Sexual Practices in Ancient Rome - History Key

Sexual Practices in Ancient Rome

Starting with the sexual revolution from the ‘60, a global wave of acceptance and media covering was attributed to sex. Nowadays, almost everything is somehow sexually charged, starting with the TV commercials until the children’s toys on the market. Sexual references are already part of our lives, whether we want it or not, our daily life is constantly accompanied by them.

Ok, some would say that this was pushed too much, others will say that isn’t enough and society should have more explicit sexual conscience. But how many of you would say something about how it was sex centuries ago?

History Key will unlock for you some of the secrets from the Ancient Rome, where all kind of sexual practices were experienced, starting from ordinary or poor individuals, until nobles or emperors.

The sexual behaviors of ancient Romans were widely presented through literature and arts. Several archaeological remains, such as architecture and even ancient sex toys, prove that the sexual life in ancient Rome was some kind of a continuation of orgies and excesses of all sorts, in a context where everything was allowed. Even so, there was a sort of “sexual police”, represented by the “censors”, which were public officials having the power to decide who was guilty of sexual misconduct.

Roman fascinums, good luck charms pendants
Roman fascinums, good luck charms pendants © Image Source:

Let us present you some of the facts that made Ancient Rome a sort of forbidden paradise:

1. Slaves were used as sex toys

Roman society practiced slavery, nothing new about that. Men and women captured during conquests were shipped home from all sort of countries, more exactly from all the regions that were forming the Roman Empire. Those slaves were auctioned to the highest bidder, having as destiny to become the sexual toy of some perverted aristocrat. The slaves had no rights in Roman law, so they were treated as objects.

2. Everything was decorated with penises

Priapus - Painting found at the House of the Vetti in Pompeii
Priapus – Painting found at the House of the Vetti in Pompeii © Image Source: Frederic Soltan / Corbis/Pinterest

Do you think that nowadays sexual imagery is too much? Try to imagine yourself around 50-100 BC in Roman Empire. Back then, everything was decorated with penises. Considering the Roman beliefs regarding Gods and fertility the concept of shame was different. Romans had no worries regarding others nudity.

3. “Satyricon” was like “50 Shades of Grey”

Not only paintings, but also erotic literature was very common in Ancient Rome. One example above all, could be the “Satyricon”, a Roman novel about a man and his child lover. The novel it’s filled with pretty explicit content, including descriptions of rapes, sodomy or animal sex.

4. Pederasty was legal

Back then, pederasty was totally accepted. So much accepted, the men who did not like young boys, were considered strange ones.

Fresco painting from Pompeii featuring two men and a woman
Fresco painting from Pompeii featuring two men and a woman © Image Source:

5. Fertility festivals

Romans took over from the Greeks, the practice named ”Bacchanalia”. They were of fertility festivals, where the participants were reaching a form of trance coming from wine and dance, we would say almost like nowadays. Once that state of mind was reached, the random copulation was the name of the game. Let’s call them “ancient swinger parties”, which at some point were banned also in ancient Rome. The punishments were pretty severe, including tortures for anyone who continued the practice.

Bacchanalian scenes by Auguste Levêque
Bacchanalian scenes by Auguste Levêque © Musée Royal des Beaux-Arts, Anvers/Image Source:

6. Eye for an eye, even if it isn’t quite about eyes

If you wanted to taste revenge in ancient Rome, the solutions were very practical. For example, if someone slept with your wife, you were legally empowered to sodomize him in return, even with an audience of spectators. Despite all the excesses, the Roman society was very masculine rooted. So the “feminine” role in homosexual sex was the biggest act of revenge and humiliation. In order to spice up everything, beside the audience, the offended was able to sodomize by using all sort of objects, including a radish.

7. Pervert empereors

And finally the Emperors. None of those crazy facts would have been possible without the support of the roman emperors. In fact, all of them were crazy figures, perfect to give example. We mention only few cases, in order to conclude our short presentation of arguments:

– Nero wanted to turn his favorite boy into a woman. He castrated him in order to help the transformation;

– Caligula transformed the palace into a brothel and Elagabalus used to spend most of his time in Rome’s red light district, dressed as a drag;

Caligua © Image Source: Taringa/


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