ABCs of LGBT Meets SPQR

ABCs of LGBTQIA+ Representation in the Greco-Roman World:

101 People and Mythological Figures to Know

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Introduction

This is by no means comprehensive or complete. The following 101 people are among those who provide important representation and visibility to topics of gender and sexuality in the ancient Greco-Roman world. Some of these entries contain difficult material (e.g., misogyny, rape, etc.) which may not be suitable for all classrooms.

It is important to note that the spectrum of sexuality in the ancient Greco-Roman world was constructed differently than it is in modern times, and there will be no direct equivalent for terms like “gay,” “straight,” etc. Similarly, terms like mollis, puer, and tribas will not have a direct modern equivalents. Therefore each entry will be listed without a modern label; instead, primary sources will be listed for the reader to continue researching any particular topic of interest. 


Achilles

Achilles was a larger-than-life mythical hero of the Trojan War whose amatory partners included his concubine Briseis, Princess of Scyros Deidamia (with whom he had Neoptolemus / Pyrrhus), Trojan Princess Polyxena, Amazon warrior Penthesilea, and his life-long lover Patroclus. Known as the “best of the Achaeans,” Achilles was not only famous for his military prowess but also for his unique childhood, as he spent his teen years both studying with Patroclus under the tutelage of the centaur Chiron as well as living on the island of Scyros disguised as a girl. His relationship with Patroclus was praised for centuries as the pinnacle of lifelong love, with figures such as Alexander the Great, the Emperor Hadrian, and Emperor Caracalla making offering at his tomb with their respective partners.

The story of Achilles can help students better understand complex topics like the treatment of women in the ancient world, wartime rape, slavery, gender roles, and sexuality. 

Sources: Excidium Troiae; Homer, Iliad; Maximus of Tyre, Dissertation VIII; Plato, Symposium 179-180; Statius, Achilleid, etc.

YA Novel Recommendations:

* Deane, Maya. Wrath Goddess Sing.

* Miller, Madeline. The Song of Achilles **May contain unsuitable material**

* Parmar, Shivani. Achilles & Patroclus: A Moment of Peace in a Lifetime of War

* Thompson, Ryan. Achilles: Making of a Hero. 

* Yourcenar, Marguerite. Fires

Admetus

According to mythology, Admetus was a Thessalian king and lover of Apollo. As a show of his love and devotion, Apollo allowed Admetus to be spared from death if he could find a willing substitute to die in his place. Admetus' wife, Alcestis, sacrificed herself to save his life, but she was brought back to life by Hercules.

The story of Admetus can help students understand the nature of gender and sexuality in the ancient Greco-Roman world.

Sources: Callimachus, Hymn to Apollo; Tibullus, Carm. II.3.11ff

YA Novel Recommendations:

Aetaetus

According to Phlegon of Tralles, Aetetus was given the name Aetaeta at birth, but then “transformed from a woman into a man.”  Phlegon was able to interview Aetetus and verify his story.

The story of Aetaetus can help students better understand the complexity of gender in the ancient Greco-Roman world.

Source: Phlegon of Tralles, de Mirabilibus IX

YA Novel Recommendations:

Alexander the Great:

Alexander the Great was a larger-than-life historic figure of the 4th century BCE who built an empire extending throughout Greece, Egypt and parts of Asia. Alexander was enamored by lore of the Trojan War, and declared his love for his lover Hephaestion by sacrificing at the tomb of Achilles and Patroclus.

The story of Alexander can help students better understand the complexity of wartime violence, culture clashes and xenophobia, the appropriation of history and propaganda, as well as gender and sexuality.

Sources: Arrian, Anabasis of Alexander I.xii; Quintus Curtius Rufus, Alexander III.xii.15ff.

YA Novel Recommendations:

* Graham, Jo. Stealing Fire

* Renault, Mary. Fire From Heaven

* Renault, Mary. The Persian Boy. **May contain unsuitable material**

* Tarr, Judith. Lord of the Two Lands **May contain unsuitable material**

Allia Potestas

Allia Potestas was a Roman woman who lived during the 3rd century CE. Her lengthy funerary inscription praises her long, industrious life that she shared with her two lovers. The three of them “shared a single heart, and a single home.”

The study of Allia Potestas can help students understand the complexity of marriage and sexuality in the ancient Roman world.

Source: CIL VI.37965

YA Novel Recommendations:

Amazons

Legendary warrior women known for their military prowess, Amazons were often either exaggerated caricatures or oversexualized women. The nature of an Amazon woman often changed to fit the author’s purpose; they can be seen as brave warriors whose valor puts male fighters to shame (such as Camilla in Vergil’s Aeneid XI and Penthesilea in Quintus of Smyrna’s Posthomerica I), angry men-killing monsters (such as Hipsypyle in Apollodorus’ depiction of the myth of the Argonauts in the Library), guardians of chastity (as seen in Propertius Elegy iv.4.69ff ) or a voyeuristic display of same-sex desire (as seen in numerous vase paintings, particularly Beazley 200860 / Athenian Museum 15002).

The story of the Amazons can help students better understand the complexity of gender, bias, and misogyny in the ancient Greco-Roman world.

Sources: Adrienne Mayor’s Amazons: Lives and Legends of Warrior Women from Across the Ancient Word (2014)

YA Novel Recommendations:

* Deane, Maya. Wrath Goddess Sing.

* Coombe, Clare. Camilla. 

* Hoffman, Alice. The Foretelling

Lawrence, Caroline. Queen of the Silver Arrow.

* Lynn, Hannah. Queens of Themiscyra

* O'Connor, George. Artemis: The Wild Goddess of the Hunt.

* Pressfield, Steven. Last of the Amazons

* Renault, Mary. The Bull From the Sea


Ampelos

According to Greek mythology, Ampelos was a satyr whose name meant “vine.” In book 10 of Nonnus’ Dionysiaca, the god Dionysus / Bacchus fell in love with Ampelos and courted him, offering marriage. When Ampelos died tragically, Dionysus transformed his body into a grapevine.

The story of Ampelos can help students better understand the concept of dangerous beauty, predation and assault, gender, and sexuality in the ancient Greco-Roman world.

Sources: Nonnus, Dionysiaca X; Ovid, Fasti III.409ff 

YA Novel Recommendations:

* O'Connor, George. The Olympians: Dionysus, the New God.

Androgynos / ἀνδρόγυνος: 

A compound word of andro- (man) and gyne (woman), this term is complex and has various meanings.  The author Livy used this term strictly for intersex children, but Phlegon of Tralles used the word as an umbrella term for people of extraordinary sex, making no differentiation between what modern readers would consider intersex and transgender people. In the early days of Roman history, intersex children were seen as bad omens and put to death; however, by the time of the high empire, they would often be sold into the sex trade. There are, however, several stories of intersex Romans who lived successful and fulfilling lives, including the philosopher Favorinus.

The discussion of the term androgynos can help students better understand the complex relationship between sex and gender.

Sources: Julius Obsequens, Prodigiorum Liber; Livy, Ab Urbe Condita (passim); Phlegon of Tralles, de Mirabilibus, Pliny the Elder, Natural History VII.34

YA Novel Recommendations:

Antinous

Antinous was the famous lover of the Roman Emperor Hadrian who died tragically and mysteriously while the couple traveled throughout Egypt in 130 CE. Utterly destroyed by the death of his lover, the emperor erected the city Antinoopolis at the site of his death and had the young man deified. Although their relationship was romanticized in the ancient world, modern readers may see their disparity in social classes negating the consent of the relationship.

The story of Antinous can help students better understand the concept of dangerous beauty, social class and consent, as well as gender and sexuality in the ancient Roman world.

Sources: Cassius Dio, Epitome lxix.11; Epitome de Caesaribus xiv; SHA Vita Hadriani xiv

YA Novel Recommendations:

* Goodloe, Abbe Carter. Antinous: A Tragedy (1891).

* Yourcenar, Marguerite. Memoirs of Hadrian 

Apollo

Apollo was a god highlighting the benefits of civilization (art, music, prophecy, and light) who was notoriously unlucky in love. Although there are dozens of myths detailing Apollo’s failed attempts at love, he as most known for his pursuit of the asexual nymph Daphne and the tragic death of his lover Hyacinthos/ Hyacinthus.

The stories of Apollo can help students better understand the concept of dangerous beauty, consent, gender and sexuality in the ancient world.

Sources: Hyginus, Fabulae 271; Lucian, Dialogue of the Gods xiv, xvii, xix; Ovid, Metamorphoses I.453ff;  Vatican Mythographers I.115

YA Novel Recommendations:

Bailey, Nicole. Apollo Ascending: Veil of Gods and Kings **May contain unsuitable material for younger readers**

* Bailey, Nicole. Apollo Ascending 2: A Crown of Hopes and Sorrows. **May contain unsuitable material for younger readers*

*Beutner, Katherine. Alcestis **May contain unsuitable material for younger readers**

* O'Connor, George. Olympians: Apollo, The Brilliant One. 

* Riordan, Rick. The Trials of Apollo: The Hidden Oracle

* Riordan, Rick. The Trials of Apollo: The Dark Prophecy.

Riordan, Rick. The Trials of Apollo: The Burning Maze. 

Riordan, Rick. The Trials of Apollo: The Tyrant's Tomb. 

Riordan, Rick. The Trials of Apollo: The Tower of Nero


Ares / Mars

Known as the god of warfare, Ares / Mars was known for his longstanding relationship with the goddess of love, Aphrodite / Venus. According to Ovid, when his mother Hera/Juno was jealous that her husband Zeus / Jupiter had a motherless birth [Athena/Minerva], she asked Chloris/Flora to help her have a fatherless birth; according to this version of the myth, Ares was the result of a parthenogenic birth.  

The story of Ares/Mars can help students better understand the complexity of gender and birth in the ancient Greco-Roman world.

Sources: Ovid, Fasti V.229ff.

YA Novel Recommendations:

Aristogeiton

Along with his lovers Harmodius and Leaena, Aristogeiton plotted to assassinate the Athenian tyrant Hippias in 514 BCE. This act was seen in later years as a defense of liberty and democracy, and the love between Harmodius and Aristogeiton was praised as the pinnacle of love and devotion.

The story of Harmodius and Aristogeiton can help students better understand the concept of love, duty, ethics, gender and sexuality in the ancient world.

Sources:  Hyginus, Fabulae 257; Maximus of Tyre, Dissertation VIII; Thucydides, History of the Peloponnesian War. VI.51ff; Valerius Maximus, Memorable Deeds and Sayings, II.x.ext.1

YA Novel Recommendations:

Artemis / Diana: 

As the virgin goddess of the hunt and chase, Artemis / Diana was a perfect example of the conflicting treatment of women’s sexuality in the ancient Greco-Roman world. She was seen as the protector of women and children (as seen in her portrayal in Apollodorus’ Library and her protection of the Amazon Camilla in book 11 of Vergil’s Aeneid), yet she brutally punished those women who did not fit her concept of womanhood (as seen as her punishment of rape victims Callisto and Aura). In his Hymn to Artemis, the Greek author Callimachus praised her chastity (1-25), then proceeded to list all of her female lovers (183-219). Her chaste love for her asexual companion Hippolytus can be seen in his rescue and transformation into the god Virbius (“twice-man”).

The story of Artemis/Diana can help students better understand the complexity of gender and sexuality in the ancient Greco-Roman world, as well as the treatment of women and the danger of rape, predation and assault.

Sources: Apollodorus, Library I.iv; Callimachus, Hymn to Artemis; Nonnus, Dionysiaca XLVIII; Ovid, Fasti II.153ff; VI.732ff, etc.

YA Novel Recommendations:

* Bailey, Nicole. Apollo Ascending 1: A Veil of Gods and Kings. **May contain unsuitale material for younger readers**

* Bailey, Nicole. Apollo Ascending 2: A Crown of Hopes and Sorrows. ** May contain unsuitable material for younger readers**

* Cleveland, T. S. Ganymede and Other Romantic Short Stories from Greek Mythology

* Coombe, Clare. Camilla. 

* O'Connor, George. Artemis: The Wild Goddess of the Hunt.

* Lawrence, Caroline. Queen of the Silver Arrow


Astraea / Virgo

The virgin goddess of justice, Astraea lived on earth among mortals until she became overwhelmed by their disrespect. She fled to the stars, becoming the constellation Virgo.

The story of Astraea / Virgo can help students better understand the complexity of sexuality in the ancient Greco-Roman world, as she provides a role model for an asexual woman not defined by her marriage / relationship with others.

Sources: Hyginus, De Astronomica II.25; Ovid, Metamorphoses 1.149ff

YA Novel Recommendations:

Atalanta:  

According to Greek mythology, Atalanta was a mortal companion of Artemis / Diana, whom according to Callimachus, the goddess “loved especially.”  She was famous for her participation in the Calydonian boar hunt, as well as her participation as an Argonaut in Jason’s quest for the golden fleece. Atalanta was one of the fastest runners of her generation, and maintained her virginity by challenging her suitors to a foot race. She was able to remain protected in this manner until she was beaten through treachery by Hippomenes. She and Hippomenes were later transformed into lions due to her breaking her chastity and his refusal to thank Aphrodite for her help in winning the race.

The story of Atalanta can help students better understand the complexity of women’s roles in the ancient Greco-Roman world, as well as gender and sexuality.

Sources: Apollodorus, Library III.9; Hyginus, Fabula 173-4, 185

YA Novel Recommendations:

* O'Connor, George. Artemis: The Wild Goddess of the Hunt.

* Swinburne, Algernon Charles. Atalanta in Calydon. (poem)

* Tammi, Elizabeth. Outrun the Wind

Athena / Minerva

Athena / Minerva was the virgin goddess of skill, craft, and warfare. Athena was not born, but rather leapt fully-grown from the head of Zeus / Jupiter after the god had devoured the goddess of wisdom, Metis. Like Artemis / Diana, she was a perfect example of the conflicting treatment of women’s sexuality in the ancient Greco-Roman world, as she was vehemently portrayed as asexual, but also the loving partner of the African water nymph Pallas. When she accidentally killed Pallas in a sparring match, Athena was so overcome with grief that she adopted her name, calling herself Pallas Athena. Moreover, she challenged gender roles by being portrayed with symbols of masculinity (warfare / armor) and femininity (weaving).

 The story of Athena/ Minerva can help students better understand the complexity of women’s roles in the ancient Greco-Roman world, as well as gender and sexuality.

Sources: Apollodorus, Library I.iii.6, III.xii; Greek Anthology vi.10; Lucian, Dialogues of the Gods 19

YA Novel Recommendations:

Bacchus / Dionysus:

The god of wine and release, Bacchus / Dionysus was seen as one who pushes gender and sexuality norms. Like Athena / Minerva, Dionysus’ birth was not a traditional one: after accidentally killing the pregnant Semele, Zeus sewed her fetus into his thigh, nourishing it until the child was ready to be born. Dionysus was seen as a successful warrior who conquered India, as well as a vindictive avenger of those who denied him (as seen in his treatment of Pentheus and Agave). His retinue consisted of nymphs, satyrs and Maenads (women in a state of drunken fury). Although there were numerous rape myths involving Dionysus, he was known for two stable monogamous relationships: his husband Ampelos (a satyr who dies tragically, and later transformed into a vine), and the Cretan princess Ariadne.

The study of Bacchus / Dionysus can help students better understand the concept of dangerous beauty, predation and assault, the treatment of women in the ancient world, as well as gender norms and sexuality.

Sources: Hyginus, Fabulae 179; Lucian, Dialogues of the Gods 18 – 19; Nonnus, Dionysiaca

YA Novel Recommendations:

* O'Connor, George. The Olympians: Dionysus, the New God.

Bassa

According to the Roman poet Martial, Bassa was a woman who pretended to be chaste by remaining in the company of other women, but was actually dating those women.

The study of Bassa can help students better understand the treatment of women, gender and sexuality in the ancient Roman world.

Source: Martial, Epigrams I.90

YA Novel Recommendations:

Bitto

According to the Greek poet Asclepiades, Bitto and Nannion were two women in love who didn’t “follow the rules of Venus” (i.e., in a same-sex relationship with each other, and not with men).

The study of Bitto and Nannion can help students better understand the treatment of women in the ancient Greco-Roman world, as well as gender and sexuality.

Source: Asclepiades, Greek Anthology v.207

YA Novel Recommendations:

Britomartis / Dictynna

According to Greek mythology, Britomartis was a virgin demigoddess whose challenges to maintain her chastity from numerous attackers was a testament to the danger of women in the ancient Greco-Roman world. She traveled the world to avoid numerous suitors and rapists, was even captured in a net like an animal [“Dictynna” means “the netted one”]. Finally able to escape, she disappeared from the eyes of men. According to Callimachus, Artemis / Diana also “passionately loved” her. 

The study of Britomartis can help students better understand the treatment of women in the ancient Greco-Roman world, as well as the concept of dangerous beauty, predation and rape.

Sources: Antoninus Liberalis, Metamorphoses XL; Callimachus, Hymn to Artemis 188ff.

YA Novel Recommendations:

* Pavese, Cesare. Dialogues with Leuco

Caeneus

According to Greek mythology, Caeneus was born Caenis, but when raped by the god Poseidon / Neptune, Caenis asked to be transformed into a man [in some versions of this myth, their relationship is consensual]. Changing his name to Caeneus, this legendary hero becomes known for his impenetrable skin and his feats include becoming an Argonaut and fighting against the centaurs.

The story of Caeneus can help students better understand the complexity of gender in the ancient world, as well as the dangers of predation and assault.

Sources: Apollonius, Argonautica 1.57ff; Hyginus, Fabulae XIV; Ovid, Metamorphoses XII.170ff.;  Phlegon of Tralles, de Mirabilibus V; Vatican Mythographers II.130

YA Novel Recommendations:

* Deane, Maya. Wrath Goddess Sing.

* Edwards, Samuel Achilles. Caeneus

* Portman, Bridgette Dutta. Caeneus and Poseidon

* MacLaughlin, Nina. Wake, Siren: Ovid Resung. **May contain unsuitable material**

Calamos

According to Greek mythology, Calamos was a beautiful youth, the son of the Menander River. He and his lover Carpos had a swimming contest, but when Carpos drowned, he drowned himself to remain in death with his lover. Calamos was then transformed into a reed plant.

The story of Calamos and Carpos can help students better understand the concept of dangerous beauty, as well as the complexity of sexuality in the ancient Greco-Roman world.

Source: Nonnos, Dionysiaca XI

YA Novel Recommendations:

Callisto

According to Greek mythology, Callisto was a nymph who pledged her virginity to Artemis / Diana. When she was raped by Zeus/ Jupiter, Callisto tried to hide her pregnancy, but in vain. When Artemis found out about Callisto’s pregnancy, she transformed Callisto into a bear; she and her son Arcas were later transformed into the constellation Ursa Major & Ursa Minor.

The story of Callisto can help students better understand the treatment of women, the dangers of beauty, predation, and rape in the ancient Greco-Roman world, as well as the complexity of gender and sexuality.

Source: Ovid, Fasti II.153ff.; Vatican Mythographers II.76

YA Novel Recommendations:

* Cleveland, T. S. Ganymede and Other Romantic Short Stories from Greek Mythology

Camilla

According to Greek mythology, Camilla was a virgin devotee of Artemis/ Diana. Her father, the exiled king Metabus, pledged her life in exchange for the infant’s safety; Camilla then grew to become a warrior under Artemis’ care. In Vergil’s Aeneid, she was seen as a warrior equal to her male peers, and when she was finally killed by Arruns, Artemis sent Opis to slay him in revenge. Her relationship with Acca was tender and loving.

The story of Camilla can help students better understand the role of women in the ancient world, as well as the complexities of gender and sexuality.

Sources: Excidium Troiae; Vergil, Aeneid XI.

YA Novel Recommendations:

* Lawrence, Caroline. Queen of the Silver Arrow 

* Coombe, Clare. Camilla. 

Caracalla

Caracalla was a Roman Emperor who ruled from 198 to 217 CE. The last of the Severan dynasty, Caracalla was best known for his Constitutio Antoniniana, a decree that provided Roman citizenship to all free men within the Roman Empire. In homage to the great love of Achilles and Patroclus, he slew his freedman Festus while visiting Troy in order to mourn his loss the way Achilles mourned Patroclus.

The story of Caracalla can help students better understand the complexity of wartime violence, culture clashes, the appropriation of history and propaganda, as well as gender and sexuality.

Sources: Herodian, History IV.8; SHA Vita Caracalli

YA Novel Recommendations:

Carpos

According to Greek mythology, Carpos was the lover of Calamos, the beautiful son of the Menander river. He and his lover Calamos had a swimming contest, but when Carpos drowned, Calamos drowned himself to remain in death with his lover. Calamos was then transformed into a reed plant.

The story of Calamos and Carpos can help students better understand the concept of dangerous beauty, as well as the complexity of sexuality in the ancient Greco-Roman world.

Source: Nonnos, Dionysiaca XI

YA Novel Recommendations:

Catullus:

Catullus was a Roman poet who lived during the 1st century BCE. He was deeply inspired by the (now lost) works of Sappho, even naming the object of his devotion “Lesbia” after the great Lesbian poet. Although Catullus wrote lyric poetry on a variety of topics, a large portion of his poetry are centered around his relationships with his lovers Lesbia and Iuventius. Catullus’ poetry provides a great deal of insight into cultural perspectives and events of the tumultuous waning years of the Roman Republic.

The study of Catullus can help students better understand cultural perspectives of Republican Rome, as well as the complexity of gender and sexuality of the ancient Roman world.

Sources: Catullus 24, 48, 51, 81, 99

YA Novel Recommendations:

Chloris:  

According to Greek mythology, Chloris was the daughter of Orchomenus. In Polygnotus’ mural of the Underworld at Delphi, she was depicted lying on the knees of Thyia (daughter of Castalius). Pausanias described the scene tenderly, stating that they had a φιλία (philia, deep tenderness) throughout their lives.

The study of Chloris and Thyia can help students better understand the role of women in the ancient world, as well as the complexities of gender and sexuality.

Sources: Pausanias, Description of Greece X.xxix.5

YA Novel Recommendations:

Cletes

According to Greek mythology, Cletes was an Amazon warrior and lover of Queen Penthesilea. When following her lover to fight in the Trojan War, her ship was thrown off course in a storm. She landed in Italy and founded a city named after herself.

The study of Cletes can help students understand the impact of Amazons and same-sex couples in Greco-Roman literature.

Sources: Lycophron, Alexandra / Cassandra 992ff

YA Novel Recommendations:

* Lynn, Hannah. Queens of Themiscyra

Cygnus:  

According to Greek mythology, Cygnus (“swan”) was the lover of Phaethon. When Phaethon died, Cygnus mourned the death of his lover so much that he was transformed into a swan, and ultimately became the constellation that bears his name. In Vergil’s Aeneid, his son Cupavo wears swan feathers in the crest of his helmet in honor of his father’s transformation.

The study of Cygnus can help students better understand the role of sexuality in the ancient Greco-Roman world.

Sources: Vergil, Aeneid x.185ff 

YA Novel Recommendations:

Cyparissus

According to Greek mythology, Cyparissus (“cypress”) was the lover of the forest god Sylvanus. When Sylvanus accidentally slew Cyparissus’ pet deer, Cyparissus died of grief. Sylvanus then transformed Cyparissus into a cypress tree.

The study of Cyparissus can help students better understand the complexity of sexuality in the ancient Greco-Roman world.

Sources: Ovid, Metamorphoses X.106ff; Vatican Mythographers I.6

YA Novel Recommendations:

Cleomachus

Cleomachus was an Olympic champion in boxing who, according to sources, “had a surgery” then “exchanged his boxing gloves for bangles, and his victor’s robe for a gown.” After this transformation, Cleomachus became a famous poet and lived with a gender-fluid man, and together they raised a daughter.

The study of Cleomachus can help students understand the complexity of gender in the ancient Greco-Roman world.

Sources: -Strabo, Geographica XIV.1.40; Tertullian de Pallio IV.4; Tricha, De Metris p. 34

YA Novel Recommendations:

Damon:

 According to Greek lore, Damon and Pythias plotted to kill the tyrant Dionysius of Syracuse. When Pythias was caught and sentenced to be executed, Damon remained imprisoned as a hostage so that Pythias could wrap up his affairs. Pythias promised to return in three days, at which time Dionysius would execute Damon. Pythias was late, but Damon had perfect confidence in Pythias’ return. When Pythias returned, Dionysius was so impressed by their level of complete trust and commitment to each other that he freed them both.

The study of Pythias and Damon can help students better understand the nature of loyalty, trust and sexuality in the ancient Greco-Roman world.

Sources: Hyginus, Fabulae 257 

YA Novel Recommendations:

* Bateman, Teresa. Damon, Pythias, and the Test of Friendship


Daphne

According to Greek mythology, Daphne (“bay / laurel”) was the daughter of the river Peneus and was pursued romantically by Apollo. In one version of the myth, Daphne was asexual and rejected Apollo, only to be chased down and ultimately transformed into a bay tree in order to be kept safe from rape. In another myth, Daphne was in love with Leucippos, a young man who dressed as a girl and lived with the other hunters of Artemis / Diana. Daphne fell in love with Leucippos, but when her naked body was revealed while bathing, the other hunters of Artemis attacked her and killed her.

The study of Daphne can help students better understand the complexity of gender and sexuality in the ancient Greco-Roman world.

Sources: Ovid, Metamorphoses 1.453ff; Parthenius of Nicea, Erotica XV

YA Novel Recommendations:

* O'Connor, George. Olympians: Apollo, The Brilliant One. 

Diana: see Artemis

Dionysus: see Bacchus


Elegabalus / Bassiana/ Heliogabalus

Elegabalus was a Roman emperor who reigned from 218 – 222 CE. They worshipped the Syrian cult of the sun god Elegabal, and was infamous for breaking numerous social norms. They took lovers of all genders, and changed their name to the feminine form (Bassiana). Their complete rejection of gender and social norms led to their infamy by later authors.

The study of Elegabalus can help students better understand the complexity of gender, sexual, and social norms in the ancient Roman world.

Sources: Epitome de Caesaribus XXIII; SHA Vita Elegabali

YA Novel Recommendations:

Euryalus

According to Roman mythology, the lovers Nisus and Euryalus were Trojan refugees and companions of Aeneas. In book 9 of the Aeneid, Nisus and Euryalus make a daring reconnaissance mission, where they are ultimately killed. Vergil praises their love and their death, calling them “blessed” for dying together for each other and for their country.

The story of Nisus and Euryalus can help students better understand the role of duty, courage, as well as the complexity of sexuality in the ancient Roman world.

Source: Vergil, Aeneid V, IX

YA Novel Recommendations:

*   Lawrence, Caroline. The Night Raid

Favorinus:  

Favorinus of Arelate was a famous intersex philosopher and sophist during the 2nd century CE. He was known to have gotten into a famous feud with the Roman Emperor Hadrian, but without punishment; the fact that Favorinus was not put to death for this disagreement was seen as a sign of the emperor’s mercy.

The story of Favorinus can help students better understand the impact of intersex people in the ancient Greco-Roman world.

Sources:  Philostratus, Vita Sophistarum I.viii

YA Novel Recommendations:

Fonteia Eleusis: 

Fonteia Eleusis was a freedwoman who lived during the age of Augustus who was buried with her partner, Fonteia Helena. Their tombstone depicts them clasping hands, symbolism usually reserved for married couples.

The study of Fonteia Eleusis and Fonteia Helena helps students understand the complex nature of marriage and sexuality in the ancient Roman world.

Source: CIL VI.18524

YA Novel Recommendations:

Fonteia Helena: 

Fonteia Helena was a freedwoman who lived during the age of Augustus who was buried with her partner, Fonteia Eleusis. Their tombstone depicts them clasping hands, symbolism usually reserved for married couples.

The study of Fonteia Eleusis and Fonteia Helena helps students understand the complex nature of marriage and sexuality in the ancient Roman world.

Source: CIL VI.18524 

YA Novel Recommendations:

Fronto / Marcus Cornelius Fronto 

Known as the “Second Cicero,” Fronto was a famous Roman orator and scholar of the 2nd century CE. Although his other works are lost, his correspondence with his protégé Marcus Aurelius provides insight into the Imperial Roman world. The nature of the relationship between Marcus Aurelius and Fronto is deeply debated; some scholars believe their relationship was amatory, while others insist that their feelings for each other was a deep and loving friendship.

The letters of Fronto can help students better understand the complexity of masculinity, friendship, and sexuality in the ancient Roman world.

Sources: Fronto, Letters

YA Novel Recommendations:

Galinthias

According to Greek mythology, Galinthias assisted Alcmene in her birth of Hercules. Out of love for her dear companion, she tricked Hera / Juno and Eileithyia into thinking that Alcmena had already given birth. Hera then punished her by transforming her into a polecat / weasel.

The story of Galinthias can help students better understand the role of women in the ancient world, as well as the complexity of gender and sexuality.

Sources: Antoninus Liberalis Metamorphoses XXIX

YA Novel Recommendations:

Ganymede

According to Greek mythology, Zeus / Jupiter transformed into an eagle and abducted the beautiful Trojan prince Ganymede. He made the youth immortal and assigned him the role of cupbearer of the gods. His name became synonymous with a vulnerable, beautiful young man (often used for sex).

The story of Ganymede can help students better understand the dangers of beauty, predation, and rape.

Sources:  Hyginus, Fabulae 271; Vatican Mythographers I.181

YA Novel Recommendations:

* Cleveland, T. S. Ganymede and Other Romantic Short Stories from Greek Mythology

Hadrian

Hadrian was a Roman Emperor who ruled from 117 to 138 CE. His reign was a peaceful one; with little foreign conflicts, Hadrian spent his reign traveling throughout the Mediterranean and making infrastructure repairs. His lover Antinous died tragically and mysteriously while the couple traveled throughout Egypt in 130 CE. Utterly destroyed by the death of his lover, Hadrian erected the city Antinoopolis at the site of his death and had the young man deified. Although their relationship was romanticized in the ancient world, modern readers may see their disparity in social classes negating the consent of the relationship.

The story of Hadrian and Antinous can help students better understand the concept of dangerous beauty, social class and consent, as well as gender and sexuality in the ancient Roman world.

Sources: Cassius Dio, Epitome lxix.11; Epitome de Caesaribus xiv; SHA Vita Hadriani xiv

YA Novel Recommendations:

* Goodloe, Abbe Carter. Antinous: A Tragedy (1891)

* Yourcenar, Marguerite. Memoirs of Hadrian

Harmodius

Along with his lovers Aristogeiton and Leaena, Harmodius plotted to assassinate the Athenian tyrant Hippias in 514 BCE. This act was seen in later years as a defense of liberty and democracy, and the love between Harmodius and Aristogeiton was praised as the pinnacle of love and devotion.

The story of Harmodius and Aristogeiton can help students better understand the concept of love, duty, ethics, gender and sexuality in the ancient world.

Sources:  Hyginus, Fabulae 257; Maximus of Tyre, Dissertation VIII; Thucydides, History of the Peloponnesian War. VI.51ff; Valerius Maximus, Memorable Deeds and Sayings, II.x.ext.1

YA Novel Recommendations:

Hephaestion

Hephaestion was the lover of the Macedonian ruler Alexander the Great, a larger-than-life historic figure of the 4th century BCE who conquered and built an empire extending from Greece, Egypt and parts of Asia. Together Alexander and Hephaestion declared their love for each other by sacrificing at the tomb of Achilles and Patroclus.

The story of Alexander and Hephaestion can help students better understand the complexity of wartime violence, culture clashes and xenophobia, the appropriation of history and propaganda, as well as gender and sexuality.

Sources: Arrian, Anabasis of Alexander I.xii; Quintus Curtius Rufus, Alexander III.xii.15ff.

YA Novel Recommendations:

Hercules / Heracles

Hercules was a larger-than-life mythic hero known for his series of twelve labors that he completed as penance for the murder of his wife and children. Hercules surpasses the limits of strength, courage, and gender roles. When forced to serve Queen Omphale for a year, Hercules dressed as a woman. When he joins Jason and the other Argonauts in the quest for the golden fleece, he brings his lover Hylas with him. When Hylas was abducted by water nymphs, Hercules abandoned the Argonauts out of grief. He then went on to sack Troy and abduct King Priam’s sister Hesione as his concubine.

The story of Hercules can help students better understand the complexity of epic heroes, wartime violence, dangerous beauty, predation and rape, as well as gender and sexuality in the ancient Greco-Roman world.

Sources: Hyginus, Fabulae XIV, XXX

YA Novel Recommendations:

Hippolytus

According to Greek mythology, Hippolytus was the asexual son of Theseus and the Amazon Hippolyte. Hippolytus was devoted to Artemis / Diana, who shared a chaste love with him. Because he failed to worship Aphrodite / Venus, the goddess cursed his stepmother Phaedra, causing her to fall madly in love with him. Phaedra propositioned Hippolytus and he refused her; she then killed herself, alleging that Hippolytus raped her. Believing his wife over his own son, Theseus cursed Hippolytus to death. However, Artemis saved Hippolytus’ dying body and relocated him in Italy, renaming him “Virbius” (“twice-man”). In some accounts, Hippolytus and the nymph Arricia had a son, also named Virbius.

Hippolytus was so famous for his chastity that his name becomes a term used by lyric poets to refer to an asexual man.

The story of Hippolytus can help students better understand the complexity of sexual violence, gender and sexuality in the ancient Greco-Roman world.

Sources: Euripides’ Hippolytus; Vergil, Aeneid VII.761ff; Vatican Mythographers II.151

YA Novel Recommendations:

* Euripides. Hippolytus

* HD. Hippolytus Temporizes and Ion

* Lynn, Hannah. Queens of Themiscyra

* Pavese, Cesare. Dialogues with Leuco

* Renault, Mary. The Bull From the Sea

Hyacinthos / Hyacinthus

According to Greek mythology, Hyacinthos was a beautiful youth loved by both the god Apollo and the god Boreas. While Hyacinthos was practicing the discus, Boreas grew jealous and directed a gust of wind to force the discus back at Hyacinthus, killing him. Out of grief, Apollo transformed the youth into a flower (hyacinth).  Although Apollo has numerous amatory partners (usually unsuccessfully), Hyacinthos and Daphne are seen as his two true loves.

The story of Hyacinthos can help students better understand the dangers of beauty, sexual violence, predation and assault.

Sources: Lucian, Dialogues of the Gods 14, 17; Hyginus, Fabulae 271; Vatican Mythographers I.115

YA Novel Recommendations:

* Bailey, Nicole. Apollo Ascending: Veil of Gods and Kings **May contain unsuitable material for younger readers**

* Bailey, Nicole. Apollo Ascending 2: A Crown of Hopes and Sorrows. **May contain unsuitable material for younger readers**

* O'Connor, George. Olympians: Apollo, The Brilliant One. 

* Pavese, Cesare. Dialogues with Leuco

Hyginus / Gaius Julius Hyginus

A Roman writer who lived during the end of the 1st century BCE and the beginning of the 1st century CE, Hyginus was most famous for his short epitomes of Greek and Roman myths. Despite being a freedman employed by the Emperor Augustus to serve at the Imperial Library at Rome, he was "so poor that he enjoyed the support of Clodius Licinius for as long as he lived". He was very close with the poet Ovid, and numerous overlaps are seen in the works of both authors.

The works of Hyginus can help students better understand Greek and Roman myths in simple, straightforward Latin prose.

Sources: Suetonius, De Grammaticis XX

YA Novel Recommendations:

Hylas:  

According to Greek mythology, Hylas was an Argonaut and a lover of Hercules. While the Argo stopped for supplies, Hylas searched for water and was abducted by water nymphs. Distraught by his lost lover, Hercules abandoned the Argonauts and vowed to continue the search for him.

The story of Hylas can help students better understand the concept of dangerous beauty, predation and rape, as well as gender and sexuality in the ancient Greco-Roman world.

Sources: Antoninus Liberalis, Metamorphoses 26; Propertius, Elegies I.20 Vatican Mythographers I.49

YA Novel Recommendations:

Hypatia:  

Hypatia was an asexual teacher and scholar who lived in Alexandria (modern Egypt) during the tumultuous 4th century CE. Although she was pursued by numerous suitors, she rejected the idea of marriage and remained focused on her studies. She was murdered by a Christian mob in 415 CE and her books were subsequently destroyed, but her impact as a scholar and role model remains even today.

The story of Hypatia can help students better understand the role of women and asexuality in the ancient Roman world.

Sources: Suda Y.166

YA Novel Recommendations:

* Dzielska, Maria. Hypatia of Alexandria

 Skelley, Billie Holladay. Hypatia: Ancient Alexandria's Female Scholar. 

* Toland, John. Hypatia, or The History of a Most Beautiful Most Vertuous, Most Learned, and Every Way Accomplish'd Lady; Who Was Torn to Pieces by the Clergy of Alexandria, to Gratify the Pride, Emulation and Cruelty of their Archbishop, Commonly but Undeservedly Styled St. Cyril. 


Iamblichus

Iamblichus was a Greek novelist who lived in Roman Syria during the 2nd century CE. His novel, the Babyloniaca, only exists in epitome form, but from the summary preserved by the Christian author Photius, the secondary romance plot involves the women Berenice and Mesopotamia.

The study of Iamblichus helps students understand the prevalence of same-sex couples in the ancient Greco-Roman world.

Sources: Photius, Bibliotheka, I.94

YA Novel Recommendations:

Ianthe

According to Greek mythology, Ianthe was the lover of Iphis. Because Ligdus did not want his pregnant wife Telethusa to bear a daughter, when she delivered a girl, she named the child Iphis, a gender neutral name. Iphis was raised as a boy, and when the time came for Iphis to marry the girl Ianthe, Telethusa and Iphis prayed for help. The goddess Isis blessed Iphis with a male body, and Iphis and Ianthe lived happily ever after.

The story of Iphis and Ianthe can help students better understand the complexities of gender and sexuality in the ancient Greco-Roman world.

Sources: Ovid, Metamorphosis X.665ff

YA Novel Recommendations:

* Jenkins, K. Iphis and Ianthe

* Lyly, John. Galatea

* Smith, Ali. Girl Meets Boy

* MacLaughlin, Nina. Wake, Siren: Ovid Resung. **May contain unsuitable material**

Iphis

According to Greek mythology, Iphis was the lover of Ianthe. Because Ligdus did not want his pregnant wife Telethusa to bear a daughter, when she delivered a girl, she named the child Iphis, a gender neutral name. Iphis was raised as a boy, and when the time came for Iphis to marry the girl Ianthe, Telethusa and Iphis prayed for help. The goddess Isis blessed Iphis with a male body, and Iphis and Ianthe lived happily ever after.

The story of Iphis and Ianthe can help students better understand the complexities of gender and sexuality in the ancient Greco-Roman world.

Sources: Ovid, Metamorphosis X.665ff

YA Novel Recommendations:

* Jenkins, K. Iphis and Ianthe

* Lyly, John. Galatea

Smith, Ali. Girl Meets Boy

* MacLaughlin, Nina. Wake, Siren: Ovid Resung. **May contain unsuitable material**

Jupiter / Zeus:

As king of the Greco-Roman pantheon, Zeus / Jupiter is the perfect example of absolute power corrupting absolutely. His numerous tales of infidelity against his wife Hera/Juno shows his absolute disregard for consent or respect of the bodily autonomy of others.

The stories of Jupiter / Zeus can help students better understand the importance of consent, dangerous beauty, predation and rape, as well as the complexity of gender and sexuality in the ancient Greco-Roman world.

Sources: Hyginus’ Fabulae; Ovid’s Metamorphoses; Vatican Mythographers

YA Novel Recommendations:

* Cleveland, T. S. Ganymede and Other Romantic Short Stories from Greek Mythology

Iuventius:  

Catullus, a Roman poet who lived during the 1st century BCE, used the pseudonym Iuventius for the male object of his affection.

The study of Catullus’s relationship with Iuventius can help students better understand cultural perspectives of Republican Rome, as well as the complexity of gender and sexuality of the ancient Roman world.

Sources: Catullus 24, 48, 81, 99

YA Novel Recommendations:

Knossos, the Serpent of: 

According to Greek mythology, a lover once gave a baby snake to his Cretan boyfriend. The young man raised the snake and took care of it until it grew up. The town’s inhabitants grew afraid of it and forced him to return the snake to the wild, and although he was upset about it, he complied. Later when the youth was out hunting and ran into some bandits, he shouted for help. The snake recognized its old owner, and in a show of affection, freed him from danger by curling itself around the bandits and killing them.

The story of the Serpent of Knossos can help students better understand the complexity of gender and sexuality in the ancient Greco-Roman world.

Source: Conon, Narrations XXI

YA Novel Recommendations:

Leaena

Leaena (“lioness”) was a courtesan and companion of the Athenian lovers Harmodius and Aristogeiton. She helped them in their plot to kill the tyrant Hippias. When the plot was foiled and she was captured, she bit off her own tongue to keep them safe. Leaena’s courage was praised in Greco-Roman literature and art; a statue of a lion was erected in her honor.

The story of Leaena can help students better understand the role of women in the ancient Greco-Roman world, as well as the complexity of gender and sexuality.

Sources:  Hyginus, Fabulae 257; Pliny the Elder, Natural History XXXIV.19

YA Novel Recommendations:

Leucippos

According to Greek mythology, Leucippos was trans woman who joined the other hunters of Artemis. The nymph Daphne fell in love with her, but when Apollo outed her, the other hunters of Artemis attacked her and killed her.  In another version of the myth, Leucippos was born a daughter but with help of the goddess Latona, was transformed into a man [note: this version appears to be a conflation of the myth of Leucippos and Iphis].

The study of Leucippos can help students better understand the complexity of gender and sexuality in the ancient Greco-Roman world, as well as bias and violence.

Sources: Antoninus Liberalis, Metamorphoses 17; Parthenius of Nicea, Erotica XV

YA Novel Recommendations:

Luxorius:

Luxorius was a Roman poet who lived in Carthage in the 6th century CE. Much like his predecessors Catullus and Martial, Luxorius’ poetry provides a great deal of insight into cultural perspectives and events of his times, particularly the impact of Christianity on Roman mores. Although his poetic persona often mocks and inveighs against the same-sex couples in his social circle, it is important to note that there were no legal or social consequences for these behaviors that he deemed “anti-Christian.”

The study of Luxorius can help students better understand the impact of Christianity on Roman mores, as well as bias, gender and sexuality in the Greco-Roman world.

Source: Luxorius

YA Novel Recommendations:

Maecenas

Maecenas was an influential member of the Roman Emperor Augustus’ retinue who refused to adhere to Roman gender and social norms (70 BCE – 8 CE). He was described as “dripping with femininity,” yet was never expected by Augustus to conform to the stringent social reforms that the emperor was undertaking at the time.

The study of Maecenas can help students better understand the complexity of masculinity in the ancient Greco-Roman world, as well as gender roles and sexuality.

Sources: Velleius Paterculus, Roman History II.88

YA Novel Recommendations:

Marathus

Tibullus, a Roman poet who lived during the late 1st century BCE, used the pseudonym Marathus for the male object of his affection.

The study of Tibullus’ relationship with Marathus can help students better understand cultural perspectives of this time period, as well as the complexity of gender and sexuality of the ancient Roman world.

Sources: Tibullus, Carmina I.4, I.8, I.9

YA Novel Recommendations:

Marcus Aurelius / Marcus Antoninus Aurelius:  

Marcus Aurelius was a Roman emperor who ruled from 161 to 180 CE, best known as one of the “five good emperors,” as well as for his philosophical work, The Meditations. His correspondence with his mentor Marcus Cornelius Fronto provides insight into the Imperial Roman world. The nature of the relationship between Marcus Aurelius and Fronto is deeply debated; some scholars believe their relationship was amatory, while others insist that their feelings for each other was a deep and loving friendship.

The letters of Fronto can help students better understand the complexity of masculinity, friendship, and sexuality in the ancient Roman world.

Sources: Marcus Aurelius, Meditations; Fronto, Letters

YA Novel Recommendations:

YA Novel Recommendations:

Mars: see Ares

Martial

Martial was a Roman poet who lived during the 1st century CE. Martial’s poetry provides a great deal of insight into cultural perspectives and events of the tumultuous years of the Roman Empire, including the despotic reign of the emperor Domitian.

The poetry of Martial can help students better understand cultural perspectives of Imperial Rome, as well as the complexity of gender and sexuality of the ancient Roman world.

Sources: Martial’s Epigrams

YA Novel Recommendations:

Megillus

Megillus was a fictional character in the satires of Lucian, a Greek author who lived during the 2nd century CE. According to the story, Megillus was a transgender man who lived with his wife Demonassa.

The story of Megillus can help students better understand the complexity of gender and sexuality in the ancient Greco-Roman world.

Source: Lucian, Dialogue of the Courtesans V

YA Novel Recommendations:

Minerva: see Athena

Muses

According to Greek mythology, the Muses (the nine goddesses of the arts and inspiration) are “beyond the influence of Eros/Cupid.”

The story of the Muses can help students better understand the role of women and the impact of asexual divinities in the ancient Greco-Roman world.

Sources: Greek Anthology IX.39; Lucian, Dialogues of the Gods XIX

YA Novel Recommendations:

Myrmex

According to Greek mythology, Myrmex (“ant”) was cherished by the goddess Athena / Minerva. This love turned to hatred when Myrmex stole Athena’s invention, the plough; Athena punished her by transforming her into an ant.

The story of Myrmex can help students better understand the treatment of women in the ancient world, as well as the complexity of gender and sexuality in the ancient Greco-Roman world.

Source: Servius, In Aeneid IV.402

YA Novel Recommendations:

Nannion

According to the Greek poet Asclepiades, Bitto and Nannion were two women in love who didn’t “follow the rules of Venus” (i.e., in a same-sex relationship with each other, and not with men).

The study of Bitto and Nannion can help students better understand the treatment of women in the ancient Greco-Roman world, as well as gender and sexuality.

Source: Asclepiades, Greek Anthology v.207

YA Novel Recommendations:

Narcissus

According to mythology, Narcissus was a beautiful youth who was punished for rejecting the advances of his many suitors. He was cursed to fall in love with himself; when he saw his reflection in water, he pined away and died. He was later transformed into a narcissus flower.

The study of Narcissus can help students better understand the dangers of beauty and predation in the Greco-Roman world.

Sources: Conon, Narrationes XXIV; Ovid, Metamorphoses III

YA Novel Recommendations:

Nemesianus:  

Nemesianus was a Roman poet who lived in Carthage in the 3rd century CE. Much like his predecessors Catullus and Martial, Nemesianus’ poetry provides a great deal of insight into cultural perspectives and events of his times, particularly the impact of Christianity on Roman mores. Unlike the later Carthaginian Luxorius, Nemesianus’ portrayal of same-sex couples was generally either neutral or positive; his fourth Eclogue often repeated the line, Cantet, amat quod quisque: levant et carmina curas (“let each one sing of whomever they love, for songs can alleviate our troubles.”)

The study of Nemesianus can help students better understand the impact of Christianity on Roman mores, as well as bias, gender and sexuality in the Greco-Roman world.

Source: Nemesianus, Eclogue IV

YA Novel Recommendations:

Nisus

According to Roman mythology, the lovers Nisus and Euryalus were Trojan refugees and companions of Aeneas. In book 9 of the Aeneid, Nisus and Euryalus make a daring reconnaissance mission, where they are ultimately killed. Vergil praises their love and their death, calling them “blessed” for dying together for each other and for their country.

The story of Nisus and Euryalus can help students better understand the role of duty, courage, masculinity, as well as the complexity of sexuality in the ancient Roman world.

Source: Vergil, Aeneid V, IX

YA Novel Recommendations:

 Lawrence, Caroline. The Night Raid 

Orestes

According to Greek mythology, Orestes was the son of Clytemnestra and the Trojan War veteran Agamemnon. When his mother Clytemnestra murdered his father in retribution for his murder of Iphigenia, Orestes was forced to murder her in turn. This action caused the Furies to drive Orestes to madness, forcing him to seek treatment. The fact that his lover Pylades supported him through his ordeals made numerous Greek and Latin authors praise the love between Orestes and Pylades as the pinnacle of love and devotion.

The study of Orestes and Pylades can help students better understand the concept of love, duty, ethics, gender and sexuality in the ancient world.

Sources: Cicero, de Finibus II.xxiv.79; V.xxii.63; Hyginus, Fabulae 257

YA Novel Recommendations:

Ovid:  

Ovid was a Roman poet who lived during the 1st century BCE. His works include amatory poetry (the Art of Love and the Amores) as well as epics (Metamorphoses). His works provide a great deal of insight into cultural perspectives and events of the tumultuous years of the rise of Augustan Rome.

The study of Ovid can help students better understand cultural perspectives of Republican Rome, as well as the complexity of gender and sexuality of the ancient Roman world.

Sources: Ovid, Amores, Ars Amatoria, Ex Ponto Fasti, Metamorphoses, Tristia

YA Novel Recommendations:

Pallas:  

According to Greek mythology, Pallas was an African water nymph and daughter of Tritonis. Athena / Minerva and Pallas grew up together in Libya. When Athena accidentally killed Pallas in a sparring match, she was so overcome with grief that she adopted her name, calling herself Pallas Athena.

The study of Pallas can help students better understand the role of women in the ancient Greco-Roman world, as well as the complexities of gender and sexuality.

Sources: Apollodorus, Bibl. III.xii.3; 

YA Novel Recommendations:

Patroclus

According to Greek mythology, Patroclus was a Trojan War soldier and lover of Achilles. His relationship with Achilles was praised for centuries as the pinnacle of lifelong love, with figures such as Alexander the Great, the Emperor Hadrian, and Emperor Caracalla making offering at their tomb with their respective partners.

The story of Achilles and Patroclus can help students better understand complex topics like masculinity, gender and sexuality. 

Sources: Excidium Troiae; Homer, Iliad; Maximus of Tyre, Dissertation VIII; Plato, Symposium 179-180; Statius, Achilleid, etc.

YA Novel Recommendations:

* Deane, Maya. Wrath Goddess Sing.

Miller, Madeline. The Song of Achilles. **May contain unsuitable material**

Parmar, Shivani. Achilles & Patroclus: A Moment of Peace in a Lifetime of War

* Thompson, Ryan. Achilles: Making of a Hero. 

* Yourcenar, Marguerite. Fires

Penthesilea

According to Greek mythology, Penthesilea was an Amazon queen who fought in the Trojan War on behalf of the Trojans after the death of Hector. Like many treatments of Amazons in Greco-Roman art and literature, she was portrayed as either the lover of women (having the Amazon lover Cletes in literature and  Thereichme in Greek art), a valorous warrior whom Priam cherishes as if she were his son; or the object of Achilles desire, who falls in love with her as she dies.

The story of the Penthesilea can help students better understand the complexity of gender, bias, and misogyny in the ancient Greco-Roman world.

Sources: Beazley 200860 / Athenian Museum 15002; Excidium Troiae 11; Quintus of Smyrna’s Posthomerica I;

YA Novel Recommendations:

* Binyon, Laurence. Penthesilea

* Lynn, Hannah. Queens of Themiscyra

Philaenis

According to Greek lore, Philaenis of Samos was an author of an erotic manual. Over time, her name became used a stock character for an overly lusty woman, particularly one with same-sex desire.

The story of Philaenis can help students better understand the treatment of women in the ancient world, as well as the complexities of gender and sexuality.

Sources: Greek Anthology VII.450; Martial, Epigram VII.70

YA Novel Recommendations:

* Donne, John. Sappho to Philaenis (poem)

Phlegon of Tralles

Phlegon of Tralles was an author of the 2nd century CE and a freedman of the Roman emperor Hadrian. His work, On Marvels, documented various unusual scientific facts and discoveries, including several accounts of intersex and transgender people.

The study of Phlegon of Tralles can help students better understand the complexity of sex and gender in the Greco-Roman world.

Source: Phlegon of Tralles’ On Marvels

YA Novel Recommendations:

Pirithous

According to Greek mythology, Pirithous was a king of the Lapiths and lover of the Greek hero Theseus. When Pirithous descended to the Underworld to abduct Persephone, Theseus showed his devotion by joining him on his quest. This devotion was praised by numerous authors, and the two become a stock example for love and loyalty.

The study of Pirithous and Theseus can help students better understand the concept of the treatment of women, rape and predation, love, duty, ethics, gender and sexuality in the ancient world.

Sources: Hyginus, Fabulae 79; 257

YA Novel Recommendations:

Pompeian Graffiti

Numerous inscriptions and graffiti were preserved by the destruction of Mt. Vesuvius in 79 CE. One of the most famous inscriptions, CIL IV.5296, was a love poem written by a woman to another woman. The poem tells the addressee that she wishes to kiss and embrace her tenderly and to not trust the fickle nature of men. In other inscriptions, men proclaim their love for other men (“Beautiful Sabinus, Hermeros loves you!” CIL IV.1256), and women proclaim their love for other women (“Chloe greets Eutychiae, but you don't care about me;” CIL IV.8321A), and women make pregnancy announcements (“Atimetus made me pregnant!” CIL IV.10231). Pompeiian graffiti provides modern readers with a glimpse of Romans whose lives are rarely discussed in the literature of the elite.

The study of Pompeiian graffiti can help students better understand the role and treatment of women, gender roles, and sexuality in the ancient Roman world.

Sources: CIL I1256; IV.5296; IV.8321A;

YA Novel Recommendations:

Pylades

According to Greek mythology, Pylades was the son of King Strophius and nephew of Agamemnon. When Orestes was driven into exile for the death of his mother Clytemnestra, Pylades showed his love and loyalty for him by following him and keeping him safe. Numerous Greek and Latin authors praise the love between Orestes and Pylades as the pinnacle of love and devotion.

The study of Orestes and Pylades can help students better understand the concept of love, duty, ethics, gender and sexuality in the ancient world.

Sources: Cicero, de Finibus II.xxiv.79; V.xxii.63; Hyginus, Fabulae 257

YA Novel Recommendations:

Pythias

According to Greek lore, Damon and Pythias plotted to kill the tyrant Dionysius of Syracuse. When Pythias was caught and sentenced to be executed, Damon remained imprisoned as a hostage so that Pythias could wrap up his affairs. Pythias promised to return in three days, at which time Dionysius would execute Damon. Pythias was late, but Damon had perfect confidence in Pythias’ return. When Pythias returned, Dionysius was so impressed by their level of complete trust and commitment to each other that he freed them both.

The study of Pythias and Damon can help students better understand the nature of loyalty, trust and sexuality in the ancient Greco-Roman world.

Sources: Hyginus, Fabulae 257

YA Novel Recommendations:

* Bateman, Teresa. Damon, Pythias, and the Test of Friendship

Sappho

Known as the “Tenth Muse,” this Greek poet has an undeniable impact on Greco-Roman literature, but unfortunately only fragments remain of her poetry. Most of her life is shrouded in mystery, but what is known is that she lived during the late 7th through early 6th century BCE on the island of Lesbos. Her poetry is passionate and vivid, with topics depicting life, love, and women’s experiences. Many of her fragments show a love for other women; the modern term “lesbian” was coined in homage to her influence.

The study of Sappho can help students better understand the impact of women on literature, as well as the complexity of gender, bias, and sexuality in the ancient Greco-Roman world.

Sources: Sappho, Poems; Suda, S107

YA Novel Recommendations:

 * Bailey, Nicole. Apollo Ascending 2: A Crown of Hopes and Sorrows. **May contain unsuitable material for younger readers**

* Donne, John. Sappho to Philaenis (poem)

* Frye, Ellen. The Other Sappho

* HD. Collected Poems of H.D. (1925)

* HD. The Wise Sappho. 

* Johnson, Marguerite. Ancients in Action: Sappho

* Leonard, Anya. Sappho: The Lost Poetess

* Pavese, Cesare. Dialogues with Leuco

* Rayor, Diane J. Sappho's Lyre: Archaic Lyric and Women Poets of Ancient Greece **May contain unsuitable material*

* Roche, Paul (translator). The Love Songs of Sappho

* Swinburne, Algernon Charles. Anactoria. (poem)

* Yourcenar, Marguerite. Fires


Sextilianus

According to the 1st century CE poet Martial, Sextilianus was the poet’s friend who liked “tantos et tantas” (“so many men and women,”).

The study of Sextilianus can help students better understand the complexity of sexuality in the ancient Roman world.

Source: Martial, Epigrams VI.54

YA Novel Recommendations:

Silvanus / Sylvanus:  

According to Greek mythology, the forest god Sylvanus was the lover of Cyparissus (“cypress”). When Sylvanus accidentally slew Cyparissus’ pet deer, Cyparissus died of grief. Sylvanus then transformed Cyparissus into a cypress tree.

The study of Cyparissus can help students better understand the complexity of sexuality in the ancient Greco-Roman world.

Sources: Ovid, Metamorphoses X.106ff; Vatican Mythographers I.6

YA Novel Recommendations:

Sinope

According to Greek mythology, Sinope was an asexual nymph who tricked both Apollo and Jupiter / Zeus into retaining her virginity.

The story of Sinope can help students better understand the treatment of women in the ancient world, the dangers of beauty, predation, and rape, as well as the complexity of gender and sexuality in the ancient Greco-Roman world.

Sources: Apollonius Rhodes, Argonautica II.948ff; Valerius Flaccus, Argonautica V.109ff 

YA Novel Recommendations:

Sympheron:  

According to Phlegon of Tralles, Sympheron was given the name Sympherousa at birth, but then transformed into a man and devoted the remainder of his life to gardening.

The story of Sympheron can help students better understand the complexity of gender in the ancient Greco-Roman world.

Source: Phlegon of Tralles, de Mirabilibus VII

YA Novel Recommendations:

Theban Band

In the 4th century BCE, an elite group of 300 Theban warriors (150 pairs of same-sex lovers) were assembled, with the understanding that a lover would more fiercely fight on the battlefield to defend their lover.

The story of the Theban Band can help students better understand the complexity of masculinity, gender roles, and sexuality.

Sources: Maximus of Tyre, Dissertation VIII

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Theseus

According to Greek mythology, Theseus was both the son of Aegeus and Poseidon / Neptune. He is best known for slaying the Minotaur. As a larger-than-life hero, his story was complicated and messy. His amatory partners were often victimized; he raped the famous Helen of Troy before her marriage to Menelaus; he abducted the Amazon Hippolyte, with whom he has Hippolytus; he abandoned Ariadne, who later became the wife of Dionysus / Bacchus; he then married Ariadne’s sister Phaedra, who fell in love with her stepson Hippolytus and accused him of rape. He also joined his lover Pirithous on a quest to the Underworld to abduct Persephone. Because of his devotion to Pirithous and their journey to the Underworld together, many authors praise their relationship as the pinnacle of love and loyalty.

The study of Pirithous and Theseus can help students better understand the concept the treatment of women, rape, violence,  gender and sexuality in the ancient world.

Sources: Euripides’ Hippolytus; Hyginus, Fabulae 79; 257

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Thyia

According to Greek mythology, Thyia was the daughter of Castalius. In Polygnotus’ mural of the Underworld at Delphi, she was depicted lovingly supporting Chloris  (the daughter of Orchomenos). Pausanias described the scene tenderly, stating that they had a φιλία (deep tenderness) throughout their lives.

The study of Chloris and Thyia can help students better understand the role of women in the ancient world, as well as the complexities of gender and sexuality.

Sources: Pausanias, Description of Greece X.xxix.5

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Tiresias

According to Greek mythology, Tiresias was a blind prophet who was able to experience both manhood and womanhood. Seeing two snakes mating in the mountains, Tiresias struck down one snake, and became a woman. Seven years later, Tiresias saw the mating snakes again and struck down the other, and returned to manhood.

The story of Tiresias can help students better understand gender roles in the ancient Greco-Roman world.

Sources: Apollodorus, Library III.VI.7; Fulgentius, Myths II.8; Hyginus, Fabulae 75; Phlegon of Tralles, De Mirabilibus IV; Vatican Mythographers I.16 

YA Novel Recommendations:

Tempest, Kae. Hold Your Own **May contain unsuitable material**

* MacLaughlin, Nina. Wake, Siren: Ovid Resung. **May contain unsuitable material**

* Pavese, Cesare. Dialogues with Leuco


Vatican Mythographers: 

Similar to the works of  Hyginus, the collection known as the corpus of Vatican Mythographers provides short summaries of Greco-Roman myths. Some of the myths have Christian-based analyses, but it is evident that the corpus contains the works of numerous authors.

The Vatican Mythographers texts can help students better understand Greek and Roman myths in simple, straightforward Latin prose.

Source: Vatican Mythographers

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Vergil / Virgil

Vergil was a Roman poet who lived during the 1st century BCE, best known for his epic The Aeneid. The Aeneid is a masterpiece and among the most important works of Roman literature. It tells the story of Aeneas, a Trojan refugee who settles in Italy and whose descendants become the Roman people (and, more specifically, the descendants of the Roman emperor Augustus). Characters in the Aeneid include Camilla, Nisus and Euryalus, and Hercules.

The study of Vergil’s Aeneid can help students better understand Roman culture.

Source: Vergil, Aeneid

YA Novel Recommendations:

* LeGuin, Ursula K. Lavinia

* Graham, Jo. Black Ships **May contain unsuitable material**

Vertumnus 

Vertumnus was an Italian god of nature who enjoyed changing shape and gender frequently. In his wooing of the goddess Pomona, he transformed himself into a woman to become his own wingman.

The study of Vertumnus can help students better understand the complexity of gender in the ancient Greco-Roman world.

Sources: Propertius Eleg. IV.2, Ovid, Metamorphses XIV

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Vestal Virgins:

Vestal Virgins were a group of elite priestesses who were selected from noble families in order to serve the state religion of Rome and tend Vesta's sacred flame. They took a thirty-year vow of chastity; during this time, they gave up their families to serve as a living symbol of Rome's purity and strength. After their thirty year term was up, they were liberated from their family's control and enjoyed more rights than other Roman citizens.

The study of Vestal Virgins can help students understand the role of women and religion in the ancient Roman world.

Sources: Aulus Gellius, Attic Nights I.12; Caius, Inst. 130, 144, 145; Ovid, Fasti VI.283-294; 

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Virgo: see Astraea

Zeus:  see Jupiter