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A Problem in Greek Ethics

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Author Topic: A Problem in Greek Ethics  (Read 1290 times)
April Kincaid
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« Reply #30 on: March 11, 2009, 06:22:02 am »

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of judging how the Greeks of the decadence felt about this form of love. Malakia is the real condemnation of this poetry, rather than brutality or coarseness. A favourite topic is the superiority of boys over girls. This sometimes takes a gross form; 1 but once or twice the treatment of the subject touches a real psychological distinction, as in the following epigram: 2--

"The love of women is not after my heart's desire; but the fires of male desire have placed me under inextinguishable coals of burning. The heat there is mightier; for the more powerful is male than female, the keener is that desire."

[paragraph continues] These four lines give the key to much of the Greek preference for paiderastia. The love of the male, when it has been apprehended and entertained, is more exciting, they thought, more absorbent of the whole nature, than the love of the female. It is, to use another kind of phraseology, more of a mania and more of a disease.

With the Anthology we might compare the curious Epistolai Erotikai of Philostratus. 3 They were in all probability rhetorical compositions, not intended for particular persons; yet they indicate the kind of wooing to which youths were subjected in later Hellas. 4 The discrepancy between the triviality of their subject-matter and the exquisiteness of their diction is striking. The second of these qualities has made them a mine for poets. Ben Jonson, for example, borrowed the loveliest of his lyrics from the following concetto:--"I sent thee a crown of roses, not so much honouring thee, though this, too, was my meaning, but wishing to do some kindness to the roses that they might not wither." Take, again, the phrase, "Well, and love himself is naked, and the graces and the stars;" or this, "O rose, that has a voice to speak with!"--or this metaphor for the footsteps of the beloved, "O rhythms of most beloved feet, O kisses pressed upon the ground!"

While the paiderastia of the Greeks was sinking into grossness, effeminacy, and aesthetic prettiness, the moral instincts of humanity began to assert themselves in earnest. It became part of the higher doctrine of the Roman Stoics to suppress this form of passion. 5 The Christians, from St. Paul onwards,

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instituted an uncompromising crusade against it. Theirs was no mere speculative warfare, like that of the philosophers at Athens. They fought with all the forces of their manhood, with the sword of the Lord and with the excommunications of the Church, to suppress what seemed to them an unutterable scandal. Dio Chrysostom, Clemens Alexandrinus, and Athanasius, are our best authorities for the vices which prevailed in Hellas during the Empire; 1 the Roman law, moreover, proves that the civil governors aided the Church in its attempt to moralise the people on this point.


55:1 Tusc., iv. 33; Decline and Fall, cap. xliv. note 192.

55:2 See Meier, cap. 15.

55:3 Cap. 23.

55:4 Cap. 54.

55:5 Page 4.

55:6 It is noticeable that in all ages men of learning have been obnoxious to paiderastic passions. Dante says (Inferno, xv. 106):--

"In somma sappi, che tutti fur cherci,
E letterati grandi e di gran fama,
D' un medesmo peccato al mondo lerci."

Compare Ariosto, Satire, vii.

56:1 Dissert., xxvi. 9.

56:2 I am aware that the genuineness of the essay has been questioned.

58:1 Mousa Paidiké, i.

58:2 Ibid., 208.

58:3 Ibid., 258, 2.

58:4 Ibid., 70, 65, 69, 194, 220, 221, 67, 68, 78, and others.

58:5 Perhaps ten are of this sort.

58:6 8, 125, for example.

58:7 132, 256, 221.

58:8 219.

59:1 7.

59:2 17. Compare 86.

59:3 Ed. Kayser, pp. 343-366.

59:4 It is worth comparing the letters of Philostratus with those of Alciphron, a contemporary of Lucian. In the latter there is no hint of paiderastia. The life of parasites, grisettes, lorettes, and young men about town at Athens is set forth in imitation probably of the later comedy Athens is shown to have been a Paris à la Murger.

59:5 See the introduction by Marcus Aurelius to his Meditations.

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Nymphomaniac: a woman as obsessed with sex as an average man. Mignon McLaughlin
April Kincaid
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« Reply #31 on: March 11, 2009, 06:22:54 am »

The transmutation of Hellas proper into part of the Roman Empire, and the intrusion of Stoicism and Christianity into the sphere of Hellenic thought and feeling, mark the end of the Greek age. It still remains, however, to consider the relation of this passion to the character of the race, and to determine its influence.

In the fifth section of this essay I asserted that it is now impossible to ascertain whether the Greeks derived paiderastia from any of the surrounding nations, and if so, from which. Homer's silence makes it probable that the contact of Hellenic with Phoenician traders in the post-heroic period led to the adoption by the Greek race of a custom which they speedily assimilated and stamped with an Hellenic character. At the same time I suggested in the tenth section that paiderastia, in its more enthusiastic and martial form, may have been developed within the very sanctuary of Greek national existence by the Dorians, matured in the course of their migrations, and systematised after their settlement in Crete and Sparta. That the Greeks themselves regarded Crete as the classic ground of paiderastia favours either theory, and suggests a fusion of them both; for the geographical position of this island made it the meeting-place of Hellenes with the Asiatic races, while it was also one of the earliest Dorian acquisitions.

When we come to ask why this passion struck roots so deep into the very heart and brain of the Greek nation, we must reject the favourite hypothesis of climate. Climate is, no doubt, powerful to a great extent in determining the complexion of sexual morality; yet, as regards paiderastia we have abundant proof that nations of the North and of the South have, according to circumstances quite independent of climatic conditions, been

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both equally addicted and equally averse to this habit. The Etruscan, 1 the Chinese, the ancient Keltic tribes, the Tartar hordes of Timour Khan, the Persians under Moslem rule--races sunk in the sloth of populous cities as well as the nomadic children of the Asian steppes, have all acquired a notoriety at least equal to that of the Greeks. The only difference between these people and the Greeks in respect to paiderastia is that everything which the Greek genius touched acquired a portion of its distinction, so that what in semi-barbarous society may be ignored as vice, in Greece demands attention as a phase of the spiritual life of a world-historic nation.

Like climate, ethnology must also be eliminated. It is only a superficial philosophy of history which is satisfied with the nomenclature of Semitic, Aryan, and so forth; which imagines that something is gained for, the explanation of a complex psychological problem when hereditary affinities have been demonstrated. The deeps of national personality are far more abysmal than this. Granting that climate and descent are elements of great importance, the religious and moral principles, the æsthetic apprehensions, and the customs which determine the character of a race leave always something still to be analysed. In dealing with Greek paiderastia, we are far more likely to reach a probable solution if we confine our attention to the specific social conditions which fostered the growth of this passion in Greece, and to the general habit of mind which permitted its evolution out of the common stuff of humanity, than if we dilate at ease upon the climate of the Ægean, or discuss the ethnical complexion of the Hellenic stock. In others words, it was the Pagan view of human life and duty which gave scope to paiderastia, while certain special Greek customs aided its development.

The Greeks themselves, quoted more than once above, have put us on the right track in this inquiry. However paiderastia began in Hellas, it was encouraged by gymnastics and syssitia. Youths and boys engaged together in athletic exercises, training their bodies to the highest point of physical attainment, growing critical about the points and proportions of the human form, lived of necessity in an atmosphere of mutual attention. Young men could not be insensible to the grace of boys in whom the bloom of beauty was unfolding. Boys could not fail to admire the strength and goodliness of men displayed in the comeliness of perfected development. Having exercised together in the wrestling-ground, the same young men and boys

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consorted at the common tables. Their talk fell naturally upon feats of strength and training; nor was it unnatural, in the absence of a powerful religious prohibition, that love should spring from such discourse and intercourse.

The nakedness which Greek custom permitted in gymnastic games and some religious rites no doubt contributed to the erotic force of masculine passion; and the history of their feeling upon this point deserves notice. Plato, in the Republic (452), observes that "not long ago the Greeks were of the opinion, which is still generally received among the barbarians, that the sight of a naked man was ridiculous and unseemly." He goes on to mention the Cretans and the Lacedæmonians as the institutors of naked games. To these conditions may he added dances in public, the ritual of gods like Erôs, ceremonial processions, and contests for the prize of beauty.

The famous passage in the first book of Thucydides (cap. vi.) illustrates the same point. While describing the primitive culture of the Hellenes he thinks it worth while to mention that the Spartans, who first stripped themselves for running and wrestling, abandoned the girdle which it was usual to wear around the loins. He sees in this habit one of the strongest points of distinction between the Greeks and barbarians. Herodotus insists upon the same point (book i. 10), which is further confirmed by the verse of Ennius: Flagitii, &c.

The nakedness which Homer (Iliad, xxii. 66) and Tyrtæus (i. 21) describes as shameful and unseemly is that of an old man. Both poets seem to imply that a young man's naked body is beautiful even in death.

We have already seen that paiderastia as it existed in early Hellas was a martial institution, and that it never wholly lost its virile character. This suggests the consideration of another class of circumstances which were in the highest degree conducive to its free development. The Dorians, to begin with, lived like regiments of soldiers in barracks. The duty of training the younger men was thrown upon the elder; so that the close relations thus established in a race which did not positively discountenance the love of male for male rather tended actively to encourage it. Nor is it difficult to understand why the romantic emotions in such a society were more naturally aroused by male companions than by women. Matrimony was not a matter of elective affinity between two persons seeking to spend their lives agreeably and profitably in common, so much as an institution

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used by the state for raising vigorous recruits for the national army. All that is known about the Spartan marriage customs, taken together with Plato's speculations about a community of wives, proves this conclusively. It followed that the relation of the sexes to each other was both more formal and more simple than it is with us; the natural and the political purposes of cohabitation were less veiled by those personal and emotional considerations which play so large a part in modern life. There was less scope for the emergence of passionate enthusiasm between men and women, while the full conditions of a spiritual attachment, solely determined by reciprocal inclination, were only to be found in comradeship. In the wrestling-ground, at the common tables, in the ceremonies of religion, at the Pan-hellenic games, in the camp, in the hunting-field, on the benches of the council chamber, and beneath the porches of the Agora, men were all in all unto each other. Women meanwhile kept the house at home, gave birth to babies, and reared children till such time as the state thought fit to undertake their training. It is, moreover, well known that the age at which boys were separated from their mothers was tender. Thenceforth they lived with persons of their own sex; their expanding feelings were confined within the sphere of masculine experience until the age arrived when marriage had to be considered in the light of a duty to the commonwealth. How far this tended to influence the growth of sentiment and to determine its quality may be imagined.

In the foregoing paragraph I have restricted my attention almost wholly to the Dorians: but what has just been said about the circumstance of their social life suggests a further consideration regarding paiderastia at large among the Greeks, which takes rank with the weightiest of all. The peculiar status of Greek women is a subject surrounded with difficulty; yet no one can help feeling that the idealisation of masculine love, which formed so prominent a feature of Greek life in the historic period, was intimately connected with the failure of the race to give their proper sphere in society to women. The Greeks themselves were not directly conscious of this fact; nor can I remember any passage in which a Greek has suggested that boy-love, flourished precisely upon the special ground which had been wrested from the right domain of the other sex. Far in advance of the barbarian tribes around them, they could not well discern the defects of their own civilisation; nor was it to be expected that they should have

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anticipated that exaltation of the love of women into a semi-religious cult which was the later product of chivalrous Christianity. We from the standpoint of a more fully organised society, detect their errors and pronounce that paiderastia was a necessary consequence of their unequal social culture; nor do we fail to notice that just as paiderastia was a post-Homeric intrusion into Greek life, so women, after the age of the Homeric poems, suffered a corresponding depression in the social scale. In the Iliad and the Odyssey, and in the tragedies which deal with the heroic age, they play a part of importance for which the actual conditions of historic Hellas offered no opportunities.

It was at Athens that the social disadvantages of women told with greatest force; and this perhaps may help to explain the philosophic idealisation of boy-love among the Athenians. To talk familiarly with free women on the deepest subjects, to treat them as intellectual companions, or to choose them as associates in undertakings of political moment, seems never to have entered the mind of an Athenian. Women were conspicuous by their absence from all places of resort--from the palæstra, the theatre, the Agora, Pnyx, the law-court, the symposium; and it was here, and here alone, that the spiritual energies of the men expanded. Therefore, as the military ardour of the Dorians naturally associated itself with paiderastia, so the characteristic passion of the Athenians for culture took the same direction. The result in each case was a highly wrought psychical condition, which, however alien to our instincts, must be regarded as an exaltation of the race above its common human needs--as a manifestation of fervid, highly pitched emotional enthusiasm.

It does not follow from the facts which I have just discussed that, either at Athens or at Sparta, women were excluded from an important position in the home, or that the family in Greece was not the sphere of female influence more active than the extant fragments of Greek literature reveal to us. The women of Sophocles and Euripides, and the noble ladies described by Plutarch, warn us to be cautious in our conclusions on this topic. The fact, however, remains that in Greece, as in mediæval Europe, the home was not regarded as the proper sphere for enthusiastic passion: both paiderastia and chivalry ignored the family, while the latter even set the matrimonial tie at nought. It is therefore precisely at this point of the family, regarded as a comparatively undeveloped factor in the higher spiritual life of Greeks, that the two

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problems of paiderastia and the position of women in Greece intersect.

In reviewing the external circumstances which favoured paiderastia, it may be added, as a minor cause, that the leisure in which the Greeks lived, supported by a crowd of slaves, and attending chiefly to their physical and mental culture, rendered them peculiarly liable to pre-occupations of passion and pleasure-seeking. In the early periods, when war was incessant, this abundance of spare time, bore less corrupt fruit than during the stagnation into which the Greeks enslaved by Macedonia and Rome declined.

So far, I have been occupied in the present section with the specific conditions of Greek society which may be regarded as determining the growth of paiderastia. With respect to the general habit of mind which caused the Greeks, in contradistinction to the Jews and Christians, to tolerate this form of feeling, it will be enough here to remark that Paganism could have nothing logically to say against it. The further consideration of this matter I shall reserve for the next division of my essay, contenting myself for the moment with the observation that Greek religion and the instincts of the Greek race offered no direct obstacle to the expansion of a habit which was strongly encouraged by the circumstances I have just enumerated.


60:1 See quotations in Rosenbaum, 119-140.

61:1 See Athen., xii. 5 17, for an account of their grotesque sensuality.

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April Kincaid
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« Reply #32 on: March 11, 2009, 06:23:38 am »

Upon a topic of great difficulty, which is, however, inseparable from the subject-matter of this inquiry, I shall not attempt to do more than to offer a few suggestions. This is the relation of paiderastia to Greek art. Whoever may have made a study of antique sculpture will not have failed to recognise its healthy human tone, its ethical rightness. There is no partiality for the beauty of the male sex, no endeavour to reserve for the masculine deities the nobler attributes of man's intellectual and moral nature, no extravagant attempt to refine upon masculine qualities by the blending of feminine voluptuousness. Aphrodite and Artemis hold their place beside Erôs and Hermes. Ares is less distinguished by the genius lavished on him than Athene. Hera takes rank with Zeus, the Nymphs with the Fauns, the Muses with Apollo. Nor are even the minor statues, which belong to decorative rather than high art, noticeable for the attribution of sensual beauties to the form of boys. This, which is certainly true of the best age, is, with rare exceptions, true of all the ages of

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[paragraph continues] Greek plastic art. No prurient effeminacy degraded, deformed, or unduly confounded the types of sex idealised in sculpture.

The first reflection which must occur to even prejudiced observers is that paiderastia did not corrupt the Greek imagination to any serious extent. The license of Paganism found appropriate expression in female forms, but hardly touched the male; nor would it, I think, be possible to demonstrate that obscene works of painting or of sculpture were provided for paiderastic sensualists similar to those pornographic object's which fill the reserved cabinet of the Neapolitan Museum. Thus, the testimony of Greek art might be used to confirm the asseveration of Greek literature, that among free men, at least, and gentle, this passion tended even to purify feelings which in their lust for women verged on profligacy. For one androgynous statue of Hermaphroditus or Dionysus there are at least a score of luxurious Aphrodites and voluptuous Bacchantes. Erôs; himself, unless he is portrayed, according to the Roman type of Cupid, as a mischievous urchin, is a youth whose modesty is no less noticeable than his beauty. His features are not unfrequently shadowed with melancholy, as appears in the so-called Genius of the Vatican, and in many statues which might pass for genii of silence or of sleep as well as love. It would be difficult to adduce a single wanton Erôs, a single image of this god provocative of sensual desires. There is not one before which we could say--The sculptor of that statue had sold his soul to paiderastic lust. Yet Erôs it may be remembered, was the special patron of paiderastia.

Greek art, like Greek mythology, embodied a finely graduated half-unconscious analysis of human nature. The mystery of procreation was indicated by phalli on the Hermæ. Unbridled appetite found incarnation in Priapus, who, moreover, was never a Greek god, but a Lampsacene adopted from the Asian coast by the Romans. The natural desires were symbolised in Aphrodite Praxis, Kallipugos, or Pandemos. The higher sexual enthusiasm assumed celestial form in Aphrodite Ouranios. Love itself appeared personified in the graceful Erôs of Praxiteles; and how sublimely Pheidias presented this god to the eyes of his worshippers can now only be guessed at from a mutilated fragment among the Elgin marbles. The wild and native instincts, wandering, untutored and untamed, which still connect man with the life of woods and beasts and April hours, received half-human shape in Pan and Silenus, the Satyrs and the Fauns. In this department of semi-bestial instincts we find one solitary instance bearing upon paiderastia. The group of a Satyr tempting a youth at Naples stands alone among numerous

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similar compositions which have female or hermaphroditic figures, and which symbolise the violent and comprehensive lust of brutal appetite. Further distinctions between the several degrees of love were drawn by the Greek artists. Himeros, the desire that strikes the spirit through the eyes, and Pothos, the longing of souls in separation from the object of their passion, were carved together with Erôs by Scopas for Aphrodite's temple at Megara. Throughout the whole of this series there is no form set aside for paiderastia, as might have been expected if the fancy of the Greeks had idealised a sensual Asiatic passion. Statues of Ganymede carried to heaven by the eagle are, indeed, common enough in Græco-Roman plastic art; yet even here there is nothing which indicates the preference for a specifically voluptuous type of male beauty.

It should be noticed that the mythology of the Greeks was determined before paiderastia laid hold upon the race. Homer and Hesiod, says Herodotus, made the Hellenic theogony, and Homer and Hesiod knew only of the passions and emotions which are common to all healthy semi-civilised humanity. The artists, therefore, found in myths and poems subject-matter which imperatively demanded a no less careful study of the female than of the male form; nor were beautiful women wanting. Great cities placed their maidens at the disposition of sculptors and painters for the modelling of Aphrodite. The girls of Sparta in their dances suggested groups of Artemis and Oreads. The Hetairai of Corinth presented every detail of feminine perfection freely to the gaze. Eyes accustomed to the "dazzling vision" of a naked athlete were no less sensitive to the virginal veiled grace of the Athenian Canephoroi. The temples of the female deities had their staffs of priestesses, and the oracles their inspired prophetesses. Remembering these facts, remembering also what we read about Æolian ladies who gained fame by poetry, there is every reason to understand how sculptors found it easy to idealise the female form. Nor need we imagine, because Greek literature abounds in references to paiderastia, and because this passion played an important part in Greek history, that therefore the majority of the race were not susceptible in a far higher degree to female charms. On the contrary, our best authorities speak of boy-love as a characteristic which distinguished warriors, gymnasts, poets, and philosophers from, the common multitude. As far as regards artists, the anecdotes which are preserved about them turn chiefly upon their preference for women. For one tale concerning the Pantarkes of Pheidias, we have a score relating to the Campaspe of Apelles and the Phryne of Praxiteles.

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It may be judged superfluous to have proved that the female form was idealised in sculpture by the Hellenes at least as nobly as the male; nor need we seek elaborate reasons why paiderastia left no perceptible stain upon the art of a race distinguished before all things by the reserve of good taste. At the same time, there can be no reasonable doubt that the artistic temperament of the Greeks had something to do with its wide diffusion and many-sided development. Sensitive to every form of loveliness, and unrestrained by moral or religious prohibition, they could not fail to be enthusiastic for that corporeal beauty, unlike all other beauties of the human form, which marks male adolescence no less triumphantly than does the male soprano voice upon the point of breaking. The power of this corporeal loveliness to sway their imagination by its unique æsthetic charm is abundantly illustrated in the passages which I have quoted above from the Charmides of Plato and Xenophon's Symposium. An expressive Greek phrase, "youths in their prime of adolescence, but not distinguished by a special beauty," recognises the persuasive influence, separate from that of true beauty, which belongs to a certain period of masculine growth. The very evanescence of this "bloom of youth" made it in Greek eyes desirable, since nothing more clearly characterises the poetic myths which adumbrate their special sensibility than the pathos of a blossom 'that must fade. When distinction of feature and symmetry of form were added to this charm of youthfulness, the Greeks admitted, as true artists are obliged to do, that the male body displays harmonies of proportion and melodies of outline more comprehensive, more indicative of strength expressed in terms of grace, than that of women. 1 I guard myself against saying--more seductive to the senses, more soft, more delicate, more undulating. The superiority of male beauty does not consist in these attractions, but in the symmetrical development of all the qualities of the human frame, the complete organisation of the body as the supreme instrument of vital energy. In the bloom of

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adolescence the elements of feminine grace, suggested rather than expressed, are combined with virility to produce a perfection which is lacking to the mature and adult excellence of either sex. The Greek lover, if I am right in the idea which I have formed of him, sought less to stimulate desire by the contemplation of sensual charms than to attune his spirit with the spectacle of strength at rest in suavity. He admired the chastened lines, the figure slight but sinewy, the limbs well-knit and flexible, the small head set upon broad shoulders, the keen eyes, the austere reins, and the elastic movement of a youth made vigorous by exercise. Physical perfection of this kind suggested to his fancy all that he loved best in moral qualities. Hardihood, self-discipline, alertness of intelligence, health, temperance, indomitable spirit, energy, the joy of active life, plain living and high thinking--these qualities the Greeks idealised, and of these, "the lightning vision of the darling," was the living incarnation. There is plenty in their literature to show that paiderastia obtained sanction from the belief that a soul of this sort would be found within the body of a young man rather than a woman. I need scarcely add that none but a race of artists could be lovers of this sort, just as none but a race of poets were adequate to apprehend the chivalrous enthusiasm for woman as an object of worship.

The morality of the Greeks, as I have tried elsewhere to prove, was æsthetic. They regarded humanity as a part of a good and beautiful universe, nor did they shrink from any of their normal instincts. To find the law of human energy, the measure of man's natural desires, the right moment for indulgence and for self-restraint, the balance which results in health, the proper limit for each several function which secures the harmony of all, seemed to them the aim of ethics. Their personal code of conduct ended in "modest self-restraint:" not abstention, but selection. and subordination ruled their practice. They were satisfied with controlling much that more ascetic natures unconditionally suppress. Consequently, to the Greeks there was nothing at first sight criminal in paiderastia. To forbid it as a hateful and unclean thing did not occur to them. Finding it within their hearts, they chose to regulate it, rather than to root it out. It was only after the inconveniences and scandals to which paiderastia gave rise had been forced upon their notice, that they felt the visitings of conscience and wavered in their fearless attitude.

In like manner the religion of the Greeks was æsthetic. They analysed the world of objects and the soul of man, unconsciously perhaps, but effectively, and called their generalisations

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by the names of gods and goddesses. That these were beautiful and filled with human energy was enough to arouse in them the sentiments of worship. The notion of a single Deity who ruled the human race by punishment and favour, hating certain acts while he tolerated others--in other words, a God who idealised one part of man's nature to the exclusion of the rest--had never passed into the sphere of Greek conceptions. When, therefore, paiderastia became a fact of their consciousness, they reasoned thus: If man loves boys, God loves boys also. Homer and Hesiod forgot to tell us about Ganymede and Hyacinth and Hylas. Let these lads be added to the list of Danaë and Semele and Io. Homer told us that, because Ganymede was beautiful, Zeus made him the serving-boy of the immortals. We understand the meaning of that tale. Zeus loved him. The reason why he did not leave him here on earth like Danaë was that he could not beget sons upon his body and people the earth with heroes. Do not our wives stay at home and breed our children? "Our favourite youths" are always at our side.


68:1 The following passage may be extracted from a letter of Winckelmann (see Pater's Studies in the History of the Renaissance, p. 162): "As it is confessedly the beauty of man which is to be conceived under one general idea, so I have noticed that those who are observant of beauty only in women, and are moved little or not at all by the beauty of men, seldom have an impartial, vital, inborn instinct for beauty in art. To such persons the beauty of Greek art will ever seem wanting, because its supreme beauty is rather male than female." To this I think we ought to add that, while it is true that "the supreme beauty of Greek art is rather male than female," this is due not so much to any passion of the Greeks for male beauty as to the fact that the male body exhibits a higher organisation of the human form than the female.

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April Kincaid
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« Reply #33 on: March 11, 2009, 06:24:31 am »

Sexual inversion among Greek women offers more difficulties than we met with in the study of paiderastia. This is due, not to the absence of the phenomenon, but to the fact that feminine homosexual passions were never worked into the social system, never became educational and military agents. The Greeks accepted the fact that certain females are congenitally indifferent to the male sex, and appetitive of their own sex. This appears from the myth of Aristophanes in Plato's Symposium, which expresses in comic form their theory of sexual differentiation. There were originally human beings of three sexes: men, the offspring of the sun; women, the offspring of the earth; hermaphrodites, the offspring of the moon. They were round with two faces, four hands, four feet, and two sets of reproductive organs apiece. In the case of the third (hermaphroditic or lunar) sex, one set of reproductive organs was male, the other female. Zeus, on account of the insolence and vigour of these primitive human creatures, sliced them into halves. Since that time the halves of each sort have always striven to unite with their corresponding halves, and have found some satisfaction in carnal congress--males with males, females with females, and (in the case of the lunar or hermaphroditic creatures) males and females with one another. Philosophically, then, the homosexual passion of female for

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female, and of male for male, was placed upon exactly the same footing as the heterosexual passion of each sex for its opposite. Greek logic admitted the homosexual female to equal rights with the homosexual male, and both to the same natural freedom as heterosexual individuals of either species.

Although this was the position assumed by philosophers, Lesbian passion, as the Greeks called it, never obtained the same social sanction as boy-love. It is significant that Greek mythology offers no legends of the goddesses parallel to those which consecrated paiderastia among the male deities. Again, we have no recorded example, so far as I can remember, of noble friendships between women rising into political and historical prominence. There are no female analogies to Harmodius and Aristogeiton, Cratinus and Aristodemus. It is true that Sappho and the Lesbian poetesses gave this female passion an eminent place in Greek literature. But the Æolian women did not found a glorious tradition corresponding to that of the Dorian men. If homosexual love between females assumed the form of an institution at one moment in Æolia, this failed to strike roots deep into the subsoil of the nation. Later Greeks, while tolerating, regarded it rather as an eccentricity of nature, or a vice, than as an honourable and socially useful emotion. The condition of women in ancient Hellas sufficiently accounts for the result. There was no opportunity in the harem or the zenana of raising homosexual passion to the same moral and spiritual efficiency as it obtained in the camp, the palæstra, and the schools of the philosophers. Consequently, while the Greeks utilised and ennobled boy-love, they left Lesbian love to follow the same course of degeneracy as it pursues in modern times.

In order to see how similar the type of Lesbian love in ancient Greece was to the form which it assumed in modern Europe, we have only to compare Lucian's Dialogues with Parisian tales by Catulle Mendès or Guy de Maupassant. The woman who seduces the girl she loves, is, in the girl's phrase, "over-masculine," "androgynous." The Megilla of Lucian insists upon being called Megillos. The girl is a weaker vessel, pliant, submissive to the virago's sexual energy, selected from the class of meretricious ingénues.

There is an important passage in the Amores of Lucian which proves that the Greeks felt an abhorrence of sexual inversion among women similar to that which moderns feel for its manifestation among men. Charicles, who supports the cause of normal heterosexual passion, argues after this wise:

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"If you concede homosexual love to males, you must in justice grant the same to females; you will have to sanction carnal intercourse between them; monstrous instruments of lust will have to be permitted, in order that their sexual congress may be carried out; that obscene vocable, tribad, which so rarely offends our ears--I blush to utter it--will become rampant, and Philænis will spread androgynous orgies throughout our harems."

What these monstrous instruments of lust were may be gathered from the sixth mime of Herodas, where one of them is described in detail. Philænis may, perhaps, be the poetess of an obscene book on sensual refinements, to whom Athenæus alludes (Deinosophistæ, viii, 335). It is also possible that Philænis had become the common designation of a Lesbian lover, a tribad. In the later periods of Greek literature, as I have elsewhere shown, certain fixed masks of Attic comedy (corresponding to the masks of the Italian Commedia dell’ Arte) created types of character under conventional names--so that, for example, Cerdo became a cobbler, Myrtalë a common ****, and possibly Philænis a Lesbian invert.

The upshot of this parenthetic, al investigation is to demonstrate that, while the love of Males for males in Greece obtained moralisation, and reached the high position of a recognised social function, the love of female for female remained undeveloped and unhonoured, on the same level as both forms of homosexual passion in the, modern European world are.

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Nymphomaniac: a woman as obsessed with sex as an average man. Mignon McLaughlin
April Kincaid
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« Reply #34 on: March 11, 2009, 06:25:07 am »

Greece merged in Rome; but, though the Romans aped the arts and manners of the Greeks., they never truly caught the Hellenic spirit. Even Virgil only trod the court of the Gentiles of Greek culture. It was not, therefore, possible that any social custom so peculiar as paiderastia should flourish on Latin soil. Instead of Cleomenes and Epameinondas, we find at Rome Nero the bride of Sporus and Commodus the public prostitute. Alcibiades is replaced by the Mark Antony of Cicero's Philippic. Corydon, with artificial notes, takes up the song of Ageanax. The melodies of Meleager are drowned in the harsh discords of Martial. Instead of love, lust was the deity of the boy-lover on the shores of Tiber.

In the first century of the Roman Empire Christianity began its work of reformation. When we estimate the effect of Christianity, we must bear in mind that the early Christians found Paganism disorganised and humanity rushing to a precipice of ruin. Their first efforts were directed toward

p. 73

checking the sensuality of Corinth, Athens, Rome, the capitals of Syria and Egypt. Christian asceticism, in the corruption of the Pagan systems, led logically to the cloister and the hermitage. The component elements of society had been disintegrated by the Greeks in their decadence, and by the Romans in their insolence of material prosperity. To the impassioned followers of Christ nothing was left but separation from nature, which had become incurable in its monstrosity of vices. But the convent was a virtual abandonment of social problems.

From this policy of despair, this helplessness to cope with evil and this hopelessness of good on earth, emerged a new and nobler synthesis, the merit of which belongs in no small measure to the Teutonic converts to the Christian faith. The Middle Ages proclaimed through chivalry the truth, then for the first time fully apprehended, that woman is the mediating and ennobling element in human life. Not in escape into the cloister, not in the self-abandonment to vice, but in the fellow-service of free men and women must be found the solution of social problems. The mythology of Mary gave religious sanction to the chivalrous enthusiasm; and a cult of woman sprang into being to which, although it was romantic and visionary, we owe the spiritual basis of our domestic and civil life. The modus vivendi of the modern world was found.



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