By Samuel Leighton-Dore

Oh for fuck’s sake. 

Over the weekend tens of thousands of Italians took to the streets of Rome in protest of a legislation introduced to parliament last week. If passed, the controversial new bill would see legal recognition and rights for same-sex couples.

You know, pretty standard 21st Century stuff.

“We want the whole law to be withdrawn, no ifs and no buts,” said one of the protest organisers, Simone Pillon.

“We cannot let children pay for the desires or caprices of adults. Children need to have a father and a mother,” Pillon continued, likely referring to the proposed adoption rights included in the highly contested legislation.

This whole ordeal is obviously disappointing to hear, particularly given the political and sexual liberty of these angry conservatives’ Ancient Roman ancestors.


How a society manages to socially regress over the course of 2,800 years is anyone’s guess. Back then (we’re talking like 800 BC) the Latin language didn’t even have words to describe “gay” or “straight” and naked men were commonly engraved into fabulous bronze drinking goblets, locked in sexual embrace. 

It wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows though.

Well, at least not for the bottoms.

Rather than being categorised based on sexual orientation, historians believe that Ancient Romans worked with the binary models of “penetrator-penetrated”. Men took great pride in their sexual conquests, regardless of whether they were sticking their dick into a man or woman. On the subject of sex, gender quite simply wasn’t all that relevant, just as it shouldn’t be now.

Yes, there was also a less-than-perfect culture of coercing sex with minors (“puer delicatu” referred to a dainty child boy-toy) but that’s another article in itself.

Okay. Back to the positives. Interestingly, there are many modern-day scholars who still believe that male-male marriages occurred frequently in the early Imperial period, enjoying the same freedom and rights as their male-female counterparts. 

So, you’re probably wondering, what the fuck changed?

Well, the whole Jesus thing happened, which was a bit of a big deal for Romans. In fact, it wasn’t until the empire became Christianized in the 4th century that legal prohibitions against marriage between men began to appear. Soon enough, “anally passive men” we’re being punished by burning under the Christian Empire. 

Nice one, J-Christ. 

These days Italy is the last major country in Western Europe that has not offered rights or recognition to same-sex couples, leading to regular criticism by the European Court of Justice. This is largely due to the ongoing influence of the Roman Catholic Church, with Pope Francis last week reinstating his firm belief that the “traditional” family (AD tradition, not BC tradition obvi) is the one God wants.

Despite a reported 70% of Italians supporting legal rights for same-sex couples, it seems the tanned legends who brought us pizza, gelato and pasta still have quite a way to go on the equality front.

In the meantime, it might be time to reconsider what it means to say, “When in Rome…”

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