Roman Homosexuality in Historical Fiction from Robert Graves to Steven Saylor

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


This chapter discusses the treatment of Roman homosexuality in English-language historical fiction, exploring its parallels with and divergences from the stories about Roman homosexuality that have been told in scholarly prose. It concentrates on commercially successful fiction, from Robert Graves’s I, Claudius to Steven Saylor, treating issues such as authorial persona, homophobia, and approaches towards historical sources and research. The chapter suggests that fiction can open up areas of discussion of sexuality that are occluded in scholarly studies, such as the sexuality of eunuchs, slaves as the subjects as well as the objects of desire, and fathers’ attitudes towards their sons engaging in same-sex affairs. It analyses how historical fiction that treats Roman homosexuality offers its readers a range of models for desires and acts and both enables and complicates a genealogy of homosexuality, particularly in terms of identity and community.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationAncient Rome and the Construction of Modern Homosexual Identities
EditorsJennifer Ingleheart
PublisherOxford University Press
Number of pages18
ISBN (Print)9780199689729
StatePublished - 2015


  • Roman homosexuality
  • Robert Graves
  • Steven Saylor
  • historical fiction
  • eunuchs
  • slaves
  • identity
  • homophobia


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