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The A to Z of Sexual History: R - Roman Emperors

Of all the perverse and viciously insane rulers of history, Roman Emperors seemed to have enjoyed the most psychotic horseplay, raping their relatives, fucking children, debasing milk and honey and fish and horses and corpses. Being a Roman Emperor was an excuse for unbridled sexual imagination and with a near limitless supply of slaves to abuse, fantasy really could nearly always become reality.

I am particularly fond of Empress Theodora, a woman who, according to the scholar Procopius, would order 30 slaves at a time to make sure she fucked properly and despite putting, “all three of her bodily apertures into service,” lamented not having a fourth or fifth to be filled.


Romans loved smutty gossip and documented it endlessly, although Christ knows how into fact checking they were, so  it may all be bullshit. Still, the world would be a better place if these stories could be proven.

These are my favourite Emperors ever.

Caligula – AD 37 to AD 41
Although he started out well, he sunk to such depths of perversity it is assumed he must have had neurosyphilis. His three sisters – Agrippina the Younger, Drusilla and Livilla – were all regularly raped. First century historian Suetonius wrote, “He lived in habitual incest with all his sisters, and at a large banquet he placed each of them in turn below him, while his wife reclined above.” When they pissed him off, he set-up tents and a ticket system so all of Rome who fancied it could rape them over the course of a week. This punishment excluded Drusilla though, who he adored and would later marry (after he killed her husband, who, coincidentally, Crazy-ligula was also screwing). He used to ride around Rome with his sister-bride, "masturbating with one hand and hurling gold coins into the crowds with the other”.

Nero – AD 54 to AD 68
Caligula’s nephew was an emperor at 16-years-old and lost his virginity to his mum, which is a pretty strong recipe for madness. Rumour had it that, “whenever he rode in a litter with his mother, he had incestuous relations with her, which were betrayed by the stains on his clothing.” When she got in the way of his further mistresses, he had her murdered. He also executed his first wife Octavia so he could marry his second Poppaea, who he kicked to death to prevent her from having another child. His most famous move though, was marrying his two homosexual lovers. The first, Sporus, he castrated, and married with all the usual ceremonies, including a dowry and a bridal veil. While Sporus was his wife, the second, Pythagoras, was his husband and on their wedding night Nero was heard to “imitate the cries and lamentations of a maiden being deflowered”. My favourite Nero pastime was wearing the skin of a lion and bursting from a cage to attack the genitals of men and women tied to stakes.


Tiberius – AD 14 to AD 37
In the later days of his reign, Tiberius retired to Capri to indulge in his favourite hobby, sprintriae – groups of young boys. The walls of his bedrooms at Capri were said to be decorated with pornography, “in case a performer should need an illustration of what [is] required”. He was said to put, “unweaned babies… to his organ as though to the breast”, and had trained boys called tiddlers almost permanently between his legs on “tiddling” duty.

Elagabalus – 218 to 222
He came to the throne at 14 and in his four year reign went through five wives, including a Vestal Virgin (whose price for breaking her vow of chastity is to be buried alive). A true decadent eccentric, he was a confirmed transvestite and not only dressed as a woman, but asked surgeons to cut a vagina into his body. After marrying his slave Hierocles, he would insist on being beaten as if he was a real wife. He also would act as a prostitute in the imperial palace and “send out agents to search for those who [have] particularly large organs and bring them to the palace in order that he might enjoy their vigour”.