Greco-Roman mythology features male homosexuality in many of the constituent myths. In addition, there are instances of cross-dressing , and of androgyny which in posts gender terminology has been grouped [ according to whom? These myths have been described as being crucially influential on Western LGBT literature , with the original myths being constantly re-published and re-written, and the relationships and characters serving as icons. Dionysus, a god gestated in the thigh of his father Zeus, after his mother died from being overwhelmed by Zeus's true form, has been dubbed "a patron god of hermaphrodites and transvestites" by Roberto C. The sex-change theme also occurred in classical mythology.
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In recent years, we have seen significant advances won for LGBT rights through hard-fought legal cases and well-targeted political campaigns. Yet it is worth remembering that for decades, recourse to such methods was not available to LGBT people. The law-court and the parliament were deaf to their pleas.
For many, it was only in their dreams that they could escape oppression. One should not underplay the importance of such fantasies.
They provided succour and hope in a grim world. One place in particular attracted the longings of gays and lesbians. This was the world of ancient Greece, a supposed gay paradise in which same-sex love flourished without discrimination. Was this a coded reference to indecent passions, asked the prosecutor. It is that deep, spiritual affection that is as pure as it is perfect … It is beautiful, it is fine, it is the noblest form of affection.
There is nothing unnatural about it. It is intellectual, and it repeatedly exists between an elder and a younger man, when the elder man has intellect, and the younger man has all the joy, hope and glamour of life before him. That it should be so the world does not understand. The world mocks it and sometimes puts one in the pillory for it.
In this spirited defense of same-sex love, Wilde created a genealogy of historical moments in which homosexual love had blossomed. He rewrote straight history and offered a different version of the past in which his own 19th-century passion joined a continuous tradition that stretched back to the very foundation of European civilization. He sought to recover a love that time and prudish censors had tried to erase.
From the days of the Old Testament through to the flourishing of culture in Greece and the Renaissance, Wilde sought to bear witness to a gay past of free romantic expression. Yet for all its brave defiance and elegant phrasing, there is little in it that is truly original.
The rhetoric Wilde advanced had been in circulation for decades. Wilde was tapping into a shared gay fantasy about the past, a fantasy in which one culture stood out above all others, the world of Classical Greece. It is hard to overstate the affection with which 19th-century homosexuals like Wilde viewed the Greek world. Here was the utopia that they dreamed about — a place in which homosexuality was not only accepted, but celebrated.
The legacy of this tradition was so potent that many felt even when visiting modern Greece that it was still possible to feel the traces of this passion. In the warmth and light of the Mediterranean, numerous 19th- and early 20th-century gays and lesbians sought to fleetingly recapture visions of this lost paradise and recreate it amongst its ruins.
Looking at these images today, it is hard not to be struck by their sense of desperate, wilful escapism and rejection of the contemporary world and all that it offered, even as they used the latest photographic techniques in creating these tableaux.
Quite what their Italian models thought of these odd Germans and their desire to dress them up in wreaths, togas, and splay their bodies on leopard skin rugs remains a mystery. In a similar vein, numerous lesbians travelled to the Greek island of Lesbos. For many this was an act of pilgrimage arising from a desire to visit the home of Sappho, the archaic poet whose passionate, lyrical evocations of female same-sex desire became so famous in antiquity and beyond that women who were sexually attracted to other women came to be named after her island home - a nomenclature that not even a legal action by outraged inhabitants of the island can stop.
It was ultimately unsuccessful. Every time that the legal rights of gays and lesbians have been discussed, somebody will evoke the Greeks. Indeed, the association between Greece and homosexuality is so strong that even anti-same-sex marriage advocates are not above using it to support their arguments. In the US Supreme Court case that legalised same-sex marriage, one of the dissenting judges, Justice Samuel Alito noted that while the Greeks and Romans approved of homosexual relations, they never created an institution of same-sex marriage.
In his opinion, the only conclusion to draw was that the Ancients must have regarded same-sex marriage as an institution that would cause harm to society. We have seen the same argument used against same-sex marriage in Australia. It goes without saying that the arguments offered by Justice Alito and his followers are deeply flawed. Nevertheless, these arguments do point to some of the dangers of relying on an overly romantic view of the Greeks and their attitudes to same-sex love.
The Greek attitude to same-sex attraction was not nearly as permissive or free as many have assumed. Any idealised view of the Greeks falls apart the moment one remembers — and yet how easy it seems to be to forget — that ancient Greece was a society where slave-ownership was prevalent and that slaves were regularly sexually exploited by their masters.
Yes, the Greeks tolerated same-sex attraction, but they also tolerated the violent sexual abuse of men and women in a manner that nobody could countenance today. Even amongst free-born men, Greek same-sex courtship was highly regulated. Older men pursued younger boys, and it is hard not to see an inherent power imbalance in such relationships, even if the older man is completely smitten.
There were elaborate protocols regulating the process of seduction. There were rules about the kinds of wooing gifts that could be used.
Dried fish and fighting cocks were the ancient homosexual equivalent of flowers and chocolates. Boys should not appear too eager. For the suitors there was a fine line to walk between looking keen and looking like a besotted fool. Violating these rules lead to social death: slut-shaming seems to be a universal human tendency. We have numerous accounts of same-sex affairs that go badly resulting in murder and suicide. In one case, a disappointed lover hanged himself at the door of the boy who rejected him.
In another case, one man tried to murder another over the affections of a slave boy. We know very little about the lives of same-sex attracted women in Greece. Our best evidence remains the fragments of poems of Sappho that have come down to us. Yet even here, the picture is not entirely rosy. Myths relating to homosexual love also rarely end well. One of the foundational myths for the establishment of same-sex love in Greece concerns the legendary figure of Orpheus.
This musician is best known for descending into the underworld in an ultimately unsuccessful attempt to retrieve his wife Eurydice from the clutches of death.
What is less well-known is that following this attempt, he gave up entirely on women and instead turned his attention to young men. Indeed, he was so successful in proselytising for homosexuality that he upset the local female followers of Dionysus, the god of wine and drama.
Passion, jealousy and death are repeated motifs in Greek homosexual myths. Out of the blood that was spilt grew the first hyacinth. It is a tragic, moving story that deserves to be better known. Oscar Wilde popularised the green carnation as a symbol of homosexuality visibility. It is high time to do the same for the hyacinth and rescue the bulb from its dowdy fusty retirement-home image and make it fabulous again.
Hercules lost his boyfriend Hylas to some conniving nymphs who drowned the boy in a pool. The hero was so distraught at the loss of his lover that he abandoned the quest for the Golden Fleece. Sostratus died young. Abderus was consumed by man-eating horses. These myths point to an ambivalence that runs through Greek society about same-sex attraction. Male same-sex relationships attracted particular care and supervision in the Greek world because the freedoms that men, unlike women, enjoyed meant that there was always greater potential for things to go wrong.
If left to get out of control, passions could have tragic consequences. It is little wonder that thinkers like Plato turn out to have an ambiguous relationship towards same-sex relationships. Sometimes Plato seems to regard same-sex couples as the very pinnacle of the ideal relationship. At other points, such as in his Laws, Plato is dismissive of same-sex relations, regarding them as unnatural and not fit for proper society. The picture of same-sex relations that we get from Greece is a complicated one.
Nevertheless, all the efforts undertaken by the Greeks to regulate these relationships does challenge us to consider why societies are so frightened by love, not only gay, but straight desire also. What is it about this emotion that causes a culture to attempt to reign it in through complicated systems of courtship or invent a series of myths to scare you about committing yourself too completely to someone?
Studying attitudes to same-sex love amongst the ancient Greeks is a salutary reminder that there is a difference between history and nostalgia, and it is dangerous to confuse them. No longer looking at the Greeks through the rose-coloured lens of escapist wish-fulfillment reveals a culture that is complex and diverse in its attitudes and behaviours. There are lessons to be learnt, but they do not come from imitation.
A gay utopia may be possible, but it is a project for the future, not a lost relic of the past. Alastair Blanshard , The University of Queensland. Oscar Wilde in Wikimedia In this spirited defense of same-sex love, Wilde created a genealogy of historical moments in which homosexual love had blossomed. Hypnos, Wilhelm von Gloeden, circa Wikimedia Looking at these images today, it is hard not to be struck by their sense of desperate, wilful escapism and rejection of the contemporary world and all that it offered, even as they used the latest photographic techniques in creating these tableaux.
Renee Vivien in Not such a paradise after all It goes without saying that the arguments offered by Justice Alito and his followers are deeply flawed. Sappho, Charles Mengin, Wikimedia Even amongst free-born men, Greek same-sex courtship was highly regulated.
Love among the gods Myths relating to homosexual love also rarely end well. The death of Hyacinth, Giovanni Battista Tiepolo, circa Love and strife These myths point to an ambivalence that runs through Greek society about same-sex attraction. Enregistrez-vous maintenant.
Mia Bandini 5 videos. Traces of both were found in water samples collected from various springs in the vicinity. Austin Wolf 33 videos. Hale, from the University of Louisville changed all that. Climbing the corporate ladder? Male lovers in the Trojan War? By the time the latest temple was built in the fourth century BC, space was at a premium along the Sacred Way and new monuments were built on the slopes above.
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Greco-Roman mythology features male homosexuality in many of the constituent myths. In addition, there are instances of cross-dressing , and of androgyny which in posts gender terminology has been grouped [ according to whom? These myths have been described as being crucially influential on Western LGBT literature , with the original myths being constantly re-published and re-written, and the relationships and characters serving as icons.
Dionysus, a god gestated in the thigh of his father Zeus, after his mother died from being overwhelmed by Zeus's true form, has been dubbed "a patron god of hermaphrodites and transvestites" by Roberto C. The sex-change theme also occurred in classical mythology.
There was also a motif of a woman needing to disguise herself as a male and later being transformed into a biological male by mysterious forces mainly the gods. Mestra, however, had the ability to change her shape voluntarily , instead of staying in male form like Caeneus and other instances above. Tiresias , on the other hand, became female because he struck a couple of copulating snakes, displeasing Hera , who punished him by transforming Tiresias into a woman.
Later the sentence was remitted, due to either trampling on the mating snakes or avoiding them, and she became male again. In another version, Tiresias' sex-change was caused by an argument between Zeus and Hera, on which they debated whether a male or a female had greater pleasure in sex , so they transformed him to a female to experiment.
Aphroditus was an androgynous Aphrodite from Cyprus, in later mythology became known as Hermaphroditus also the namesake of the word hermaphrodite the son of Hermes and Aphrodite.
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Related fiction genres. Male pregnancy Single-gender worlds Lesbian vampire Woman warrior Erotes.
Mythology portal LGBT portal. September 19, Archived from the original on July 12, Retrieved April 8, The seduction of the Mediterranean: writing, art, and homosexual fantasy. London; New York: Routledge. Madness unchained: a reading of Virgil's Aeneid. Lanham, MD: Lexington Books. Classical mythology. Very short introductions.
Sotades: symbols of immortality on Greek vases. Oxford: Clarendon Press. The Vatican Mythographers. New York: Fordham University Press. University of California Press. Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender fiction.
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