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Maty

Homosexuality destroyed Rome

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If the case of Caius Lusius and Trebonius (Plutarchus, Marius, 14.3) is an example to the attitude of the Roman military toward homosexuality, it seem it saw it with disdain, though it could be argued that Marius problem was with the breach of discipline that Luisius actions cause and not the fact he liked men, it's also worth to note that all the judges initially wanted to convict Trebonius.

 

I don't believe that same sex relationships considered as a sign of an effeminate person per se, Suetonius mention the homosexual relationships of almost all the emperors without negative comment on this matter (at least not that it made them "soft") the only place with negative view is the biography of Julius Caesar which recorded his political enemies attack him for his supposed relationship with Nicomedes (Divi Juli, 49) rather than being attack for being in the relationship itself Caesar was attacked for being the passive side (the "woman").

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Please do also remember that homosexuality was not seen as such by the ancient romans, what mattered being who was "active" and who was "passive" during the relationship. As far as legionary discipline on the topic is concerned, don't we have the story of a junior officer in Marius' army who was sentenced to death because homosexual relationship in the legion was forbidden, especially with a subordinate ?

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The Roman legion is different from the confines of a sailing ship of later centuries because they werren't confined in the same way. Whilst their living conditions were tight, claustrophobic, and men only, they were at liberty to avail themselves of prostitutes without much difficulty, and despite the official pressure to remain umarried, many found permanent partners nonetheless.

 

The lack of any mention of a ban might refer to the lack of interest in the affairs of lwer ranks, even in warfare. How iften do you read mentions of individuals beneath the rank of centurion? Very few, and the only cases I can think of are where indifivudals cause trouble on a scale that affects the patricians interests.

 

In any case I doubt the there was any official line about homosexuality in the ranks. That was a matter for the centurion to eradicate. After all, what officer wanted men under his command that were considered effeminate? He would be a laughing stock. It then follows the issue was self regulated by the men running the centuries as a matter of personal expediency. No evidence? Then notice hiow effeminancy only becomes a legionary issue in the late empire when the centurionate had withered as a military institution.

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Granted that the comparison with the Royal Navy is not necessarily a precise fit but the main point I was making is that in any group of people who live in constrained circumstances you can get a number who do not fit the sterotypical 'masculine' image.

 

I have come across several individuals who are homosexual but who I would not consider by any means to be effiminate and I don't see why when we get 'modern' individuals of varient sexuality who 'fit' inot most situations as 100% male it should have been any different in the Roman period. During the period of the Principate and as far as most military forces up to at least the 19th cwentury were concerned the main consideration when enrolling men is could they be trained to fight and carry the equipment they needed to be able to wear and/or use on a regular basis.

 

Providing they didn't do anything strange in the street and frighten the horses most people in any authority would take a good fighter over a bad one every time irrespective of their sexuality. The official seperation into who could or could not be enlisted on the basis of their sexuality is a much more recent one than most people probably realise.

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Unfortunately we do know the recruitmnent policy of the Roman legions. Now whilst I take on board the concept of active and passive parts in the act and the manner in which this would be viewed, clearly the Romans would take a dim view of anything they considered less than a typical masculine individual.

 

However, as you rightly point out, that doesn't exclude the act or those prone to committing it. In answer to that I would point out that the conturberniae were set up to avoid such circumstance. Never forget the prevailing regime prior to the late empire was one we would describe as macho and even loutish. It was the duty of the lead man in a barracks room of eight 'close friends' to keep misanthropic behaviour at bay. Whilst some regard him as no more than a junior NCO, that's merely foisting our own modern world on the Romans which is an assumption I find indefensible. In fact, it seems his role was more of a social nature, since the Roman's clearly had no use for small unit tactics, nor did they assign small units to duty, preferring to assign individuals regardless of which contubernium they belonged to.

 

Remember that service for the average legionary was a bleak prospect. Certainly it was regularly paid, with the prospect of additional rewards and some other perks, but that soldier could not expect promotion, had signed for a twenty five year term, and would be expected (unless an exemption was found) to take part in heavy manual labour.

 

It was therefore important that the legion addressed their esprit-de-corps, which originally was little more than patriotism and aggression harnessed by tradtion and leadership. Later, in imperial times, the focus had changed to money thus we see a distinct lack of the earlier zeal in performing their role for Senate and People of Rome. Not suprising then that the legion was adapted to provide other means of achieving loyalty from disparate recruits, few of whom had signed on for anything like a sense of duty to the state. The order pf barracking was therefore one means of achieving it.

 

The grouping of soldiers into eight man contuberniae has immediate benefits. It allows the development of 'family', a concept far more wide ranging in Roman minds than the narrow nucleated ideal of today (It was also used in gladiatorial circles to achieve the same standards of lotyalty and behaviour). In that respect then the idea that one member of their 'family' at least was effectively behaving as a woman would be disagreeable to the majority. I don't believe for a moment that sort of activity escaped the attention of the others considering the closeness they developed betweeen themselves, which is, as I m entioned previously, one of the reasons for establishing such a structure.

 

That isn't to say legionaries didn't indulge their variant passions away from the group. There was little other than rumour to dissuade men once off duty and away from the camp, something they did frequently. What we cannot dismiss however is the nature of the legion and the propensity for bullying exhibited by it's soldiers. If a man accepts the standards of the regime and his place in the pecking order, there's a good chance he'll be left alone. Should he exhibit variant behaviour disapproved by the majority, he would be fair game for insults or worse. Given the larcenous nature of the legionaries that our sources describe, it wouldn't be hard to imagine a homosexual warned that

 

All that is well and good. The fact remains the centurion was responsible for leading and disciplining his century. Senior commanders generally didn't get involved unless they saw something they didn't like, but even then, they would have the centurion deal with it. We know centurions meted out the punishment themselves as often as not. Should he discover one of his men was effectively a woman, it reflects on his leadership and career prospects, and understandably the situation would require immediate attention to bring his men back to conformance with the legionary ideal.

 

In fairness it must be said that some centurions were probably somewhat lacklustre as leaders. It certainly holds true that many senior officers were more concerned with luxury and lifestyle than actually running a military formation. I don't doubt there were occaisions when patricians proved to be less than the masculine ideal, though in their case their status preculded attention from the centurions, the men responsible for discipline and good order within the legion. Instead, considering their reputation would affect their political career and the loyalty of the men, such indulgencies would be likely something committed in secret, and without the observation of 'close friends', it would be easier for them to hide it.

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Caldrail,

 

The idea that at the practical level; from at least the Republican period Romans saw some sexual practices as 'inferior' while others were 'superior', rather than 'masculine'/ 'femine' per se, has already been answered by postings above including those by Ingsoc adn Byraxis.

 

That leave the question of how homosexuality was reacted to within the military for at least another 500 years of Roman history when we do not have much in the way of written evidence and even less which can be said to enshrine 'military law' as opposed to some academics view on what it shold be.

 

On that basis I would disagree that someone with homosexual, or any other variant sexual inclinations for that matter, would always have been treated as a lesser being and thrown out of the military or necessarily mistreated for being such.

 

It comes down to individual circumstances and military leaders have a long record of deciding that they will keep men (or even in some exceptionally rare circumstances women) whose sexual activities may go against the 'norm' of society or indeed military law throughout recorded history. The way in which they may have been kept is rarely if ever 'formally' recorded but I know that it occured within the British military during periods when homosexual practices were still effectively banned by national laws.

 

I would agree that what you have said may 'fit' the 'letter' of some Roman laws but not all. Even where there may have been laws against; that does not mean they were followed in every circumstance. Decisions about what or what was not acceptable to both men and officers throughout human history depends on multiple factors and frequently change becoming more or less restrictive if you look at them over a sufficiently long period of time - such as 500 years. ;)

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Caldrail,

 

The idea that at the practical level; from at least the Republican period Romans saw some sexual practices as 'inferior' while others were 'superior', rather than 'masculine'/ 'femine' per se, has already been answered by postings above including those by Ingsoc adn Byraxis.

So what? With all due respect to the people concerned, why does their answer necessarily silence mine?

 

That leave the question of how homosexuality was reacted to within the military for at least another 500 years of Roman history when we do not have much in the way of written evidence and even less which can be said to enshrine 'military law' as opposed to some academics view on what it shold be.

That's the entire point. We don't have any evidence of military judgement on this issue, nor as far as I'm aware, any suggestion of it for longer than the period you quote. We know there are written sources we lack, such as the military manuals of the late empire, yet I notice vegetius, even in his moaning about the state of affairs in the legions of his day, does not infer any such activity. Nor does Suetonius - and lets be honest, would he resist any mention of scandal?

You cannot ignore the absence of something - it reamins a valid point within history and archaeology. If something crops up later I'll be happy to adjust my opinion. Until then, I'll extraoplate from my understanding of Roman behaviour and military history to my hearts content.

 

On that basis I would disagree that someone with homosexual, or any other variant sexual inclinations for that matter, would always have been treated as a lesser being and thrown out of the military or necessarily mistreated for being such.

I agree. However we're not discissing a permissive regime nor one with any egalitarian principles at all. The Romans are very clear about this - they want toughies who can stick swords in people, and they don't think much of greek practises. I know the latin word for penis is rooted from the same meaning of penetration, but I seriously don't think the Roman's regarded homosexuals as equals. They were blantantly chauvanistic toward women for crying out loud. Homosexuality might have been fine in palaces and back alleys of the big city - not in a camp of fighting men from all sorts of cultural origins.

 

It comes down to individual circumstances and military leaders have a long record of deciding that they will keep men (or even in some exceptionally rare circumstances women) whose sexual activities may go against the 'norm' of society or indeed military law throughout recorded history. The way in which they may have been kept is rarely if ever 'formally' recorded but I know that it occured within the British military during periods when homosexual practices were still effectively banned by national laws.

It isn't beyond speculation that a senior man kept a soldier as a pet but bear in mind that such behaviour was normally reastricted to boy slaves. For a serving warrior to allow himself to be treated in that fashion would be contrary to the spirit of the legion. That's not speculation Mel - it's in black and white, available from any good book store or internet site.

 

I would agree that what you have said may 'fit' the 'letter' of some Roman laws but not all. Even where there may have been laws against; that does not mean they were followed in every circumstance. Decisions about what or what was not acceptable to both men and officers throughout human history depends on multiple factors and frequently change becoming more or less restrictive if you look at them over a sufficiently long period of time - such as 500 years. ;)

I agree. There are always deviant cases. however, the Romans were very quick to sneer and pour scorn on such things and yet despite that, there's little or no suggestion of it. Also, the changes over 500 years may or may not be significant, but only in the late empire do we see adverse comment about legions as sign of the times. previosuly, scandal was quickly hushed up, which of itself suggests that deviant behaviour was regarded as dishonourable and unacceptable, a view compatible with current thinking on legionary issues.

 

Further, althoiugh 500 years is indeed a long time, the legions are remarkably bound by tradition, due largely by the success they achieved which removed the need for development. A marker of success which not only covers their military performance, but also the viability of their day to day regime.

 

Although subject to various reforms from Marius onward, the legions quality was unaffected by the re-organisations to any great degree, largely because the tradition of discipline and leadership was maintained by the centurionate, and that same quality declined as the centurionate did. That change might be said to have happened because of Constantines reforms (I've made the same accusation in the past), but undeniably it was also the extent of casualties in the centurionate in the civil wars that shredded the ranks of their experience.

 

It can be plainly seen that one of the real strengths of the legion was the persistence of tradition and standards, something the Romans were able to do for centuries until their own penchant for grabbing power ripped it apart.

Edited by caldrail

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Just to pick up one thing from the above

 

...There are always deviant cases. however, the Romans were very quick to sneer and pour scorn on such things and yet despite that, there's little or no suggestion of it....

 

We seem to have some agreement although I remain unconvinced that the 'laws' and 'views' alluded to in the discussions above are as definitive 'proof' as some may believe of actual practices within the Roman military. Writing about this topic in particular, citing the Roman view of homosexuality in the period I believe all too often suffers adversely from both implied and explicit homophobia rather than verifiable writen sources. Often, although not exclusively, this can be seen to arise from much later writings and views which have an obvious influence of 'Christian' theological writing.

 

There is an old saying that 'absence of evidence is not evidence of absence' and this is a case in point where we will probably continue to differ - enough said. :no2:

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On the contrary. There's plenty more to be said. We've only touched on the matter of homosexuality and its significance in the Roman Empire, and simply because no Roman writer conveniently supplied us with an explicit expose does not mean we cannot draw comnclusions. That is after what expertise in history is about. otherwise all you're doing is learning by rote and understanding nothing.

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No there isn't; several people have stated their theories, including some providing very specific reasoning for their position.

 

This discussion has drawn on a range of material ranging from ancient texts to more modern comparisons along with some more speculative comments apparently based on general reading.

 

Unless someone can present new evidence, whether from ancient texts or from comparason studies, to support any of these theories in my view they cannot at present be proved or disproved so all to a lesser or greater degree remain speculative. :blink:

 

On that basis I repeat my view that at present enough has probably been said on this particular topic.

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I stand by what I said. Half the stuff talked in historical and archaeological circles is speculation, and without that, half the evidence makes no sense or is misinterpreted. It's about ideas man. If all you do is stifle a subject because no-ones got some dusty scroll on the subject then history as a field of study is sterile and dead. You do sound very blinkered. There's nothing wrong with speculation whatsoever provided that it remains such until evidence says yay or nay. Since you tell me there's no evidence, I must speculate.

 

Anyway, I'm not interested in your views on evidence. This a thread about whether homosexuality destroyed the Roman Empire.

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OK - I'll try a different tack, and see who's interested.

 

In HBO Rome, Atia said to the young Gaius Octavian, "Mark Anthony buggars little boys like you for a morning snack." Obviously this is a fictional work, but there must have been plenty of very blokey, military types like Mark Anthony buggaring little boys like Gaius Octavian all over the Empire, and being seen as no less 'blokey' because of it.

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There is not much to say on this thread that hasn't been said already.

 

While not being as keen of male-male sexual activity as the Greeks, it was not unknown nor condemned in Rome. The main thing is that the person of superior rank had to take the active position. If he took the passive position to someone of lower rank, he was condemned as womanly and submissive (I believe it was the alleged passive activity of Caesar in regards to the King of Brithynia, not the homosexual act itself, that was used as fodder by Caesar's opponents).

 

If there were special rules and regulations in the military about this sort of thing, that is beyond my field of knowledge or my desire to comment.

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Homosexuality was accepted as long as one didn't boast about it. Sort of like America's former DADT policy. There would have never been a gay pride parade in Rome but to say they didn't tolerate homosexuals is say you don't have anything behind your eyes. My friend once told me that he liked me as a gay man because I don't feel the need to flaunt it around, I'm thinking the ancients had a similar deal. As for the fall of Rome, as a person who follows the Gods I can say that christianity led to the fall of Rome. Not directly, and I'm not saying that christians are bad people or anything but consider two things. The first is the theology aspect of it. If the Gods get kicked out of Rome, why would they try to keep it up? If you kicked your mom out of the country, would you expect her to send you money? The second is the academic. christians during that time were very VERY concerned with heaven. Little else mattered and thus, when christians took over the government took second priority to securing a place in heaven.

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