FRANCESCO LUBIAN (Università degli Studi di Macerata/Universität Wien)
Abstract: This paper deals with the interpretation of a passage from Arnobius’ Aduersus nationes (4,7), providing a little example of the application of data and results of the culture-historical research on ancient sexuality to canonical problems of source-oriented literary research. The unattested goddess called by Arnobius Venus Militaris, who presides over puerorum stupris, might well have been shaped under the influence of the famous Spartan Aphrodite hoplisméne; however, this mythological figure has in Arnobius no relationship with the heterosexual connotation of the naked Aphrodite in arms, like in Lactantius’ aetiological account (Diu. inst. 1,20,27.32), but rather alludes to the sexual exploitation of young male soldiers in Roman castra, a phenomenon attested by numerous reports. For Arnobius, Venus Militaris is a degraded deity who protects despicable sexual behaviours: the Christian polemist transfigured a mythological and religious-historical datum in a way which is both functional to his polemic against the pagan world and difficult to recognize for a canonical, ‘single-source’ oriented Quellenforschung.