d get that out of the way so we could get to the juicy stuff! :smiley:

I’m assuming you’re interested chiefly in the Roman Emperors, not the Chinese or Aztecs or Byzantine or what-have-you emperors, so we’ll stick pretty much with them. One of the most famous incidents was the Emperor Nero’s wedding to a man which Suetonius related as follows:

He gelded the boy Sporus, and endeavoured to transform him into a woman. He even went so far as to marry him, with all the usual formalities of a marriage settlement, the rose-coloured nuptial veil, and a numerous company at the wedding. When the ceremony was over, he had him conducted like a bride to his own house, and treated him as his wife. It was jocularly observed by some person, “that it would have been well for mankind, had such a wife fallen to the lot of [Nero’s] father Domitius.”

Nero’s many-times-removed great-uncle, the famous Julius Caesar, had a little dalliance with King Nicomedes of Bithynia also from Suetonius:

…he dawdled so long at the court of Nicomedes that he was supected of improper relations with the king, and lent colour to this scandal by going back to Bithynia a few days after his return for the alleged purpose of collecting a debt for a freedman, one of his dependents. … There was no stain on his reputation for chastity except his intimacy with King Nicomedes, but that was a deep and lasting reproach, which laid him open to insults from every quarter. I say nothing of the notorious lines of Licinius Calvus: “Whatever Bithynia had, and Caesar’s paramour”.