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"Robert Graves and the Twelve Caesars" by Gore Vidal

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  • Keith Armstrong
    Gibbon, in his stately way, mourned that of the twelve Caesars only Claudius was sexually regular. From the sexual opportunism of Julius Caesar to the sadism
    Message 1 of 2 , Oct 18, 2003
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      Gibbon, in his stately way, mourned that of the twelve Caesars only
      Claudius was sexually 'regular.' From the sexual opportunism of
      Julius Caesar to the sadism of Nero to the doddering pederasty of
      Galba, the sexual lives of the Caesars encompassed every aspect of
      what our post-medieval time has termed 'sexual abnormality.' It would
      be wrong, however, to dismiss, as so many commentators have, the wide
      variety of Caesarean sensuality as simply the viciousness of twelve
      abnormal men. They were, after all, a fairly representative lot. They
      differed from us - and their contemporaries - only in the fact of
      power, which made it possible for each to act out his most recondite
      sexual fantasies. this is the psychological fascination of Suetonius.
      What will men so place do? The answer, apparently, is anything and
      everything. Alfred Whitehead once remarked that one got the essence
      of a culture not by those things which were said at the time but by
      those things which were not said, the underlying assumptions of the
      society, too obvious to be stated. Now it is an underlying assumption
      of twentieth-century America that human beings are either
      heterosexual or, through some arresting of normal psychic growth,
      homosexual, with very little traffic back and forth. To us, the norm
      is heterosexual; the family is central; all else is deviation,
      pleasing or not depending on one's own tastes and moral
      preoccupations. Suetonius reveals a very different world. His
      underlying assumption is that man is bisexual and that given complete
      freedom to love - or, perhaps more to the point in the case of the
      Caesars, to violate - others, he will do so, going blithely from male
      to female as fancy dictates. Nor is Suetonius alone in this
      assumption of man's variousness. From Plato to the rise of Pauline
      Christianity, which tried to put the lid on sex, it is explicit in
      classical writing. Yet to this day Christian, Freudian and Marxian
      commentators have all decreed or ignored this fact of nature in the
      interest each of a patented approach to the Kingdom of Heaven. It is
      an odd experience for both a contemporary to read of Nero's
      simultaneous passion for both a man and a woman. Something seems
      wrong. It must be one or the other, not both. And yet this sexual
      eclecticism recurs again and again. And though some of the Caesars
      quite obviously preferred women to me (Augustus had a particular
      penchant for Nabokovian nymphets), their sexual crisscrossing is
      extraordinary in its lack of pattern. And one suspects that despite
      the stern moral legislation of our own time human beings are no
      different. If nothing else, Dr. Kinsey revealed in his dogged,
      arithmetical way that we are all a good less predictable and bland
      than anyone had suspected.

      more goto:

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