Image of two men kissingHomosexuality in Eighteenth-Century England, compiled by Rictor Norton


A Gallery of Beautiful Boys,

Neither are you women solely beautifull: We reade in Martial, lib. 1. of a boy called Achillas, of admirable feature; of Acanthus, whom the gods at his death, in memorie of his exquisite forme, changed into a flower, that still beares his name. Amongst the Romans, Scipio (surnamed Demetrius) and amongst the Greekes, Alcibiades carryed the Palme from women; who (as Plutarch in his life reports of him) was not onely wondered at in his youth, but admired in his age, his grace and comelinesse still growing with him.

Formosum pastor Coridon ardebat Alexim:

The shepheard Coridon doted on the faire Alexis.

Saxo Gramaticus speakes of Alphus the sonne of Gygarus, whose haires exceeded the brightnesse of Silver. Amaratus was changed into a sweet-smelling flower after his death. Calentius speakes of Amphimedon thus:

Formosum Phiale prius arserat Amphimedonta,
Amphimedon Phiales maxima cura fuit:

Phiale was enamored of Amphimedon the faire,
Amphimedon of Phiale became the greatest care. [p.241]

Antinous Bithinieus, was a youth of that admirable beautie and feature, that Adrian the Emperour was enamoured of him, in whose memorie he erected a Temple in Mantinea, and built a cittie by the river Nilus, he caused his effigies to be stamped upon his owne coine, therefore Hieronimus (as Vollaterranus reports) calls him the Emperour Adrians concubine. Asterius was the sonne of Ceres, a yong man of a singular forme, but altogether abstemious from the love of women, whom Ovid in Ilium remembres. Astur is celebrated by Virgil:

– Sequitur pulcherimus Astur
Astur equo fidens & versicoloribus armis.

The fairest Astur follows next in field,
Astur that trusts unto his horse and particoloured shield.

Atis the Phrigian youth was for his fairenesse beloved of the mother of the gods. Virgill speakes of Aventinus in these words:

Victoresque ostentat equos satus Hercule pulcro
Pulcher Aventinus –

Faire Aventinus he that of faire Hercules was borne
Boasts of his conquering steeds –

Batillus was the favourite or sweet-heart of Anacreon the Poet, of whom Pontanus de Stellis:

– Amatum a vate Batillum
Pictum oculis fuscumque coma roseumque labellis,

– The Poet of Batillus was enamoured,
With painted eyes, browne haire, and lips like Roses red.

(By the way). Sure there was a great dearth of beautie in those dayes amongst women when boyes and catamites were so doted on by men. Bellerephon was not onely affected by Sthenobaea the wife of Pretus, king of the Argives, but doted on by Venus. Of Castor and Pollux the two faire Tindarides, Ouid. lib. 6. thus writes:

At gemini nondum Coelestia sidera fratres
Ambo, conspicui, nive candidioribus ambo,
Vectabantur equis –

The two twinne brothers, not as yet accounted
'Mongst the coelestiall starres, conspicuous both
Upon two steeds whiter than snow were mounted &c.

The yong boy Cestus, Martiall thus commends.

Quanta tua est probitus &c.

How great thy honesty? thy fame as rare,
(Oh sweete child Cestus) thou that may'st compare,
With Theseus sonne, did bright Diana see
Thee naked once, inamoured she would be
And tyce thee to some pleasant rivers brim,
There strip her selfe and teach thee how to swim. [p.242]

Democles an Athenian youth was of that pulchritude, that he was called by all men Pulcher Democles, and (that which seldome meets with beautie) of that rare temperance, that when king Demetrius plucked him to have made him a prostitute to his unlawfull and beastly lusts; to shun his embraces, he leaped into a caldron of seething hot liquor, and there drowned himselfe: Plutarch in Demetrio. Diadumenus the cup-bearer to Augustus was of that admirable feature, that in the contention which was made at Elis he carried the palme both from men and women: Volateran. For no other cause was Ganimede sayd to fill Nectar to Iupiter than for his eligancie of forme. Galetes was a youth of that excellent feature and so indeered to Ptolomaes, that when diverse malefactors (and for great crimes) were led to execution, onely at his entreatie hee spared their lives. Hypoclides the sonne of Thysander as Herodotus relates, was excellent above all the Athenians for wealth and beautie. Of Hyas the sonne of Atlas and Aethra, Ovid 5. de Fast.

Nondum stabat Atlas humeros oneratus Olimpo,
Cum satus est forma, conspiciendus Hias.

Olimpas weight did not as yet
Great Atlas backe adorne,
When as the lovely Hyas of
Conspicuous shape was borne.

Hylas the sonne of Hyadamus, was not onely indeered to Hercules, but doted on by the nymphs called Driades. Iulus the sonne of Aeneas and Creusa, was taken for Cupid the sonne of Venus. Iuvencus was the minion of Catullus, as Lygurinus was to Horace; so likewise Lycus, of whom he thus speakes:

Et Lycum nigris oculis nigroque
Crine decorum.

Lycus rare,
Both for his blacke eyes and his blacke sleeke haire.

Some thing more freely he speakes of the Pulchritude of Nearchus in Carm. and his Odes. Of Nireus the sonne of Caropus and Alaga, Homer speakes at large: as Horace likewise in Carm. and Epedo. Tibullus commends his Marathis Maximinus, that his head being mangled and bloodie, yet notwithstanding in death it looked admirable. Marcellus the sonne of Caphisus and Lyriope, was so faire that the nymphes were surprised with his beautie. Endimion was beloved of the Moone, Val Flaccus lib. 8.

Latmius Aestiua residet venator in umbra.
Dignus amore Deae –

The Latmian swaine sits in the Summer shade,
Worthie the love of that coelestiall maide.

In Ephestion was that maiesticall beautie, that the wife of king Darius saluted him for Alexander: for his exqusite forme hee was especially beloved of Alexander. Virgill commends the shape of Eurialus the sonne of Nisus. So Nysus king of the Megarenses was sayd to have haires of gold they were of such splendor. Statius commends Parthenopaus the sonne of Meleager and Atalanta, or as some write of Mars and Menalippo. Caelius, Ovid, and others, celebrate Phaon the beloved of Sappho the Poetesse, for the fairest of the world. Phedrus [p.243] Fliensis who was the familiar of Socrates and Plato, was for exquisite shape compelled to be prostituted by the baud his maister. Of Pyramus Ovid thus speakes, Metamorph. lib. 4.

Pyramus & Thisbe Iuvenem Pulcherimus alter.

Yong Pyramus and Thisbe, he
Of all the yong men fairest,
And she of all the Easterne world,
Of lovelie gyrles the rarest, &c.

Spurinae was a youth of such an alluring beautie, that when he could neither reserve himselfe from suit of men, or importunities of women, hee deformed his owne beautie with scratches and wounds to preserve his owne chastitie, Valer. Max. de Verecundis. Magnes Smyrnaeus was the most beautifull of his age, and so acceptable to Gyges king of Lydia, that when his parents cut off his delicate and faire haire (somewhat to take off the kings affection) the king was so incensed that for that cause alone he made warre against the Magnesians, Pauson. apud Volater. The Poet Musaeus celebrates the rare forme of Leander, a youth of Abidos & beloved of Hero: As Virgill doth the like of Lausus the son of Mezentius, Aeneid. lib. 7. Herodotus speaking of Xerxes sayth that he had in his armie sixtie eight miriades of men, yet amongst them all hee was the beautifullest of face, and tallest of stature. I could reckon up others, as Pelops, Idas, Iason, Artaxerxes, Cyrus, Troilus, Patroclus, Hymene, the least of them a prince, the minion to a king, or the deerely beloved of some queene or goddesse. This is onely to put you in mind & women, That though you have ingrossed a great portion of beautie, yet you are not possest of all, since not onely men, but diverse other creatures share with you; neither have I introduced these to derogate any thing from your worths, onely to abate some of that ambition or selfelove which is commonly attendant upon beautie. [p.244]

NOTE: I have accurately transcribed the source, except I have changed "u" to "v" and "v" to "u" in accordance with modern spelling practice.

SOURCE: Thomas Heywood, Gynaikeion: or, Nine bookes of various history. Concerninge women inscribed by ye names of ye nine Muses , 1624.

CITATION: If you cite this Web page, please use the following citation:
Rictor Norton (Ed.), "A Gallery of Beautiful Boys, 1624", Homosexuality in Seventeenth-Century England: A Sourcebook. uploaded 17 January 2023 <>.

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