Episode 1 – Launches On An Unsuspecting Public

Greetings all! You are so very welcome.  Our aim is to entertain and inform some lovely listeners like yourselves! In this landmark first episode we’ll be looking at sex in Ancient Rome!

Who are The Partial Historians?

Dr Radford wrote her PhD thesis on Kubrick’s Spartacus. This means that Dr R is well-versed in Hollywood cinema, the reception of ancient source material, and the political machinations of the late Roman Republic.

Dr Greenfield wrote her PhD thesis on the Vestal Virgins. Dr G is interested in women’s roles in patriarchal structures, the politics of the late Roman Republic and the Augustan period, and the nature of what we often consider to be Roman religious practice.

Sex in Ancient Rome

We recorded this first episode recorded way back in 2013 (!). Our focus is the attitudes and practices in regards to sexual acts in ancient Rome. We’re here to guide you through the pleasures of the ancient past with our detailed understanding of the material while conveying our love for all this history.

What is sexual intimacy in ancient Rome?

In this episode we consider acts of sexual intimacy, including what Romans believed was permissible and what was not. We consider the Roman conceptualisation of sexual practice, and the environments in which sexual acts occurred. Attitudes towards power and pleasure are central factors in appreciating how Romans approached sexual acts with a very different mindset.

What about sex work?

We consider the role of sex work in ancient Rome and discuss prostitution. We explore the connections between the slave trade and some of the implications of this for the structures around sex work. And what about women and men outside of slavery – how does sex work operate under those circumstances? We consider some of the details!

Legislation around sex

There’s nothing like laws restricting and prescribing how sex ought to be conducted and, oh boy, does Rome have a good deal of that. Adultery, rewards for legitimate children, it’s all up for grabs. The Augustan period is infamous for its moral legislation and we consider some of the pertinent details and implications.

Famous and Infamous figures

We open with Julius Caesar and his sexual reputation. This opens the possibility of discussing not only Caesar, but also Augustus and Livia in terms of some of the details our sources suggest about their sexual lives. How much should you take for granted? Well, we weigh in 🙂

Literary sources

We consider the representation of sex in some of the key literary sources, including Ovid. This allows us to navigate the differences in attitudes to consent and age of first sexual experience from our own today. Sulpicia is one of the rare women’s voices emerging from the literary tradition and we compare and contrast the ways in which she discusses sexual intimacy in distinction from her male counterparts. Catullus’ Lesbia also emerges as a figure of interest.

Join us as we discuss, laugh, and spar our way through the ancient world:

Sex in Ancient Rome – 2018 Update

Ancient Rome sex
Roman fresco from the bedroom (Cubiculum 43) in the Casa del Centenario (IX 8,3) in Pompeii, First Century BCE. Image courtesy of CFCF / Wikimedia Commons
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Drs R and G laugh and spar their way through the ancient Roman world!


  1. Joel McCann
    March 1, 2013

    Loved the episode girls!!! Very well done

  2. Jai Garbyal
    May 8, 2013

    Well done Doc P and Dr Rad, Very interesting enjoyed the back and forth. I think the social aspect (what society at the time believes is acceptable or not acceptable) was very interesting: example the power roles in Sex, cunnilingus was frowned upon, homosexual and heterosexual sex was deemed the same (no separation, just the act of sex).

    Dr Rad I like the reference to Spartacus Blood and sand ;).
    I enjoy most period based movies, documentaries and television shows, ‘Rome’, ‘Gladiator’, ‘Spartacus’ (these coincide with your topic). I want to know how close are these to the real ancient Rome and historical story it is trying to portray (I understand it has been very dramatized), maybe a comparison (a hard ask because the listeners would have to be familiar with the show you pick).

    I also learnt a little about Nero when I was at school he always has been an unforgettable character and I’d like to know more, if you could do an in depth piece on him that would be awesome.

    Thank you

    • May 29, 2013

      Hi Jai,

      Thanks for your feedback. We’re definitely going to be doing an episode on Nero. We’ve just started looking at the emperor’s lives in more detail so keep an eye out for Nero 🙂
      Your question about Blood and Sand and other shows certainly has set Dr Rad’s heart a-racing! We also intend to deal with how ‘Ancient Roman’ sex is portrayed in film and television, although this may be a little further down the track. Hopefully all your questions shall be satisfied in this future episode. Stay tuned! Dr Rad cannot wait until we discuss the representation of Rome in film and television.

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