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Conan

Roman/Celtic attitudes to homosexuality...

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First of all I would like to introduce myself :)

 

I am a 23 year old graduate currently looking for employment.

 

I have a keen interest in pre-fire arms warfare, especially classical warfare. I'v read a few books and have re-enacted the following periods - 7th -11th century darkage, 1st century Iron age Britain/Roman and greek hoplite (c. 480 BC) .

 

My favourite form of warfare is greek hoplite but I also have a keen interest in the Punic wars after reading the fantastic book by Adrian Goldsworthy - The Fall Of Carthage. Which I highly recommend!

 

I have recently read Persian Fire by Tom Holland which covers the Greek - Persian wars (I found a difficult read at times but never the less very enjoyable) in which he describes bisexuality and homosexuality as common place in greek sociaty.

 

I am currently reading Alexander the Great - Man and God by Ian Worthington in which Philip II of Macidonia, Alexanders father is murdered by one of his body guards who it is claimed in some sources was one of Philip's lovers.

 

Anyway my main question is what where the attitudes of roman and celtic society towards homosexuality?

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The Roman attitude towards homosexuality seems to be that it really didn't matter *what* gender your partner was, as long as they were a lower social class/younger than you and you were the active participant. Romans desired to have sex with beautiful partners, of either gender.

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This held sway until the widespread adoption of Christianity. For some reason, Christians regard Homosexuality as an utter no-no, despite there being virtually no reference in the scriptures to it whatsoever.

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it really didn't matter *what* gender your partner was, as long as they were a lower social class/younger than you and you were the active participant.

 

Seems a very "Roman" attitude towards a partner :)

 

Is there any reference or source on Celtic attitudes?

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There are some classical references to Celtic men enjoying each other, and sleeping with boys. But then the Celts were portrayed by the Classical writers in general as a very promiscuous and lusty people, given to passions

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There are some classical references to Celtic men enjoying each other, and sleeping with boys. But then the Celts were portrayed by the Classical writers in general as a very promiscuous and lusty people, given to passions

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Posidonius: "The Gaulish men prefer to have sex with each other."

 

Aristotle: The Celts "openly held in honor passionate friendship (synousia) between male."

 

Diodorus Siculus: "Although the Gauls have lovely women, they scarcely pay attention to them, but strangely crave male embraces (arrenon epiplokas). Resting on the ground on beasts' skins, they are accustomed to roll about with bedfellows (parakoitois) on either side."

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I find this a bit strange. The romans are describing relationships between barbarians that infer there is open homosexuality, and obviously doing so looking down their noses. Yet we know that the romans themselves were as tactile as modern italians and could be described in the exact same manner. There seems to be ambivalence here, because on the one hand its acceptable for a man to display his manhood and mastery by these acts and on the other be regarded as less than moral according to circumstance. It is noticeable that for a man to be the receiving partner is undesirable because he is acting as the female partner, and therefore laying aside his manhood. But emperors who committed these acts (one or two did so openly) do not suffer from these comments other than a general criticism of their moral behaviour.

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Keep in mind the classical writers may not have fully understood what they were seeing in reference to alien cultures. Also keep in mind they may not have exercised all due objectivity, either. With a lot of areas of life, we have an archaeological record to match against the classical writers (which often validates their assertions, but which sometimes does not). Obviously there is little in the way of sexual archaeology to use as further evidence.

 

In any event, "homosexuality" is a modern construct. In most cultures in the ancient world, men stuck their phalli where they saw fit, and if there were taboos they revolved around perceptions of social class and power, not gender per se. A man, whatever his true proclivities, was still expected to marry a woman, father children, and adhere to the basic familial and cultural patterns of his society. The modern homosexual identity movement is not something they would have understood.

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