Galli were worshippers of the goddess Cybele who renounced their masculinity by voluntarily undergoing castration. They lived as women, and held a separate legal status from men in ancient Rome. In the Aeneid, one of Aeneas' warriors is a gallus named Chloreus, whom the Amazon warrior Camilla intends to fight. The author Vergil uses this scene to play with gender roles in the epic genre, but it is uncomfortably easy to note the author's use of stereotyping here (particularly the fixation on the warrior's clothing instead of their valor).
CONTENT WARNING: misogyny
It happened that Chloreus,
a sacred retired priest of Cybele,
Was sparkling conspicuously in Phrygian armor
As they rode their horse onward. Their horse
Was covered in gilded bronze adornments
The way feathers adorn a bird.
Chloreus was equally conspicuous
Wearing bright purple armor
Shooting Gortynian arrows from a Lycian bow.
There was a golden ceremonial bow on their shoulders
And they wore a priest’s helmet, also golden;
They tied their purple cloak with a golden tie;
They even wore pants—how barbaric!—embroidered with a needle.
Camilla spotted them from far away,
And wanted to seize the Trojan armor
Either to dedicate it as an offering in a temple
Or perhaps she wanted to wear the golden outfit herself.
The Amazon hunter blindly targeted Chloreus
For single combat, and,
While she burned with a womanly love of treasure
And was caught off guard,
Arruns used the advantage to brandish his weapon deceitfully…
--Vergil, Aeneid 11.768-789
Forte sacer Cybelo Chloreus olimque sacerdos
insignis longe Phrygiis fulgebat in armis
spumantemque agitabat equum, quem pellis aenis
in plumam squamis auro conserta tegebat.
ipse peregrina ferrugine clarus et ostro
spicula torquebat Lycio Gortynia cornu;
aureus ex umeris erat arcus et aurea vati
cassida; tum croceam chlamydemque sinusque crepantis
carbaseos fulvo in nodum collegerat auro
pictus acu tunicas et barbara tegmina crurum.
hunc virgo, sive ut templis praefigeret arma
Troia, captivo sive ut se ferret in auro
venatrix, unum ex omni certamine pugnae
caeca sequebatur totumque incauta per agmen
femineo praedae et spoliorum ardebat amore,
telum ex insidiis cum tandem tempore capto
VERGIL / VIRGIL
Name: Publius Vergilius Maro
Date: 70 BCE – 21 BCE
Vergil was born in Mantua (Cisalpine Gaul, located in northern Italy) and lived during the tumultuous transition of Roman government from republic to monarchy. His masterpiece, the Aeneid, tells the story of Aeneas’ migration from Troy to Italy; it was used for centuries as the pinnacle of Roman literature.
GOLDEN AGE ROME