Morality and Sexuality in the Roman Republic


Ares e Aphrodite

JMURJ is very pleased to present the first installment in JMURJ Volume 2: Robert Sharp’s “Incontinentia, Licentia et Libido: The Juxtaposition of Morality and Sexuality during the Roman Republic.”

Sharp’s paper explores often overlooked and deceptively complex facets of morality and sexuality in Rome during the Roman Republic period (509–27 B.C.E.). Sharp contrasts the private and public workings of Roman morality and sexuality with more modern taboos and silences:

Studies of sexuality in the Roman Republic period are either lacking . . . or absent entirely . . . . Morality can be viewed as determined by the society and culture in which one lives . . . . Immorality as it is defined in a modern context has no Roman equivalent . . . . Similar to immorality, there is no true equivalent for the Romans in regard to obscenity . . . . What was obscene and what was artistic expression encompassed a wide scope.

These pull quotations do not begin to stand in for the whole of Sharp’s work. His comprehensive scope and frank language offer a model of engaging research for all JMURJ readers.


Robert Sharp (’14), an international student from Wodonga, Australia, graduated from JMU with a History major and a Classical Studies minor. Sharp spends his free time reading books, watching movies, and bonding with his beloved cats.

Published: Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Last Updated: Wednesday, January 24, 2018

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