When we think of Ancient Rome, we immediately think of excess. The kind of excess that means balls to the wall, non-stop drinking and orgy-fueled ridiculousness, leading to their eventual fall from grace. And in this excess was a shameless, extravagant community of homosexuals. Though there was no Latin word for ‘gay’ per se, men were getting down with each other in Ancient Rome like it was their damn job, often in ways that, by today’s standards, are highly disturbing. Here are a few of the more bizarre activities and habits that the boys got up to in their spare time:
1. Bestiality Role Play
Emperor Nero, who reigned from 54 to 68 AD, was a frisky guy. And by frisky, we mean psychotic pervert. The infamous fire of Rome that took place during his reign is often thought to be intentionally sparked to make way for his Golden Pleasure Palace, paid for with the taxes of Roman citizens. One of the gayest activities that took place in said palace was what he called ‘The Animal Game’. It began by tying and binding naked men to various posts set up around the room. Nero would then don himself in animal skins and be put in a cage. When released from the cage, he would wildly begin to ravage each of his victims however he chose. Whatever you say of the man, you can’t deny that he was imaginative.
2. Freaky Gay Marriages
Considering the great lengths to which the modern world has fought for gay marriage, it seems odd that it would have been a perfectly legal practice in the ancient world. But the practice of gay marriage was a bit more fetishized and falsified than the union we know today. Everyone’s favorite emperor Nero was a frequenter of this practice, as was the emperor Elagabalus. These two would proudly display their male lover du jour in a full, official ceremony, complete with bridal veil and a dowry. Nero even bent genders, participating in two ceremonies where he ‘played bride’. But this is all fine compared to the men he castrated to be his true ‘bride’.
3. Tiberius’ ‘Tiddlers’ also known as ‘Minnows’
Swimming pools are a perfectly understandable breeding ground for the erotic. You’re having a good time, you’re half or completely naked, and usually with one or more persons feeling your carefree vibe. So who could blame Emperor Tiberius for being a prolific swimmer, especially when his empire had such decadent bathhouses and pools so readily available? However, Tiberius’ underwater excursions were accompanied by a league of helpers he referred to as his ‘tiddlers’. These tiddlers were young men (and often even younger boys) who were trained to swim beneath him and provide pleasure through light nibbling and coddling. In other words, actual humans were trained to act as sexual minnows in the emperor’s private pond. No word on how long these tiddlers had to hold their breath, but assume it was on the longer side.
4. Road-Side Sex Stops
Everybody has those urges that seem so desperate, they must be filled immediately – it’s a normal part of being a horny human. But for those in Ancient Rome with money and power to spare, these urges could be fed however they pleased. The most creative outlet was surely the road-side sex stops, set up along whichever street or riverbank the lucky member of aristocracy happened to pass through. These were quite literally tents that would be prepared ahead of the wealthy man’s journey where a male prostitute would lay in waiting to be ravaged before their lord would continue about his stroll. Think of it like a McDonald’s stop, but even more satisfying.
5. Learning by Pictures
Another innovation made handy by the randy Emperor Tiberius, entire rooms in his palaces were devoted to paintings depicting every sex act imaginable in vivid detail. These were not just for decor; Tiberius had these works created for learning purposes. He would reportedly bring in scores of his new male prostitutes to these chambers to learn the finite details of how to please an emperor; that way there could be no question about one’s duty in the bedroom. It was a practice rarely seen before in ancient times, yet oddly one that mirrors the way young gays today learn from their elders via pornography on screen. Guess Tiberius’ gross libido did some good. Many bathhouses had these depictions as well. Pompeii is known to have had many such depictions of sexual acts in their bathhouses.