Ovid calls the book a collection of misdeeds (crimina), and says the narrative was laced with dirty jokes.Erotic art, especially as preserved in Pompeii and Herculaneum, is a rich if not unambiguous source; some images contradict sexual preferences stressed in literary sources and may be intended to provoke laughter or challenge conventional attitudes.Sexuality in ancient Rome, and more broadly, sexual attitudes and behaviors in ancient Rome, are indicated by Roman art, literature and inscriptions, and to a lesser extent by archaeological remains such as erotic artifacts and architecture.

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Cicero held that the desire (libido) to procreate was "the seedbed of the republic," as it was the cause for the first form of social institution, marriage.

Marriage produced children and in turn a "house" (domus) for family unity that was the building block of urban life.

Visual art was created by those of lower social status and of a greater range of ethnicity, but was tailored to the taste and inclinations of those wealthy enough to afford it, including, in the Imperial era, former slaves.

Roman religion promoted sexuality as an aspect of prosperity for the state, and individuals might turn to private religious practice or "magic" for improving their erotic lives or reproductive health. "Pornographic" paintings were featured among the art collections in respectable upperclass households.

But frank sexuality all but disappears from literature thereafter, and sexual topics are reserved for medical writing or Christian theology.

In the 3rd century, celibacy had become an ideal among the growing number of Christians, and Church Fathers such as Tertullian and Clement of Alexandria debated whether even marital sex should be permitted for procreation.

The sexuality of martyrology focuses on tests against the Christian's chastity The obscene humor of Martial was briefly revived in 4th-century Bordeaux by the Gallo-Roman scholar-poet Ausonius, although he shunned Martial's predilection for pederasty and was at least nominally a Christian.

Like other aspects of Roman life, sexuality was supported and regulated by religious traditions, both the public cult of the state and private religious practices and magic.

Many Roman religious festivals had an element of sexuality.

The February Lupercalia, celebrated as late as the 5th century of the Christian era, included an archaic fertility rite. At certain religious festivals throughout April, prostitutes participated or were officially recognized.

In the popular imagination and culture, it is synonymous with sexual license and abuse." Roman society was patriarchal (see paterfamilias), and masculinity was premised on a capacity for governing oneself and others of lower status, not only in war and politics, but also in sexual relations.