CASA ESSAY: ‘SCILICET HORRORES PUTARES’ OPPOSITION TO SAME-SEX MARRIAGE IN THE EARLY EMPIRE

Claude F. Heyman

Abstract


The early Empire has become almost a locus celeberrimus for popular histories of
same-sex marriage, and the attraction is not difficult to understand. Regardless of
polemical allegiance, the activist who chooses to focus on the occurrences of such
a practice in the early Empire is afforded two advantages. Firstly, Christianity had
not yet become an influential moral code in mainstream society, and therefore
arguments for the acceptance or rejection of the practice gain extra weight from
being non-sectarian. Secondly, the depictions and verbal forms in the extant
literature are unambiguous, so there is no need for evidential pleading. Yet a clear
cut answer to the question ‘Did the Romans have gay marriages?’ is surprisingly
unhelpful. If one says yes, does it mean that Roman society fully condoned the
practice? If one says no, does it mean that homosexuality was opposed by the
common populace? The texts that have come down to us depicting same-sex
marriage and the opposition which they detail are not simple and simple answers
will likewise not suffice. Yet even in academia, lines are sometimes drawn too
quickly. As Richlin summarizes:

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.7445/57-0-136

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