Immorality of the Ancient Philosophers, 1735

Reverend Conyers Place (1665-1738) was the Master of Dorchester Grammar School 1689-1736 and Rector of Woodford, Dorset. He wrote mostly about religious controversies, and also in support of Tory politics. The following excerpt from one of his books demonstrates that any educated man in the early eighteenth century would be fully aware of the fact that homosexuality was regularly practised by the ancient Greek philosophers, and that phrases such as "Platonic love" were evasive euphemisms for the practice of boy-love. Although the text is an attack on homosexuality, it could of course be read subversively, for anyone wishing to justify homosexuality would be directed to all the sources in Classical literature that defend and praise it.

And to give at last some Specimens of the Moralty of these so celebrated philosophical Hypocrites themselves, with regard as well to their Doctrines as their Practice, that our Religion of Nature Men cry up as so many Wonders of Virtue, that they canonize as their Heathen Saints, that are they Patriarchs and Fathers in Religion, to whose Works they refer us as their Scriptures, and to whose Lives for our Patterns, and then let them that likes them say, Sit anima mea cum Philosophis.

And first, we find them almost all charged, on undoubted Record, with the Guilt of [p.188] infamous and unnatural Lust, not only Fornication, Adultery, and Incest, but Pederasty and Sodomy, active and passive.

Solon, one of their seven wise Men, and the famous Lawgives of the Athenians, Plutarch tells us, (Amat.) not only himself used this infamous Trade of Sodomy, but recommended it as honest, and established it by Law, (Chryysost.) forbidding it only to Servants, or with them, as a refined Pleasure, proper only for the Ingenuous, and to be reserved to Men of Quality and Distinction; and he himself made Travel and a trading Voyage a Pretence for taking a lewd Jaunt with Pisistratus on that monstrous Account; and his buying up Girls for the publick Service of young Fellows; his instituting Brothel-Houses, and establishing them by Law, and endowing them with Immunities, his building a Temple to Venus Pandemia, at the Expence of Harlots, are Instances of his being a compleat Moralist.

Socrates, whom the Oracle, as he said himself, (Xen.) pronounced to be wiser than Euripides, who was wiser than Sophocles, and so to be sure the wisest of Men; tho' not much the wiser, I should think, for the Devil's saying so; . . . [p.189]

Socrates, I say, that was the Father and Founder of moral Philosophy, which is now advanced to the Title and Diognity of the Religion of Nature, tho' 'till then it had laid blended with Sophistry, Rhetorick, and Logick, which were what he chiefly professed, together with Fortune-telling; which, for the Enlargement of his Trade, he struck out from them all into a distinct Province, by the methodical Arrangement, and a formal Digestion of Actions relating to social Life into Virtues and Vices: This so pious and excellent Socrates, as an Instance of his Sapience in Morality, was deeply tained with this foul Diseas of Arsenocoitism [anal coitus, i.e. sodomy], (Philo de vita Contempl.) and Laertius mentions both the Persons corrupted by him that Way, and by whom also himself was corrupted in Turn, being guilty both the active and passive Way; and one of the Articles of his Indictment was for debauching Youths, which cannot mean his corrupting their Principles with regard to their Gods, because then the two Articles of his [p.191] Indictment would have fallen into one and the same; neither does it appear that his Lectures had any Effect that way, by his Scholars renmouncing either the Gods or Religion of their Country, which Article he stoutly denies, and pleads not guilty to, but as to the Charge of debauching the carnal Way, he makes no Defence; and Xenophon (Apol.) only endeavours to extenuate by Attonement for it, by the excellent Principles that he instilled into them other ways; and these Youths must be ingenuous Youths, and those ofDistinction, as well because such only were his Disciples, and amongst whom his Conversation that way lay, as because by the Institution of their Founder it would not have been otherwise Capital; and he was so full of this sodomitical Form of Lust, that he betrays himself frequently guilty, and confirms his Indictment, and thereby shews that Xantippe was not so bad a Wife without the highest Provocation, as finding herself yoked to such an old beastly (Silenus) Baboon, so unnatural addicted; his Consciousness of which Guilt was enough to have stopt his Mouth, had he been no Philosopher, and to make bearing with her Tongue no Virtue of Patience, and to justify theReproaches cast upon him by Zeno, O hominen scurram, and embellished by Lactantius, (Lib. 3) ineptupm perditum, desperatum, &c. [p.192]

Instances of this are his calling hmiself the Slaves of Love, (Cel. Rhodig. p. 882) and a rare Sort of Love it was you find; and saying, that Love Matters were his Master-piece; and whilst he pretended to know nothing else, yet here he threw off his wonted Cloak of Modesty and Dissimulation, and owned himself profoundly skilled in Eroticks; his saying that he did not remember when he was not in Love, (Xenoph. Conviv.) and engaged in some Amour, like Petronius's Madam, that could not remember when she was not a Whore; that he knew no greater Blessing that could happen to Youth than a good Lover, and to a Lover than a faithful Minion; his making Cupid to be a God (Plat. Phaedrus) and what Xenophon makes him pitch upon as his peculiar Excellence, (Conviv.) that he was a right good Pandar and Procurer, as well as Practitioner, — that he loved kissing better than fighting; and in the Dispute between him and Clitobulus, a young Lad, at whom his Mouth watered, tho' in his Father's Presence, whether was the handsomer, and the better kissing Lips; his ordering, like the King at Questions and Commands, that he that had the Verdict for him, should be kissed round by the Company; are Instances of his great Proficiency in the Religion of Nature, as all the vile Stuff that he is there made to say, and to be assenting to also, is; as his beingput in mind of being catched with [p.193] his Cheek and part of his naked Body close to that of a young Lad's; his saying upon it, that he had a Tickling at his Heart five Days after upon it; and was as if he had been stung with a Tarantula, or bit by a mad Dog, (venomous Creature) (Xenoph. Conviv.). Such Stuff as this is out of all virtuous and modest Character, is too rank and luscious to pass for Drollery, and deservedly got him the Nick-name of "Scurra Atheniensis", the Ribaldry Professor of Athens, as too unclean and coarse a Cover to wrap refined Sentiments up in, and would create Suspicion, were there no Grounds for it beside; but where a Man is formally tried for bestial Practice, Plato and Xenophon must, one would think, see the Impropriety of putting such Words in his Mouth, as would confirm the Justice of his Sentence, and clench the Guilt of the Crime upon him.

Add to this, his reckoning Dancing amongst the serious Parts of Education, his looking upon it as a religious Exercise, that came into the World together with the Love of the Gods, (Things very well paired) and giving Credit to his Words, learning to dance himself when he was an old Man; a Prayer upon which Occasion to Pan, that he might frisk and caper well, whose Talent lay that Way, had been more proper than that for Beauty: And Aristophanes (nubes mentions an obscene Dance in Fashion at that Time, [p.194] called the Κόρδαξ [Kordax], which it is not unsuitable to his Behaviour to think our old Moralist learned, and which descended from him to his moral Successors, and is what is noted by the Satyrist (Juven.)

—— et de virtute locuti
clunem agitant.

As the Crime itself did.

Inter Socraticos notissima fossa Cinedos.

The divine Plato, tho' he is said to disapprove it in his Laws, and some have attempted to clear him from it, yet is made to sully his divine Character with the Guilt of it by Laertius in his Life, by Aulus Gellius (Book 18, 19.) by Plutarch (de educ. Lib.) by Aristippus, and as having had great Variety of both Sexes, as Stella, Dion, Phedrus, Alexis, of the Male Kind; insomuch that lewd Women used to quote him as their Patron, from hius Dogma that Women ought to be common, (Book 4. de Repub. and Arrian on Epict.). The Grecian Philosophers, says Grotius, (Book 2. de ver. Rel. Christ.) seem to have took Pains to cover their sodomitical Turpitude, by putting an honest Name to it: And Philo, tho' a Friend to Plato (de vit. Contempl.) looked upon his Banquet to be nothing but a Scene of unnatural Lust, where [p.195] Men are not represented as running mad for Love ofWomen, but Men for Love of Men; and Xenophon's Banquet is just such another Scene of monstrous Lewdness, where Socrates is the chief Actor and Promoter; and all their Cant of spiritual Love, and their celestial Cupid, and heavenly Venus, is but gilding over their detestable Obscenity with fine Epithets; and under the Notion of philosophizing in this so precious Banquet, fit to be acted in Sodom, putting upon Mankind their Turpitudes as artificial Integument, in which were wrapped up mysteriously refined Truths and Pleasures of the same Name, but more excellent Kind and Nature: Of the same Mind, as to this Banquet, were Lucian (de Amor.) and others. . . . [p.196] . . .

Menedemus is marked with sodomitical Practice with a Lad that was Asclepiades's Minion, his Friend, Brother, and Son-in-Law.

Aristtippus taught, like manner, that a Philosopher might steal, commit Adultery, and Sacrilege, when Opportunity offered; and mightl publickly, without Shame, lie with Women or Boys, as his Inclination led him. (Diog. Laert.)

Phedo got himself a Lifelihood by the infamous Trade of prostituing his Body, having the moral Socrates for one of his Customers (Diog. Laert.) who brought him out of a Brothel-house for his own particular Use. . . . [p.197]

. . . Eudoxus was a Pathick. (Laert. Book 7.)

Bion, the Platonick, was a prophane and scandalous Wretch as ever lived, so notorious for debauching both Sexes, that he was called the Corrupter of Youth. (Laert. Book 4.)

Aristotle had both his Hebe's and his Ganymede's still about him; is charged with Sodomy with his Cousin Hermias the Eunuch; and with so much at the same time on his Concubind Pythais, that he sacrificed to her, and write a Paean or religioius Hymn in Praise of this his Goddess; who, like several others, were deified for their Lewdness, and had their religious Rites and Mysteries publickly and solemnly observed, suitable to their Characters. And that he died the Man he [p.198] lived, appears by the Provision made for his natural Children in his last Will, and by the Number of Boys he kept; my Will is, that none of my Boys be sold, (Diog. Laert.) for by the Quality of this Stock, we may perceive what Trade the Owner drove with it; and speaking of Minos, that just Law-giver of Crete, instituting masculine Venery, he calls his doing this a wise and philosophical Institution. He instituted many Things Philosopher like, and Sodomy for one; and gives this political Reason for it, that Women might overstock the Community with too many Children. He is also charged with Covetousness to a high Degree, and everlastingly laing at Alexander a Beggar for more; whom, in Return for his Benefactions, he is supposed at last to have poisoned; and compleated his Wickedness with Self-Murder.

Epicurus used both Boys and Females for his Pleasures (Laert. Book 10.); but this was what might but be expected from him, as consistent with his impious Principles as his allowing a Philosopher to steal, provided he should not be found out; as the Lacedemonians did their Youths, for the Encouragement of Ingenuity. . . . [p.199]

. . . [p.200]

Nay, so far was Sodomy from being punished amongst the Athenians, under the Institutes of their famous Philosophers, and in their Times, that Aeschylus, and Sophocles also, had a Tragedy publickly acted upon the Stage, called the "Pederastes" Boy-Lover, and had not, unlikely, Socrates, Plato, &c. Spectators; and Aristophanes (nubes) reflects upon allthe Top of the City as Catamites; and no Wonder, when trained up to it, both by Doctrine and Practice, in the Schools of these then flourishing Mirrors of Morality, and the Religion of Nature, who had it from their Gods, who were almost all made guilty of it, and several of them owed their Deification to it, as Ganymede, Antinous, Orpheus, for being the celebrated Authors of it; and the Practice was Part of the religious Mysteries and [p.201] sacred Rites, into which, as a Degree of holiness, to raise their Characters of being Religious, they were initiated, and was part of the spiritual Worship of the one true God that Socrates, Plato, &c. taught Compliance withal: At virtuous Lacedemon they had select Regiments, made up of Pathics and their Gallants, that the sight of their He-Misses might heighten the Courage of their Sodomitical Heroes; the like they had also amongst the Thebans and eleans; and Pausanias says, that an Army, composed in this Manner of Sodomites, would be the bravest that could be raised; ;and Jerome, the Peripatetick, is said to extol it, as That by the Use of which many Tyrants had been destroyed; not to mention the Feast of Boy-kissing amongst the Lacedemonians in Socrates and Plato's Time, for Prizes, to which all Greece resorted far and near, as to the Olympick or Isthmian Games, that lasted several Days; for Xenophon mentions the last Dayi of it. (Conviv.)

I think it justly observed, that as the AEgyptians that worshipped Leeks, Onions, &c. were yet wiser Idolaters than the Greeks, that worshipped notorious Whores and Rogues; so the Greeks were wiser than the Romans, who deified Fevers and other Distempers, Storms, and the most trifling Actions, Passions, Forms of Motion, and Circumstances of Life. (See Varro, &c.) [p.202]

The Romans indeed at first, whilst rude and barbarous, punished Sodomy with Death; but as the Grecian Philosophy opened their eyes, and Reason by the Lift of Nature brightened up the Religious of Nature to them, they practised thisDoctrine of it to a great Height; and tho; what they called the Scantinian Law was made against it, yet that Law confined the Crime to the corrupting the Ingenuous only; which, as Grotius observes, was little regarded, and the Mode so far prevailed, that it grew obsolete, and was thought neither a Crime nor an Infamy publickly to profess the Guilty of it, or Scandal to be caught in it; not even in Augustus's Time, who, from its being before pecuniary, made its Punishment once more capital; as we find by Horace, Maiden Virgil himself, and Martial in the After-ages; and the Dignity of the Person was, as amongst the Greeks, only a greater Provocation to the Wickedness, and Triumph to the Accomplisher. . . . [p.203]

SOURCE: Conyers Place, Reason an Insufficient guide to conduct Mankind in Religion, London: Printed for J. Roberts, at the Oxford-Arms in Warwick-Lane, 1735, pp. 188-203.

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