By: Kimberley | Derek | Glenn | Vincent
Ever wondered about the sexual lives of the Greek people ? Fret not because we've got you covered.
In Ancient Greece, arranged marriages were a common practice, with the goal of such unions serving the purpose of procreation rather than love. As such, it was normal for men to seek alternative means to satisfy their sexual desires. A common means was pederasty, which was prevalent during the 5th Century BCE throughout Greece according to Greek Homosexuality by James Dover (Postscript, pp205). The relationship was usually formed between an adult man, known as erastes(lover), and a boy, known as eromenos(beloved). The prevalence and nature of pederastic relationships is integral to understanding homosexuality in Ancient Greece.
In order for a pederastic relationship to occur, the adult man had to be approved and permitted by the boy’s father. According to Hubbard Thomas K’s book on Homosexuality in Greece and Rome, before the boy enters a pederastic relationship, he would be under the strict protection of their father or pedagogues (slave attendants) to safeguard his chastity (Introduction, p11).
Due to the demand for adolescents, they had the freedom to choose their partner among their admirers which made courtship necessary in order to win the boy’s affection (Introduction, pp12). According to Brent Pickett’s work on Homosexuality,(History), in cases where the boy was courted by multiple admirers, he was expected to choose the most noble one. Ways to court the adolescent include showering the boy with gifts, attracting the boy through music and seduction, with reference to Enid Bloch’s article on the purpose of pederastic relationship in Ancient Greece (Pederasty and Shame) and Hubbard Thomas K’s book (Introduction, pp 18-19).
What happens during the relationship ?
According to Hubbard Thomas K, once in a pederastic relationship, the boy would be brought under the tutelage of the adult male with the goal of ultimately emulating his erastes in matters of athletics, politics and philosophy. (Introduction, p12). Also, as mentioned in Sex in Antiquity by Rabinowitz Masterson and James Nancy, the authors agree that even though the nature of the relationship was sexual, it also entailed the aspect of education especially in regards to military knowledge. (Was Pederasty Problematized?, pp 119-124).
End of the Relationship
Modern scholars argue that the growth of beard in the eromenos marked the end of the sexual relationship with the erastes, as the beard signified the maturation of the eromenos and the loss of his beauty.
However, there are conflicting viewpoint regarding this perspective. As mentioned by Hubbard Thomas K, the relationship may continue as the erastes appreciates the inner beauty of the eromenos despite the loss of his beauty (Introduction, pp5).
To gain an insight into their sexual lives, enjoy our take on it with a modern twist.
Bloch, Enid. Sex between Men and Boys in Classical Greece: Was It Education for Citizenship or Child Abuse? (1 January 2001) The Journal of Men's Studies, Volume 9, Issue 2.
Cartwright, Mark. Women in Ancient Greece. (27 July 2016) From Ancient History Encyclopedia. (2009) Accessed 31 March 2017
Dover, James. Greek Homosexuality. (1978). From: Metaphysicspirit Library
Hein van Dolen. Greek Homsexuality. (22 August 2015) From Livius.org. (1995) Accessed: 31 March 2017
Hubbard, Thomas K. Homosexuality in Greece and Rome .(12 May 2005) From: ProQuest Ebook Central.
Martin.R.Thomas. Marriage and Divorce. (1843) From Perseus Digital Library. (1987) Accessed: 1 April 2017
Masterson, Rabinowitz & Nancy, James. Sex in Antiquity. (2014). From: ProQuest Ebook Central.
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