The Concepts Of Masculinity In Roman Culture

1687 Words 7 Pages
Masculinity is an adjective that simply defines something as having qualities traditionally associated with men. Because of this, every subsequent civilization will have a different view of masculinity. Even with a constantly changing definition there is always one constant: men who display traits associated with women are considered inferior to “manly” men. Each culture will develop its own idea of what makes someone manly or feminine, however these definition will eventually serve as insults and compliments. As a culture develops it must decide exactly what constitutes masculinity femininity, and what the punishment will be for breaking out of assigned gender norms. I believe that the reason for manliness as a measure of quality stems from …show more content…
The Roman philosopher Cicero laid out four tenants of virtus: wisdom, justice, courage, and temperance (Cicero). These are very similar to Greek masculine characteristics, especially bravery and self-restraint. A key part of both societies was the idea that men should be in control at all times, and that control started with the self. Roman men especially believed in control of one’s own self including sexual appetite and consumption. Romans believed in honorable poverty, that a lack of wealth was not a bad thing, but by living with what you had you could become virtuous. Roman masculine ideas would have led to a productive citizen, one who was content with their lot in life. Some other characteristics of Greek masculinity were a dislike of wrestling, believing it be more feminine, especially compared to the art of sword fighting. Romans were also against oral sex, believing that the one receiving pleasure was feminine, and so oral sex on a man would have been emasculating. The Roman and Greek beliefs in right and wrong behaviors for a man are similar, and Roman ideas are sometimes derived from Greek ones (Ormand). So given these combined characteristics of Greece and Rome, what can we …show more content…
These societies used social norms as a means of controlling society to fit the interests of those in charge. The Roman Oppian Law is an example of a law designed to change society to the benefit of the civilization as a whole. By banning extravagance it was hoped that men and women would avoid falling into a trap of luxury, and thus break one of the key Roman virtues of self-restraint. The repeal of the law served to reinforce masculine and feminine differences. In both cultures it had to be made clear that leadership was a manly activity, not one for the womenfolk. The Greek play Lysistrata features a female character playing the role of a man, namely leading a group of women to force men to end a war. In this rare instance where a woman may have portrayed masculine values extra steps were taken to ensure that viewers of the play were reminded of Lysistrata’s feminine status (Aristophanes, Lysistrata). At the end of the play, a woman named Reconciliation was literally divided up for the men. At the end of the day, it is the men who remain in

Related Documents