Sexual Power In Ancient Rome

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In Ancient Rome, sexual power was central to everything. From the traditional moral codes to the drama of the fights for political power, sexuality and acceptable behaviors were a constant. The societal systems in place required female sexuality to be monitored and controlled because of the Roman drive to expand an individual’s, a family’s or the empire’s influence as much as possible in all arenas. For much of the Roman Empire, this drive for influence was accomplished through making connections between families, either formally through marriage or informally through affairs. Sexuality was part of everyday life, since children and the question of inheritance both of property and of power were of the upmost importance. The revisions in morals…show more content…
Thus, female sexual power was praised when working in the favor of a man, but resulted in a loss of social standing if it worked against a man’s or a family’s agenda, political or otherwise. This paper will examine how female sexual morality worked in this system of constantly changing allegiances and under which circumstances traditional morality was used or ignored. Moreover, the altered moral systems set in place ultimately lead to a glass-ceiling for female power in Ancient Rome even if some women could obtain power through using her sexuality or lack of sexuality. In Ancient Rome, elite women had much more freedom than those in many other cultures in the ancient world. While they could hold little formal legal or political power, Roman women could inherit money, own land and slaves, and participate in decisions about the household and family matters (Hallett 1999: 264). They could travel about Rome freely in litters as long as they were accompanied and participated in everyday, public activates such as going to the bath houses or watching spectacles at the Forum. Elite women…show more content…
Many Roman morals of that time were simply translations and adaptations of Greek morals and philosophy which Romans incorporated into their culture. The elite especially mimicked the viewpoints and ideals of Greek culture, since it was seen as superior (Edwards 2002: 22-24). The historians of the time praised almost all things Greek: playwriters and poets sought to mimic and, in some cases, copy Greek poetry; Greek art was popular in elite villas; and Greek philosophy was studied endlessly (Edwards 2002: 22-24). In this way, Rome organized itself to function morally in a system originally developed within completely different economic and political systems of Greece. From a sexual morality perspective, the Greek system of morality kept women completely under the control of the men, even if the men were away fighting wars or trading with distant peoples. The Greeks did not trust women with any agency or control in their lives, even when they were away. Greek sexual morals were designed to villainize the relationships between men and women, while male homosexual relationships were seen as pure. In contrast, in Roman society, especially among the elites, women were expected women to sometimes participate in decisions of magnitude, either as an active member of the family or as a vessel for economic or political power. Elite Roman women made connections, either thorough formal marriages

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