three pairs of lovers with space

GREEK LOVE IN ANTIQUITY

 

                     by Pierre Joubert

 

There are several grounds for believing that the institutionalised pederasty of the ancient Greeks originated, like their oldest civilisation, on their largest island. The peculiar customs concerning it there are described in pederasty in ancient Crete.

 

Two accounts are given of the most celebrated love affair that was Greek in both senses, that of the tyrannicides Harmodios and Aristogeiton in 514 BC.

 

The following stories drawn from ancient authors have been selected for their charm and their ability to bring to life the ancient practice of Greek love.

On Tyranny and Love is a debate from Xenophon's Hieron between a ruler and a poet as to whether being a ruler was an advantage in love affairs with boys.

Sophokles as a boy-lover is two anecdotes about the well-known Athenian tragedian from Athenaios's Deipnosophistai (The Learned Banqueters).

Surely the most amusing anecdote concerning Greek love in antiquity is  The story of the Pergamese boy from Petronius's Satyricon, written in the reign of the Roman Emperor Nero (AD 54-68) and sometimes called the world's first novel.

 

As a resource for scholars, it is intended here to give every passage touching on Greek love in as many ancient texts as possible.  Some of the English translations are from an era when sexually explicit phrases and frank references to homosexuality were often judged unfit for translation. They have been amended here for accuracy where accurate understanding of Greek love is at stake. The original Greek or Latin is provided for scholars who wish to check the accuracy of the translations for themselves.  Footnotes may be provided to make sense of the stories related and to clarify points they raise about Greek love, but not to explain the ancient world in any other respects.

Curtius Rufus, Histories of Alexander the Great

 

Here are the first in a series of intended articles about Greek love as practised by the Greeks themselves:

Did the Greeks pedicate their loved boys?

The role of the fighting cock in Greek pederasty

 

The Entimos Pais of Matthew 8:5-13 and Luke 7:1-10 by Donald Mader is a scholarly article showing that the Roman centurion's pais said to have been miraculously cured of mortal illness by Jesus may well have been understood by the latter to have been the centurion's loved boy.