Raping Rome

Stephen Moore’s chapter “Raping Rome” took a closer look and gender identity and gender representation regarding the book of Revelation. He starts out by taking a close look at Roma, the Roman goddess that represents the empire. She is presented as a woman who represents the epitome of masculinity. She is clothed with military might, usually holding a short spear and often seen as standing on top of shields that are represented as the armies that she conquers. Moore points out that Roma in all of her splendor was at the height imperial devotion and worship, having temples and statues made and dedicated to her. Even when she was compared and contrasted to other Roman gods/goddesses, Roma is typically shown to be a woman who is controlling and mighty, while those pictured with her are the subordinate and effeminate ones. However, Moore’s chapter centers on the idea that in Revelation, John takes the masculinized woman and degrades her to nothing more than a slavish whore. John takes a woman dressed as a man and turns her into a woman dressed as a man dressing her back into a woman.

Moore shows that this is profoundly offensive to the goddess. The queerness of gender portrayed by the goddess does give insight into the Roman understanding of gender identity. Moore explains this through the term “virtus”. He says the virtus is a grammatically feminine noun which is utterly representative of masculinity. He compares this to Roma, a grammatically feminine yet its ideology is profoundly masculine. In the amalgamation of genders, Moore shows that one’s understanding of gender is necessarily a binary view. While male is typically seen in the world as above female and one’s loss of masculinity is like climbing downward toward femininity, this helps explain what the goddess Roma represents. She, the mighty warrior is clothed in military garb to show her overcoming both sexes. She remains woman and yet becomes man. Essentially, as Moore notes, she is dressed in drag.

Moore then shifts gears and focuses on the book of Revelation specifically. He tries to make the point the John secretly loves Rome in all of his bitter hatred for her. By telling of her impending doom, he shows God and the Christ as essentially becoming a picture of the Roman empire. Just as Rome conquered and killed anything that stood in its way, so will God’s empire sweep the world with His will. He then finishes with a short discussion of trying to show Jesus as a mirrored picture of the goddess Roma. He says that Jesus is in essence androgynous. He interprets a passage of Revelation in such a way that the words in Greek could be translated as showing Jesus to have breasts. If Jesus is interpreted this way, it would indicate that John has a secret love affair with the Roman goddess and trying to fight against it. Moore’s interpretation here is somewhat far-fetched. In thinking that John has this obsession with Rome and that questions of gender comparison is in the thought process or even an influence of John’s writing is somewhat presumptuous. It felt as if Moore was trying to see something so badly that he projected his would-be conclusion into a text that is not making many social comments about the gender-ness of Roman ideology. Furthermore, his interpretation of Jesus as a mirror to Roma entirely hinges of his translation of a few Greek words. Without that translation, his argument lies dormant.