Classical opinions on homosexuality

10 posts

Bob Dylan Roof

From a discussion in the shoutbox. Add your citations here.

Given that while some things are pleasant by nature (some of these without qualification, others with reference to particular types both of animals and of human beings), other things are not, but come to be pleasant whether because of disablement or through habituation, or again because of a natural lack of quality, in relation to each of these kinds of thing too one can observe dispositions of a corresponding sort. I mean the brutish ones ... These dispositions are brutish, but some result from diseases (and in some cases from madness, as with the man who sacrificed and ate his mother, or the one who ate his fellow slave's liver), while others are morbid dispositions resulting from habituation, e.g. pulling out one's hair or chewing on one's nails, or again on charcoal or earth, or, to add another example, the disposition to sexual activity with other males; for in some cases the dispositions in question occur naturally, while in others they result from habituation, as with those who are abused from childhood on. Where nature is responsible, then, no one would call these types un-self-controlled, any more than one would call women un-self-controlled because they have the passive rather than the active role in copulation... - Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics VII.5.1148b25​

"For I know not any greater blessing to a young man who is beginning in life than a virtuous lover, or to a lover than a beloved youth. For the principle, I say, neither kindred, nor honor, nor wealth, nor any motive is able to implant so well as love. Of what am I speaking? Of the sense of honor and dishonor, without which neither states nor individuals ever do any good or great work… And if there were only some way of contriving that a state or an army should be made up of lovers and their loves, they would be the very best governors of their own city, abstaining from all dishonor and emulating one another in honor; and it is scarcely an exaggeration to say that when fighting at each other’s side, although a mere handful, they would overcome the world." - Plato, Symposium, Jowett's translation

"Homosexuality is regarded as shameful by barbarians and by those who live under despotic governments just as philosophy is regarded as shameful by them, because it is apparently not in the interest of such rulers to have great ideas engendered in their subjects, or powerful friendships or passionate love-all of which homosexuality is particularly apt to produce." - Plato, quoted by John Boswell in " The Church and the Homosexual: An Historical Perspective " (1979).

"There is some pleasure in loving a boy (paidophilein) , since once in fact even the son of Cronus (that is, Zeus) , king of immortals, fell in love with Ganymede, seized him, carried him off to Olympus , and made him divine, keeping the lovely bloom of boyhood (paideia) . So, don't be astonished, Simonides, that I too have been revealed as captivated by love for a handsome boy." - Theognidean corpus 1345–50, as cited by Kamen, "The Life Cycle in Archaic Greece," p. 91.

Bronze Age Pervert

Plato didn't say that, one of Plato's characters did in the Symposium. In the Laws homosexual relations are forbidden, even while it may seem that they are taken for granted or encouraged in the Symposium and the Phaedrus. The reasons for this are too complicated to get into now, but it's not merely a function of Plato having "changed" his mind. The Laws is the only place where he actually considers and recommends specific legislation . It is remarkable that in this place he agrees with Biblical legislation...

Anyway, Aristotle and Plato sought to reform Greek practices and customs and can't be taken as the standard on Classical thought, the attitude of Theognis is more like the typical ancient aristo's attitude (but that is a bad translation). Even so, it can't really be called homosexuality because it has very little in common with what we associate with that word.

For some good basic explanations see Dover's book and also Bruce Thornton's Eros; the latter shows well why the modern gay activist take on ancient Greek practices is wrong.

It is significant that he doesn't put the words into the mouth of an arrogant or foolish character, but one of the wiser characters.

That is true but he is talking about chaste pederasty in Phaedrus and the Symposium, so it doesn't contradict what he says in the Laws.

Whatever his opinions on homosexuality, Plato indulged in pederasty himself. Among the boys he loved were Agathon, Dion, Alexis, and Aster. The following are two pederastic epigrams by Plato, translated by Percy Shelley:

Aster I​

Sweet Child, thou star of love and beauty bright,​
Alone thou lookest on the midnight skies;​
Oh! That my spirit were yon Heaven of light​
To gaze upon thee with a thousand eyes.​

Aster II​

Thou wert the morning star among the living,​
Ere thy fair light had fled;
Now, having died, thou art as Hesperus, giving​
New splendour to the dead.​

Plutarch on Hercules:

"And as to the (male) loves of Hercules, it is difficult to record them because of their number; but those who think that Iolaos was one of them do to this day worship and honour him, and make their loved ones swear fidelity at his tomb. . . . It is a tradition likewise that Iolaos, who assisted Hercules in his labours and fought at his side, was beloved of him; and Aristotle observes that even in his time lovers pledged their faith at Iolaos' tomb." (Eroticus, par. 17)​


"We are not the first mortals to see beauty in what is beautiful. No, even Amphitryon's bronze-hearted son, who defeated the savage Nemean lion, loved a boy-charming Hylas, whose hair hung down in curls. And like a father with a dear son he taught him all the things which had made him a mighty man, and famous. "​

"And they were inseparable, being together both day and night. That way the boy might grow the way he wanted him to, and being by his side attain the true measure of a man. When Jason sailed after the golden fleece, and all the nobles went with him invited from every city, to rich Iolkos he came too, the man of many labors, son of noble Alcmena.​

"And brave Hylas in the flower of youth went with him aboard the Argo, the strong-thwarted ship, to bear his arrows and to guard his bow." (Idyll 13)​


“I met Sophocles in Chios when he was as a strategist on his way to Lesbos. He was an adroit man who liked to make merry at the symposium. Hermesilaos was his friend and the official host of the Athenians. The boy who poured the wine stood at the fireplace, beautiful and blushing. Sophocles, visibly touched, asked him: ‘Do you want me to drink with delight?’ He nodded. ‘So take your time when you give me the bowl and take it away.’ The boy blushed more strongly. Sophocles remarked to the guest who lay beside him: “How beautiful is the line of Phrynichos: ‘Shining on purple cheeks the light of love.’ ”​

His neighbour, who was a schoolmaster of Eretria answered him: You are doubtless a sage poet, Sophocles, but Phrynichos did not express himself well in calling the cheeks of a beautiful boy purple, because, if a Persian had painted them with purple colour, the boy would appear no longer beautiful. Therefore one must not compare the beautiful to the obviously not beautiful.

Sophocles laughed and said: So you also won t like the verse of Simonides that the Greeks appreciate so much: From purple lips the girl let flow her voice, and what the poet says of Apollo s golden hair, because, if a painter had painted the god s hair golden instead of black, the painting would be worse. Likewise the poetic rose-fingered , since, if anyone should dip their fingers into rose-red paint, they would get hands like a dyer but not like a beautiful woman.

The other guests laughed, and the man from Eretria was struck dumb with the rebuke, while Sophocles turned towards the boy again. This one was just trying to remove a speck from the bowl with his little finger. Sophocles asked him whether he could see the straw distinctly. He affirmed it, and Sophocles continued: So blow it away, lest your finger should become wet. While the boy approached his lips to the vessel, Sophocles brought it nearer to his mouth, so that their heads approached each other. When the boy was near him, Sophocles put his arm around him, drew him even closer and kissed him. All applauded and cheered him for having outfoxed the boy so nicely. Sophocles replied: Gentlemen, I m practising strategy, because Pericles said that I understood poetry but not strategy. Now, don't you think my stratagem turned out quite well?' (Deipnosophistai I, 20, and XIII, 603-604)​
President Camacho

The evidence seems to indicate that Plato was a bareback power bottom with a mean chip on his shoulder

Beautiful Ganymede

I thought this was quite interesting. During the post-Hellenistic period, debates about the relative advantages and disadvantages of "love of womankind" vs. paiderastia were quite common. (Of course, by way of clarification, paiderastia should be distinguished from male homosexuality, which is a modern invention that dates from the late nineteenth century; furthermore, homosexuality is best understood as an efficient diagnostic tool which is best used as a means of identifying sexual psychopathology. It is a form of serious mental illness and those who suffer from it should be hospitalized, or at least socially ostracized for their extreme depravity.)

Unfortunately, so much ink is expended on Plato, Aristotle, Xenophon and other classical writers, that the entertaining dialogues of Plutarch, Achilles Tatius and Pseudo-Lucian are all too often ignored, probably because they were Roman-era Greeks who lived long after the decline of cosmopolitan, empire-building Hellenism. In Plutarch, "love of womankind" is judged superior to paiderastia ; in Achilles Tatius, no judgment is reached as to the relative merits of paiderastia vs. woman-love; in Pseudo-Lucian, paiderastia is judged superior to woman-love. I have decided to reproduce passages from the last two works, as these authors are the more obscure of the three.

First, we shall read from Pseudo-Lucian, an anonymous author who saw quite clearly that all women are artificial, worthless degenerates of low character:

In conclusion, the narrator, forced by his companions to judge which type of love is superior, whether boy-love or woman-love, says:

Indeed, how true!

Now for my second excerpt, this time from Achilles Tatius:

That pederasty was widely practiced by Greek aristocrats is also evident from the number of depictions of pederastic relationships on vase paintings. Ceramic depictions of individuals labeled as "beautiful" include only 30 women, but 528 boys. So common was this custom, that fathers were known to hire guards to prevent their sons from being courted while they walked the streets of Athens, and fights are said to have frequently broken out on the streets when two men were attempting to seduce the same boy.

Zeus, Poseidon, Apollo, Orpheus, Hercules, Dionysus, Hermes, and Pan were all pederasts. I find it noteworthy that all of the Olympian (Aryan) gods had male loves, with the sole exception of Ares, but not, to my knowledge, any of the autochthonous (pre-Hellenic) Titanic gods.

As for Plato, opinion is divided as to whether or not his denunciation of homosexuality in the Laws is a reflection of his own views, and whether he condemns homosexuality between fully grown men, or pederasty, or both. It should also be noted that he attacks all non-procreative sex in the Laws, whether homosexual or heterosexual.

Beefy Rep
The scandal of Greek homo/pedophilia consummates the self-erasure of generically western culture, and its concomitant replacement with culturelessness. I would go so far as to use Heidegarian terminology, and say that it is a true event in the "sending of being." The Grecian elite, to which we are supposed to be culturally descended from, publicly celebrated and enjoyed our very worst disgrace. This disgrace, furthermore, spans the centuries to our own present day and is found amongst the Catholic priests, who are, as it were, the other pole of the history of western culture--its preservation, and the continuation of the element by which it was first decoded as a generic tradition, from the Latin, by the celibate dead ends of our Frankish lineage.

I won't go so far as to say that fucking little boys is the secret of western culture, or some kind of psychoanalytic cypher. But it is something that is, in the parlance of certain philosophers today "a radical other." There can be no communication with this other according to our sensibilities, the traditional morality, liberalism or conservatism, even classicalism itself. The Greeks are indefensible from any persuasion, political or otherwise. Only by transgressing ourselves could we possibly place ourselves within their peculiar monstrosity. And then we would not be Western. But this makes us not Western already, and without any question of a return to the Greeks, to an asking of their questions or any of the rest.

The truth is that any organic descent from classical civilization on the part of westerners today is negligible, and that our encounter with it was mediated by texts from the start. the Franks encountered Latin learning much like the apes in 2001 encountered the monolith--savages touching a few distilled logical forms mostly found in Aristotle and the Timaeus, as they were connected somehow to the language by which the infinity more immediate image of Christ also came over them. Only centuries later did we discover the rest of the classical civilization--still in fragments--and from the start it was already a nightmare; a bad trip amplified a million fold by the simultaneous introduction of the printing press, and the general acceleration and excitation of the forms of life by the application of further distilled and austere skeletal logic (modern philosophy, which is also modern science) descended from the original scholasticism.

We decoded Rome, in its mathematical and logical skeleton, and this beast grew to overtake the entirety of the earth while produce its same horror. And then, in this burgeoning power was found first the Latin and Greek texts, then through the apparatus of critical logic the full truth of the culture that created them. And we find something quiet rotten that we cannot call our own in even the most remote sense. We are alerted to the alterity of this beast--and then we see its cure and conqueror has also reached us, in its jaws the whole time but quite unscathed.
Even although, as a form of homosexuality, pederasty be offensive to modern tastes, it cannot with propriety be condemned as a paedophilic custom. Sixteen year olds are not "little boys". Unlike victims of child molestation, or for that matter women in ancient Greek society, the younger party in a pederastic relationship was free to choose his partner. Rape and commercial pederasty were illegal . "Clearly, a mutual, consensual bond was formed," writes classical historian and archaeologist Robert B. Koeh; he adds, "the boy had to feel satisfied otherwise the bond could be dissolved".