Gender and Sexuality in Juvenal's Rome: Satire 2 and Satire 6
The poet Juvenal is one of the most important ancient Roman authors, and his sixteen satires have left a strong mark on western literature. Despite his great influence, little is known about the poet’s life, beyond unreliable details gleaned from his poetry. Yet Juvenal’s satires contain a wealth of information about the mentality of imperial-era Romans. This volume offers a fresh and student-friendly translation of two of Juvenal’s most provocative poems: Satire 2 and Satire 6. With their common focus on gender and sexuality, these two works are of particular interest to today’s readers.
Both Satire 2 and Satire 6 target effeminate men and wayward women as objects of ridicule, and they ruthlessly mock their behavior in an effort to expose deep-seated problems in Roman society. The longer of the two works, Juvenal’s sixth satire, addresses a basic question, “Why get married?,” in a tone of spite and ferocity, and its details are disturbingly graphic. Satire 2 is a shorter but equally pointed tirade against effeminacy and passive homosexuality. Taken together, the poems compel readers to critique the discourse of gender stereotypes and misogyny.
For students and scholars of gender and sexuality, these poems are crucial texts. Chiara Sulprizio’s lively translation, perfectly suited for classroom use, captures the vivid spirit of Juvenal’s poems, and her extensive notes enhance the volume’s appeal by explicating the poems from a gendered perspective. An in-depth introduction by Sarah H. Blake places the satires within their broader literary, historical, and cultural context.
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