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Spice Of Life: A Brief History Of Sexual Indulgences In The Late Roman Empire

by Ericka Rachelle Mendoza

The Roman Empire was one of the largest, most influential empires in history. It is undeniable, that Romans gave western civilization great achievements, including the use of the Latin language, our western calendar (a refinement of the calendar introduced by Julius Cesar), science, law and architecture (to name a few). But, as with most great things the Romans had a very dark side—one that they chose to indulge in, mainly through acts of sex and which can only be described as true debauchery. So, add debauchery to the list too.

The Sorta-Good

Anal sex was widely practiced throughout the Roman Empire. It was a convenient way to avoid pregnancy. But, Romans also used it as a punishment of sorts. If a man slept with another man’s wife, a radish could be used anally on the offender as punishment and, often, there was an audience for the retribution. Emperor Tibirus was so obsessed with anal intercourse, that he recruited "specialists" in anal sex and deviant sex to his royal payroll. The Emperor would often have these specialists, called analists, perform in front of him in trios.

Add gang bangs to the list. To say that the third wife of Roman Emperor Claudius was an advocate of gang bang sex is an understatement; most historians are in agreement that Valeria Messalina was a nymphomaniac. She is most remembered for challenging a Roman prostitute to a competition, which she won; a competition with 25 sex partners in a 24-hour period. When her husband Claudius found out, he had her killed and then he remarried.

Emperor Nero found a unique way to liven up long trips he had to take by boat. Prior to any long-distance travel, Nero would have booths set up along his path of travel—stocked with men and women ready to engage and indulge in his every sexual whim. Could this be what the current-day rest stop sex evolved from?

Oh, let’s not forget porn. In ancient Roman society, pornography decorated everything from public walls to dishes.

The Bad

Romans were known for their slave society and they used slaves for everything. Slaves were looked upon as objects, with no feelings or rights. And, while adultery was outlawed in Rome at some point, sex with "property" was not. Both male and female slaves bore the brunt of the Romans’ insatiable sexual appetites.

Bestiality was also commonly practiced. During gladiator events held at Rome’s famous Coliseum, women often fornicated with snakes. The Romans also allowed animals to sexually plunder men and women against their will.

After childbirth, Roman doctors did not understand how to get a women’s body back to its pre-birth look (not possible). Since parts of the female genitalia sometimes changed shape, Roman doctors would perform unnecessary surgery on anything that was deemed too big. Female clitorises were routinely butchered to look smaller and more "acceptable."

The Really Bad

Quite a few emperors were obsessed with being in bed with close relatives, like their nieces...and their sisters. And their mothers. The infamous emperor Caligula was sexually involved with all of his sisters. And, if he became tired of them, he was known to hire them out as prostitutes. Not to be outdone, Emperor Nero often took it to the next level with his own mother, Agrippina. But, eventually, he became tired of her as well and tried to have her murdered. Emperor Claudius was also inappropriately involved with Agrippina. After Claudius’ brother (Agrippina’s father) died, he married her as well.

The Ugly

Emperor Nero’s past is particularly evil. After kicking to death two wives—one of which, was pregnant—Nero forced a young male to be his "wife." Historians believe that Nero felt guilty for killing his second wife, so he found a young male named Sporus, who resembled his deceased wife. Nero took (kidnapped) Sporus and had him castrated. Then, he forced Sporus to dress and act as his wife, while calling him "Empress."

The last, particularly heinous sexual indulgence the Romans were known for, is too disgusting to waste too many words on: toddlers and babies—enough said.