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Rufius the Cinaedus & the 'pivot of authenticity' : representing ancient Roman sexuality in fiction

Walton, Sarah


Sarah Walton


Martin Goodman

David V. N., 1959 Bagchi


The thesis includes a novel, Rufius the Cinaedus, and an exegesis, The ‘Pivot of Authenticity’: Representing Ancient Roman Sexuality in Fiction, which explores how I creatively engaged with the historical sources to write Rufius the Cinaedus, and the different approaches taken by novelists when writing ancient Rome.

Rufius the Cinaedus is a love story between Aeson, a street kid and his mentor, Rufius set in fourth century Alexandria, a period of religious revolution. Plucked from the red-light district, Aeson is groomed for the academy – and as Rufius’ lover. The novel aims to demonstrate the ancient Roman sexual paradigm and explores gender identity, childhood, comradeship and the heroism of ordinary people in a time of turmoil.

The exegesis explores the tension that exists between authentically representing the sexuality of ancient Roman characters, and making them engaging for a modern audience. This raises the question: to what extent is historical authenticity desirable? Modern novels of ancient Rome are displaced in terms of time, language and authorship – which necessitates a degree of anachronism. Novelists must decide where to position the ‘pivot of authenticity’: the relationship between the author’s aim with respect to historical authenticity and the reception of the reader. To bridge the gap in time, novelists shift the ‘pivot’, often overlaying modern morals and sexual norms on to the ancient Romans. Authors have been interviewed about their approach to writing historical fiction to validate their process.

The original contribution is the ‘pivot of authenticity’, which developed as a composition tool to assist the aim of historical plausibility in Rufius the Cinaedus. The phrase also adds to the discourse of literary theory on the historical novel, and can be used as a tool to evaluate a novel’s relationship with history.


Walton, S. (2014). Rufius the Cinaedus & the 'pivot of authenticity' : representing ancient Roman sexuality in fiction. (Thesis). University of Hull. Retrieved from

Thesis Type Thesis
Publication Date Apr 1, 2014
Deposit Date Nov 10, 2016
Publicly Available Date Feb 23, 2023
Keywords English
Public URL
Additional Information Department of English, The University of Hull


Thesis (2.6 Mb)

Copyright Statement
© 2014 Walton, Sarah. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced without the written permission of the copyright holder.

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