History: The Lost Gays of Pompeii

April 9, 2017 in General

As the ancient Roman city of Pompeii perished around them as Mount Vesuvius erupted in CE 79, two figures embraced for one last time as molten rock and ash rained down, holding each other as they perished – together. Nearly 2,000 years after the pair died in each other’s arms as the still-active Italian volcano destroyed the Roman cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum, it has been discovered that both of the bodies were male. The two victims were previously thought to be women and described as ‘The Two Maidens’. Could they have been romantically – as well as physically – entwined? Recent examination of the bodies themselves seems to validate this view, with one of the men frozen in time as he rests his head on the other’s chest, seeking comfort as the end neared.
Dental and skeletal analysis has revealed that the victims, who were 18 and 20 years old when they were killed, were not related.

Massimo Osanna, director-general of the world-famous archaeological site, told the UK Daily Telegraph:
“Pompeii never ceases to amaze. We always imagined that it was an embrace between women. But a CAT scan and DNA have revealed that they are men. You can’t say for sure that the two were lovers. But considering their position, you can make that hypothesis. It is difficult to say with certainty.”

Professor Stefano Vanacore, head of the current Pompeii archaeological excavation and research team, said it would of course never be known for sure what the relationship was between the two men:
“When this discovery was made, that they were not two young girls. some scholars suggested there could have been an emotional connection between the pair. ut we are talking about hypotheses that can never be verified. What is certain is that the two parties were not relatives, neither brothers, nor a father and son.”

The discovery came after two years of contemporary archaeological restoration of human remains within the buried city, working together to investigate and preserve 86 bodies which are still intact two millennia after the historic tragedy which engulfed Pompeii and Herculaneum.

In the nineteenth century, these bodies were injected with plaster in what was then a pionering procedure which preserved their remains from decomposing. The two men were found in the House of the Cryptoporticus during excavations at Pompeii’s World Heritage site early last century. Pompeii seems to have a liberal local sexual culture, with multiple depictions of penises and sexual acts represented in statues and wall paintings. However, due to intervening centuries of puritanism, that part of the history has been repeatedly covered up by conservative government and academic authorities beforehand. The Secret Museum in Naples holds much of the more suggestive and explicit artwork from Pompeii, was only reopened to the public in 2000.


Josh Jackman: “Famous embracing pair at Pompeii could have been gay lovers” Pinknews: 08.04.2017: http://www.pinknews.co.uk/2017/04/08/famous-embracing-pair-at-pompeii-could-have-been-gay-lovers/

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