Roman buggery

Roman buggery

The Romans, like the Greeks, loved buggery, and here we see buggery in progress as revealed in the Warren cup, now  in  the British Museum.


The man underneath is inserting his penis up the arse of the boy on top who is holding on to a supporting rope so as to not squash his lover underneath. (Double-click on this photo to see it in detail).

As you can see,  the underneath figure is bearded and wearing a laurel wreath, which suggests that he is at the height of his sexual prowess, probably in his early 20s. The boy on top is not bearded, showing that he has not yet grown to puberty, so he does not have a beard and is thus probably 12 to 14 years old. This was the usual fashionable age for buggery in the Greek world. If you were a feisty and sexy 12 year-old, you would, if you are lucky,  find a nice youth of 20 who will bugger you and look after you.

Note on the extreme right there appears to be a figure looking round an open door. Nobody has provided a satisfactory explanation for this. Is he perhaps a slave or servant who is peeping round to see that his master’s buggery is going satisfactorily?




On the other side of the cup is another scene of buggery. One rather feels that the figure in the foreground with the lissom figure and what appears to us to be a feminine hairstyle, with the hair tied up in a bun, should be a girl,  but clearly he has a penis and is lying in the lap of the youth behind him who is buggering him.

The youth behind has a wreath round his head but does not appear to be bearded,  but one assumes that he is the usual 20-year-old. But the teenager in the foreground is quite nonchalant about the whole business, and clearly enjoys  having a penis up his arse – it’s absolutely normal, and very nice, thank you. .

This silver cup is one of the treasures of the British Museum where it draws a lot of attention. It is known as the Warren cup after its first owner, Edward Warren who purchased it in 1911 from a dealer: it was said to come from near Jerusalem and had been found with coins of Claudius (AD 41 – 54 ). In the 1950s it was offered to the British Museum who turned it down , and it was refused entry to America because of its obscenity. Then in the 1990s it was put on the market again and was going to be sold to America but the export was prevented and the British Museum raised £1.8 million to buy it. Today it is one of their prize exhibits alongside the Portland vase in the Greco- Roman galleries.

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