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Ancient Rome and the Construction of Modern Homosexual Identities$
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Jennifer Ingleheart

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780199689729

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2015

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199689729.001.0001

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Roman Receptions/Receptions of Rome

Roman Receptions/Receptions of Rome

Walter Pater’s Marius the Epicurean

(p.126) 6 Roman Receptions/Receptions of Rome
Ancient Rome and the Construction of Modern Homosexual Identities

Daniel Orrells

Oxford University Press

Many in the Victorian period turned back to ancient Greece to understand their desires and identities—an attractive strategy because Greece provided a set of tools for life that predated Christian ethics. Walter Pater’s 1885 novel Marius the Epicurean is unusual in seeking to work out how a young man who loved other men might combine pagan aesthetics with Christian morality. Whereas the turn to Greece obviated this difficult issue, when Pater turned to Second Sophistic Rome, a melting pot of religious beliefs and cultural practices, he addressed this problem head-on for his 1885 audience, who themselves lived in a morally complex urban, imperial world. This chapter discusses Pater’s novel in the context of competing ideas and discourses about Rome, Orientalism, sentiment and sentimentalism, imperial power, identity and identification, and Christianity.

Keywords:   Victorian period, Christianity, Walter Pater, Second Sophistic, aesthetics, pagan, sentimentalism, Orientalism

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