On the island of Crete we see the first examples of evidence of homosexuality. This evidence was in the form of a bronze plaque from approximately 650 BCE. Initially historians thought homosexuality to be a safe form of birth control, but soon after that, more evidence in the form of literature and art was found to the contrary. The most common form of homosexuality was in the form of pederasty, which is the love between an adult male and a boy. It must be noted that when this paper refers to a boy, it is referring to a male who has reached puberty. Sexual relations with boys who have not reached puberty were severely punishable. The first evidence of open pederasty was in the 8th century in Thebes, prior to this, there was no clear evidence of pederasty. The youth named Philolaus was said to have offered himself to Diocles, the winner of the Olympic Games. At this point in time pederasty is only accepted by the elite classes.
             Up until recently, anal sex was considered immoral in North America. A person could possibly even find old state laws that have not been revoked, stating that it is still illegal for two people to engage in anal sex. Anal sex was completely legal in ancient Greece. Soon after pederasty became common, it was shameful for a well-born boy on Crete not to have an older lover. It was equally shameful for a man to not take on a young lover; the state expected these unions to take place.
            These relationships were not primarily focused on the sexual aspects; rather, the main focus was on the aspect of mentoring. The boys benefitted from the knowledge of an older companion, the older partner would be charged with the duty of teaching the boy poetry, athletics and politics. This would assure that the boy would become a productive member of society. These relationships were extraordinary bonds unlike any other
              Beautiful boys were highly prized and many suitors would compete for the affection of these boys. It was thought the more beautiful the boy, the better mind he possessed. Not only was the boy sought out for his appearance but also for his physical abilities. The more fit the boy is, the more orgasmic pleasure he could give his lover or comrades. Many poets and writers were found to write about specific boys thought to possess beauty. In the Iliad, Homer wrote about the love between Achilles and Patroclus. Upon Patroclus’ death at the hands of Hector, Achilles swore revenge and would not eat or drink until the hunger for revenge in his sole had been satisfied.
              Unlike the military in modern times, which up until recently banned homosexuals from serving, homosexual relationships were common and encouraged in the armies of ancient Greece and were seen as beneficial in battle. There is mention of the most powerful battalion in Greek history was made from 150 pairs of lovers. The benefit of this arrangement was seen in the fact that the older half strived to set an example for the younger half, while the younger lovers wanted to impress their lovers. These facts, coupled with the passion and love for each other, made this battalion of fighters a feared force. This battalion was thought to be invincible on the battlefield. Sparta took this one step further, forcing the boys to live with their peers at a young age and when they become older, they ate and slept with the same group of men for approximately ten years. This group of men was called a mess and it was very common for the men to form sexual relationships with each other.
            Not much is mentioned about same-sex relationships regarding females. The sexuality of women always takes a backseat to the sexuality of men in ancient Greece. One source did mention the famous female writer by the name of Sappho. Sappho was known to take female loves, along with male lovers. Indeed, the story of Sappho was so well known, her home island of Lesbos lent its name to the title of female homosexuality, lesbian.

~Janice

*Originally posted on December 28, 2011*