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MALE SLAVE SEXUALITY AND THE ABSENCE OF MORAL PANIC IN CLASSICAL ATHENS

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Abstract

A puzzling feature of slavery in Classical Athenian literature is the lack of attention paid to the sexuality of male slaves or ex-slaves. It is not that they are never depicted as sexual beings, but Athenian writers display much more interest in the sexuality of female than of male slaves, and even where the latter are presented in sexual terms, there is little sense that this might pose a threat to free-born women. To reduce the danger of using sources as proof-texts and ignoring the significance of literary genre, this paper is structured around an analysis of male slave sexuality in Old Comedy, more briefly New Comedy, and Oratory, with comparisons from other texts where appropriate. An extended conclusion explores possible explanations, focusing on differences between classical Athenian and modern US slavery.

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