REASSESSING ROMAN PEDERASTY IN RELATION TO ROMAN SLAVERY: THE PORTRAYAL OF PUERI DELICATI IN THE LOVE-POETRY OF CATULLUS, TIBULLUS, AND HORACE

Abstract

Author(s): Beert C. VERSTRAETE

This paper responds positively to the call issued within the past decade by other classicists that it is incumbent on scholars who study Greco-Roman civilization to foster and contribute to informed debate of an urgent and sensitive social problem of our times, i.e. the sexual abuse and exploitation of children. A close reading of the homoerotic poetry of Catullus, Tibullus, and Horace reveals that slave status should not be invariably assumed for the pueri delicati celebrated here. Catullus’ Juventius is most certainly a freeborn Roman youth, while Tibullus’ Marathus and the pueri delicati in the Odes of Horace, Ligurinus in particular, are best understood and appreciated when they are at least imagined, within the fantasy-world created in this poetry, as freeborn Roman boys rather than slaves.

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