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Classical Athenians Tolerated Homosexuality
Why the Ancient Greeks were gay
Recently, the homosexuality of the Ancient Greeks has been a hot-topic in discourse. Some claim that they were not tolerant of homosexuality, and that mainstream claims to the contrary are made up to push an agenda.
However, the evidence on this topic is clear. The Athenians definitely practiced widespread pederasty, which included adult homosexuality, in the 300s BC. This in part provides evidence for a decadence-cycle theory of history.
Specifically, there are three theses I will defend:
pederasty was a standard option, i.e. not “perverse”, and was practiced by a significant fraction of the elite (P(Pederasty) >~ 5%).
adult male-on-male sex was legal and tolerated.
The molestation little boys was perverse. Pederasty almost always involved young men as the “eromenos.”
Why the Pre-Christian Ancients tolerated Homosexuality
While the main focus of this article is classical Athens, the reader should be aware that homosexuality was generally tolerated in pre-Christian European-Mediterranean society. The Cretans, Spartans, and Romans were all known to have tolerated homosexual behavior, for instance.
On the Cretans, Plato says:
And we all accuse the Cretans of concocting the story about Ganymede. [636d] Because it was the belief that they derived their laws from Zeus, they added on this story about Zeus in order that they might be following his example in enjoying this pleasure as well.
Referring to the story where Zeus abducts Ganymede, a “beautiful boy” whom he wanted to make his “cup bearer” in the heavens.
Ancient opinion on Sparta was divided, some casted its pederasty as “chaste”, others didn’t bother and spoke of older “lovers” of boys who would watch them exercise naked. For example, Plutarch stated:
When the boys reached this age [13-14], they were favoured with the society of lovers from among the reputable young men. The elderly men also kept close watch of them, coming more frequently to their places of exercises, and observing their contests of strength and wit, not cursorily, but with the idea that they were all in a sense the fathers and tutors and governors of all the boys. In this way, at every fitting time and in every place, the boy who went wrong had someone to admonish and chastise him.
The Roman records are the clearest. As Rome began its moral decline, homosexual behavior increased and was tolerated among the elite. The “Warren cup” for instance depicts the molestation of a little boy under the typical age for pederasty. It is dated to the 1st century AD and is 95% pure silver. I am not even sure that today an elite could get away with commissioning such a depiction engraved into a 95% pure silver cup.
Numerous emperors were known sexual degenerates. Caligula was a catamite, Elagabalus was a cross-dresser. A young aristocrat by the name of Valerius Catullus boasted of penetrating the emperor Caligula and this was just par for the course in degenerate Rome.
Finally, we will show why this is the case biologically.
A solid 20% of Gen Z report some interest in homosexual behavior.
Most Ancient Greeks were not exclusive homosexuals. Zeus, for instance, had at least dozens of escapades with women in myth before abducting Ganymedes. Socrates was a pederast whose wife was said to have thrown away gifts he received from his eromenos out of jealousy (as I will show later). Most of these men were what we would now call “bisexual.” There is evidence that most males are “bisexual.”
It’s not a coincidence that most Ancient pederasts also had wives. That should be your prior. It’s also not a coincidence that they preferred “beardless youths.” Laws and religion can suppress this, but one should expect more ancient and primitive peoples to live closer to their baser “natures.”
This makes sense genetically. Evolution must strike a balance between making women attracted to males and making males attracted to females. A male who prefers women over men will probably have as many offspring as a male who only prefers women. The latter male’s female offspring may be less likely to have many children, if they are not sufficiently attracted to men. Genes coding for attraction to males are going to be present in men, because men have all of the genetic material of women. If a perfect off-switch is not sufficiently adaptive, a perfect off-switch will not evolve. Furthermore, no organism is ever perfect. Disease and dysfunction is very common and extinction is frequent. The “perfect evolution fallacy” is common among laymen, taking the form of “If X trait is superior, then X would have evolved, but X did not evolve, so X is not superior” or “X trait is superior, therefore X evolved.” But this is not true, evolution is not a perfect algorithm for finding global maximums, and the Bible informs us that the world is purposefully cursed with imperfection and degeneration. Men are not perfect altruists, and so neither are they perfect heterosexual monogamists.
Pederasty was legal and optional, not perverse
There are two sufficient sources for showing that pederasty was legal and optional in Ancient Athens, not “perverse”, i.e. contrary to the law or completely against habit: Against Timarchus and Plato’s Symposium. The former describes the law and legal history regarding homosexual behavior, and the latter contains direct descriptions of contemporary pederasty, including that between Socrates and his eromenos.
There are claims that Athenians were against pederasty and they cite the following law from Against Timarchus:
The teachers of the boys shall open the school-rooms not earlier than sunrise, and they shall close them before sunset. No person who is older than the boys shall be permitted to enter the room while they are there, unless he be a son of the teacher, a brother, or a daughter's husband. If any one enter in violation of this prohibition, he shall be punished with death. The superintendents of the gymnasia shall under no conditions allow any one who has reached the age of manhood to enter the contests of Hermes together with the boys. A gymnasiarch who does permit this and fails to keep such a person out of the gymnasium, shall be liable to the penalties prescribed for the seduction of free-born youth. Every choregus who is appointed by the people shall be more than forty years of age.
The pederasty was so bad, the State had to execute anyone who went into the schools of little boys on the suspicion that they were molesters! This, like the line about parents needing to hire bodyguards to protect their small children, suggests widespread pedophilia unheard of in the modern world. And note that the law does not ban sexual behavior with young men or boys. It only addresses the schools of paidos, it has nothing to do with ephebes and nothing to do with sexual behavior outside of the school house.
It turns out that my intuition was correct. Aeschines states the following about that law:
For the very fact that certain unbecoming things were being done was the reason for the enactment of these laws by the men of old.
More than that, this law was not even in effect during the time of classical Athens. Aeschines is recounting the laws of the “men of old.” Specifically, this was a Solonian law. These laws were only in effect for 10-100 years after Solon. Aeschines spoke about 200-300 years after Solon. This is like me citing an American law from 1720 or 1820 on sodomy in a case against Pete Buttigieg.
According to Wikipedia:
After completing his work of reform, Solon surrendered his extraordinary authority and left the country. According to Herodotus the country was bound by Solon to maintain his reforms for 10 years, whereas according to Plutarch and the author of the Athenian Constitution (reputedly Aristotle) the contracted period was instead 100 years. A modern scholar considers the time-span given by Herodotus to be historically accurate because it fits the 10 years that Solon was said to have been absent from the country.
Furthermore, and say what you want about modern scholars, a myth arose among ancient writers that Solon was a pederast, based on his poetry about boys. Whether or not this was a true myth hardly matters; it says something about the ancients around the time of the egalitarian democracy of 300 BC:
Ancient authors also say that Solon regulated pederastic relationships in Athens; this has been presented as an adaptation of custom to the new structure of the polis. According to various authors, ancient lawgivers (and therefore Solon by implication) drew up a set of laws that were intended to promote and safeguard the institution of pederasty and to control abuses against freeborn boys. In particular, the orator Aeschines cites laws excluding slaves from wrestling halls and forbidding them to enter pederastic relationships with the sons of citizens.
Besides the alleged legislative aspect of Solon's involvement with pederasty, there were also suggestions of personal involvement. Ancient readers concluded, based on his own erotic poetry, that Solon himself had a preference for boys. According to some ancient authors Solon had taken the future tyrant Pisistratus as his eromenos. Aristotle, writing around 330 BC, attempted to refute that belief, claiming that "those are manifestly talking nonsense who pretend that Solon was the lover of Pisistratus, for their ages do not admit of it," as Solon was about thirty years older than Pisistratus. Nevertheless, the tradition persisted. Four centuries later Plutarch ignored Aristotle's skepticism and recorded the following anecdote, supplemented with his own conjectures:
And they say Solon loved [Pisistratus]; and that is the reason, I suppose, that when afterwards they differed about the government, their enmity never produced any hot and violent passion, they remembered their old kindnesses, and retained "Still in its embers living the strong fire" of their love and dear affection.
Now we shall list the other laws which Aeschines recounts. These seem to be Solonian and thus not in “effect” as we would understand it today. Aeschines was speaking to a democratic council, attempting to persuade them to ban Timarchus from the government. He is appealing to them to win their votes, which are not constrained by codified law, using older tradition, because it suits his case better.
At any rate the law says explicitly: if any boy is let out for hire as a prostitute, whether it be by father or brother or uncle or guardian, or by any one else who has control of him, prosecution is not to he against the boy himself, but against the man who let him out for hire and the man who hired him; against the one because he let him out for hire, and against the other, it says, because he hired him. And the law has made the penalties for both offenders the same. Moreover the law frees a son, when he has become a man, from all obligation to support or to furnish a home to a father by whom he has been hired out for prostitution; but when the father is dead, the son is to bury him and perform the other customary rites. See, gentlemen, how admirably this legislation fits the case; so long as the father is alive he is deprived of all the benefits of fatherhood, precisely as he deprived his son of a citizen's right to speak [prostitution = “nonconsensual”] …
But what other law has been laid down for the protection of your children? The law against panders [this means “pimping”]. For the lawgiver imposes the heaviest penalties if any person act as pander [inducing them to prostitution] in the case of a free-born child or a free-born woman.
And what other law? The law against outrage [sexual assault and harassment], which includes all such conduct in one summary statement, wherein it stands expressly written: if any one outrage a child （and surely he who hires, outrages） or a man or woman, or any one, free or slave, or if he commit any unlawful act against any one of these. Here the law provides prosecution for outrage, and it prescribes what bodily penalty he shall suffer, or what fine he shall pay.
And what does he say? “If any Athenian,” he says, “shall have prostituted his person [chose prostitution as an adult], he shall not be permitted to become one of the nine archons,” because, no doubt, that official wears the wreath;1“nor to discharge the office of priest,” as being not even clean of body; “nor shall he act as an advocate for the state,” he says, “nor shall ever hold any office whatsoever, at home or abroad, whether filled by lot or by election; nor shall he be a herald or an ambassador”
Where is the law against non-prostitutional homosexual behavior? There isn’t one. This is the best case Aeschines can make; some ancient, non-codified laws condemn blatant whoring. He argues that Timarchus’s sexual behavior crosses the line into blatant whoring. It is stated in the beginning of the speech that this was well known, and Timarchus was involved in government anyway, probably because those laws were not codified. This speech only came after Timarchus slandered Aeschines.
On Timarchus’s behavior and the general attitude towards pederasty, we have the following:
Fellow citizens, there is one Misgolas, son of Naucrates, of the deme Collytus, a man otherwise honorable, and beyond reproach save in this, that he is bent on that sort of thing like one possessed, and is accustomed always to have about him singers or cithara-players. I say this, not from any liking for indecent talk, but that you may know what sort of man Misgolas is. Now this Misgolas, perceiving Timarchus' motive in staying at the house of the physician, paid him a sum of money in advance and caused him to change his lodgings, and got him into his own home; for Timarchus was well developed, young, and lewd, just the person for the thing that Misgolas wanted to do, and Timarchus wanted to have done.
You can see here that whereas the genius Alan Turing was sterilized for homosexual behavior in 1952:
In January 1952, Turing was 39 when he started a relationship with Arnold Murray, a 19-year-old unemployed man. Just before Christmas, Turing was walking along Manchester's Oxford Road when he met Murray just outside the Regal Cinema and invited him to lunch. On 23 January, Turing's house was burgled. Murray told Turing that he and the burglar were acquainted, and Turing reported the crime to the police. During the investigation, he acknowledged a sexual relationship with Murray. Homosexual acts were criminal offences in the United Kingdom at that time, and both men were charged with "gross indecency" under Section 11 of the Criminal Law Amendment Act 1885. Initial committal proceedings for the trial were held on 27 February during which Turing's solicitor "reserved his defence", i.e., did not argue or provide evidence against the allegations.
Turing was later convinced by the advice of his brother and his own solicitor, and he entered a plea of guilty. The case, Regina v. Turing and Murray, was brought to trial on 31 March 1952. Turing was convicted and given a choice between imprisonment and probation. His probation would be conditional on his agreement to undergo hormonal physical changes designed to reduce libido, known as "chemical castration". He accepted the option of injections of what was then called stilboestrol (now known as diethylstilbestrol or DES), a synthetic oestrogen; this feminization of his body was continued for the course of one year. The treatment rendered Turing impotent and caused breast tissue to form, fulfilling in the literal sense Turing's prediction that "no doubt I shall emerge from it all a different man, but quite who I've not found out". Murray was given a conditional discharge.
Turing's conviction led to the removal of his security clearance and barred him from continuing with his cryptographic consultancy for the Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), the British signals intelligence agency that had evolved from GC&CS in 1946, though he kept his academic job. He was denied entry into the United States after his conviction in 1952, but was free to visit other European countries.
Misgolas faced no penalty for more or less openly soliciting young male prostitution and “always having about him singers or cithara-players.” He is considered “otherwise honorable.” And the only issue here is the prostitution. Turing’s sort of behavior was clearly tolerated in Athens. Again, this was openly known for years and only became a problem because Timarchus slandered Aeschines, and only Aeschines is on trial, and it is a civil trial over him being banned from office and public speaking. He does not face castration, imprisonment, or any worse penalty. And the trial does not hinge on whether he engaged in homosexual behavior, but whether he was making a living from it or not. It is taken for granted that he was engaging in homosexual behavior. Aeschines has to establish that he was profiting from it and was doing it with many men for his case to work.
Incidentally, we are told that Timarchus was bisexual and had a penchant for female whores, among other vices. This aligns with my data above on the commonality of human bisexuality:
Timarchus did not hesitate, but submitted to it all, though he had income to satisfy all reasonable desires. For his father had left him a very large property, which he has squandered, as I will show in the course of my speech. But he behaved as he did because he was a slave to the most shameful lusts, to gluttony and extravagance at table, to flute-girls and harlots, to dice, and to all those other things no one of which ought to have the mastery over a man who is well-born and free.
Aeschines recounts that at one point Timarchus went to have sex with some foreign men, and this was openly known to everyone who knew him:
They got word of him and found him at lunch with some foreigners in a lodging-house. Misgolas and Phaedrus threatened the foreigners and ordered them to follow straight to the lock-up for having corrupted a free youth. The foreigners were so scared that they dropped everything and ran away as fast as they could go.
The truth of this story is known to everybody who knew Misgolas and Timarchus in those days. Indeed, I am very glad that the suit that I am prosecuting is against a man not unknown to you, and known for no other thing than precisely that practice as to which you are going to render your verdict. For in the case of facts which are not generally known, the accuser is bound, I suppose, to make his proofs explicit; but where the facts are notorious, I think it is no very difficult matter to conduct the prosecution, for one has only to appeal to the recollection of his hearers.
Everyone knew this, and it only became a problem when Timarchus slandered Aeschines, and only a civil issue at that. Again, compare this to Turing being banned from the USA, castrated, and threatened with prison, for having a more or less closed “pederastic” relation with one youth in 1952. If Turing were in Ancient Athens, he could have been open with it and would not have been castrated or prosecuted.
Next Aeschines states that if he had kept it to one man he would have been almost decent, although selling yourself in one household is still prostitution:
Now, fellow citizens, if Timarchus here had remained with Misgolas and never gone to another man's house, his conduct would have been more decent—if really any such conduct is “decent”—and I should not have ventured to bring any other charge against him than that which the lawgiver describes in plain words, simply that he was a kept man. For the man who practises this thing with one person, and practises it for pay, seems to me to be liable to precisely this charge.
But if, saying nothing about these bestial fellows, Cedonides, Autocleides, and Thersandrus, and simply telling the names of those in whose houses he has been an inmate, I refresh your memories and show that he is guilty of selling his person not only in Misgolas' house, but in the house of another man also, and again of another, and that from this last he went to still another, surely you will no longer look upon him as one who has merely been a kept man, but—by Dionysus, I don't know how I can keep glossing the thing over all day long—as a common prostitute. For the man who follows these practices recklessly and with many men and for pay seems to me to be chargeable with precisely this.
By Poseidon, a fine home this city will be for us, if when we ourselves know that a thing has been done in fact, we are to ignore it unless some man come forward here and testify to the act in words as explicit as they must be shameless.
What shall we say when a young man leaves his father's house and spends his nights in other people's houses, a conspicuously handsome young man? When he enjoys costly suppers without paying for them, and keeps the most expensive flutegirls and harlots? When he gambles and pays nothing himself but another man always pays for him?
Does it take a wizard to explain all that? Is it not perfectly plain that the man who makes such demands must himself necessarily be furnishing in return certain pleasures to the men who are spending their money on him? I say “furnishing pleasures,” because, by the Olympian Zeus, I don't know how I can use more euphemistic language than that in referring to your contemptible conduct.
Next Aeschines describes how Timarchus bounced between various elite older males:
Well, when now Misgolas found him too expensive and dismissed him, next Anticles, son of Callias, the deme Euonymon, took him up. Anticles, however, is absent in Samos as a member of the new colony, so I will pass on to the next incident. For after this man Timarchus had left Anticles and Misgolas, he did not repent or reform his way of life, but spent his days in the gambling-place, where the gaming-table is set, and cock-fighting and dice-throwing are the regular occupations. I imagine some of you have seen the place; at any rate you have heard of it.
Among the men who spend their time there is one Pittalacus, a slave-fellow who is the property of the city [he was a slave owned by the city. “Public slaves” were top slaves, essentially]. He had plenty of money, and seeing Timarchus spending his time thus he took him and kept him in his own house. This foul wretch here was not disturbed by the fact that he was going to defile himself with a public slave, but thought of one thing only, of getting him to be paymaster for his own disgusting lusts; to the question of virtue or of shame he never gave a thought.
Now the sins of this Pittalacus against the person of Timarchus, and his abuse of him, as they have come to my ears, are such that, by the Olympian Zeus, I should not dare to repeat them to you. For the things that he was not ashamed to do in deed, I had rather die than describe to you in words. But about the same time, while, as I have said, he was staying with Pittalacus, here comes Hegesandrus, back again from the Hellespont. I know you are surprised that I have not mentioned him long before this, so notorious is what I am going to relate.
Hegesandrus, being so well supplied with money, resorted to the house of Pittalacus, who gambled with him; there he first saw this man Timarchus; he was pleased with him, lusted after him, and wanted to take him to his own house, thinking, doubtless, that here was a man of his own kidney. So he first had a talk with Pittalacus, asking him to turn Timarchus over to him. Failing to persuade him, he appealed to the man himself. He did not spend many words; the man was instantly persuaded. For when it is a question of the business itself, Timarchus shows an openmindedness and a spirit of accommodation that are truly wonderful; indeed, that is one of the very reasons why he ought to be an object of loathing.
And then Hegesandrus and Timarchus assault Pittalacus while drunk. Pittalacus attempts to tell the city of their vices in the public square, but quits after being offered a sum of money. This is never paid, and instead Hegesandrus files a lawsuit claiming he is Pittalacus’s true owner. A man named Glaucon shuts down this lawsuit for Pittalacus.
At this point, we have been told that it is relative public knowledge that Timarchus prostituted himself to a physician, Misgolas, random foreigners, Cedonides, Autocleides, and Thersandrus in the house of Misgolas, Anticles, Pittalacus, and Hegesandrus. All of these people accept for Pittalacus and the physician seem to be “Patricians.” This was relative knowledge among these people, and Timarchus still was active in politics until he slandered Aeschines.
Timarchus even openly joked about his behavior in the “Senate”:
Now if one of you should ask me, “How do you know that we would vote against him?” I should answer, “Because you have spoken out and told me.” And I will remind you when and where each man of you speaks and tells me: it is every time that Timarchus mounts the platform in the assembly; and the senate spoke out, when last year he was a member of the senate. For every time he used such words as “walls” or “tower” that needed repairing, or told how so-and-so had been “taken off” somewhere, you immediately laughed and shouted, and yourselves spoke the words that belong to those exploits of which he, to your knowledge, is guilty.
(Fortunately the modern reader is spared a knowledge of the double entente that made the vulgar listeners laugh when a man like Timarchus used the words τεῖχος, πύργος, and ἀπάγειν. Probably πύργος (tower) suggested the women's apartments, and ἀπάγειν (taken off) may have suggested seduction.)
Incidentally, Hegesandrus is also bisexual. I’m seeing a pattern here:
Now if anyone does not understand the facts of the case, I will try to explain them more clearly. Hegesandrus, who kept Timarchus, had married an heiress. So long as her inheritance held out, and the money that Hegesandrus had brought back with him from his voyage with Timomachus, they lived in all luxury and lewdness. But when these resources had been wasted and gambled away and eaten up, and this defendant had lost his youthful charm, and, as you would expect, no one would any longer give him anything, while his lewd and depraved nature constantly craved the same indulgences, and with excessive incontinence kept making demand after demand upon him then, at last, incessantly drawn back to his old habits, he resorted to the devouring of his patrimony. And not only did he eat it up, but, if one may so say, he also drank it up! He sold one piece of property after another, not for what it was worth—he couldn't wait for a higher offer nor even for the bare value, but let it go for what it would fetch on the instant, so urgently did he hasten to gratify his lusts.
Timarchus was allowed to buy positions after he was too old to be a prostitute so he could fulfill the homosexual blackmailer archetype:
But it is not only his patrimony that he has wasted, but also the common possessions of the state, your possessions, so far as they have ever come under his control. You see for yourselves how young he is, and yet there is not a public office which he has not held, not one of them by lot or by election, but every one by purchase, in defiance of the laws. The most of them I will pass over, and mention two or three only.
He held the office of auditor, and did the state serious injury by taking bribes from office holders who had been dishonest,1 though his specialty was the blackmailing of innocent men who were to appear before the auditing board. He held a magistracy in Andros, which he bought for thirty minas, borrowing the money at nine obols on the mina,2 and thus he made your allies a ready source of supply for his own lusts. And in his treatment of the wives of free men he showed such licentiousness as no other man ever did. Of these men I call no one into court to testify publicly to his own misfortune, which he has chosen to cover in silence, but I leave it to you to investigate this matter.
Demosthenes’s rebuttal to Aeschines reveals that prostitution is, de facto, merely taxed, and so this trial is contradictory to current law:
The eminent orator Demosthenes says that you must either wipe out your laws, or else no attention must be paid to my words. For he is amazed, he says, if you do not all remember that every single year the senate farms out the tax on prostitutes, and that the men who buy this tax do not guess, but know precisely, who they are that follow this profession. When, therefore, I have dared to bring impeachment against Timarchus for having prostituted himself, in order that I may deprive him of the right to address the people in assembly, Demosthenes says that the very act complained of calls, not for an accuser's arraignment, but for the testimony of the tax-gatherer who collected this tax from Timarchus.
And next is a silver bullet against the no-Greek-pederasty narrative. An anticipated objection to this prosecution is that it would harm pederastic culture:
But in the course of the defence one of the generals will, as I am told, mount the platform, with head held high and a self-conscious air, as one who should say, Behold the graduate of the wrestling schools, and the student of philosophy! And he will undertake to throw ridicule upon the whole idea of the prosecution, asserting that this is no legal process that I have devised, but the first step in a dangerous decline in the culture of our youth.1 He will cite first those benefactors of yours, Harmodius and Aristogeiton, describing their fidelity to one another, and telling how in their case this relationship proved the salvation of the state.
(1 Probably the hearers would be quick to catch the half-hidden thought suggested by the word ἀπαιδευσία. The Athenian gentlemen did indeed “cultivate” the handsome boys and young men, and for most immoral purposes. The culture that the boys received was too often not εὐπαιδευσία, but παιδεραστία.)
What this means is that it was widely thought in antiquity that Harmodius and Aristogeiton were sexual lovers, as Timarchus is on trial for sexual behavior. This is not something homosexuals made up in the 1960s. If it is made up, it was made up by homosexuals in the 300s BC. That says a lot about the 300s BC.
There is a similar pair, Achilles and Patroclus from the Illiad. Some have claimed that there is a myth that they were lovers, and that this was not in the Illiad, and this myth proves that mainstream academia made up Greek pederasty.
It is correct that in the Illiad they are not explicitly lovers. However, t was not 20th century or 21st century homosexuals who created the myth. It was 300s BC homosexuals. Aeschines acknowledges this:
Indeed, they say he will not even spare the poems of Homer or the names of the heroes, but will celebrate the friendship between Patroclus and Achilles, which, we are told, had its source in passion. And he will pronounce an encomium on beauty now, as though it were not recognised long since as a blessing, if haply it be united with morality. For he says that if certain men by slandering this beauty of body shall cause beauty to be a misfortune to those who possess it, then in your public verdict you will contradict your personal prayers.
Homer never explicitly casts the two as lovers, but they were depicted as lovers in the archaic and classical periods of Greek literature, particularly in the works of Aeschylus, Aeschines and Plato.
Aeschines himself next admits to being a pederast:
And just here I understand he is going to carry the war into my territory, and ask me if I am not ashamed on my own part, after having made a nuisance of myself in the gymnasia and having been many times a lover, now to be bringing the practice into reproach and danger. And finally—so I am told—in an attempt to raise a laugh and start silly talk among you, he says he is going to exhibit all the erotic poems I have ever addressed to one person or another, and he promises to call witnesses to certain quarrels and pommellings in which I have been involved in consequence of this habit.
Now as for me, I neither find fault with love that is honorable, nor do I say that those who surpass in beauty are prostitutes. I do not deny that I myself have been a lover and am a lover to this day, nor do I deny that the jealousies and quarrels that commonly arise from the practice have happened in my case. As to the poems which they say I have composed, some I acknowledge, but as to others I deny that they are of the character that these people will impute to them, for they will tamper with them.
The distinction which I draw is this: to be in love with those who are beautiful and chaste is the experience of a kind-hearted and generous soul; but to hire for money and to indulge in licentiousness is the act of a man who is wanton and ill-bred. And whereas it is an honor to be the object of a pure love, I declare that he who has played the prostitute by inducement of wages is disgraced. How wide indeed is the distinction between these two acts and how great the difference, I will try to show you in what I shall next say.
On pederasty being legal:
the same lawgiver said, “A slave shall not be the lover of a free boy nor follow after him, or else he shall receive fifty blows of the public lash.” But the free man was not forbidden to love a boy, and associate with him, and follow after him, nor did the lawgiver think that harm came to the boy thereby, but rather that such a thing was a testimony to his chastity. But, I think, so long as the boy is not his own master and is as yet unable to discern who is a genuine friend, and who is not, the law teaches the lover self-control, and makes him defer the words of friendship till the other is older and has reached years of discretion; but to follow after the boy and to watch over him the lawgiver regarded as the best possible safeguard and protection for chastity.
And so it was that those benefactors of the state, Harmodius and Aristogeiton, men pre-eminent for their virtues, were so nurtured by that chaste [relative to Timarchus!] and lawful love—or call it by some other name than love if you like—and so disciplined, that when we hear men praising what they did, we feel that words are inadequate to the eulogy of their deeds.
On Straussian Homer:
I will speak first of Homer, whom we rank among the oldest and wisest of the poets. Although he speaks in many places of Patroclus and Achilles, he hides their love and avoids giving a name to their friendship, thinking that the exceeding greatness of their affection is manifest to such of his hearers as are educated men.
Incidentally, as the Illiad describes, Achilles and Patroclus are several times depicted having sex with women. If passionate for one another, they would have been bisexual.
Next, Aeschenes gives us a list of pederasts:
But not to dwell too long on the poets, I will recite to you the names of older and well-known men, and of youths and boys, some of whom have had many lovers because of their beauty, and some of whom, still in their prime, have lovers today, but not one of whom ever came under the same accusations as Timarchus. Again, I will tell over to you in contrast men who have prostituted themselves shamefully and notoriously, in order that by calling these to mind you may place Timarchus where he belongs.
First I will name those who have lived the life of free and honorable men. You know, fellow citizens, Crito, son of Astyochus, Pericleides of Perithoedae, Polemagenes, Pantaleon, son of Cleagoras, and Timesitheus the runner, men who were the most beautiful, not only among their fellow citizens, but in all Hellas, men who counted many a man of eminent chastity as lover; yet no man ever censured them.
And again, among the youths and those who are still boys, first, you know the nephew of Iphicrates, the son of Teisias of Rhamnos, of the same name as the defendant. He, beautiful to look upon, is so far from reproach, that the other day at the rural Dionysia when the comedies were being played in Collytus, and when Parmenon the comic actor addressed a certain anapaestic verse to the chorus, in which certain persons were referred to as “big Timarchian prostitutes,” nobody thought of it as aimed at the youth, but, one and all, as meant for you, so unquestioned is your title to the practice. Again, Anticles, the stadium runner, and Pheidias,the brother of Melesias. Although I could name many others, I will stop, lest I seem to be in a way courting their favor by my praise.
But as to those men who are kindred spirits with Timarchus, for fear of arousing their enmity I will mention only those toward whom I am utterly indifferent. Who of you does not know Diophantes, called “the orphan,” who arrested the foreigner and brought him before the archon, whose associate on the bench was Aristophon of Azenia?1 For Diophantes accused the foreigner of having cheated him out of four drachmas in connection with this practice, and he cited the laws that command the archon to protect orphans, when he himself had violated the laws that enjoin chastity. Or what Athenian was not indignant at Cephisodorus, called Molon's son, for having ruined his surpassing beauty by a most infamous life? Or Mnesitheus, known as the cook's son? Or many others, whose names I am willing to forget?
Case closed. Pederasty is so widespread, Aeschines himself admits to it, and he has to anticipate disagreement from pederasts when it comes to prosecuting Timarchus. He therefore has to make himself very clear that he is not attacking pederasty (which is clearly shown to be sexual and passionate in nature) but rather prostitution.
Next we will briefly touch on Plato’s Symposium, which depicts Alkibiades’ love for Socrates:
But when I opened him up, and looked within at his serious purpose, I saw in him divine and golden images of such fascinating beauty that I was ready to do in a moment whatever Sokrates commanded: they may have escaped the observation of others, but I saw them. Now I fancied that he was seriously enamoured of my youthful beauty, so I congratulated myself on a fantastic stroke of luck, which had given me the chance to gratify Sokrates, and therefore have a grand opportunity of hearing him tell everything he knew, for I had a wonderful opinion of the attractions of my youth.
In the prosecution of this design, when I next went to him, I sent away the attendant who usually accompanied me (I will confess the whole truth, and beg you to listen; and if I speak falsely, you, Sokrates, expose the falsehood). Well, he and I were alone together, and I thought that when there was nobody with us, I should hear him speak the language which lovers use to the boys they love when they are by themselves, and I was delighted. Nothing of the sort; he conversed as usual, and spent the day with me and then went away. Afterwards I invited him to the gymnasium, and I exercised with him there. So he exercised and wrestled with me several times when there was no one present; I fancied that I might succeed in this manner. Not a bit; I made no way with him. Lastly, as I had failed hitherto, I thought that I must take stronger measures and attack him boldly, and, as I had begun, not give him up. I felt I should find out what was really the matter. So I invited him to sup with me, just like a lover with designs on the boy he loves.
He was not easily persuaded to come; he did, however, after a while accept the invitation, and when he came the first time, he wanted to go away at once as soon as supper was over, and I had not the face to detain him. The second time, still in pursuance of my design, after we had supped, I went on conversing far into the night, and when he wanted to go away, I pretended that the hour was late and that he had much better remain. So he lay down on the couch next to me, the same on which he had supped, and there was no one but ourselves sleeping in the room.
All this so far could be told without shame to any one. But what follows I could hardly tell you, first of all, if I were not drunk: as the proverb goes, ‘In vino veritas,’ whether with boys, or without them. Nor, again, should I be justified in concealing the lofty actions of Socrates when I come to praise him. Moreover I have felt the serpent's sting; and he who has suffered, as they say, is willing to tell his fellow-sufferers only, as they alone will be likely to understand him, and will not be extreme in judging of the sayings or doings which have been wrung from his agony. For I have been bitten by a more painful viper in the worst possible place, in my soul, or in my heart, or whatever name it has, by philosophical argument, whose bite, when it gets a grip on a young and intelligent mind, is sharper than any serpent's tooth, and will make one say or do anything. And you whom I see around me, Phaidros and Agathon and Eryximachos and Pausanias and Aristodemos and Aristophanes, all of you, and I need not say Socrates himself, have had experience of the same madness and passion in your longing after wisdom, so you will listen and excuse my doings then and my sayings now. But let the servants and any others profane and rustic put something over their ears.
He lies with Socrates and attempts to seduce him, and this could be told without shame to anyone. Pederasty is clearly not “perverse” in this society. Plato may call it contrary to nature later in his life, but his master Socrates was certainly a practitioner, as were many elites of his day.
We have now provided sufficient evidence that pederasty was a standard option, i.e. not “perverse”, and was practiced by a significant fraction of the elite. We have seen that it is legal and widespread under any reasonable definition. This is the opposite of “perverse.”
Adult male-on-male sex was legal and tolerated
We have shown enough evidence to verify that adult male-on-male sex was legal and tolerated. Timarchus continued his behavior deep into young adulthood. It was also not illegal for older men to lie with older men. It may have been seen as odd when younger men were widely available, however, and therefore was not as widely practiced as pederasty. Regardless, pederasty in many cases, when the eromenos was older, qualified as adult male-on-male sex. Harmodius and Aristogeiton are both clearly adults, for instance.
Molestation little boys was perverse. Pederasty almost always involved young men as the “eromenos”
We have also shown that molestation little boys was perverse. Pederasty almost always involved young men as the “eromenos.” None of the myriad relationships shown involved little boys. The eromenos is always at least an ephebes or “youth” (14+) in each relationship. Often, he is over 18. Timarchus whored around after finishing the cadet corps at 20. Alkibiades was grown and actively wanted to seduce Socrates, and this was not seen as shameful, indicating it is wrong to think that the eromenos did not derive sexual pleasure from the relationship.
That said, no explicit laws against child molestation were found. However, biologically speaking, little boys will not want a sexual relationship with an older male, due to being sexually immature. Therefore, laws regarding pandering, outrage, and the hiring-out of boys would probably apply to essentially any relationship with a boy who had not started puberty who was desiring sexual contact.
While there was no shame in a same-sex relationship with a “boy” of appropriate age, it is related that it is shameful if he is too young to have his own reason. Finally, attraction towards little children is much more rare than bisexual attraction involving young adults of the same sex. Based on these facts, and our examples of pederastic relationships, it can be concluded with reasonable certainty that LAC’s depiction of pederastic relationships as typically involving “little boys” and non-consent is false.
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This article was originally written as the basis for a Youtube video responding to Leather Apron Club’s false claims about Greek homosexuality. It was edited to give it a longer lifespan. Watch the video here.