AskDefine | Define pathic

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From pathicus, from παθικος italbrac pathikos, from the same source as παθος italbrac pathos, “suffering, feeling”, related to πασχειν italbrac paskhein, “suffer” and πενθος italbrac penthos “grief”.


  • /'pæθɪk/


  1. The passive male partner in anal intercourse.
    • 1959: William Burroughs, Naked Lunch
      And enough of these gooey saints with a look of pathic dismay as if they getting fucked up the ass and try not to pay any mind.
    • 1975: Robertson Davies, World of Wonders
      But in those days I was Paul Dempster, who had been made to forget it and take a name from the side of a barn, and be the pathic of a perverted drug-taker.
    • 1976: Robert Nye, Falstaff
      Clermont (known to his friends as Cordelia) was a nancy, a pathic, a male varlet, a masculine whore.

Related terms

Extensive Definition

Sexuality in ancient Rome generally lacked the modern categories of "heterosexual" or "homosexual." Instead, the differentiating characteristic was activity versus passivity, or penetrating versus penetrated.

Male sexuality

Romans thought that men should be the active participant in all forms of sexual activity. Male passivity symbolized a loss of manliness, the most prized Roman virtue. This is in stark contrast to the Pederasty in ancient Greece, in which young boys became men through relations with adult males. It was socially and legally acceptable for Roman men to have sex with both female and male prostitutes as well as young slaves, as long as the Roman man was the active partner. Laws such as the Lex Scantina, Lex Iulia, and Lex Iulia de vi publica regulated against homosexual love between free men and boys, but these laws were frequently violated and rarely enforced, with men performing the passive role and vice versa. If the laws were ever enforced, the partner punished would be the passive male, not the active male. A man who liked to be penetrated was called "pathic", roughly translated as "bottom" in modern sex terminology, and was considered to be weak and feminine.

Female sexuality

Women were not granted freedom of sexuality. Men considered female homosexuality disgusting and dangerous. A woman who wanted to be an active partner in intercourse was a "tribade" (the meaning of which has now changed).

Literature and homosexuality

Few accounts of love between women exist through the eyes of women, so we only know the viewpoint of Roman men. Multiple ancient Roman authors wrote about love affairs between men, including Catullus, Tibullus, Propertius, Lucretius, Virgil, Horace, and Ovid. Catullus wrote of his love for the young man Juventius, while Tibullus dedicated two elegies to his lover Marathus and wrote particularly about how devastated he was that Marathus had left him for a woman.

Further reading

  • Adams, J. N. The Latin Sexual Vocabulary, 1982, ISBN 0-8018-4106-2
  • Cantarella, Eva. Bisexuality in the Ancient World. Yale University Press, 1992. ISBN 0-300-04844-0
  • Halperin, David M. "homosexuality" (pp. 722-3) in The Oxford Classical Dictionary, third edition, 1996, ISBN 0-19-866172-X
  • Hubbard, Thomas K. Homosexuality in Greece and Rome: A Sourcebook of Basic Documents. University of California Press. ISBN 0-520-23430-8.
  • Radford, R. La prostitution féminine dans la Rome antique, Morrisville, Lulu, 2007. 168 p. ISBN: 978-1-4303-1158-4.
  • Skinner, Marilyn. Sexuality in Greek And Roman Culture. Blackwell Publishing. ISBN 0-631-23234-6.
Thomas A.J. McGinn. The Economy of Prostitution in the Roman World. Ann Arbor: The University of Michigan Press, 2004.
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