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Sex In The City-The Roman Empire

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Sex in the times of the Roman Empire was much less taboo than it is in today's society. If you could go back in time and walk around the streets of Rome you would find sex everywhere. From graffiti on walls, to brothels in the middle of town, sex just did not have the stigma and guilt that we associate with it today. No men took advantage of this more than the men with the most power, the emperors. Although many of the Roman Emperors were perverse you only have to look at the first three to find how the morals for the Roman Empire were set.

There is no better place to start talking about sex in the Roman empire than with the first emperor, Augustus. Born Gaius Octavius in 63 BC, he was destined for greatness from the very beginning. When he was born the astrologer Publus Nigidius Figulus said "The ruler of the world is now born (Everitt 36)." Octavius caught the attention of his uncle Julius Caesar while speaking at a funeral. Caesar took to Octavian immediadtly and at age seventeen Octavian accompanied Caesar to Spain. When Caesar was assassinated in 44 BC, Octavian found that he had been adopted as his heir. Immediately this sparked controversy and many, including Caesar's close friend Mark Antony, accused Octavian of having sex with Caesar to encourage his adoption (Cawthorne 48). When Octavian defeated Mark Antony at the Battle of Actium, he renamed himself Augustus and became the first emperor in the new Roman Empire. While emperor, Augustus put in the books several laws to create a more moral Rome. Augustus did all he could to encourage marriage and fidelity in his laws even going as far as trying to pass laws that imposed fines for failing to marry. Also added to the books were laws discouraging adultery, pediphellia, and divorce (Everitt 154). Though in his life as Emperor Augustus was a champion of virtue, in his private life he was anything but that. By this time Augustus had divorced his first wife, Scribonia, and married Livia. During his divorce from Scribonia Augustus accused her of "moral perversity", but in reality Scribonia had fallen in to ill favor with one of Augustus' mistresses (174). In a letter attempting to repair relations between Augustus and himself, Mark Antony wrote "And what about you? Are you faithful to Livia Drusilla? My congratulations if, when you receive this letter, you are not in bed with Tertullia, Terentilla, Rufilla, or Salvia Titisena Ð'- or all four of them (Suetonius 87)." Even in his choice of a new wife Augustus stirred up controversy. At the time of their engagement Livia was already married to Tiberius Claudius Nero and was six months with child. Many Roman priest believed that marrying a pregnant woman should not be allowed and Augustus even forced Livia's old husband to pay a dowry to Augustus. The famous historian Suetonius wrote of Augustus "That he was given to adultery not even his friends deny, though it is true that they excuse it as committed not from passion but from policy, the more readily to track of his adversaries' designs through the women of their households.(86)" Suetonius goes on to accuse Augustus of taking wives away from husbands during dinner parties to satisty his sexual appetite. Augustus never grew out of his sexual desire and was said to enjoy deflowering virgins, most of which were supplied by his own wife, in to his later years (Suetonius 88). On August 19th, 14 AD Augustus Caesar died in his bed. Although Augustus was hypocritical in his public life and his personal life, Rome was about to have a new Emperor who was much worse.

With the death of Augustus Tiberius, son of Livia and adopted son of Tiberius, became the new Emperor of Rome. One of the first things that Tiberius did when he came in to power was to reverse the laws that Augustus put in to place trying to protect the morality of Rome. Tiberius spent very little time in Rome during his reign as Emperor and retired to the country to spend the last eleven years of his life. While living in the country Tiberius set new standards of debauchery, going as far as creating a new government office "for the originating of unfamiliar carnal pleasures (Cawthorne 67)." Also at his villa in the country Tiberius housed young boys and girls to peform sexual acts in front of him to arouse his wanning sex drive. The historian Suetonius lays several scandolus allegations at the feet of Tiberius including raping two young boys at a sacrifice. It is said that when the two boys objected to the way Tiberius treated them that he had their legs broken. It is also said that Tiberius was awful. When one woman showed that she did not want to do what he told her to, Tiberius had informers lay false accusations against her and then showed at her trial shouting "Are you sorry now (68)?" Luckily for Rome, Tiberius accomplished very little in his time as Emperor and spent the majority of his time in isolation. Unfortunatly for Rome the man that would become Tiberius' heir would be much worse.

Born Gaius Julius Caesar Germanicus, Caligula got his nickname meaning "little boots" from the miniature army boots he wore as a child. After his parents and two older brothers died, Caligula was forced to live with Emperor Tiberius in his villa. In fact it was Tiberius who arranged for Caligula's mother and two brothers to be killed (Suetonius 150). Forced to be at the whim of an old man who killed most of his family, Caligula was doomed to witness and participate in disgusting acts of torture and depravity.



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