1. What types of things were included in ancient erotic handbooks (pictures,
homosexual contact, ménages, erotic verses and descriptions of positions) ? Who
read them, according to our authors (prostitutes, grave men and matronae)?
2. Did the Romans view erotic art as titillating? (yes, in the form of pictures,
statuary, even live performers!
3. What types of bedroom activities were viewed by the Romans as ‘erotic?’
(‘rape;’ female nudity; Ovid: lovemaking during siesta-time; beautiful female
body on display; Ovid Ars
4. What types of substances were thought to have aphrodisiac qualities?
(usually something to do with copulation/ donkey/horse etc).
5. Which sexual positions are described in the literature? (this is Ovid who
advocates making love to show off one’s best feature: woman on her back;
‘lioness; (esp. if you have a wrinkled belly)’ legs over man’s shoulders;
‘equestrian;’ woman kneeling on the bed; lying sideways).
6. What fantasies/sexual desires are evident in the literature? (mirrors, group
7. How is the fellator viewed (os impurum; bad breath results)? The cunnilinctor?
(there is some indication that the cunnilinctor is worse than the fellator). How is
oral sex viewed by our authors (some indication that it was an enjoyable activity
for perverts. The cure for impotence is fellatio; if not then cunnilingus is the only
Why is the sight worse than the act itself? “The mirror, quintessential symbol of
adornment, also linked the woman with deception. Traditionally in ancient literature, the
male philosopher could find a path into the soul by way of the mirror. "Mirrors were
invented," wrote Seneca, "so that man may know himself, destined to attain many
benefits from this; first, knowledge of himself; next, in certain directions, wisdom.”
Mirrors are the tools of women, especially of the leisured woman: the objects invoked
connotations of wealth, leisure, and prestige, and are associated very strongly with the
feminine. The mirror could represent an invitation to self-reflection for a man. And
Hostia, so far from being ashamed of his acts, seeks to wallow in them visually. 2
Male-to-female lovemaking: paintings (tabellae) such as the ones we're going to
look at today were up for view in the houses of the wealthy— they go back all the way to
the 4th C BC Hellenistic depictions of whores. Two types: the pinax (pl. pinakes) was a
shuttered painting (not only erotica), the tabella (not only erotica), was not. Did they
function as didactic paradigms or as aphrodisiacs/ base sexual aids? Both? (Tiberius
supposedly used paintings and statues for sexual stimulation). Most were meant to be
‘high art;’ signifiers of an elite status. Mirrors may have been used in the same way (H.
Erotic paintings in houses do these differ significantly in content from those in
the brothel or baths? Most erotic paintings from houses are