three pairs of lovers with space

GREEK LOVE IN THE NEAR EAST AND NORTH AFRICA SINCE ANTIQUITY

 

Greek love down to the 4th century in both this part of the world and Europe is treated under "Antiquity". Though on the European side of the Bosphoros, Constantinople (Istanbul) is here treated as part of the Near East for its obvious greater cultural affinity with it. Much the most penetrative and balanced study of the love phenomenon summarised here is Before Homosexuality in the Arab-Islamic World, 1500-1800 by Khaled El-Rouayheb (2005).

The single most decisive change in the fortunes of Greek love in the Near East and North Africa was the triumph of Christianity in the 4th century, with its fierce denunciation and prohibition of male homosexuality.  The more enduring triumph of Islam, another Abrahamic religion with a similar prohibition, in the 7th century, was less shattering in its implications.

Attitudes to Greek love in this region down to the nineteenth century remained fairly similar to those in Christendom down to the seventeenth.  In both, it was generally taken for granted that beautiful boys (but not men, the principal distinction here being the beard), as well as women, were sexually attractive to men. Liwāt (the act of the people of Lot), like its Christian equivalent of sodomy, was interpreted as severely prescribing pedication, which was assumed to be what men longed for sexually with boys.

There was, however, one remarkable difference.  Whereas in Christendom, the feelings that led men to want sex with boys were themselves condemned as temptations from Satan, a considerable body of Moslem religious opinion held that the love of boys, including the love of them for their beauty, was acceptable or even commendable, so long as it remained chaste.

Unsurprisingly, the fact that love of boys could be expressed with an openness and frequency that was unthinkable in Christendom meant that men succumbed to the temptation to consummate it more often than is known to have been the case there.

Pre-twentieth century Islamic attitudes to Greek love thus on the whole resembled those of Christendom towards fornication rather than pederasty, or, in terms of severity, towards adultery.

The Thousand Nights and One Night includes some colourful stories involving Greek love in mediaeval Islamic societies.

"Le Vice" in Turkey by Jonathan Drake is a history of the trading and treatment of catamites in Turkey.

The totall discourse of the rare adventures & painefull peregrinations of long nineteene yeares travayles from Scotland to the most famous kingdomes in Europe, Asia and Affrica by William Lithgow published in London in 1632, of which everything bearing on Greek love has been extracted here, offers valuable insights on its prevalence in Turkey (see the extracts from 1610-11 on pp. 145-6), Egypt (see the extract from 1612 on p. 272) and Morocco (see the extract from 1615 on pp. 322-23).

John Fryer's A New Account of East India and Persia makes it clear that in the 1670s Persians were generally as sexually enthusiastic about boys as women.

A Faithful Account of the Religion and Manners of the Mahometans is by Joseph Pitts, an English sailor who, following his capture by pirates, lived in North Africa from 1678 to 1693, mostly as a slave, and includes his remarks on the popularity of Greek love in Algiers.

English traveller J. S. Buckingham's Travels in Assyria, Media, and Persia has a detailed description of a passionate but chaste love affair between a man and boy in Baghdad in 1815. Buckingham's struggle to understand the man, his esteemed travelling companion, highlights the cultural clash between locals and Europeans in an age when the latter had come to believe homosexuality was the propensity of a depraved minority, as well as remaining unable to accept chaste but physically-inspired love.

The initiation of André Gide is his own account of his first sexual experiences in Tunisia and Algeria in 1893-5.

Lord Alfred "Bosie" Douglas's Adventures in Algeria, 1895 are recounted from the primary sources.

D. Drew & J. Drake, in their Boys for Sale. A Sociological Study of Boy Prostitution (New York, 1969) give accounts of boy prostitution in Syria (with a little on Beirut too) from 1945 and Turkey.

In the same book, An American initiated in war-time Naples, 1943-67 includes a first-hand account of sex in the boy-brothels of Tangier in 1943.

The Boys of the New Israel, 1948 is a chapter of personal appreciation from English journalist Michael Davidson's memoir Some Boys.

The Orton Diaries, 1967 include vivid description of English playwright Joe Orton's sexual liaisons with Tangerine boys over seven weeks.

The Way It Is in Morocco is an Englishman's account of his Greek love adventure in Morocco in 1974.