Tivoli as Text
Progress or Regression?
Studying the Romans we’ve noticed in many ways how our society reflects those of Ancient Rome. Before the end of Ancient Rome in 476 C.E. it was normal, or rather expected, for emperors and men in general to have several sexual relationships outside of their marriage with females and/or males. These relationships were allowed as long as their partner belonged to a lower social class to avoid conflict with their wives. In this case, monogamy was not part of their culture. Is this behavior replicated in the US? In the 1800s it was not uncommon for a white slave owner to have sexual relationships with female slaves. These interactions occurred frequently and their wives, those aware of the relationship, would feel less threatened knowing her husband’s partner was a slave. Though monogamy was part of their culture, men took after the Romans in this aspect of relationships. Similar to Ancient Rome, Early America pardoned men for having sexual partners outside of marriage. However, the biggest difference was the partner’s gender: male and/or female. In Rome, homosexuality was as common as heterosexuality. Roman Emperor Hadrian was married to a woman and was also involved in a relationship with Antinous, a man. Hadrian was very open about his relationship with Antinous and since he belonged to a lower class, Hadrian’s wife was not threatened by their relationship. Therefore, Hadrian showered Antinous with gifts and allowed him to accompany him on his travels. The Romans were accepting of sexual fluidity and did not look down upon people’s sexual proclivities. On the contrary, during Early America homosexuality was frowned upon and it was difficult for people to express their sexual fluidity. It wasn’t until the 21st century that Americans have become more accepting of homosexuals, creating new norms and shortening the division between homosexuals and heterosexuals.
As we continue to explore the Romans, it is evident that we have adopted certain behaviors but lack their willingness to accept humans and their desires. Americans lack this ability but with time, it is beginning to change with the legalization of gay marriage, and the steady increase of human rights to all.