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Department
Classical Studies
Course
Classical Studies 3400E
Professor
Chris Piper
Semester
Fall

Description
1 SOURCES Like Greek, Roman sexual territory is a foreign domain. There is pertinent information about Roman sexual matters in all sorts of ancient literature— legal texts, history, poetry, and political discourse. Ancient erotic handbooks (often illustrated) have not survived. As well, we have artistic representations and objects (vases, lamps, mosaics) depicting sexual scenes. The visual record is far richer than the textual record. All social classes (elite, free, freed, slave) and both genders viewed erotic objects: the visual representations appeared at all levels of society. Fresco painting was the technique of trapping pigments in the lime mortar before it set, to ensure the decoration had a long life (not as long as fired pottery, which was virtually indestructible). Thus the painter works with mortar that is still wet, rendering would be done in small sections starting from the top of the wall. Sometimes details were added after the mortar was dry. There are two types of problems with this type of evidence. First, poor preservation of many paintings. Second, provenance: archeological methods of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries meant that some erotic pictures were destroyed outright. Others (of all topics) were cut away from the walls on which they had been painted to be housed in museums or sold to collectors. Thus in most cases the painting in question has been completely divorced from its context— house and room and placement in the room. And most of our wall-paintings come from the cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum. 2 Terminology Adams notes that there are more words in Latin for the penis than for female genitalia (usual one is mentula); this is unsurprising.
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