Saturday, 25 June 2005
Suetonius on Augustus's Sexual Proclivities
As a young man Augustus was accused of various improprieties. For instance, Sextus Pompey jeered at his effeminacy; Mark Antony alleged that Julius Caesar made him submit to unnatural relations as the price of adoption; Antony’s brother Lucius added that after sacrificing his virtue to Caesar, Augustus had sold his favours to Aulus Hirtius in Spain, for 3,000 gold pieces and that he used to soften the hair in his legs by singeing them with red-hot walnut shells.
Not even his friends could deny that he often commited adultery, though of course they said, in justification, that he did so for reasons of state, not simply passion – he wanted to discover what his enemies were at by getting intimate with their wives or daughters. Mark antonym accused him not only of indecent haste in marrying Livia, but of hauling an ex-consul’s wife from her husband’s dining room into the bedroom – before his eyes too! He brought the woman back, says Antony, blushing to the ears and with her hair in disorder. Antony also writes that Scribonia was divorced for having said a little too much when a rival got her claws into Augustus and that his friends used to behave like Toranius, the slave dealer, in arranging his pleasures for him – they would strip mothers of families, or grown girls of their clothes and inspect them as though they were up for sale. A racy letter of Antony’s survives, written before he and Augustus had quarrelled privately or publicly:
“What has come over you? Do you object to my sleeping with Cleopatra? But we are married; and it is not even as though this were anything new – the affair started nine years ago. And what about you? Are you faithful to Livia Drusilla? My congratulations if, when this letter arrives, you havenot been in bed with Tertullia, or Terentilla, or Rufilla, or Salvia Titisenia – or all of them. Does it really matter so much where, or with whom you perform the sexual act?”
And Suetonius goes on to say:
The charge of being a womanizer stuck, and as an elderly man he is said to have still harboured a passion for deflowering girls, who were collected for him from every quarter, even by his wife! [Livia]
Posted by Anna at Saturday, June 25, 2005