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, 49 (3-4), 13-61

Reconsiderations About Greek Homosexualities

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Reconsiderations About Greek Homosexualities

William Armstrong Percy 3rd. J Homosex.

Abstract

Focusing his analysis on (mostly Athenian) vase paintings of the sixth- and early fifth-century and on a handful of texts from the late fifth- and early fourth-century (again Athenian), Dover depicted the pederastic relationship of erastes (age 20 to 30) and eromenos (age 12-18) as defined by sexual roles, active and passive, respectively. This dichotomy he connected to other sexual and social phenomena, in which the active/ penetrating role was considered proper for a male adult Athenian citizen, while the passive/penetrated role was denigrated, ridiculed, and even punished. Constructing various social and psychological theories, Foucault and Halperin, along with a host of others, have extended his analysis, but at the core has remained the Dover dogma of sexual-role dichotomization. Penetration has become such a focal point in the scholarship that anything unable to be analyzed in terms of domination is downplayed or ignored. To reduce homosexuality or same-sex behaviors to the purely physical or sexual does an injustice to the complex phenomena of the Greek male experience. From Sparta to Athens to Thebes and beyond, the Greek world incorporated pederasty into their educational systems. Pederasty became a way to lead a boy into manhood and full participation in the polis, which meant not just participation in politics but primarily the ability to benefit the city in a wide range of potential ways. Thus the education, training, and even inspiration provided in the pederastic relationship released creative forces that led to what has been called the Greek 'miracle.' From around 630 BCE we find the institution of Greek pederasty informing the art and literature to a degree yet to be fully appreciated. Moreover, this influence not only extends to the 'higher' realms of culture, but also can be seen stimulating society at all levels, from the military to athletic games, from philosophy to historiography. An understanding of sexual practices-useful, even essential, to an appreciation of Greek pederasty- cannot fully explicate its relationship to these other phenomena; pederasty is found in many societies, and certainly existed before the Greeks. It is time that we move beyond Dover and recover the constructive dynamics of Greek pederasty.

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