- Hardcover: 236 pages
- Publisher: Wiley-Blackwell; 1 edition (April 26, 2010)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1405122919
- ISBN-13: 978-1405122917
- Product Dimensions: 7.1 x 0.8 x 10 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 1 customer review
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,909,322 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Sex: Vice and Love from Antiquity to Modernity 1st Edition
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“The book is helpfully provocative and certainly helps to explain the enduring appeal of Grecece and Rome in contemporary (erotic) culture.” (INTAMS review - Journal for the Study of Marriage & Spirituality, 18 January 2012)"Recommended. Graduate students/faculty." (Choice, 1 March 2011)
"This book is enjoyable and informative . . . it would be of especial interest to students of reception studies and the history of sexuality, but there is also much material that is useful to the classical scholar". (Bmcreview, 26 April 2011)
"It is because of the personal narratives - as well as the sophistication, wit and learning of the whole enterprise - that this book is highly recommended reading." (Times Higher Education, 30 October 2010)
"This is a sharply witty and provocative guide to ancient sexual transgression - and to our modern fantasies, dreams and projections about Greek love and Roman orgies." Simon Goldhill, Cambridge University
“From George Washington unclad as a Roman prince, to the cult of Plato’s Symposium in nineteenth-century England, to cinematographic fantasies of Roman orgies, Alastair Blanshard explores how the Moderns became fascinated with classical sex, Roman vice and Greek love. Often ironic, never naive and always a pleasure, this book reveals the enduring appeal of Greece and Rome in our erotic culture.”
Giulia Sissa, University of California at Los Angeles
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For instance, Blanshard sets out to examine why it is that there is such a strong certainty that those ancient Romans were up to such a high degree of naughtiness. He says that "even the most cursory survey of catalogs of pornographic film titles will reveal no end of classically-themed erotica," and his own cursory survey includes _Serenity's Roman Orgy_ (2001) and _Caligula and His Boys_ (2003). (Blanshard's book is probably the only one I have read that jumbles references to porn titles on one hand and Suetonius, Aristotle, and so on, on the other.) Blanshard's chapter on orgies is an eye-opener. Everyone knows how those Romans had orgies complete with grapes, and everyone is just wrong. There is scant evidence that there was ever such a thing. "The Romans never routinely engaged in sexual orgies and would have been appalled that we thought that they did." Any references to orgies indicate one-off affairs rather than patterns of behavior. It is amusing that Blanshard gives an example of how Marcus Minucius Felix in the third century AD shows how the pagans described orgy activities of those demented Christians. When it came time for the Christians to take their revenge on the pagans, accusing them of orgies was just the thing, a concupiscent way of getting revenge and telling naughty stories, too. The other main theme in Blanshard's book is the difficulty of understanding homosexuality by trying to look at "Greek Love." The Greeks did have a tradition of discoursing about male - male relationships that would make such relationships seem a marker of Greek culture, but Blanshard says, "The notion that homosexuality was in some senses intrinsically Hellenic would have come as a surprise to the Greeks." Greek love was a cultural manifestation that we have difficulty in understanding, and can be interpreted in many ways. Blanshard traces its historical interpretations. There wasn't much made of it in medieval times because people were busy talking about the horrors of sodomy, and that so settled the question that it silenced any other discussion of male - male sexual relations. Blanshard traces how Plato's teachings about Greek love were rediscovered in the Renaissance, with a vital discussion between two particular intellectuals highlighting them and bringing Plato's other writings to the fore. The vehemence of the discussion is amazing, with one side seeing Plato as the source of all Christian heresies. In the Enlightenment, a stock figure for satire was the humanist teacher who uses instruction in the classics as a cover for seducing students, with pornographic novels showing masters giving hands-on instruction to demonstrate the Latin words for "underneath," "backwards," and so on. Blanshard includes an account of Sapphic love, and the use of ideas about Sappho (about whom there is almost nothing known for certain) to denigrate Marie Antoinette, an example of male anxiety being assuaged by derogation.
Blanshard has given a broad picture of ideas of sexuality in the ancient world, but also a history of how those ideas have affected us even to the present; his epilogue has two professors arguing about Plato in a Colorado courtroom in 1993. Blanshard's book is obviously the production of an academic, but the heavily-referenced pages offer surprise, not stuffiness. In a box about Ganymede, Blanshard explains that you can find a modern porn version of the erotic encounters of that desirable youth with Zeus, Hermes, Ares, and Apollo, with illustrations that "suggest that Ares would not have looked out of place in a San Francisco leather bar." Another box has an extended evaluation of the 1979 film _Caligula_, Penthouse's $17 million entry into art porn, about which Blanshard sniffs, "There is a problem in equating ancient Rome with nothing but sex." There was more than sex going on in the ancient world, but the sex that was there, and the ideas about it, Blanshard shows, are still on our minds a couple of millennia later.