Guest Post by Kate Quinn + 2 Copy Giveaway of Empress of the Seven Hills!

Today, I have the ultimate honor of hosting one of my favorite authors Kate Quinn and what is perhaps the single most awesome guest post I have ever had the pleasure of posting on Passages to the Past! 

Her latest novel, Empress of the Seven Hills, was released yesterday and you seriously need to get your hands on a copy because it is all sorts of fabulous!  Don't have a copy yet?  No worries, Amy's got you covered!  Penguin has graciously offered up a copy AND I received an extra one by mistake, so I have TWO COPIES up for grabs!  Trust me, you won't want to miss a chance to read this book!

Okay, Kate...take it away...

Sexuality in Ancient Rome 

With all the heated debate going on right now about gay marriage, there's been a great deal of revisionist history. Pundits and politicians cry out for a return to the ways of the past, when men only slept with women and marriage was sacred and inviolable. This might have held true for some eras of the past, but certainly not all. My latest novel Empress of the Seven Hills deals extensively with the sexual mores of ancient Rome – and I can tell you now that if Rick Santorum or Mitt Romney were suddenly transported back to A.D. 102, as undivorced heterosexual men they would find themselves in the distinct minority. 

Sexuality in Imperial Rome was governed by a very different set of standards. For one thing, Roman sex was guilt-free: the notion that sex was linked to sin and shame was a Christian idea, and until Christianity and its tenet of original sin took hold in the Roman Empire, sex was simply viewed by the polytheistic Romans as another of life's physical pleasures, much like eating or drinking. Overindulgence in any physical pleasure was frowned on, as the Romans preached moderation and restraint in private life. But though it might be considered in bad taste to gorge oneself on either food, wine, or sex, it was not a sin. 

Neither was the institution of marriage quite the inviolable rock it is sometimes made out to be by politicians harking for the good old days. Roman marriages could legally be dissolved without divorce lawyers, courts of law, or legal proceedings (lucky them!) To get divorced, you simply declared yourself single again, and moved out. Divorce and remarriage thus became extremely common, especially among the upper classes where political alliances between families shifted constantly. It wasn't all that uncommon for a well-off man or woman in the Roman era to go through five or six marriages over the course of a lifetime, with no stigma at all – and with marriage held so lightly, extramarital affairs were common. Technically a husband could prosecute a wife for being unfaithful, and some emperors like Augustus did try to crack down on family morals, but in reality adultery was a fairly light sin. The ideal Roman wife might have been loudly touted as a modest faithful woman who obeyed her husband and never strayed – but whenever cultures make a great fuss about ideals, it means the reality isn't quite living up. Roman husbands were not required to be faithful, and neither were many Roman wives as long as their husbands were lenient about it. Even among royal circles there were wives, daughters, and nieces of Emperors who were notorious for their affairs. 

Homosexuality in ancient Rome is the issue that would really give modern Republicans the vapors. Not as much is known about lesbianism in Rome, but then lesbianism usually manages to skate under the historical radar – as one of my favorite humorists commented dryly, whenever two men live together they draw speculation, but two women who live together are obviously just unmarried besties sharing a house for reasons of economy and safety. Roman society, however, took an extremely lenient view of sex between men: it was neither a sin nor a matter of shame, merely one more sexual option among many. Roman men might take wives for the purpose of family alliance and future children, but a great many men were at least bisexual by inclination: the historian Gibbon estimated that of the first fifteen emperors of Rome, only one was strictly heterosexual – and he went through four wives, one of whom was his own niece. (You think that's next on the list for Newt Gingrich?) Some emperors preferred exclusively male company, and made no bones about it. Emperor Trajan, a hearty career soldier who advanced Rome's borders out to their furthest historical extent, appears to have kept his marriage platonic and his bed stocked with young soldiers, and was never reviled as less of a man's man. His adopted son Hadrian, a famous scholar, builder, and world traveler, had a passionate monogamous affair with a handsome Greek youth. Both Trajan and Hadrian are major characters in Empress of the Seven Hills, as are their wives who dealt in different ways with their sexless marriages: one became her husband's ally and advisor if she could not be his lover, and the other took lovers of her own. 

There was one governing rule that held sway over Roman love affairs between men, but it was a matter of social status rather than sin. A Roman male might sleep with either men or women, but to retain respect in the eyes of society, he had to be the dominant, superior partner. Women and slaves of either sex were automatically inferior on the social scale, and thus always acceptable sex partners. But a male lover of your own class had to be younger, poorer, or less experienced – in some way inferior, and thus assumed to take the submissive role in bed. An adult Roman male was held in contempt if he “took the woman's part” in homosexual relationships – that was ok for male slaves, or for some young man who was being taught the ropes by a more experienced lover, but past a certain age a Roman man was expected to be the dominant partner with all his lovers. Still, who really knows what goes on in a bed except the two people in it? 

Despite the odd social quirks mandating who got to be on top, there's no doubt that bisexuals and the homosexuals had an easier time of it in Imperial Rome than they do today. So did adulterers and fans of serial marriage. You may regard this as a step forward or a step back, morally speaking – I just wish politicians would get their facts straight before they go yapping on about the good old moral days of yore. Because if Rick Santorum or Mitt Romney ever do find a time machine and end up in ancient Rome, they're in for one hell of a shock.

A huge thank you to Kate Quinn for this intriguing & fascinating post!  I enjoyed it immensely and I hope you did too, dear readers!  If you have any thoughts of your own on the subject we would love to hear them!   

About Empress of the Seven Hills

 Publication Date: April 3, 2012 | Berkley Trade | 512p
*will be released in the UK on July 5, 2012 under the tile Empress of Rome


From the national bestselling author of Daughters of Rome and Mistress of Rome comes a tale of love, power, and intrigue spanning the wilds of the Empire to the seven hills of Rome.

Powerful, prosperous, and expanding ever farther into the untamed world, the Roman Empire has reached its zenith under the rule of the beloved Emperor Trajan. But neither Trajan nor his reign can last forever...

Brash and headstrong, Vix is a celebrated ex-gladiator returned to Rome to make his fortune. The sinuous, elusive Sabina is a senator's daughter who craves adventure. Sometimes lovers, sometimes enemies, Vix and Sabina are united by their devotion to Trajan. But others are already maneuvering in the shadows. Trajan's ambitious Empress has her own plans for Sabina. And the aristocratic Hadrian-the Empress's ruthless protégé and Vix's mortal enemy-has ambitions he confesses to no one, ambitions rooted in a secret prophecy.

When Trajan falls, the hardened soldier, the enigmatic empress, the adventurous girl, and the scheming politician will all be caught in a deadly whirlwind of desire and death that may seal their fates, and that of the entire Roman Empire...

About Kate Quinn

Kate Quinn is a native of southern California. She attended Boston University, where she earned a Bachelor's and Master's degree in Classical Voice. A lifelong history buff, she first got hooked on ancient Rome while watching "I, Claudius" at the age of seven. She wrote her first book during her freshman year in college, retreating from a Boston winter into ancient Rome, and it was later published as "Mistress of Rome." A prequel followed, titled "Daughters of Rome," and then a sequel written while her husband was deployed to the Middle East.

"I realized that my Roman legionary hero in `Empress of the Seven Hills' was fighting in the same part of the world where my US Navy husband was deployed. Life imitating art, or art imitating life? I have no idea!"

Kate is currently working on her fourth novel, set in the Italian Renaissance. She also has succumbed to the blogging bug, and keeps a blog filled with trivia, pet peeves, and interesting facts about historical fiction. She and her husband now live in Maryland with a small black dog named Caesar, and her interests include opera, action movies, cooking, and the Boston Red Sox. 

For more information on Kate and her novels, please visit her WEBSITE.

Giveaway Information

- To enter, please leave a comment below and include your email address (only comments with email addresses will be entered in the giveaway).
- Giveaway is open to US and Canada ONLY.
- +5 additional entries become a follower of Passages to the Past. If you are already a follower you will automatically receive the bonus entries. 
- +3 additional entries join the Passages to the Past FB Page.
- +3 additional entries follow me on Twitter.
- +1 additional entry each, please help spread the word by blogging, posting on sidebar, tweeting or posting this giveaway on Facebook or Google+.  You can use the SHARE buttons below.
- Giveaway ends on April 13th.



  1. ME ME ME!!

    martinack_75 AT hotmail DOT com

    I'm a follower.
    I like on FB.
    Follow on Twitter.
    I also Tweeted.


  2. Very informative and interesting guest post... !!!
    i follow all the required
    Posted giveaway on sidebar of Celticlady's Reviews.

  3. What a tremendously well-thought out and beautifully written guest post on the Roman lifestyle. Thanks so much. Can't wait to read the book.
    For +5 additional entries I am a follower of Passages to the Past by email : carlscott(at)prodigy(dot)net(dot)mx
    For +3 additional entries I am a member of the Passages to the Past FB Page: Carl Scott
    For +3 additional entries I do follow on Twitter: @carlrscott
    For +1 additional entry I tweeted:!/carlrscott/status/187422177715425280
    That's all I can do, once again, loved the post. Thanks!

  4. Sounds like a really great story! Thank you for the giveaway! (Am a follower too)


  5. This book looks fantastic! Please enter me :)

  6. I really enjoyed this post. Sometimes I wonder if they would hate what they see, or if they would secretly enjoy it. I think they protest a bit too much at times.
    Anyway, I would love to read this book. It sounds really good.

  7. I would love to read and win this book. I enjoy her books.

    +5 for being a follower (griperang)
    +3 fb follower (Angela (Angela Newcomb) Holland)
    +3 twitter follower (@griperang)
    +1 posted contest on twitter
    +1 posted contest on facebook
    +1 posted contest on google+
    +1 posted contest on my blog (

    Thank you - griperang at embarqmail dot com

  8. This sounds like such a good read ! I would love to win it. Lynda

  9. I love Kate Quinn's books and would love to win this one. Thanks for the giveaway!

  10. This sounds like a great story!

    +5 gfc-mamabunny13
    +3 FB-mamabunny shelor
    +3 twitter @mamabunny13

    +1 tweet!/mamabunny13/status/187512180718055424
    mamabunny13 at gmail dot com

  11. New author to me. Count me in. I'm a follower.

    nanze55 at hotmail dot com

  12. Wonderfully entertaining post - liked how Ms. Quinn included references to our current politicians. Would love to read this book. Thanks for the giveaway.

    +5 GFC follower

  13. I am a big fan of Kate's books - this looks to be no exception!

    +5 follower
    +3 fb follower

    Thanks for the opportunity!


  14. I'd love to win this one! I'm a follower of this blog and on FB...I think on Twitter, too!

  15. Hi, Amy! Would love to have this book.
    You know I am a devoted follower :)

    I follow the blog and on Facebook!

  16. Thanks for the awesome giveaway!

    +5, I'm an old GFC follower
    +3, I like you on Facebook
    +3, I follow on Twitter

    niteofblu at gmail dot com

  17. I'm guessing that the likes of Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum are not students of history. Newt Gingrich should know better if he calls himself a historian :P What old days are these guys talking about???

    It's sort of interesting to me how many Roman ideas we've adopted in America (architecture, art, government, so on and so forth) yet all of the sexuality tenets seemed to have gone out the window and are seem as shameful and unnatural in our society today. The bit about what the historian Gibbon said about the Roman emperors is fascinating and at least from what I've read (mostly fiction), the emperors really didn't seem to care who knew about who they were sleeping with.

    - I'm a follower.
    - I'm an FB follower.
    - I'm a Twitter follower
    - I posted on my FB page.
    - I tweeted.


  18. Looks good!


    I follow on facebook and goodreads.


  19. LOL Great post and something I knew a little about from watching some history shows. The last paragraph is best though with the Time Machine. Maybe they will just get lost altogether :)
    Thanks for the contest.

    +5 old skool follower
    +3 Twitter follower

  20. I have the first book on my shelf, missed out on the second...

    I follow on


    I shared on

    Thanks so much!
    kaiminani at gmail dot com

  21. I loved all Kate Quinn's previous books, can't wait to read Empress of the Seven Hills. Also enjoyed her guest post here, topical as well as fascinating!

  22. Another good book I would love to read. Please enter me in contest.I am a follower and email subscriber.

  23. The premise is really interesting. The Roman Empire era is an area I haven't read much from and would like to.

    GFC follower
    Twitter follower (Fieryna)


  24. Great interview! No need to enter me in the giveaway, as I am heading to the bookstore after work today! Thanks for having Kate share some of her insights with us!

  25. Followed and tweeted.
    Wonderful post. Very much looking forward to reading your books.
    Good luck with book 4.

  26. Though I'm writing in colonial New England, the Roman Empire is my first love. Please put me in the drawing, and my fingers are crossed!

  27. Sounds Fascinating!

  28. Excellent summary of Roman attitudes toward sexuality! I look forward to reading EMPRESS OF THE SEVEN HILLS.
    For 5+ bonus points, I follow this blog via email: boatlady[at]sherrychristie[dot]com.


  29. Kate, thanks for this fascinating post about sexuality
    in imperial times.

    I also researched this topic for my book (set in very early
    Rome) and discovered paederasty wasn't condoned then
    but it clearly must have been of concern because noble boys
    wore bells around their necks as a warning for men to keep
    their hands to themselves :)
    But as you point out - who really knows what goes on in a
    bed except the two people in it?

    Alas I live in Australia and so can't enter
    this giveaway but I look forward
    to reading Empress of the Seven Hills!

  30. This tale sounds very exciting and I'd love a chance to win it.

    GFC: Sophia Rose
    FB: Sally Michele Shaw
    Twitter: @sophiarose1816

  31. I also tweeted and google+1'd as Sophia Rose

    Thanks for the giveaway opportunity.

  32. i can't wait to read Empress and the Seven Hills!!! already on my WishList!!

    thank you for this giveaway!!!!

    cyn209 at juno dot com

    +5 GFC follower of Passages to the Past: cyn209
    +3 'liked' the Passages to the Past FB Page: cyn209
    +1 posted giveaway on Facebook:

  33. I've been wanting to read one of Kate Quinn's books and I'd love to start here! I'm a follower

  34. Oh pick me! The book sounds great!

  35. Oh, yes please!


    I'm already a follower!

  36. I would enjoy this book. Please enter me.

    I am a follower.


  37. What nice comments! Thanks so much for reading, everybody. Not to mention a big thank-you to Amy for having me on one of my favorite book blogs!

  38. Thanks!+5 follower

    +3 member of fb group

    +3 twitter follower

    +1 shared on fb, google+ and twitter


  39. Very interestig post. I look forward to reading this book
    I follow by emal, facebook, twitter. I shared on facebook and tweeted.

  40. This book sounds amazing! Kate Quinn always manages to make Ancient Rome come alive for me.

    email address: kmiley [at] uwo [dot] ca

    Thank you!

  41. I can't wait to read this book! Kate Quinn makes Ancient Rome come alive for me!

    email address: kmiley [at] uwo [dot] ca

    Thank you!

  42. Thanks, Kate, for reminding us that nostalgia for the "good old days" is usually the most inaccurate understanding of the past there is. Too bad reading history (especially in its most delightful form historical fiction) isn't a more common practice. It would clear up a few harmful confusions, I think. I always enjoy your sense of humor.

  43. I would love to wind this one.
    Thank you for the chance.
    I follow on facebook and the internet.

  44. I love historical fiction and have this one on my wishlisst.
    I follow via GFC and email.
    I like your page on FB: Lisa Holmes Garrett

    lag110 at mchsi dot com

  45. No need to enter me, I already have this one and can't wait to read it. I always love reading Kate's guest posts. So chock full of exciting or scandalous information. I did not know much on this subject before now.


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