“The Reception of Rome and the Construction of Western Homosexual Identities”

This conference will analyse the importance of ancient Rome in constructing Western homosexual identities. Much scholarship exists on the contribution of ancient Greek culture and literature to discourses of homosexuality, but the originary contribution of Rome has been overlooked. It matters, however, not least because of its impact and presence during the ‘Latin Middle Ages’ and beyond. Latin literature provides the best known versions of homosexual myths such as Orpheus, Narcissus, Iphis and Ianthe (collected in that mythological compendium, Ovid’s Metamorphoses) and explores distinctively Roman homosexual relationships (for instance, Virgil’s Nisus and Euryalus), to which a multitude of later artists have responded. Conversely, authors such as Juvenal and Martial censure homosexual behaviour. There have also been many influential instances of homosexuality from Roman history, from allegations that the youthful Julius Caesar was the ‘queen of Bithynia’ to the celebrated relationship between the emperor Hadrian and Antinous.

This one-off international conference aims to bring together scholars working in a range of fields (Classics, Reception Studies, Queer Studies, Modern Languages, Comparative Literature, Art History) to assess the broad impact of Roman culture on the construction of Western homosexual identities. Exploring this previously neglected area will afford scholarship a better understanding of the ways in which the reception of Roman and Greek culture are different and the importance of Rome as a model for later artists with homosexual leanings and, conversely, the attempted erasure of Roman homosexuality in societies where Rome is idealised. It is hoped that a wide variety of media, approaches, and research interests will be represented, particularly from those working outside the discipline of Classics, and that contributions will result in a substantial publication.

The Romosexuality programme is now available and please feel free to book your place at the conference. There are also a number of graduate bursaries available.