Tuesday, December 31, 2019

A Lesson Plan: Soulmates, Celestial Bodies, and the Origin of Love

Target Audience: 

Appropriate for third semester Latin students


Students Will Be Able To:  Infer Greco-Roman perspectives on sexuality and gender roles by analyzing an adapted Latin text of Plato’s Symposium 189ff 

Essential Questions

·         What does a culture’s mythology tell us about their perspectives of gender?

·         What does a culture’s mythology tell us about their perspectives of sexuality?

·         What can we learn by comparing different cultures’ perspectives on gender and sexuality?

M/M: The Myth of Sylvanus and Cyparissus, Vat. Myth. I.6

Sylvanus deus est silvarum. Hic amavit puerum Cyparissum nomine qui habebat mansuetissimam cervam. Hanc cum Silvanus nescius occidisset, puer extinctus est dolore. Quem amator deus in cypressum arborem nominis eius convertit quam pro solatio portare dicitur.

--Vatican Mythographers I.6

Sylvanus was the god of the forest. He loved a youth (puer) named Cyparissus who had a pet doe. When Sylvanus unintentionally killed it, Cyparissus died of grief. Silvanus transformed him into a cypress tree and is said to carry its branches as a mourning token.

Monday, December 30, 2019

Just Say Yes: Heckling an Asexual Woman, Luxorius LXXVIII

TRIGGER WARNING: A major theme of Roman lyric poetry was pursuing reluctant or unwilling partners; many poets even boasted about "converting" those castior Hippolyto ("more chaste than Hippolytus," Martial Epig. VIII.46) into sexually receptive partners. In this poem, the author Luxorius is aggressively denouncing the addressee for being "too beautiful to be chaste."

Pulcrior et nivei cum sit tibi forma coloris,
cuncta pudicitiae iura tenere cupis.
Mirandum est quali naturam laude gubernes
moribus ut Pallas, corpore Cypris eas.
Te neque coniugii libet excepisse levamen;
saepius exoptas nolle videre mares.
Haec tamen est animo quamvis exosa voluptas:
numquid non mulier conparis esse potes?

--Luxorius LXXVIII.

Although your complexion is as clear as fresh-fallen snow,
you want to cling to the laws of chastity-- all of them.
And I think it's super cute that you can deny your nature
and strut about with Pallas' [Athena'] self-control
in a body that rivals Venus'.
You wouldn't even "put out" for a husband, either--
you don't even want to look at men.
But when that detestable lust creeps into your soul,
couldn't you share it with someone as a wife?

Sunday, December 22, 2019

W/M: A Woman's Passion, Sulpicia Epist. I

Tandem venit amor, qualem texisse pudori
quam nudasse alicui sit mihi fama magis.
Exorata meis illum Cytherea Camenis
adtulit in nostrum deposuitque sinum.
Exsolvit promissa Venus: mea gaudia narret,
dicetur si quis non habuisse sua.
Non ego signatis quicquam mandare tabellis,
ne legat id nemo quam meus ante, velim,
sed peccasse iuvat, vultus conponere famae
taedet: cum digno digna fuisse ferar.

--Sulpicia Epist. 1

At last my love has come!

It is better for me to admit my feelings than to save my reputation.

Venus has listened to my poetry and has brought me the man of my dreams, and plopped him down right into my lap.

Venus makes good on her promises: let it be known that I am one of her success stories, if anyone claims that she doesn't take care of her own.

I don't want everyone to read this before he does (oops!).

It feels so good to have confessed my feelings (peccasse), but it hurts to keep a poker face in public: I hope people say that the two of us found a partner worthy of each other (cum digno digna).

M/M: Violence Against the LGBTQIA+ Community: The Myth of Achilles and Troilus, Serv. 1.474

TRIGGER WARNING: Violence, Assault

Veritas quidem hoc habet: Troili amore Achillem ductum palumbes et quibus ille delectabatur obiecisse: quas cum vellet tenere, captus ab Achille et in eius amplexibus periit. Sed hoc quasi indignum heroo carmine mutavit poeta.

--Serv. Hon. In Verg. carm. coment. 1.474

The poet [Vergil] changed this, since it puts the hero in a bad light, but here's the truth:

Overcome by a love for the Trojan prince Troilus, Achilles offered the Trojan his favorite birds as a gift. But when Troilus reached for them, Achilles caught him in an embrace and he died in the struggle.

M/M: The Love Poet Fails At Love: Tibullus, I.4.81-84

Heu heu quam Marathus lento me torquet amore!
Deficiunt artes, deficiunt doli.
Parce, puer, quaeso, ne turpis fabula fiam,
Cum mea ridebunt vana magisteria.

--Tibullus, Eleg. I.4.81-84

Alas, how badly Marathus torments me by playing hard to get [lento...amore]!
My poetry sucks, all of my dating tricks [doli] aren't working.
I beg you, my love, spare me from this,
Lest this love poet become a mockery of his own subject,
since everyone is laughing at my love advice.

Intersex and Free: Luxorius, XXXI.1-2,4,7

TRIGGER WARNING: The entirety of this poem is offensive. Despite the poet's disapproval of the addressee's lifestyle, the fact remains that this poem chronicles the life of an intersex person who enjoys bodily autonomy and sexual freedom. This passage was chosen because it not only provides insight into the lives of intersex Romans who remained free from the shackles of human trafficking (cf. Pliny, NH VII.34), but it also reveals the hate speech that many intersex individuals used to--and continue to--face.

Monstrum feminei bimembre sexus,
quam coacta virum facit libido,...
cur te decipit inpotens voluptas?
...puella tunc sis!

--Luxorius XXXI.1-2, 4, 7

Double-genitaled monster of the feminine sex,
whom pleasure compels to "play the [part of a] man,"
why does your sterile desire deceive you?
Just be a girl!

Saturday, December 14, 2019

Bending Gender Roles: Achilles on Skyros, Statius, Ach.I.349-359

Knowing that her son was destined to die at Troy, the sea goddess Thetis disguised Achilles as a girl and sent him to live among King Lycomedes' daughters on the island of Skyros. The myth of Achilles on Skyros was widely popular in both Greco-Roman art and literature; this particular version highlights gender roles of epic poetry.

Protinus aggreditur regem atque ibi testibus aris
"Hanc tibi," ait, "nostri germanam, rector, Achillis
(nonne vides ut torva genas aequandaque fratri?)
tradimus. Arma umeris arcumque animosa petebat
ferre et Amazonio conubia pellere ritu.
Sed mihi curarum satis est pro stirpe virili;
haec calathos et sacra ferat, tu frange regendo
indocilem sexuque tene, dum nubilis aetas
solvendusque pudor; neve exercere protervas
gymnadas aut lustris nemorum concede vagari.
Intus ale et similes inter seclude puellas.

--Statius, Achilleid I.349 - 359

Immediately Thetis approached King Lycomedes and said, "With the gods as my witness, o King, I entrust to you this girl: she is the sister of my Achilles (Don't you see her fierce and serious brow; doesn't she look exactly like her brother?). This li'l spitfire is going through an "Amazon phase;" she's trying to play with manly weapons, shooting arrows with her little bow, even speaking out against marriage.

I have enough to worry about with her brother, so let this sweet li'l princess weave and practice sacred rites. Tame this tomboy with harsh discipline, and keep her only doing "girly things" [sexuque tene] until she's ripe for marriage and it's time for her to give up her virginity to her husband.

Don't let her do sports, or train with those muscly girls, and don't let her wander the forest alone. Keep her inside with all of the other good girls."

W/W: Unrequited: Sappho fr. 39

Tibi, autem, Atthi, me curare invisum est, ad Andromedam vero volas.

Ἄτθι σοὶ δ ἔμεθέν μεν άπήχθετο
φροντίσδεν, ἔπι δ᾽ Ἀνδρομέδαν πότῃ

--Sappho, fr. 39; translated from the Greek by Christian Frederick Neue, 1827.

But you despise me, Atthis, and fly into Andromeda's arms instead.

W/W: I loved you, Atthis: Sappho, fr. 49

Amabam quidem te ego, Atthi, aliquando.

ἠράμαν μὲν ἔγω σέθεν Ἂτθι πάλαι πότα·

--Sappho, Fr. 49 (fr. XIV, Neue edition); translated from the Greek by D. Christian Frederick Neue, 1827.

There was a time when I loved you, Atthis.

Friday, December 6, 2019

The Emperor's Gender: Elagabalus, Epit. de. Caes. XXIII.1-3

TRIGGER WARNING: The Roman Emperor Elagabalus refused to adhere to Roman cultural norms, transgressing traditional gender roles, imperial court etiquette, and tenets of state religion. Many Roman historians condemned him for this behavior, including the anonymous author of the Epitome de Caesaribus; the author's bias in the following passage is evident.

Aurelius Antoninus Varius, idem Heliogabalus dictus, Caracallae ex Soemea consobrina occulte stuprata filius, imperavit biennio et mensibus octo. Huius matris Soemeae avus Bassianus nominee fuerat Solis sacerdos; quem Phoenices, unde erat, Heliogabalum nominabant, a quo iste Heliogabalus dictus est. Is cum Romam ingenti militum et senatus exspectatione venisset, probris se omnium contaminavit. Cupiditatem stupri, quam assequi naturae defectu nondum poterat, in se convertens muliebri nomine Bassianam se pro Bassiano iusserat appellari. Vestalem virginem quasi matrimonio iungens suo abscisisque genitalibus Matri se Magnae sacravit. 

--Epitome de Caesaribus, XXIII.1-3

Aurelius Antoninus Varius, also called Heliogabalus [Elagabalus], ruled for two years and eight months. He was a bastard son the Emperor Caracalla and his cousin Soemea. Bassianus, his mother Soemea's grandfather, was a sacred priest of the Sun, which the Phoenicians called Heliogabalus; this is where Elagabalus got his name.  
At first, Rome's senate and armies looked forward to his rule, but he disappointed them with his inappropriate behavior [probris]. When his body was not able to comply with his wishes [naturae defectu], Elagabalus ordered everyone to call him with the feminine name "Bassiana" instead of Bassianus [his birth name]. Uniting with a Vestal Virgin in a marriage ceremony, he later had his genitals surgically removed and dedicated himself [as a nun] to the worship of the goddess Magna Mater.

Breaking Gender Norms: Elagabalus, SHA Vit. Elag.IV.1-3

Deinde ubi primum diem senatus habuit, [Elagabalus] matrem suam in senatum rogari iussit. Quae cum venisset, vocata ad consulum subsellia scribendo adfuit, id est senatus consulti conficiendi testis, solusque omnium imperatorum fuit, sub quo mulier quasi clarissima loco viri senatum ingressa est.

--SHA Vita Elagabali IV.1-4

When he entered the Senate for the first time, Elagabalus ordered his mother to be brought in. When she arrived, she remained at his side on the consul's bench as a secretary--indeed, she witnessed the creation of a senatorial decree! Of all the Roman emperors, Elagabalus was the only one who allowed a woman to enter the senate as if she were a man [loco viri].