The Life of the Kinaidoi


Mellon/ACLS Dissertation Completion Fellowships




The kinaidos is a type of person noted in classical literature both for effeminacy and for untoward sexual behavior, yet the term kinaidos/cinaedus is also used as an occupational category in extant Greek and Latin sources to describe a performer of lewd dance and speech. Modern scholars have seen this figure as evidence for either the presence or absence of sexual identity in the pre-modern world. This project explores how the kinaidos is more broadly represented in the Greek, Greco-Roman Egyptian, and Roman worlds by analyzing canonical authors, such as Plato, Demosthenes, Plautus, Catullus, and Juvenal, alongside documentary sources and popular literary genres such as mime and the ancient novel. It argues that the kinaidos is significant on multiple axes of difference—including status, ethnicity, profession, and religious affiliation—which makes it relevant beyond the double lenses of gender and sexuality through which it has most often been viewed.