Porneia means fornication, unchastity, desire for another's body. Drawing on Roman and Greek works of science, medicine, gynaecology and law and on Christian and pagan religious texts, Aline Rousselle discovers the intimate fears, passions, superstitions and ambitions of the people of the Mediterranean world during the first four centuries AD. The first part of the book describes Roman notions of male and female sexuality, including the extraordinary rituals of orgy, castration and sacrifice associated with ancient rites of fertility and spirituality. The second part is concerned with the impact of Christian ideas upon a settled pagan tradition. Abstinence, once associated with the enhancement of fertility, becomes the key to salvation.
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