Image of two men kissingHomosexuality in Eighteenth-Century England: A Sourcebook compiled by Rictor Norton

Lives of the Ancient Philosophers

The life of PLATO

His distinguishing Character procur'd him many Rivals, especially among his fellow Socraticks; particularly Xenophon . . . . Antisthenes was another Rival and Adversary, who, because Plato shew'd him some errors in a Treatise of his, wrote a Dialogue against him entituled Satho [meaning "satiated"]. To these we may add Aristippus . . . and AEschines . . . . Molon said of our Philosopher by way of detraction, that 'twas not so much to be wonder'd that Dionysius should be permitted to live at Corinth, as that Plato should be suffer'd to live in Sicily. These private jealousies gave birth to several false and scandalous imputations upon Plato; as that he was Satyrical, proud, envious, detracting, a parasite to Tyrants, one that lov'd to fee high, luxurious, and mightily given not only to Women, but to Male Venery. [p. 165] . . .

The Life of POLEMO

POLEMO the Son of Philostratus, a very rich and noted Athenian, was born in Otta an Athenian Village. In his Youth he was very dissolute and profuse; and us'd to hide his Money up and down in holes and corners of the Streets, to supply his extravagancies; in so much that some of his Cash was found hid under a Pillar in the Academy. His Wife complain'd of his forsaking her Bed for Male Venery. He was so little asham'd of his Debaucheries; that, one time, in a drunken frolick, with his Garland upon his Head, and unguents upon him, he broke into Xenocrates's Schoo, and sate down to deride his precepts. Xenocrates nothing disturb'd at the rudeness, only drop'd the Dioscourse he was upon, and harangu'd upon Modesty and Temperance. His Discourse had so much influence upon Polemo that he flung his Garland on the ground, and from an infamous Prodigal became a most excellent Philosopher. . . . [p.186]


He openly kept company with Theodore and Philetta, two Elean Curtezans, and was much addicted to Male Venery; whence Aristo calls him a corrupter of Youth, and Eloquent and Audacious Buggerer. . . . Being ask'd why other Philosphers turn'd Epicureans, but the Epicureans always kept to their Sect; because, said he, Men may be made Eunuchs, but Eunuchs can never be made Men. . . .

Being never marry'd, he left his Estate to Pylades his Brother. . . . He dy'd in a sort of frensie after hard drinking, in the 75th Year of his Age. [p.194]

The Life of LIBANIUS

Libanius came of illustrious Parents in Antiochia, a City of Caehsyria. After the Death of his Parents he went to Athens, being yet young, where he was pick'd up by some of Diophantus's Gang, to whom he adher'd. Both Epiphanius and Proceresius taught then at Athens, but the former had no great Name, and the latter had such a croud of eminent Scholars, that our Philosopher fear'd he should be buried among 'em. However, he did not stay long with Diophantus, but having byi his own Pains, and the heat of Emulation, obtain'd a Confidence in speaking, he could no longer brook the Obscurity of Athens, as Cases stood then, and remov'd to Constantinople, where [p.525] the Sweetness of his Converse, and the charming Majesty of his Declamations quickly render'd him famous. Being afterwards charg'd with Male Venery, he was expell'd Constantinople, and fled to Nicomedia. But the scandalous Report overtaking him there, he afterwards retir'd to his own Country, where he liv'd in great Repute to a good old Age. . . . [p.526]

SOURCE: The Lives of the Ancient Philosophers, London, 1702.

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Rictor Norton (Ed.), "Lives of the Ancient Philosophers," Homosexuality in Eighteenth-Century England: A Sourcebook. 7 October 2008 <>.

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