Review – Sex and Sexuality in Ancient Rome – L J Trafford

Review – Sex and Sexuality in Ancient Rome

L J Trafford

5 Stars

The Romans are often remembered for their alleged debauchery, orgies and wild-living emperors – Tiberius Nero, Egalabus, Caligula – but 2000 years or so later, with different moral codes (largely influenced by the staid Christians) what do we know of the intimate lives of the Romans?

Trafford takes us on a journey – covering topics such as what made a ‘good’ Roman male and female? Why were there so many phallus icons?! What did the emperors and empresses (and their mothers) get up to? How did the Romans view homosexuality, virginity and adultery? How was sex linked to religion?

The tone is light-hearted, but that doesn’t detract from the research which has been done. Trafford looks at the sexuality of women – which many scholars do not cover – there is far less evidence for what women thought of marriage, their wants and needs in bed and what evidence there is often comes from male sources. There are few female voices that speak out, but there are some – and Trafford makes sure they are heard.

Propaganda also played a part in shaping the evidence – later emperors besmirching the names of predecessors, or powerful men accusing their rivals of all sorts of salacious things. The author ensures that the reader does not take everything at face value.

Overall, it’s an entertaining, informative romp through an aspect of Rome many historians skim over. Trafford brings an air of humour, which is probably just as well. Oh yes, and did I mention there were a lot of phalluses?

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