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Edward Ficklin

Toga Party

Published 11 months ago • 2 min read

I have from time to time waxed eloquent (I hope) about my fixations with warrior imagery and hyper-gay hyper-masculinity. For today’s installment of the beefcake bouquet: Spartacus.

But not, as you might suspect, inspired by the TV show or the movie. Instead, I'm turning to historical inspirations. At least, what little history there is to go on. Despite the huge legend that has endured for millennia, only a tiny bit of written history survives—and none of it first-hand. That certainly hasn’t stopped anyone, and, rest assured darlings, it won’t stop me.

Stop me from what? Why another painting, of course. Yep, time for some gladiator beefcake! I’m still batting around ideas at the moment, so no visuals for you. Not to mention needing to finish my completely unauthorized John Carter painting that’s been languishing a bit, and a fun new comic book which I’ll surprise you with next week. Stay tuned.

While I may not have pictures for you, I do have an excellent book to recommend. Please supply your own steamy beefcake visuals while you read. The Spartacus War by Barry Strauss. Unlike so many history books, especially about ancient times, I find his books particularly readable. The prose is approachable, the style conversational, and he offers just the right amount of detail to inform without overwhelm. However, he doesn’t skimp on the research. He endeavors to be very clear about what’s documented, what’s speculation, and where disagreements reside. All without putting you to sleep before you reach the bottom of the page.

Alas, there’s no queer focus to the book and no effort to unearth what queer presence there might have been either in the gladiatorial ring or the rebellion that followed. It was surely there, but history is written by the straight victors—at least most of the history we currently have—and we’re left to speculate. While the current make up of the Academy is changing for the better, it doesn’t make up for its centuries of straight-washing history and trying to invisibilize us out of existing.

I will, rest assured, give Spartacus the full homoerotic treatment we all deserve! But, I have yet to dig up anything even remotely historical to go on. Imagination, and other readings, will have to suffice. If you have recommendations, darlings, send them my way!

In the same classically queer (gay, m/m) vein you might also enjoy Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller, Beloved and God by Royston Lambert, and Memoirs of Hadrian by Margaret Yourcenar.


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You don't want to miss this fun event.


Until next time, flame on! 🔥


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Edward Ficklin

Edward Ficklin (he/him), the maverick artist not afraid to say gay, is a self-taught painter, writer, publisher and sometimes technologist. He creates sensuous and erotically-tinged queer surrealist art, publishes queer-centered sci-fi comix, and pontificates regularly on a range of topics in his Queer Quantum Dispatch newsletter.

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