Although sexual practices are often left out of discussions of history, the fact remains that homosexuality in ancient Rome did exist. However, it's not quite as cut and dried as a question of "gay versus straight." Instead, it's a much more complex cultural perspective, in which the approval - or disapproval - of sexual activity was based upon the social status of the people performing various acts.

T H E  R O M A N  P A T R I A R C H A L  S O C I E T Y

The society of ancient Rome was extremely patriarchal. For men, the determination of masculinity was directly tied to how one displayed the Roman concept of virtus. This was one of several ideals that all freeborn Romans tried to follow. Virtus was partly about virtue, but also about self-discipline and the ability to govern oneself and others. To take that a step further, the active role of imperialism and conquest found in ancient Rome was often discussed in terms of sexual metaphor.

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