Unmanning an emperor: Otho in the literary tradition

Michael B. Charles, Eva Anagnostou-Laoutides

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5 Citations (Scopus)


Otho was made out to be another Nero in the literary tradition, to the extent that his actions were assimilated with those of the last Julio-Claudian. This includes a predilection for sexual passivity, with Apollonius of Tyana even describing him, in a highly rhetorical passage, as having been Galba's boy lover. Despite numerous ancient references to Otho's ostensible effeminacy, including his supposedly overzealous care of his person, accusations of sexual excess appear to be rooted in the general view of the rhetorical tyrant typified by Nero. Otho's real-life sexual preferences are clearly unrecoverable, so this inquiry focuses instead on the way in which his sexuality was depicted by those attempting to shape his reputation as a man unworthy of imperial office. In this study, we examine contemporary social and philosophical tenets underpinning ancient criticism of his alleged behavior.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)199-222
Number of pages24
JournalClassical Journal
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2014
Externally publishedYes


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