spacer spacer spacer
yalealumnimagazine.com   about the Yale Alumni Magazine   classified & display advertising   back issues 1992-present   our blogs   The Yale Classifieds   yam@yale.edu   support us


The Yale Alumni Magazine is owned and operated by Yale Alumni Publications, Inc., a nonprofit corporation independent of Yale University.

The content of the magazine and its website is the responsibility of the editors and does not necessarily reflect the views of Yale or its officers.


Comment on this article

Inside the Blue Book
R-Rated Rome

CLCV 222a: Roman Scandals: Representations and Receptions of Rome
Faculty: Susanna Morton Braund, Professor of Classics

As if its title weren’t enticing enough, “Roman Scandals” also comes with a warning label: “This course involves study of explicit sexual material, visual and textual. If you are likely to be offended by this, you are advised not to select this course.”

The brave students who sign up compare modern and ancient representations of Roman morality and immorality. Professor Susanna Morton Braund got the idea for the course from a 1933 Eddie Cantor movie, Roman Scandals. Cantor’s character gets transported from West Rome, Oklahoma, to ancient Rome, only to find the two cities more alike than different. “This movie clearly assimilates modern life with Roman antiquity,” says Braund, “while other sources tend to dissimilate the two.”


Morals are explored in relation to ruins, decadence, orgies, feasts, and sex.

Braund draws upon 18th-century literature, 19th-century art, and 20th-century film, comparing their views of Rome to ancient texts. Morals are explored in relation to ruins, decadence, orgies, feasts, and sex. The last topic is studied in regard to the Victorian penchant for painting Roman scenes with naked bodies (such as in Jean Leon Gerome’s A Roman Slave Market, in which a beautiful slave is subjected to the gaze of rich Romans). Rome gave the Victorians a form of escapism, in that it allowed people to publicly view and admire nudes. On the flip side, artists could condemn contemporary forms of decadence from the less didactic vantage point of a different time and place.

For their term papers, students choose a topic not discussed in the course. “In representations of Rome, some bits are true. Other bits are there because of a moral agenda,” says Braund. “I want students to come away from the course having learned how to treat sources cautiously.”  the end


©1992–2012, Yale Alumni Publications, Inc. All rights reserved.

Yale Alumni Magazine, P.O. Box 1905, New Haven, CT 06509-1905, USA. yam@yale.edu