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Homosexuality in Greece and Rome

Homosexuality in Greece and Rome: A Sourcebook of Basic Documents

Copyright Date: 2003
Edition: 1
Pages: 575
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  • Book Info
    Homosexuality in Greece and Rome
    Book Description:

    The most important primary texts on homosexuality in ancient Greece and Rome are translated into modern, explicit English and collected together for the first time in this comprehensive sourcebook. Covering an extensive period—from the earliest Greek texts in the late seventh century b.c.e. to Greco-Roman texts of the third and fourth centuries c.e.—the volume includes well-known writings by Plato, Sappho, Aeschines, Catullus, and Juvenal, as well as less well known but highly relevant and intriguing texts such as graffiti, comic fragments, magical papyri, medical treatises, and selected artistic evidence. These fluently translated texts, together with Thomas K. Hubbard's valuable introductions, clearly show that there was in fact no more consensus about homosexuality in ancient Greece and Rome than there is today. The material is organized by period and by genre, allowing readers to consider chronological developments in both Greece and Rome. Individual texts each are presented with a short introduction contextualizing them by date and, where necessary, discussing their place within a larger work. Chapter introductions discuss questions of genre and the ideological significance of the texts, while Hubbard's general introduction to the volume addresses issues such as sexual orientation in antiquity, moral judgments, class and ideology, and lesbianism. With its broad, unexpurgated, and thoroughly informed presentation, this unique anthology gives an essential perspective on homosexuality in classical antiquity.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-93650-8
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-viii)
    (pp. ix-xiv)
    (pp. xv-xviii)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 1-20)

    The term “homosexuality” is itself problematic when applied to ancient cultures, inasmuch as neither Greek nor Latin possesses any one word covering the same semantic range as the modern concept. The term is adopted in this volume not out of any conviction that a fundamental identity exists between ancient and modern practices or self-conceptions, but as a convenient shorthand linking together a range of different phenomena involving same-gender love and/or sexual activity. To be sure, classical antiquity featured a variety of discrete practices in this regard, each of which enjoyed differing levels of acceptance depending on the time and place....

  6. CHAPTER 1 Archaic Greek Lyric
    (pp. 21-54)

    Homoerotic themes abound in Greek lyric poetry from the seventh to the early fifth centuries B.C.E., and this material provides our earliest literary evidence. As with all literary and artistic works, one must take into account that the texts are not a direct transcription of social realities, but are idealized projections. Nevertheless, they reflect an aristocratic culture in which homosexual relations were at home in the symposium, athletics, and even civic/religious ritual.

    The earliest surviving lyric poetry is by Archilochus, active on the islands of Paros and Thasos in the first half of the seventh century B.C.E. Although he actually...

  7. CHAPTER 2 Greek Historical Texts
    (pp. 55-85)

    This chapter brings together texts from a variety of sources and dates—historiography, biography, anecdotes, political theory, and inscriptions, both official and unofficial. Some texts, such as Plutarch (c. 100 C.E.) and Aelian (c. 200 C.E.), are much later than the events they describe and must be treated with appropriate caution, even though they are surely based on the work of earlier, now lost historians. But even fourth-century B.C.E. historians who recorded contemporary events, such as Theopompus, give highly colored and rhetorical narratives and must also be approached with some measure of skepticism. Ancient historians were fond of illustrating points...

  8. CHAPTER 3 Greek Comedy
    (pp. 86-117)

    Attic (Athenian) comedy is particularly useful for the study of homosexuality in virtue of its characteristic explicitness in sexual matters. Moreover, it provides insight into what may have been prevailing popular attitudes toward the practice. The genre’s assumptions are populist and anti-elite. Although the authors of comedy were themselves probably members of the educated upper class, the plays are focalized from the point of view of the average Athenian: Aristophanes’ heroes are often characterized as rustics or otherwise marginalized citizens who, through their pluck and ingenuity, overthrow the city’s political and intellectual leaders.

    Attic comedy is generally divided into three...

  9. CHAPTER 4 Greek Oratory
    (pp. 118-162)

    Like comedy, Athenian forensic oratory gives us insight into popular attitudes toward homosexual practices. Mass juries (often as large as five hundred or one thousand) were typically comprised of a cross section of the citizen population, in which the poorer classes were far more numerous. Since Athenian juries were paid a subsistence wage, some older men may have even used jury service as a means of support. While the speechwriters and professional politicians were of well-educated, upper-class backgrounds, they had to calibrate their rhetoric to appeal to the prejudices and values of a broader audience.

    While legal oratory doubtless existed...

  10. CHAPTER 5 Greek Philosophy
    (pp. 163-267)

    Same-gender love among males is a recurring topic in Greek philosophical discourse of the fourth century B.C.E. and later. While later satirical texts (e.g., 5.25, 9.38, 10.10 ) attribute this interest to a predilection among the philosophers themselves, it is more likely a reflection of the erotic preference that prevailed among the target audience of philosophical education during this period: wealthy, elite males, particularly the unmarried young. Philosophical schools were with rare exception homosocial fraternities with a pedagogical mission, and were thus not far removed from the milieu of pedagogical pederasty either in popular imagination or in fact.

    The circle...

  11. Illustrations
    (pp. None)
  12. CHAPTER 6 Hellenistic Poetry
    (pp. 268-307)

    The Hellenistic age is generally defined as the period of Greek history from the death of Alexander the Great until the Roman conquest of Greece (323–146 B.C.E.), but in terms of literary history the period really extends much later, arguably as far as the early second century C.E. Alexander’s conquests led to a diffusion of Greek culture and administrative control throughout Asia Minor, the Levant, and Egypt; these areas, together with the older Greek settlements in the west, coalesced into a cosmopolitan cultural sphere based on the Greek language and literary heritage, but no longer centered on Greece itself....

  13. CHAPTER 7 Republican Rome
    (pp. 308-343)

    The Roman Republic is generally defined as the period from the expulsion of the Etruscan kings (509 B.C.E.) to the Battle of Philippi in 42 B.C.E., which ended the hopes of those who wished to restore republican government after the assassination of Julius Caesar. The Etruscans, early Rome’s powerful neighbors to the north, were known to have an interest in Greek pederasty and were one of the chief export markets for Athenian vases displaying pederastic themes. Our knowledge of the early Roman Republic, however, is mostly legendary and is preserved predominately by historians writing long after the events they describe....

  14. CHAPTER 8 Augustan Rome
    (pp. 344-382)

    The Augustan age is defined by the long dominance of Roman politics by Julius Caesar’s great-nephew and adopted son, Octavian (after 27 B.C.E. known as “Augustus”), from his initial proclamation as triumvir in 43 B.C.E. to his death in 14 C.E. After Octavian’s consolidation of power to the exclusion of his rival triumvir Mark Antony, finalized with the naval victory at Actium in 31, the period was one of relative peace and tranquility, in contrast to the constant political instability and turmoil of the late Republic. Augustus and his lieutenants actively patronized the arts, and the era was one of...

  15. CHAPTER 9 Early Imperial Rome
    (pp. 383-442)

    The imperial age of Rome begins with the death of Augustus (14 C.E.) and continues arguably until the fall of the western empire nearly five centuries later. The earliest stage of that long period, up through the reign of Trajan (98–117 C.E.), is often identified as the “Silver Age” of Latin literature, second in quality to the “Golden Age” of Augustus’ reign, but nevertheless a time of great productivity and innovation. Particularly characteristic of literature in this period is a developed rhetorical stance and satirical orientation, even in genres where one might not expect them. The theme of moral...

  16. CHAPTER 10 Later Greco-Roman Antiquity
    (pp. 443-532)

    This chapter surveys pagan texts of the second, third, and early fourth centuries C.E. With the exception of a few brilliant epigrammatists such as Meleager, Greek literary activity was for the most part undistinguished during the period from the late third century B.C.E. to the early second century

    C.E. However, the second century bore witness to a new flowering of intellectual, philosophical, and literary culture in both Greece and Hellenized areas of the Roman Empire, in a movement often known as the “Second Sophistic.” Teachers of Greek philosophy and rhetoric (sophists) won renewed prestige and many prose authors rejected the...

    (pp. 533-548)
  18. INDEX
    (pp. 549-558)