So far we have wandered about Roman sexuality trying to understand 1) how remote it is from contemporary sexuality and 2) why everything has radically changed in the West since those times.
The first question seems clear. The Romans were very different and fancifully enjoyed pleasures and sex even though they tried not to be dominated by them (see our earlier post on ancient teachings.)
How different they were finds further evidence in statues like the famous Borghese Hermaphroditus shown above and kept at the Louvre Museum in Paris, especially when we think that these statues were very common in the Greco-Roman world. A hermaphroditus is actually a transsexual.
Can you imagine today a VIP’s living room offering the view of a marble transsexual to guests? Well, excluding some eccentric artistic milieus, I think even open-minded people would be very puzzled, what do you think?
The second question is more difficult. I believe that the Christian religion has some responsibility, although I acknowledge that sexual pleasure & love are such a tremendous force that it can be a social problem no matter what culture or epoch we live in. As the Spanish philosopher Fernando Savater puts it, we like it too much, therefore sex is potentially dangerous, unproductive and every society tries to regulate it in a way or another.
Puritanism in its broad meaning however – loving only what is not pleasurable – is to be condemned in my view even if it can push us to be extremely active and to work extremely hard (puritanism was seen as a factor of development in areas of the United States according to Max Weber’s theories, if my memory is not faltering.)
As always it is a matter of right measure. The Romans achieved great things (like the Anglo-Saxons did), so they worked very hard but lived pleasantly and were (mostly) not puritanical.
And it is not by chance that the Latin folks originated from them (Italy, France, Portugal, Spain etc.) tend to enjoy life with refinement, taste and joy, this also incidentally being a reason why the Italian and French (and Spanish) ways of life are so attractive and represent today a school of savoir vivre for the West.
Today’s Latin folks are more or less taught since they were babies to cultivate beauty and all it implies.
It is so simple,
as simple and beautiful
as a Greek temple.
Their ancestors in fact, our Ancient Romans, didn’t just eat (as many Anglo-Saxons do, though progress is evident) but invented a highly refined culinary art. Equally, they didn’t just reproduce themselves (as many Christian fanatics do) but invented forms of refined eroticism which allowed them to live a fuller life.
Is it wrong? Is it right?
Should beauty in all its forms be a main part of our life?
A full answer is more complex than it seems at first, but I definitely think it is right.
Yes, I conclusively think it is right, my sweet readers. Oh I really don’t have many doubts about that.