Pagan Pornotopias?

The Reception of Antiquity in Eroticism and Pornography

Madrid, 27.-29 September 2023


 Carmelo Gómez 1

© Carmelo Blázquez


The eighth conference of the Imagines group, which will take place at the Universidad Autónoma de Madrid (Spain) on September 27th-29th, 2023, will be dedicated to the reception of ancient cultures, especially Greece and Rome, in eroticism and pornography from the 19th century to the present. Consistently with the main research aim of the Imagines group (, the focus will be on the reception of the ancient world in visual and performative erotic and pornographic productions (a discussion at theoretical level of characters of and differences between eroticism and pornography is also welcome, within the conference’s main topic, the reception of Antiquity).

It has been recently pointed out that ancient Rome indeed can be defined in the modern Western popular culture as a “pornotopia”, in which the most diverse and deviant form of sexual practice and desire can be located. An important aspect of this eroticised characterisation of ancient Rome is its implicit opposition to Christian morality (and sexual repression), which derives from the narratives of Christian chastity and martyrdom that have been so widespread and relevant in Western cultural memory since the Middle Ages. Yet this is not the only reason that has fostered a markedly erotic relationship between the modern times and the ancient world. At the same time, indeed, ancient Greece has played a crucial role in constructing and legitimating same-sex attraction – and Plato (and in particular Aristophanes’ speech in the Symposium) has been deployed since the 19th century to provide the – particularly male – gay community with a legitimating narrative within the frame of European philhellenism. As formulated in 1961 by ONE magazine for example, “almost the first thing that any [male] homosexual does, when called upon to offer any serious defense of homosexuality, is to draw upon the glorious example of the manly Greek warriors and athletes who apparently practiced homosexual love openly and without shame”. Similarly, ancient historical or mythological figures such as Sappho or the Amazons have been deployed to shape and legitimise female homosexual identity. Other ancient peoples – the Persians, the Egyptians, the Etruscans, just to name some examples – have been portrayed since Antiquity and through typical mechanisms of Othering as sexually deviant from the assumed “norm”; this has also filtered into modern receptions, which often replicate, translate and modify the Orientalist stereotypes already widespread in the ancient world (one can think of the representation of the Persians as “sexually deviant” in the blockbusters 300 and 300: Rise of an Empire).

The aim of this conference is to investigate the role played by the ancient world in shaping erotic and pornographic representations, and thus in representing and structuring attraction and desire. This analysis will help in understanding how references to Antiquity play, at a more or less conscious level, a crucial role in defining, stereotyping, constructing in discourse and legitimating sexual identities, sexual orientations, gender belonging and performance.

Confirmed speakers include, together with the organisers and editors of the volume, Luis Unceta Gómez (UAM) and Filippo Carlà-Uhink (Universität Potsdam): Anastasia Bakogianni (Massey University), Alastair Blanshard (The University of Queensland), Thomas Jenkins (Trinity University), Athena Leoussi (University of Reading), Martin Lindner (Universität Göttingen), Anise K. Strong (Western Michigan University).

See conference programme and abstracts.

The conference programme will also include a meeting and public discussion with Carmelo Blázquez, an internationally renowned photographer specializing in male nude photography (




Díptico 1


Díptico 2

© Carmelo Blázquez