HISTORY – Homosexuality in Ancient Greece – Part 2

HISTORY – Homosexuality in Ancient Greece – Part 2

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Pederasty

After discussing how the Greek’s viewed sex in general, and specifically homosexuality, along with the ‘kinaidos’, the man who is the passive receptive partner in anal intercourse we now will discuss the Greek practice of pederastry,’ the love of boys’. Ideally pederasty did not have a sexual component, but was a rite of passage and an educational mode for an adult male (not a biological father) to take on the role of mentor for a young male entering puberty, growing and maturing into an adult male, who as a free male citizen was to be a political leader in the Greek city-state. Pederasty served the role for the moral and political formation of young men. More importantly it was not a private affair between two individuals but was a public affair for the benefit of all.

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“The pederastic form of same-sex relationships was a prominent feature of ancient Greece and Roman civilization. In these civilizations, male erotic interest in persons of the same sex was generally assumed to be universally present and psychologically normal, but not exclusive.” (Greenberg,Transformations of Homosexuality-Based Classifications, p. 181 in The Gender/Sexuality Reader Culture, History, Politico Economy, editors Roger N. Lancaster and Micaela di Leonardo.)

“Indeed, the classicist Halperin confines his discussion of what he terms pederasty or ’active’ sodomy to penetration of a subordinate male by a social and/or age superior, with its associated hierarchies of penetrator/penetrated, superior/inferior, masculine/feminine and active/passive.”(Phillips and Reay, Sex Before Sexuality A Premodern History, p. 70-71)

“The core of this interpersonal dynamic is a pedagogic relationship between the “inspirer” and the “inspired,” terminology shared by the Greeks and the Etor of New Guinea (Dover, 1978; Kelly¸1976). The younger man enters an erotic apprenticeship that immerses him in male culture and gender functions transmitted as a collective lore to new “adherents.” Consistent with the “one way” socialization process is role differentiation: The younger male is a “recipient” and the older, the “provider,” a role contrast that generally structures anal and oral intercourse. Unlike the Nyakyuas, the ancient model is a fundamentally intergenerational sexual dynamic in which exclusively “homosexual” younger men become “bisexual” in adulthood by acquiring wives and youthful lovers.

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The ancient model finds its highest development in the early imperial societies of Greece, China, Byzantium, and medieval Persia where social class complicates the inequality between adult and youth.”(Adams, Age, Structure, and Sexuality: Reflections on the Anthropological Evidence on Homosexual Relations, p.21-22 in The Many faces of Homosexuality: Anthropological Approaches to Homosexual Behavior, editor Evelyn Blackwood)

“For Greeks the essence of the personal morality lay in avoiding excess and passivity; it was they experience only special moral scruples.) We have already described some of those elaborate conventions which surrounded Greek pederasty. They reveal, in an acute form, Greek anxieties about passivity and excess. However, the boy, just because he had not yet achieved manly status could, if briefly, avoid the stigma of passivity and be an admissible object of pleasure. For the adult male, it was a challenge to his self-control: to direct the boy towards manhood and transform the relationship from one of love to friendship. In a sense it was a question of ‘stylistics’, of the manner of the relationship. One fashioned one’s morality in the course of living.” (Copley, Sexual Moralities in France 1780-1980, p. 27-28)

“The ancient Greeks, as is widely known, had a custom which they called paiderastia, or pederasty, consisting of erotic relations between adult men and adolescent boys.” (Lear and Cantarella, Images of Ancient Greek Pederasty Boys were their gods, p. xv.)

“The word pederasty is derived from the Greek paiderasteia, literally meaning the love of boys. In English pederasty has come to signify almost exclusively the practice of sexual inversion. But in Greek literature paiderasteia is used to refer to both to pure, disinterested affection and to physical homosexual relations.” (Flacelliere, Love in Ancient Greece, p.62)

“In the Greek language the word “paederasty” had not this ugly sound it has for us to-day, since it was regarded simply as an expression for one variety of love, and had no sort of defamatory meaning attached to it.” (Licht, Sexual Life in Ancient Greece, p.413)

“I hope that sufficient documentary evidence has been given to show that paiderasty was cultivated by heterosexually normal men in ancient Greece, where it did not presuppose an inversely homosexual type of personality. It was not considered a transgression, to be tolerated, nor was it felt to betoken to any laxity in moral standards; it was a natural part of the life-style of the best of men, reflected in the stories of the gods and heroes of the people.” (Vanggard, Phallos A Symbol and Its History in the Male World, p. 32)

“In Ancient Greece, homosexuality was described as pederasty, and was an integral part of life of the polis because it was a culture that allowed the norm to function. It therefore did not preclude relations with women, which was based on the reproductive order, and was based upon the division between an active principle and passive principle: a free man and a slave, a boy and a mature man and so on. Its function was, in other words, initiatory. Only the men had the right to practice pederasty, and the hierarchy precluded any equality between the partners. But a homosexual who refused to have anything to do with women was regarded as abnormal because he infringed the rules of the polis and the family institution.” (Roudinesco, Our Dark Side A History of Perversion, p. 33)

“The core of this interpersonal dynamic is a pedagogic relationship between the “inspirer” and the “inspired,” terminology shared by the Greeks and the Etor of New Guinea (Dover, 1978; Kelly¸1976). The younger man enters an erotic apprenticeship that immerses him in male culture and gender functions transmitted as a collective lore to new “adherents.” Consistent with the “one way” socialization process is role differentiation: The younger male is a “recipient” and the older, the “provider,” a role contrast that generally structures anal and oral intercourse. Unlike the Nyakyuas, the ancient model is a fundamentally intergenerational sexual dynamic in which exclusively “homosexual” younger men become “bisexual” in adulthood by acquiring wives and youthful lovers.
The ancient model finds its highest development in the early imperial societies of Greece, China, Byzantium, and medieval Persia where social class complicates the inequality between adult and youth.”
(Adams, Age, Structure, and Sexuality: Reflections on the Anthropological Evidence on Homosexual Relations, p.21-22 in The Many faces of Homosexuality: Anthropological Approaches to Homosexual Behavior, editor Evelyn Blackwood)

“As we have seen, Greek pederasty fundamentally differed in form and function from modern sexuality. Admittedly, the Greek situation offered great opportunities to those males whose sexual interest mainly concerned other males, but this preference had to be limited to boys and, moreover, the passive and active roles in these relationships were sharply defined. In addition, this preference had to be propagated with moderation, without completely excluding the opposite sex. At the same time, the aspect of initiation into the adult world illuminates an even more important difference between Greek pederasty and modern ways of homosexuality. Whereas modern homosexuals often occupy a marginal position in society and are regularly considered to be effeminate, in Greece it was pederasty that provided access to the world of the socially elite; it was only the pederastic relationship that made the boy into a real man. The Greeks, then, certainly knew of ‘Greek love’ and their interest in boys was never purely platonic, but they did not, in any sense, invent homosexuality!” (Bremmer, Greek pederasty and modern homosexuality, p. 11) in From Sappho to De Sade, Jan Bremmer editor.)

“This shows that not only writers but also painters are aware of the fact that in order to maintain its proper character, pederasty has rules.” (Lear and Cantarella, Images of Ancient Greek Pederasty Boys Were Their Gods, p. 192)

“Paiderasty served the highest goal – education (paideia). Eros was the medium of paideia, uniting tutor and pupil. The boy submitted and let himself be taken in the possession of the man.” (Vanggard, Phallos A Symbol and Its History in the Male World, p. 87)

“But it was only after the formation of the city that the Greeks took to loving other men, and more particularly boys? Male homosexuality in Greece, in fact – or at least its most socially and culturally significant forms – was, in practice, pederasty, and was extremely widespread. The problem if its ‘origins’ remains open.” (Cantarella, Bisexuality in the Ancient World, p. 4)

“In Athens, homosexuality (which as we know was really pederasty, in the sense the sexual relationship between and adult and a young boy) held an important position in the moral and political formation of young men, who learned from their adult lovers the virtues of a citizen.” (Cantarella, Bisexuality in the Ancient World, p. viii)

“Such pederasty was supposed to transmit manly virtues of mind and body from nobleman to young lover (Vangaard, 1972).” (Karlen, “Homosexuality in History,” p.79 in Homosexual Behavior: A Modern Reappraisal, editor Judd Marmor)

“While for the Dorians the purpose of the love relationship was the development of a warrior, for the Athenians it was the vehicle through which males were educated in the values, beliefs and manners important to the Athenians, and through which the young man was introduced into adult male society. The relationship served a socializing function, whereby the youth, as companion to an older man, learned how to comport himself in society, how to enjoy the pleasures of life, and how to bring self-control and moderation to the enjoyment of those pleasures. With the guidance of his mentor/lover, the boy began cultivation of what were to the Greeks the all-important virtues of courage, temperance, justice and wisdom. Though the boy received a basic education in such areas as reading and writing from a tutor, or in later times a primary school which he would attend until his early teens, it was through his relationship with his lover that he acquired knowledge and experience in the world of the Athenian citizen, became conversant in politics, civic virtues and philosophy, and acquire an appreciation of the arts. This educational emphasis reflected the Athenian view that civic strength rested not just on military might, but on a citizenry composed of educated and virtuous men.” (Neil, The Origins and Role of Same-Sex Relations in Human Societies, p.163)

“For instance, in ancient Greece, homosexual relationships between older men and younger men were commonly accepted as pedagogic. Within the context of an erotic relation, the older man taught the younger one military, intellectual, and political skills. The older men, however, were also often husbands and fathers. Neither sexual relationship excluded the other. Thus, although ancient Greek society recognized male homosexual activity, the men in these relationships rarely defined themselves as primarily “homosexual.” (Escoffier, American Homo: Community and Perversity, p. 37)

“An adult in ancient Greece and Rome standardly took a prepubescent youth for a partner, an adolescent whose body hair had not yet begun to grow. In Greece, relations with a citizen youth were ideally supposed to have a pedagogical function. The older lover was supposed to teach his beloved how to be a virtuous citizen. At the same time, the older lover was supposed to marry and have children, though some may have not done so. Sexual relations might also be had with members of other subordinate categories, such as slaves.” (Greenberg,Transformations of Homosexuality-Based Classifications, p. 181 in The Gender/Sexuality Reader Culture, History, Politico Economy, editors Roger N. Lancaster and Micaela di Leonardo.)

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