‘Gay’ Pompeii

Sarah Levin-Richardson

in Ancient Rome and the Construction of Modern Homosexual Identities

Published in print October 2015 | ISBN: 9780199689729
Published online October 2015 | e-ISBN: 9780191814044 | DOI:

Series: Classical Presences

‘Gay’ Pompeii

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Eduard von Mayer’s Pompeii as an Art City, ostensibly a guidebook to the visual culture of the ancient town, called for a return to the enlightened sexual mores of the Roman past by pointing to the ancient homoeroticism in ‘everyday life’, as seen through Pompeii’s ‘humble’ art. This chapter places the project of Mayer within the context of the early homosexual emancipation movement in Germany, which aimed to find homoeroticism in the art and literature of the past. Analysing the way in which Mayer bolsters his claims about how homoeroticism was celebrated in Pompeian art, it argues that Mayer’s emphasis on continuity between the past and present allowed him to present the Roman past as a moral paradigm for the present. This chapter proposes that Pompeii’s unique ability to provide ‘everyday’ art in its original context made it particularly useful in early twentieth-century arguments promoting homosexuality.

Keywords: Pompeii; visual culture; guidebook; homoeroticism; Eduard von Mayer; homosexual emancipation movement; Germany; homosexuality

Chapter.  6279 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Classical History

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