Roman emperor

From BoyWiki

The Roman emperors were the rulers of the Roman state during the imperial period, conventionally considered to have started when the Roman Senate gave Octavian the titles Augustus and Princeps Senatus in 27 BC, and to have ended when the empire in the west finally fell in AD 476. Despite their initially similar titles, the later emperors in the east are generally termed Byzantine rather than Roman.

Officially, the Roman Empire remained always a republic. The English word emperor derives from imperator, meaning a military commander, but this was only one of several titles the Senate accorded the man who unofficially exercised almost absolute power, and not one limited to holders of that position.

For two reasons, the lives of the Roman emperors offer possibly unrivalled insight into how many men took a sexual interest in boys in societies with reasonably neutral attitudes towards boylove. First, Roman society accepted boylove as well as heterosexuality as legitimate and normal without having the idealistic bias towards it that the ancient Greeks had. The principal caveat to this is that, unlike in Greek society, it was unacceptable for a freeborn male to take on a passive sexual role, so men could only hope for sex with slave-boys without meeting public disapproval. Secondly, the private lives of the early Roman emperors are mostly well-documented, so they offer themselves to the historian of sex as a usable sample of men defined by rank rather than sexual proclivity.

The definition of emperor used in the following brief survey of imperial Roman pederasty is bestowal by the Senate of the title Augustus. Two in the following list, Lucius Verus and Diadumenian, bore the title at the same time as another who wielded the real power, but they are included to ensure the selection is objective.

The first twenty-six emperors listed here by their conventional short names in English were:

  • Augustus (63 BC - AD 14), attested to have been sexually active with females [1] and boys [2] [3], without indication of preference.
  • Tiberius (42 BC - AD 37), whose first wife was apparently his only love, but was described in old age as sexually debauched with boys and girls without indication of preference [4].
  • Caligula (AD 12 – 41), whose only loves were (incestuously) his sister Drusilla and then his wife [5], but indulged “in lust after boys and women.” [6].
  • Claudius (10 BC – AD 54), of whom it was considered worthy of remark that he was “very excessively passionate for females, entirely uninvolved with males.” [7]
  • Nero (AD 37 – 68), who indulged his lust for women, boys and men, the latter together with his general lack of restraint provoking ridicule. [8] [9]
  • Galba (3 BC – AD 69), “more inclined to desire for males, and in gratifying it preferred the tough and full-grown.” [10]
  • Otho (AD 32 – 69), enamoured of both his wife [11] and his predecessor Nero's gelded catamite Sporus. [12]
  • Vitellius (AD 15 – 69), twice married with children, but also “debauched into mutual lust” with Asiaticus, an “adulescentulum” (early adolescent boy), who returned as his freedman to become his dominant advisor during his brief reign. [13]
  • Vespasian (AD 9 – 79), only recorded as sexually involved with women [14]
  • Titus (AD 39 – 81), who enjoyed a troop of catamites and eunuchs, as well as entanglements with women. [15] [16]
  • Domitian (AD 51 – 96), “most profligate and lewd towards women and boys alike,” [17]; the poet Martial celebrated the beauty of his boy favourites in three of his epigrams [18].
  • Nerva (AD 30 – 98), rumoured to have debauched his predecessor Domitian during the latter’s pubescence, though the context suggests this could be a calumny of Domitian [19]. This is anyway the only romantic entanglement recorded for Nerva, whose private life is so obscure that it is not even known if he married.
  • Trajan (AD 53 – 117), happily but childlessly married, was only interested in boys, so far as is recorded [20] [21], and was most obviously of all the Roman Emperors a boylover.
  • Hadrian (AD 76 – 138), though active with women too, was far better known for his love affairs with boys, most notably Antinous. After seven years as the imperial beloved, Antinous drowned in the Nile, aged 19 [22], whereupon his lover proclaimed him a god, built temples to him and founded a city in his name.[23] [24] [25]
  • Antoninus Pius (AD 86 – 161) overcame “all passion for meirakion (adolescent boys).” [26]
  • Marcus Aurelius (121-180), a Stoic philosopher, listed among the good examples his predecessor had given him “that he had overcome all passion for meirakion (adolescent boys). [27]
  • Lucius Verus (130 – 169), whose “name was smirched not only by the licence of an unbridled life, but also by adulteries and by love-affairs with youths.” [28]
  • Commodus (161 – 192) had three hundred pubescent catamites besides the same number of concubines living with him. [29]
  • Pertinax (126 – 193), who besides having a wife and mistress, brought back his predecessor’s catamites to minister to his pleasures. [30]
  • Julius Didius (133 or 137 – 193), a brief and obscure Emperor of whose sexual life nothing can be inferred beyond his having fathered a daughter.
  • Septimus Severus (145 – 211), said to have had a boy beloved [31], as well as two wives [32].
  • Caracalla (188 – 217) “dishonoured women and sexually outraged boys.” [33]
  • Geta (189-211) “dishonoured women and sexually outraged boys” [34]
  • Macrinus (ca. 165 – 218), of whose sexual life nothing is known other than that he fathered a child on his wife, and the claim reported as doubtful that he had been a “public prostitute” in his youth. [35]
  • Diadumenian (208 - 218), killed aged nine and without known sexual experience, despite “his mouth designed for a kiss” and being “beloved of all because of his beauty.” [36]
  • Elagabalus (203 or 204 – 222), a boy himself who included “catamites” in his varied erotic antics, but is better known for the outrage he provoked by assuming the passive role with men publicly sought out for their large organs. [37] [38] [39]

Following the overthrow and murder of Elagabalus, there was a puritanical reaction against his sexual profligacy. His successor Alexander Severus, who “was temperate in the enjoyment of love and would have nothing to do with catamites” made special provisions regarding the taxation of boy prostitutes and considered prohibiting them, which was actually done by the Emperor Philip “the Arab” two decades later [40]. Attitudes to homosexuality thereafter continued to deteriorate and, especially after the rise of Christianity in the following century, it was repressed with increasingly brutal legislation.


  1. C. Suetonius Tranquillus, Divus Augustus LXII-LXIII, LXIX & LXXI,
  2. Plutarch, Life of Antony 59
  3. Sextus Aurelius Victor, Epitome de Caesaribus I 22
  4. C. Suetonius Tranquillus, Tiberius VII 3 & XLIII-XLIV,
  5. C. Suetonius Tranquillus, Caligula XXIV 2 & XXV 3,
  6. Philo of Alexandria, On the Embassy to Gaius 2
  7. C. Suetonius Tranquillus, Divus Claudius XXXIII 2,
  8. Cassius Dio, Roman History LXI.10, LXII.28 & LXIII.13],
  9. C. Suetonius Tranquillus, Nero XXVIII,
  10. C. Suetonius Tranquillus, Galba XXII,
  11. C. Suetonius Tranquillus, Otho III,
  12. Cassius Dio, Roman History LXIV.8
  13. C. Suetonius Tranquillus, Vitellius III & VI,
  14. C. Suetonius Tranquillus, Divus Vespasianus III & XXII,
  15. C. Suetonius Tranquillus, Divus Titus VII 1,
  16. P. Cornelius Tacitus, Histories II 2
  17. Cassius Dio, Roman History LXVII.6
  18. M. Valerius Martialis, Epigrammata IX 16,36 & 56
  19. C. Suetonius Tranquillus, Domitianus I,
  20. Cassius Dio, Roman History LXVIII 7 & 21
  21. Scriptores Historiae Augustae, Hadrianus II
  22. Royston Lambert, Beloved and God: The Story of Hadrian and Antinous, 1984
  23. Scriptores Historiae Augustae, Hadrianus XI & XIII
  24. Cassius Dio, Roman History LXIX 11
  25. Eusebius Sophronius Hieronymus (St. Jerome), Interpr. Chronicon Eusebius, years CCXXIV & CCXXVII
  26. M. Aurelius Antoninus Augustus, Meditations I 16
  27. M. Aurelius Antoninus Augustus, Meditations I 16
  28. Scriptores Historiae Augustae, Lucius Verus 4
  29. Scriptores Historiae Augustae, Commodus Antoninus V 4)
  30. Scriptores Historiae Augustae, Pertinax 7 & 13
  31. Herodianus of Syria, History of the Roman Empire from the Death of Marcus Aurelius III.10
  32. Scriptores Historiae Augustae, Septimus Severus III
  33. Cassius Dio, Roman History LXXXVII.7
  34. Cassius Dio, Roman History LXXXVII.7
  35. Scriptores Historiae Augustae, Macrinus IV 2
  36. Scriptores Historiae Augustae, Diadumenianus III 2
  37. Scriptores Historiae Augustae, Elagabalus 5-6, 10 & 31
  38. Cassius Dio, Roman History LXXX.9, 13 & 24
  39. Herodianus of Syria, History of the Roman Empire from the Death of Marcus Aurelius V.6
  40. Scriptores Historiae Augustae, Alexander Severus XXIV 3-4 & XXXIX 2