Paris Hilton

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Paris Hilton

Postby Primus Aurelius Timavus on Sun Sep 04, 2005 5:52 am

Who is the closest Roman equivalent to Paris Hilton: rich, beautiful (to many anyway), and apparently lacking any sexual mores/shame? Candidates please!
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Postby Quintus Pomponius Atticus on Sun Sep 04, 2005 9:48 am

Salve Tergeste,

Clodia (Catullus' 'Lesbia') or Claudius' wife Messalina immediately come to my mind.

Wikipedia wrote:As a widow, Clodia became known as a merry one. Around 60 BC, her favourite lover was the poet Gaius Valerius Catullus. Madly in love with her, Catullus wrote several poems about his feelings towards Lesbia, the name he gave her. From the poems, the reader can understand that the relationshop was not an exclusive one. Clodia maintained several other lovers, including Marcus Caelius Rufus, Catullus' friend. This particular affair would cause an immense scandal. After the relationship with Caelius was over in 56 BC, Clodia publicly accused him of attempted poisoning. The accusation led to a murder charge and trial. Caelius' defence lawyer was Cicero, who took a harsh approach against her, recorded in his speech Pro Caelio. Cicero had a personal interest in the case, as Publius Clodius was his bitterest political enemy. Among other things, Clodia was accused of being a seducer and a drunkard in Rome and in Baiae, as well as committing incest with her brother Publius. He declared her a disgrace to her family and nicknamed Clodia the Medea of the Palatine.


Wikipedia wrote:Her reputation is very poor. A number of Roman historians (mainly Tacitus and Suetonius) portray her as a cruel, avaricious, foolish nymphomaniac who had many wild affairs and once challenged a notorious Roman prostitute named Scylla to an all-night sex competition. (Scylla gave up at dawn, but Messalina continued well into the morning.) She duped Claudius and manipulated him into executing those who displeased or spurned her. She is also recorded as a lover of parties and festivities as well as an enthusiastic player of court politics who sold her influence to Roman nobles and foreign notables. Her name is now used as a synonym for others with her supposed vices.


Funny question by the way :wink:

Vale,

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Shameless hussies!

Postby Aldus Marius on Sun Sep 04, 2005 10:01 am

Salve, mi Tergeste...

The Agrippinas and Messalinas of the early Principate had that reputation, as did one or two of the most-junior Julias. And just about every account of an unpopular Emperor, even in the later Empire, includes something about his dissolute wife or daughters.

But shame was a more powerful thing back then; and unless you really were an Emperor's wife and needed fear no social consequences, you were probably concerned with upholding your personal and family honor (and the honor of your profession, if you worked...which many women did, as bakers and moneychangers and small-parts suppliers and everything else).

We moderns, with rare exceptions, have lost the capacity for shame; and since we have not developed any other effective means of social control, we're stuck with the criminal and civil law and the agencies that enforce them--in other words, imposed discipline, a poor echo of Roman pride and pietas, defined as respect for the Gods, one's ancestors, and one's traditions.

(Personally, I think Paris Hilton looks like a Nuclear Barbie doll and is a disgrace to her family. If I were paterfamilias or closest equivalent, I'd disown her radioactive behind. She could do what she wanted then, and glow any color she pleased...but not with my name on it.)

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Postby Gnaeus Dionysius Draco on Sun Sep 04, 2005 4:34 pm

Salve Tergeste,

Wonderful topic, haha.

I would also be tempted to say Messalina, but... there's a caveat, of course. Most Roman history, both during the Republic, the Empire and centuries after that up until the early 20th century, was men's business. Though one wouldn't say it today, the classics used to be the domain of macho men. Hence, contemporary criticisms of powerful women such as Cleopatra, Agrippina, Messalina, etc would always try to portray them as sexually deviant or generally depraved, and this was accepted without much modern criticism until now. Reading history as a gender conflict, one could say that ancient and exceptional women of power were feared by men because they threatened the social order they had constructed. Another example lies in the frequent accusation of Etruscans that they were sexually deviant and decadent, because women enjoyed equal status to men (at least in a part of Etruscan history, as they converged with the Romans they gradually seemed to have assumed their habits).

Probably each Rome had its overexposed upper-class celebrity, but actually I think not many of them survived in written records. If our civilisation ends, I doubt that there will be scholarly research into the life of Paris Hilton in 2000 years. Unless she gains political power or produces artefacts that will survive the ages (well, maybe her silicon implants will survive the ages, but that's a matter of archaeology).

Optime vale;
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Postby Primus Aurelius Timavus on Sun Sep 04, 2005 6:10 pm

Mari,

To compare Paris to Barbie is to insult Barbie, who, despite her prodigious proportions, seems to have been faithful to Ken.

Otherwise I agree with your posting. We in the modern West seem to have to legislate everything that used to be governed by shame or at least by good manners. I'm not a smoker, but I don't have a problem with smokers provided they ask others in the company, "Do you mind if I smoke". Unfortunately, few do.

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Postby Quintus Pomponius Atticus on Sun Sep 04, 2005 6:24 pm

Salve Tergeste,

This essay by the English philosopher Roger Scruton might interest you. It is provokingly titled "Bring back stigma".

http://www.city-journal.org/html/10_4_bring_back_stigma.html

Vale,

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Postby Primus Aurelius Timavus on Sun Sep 04, 2005 6:28 pm

Draco,

Cut the political correctness already! The ancients were not shy of describing disreputable male behavior. Yet you want to accept the historical fact of Julius Caesar's or Alexander's prolifigate behavior but say that Messalina wasn't a slut because history was written by macho men. Sheesh! Talk about a double standard distorting history.

Anyways, you did us the service of adding Cleopatra to the list of dissolute women, and I think that she would be a strong candidate for the person of whom Paris is the reincarnation. Except that Cleopatra was smart.

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Postby Quintus Pomponius Atticus on Sun Sep 04, 2005 8:05 pm

Primus Aurelius Tergestus wrote:Cut the political correctness already! The ancients were not shy of describing disreputable male behavior. Yet you want to accept the historical fact of Julius Caesar's or Alexander's prolifigate behavior but say that Messalina wasn't a slut because history was written by macho men. Sheesh! Talk about a double standard distorting history.


Yes, mi Tergeste, Caesar and others were criticized for their sexual excesses, but what was described by the Romans as "disreputable male behavior" in sexual matters was precisely behavior that transgressed established gender (and social) roles, thus indirectly threatening the hierarchial social order.

A man taking the active, dominant role in a homosexual relationship ('the penetrator', to put it crudely) with a person of inferior social standing (i.e. a slave) would not be publicly criticised for that act, while a man who took the passive 'penetrated' role, or who behaved in an effeminate way was socially stigmatized; not because homosexuality was a 'sin', but because he transgressed the boundaries of the conduct that was expected from a male aristocrat, boundaries that had to be constantly 'defended' (1).

As C.A. Williams notes, referring to Galba's sexual habits : "Galba’s fondness for mature men seems to have caused no eyebrows to rise, presumably because he was observing the two basic protocols of masculine sexual comportment : maintaining the appearance of an appropriately dominating stance with his partners and keeping himself to his own slaves and to prostitutes’. (2)"

Now, let us look at Suetonius' testimonia of Caesar's sexual extravagances, which you take as an example in your argument.

"He [Caesar] was something of a dandy, always keeping his head carefully trimmed and shaved; and has been accused of having certain other hairy parts of his body depilated with tweezers" (Suet., Div. Iul., 45)

"The only specific charge of unnatural practices ever brought against him [Caesar] was that he had been King Nicomedes' catamite - always a dark stain on his reputation and frequently quoted by his enemies. Licinius Calvus published the notorious verses : The riches of Bithynia's King, who Caesar on his couch abused". (Suet., Div. Iul., 49)

What we see here is precisely a transgression of 'the two basic protocols of masculine sexual comportment' Williams mentioned : Caesar was criticized for dressing and behaving effeminately and for taking the role of the passive 'amatus', instead of the active 'amator' (contrary to what seems to appear from the translation, Caesar is the object - and quite literally so - in Calvus' verse, as the Latin reveals : "Bithynia quicquid et pedicator Caesaris umquam habuit.")

I hope this analysis has helped to support Draco's view, which I think points out the situation well.

Vale optime !

Notes :

(1) Cf. M.W. Gleason, 'Elite Male Identity in the Roman Empire, in : D.S. Potter & D.J. Mattingly' in : Life Death and Entertainment in the Roman Empire, University of Michigan Press, 1999, p. 67 : "The cultural reproduction of social superiority (male over female, aristocrat over commoner) is a project that presents a double face to the world, representing itself as natural and inevitable to outsiders, but stressing to insiders the importance of nurture and the vulnerability of the entire project to lapses of taste and self-control"

(2) C.A. Williams, Roman homosexuality: ideologies of masculinity in classical Antiquity, New York 1999, p. 81
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Postby Primus Aurelius Timavus on Sun Sep 04, 2005 8:48 pm

Attice,

Thank you for your scholarly and enlightening response. To tell the truth, I was merely trying to stir up some controversy and lively posting with my reply to Draco. I guess I should have expected something as well thought out as your missive from the SVR membership.

I maintain, however, that your arguments do not contradict my point: modern scholars accept at face value accounts of male sexual misbehavior (and I'm not talking about buggery- on either end- but something like Caesar's affair with Cleopatra) while dismissing accounts about Messallina and other women. It seems that Classical scholarship has allowed itself to be influenced by fashion, in this case political correctness. But then it has always been thus.
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Postby Primus Aurelius Timavus on Sun Sep 04, 2005 8:53 pm

Any more candidates? I plan to set up a poll in which we can vote for the woman who was most likely reincarnated as Paris Hilton. Once the results are in, I will take it upon myself to inform Miss Hilton, or at least her fans, through a posting at the relevant web site.

"Paris Hilton Sex Video"

I just wanted to put that in so that more people searching on Google find SVR. Most will hit the "back" key hurriedly and in disappointment, but if only a small percentage of the millions of searchers are intrigued by SVR, we may end up with tens of thousands of new members!

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Postby Quintus Pomponius Atticus on Sun Sep 04, 2005 9:50 pm

Primus Aurelius Tergestus wrote:Any more candidates? I plan to set up a poll in which we can vote for the woman who was most likely reincarnated as Paris Hilton. Once the results are in, I will take it upon myself to inform Miss Hilton, or at least her fans, through a posting at the relevant web site.

"Paris Hilton Sex Video"

I just wanted to put that in so that more people searching on Google find SVR. Most will hit the "back" key hurriedly and in disappointment, but if only a small percentage of the millions of searchers are intrigued by SVR, we may end up with tens of thousands of new members!

Tergestus


:lol: :lol: :lol:
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Postby Quintus Pomponius Atticus on Sun Sep 04, 2005 11:46 pm

Primus Aurelius Tergestus wrote:Attice,

Thank you for your scholarly and enlightening response. To tell the truth, I was merely trying to stir up some controversy and lively posting with my reply to Draco. I guess I should have expected something as well thought out as your missive from the SVR membership.

I maintain, however, that your arguments do not contradict my point: modern scholars accept at face value accounts of male sexual misbehavior (and I'm not talking about buggery- on either end- but something like Caesar's affair with Cleopatra) while dismissing accounts about Messallina and other women. It seems that Classical scholarship has allowed itself to be influenced by fashion, in this case political correctness. But then it has always been thus.


Thank you for the compliments on my bit of scholarship, though I must say I had the references at hand for another study (my masters' dissertation) :)

I think you're right that classical studies have always been influenced by the political ideas of their age; an interesting illustration of that is M. Finley's erudite "Ancient Slavery and Modern Ideology".

It might be interesting to study the outlook on "Roman decadence" throughout the ages in the same way. Now there's a topic for another dissertation :wink:

Vale,

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Postby Tiberius Dionysius Draco on Mon Sep 05, 2005 12:06 pm

Salvete Romani,

wonderful topic, hehe.

Anyway, one of the women that sprung to my mind was Popaea. However I don't know that much about her so I'm not sure if she belongs in your list Tergeste.

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Postby Primus Aurelius Timavus on Mon Sep 05, 2005 2:50 pm

Poppaea the second wife of Nero is added to the list of candidates.

Now to the polls!
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Postby Gnaeus Dionysius Draco on Sat Sep 17, 2005 1:11 pm

Salve Tergeste,

Sorry for the long wait for my reply.

Who knows me personally will see that I am far from being politically correct. In fact, I've often been misunderstood because of it. I sometimes use gross statements for shock effect, and more than once people think I really mean it.

Of course you are right that we shouldn't be taking things about male sexuality in Rome at face value as well. I think many of these stories are exaggerated, too. On the other hand, historically it has been known for the upper strata in society to set themselves apart from the lower classes not only by material signs, but also by their sexual behaviour. The ideal of courtly love in the Middle Ages, for instance, was typically a trait of the upper class. So some forms of sexuality which might have been considered deviant by the common Roman, were accepted as fairly normal among isolated nobles?

Vale!
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