A Problem in Greek Ethics

Copyright © 1997 by Rictor Norton. All rights reserved. This edition may not be reproduced or redistributed to third parties without permission of the author.

[Written in 1873, privately printed in ten copies in 1883; expanded and printed as an appendix to Havelock Ellis's Sexual Inversion, 1897, but immediately suppressed; surreptitiously reprinted in 1901, in two different 'limited' editions of 100 numbered copies, but many extant copies have the place for the number left blank, an indication that print runs and distribution were much higher than many think.

No one has done any systematic analysis of how Symonds revised the 1883 edition for republication as the Appendix of Sexual Inversion (1897), but there are some quite interesting differences, most of them consisting of the suppression of criticism of modern puritan morality. I have examined the text of the copy in the British Library — number 10 of only 10 numbered copies — in which Symonds himself has crossed out passages to be deleted and made various amendments in pencil. Most of the changes are minor, and infrequent, and in general the revised edition is better: notably, Symonds translates passages from Greek rather than cites them in Greek. There was nothing about lesbians in the 1883 edition; Section XIX on lesbians is entirely new for the 1897/1901 edition. In all other respects the changes involve omissions rather than additions. The following is a composite of the 1873 and 1897/1901 editions, in which I have reinserted [in square brackets] some passages that were omitted from the 1883 edition. I have included some of the omitted passages in an appendix below. In addition, some spelling has been modernized, minor textual errors have been corrected; some large sections and many notes are omitted.]


[Original 1883 introduction: To ignore paiderastia is to neglect one of the features by which Greek civilisation was most sharply distinguished. Yet this has been done by nearly all writers on Greek history and literature. The reasons for evading the investigation of a custom so repugnant to modern taste are obvious; and it might even be plausibly argued that the topic is not sufficiently important in its bearing on Greek life and thought to justify its discussion. Still the fact remains that paiderastic was a social phenomenon of one of the most brilliant periods of human culture, in one of the most highly organised and nobly active races. The fact remains that the literature of the Greeks, upon which the best part of humanistic education rests, abounds in references to the paiderastic passion. The anomaly involved in these facts demands dispassionate interpretation. I do not, therefore, see why the inquiry should not be attempted; why some one should not strive to ascertain, so far as this is possible, the moral feeling of the Greeks upon this subject, and should not trace the history of so remarkable a custom in their several communities.] [compare 1910 edition]


The first fact which the student has to notice is that in the Homeric poems a modern reader finds no trace of this passion. It is true that Achilles, the hero of the Iliad, is distinguished by his friendship for Patroclus no less emphatically than Odysseus, the hero of the Odyssey, by lifelong attachment to Penelope, and Hector by love for Andromache. But in the delineation of the friendship of Achilles and Patroclus there is nothing which indicates the passionate relation of the lover and the beloved, as they were afterwards recognised in Greek society. This is the more remarkable because the love of Achilles for Patroclus added, in a later age of Greek history, an almost religious sanction to the martial form of paiderastia. In like manner the friendship of Idomeneus for Meriones, and that of Achilles, after the death of Patroclus, for Antilochus,were treated b the later Greeks as paiderastic. Yet, inasmuch as Homer gives no warrant for this interpretation of the tales in question, we are justified in concluding that homosexual relations were not prominent in the so-called heroic age of Greece. Had it formed a distinct feature of the society depicted in the Homeric poems, there is no reason to suppose that their authors would have abstained from delineating it. We shall see that Pindar, Aeschylus and Sophocles, the poets of an age when paiderastia was prevalent, spoke unreservedly upon the subject.

Impartial study of the Iliad leads us to the belief that the Greek of the historic period interpreted the friendship of Achilles and Patroclus in accordance with subsequently developed customs. The Homeric poems were the Bible of the Greeks, and formed the staple of their education; nor did they scruple to wrest the sense of the original, reading, like modern Bibliolaters, the sentiments and passions of a later age into the text. Of this process a good example is afforded by Aeschines in the oration against Timarchus. While discussing this very question of the love of Achilles, he says: 'He, indeed, conceals their love, and does not give its proper name to the affection between them, judging that the extremity of their fondness would be intelligible to instructed men among his audience.' As am instance, the orator proceeds to quote the passage in which Achilles laments that he will not be able to fulfil his promise to Manoetius by bringing Patroclus home to Opus. He is here clearly introducing the sentiments of an Athenian hoplite who had taken the boy he loved to Syracuse and seen him slain there.

Homer stood in a double relation to the historical Greeks. On the one hand, he determined their development by the influence of his ideal characters. On the other, he underwent from them interpretations which varied with the spirit of each successive century. He created the national temperament, but received in turn the influx of new thoughts and emotions occurring in the course of its expansion. It is, therefore, highly important, on the threshold of this inquiry, to determine the nature of that Achilleian friendship to which the panegyrists and apologists of the custom make such frequent reference.


The ideal of character in Homer was what the Greeks called heroic; what we should call chivalrous. Young men studied the Iliad as our ancestors studied the Arthurian romances, finding there a pattern of conduct raised almost too high above the realities of common life for imitation,yet stimulative of enthusiasm and exciting to the fancy. Foremost among the paragons of heroic virtue stood Achilles, the splendour of whose achievements in the Trojan war was only equalled by the pathos of his friendship. The love for slain Patroclus broke his mood of sullen anger, and converted his brooding sense of wrong into a lively thirst for vengeance. Hector, the slayer of Patroclus, had to be slain by Achilles, the comrade of Patroclus. No one can read the Iliad without observing that its action virtually turns upon the conquest which the passion of friendship gains over the passion of resentment in the breast of the chief actor. This the Greek students of Homer were not slow to see; and they not unnaturally selected the friendship of Achilles for their ideal of manly love. It was a powerful and masculine emotion, in which effeminacy had no part, and which by no means excluded the ordinary sexual feelings. Companionship in battle and the chase, in public and in private affairs of life, was the communion proposed by Achilleian friends — not luxury or the delights which feminine attractions offered. The tie was both more spiritual and more energetic than that which bound man to woman. Such was the type of comradeship delineated by Homer; and such, in spite of the modifications suggested by later poets, was the conception retained by the Greeks of this heroic friendship. Even Aeschines, in the place above quoted, lays stress upon the mutual loyalty of Achilles and Patroclus as the strongest bond of their affection: 'regarding, I suppose, their loyalty and mutual goodwill as the most touching feature of their love.'(Compare the fine rhetorical passage in Maximus Tyrius, Dissert., xxiv. 8, ed. Didot, 1842.)


Thus the tale of Achilles and Patroclus sanctioned among the Greeks a form of masculine love, which, though afterwards connected with paiderastia properly so called, we are justified in describing as heroic, and in regarding as one of the highest products of their emotional life. It will be seen, when we come to deal with the historical manifestations of this passion, that the heroic love which took its name from Homer's Achilles existed as an ideal rather than an actual reality. This, however, is equally the case with Christianity and chivalry. The facts of feudal history fall below the high conception which hovered like a dream above the knights and ladies of the Middle Ages; nor has the spirit of the Gospel been realised, in fact, by the most Christian nations. Still we are not on that account debarred from speaking of both chivalry and Christianity as potent and effective forces.


Homer, then, knew nothing of paiderastia, though the Iliad contained the first and noblest legend of heroic friendship. Very early, however, in Greek history boy-love, as a form of sensual passion, became a national institution. This is proved abundantly by mythological traditions of great antiquity, by legendary tales connected with the founding of Greek cities, and by the primitive customs of the Dorian tribes. The question remains how paiderastic originated among the Greeks, and whether it was introduced or indigenous.

The Greeks themselves speculated on this subject, but they arrived at no one definite conclusion. Herodotus (i. 135) asserts that the Persians learned the habit, in its vicious form, from the Greeks (i. 135); but, even supposing this assertion to be correct, we are not justified in assuming the same of all barbarians who were neighbours of the Greeks; since we know from the Jewish records and from Assyrian inscriptions that the Oriental nations were addicted to this as well as other species of sensuality. Moreover, it might with some strain on language be maintained that Herodotus, in the passage above referred to, did not allude to boy-love in general, but to the peculiarly Hellenic form of it which I shall afterwards attempt to characterise.

A prevalent opinion among the Greeks ascribed the origin of paiderastia to Crete; and it was here that the legend of Zeus and Ganymede was localised. (Numerous localities, however, claimed this distinction. See Athenaeum, xiii. 601. Chalks in Euboea, as well as Crete, could show the spot where the mystical assumption of Ganymede was reported to have happened.) 'The Cretans', says Plato, (Laws,l i. 636. Cp. Timaeus, quoted by Ath., p. 602. Servius, ad Aen. x. 325, says that boy- love spread from Crete to Sparta, and thence through Hellas, and Strabo mentions its prevalence among the Cretans (x. 483). Plato (Rep. v. 452) speaks of the Cretans as introducing naked athletic sports.) 'are always accused of having invented the story of Ganymede and Zeus, which is designed to justify themselves in the enjoyment of such pleasures by the practice of the god whom they believe to have been their lawgiver.'

In another passage (Laws, viii. 863), Plato speaks of the custom that prevailed before the time of Laius — in terms which show his detestation of a vice that had gone far toward corrupting Greek society. This sentence indicates the second theory of the later Greeks upon this topic. They thought that Laius, the father of Oedipus, was the first to practise Hybris, or lawless lust, in this form, by the rape committed on Chrysippus, the son of Pelops. (See Ath., xiii. 602. Plutarch, in the Life of Pelopidas (Clough, vol. ii., p. 219), argues against this view.) To this crime of Laius the Scholiast to the Seven against Thebes attributes all the evils which afterwards befell the royal house of Thebes, and Euripides made it the subject of a tragedy. In another but less prevalent Saga the introduction of paiderastia is ascribed to Orpheus.

It is clear from these conflicting theories that the Greeks themselves had no trustworthy tradition on the subject. Nothing, therefore, but speculative conjecture is left for the modern investigator. If we need in such a matter to seek further than the primal instincts of human nature, we may suggest that, like the orgiastic rites of the later Hellenic cults, paiderastia in its crudest form was transmitted to the Greeks from the East. Its prevalence in Crete, which, together with Cyprus, formed one of the principal links between Phoenicia and Hellas proper, favours this view. Paiderastia would, on this hypothesis, like the worship of the Paphian and Corinthian Aphrodite, have to be regarded as in part an Oriental importation. (See Rosenbaum, Lustseuche im alterthume, p. 118.) Yet, if we adopt any such solution of the problem, we must not forget that in this, as in all similar cases, whatever the Greeks received from adjacent nations, they distinguished with the qualities of their own personality. Paiderastia in Hellas assumed Hellenic characteristics, and cannot be confounded with any merely Asiatic form of luxury. In the tenth section of this Essay I shall return to the problem, and advance my own conjecture as to the part played by the Dorians in the development of paiderastia into a custom.

It is enough for the present to remark that, however introduced, the vice of boy-love, as distinguished from heroic friendship, received religious sanction at an early period. The legend of the rape of Ganymede was invented, according to the passage recently quoted from Plato, by the Cretans with the express purpose of investing their pleasures with a show of piety. This localisation of the religious sanction of paiderastic in Crete confirms the hypothesis of Oriental influence; for one of the notable features of Graeco-Asiatic worship was the consecration of sensuality in the Phallus cult, the Hiero douloi (temple slaves, or bayadères) of Aphrodite, and the eunuchs of the Phrygian mother. Homer tells the tale of Ganymede with the utmost simplicity. The boy was so beautiful that Zeus suffered him not to dwell on earth, but translated him to heaven, and appointed him the cupbearer of the immortals. The sensual desire which made the king of gods and men prefer Ganymede to Leda, Io, Danaë, and all the maidens whom he loved and left on earth, is an addition to the Homeric version of the myth. In course of time the tale of Ganymede, according to the Cretan reading, became the nucleus around which the paiderastic associations of the Greek race gathered, just as that of Achilles formed the main point in their tradition of heroic friendship. To the Romans and the modern nations the name of Ganymede, debased to Catamitus, supplied a term of reproach, which sufficiently indicates the nature of the love of which he became eventually the eponym.


Resuming the results of the last four sections, we find two separate forms of masculine passion clearly marked in early Hellas — a noble and a base, a spiritual and a sensual. To the distinction between them the Greek conscience was acutely sensitive; and this distinction, in theory at least, subsisted throughout their history. They worshipped Eros, as they worshipped Aphrodite, under the twofold titles of Ouranios (celestial) and Pandemos (vulgar, or volvivaga); and, while they regarded the one love with the highest approval, as the source of courage and greatness of soul, they never publicly approved the other. It is true, as will appear in the sequel of this essay, that boy- love in its grossest form was tolerated in historic Hellas with an indulgence which it never found in any Christian country, while heroic comradeship remained an ideal hard to realise, and scarcely possible beyond the limits of the strictest Dorian sect. Yet the language of philosophers, historians, poets and orators is unmistakable. All testify alike to the discrimination between vulgar and heroic love in the Greek mind. I purpose to devote a separate section of this inquiry to the investigation of these ethical distinctions. For the present, a quotation from one of the most eloquent of the later rhetoricians will sufficiently set forth the contrast, which the Greek race never wholly forgot:

The one love is mad for pleasure; the other loves beauty. The one is an involuntary sickness; the other is a sought enthusiasm. The one tends to the good of the beloved; the other to the ruin of both. The one is virtuous; the other incontinent in all its acts. The one has its end in friendship; the other in hate. The one is freely given; the other is bought and sold. The one brings praise; the other blame. The one is Greek; the other is barbarous. The one is virile; the other effeminate. . . . (Max. Tyr., Dissert., ix.)

With the baser form of paiderastia I shall have little to do in this essay. Vice of this kind does not vary to any great extent, whether we observe it in Athens or in Rome, in Florence of the sixteenth or in Paris of the nineteenth century; nor in Hellas was it more noticeable than elsewhere, except for its comparative publicity. The nobler type of masculine love developed by the Greeks is, on the contrary, almost unique (I say almost, because something of the same sort appeared in Persia at the time of Saadi.) in the history of the human race. It is that which more than anything else distinguishes the Greeks from the barbarians of their own time, from the Romans, and from modern men in all that appertains to the emotions. The immediate subject of the ensuing inquiry will, therefore, be that mixed form of paiderastic upon which the Greeks prided themselves, which had for its heroic ideal the friendship of Achilles and Patroclus, but which in historic times exhibited a sensuality unknown to Homer. (Plato, in the Phaedrus, the Symposium, and the Laws, is decisive on the mixed nature of paiderastia.) In treating of this unique product of their civilisation I shall use the terms Greek Love, understanding thereby a passionate and enthusiastic attachment subsisting between man and youth, recognised by society and protected by opinion, which, though it was not free from sensuality, did not degenerate into mere licentiousness.


. . . Greek love was, in its origin and essence, military. Fire and valour, rather than tenderness or tears, were the external outcome of this passion; nor had Malachia, effeminacy, a place in its vocabulary. At the same time it was exceedingly absorbing. 'Half my life', says the lover, 'lives in thine image, and the rest is lost. When thou art kind, I spend the day like a god; when thy face is turned aside, it is very dark with me.' (Theocritus, Paidika, probably an Aeolic poem of much older date.) Plato, in his celebrated description of a lover's soul, writes:

Wherever she thinks that she will behold the beautiful one, thither in her desire she runs. And when she has seen him, and bathed herself with the waters of desire, her constraint is loosened and she is refreshed, and has no more pangs and pains; and this is the sweetest of all pleasures at the time, and is the reason why the soul of the lover will never forsake his beautiful one, whom he esteems above all; he has forgotten mother and brethren and companions, and he thinks nothing of the neglect and loss of his property. The rules and proprieties of life, on which he formerly prided himself, he now despises, and is ready to sleep like a servant, wherever he is allowed, as near as he can to his beautiful one, who is not only the object of his worship, but the only physician who can heal him in his extreme agony. (Phaedrus, p. 252, Jowett's translation.)

These passages show how real and vital was the passion of Greek love. It would be difficult to find more intense expressions of affection in modern literature. The effect produced upon the lover by the presence of his beloved was similar to that inspiration which the knight of romance received from his lady.

I know not (says Phaedrus, in the Symposium of Plato) any greater blessing to a young man beginning life than a virtuous lover, or to the lover than a beloved youth. for the principle which ought to be the guide of men who would nobly live — that principle, I say, neither kindred, nor honour, nor wealth, nor any other motive is able to implant so well as love. Of what am I speaking? Of the sense of honour and dishonour, without which neither states nor individuals ever do any good or great work. And I say that a lover who is detected in doing any dishonourable act, or submitting, through cowardice, when any dishonour is done to him by another, will be more pained at being detected by his beloved than at being seen by his father, or by his companions, or by any one else. The beloved, too, when he is seen in any disgraceful situation, has the same feeling about his lover. And if there were only some way of contriving that a state or an army should be made up of lovers and their loves, they would be the very best governors of their own city, abstaining from all dishonour; and emulating one another in honour; and when fighting at one another's side, although a mere handful, they would overcome the world. . . .

With the whole of this quotation we might compare what Plutarch in the Life of Pelopidas relates about the composition of the Sacred Band; while the following anecdote from the Anabasis of Xenophon may serve to illustrate the theory that regiments should consist of lovers. (Book vii. 4, 7.) Episthenes of Olynthus, one of Xenophon's hoplites, saved a beautiful boy from the slaughter commanded by Seuthes in a Thracian village. The king could not understand why his orders had not been obeyed, till Xenophon excused his hoplite by explaining that Episthenes was a passionate boy-lover, and that he had once formed a corps of none but beautiful men. Then Seuthes asked Episthenes if he was willing to die instead of the boy, and he answered, stretching out his neck, 'Strike', he says, 'if the boy says "Yes", and will be pleased with it.' At the end of the affair, which is told by Xenophon with a quiet humour that brings a little scene of Greek military life vividly before us, Seuthes gave the boy his liberty, and the soldier walked away with him.

In order to further illustrate the hardy nature of Greek love I may allude to the speech of Pausanias in the Symposium of Plato. The fruits of love, he says, are courage in the face of danger, intolerance of despotism, the virtues of the generous and haughty soul.

In Ionia (he adds) and other places, and generally in countries which are subject to the barbarians, the custom is held to be dishonourable; loves of youths share the evil repute of philosophy and gymnastics because they are inimical to tyranny, for the interests of rulers require that their subject should be poor in spirit, and that there should be no strong bond of friendship or society among them, which love, above all other motives, is likely to inspire, as our Athenian tyrants learned by experience.


Among the myths to which Greek lovers referred with pride, besides that of Achilles, were the legends of Theseus and Peirithous, or Orestes and Pylades, of Talos and Rhadamanthus, of Damon and Pythias. Nearly all the Greek gods, except, I think, oddly enough, Ares, were famous for their love. Poseidon, according to Pindar, loved Pelops; Zeus, besides Ganymede, was said to have carried off Chrysippus. Apollo loved Hyacinth, and numbered among his favourites Branchos and Claros. Pan loved Cyparissus, and the spirit of the evening star loved Hymenaeus. Hypnos, the God of slumber, loved Endymion, and sent him to sleep with open eyes, in order that he might always gaze upon their beauty. (Athenaeus, xiii. 564.) The myths of Phoebus, Pan, and Hesperus, it may be said in passing, are paiderastic parallels to the tales of Adonis and Daphine. They do not represent the specific quality of national Greek love at all in the same way as the legends of Achilles, Theseus, Pylades, and Pythias. We find in them merely a beautiful and romantic play of the mythopoeic fancy, after paiderastia had taken hold on the imagination of the race. The case is different with Herakles, the patron, eponym, and ancestor of Dorian Hellas. He was a boy-lover of the true heroic type. In the innumerable amours ascribed to him we always discern the note of martial comradeship. His passion for Iolaus was so famous that lovers swore their oaths upon the Theban's tomb (Plutarch, Eroticus, cap. xvii); while the story of his loss of Hylas supplied Greek poets with one of their most charming subjects. From the idyll of Theocritus called Hylas we learn some details about the relation between lover and beloved, according to the heroic ideal.

Nay, but the son of Amphitryon, that heart of bronze, he that abode the wild lion's onset, loved a lady, beautiful Hylas — Hylas of the braided locks, and he taught him all things as a father teaches his child, all whereby himself became a mighty man and renowned in minstrelsy. Never was he apart from Hylas, . . . and all this that he lad might be fashioned to his kind, and might drive a straight furrow, and come to the true measure of man.


Passing from myth to semi-legendary history, we find frequent mention made of lovers in connection with the great achievements of the earliest age of Hellas. What Pausanias and Phaedrus are reported to have said in the Symposium of Plato, is fully borne out by the records of the numerous tyrannicides and self-devoted patriots who helped to establish the liberties of the Greek cities. When Epimenides of Crete required a human victim in his purification of Athens from the Musos of the Megacleidae, two lovers, Cratinus and Aristodemus, offered themselves as a voluntary sacrifice for the city. (See Athenaeus, xiii. 602, for details.) The youth died to propitiate the gods; the lover refused to live without him. Chariton and Melanippus, who attempted to assassinate Phalaris of Agrigentum, were lovers. (See Athenaeus, xiii. 602, who reports an oracle in praise of these lovers.) So were Diocles and Phillaus, natives of Corinth, who removed to Thebes, and after giving laws to their adopted city, died and were buried in one grave. (Aristotle, Pol., ii. 9.) Not less celebrated was another Diocles, the Athenian exile, who fell near Megara in battle, fighting for the boy he loved. (See Theocritus, Aites and the Scholia.) His tomb was honoured with the rites and sacrifices specially reserved for heroes. A similar story is told of the Thessalian horseman Cleomachus. (See Plutarch's Eroticus, 760, 42, where the story is reported on the faith of Aristotle.) This soldier rode into a battle which was being fought between the people of Eretria and Chalkis, inflamed with such enthusiasm for the youth be beloved, that he broke the foemen's ranks and won the victory for the Chalkidians. After the fight was over Cleomachus was found among the slain, but his corpse was nobly buried; and from that time forward love was honoured by the men of Chalkis. These stories might be paralleled from actual Greek history. Plutarch, commenting upon the courage of the sacred band of Thebans (Pelopidas), tells of a man 'who, when his enemy was going to kill him, earnestly requested him to run him through the breast, that his lover might not blush to see him wounded in the back.' In order to illustrate the haughty temper of Greek lovers, the same author, in his Erotic Dialogue, records the names of Antileon of Metapontum, who braved a tyrant in the cause of a boy he loved; of Crateas, who punished Archelaus with death for an insult offered to him; of Pytholaus, who treated Alexander of Pherae in like manner; and of another youth who killed the Ambracian tyrant Periander for a similar affront. (Cap. xxiii. Compare Max. Tyr., Dissert., xxiv. 1. See, too, the chapter on Tyrannicide in Aristotle, Pol., vii. (v.) 10.) . . .

But the most famous of all remains to be recorded. This is the story of Harmodius and Aristogeiton, who freed Athens from the tyrant Hipparchus. There is not a speech, a poem, an essay, a panegyrical oration in praise of either Athenian liberty or Greek love which does not tell the tale of this heroic friendship. Herodotus and Thucydides treat the event as matter of serious history. Plato refers to it as the beginning of freedom for the Athenians. 'The drinking-song in honour of these lovers is one of the most precious fragments of popular Greek poetry which we possess. As in the cases of Lucretia and Virginia, so here a tyrant's intemperance was the occasion, if not the cause, of a great nation's rising. Harmodius and Aristogeiton were reverenced as martyrs and saviours of their country. Their names gave consecration to the love which made them bold against the despot, and they became at Athens eponyms of paiderastia.' (See, for example, Aeschines against Timarchus, 59.) [1883 edition: Athens itself, in the later days of Greek civilisation, was as celebrated for this kind of love as Corinth for its courtesans.]


A considerable majority of the legends which have been related in the preceding section are Dorian, and the Dorians gave the earliest and most marked encouragement to Greek love. Nowhere else, indeed, except among the Dorians, who were an essentially military race, living like an army of occupation in the countries they had seized, herding together in barracks and at public messes, and submitting to martial drill and discipline, do we meet with paiderastia developed as an institution. In Crete and Lacedaemon it became a potent instrument of education. What I have to say, in the first instance on this matter is derived almost entirely from C. O. Müller's Dorians (Trans. by Sir G. C. Lewis, vol. ii. pp. 306—313), to which work I refer my readers for the authorities cited in illustration of each detail. Plato says that the law of Lycurgus in respect to love was Poikilos (Symposium 182 A), by which he means that it allowed the custom under certain restrictions. It would appear that the lover was called Inspirer, at Sparta, while the youth he loved was named Hearer. These local phrases sufficiently indicate the relation which subsisted between the pair. The lover taught, the hearer learned; and so from man to man was handed down the tradition of heroism, the peculiar tone and temper of the state to which, in particular among the Greeks, the Dorians clung with obstinate pertinacity. Xenophon distinctly states that love was maintained among the Spartans with a view to education; and when we consider the customs of the state, by which boys were separated early from their homes and the influences of the family were almost wholly wanting, it is not difficult to understand the importance of the paiderastic institution. The Lacedaemonian lover might represent his friend in the Assembly. He was answerable for his good conduct, and stood before him as a pattern of manliness, courage, and prudence. Of the nature of his teaching we may form some notion from the precepts addressed by the Megarian Theognis to the youth Kurnus. In battle the lovers fought side by side; and it is worthy of notice that before entering into an engagement the Spartans sacrificed to Eros. It was reckoned a disgrace if a youth found no man to be his lover. Consequently we find that the most illustrious Spartans are mentioned by their biographers in connection with their comrades. Agesilaus heard Lysander; Archidamus, his son loved Cleonymus; Cleomenes III was the hearer of Xenares and the inspirer of Panteus. The affection of Pausanias, on the other hand, for the boy Argilus, who betrayed him according to the account of Thucydides (i. 132), must not be reckoned among these nobler loves. In order to regulate the moral conduct of both parties, Lycurgus made it felony, punishable with death or exile, for the lover to desire the person of a boy in lust; and, on the other hand, it was accounted exceedingly disgraceful for the younger to meet the advances of the elder with a view to gain. Honest affection and manly self-respect were exacted on both sides; the bond of union implied no more of sensuality than subsists between a father and a son, a brother and a brother. At the same time great license of intercourse was permitted. Cicero, writing long after the great age of Greece, but relying probably upon sources to which we have no access, asserts that 'Lacedaemonii ipsi cum omnia concedunt in amore juvenum praeter stuprum tenui sane muro dissaepiunt id quod excipiunt: complexus enim concubitusque permittunt (De Rep., iv. 4).' 'The Lacedaemonians, while they permit all things except outrage in the love of youths, certainly distinguish the forbidden by a thin wall of partition from the sanctioned, for they allow embraces and a common couch to lovers.'

In Crete the paiderastic institutions were even more elaborate than at Sparta. The lover was called Philetor, and the beloved one Kleinos. When a man wished to attach to himself a youth in the recognised bonds of friendship, he took him away from his home, with a pretence of force, but not without the connivance, in most cases, of his friends. (I need hardly point out the parallel between this custom and the marriage customs of half-civilised communities.) For two months the pair lived together among the hills, hunting and fishing. Then the Philetor gave gifts to the youth, and suffered him to return to his relatives. If the Kleinos (illustrious or laudable) had received insult of ill-treatment during the probationary weeks, he now could get redress at law. If he was satisfied with the conduct of his would-be comrade, he changed his title from Kleinos to Parastates (comrade and bystander in the ranks of battle and life), returned to the Philetor, and lived thenceforward in close bonds of public intimacy with him.

The primitive simplicity and regularity of these customs make it appear strange to modern minds; nor is it easy to understand how they should ever have been wholly free from blame. Yet we must remember the influences which prevalent opinion and ancient tradition both contribute toward preserving a delicate sense of honour under circumstances of apparent difficulty. The careful reading of one Life by Plutarch, that, for instance, of Cleomenes or that of Agis, will have more effect in presenting the realities of Dorian existence to our imagination than any amount of speculative disquisition. Moreover, a Dorian was exposed to almost absolute publicity. He had no chance of hiding from his fellow-citizens the secrets of his private life. It was not, therefore, till the social and political complexion of the whole nation became corrupt that the institutions just described encouraged profligacy. That the Spartans and the Cretans degenerated from their primitive ideal is manifest from the severe critiques of the philosophers. Plato, while passing a deliberate censure on the Cretans for the introduction of paiderastia into Greece (Laws, i. 636), remarks that syssitia, or meals in common, and gymnasia are favourable to the perversion of the passions. Aristotle, in a similar argument (Pol., ii. 7, 4), points out that the Dorian habits had a direct tendency to check the population by encouraging the love of boys and by separating women from the society of men. . . . But the most convincing testimony is to be found in the Greek language: 'to do like the Laconians, to have connection in Laconian way, to o like the Cretans', tell their own tale, especially when we compare these phrases with 'to do like the Corinthians, the Lesbians, the Siphnians, the Phoenicians', and other verbs formed to indicate the vices localised in separate districts.

Up to this point I have been content to follow the notices of Dorian institutions which are scattered up and down the later Greek authors, and which have been collected by C. O. MĀller. I have not attempted to draw definite conclusions, or to speculate upon the influence which the Dorian section of the Hellenic family may have exercised in developing paiderastia. To do so now will be legitimate, always remembering that what we actually know about the Dorians is confined to the historic period, and that the tradition respecting their early customs is derived from second-hand authorises.

It has frequently occurred to my mind that the mixed type of paiderastia which I have named Greek Love took its origin in Doris. Homer, who knew nothing about the passion as it afterwards existed, drew a striking picture of masculine affection in Achilles. And Homer, I may add, was not a native of northern Greece. Whoever he was, or whoever they were, the poet, or the poets, we call Homer belonged to the south-east of the Aegean. Homer, then, may have been ignorant of paiderastia. Yet friendship occupies the first place in his hero's heart, while only the second is reserved for sexual emotion. Now Achilles came from Phthia, itself a portion of that mountain region to which Doris belonged. (It is not unimportant to note in this connection that paiderastia of no ignoble type still prevails among the Albanian mountaineers.) Is it unnatural to conjecture that the Dorians, in their migration to Lacedaemon and Crete, the recognised headquarters of the custom, carried a tradition of heroic paiderastic along with them? Is it unreasonable to surmise that here, if anywhere in Hellas, the custom existed from prehistoric times? If so, the circumstances of their invasion would have fostered the transformation of this tradition into a tribal institution. They went forth, a band of warriors and pirates, to cross the sea in boats, and to fight their way along the hills and plains of Southern Greece. The dominions they had conquered with their swords they occupied like soldiers. The camp became their country, and for a long period of time they literally lived upon the bivouac. Instead of a city- state, with its manifold complexities of social life, they were reduced to the narrow limits and the simple conditions of a roving horde. Without sufficiency of women, without the sanctities of established domestic life, inspired by the memory of Achilles, and venerating their ancestor Herakles, the Dorian warriors had special opportunity for elevating comradeship to the rank of an enthusiasm. The incidents of emigration into a distant country — perils of the sea, passages of rivers and mountains, assaults of fortresses and cities, landings on a hostile shore, night-vigils by the side of blazing beacons, foragings for food, picquet services in the front of watchful foes — involved adventures capable of shedding the lustre of romance on friendship. These circumstances, by bringing the virtues of sympathy with the weak, tenderness for the beautiful, protection for the young, together with corresponding qualities of gratitude, self-devotion and admiring attachment, into play, may have tended to cement unions between man and man no less firm than that of marriage. On such connections a wise captain would have relied for giving strength to his battalion, and for keeping alive the flame of enterprise and daring. [1883 edition: Morality, according to modern conceptions, certainly did not enter into the account; nor is it to be presumed that marauders, who had to gain by force a grip upon the soil of foremen, should have paid any heed to the proprieties of civic life even as these were understood in ancient times. It was enough that physical needs and spiritual emotions blent together in one impulse, drawing the strong to the graceful, the young to the athletic.] Fighting and foraging in company, sharing the same wayside board and heath-strewn bed, rallying to the comrade's voice in onset, relying on the comrade's shield when fallen, these men learned the meanings of the words Philetor and parastates. To be loved was honourable, for it implied being worthy to be died for. To love was glorious, since it pledged the lover to self-sacrifice in case of need. In these conditions the paiderastic passion may have well combined manly virtue with carnal appetite, adding such romantic sentiment a some stern men reserve within their hearts for women. A motto might be chosen for a lover of this early Dorian type from the Aeolic poem ascribed to Theocritus: 'And made me tender from the iron man I used to be.'

In course of time, when the Dorians had settled down upon their conquered territories, and when the passions which had shown their more heroic aspect during a period of warfare came, in a period of idleness, to call for methods of restraint, then the discrimination between honourable and base forms of love, to which Plato pointed as a feature of the Dorian institutions, took place. It is also more than merely probable that in Crete, where these institutions were the most precisely regulated, the Dorian immigrants came into contact with Phoenician vices, the repression of which required the adoption of a strict code. In this way paiderastia, considered as a mixed custom, partly martial, partly luxurious, recognised by public opinion and controlled by law, obtained among the Dorian Tribes, and spread from them throughout the states of Hellas. Relics of numerous semi-savage habits — thefts of food, ravishment as a prelude to marriage, and so forth — indicate in like manner the survival among the Dorians of primitive tribal institutions.

It will be seen that the conclusion to which I have been drawn by the foregoing considerations is that the mixed form of paiderastia called by me in this essay Greek Love owed its peculiar quality, what Plato called its intricacy of 'laws and customs', to two diverse strains of circumstances harmonised in the Greek temperament. Its military and enthusiastic elements were derived from the primite conditions of the Dorians during their immigration into Southern Greece. Its refinements of sensuality and sanctified impurity are referable to contact with Phoenician civilisation. The specific form it assumed among the Dorians of the historic period, equally removed from military freedom and from Oriental luxury, can be ascribed to the operation of that organising, moulding and assimilating spirit which we recognise as Hellenic.

The position thus stated is, unfortunately, speculative rather than demonstrable; and in order to establish the reasonableness of the speculation, it would be natural at this point to introduce some account of paiderastia as it exists in various savage tribes, if their customs could be seen to illustrate the Doric phase of Greek love. This, however, is not the case. Study of Mr Herbert Spencer's Tables, and of Bastian's Der Mensch in der Geschichte, together with the facts collected by travellers among the North American Indians, and the mass of curious information supplied by Rosenbaum in his Geschichte der Lust-seuche im Alterthume, makes it clear to my mind that the unisexual vices of barbarians follow, not the type of Greek paiderastic, but that of the Scythian disease of effeminacy, described by Herodotus and Hippocrates as something essentially foreign and non-Hellenic. In all these cases, whether we regard the Scythian impotent effeminates, the North American Bardashes, the Tsecats of Madagascar, the Cordaches of the Canadian Indians, and similar classes among Californian Indians, natives of Venezuela, and so forth — the characteristic point is that effeminate males renounce their sex, assume female clothes, and live either in promiscuous concubinage with the men of the tribe or else in marriage with chosen persons. This abandonment of the masculine attributes and habits, this assumption of feminine duties and costume, would have been abhorrent to the Doric custom. Precisely similar effeminacies were recognised as pathological by Herodotus, to whom Greek paiderastia was familiar. The distinctive feature of dorian comradeship was that it remained on both sides masculine, tolerating no sort of softness. For similar reasons, what we know about the prevalence of sodomy among the primitive peoples of Mexico, Peru and Yucatan, and almost all half-savage nations, (It appears from the reports of travellers that this form of passion is not common among those African tribes who have not been corrupted by Mussulmans or Europeans.) throws little light upon the subject of the present inquiry. Nor do we gain anything of importance from the semi-religious practices of Japanese Bonzes or Egyptian priests. Such facts, taken in connection with abundant modern experience of what are called unnatural vices, only prove the universality of unisexual indulgence in all parts of the world and under all conditions of society. Considerable psychological interest attaches to the study of these sexual aberrations. It is also true that we detect in them the germ or raw material of a custom which the Dorians moralised or developed after a specific fashion; but nowhere do we find an analogue to their peculiar institutions. It was just that effort to moralise and adapt to social use a practice which has elsewhere been excluded in the course of civil growth, or has been allowed to linger half-acknowledged as a remnant of more primitive conditions, or has reappeared in the corruption of society; it was just this effort to elevate paiderastia according to the aesthetic standard of Greek ethics which constitute its distinctive quality in Hellas. We are obliged, in fact, to separate this, the true Hellenic manifestation of the paiderastic passion, from the effeminacies, brutalities and gross sensualities which can be noticed alike in imperfectly civilised and in luxuriously corrupt communities.

Before leaving this part of the subject, I must repeat that what I have suggested regarding the intervention of the Dorians in creating the type of Greek love is a pure speculation. If it has any value, that is due to the fixed and regulated forms which paiderastic institutions displayed at a very early date in Crete and Sparta, and also to the remnants of savage customs embedded in them. It depends to a certain extent also upon the absence of paiderastic in Homer. But on this point something still remains to be said. Our Attic authorities certainly regarded the Homeric poems as canonical books, decisive for the culture of the first stage of Hellenic history. Yet it is clear that Homer refined Greek mythology, while many of the cruder elements of that mythology survived from pre-Homeric times in local cults and popular religious observances. We know, moreover, that a body of non-Homeric writings, commonly called the cyclic poems, existed by the side of Homer, some of the material of which is preserved to us by dramatists, lyrists, historians, antiquaries and anecdotists. It is not impossible that this so-called cyclical literature contained paiderastic elements, which were eliminated, like the grosser forms of myth in the Homeric poems. (It may be plausibly argued that Aeschylus drew the subject of his Myrmidones from some such non-Homeric epic.) If this be conceded, we might be led to conjecture that paiderastic was a remnant of ancient savage habits, ignored by Homer, but preserved by tradition in the race. Given the habit, the Greeks were certainly capable of carrying it on without shame. We ought to resist the temptation to seek a high and noble origin for all Greek institutions. But there remains the fact that, however they acquired the habit, whether from North Dorian customs antecedent to Homer or from conditions of experience subsequent to the Homeric age, the Greeks gave it a dignity and an emotional superiority which is absent in the annals of barbarian institutions. Instead of abandoning it as part of the obsolete lumber of their prehistoric origins, they chose to elaborate it into the region of romance and ideality. And this they did in spite of Homer's ignorance of the passion or of his deliberate reticence. Whatever view, therefore, we may take about Homer's silence, and about the possibility of paiderastia occurring in lost poems of the cyclic type, or, lastly, about its probably survival in the people from an age of savagery, we are bound to regard its systematical development among the Dorians as a fact of paramount significance.

In that passage of the Symposium (182 A) where Plato notices the Spartan law of love as Poikilos, he speaks with disapprobation of the Boeotians, who were not restrained by custom and opinion within the same strict limits. Yet it should here be noted that the military aspect of Greek love in the historic period was nowhere more distinguished than at Thebes. Epaminondas was a notable boy-lover; and the names of his beloved Asopichus and Cephisodorus, are mentioned by Plutarch (Eroticus, xvii). They died, and were buried with him at Mantinea. The paiderastic legend of Herakles and Iolaus was localised in Boeotia; and the lovers, Diocles and Philolaus, who gave laws to Thebes, directly encouraged those masculine attachments, which had their origin in the Palaestra. The practical outcome of these national institutions in the chief town of Boeotia was the formation of the so-called Sacred Band, or Band of Lovers, upon whom Pelopidas relied in his most perilous operations. Plutarch relates that they were enrolled, in the first instance, by Gorgidas, the rank and file of the regiment being composed of young men bound together by affection. Report goes that they were never beaten till the battle of Chaeronea. At the end of that day, fatal to the liberties of Hellas, Philip of Macedon went forth to view the slain; and when he 'came to that place where the three hundred that fought his phalanx lay dead together, he wondered, and understanding that it was the band of lovers, he shed tears, and said, "Perish any man who suspects that these men either did or suffered anything that was base."' (Plutarch, Pelopidas.) As at all the other turning-points of Greek history, so at this, too, there is something dramatic and eventful. Thebes was the last stronghold of Greek freedom; the Sacred Band contained the pith and flower of her army; these lovers had fallen to a man, like the Spartans of Leonidas at Thermopylae, pierced by the lances of the Macedonian phalanx; then, when the day was over and the dead were silent, Philip, the victor in that fight, shed tears when he beheld their serried ranks, pronouncing himself therewith the fittest epitaph which could have been inscribed upon their stelČ by a Hellene.

At Chaeronea, Greek liberty, Greek heroism, and Greek love, properly so called, expired. It is not unworthy of notice that the son of the conqueror, young Alexander, endeavoured to revive the tradition of Achilleian friendship. This lad, born in the decay of Greek liberty, took conscious pleasure in enacting the part of a Homeric hero on the altered stage of Hellas and of Asia, with somewhat tawdry histrionic pomp. (The connection of the royal family of Macedon by descent with the Aeacidae, and the early settlement of the Dorians in Macedonia, are noticeable.) Homer was his invariable companion upon his marches; in the Troad he paid special honour to the tomb of Achilles, running naked races round the barrow in honour of the hero, and expressing the envy which he felt for one who had so true a friend and so renowned a poet to record his deeds. The historians of his life relate that, while he was indifferent to women (Cf. Athenaeus, x. 435), he was madly given to the love of males. This the story of his sorrow for Hephaistion sufficiently confirms. A kind of spiritual atavism moved the Macedonian conqueror to assume on the vast Bactrian plain the outward trappings of Achilles Agonistes. (Hadrian in Rome, at a later period, revived the Greek tradition, with even more of caricature. His military ardour, patronage of art, and love for Antinous seem to hang together.)

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. . . The Greeks were conscious that gymnastic exercises tended to encourage and confirm the habit of paiderastia. 'The cities which have most to do with gymnastics', is the phrase which Plato uses to describe the states where Greek love flourished (Laws, i. 636 C). Herodotus says the barbarians borrowed gymnastics together with paiderastia from the Hellenes; and we hear that Polycrates of Samos caused the gymnasia to be destroyed when he wished to discountenance the love which lent the warmth of personal enthusiasm to political associations (Athenaeus, xiii. 602 D). It was common to erect statues of love in the wrestling-grounds; and there, says Plutarch (Eroticus), the god's wings grew so wide that no man could restrain his flight. Readers of the idyllic poets will remember that it was a statue of Love which fell from its pedestal in the swimming-bath upon the cruel boy who had insulted the body of his self-slain friend (Line 60, ascribed to Theocritus, but not genuine). Charmus, the lover of Hippias, erected an image of Eros in the academy at Athens which bore this epigram: 'Love, god of many evils and various devices, Charmus set up this altar to thee upon the shady boundaries of the gymnasium' (Athenaeus, xiii. 609 D). Eros, in fact, was as much at home in the gymnasia of Athens as Aphrodite in the temples of Corinth; he was the patron of paiderastia, as she of female love. Thus Meleager writes: 'The Cyprian queen, a woman, hurls the fire that maddens men for females; but Eros himself sways the love of males for males' (Mousa Paidiké, 86). Plutarch, again, in the Erotic dialogue, alludes to 'Eros, where Aphrodite is not; Eros apart from Aphrodite.' These facts relating to the gymnasia justified Cicero in saying . . ., with a true Roman's antipathy to Greek aesthetics and their flimsy screen for sensuality, . . . 'To me, indeed, it seems that this custom was generated in the gymnasiums of the Greeks, for there those loves are freely indulged and sanctioned. Ennius therefore very properly observed that the beginning of vice is the habit of striping the body among citizens.'

The Attic gymnasia and schools were regulated by strict laws. We have already seen that adults were not supposed to enter the palaestra; and the penalty for the infringement of this rule by the gymnasiarch was death. In the same way schools had to be shut at sunset and not opened again before daybreak; nor was a grown-up man allowed to frequent them. The public chorus-teachers of boys were obliged to be above the age of forty. Slaves who presumed to make advances to a free boy were subject to the severest penalties; in like manner they were prohibited from gymnastic exercises. Aeschines, from whom we learn these facts, draws the correct conclusion that gymnastics and Greek love were intended to be the special privilege of freemen. Still, in spite of all restrictions, the palaestra was the centre of Athenian profligacy, the place in which not only honourable attachments were formed, but disgraceful bargains also were concluded; and it is not improbable that men like Taureas and Miccus, who opened such places of amusement as a private speculation, may have played the part of go-betweens and panders. Their walls and the plane-trees which grew along their open courts were inscribed by lovers with the names of boys who had attracted them. To scrawl up, 'Fair is Dinomeneus, fair is the boy', was a common custom, as we learn from Aristophanes and from this anonymous epigram in the Anthology: 'I said and once again I said, "fair, fair"; but still will I go on repeating how fascinating with his eyes is Dositheus. Not upon an oak, nor on a pine-tree, nor yet upon a wall, will I inscribe this word; but love is smouldering in my heart of hearts.'

Another attention of the same kind from a lover to a boy was to have a vase or drinking-cup of baked clay made, with a portrait of the youth depicted on its surface, attended by winger genii of health and love. The word 'Fair' was inscribed beneath, and symbols of games were added — a hoop or a fighting-cock. Nor must I here omit the custom which induced lovers of a literary turn to praise their friends in prose or verse. Hippothales, in the Lysis of Plato, is ridiculed by his friends for recording the great deeds of the boy's ancestors, and deafening his ears with odes and sonnets. A diatribe on love, written by Lysias with a view to winning Phaedrus, forms the starting-point of the dialogue between that youth and Socrates. (Lysias, according to Suidas, was the author of five Erotic epistles addressed to young men.) . . .

Presents were of course a common way of trying to win favour. It was reckoned shameful for boys to take money from their lovers, but fashion permitted them to accept gifts of quails and fighting cocks, pheasants, horses, dogs, and clothes. There existed, therefore, at Athens frequent temptations for boys of wanton disposition, or for those who needed money to indulge expensive tastes. The speech of Aeschines . . . affords a lively picture of the Greek rake's progress, in which Timarchus is described as having sold his person in order to gratify his gluttony and lust and love of gaming. . . .

The shops of the barbers, surgeons, perfumers, and flower- sellers had an evil notoriety, and lads who frequented these resorts rendered themselves liable to suspicion. Thus Aeschines accuses Timarchus of having exposed himself for hire in a surgeon's shop at the Peiraeus; while one of Straton's most beautiful epigrams (Mousa Paidiké, 8) describes an assignation which he made with a boy who had attracted his attention in a garland-weaver's stall. In a fragment from the Pyraunos of Alexis a young man declares that he found thirty professors of the 'voluptuous life of pleasure' in the Cerameicus during a search of three days; while Cratinus and Theopompus might be quoted to prove the ill fame of the monument to Cimon and the hill of Lycabettus.

The last step in the downward descent was when a youth abandoned the roof of his parents or guardians and accepted the hospitality of a lover. If he did this, he was lost.

In connection with this portion of the subject it may be well to state that the Athenian law recognised contracts made between a man and boy, even if the latter were of free birth, whereby the one agreed to render up his person for a certain period and purpose, and the other to pay a fixed sum of money. (See both Lysias against Simon and Aeschines against Timarchus.) The phrase 'a boy who has been a prostitute' occurs quite naturally in Aristophanes (Peace, line 11); nor was it thought disreputable for men to engage in these liaisons. Disgrace only attached to the free youth who gained a living by prostitution; and he was liable, as we shall see, at law to loss of civil rights.

Public brothels for males were kept in Athens, from which the state derived a portion of its revenues. It was in one of these bad places that Socrates first saw Phaedo (Diog. Laert., ii. 105). This unfortunate youth was a native of Elis. Taken prisoner in war, he was sold in the public market to a slave-dealer, who then acquired the right by Attic law to prostitute his person and engross his earnings for his own pocket. A friend of Socrates, perhaps Cebes, bought him from his master, and he became one of the chief members of the Socratic circle. His name is given to the Platonic dialogue on immortality, and he lived to found what is called the Eleo- Socratic School. No reader of Plato forgets how the sage, on the eve of his death, stroked the beautiful long hair of Phaedo, and prophesied that he would soon have to cut it short in mourning for his teacher.

Agathocles, the tyrant of Syracuse, is said to have spent his youth in brothels of this sort — by inclination, however, if the reports of his biographers be not calumnious. . . .


We have seen in the foregoing section that paiderastia at Athens was closely associated with liberty, manly sports, severe studies, enthusiasm, self-sacrifice, self-control, and deeds of daring, by those who cared for those things. It has also been made abundantly manifest that no serious moral shame attached to persons who used boys like women, but that effeminate youths of free birth were stigmatised for their indecent profligacy. It remains still to ascertain the more delicate distinctions which were drawn by Attic law and custom in this matter, though what has been already quoted from Pausanias in the Symposium of Plato may be taken fairly to express the code of honour among gentlemen.

In the Plutus Aristophanes is careful to divide 'boys with overs' into 'the good' and 'the strumpets'. This distinction will serve as basis for the following remarks. A very definite line was drawn by the Athenians between boys who accepted the addresses of their lovers because they liked them or because they were ambitious of comradeship with men of spirit, and those who sold their bodies for money. Minute inquiry was never instituted into the conduct of the former class; else Alcibiades could not have made his famous declaration about Socrates, nor would Plato in the Phaedrus have regarded an occasional breach of chastity, under the compulsion of violent passion, as a venial error. The latter, on the other hand, beside being visited with universal censure, were disqualified by law from exercising the privileges of the franchise, from undertaking embassies, from frequenting the Agora, and from taking part in public festivals, under the penalty of death. Aeschines, from whom we learn the wording of this statute, adds: 'This law he passed with regard to youths who sin with facility and readiness against their own bodies.' He then proceeds to define the true nature of prostitution, prohibited by law to citizens of Athens. It is this: 'Any one who acts in this way towards a single man, provided he do it with payment, seems to be to be liable to the reproach in question.' The whole discussion turns upon the word Misthos. The orator is cautious to meet the argument that a written contract was necessary in order to construct a case of Hetaireia at law. Int he statute, he observes, there is no mention of 'contract' or 'deed in writing'. The offence has been sufficiently established 'when in any way whatever payment has been made'. . . .

When more than one lover was admitted, the guilt was aggravated. 'It will then be manifest that he has not only acted the strumpet, but that he has been a common prostitute. For he who does this indifferently, and with money, and for money, seems to have incurred that designation.' Thus the question finally put to the Areopagus, in which court the case against Timarchus was tried, ran as follows, in the words of Aeschines: 'To which of these two classes will you reckon Timarchus — to those who have had a lover, or to those who have been prostitutes?' In his rhetorical exposition Aeschines defines the true character of the virtuous Eromenos. Frankly admitting his own partiality for beautiful young men, he argues after this fashion: 'I do not attach any blame to love. I do not take away the character of handsome lads. I do not deny that I have often loved, and had many quarrels and jealousies in this matter. But I establish this as an irrefutable fact, that, while the love of beautiful and temperate youths does honour to humanity and indicates a generous temper, the buying of the person of a free boy for debauchery is a mark of insolence and ill-breeding. To be loved is an honour: to sell yourself is a disgrace.' He then appeals to the law which forbade slaves to love, thereby implying that this was the privilege and pride of free men. He alludes to the heroic deed of Aristogeiton and to the great example of Achilles. Finally, he draws up a list of well-known and respected citizens whose loves were notorious, and compares them with a parallel list of persons infamous for their debauchery. What remains in the peroration to this invective traverses the same ground. Some phrases may be quoted which illustrate the popular feeling of the Athenians. Timarchus is stigmatised as 'the man and male who in spite of this has debauched his body by womanly acts of lust', and against as 'one who against the law of nature has given himself to lewdness.' It is obvious here that Aeschines, the self-avowed boy-lover, while seeking to crush his opponent by flinging effeminacy and unnatural behaviour in his teeth, assumes at the same time that honourable paiderastic implies no such disgrace. Again, he observes that it is as easy to recognise a pathic by his impudent behaviour as a gymnast by his muscles. Lastly, he bids the judges force intemperate lovers to abstain from free youths and satisfy their lusts upon the persons of foreigners and aliens. The whole matter at this distance of time is obscure, nor can we hope to apprehend the full force of distinctions drawn by a Greek orator appealing to a Greek audience. We may, indeed, fairly presume that, as is always the case with popular ethics, considerable confusion existed in the minds of the Athenians themselves, and that even for them to formulate the whole of their social feelings on this topic consistently, would have been impossible. The main point, however, seems to be that at Athens it was held honourable to love free boys with decency; that the conduct of lovers between themselves, within the limits of recognised friendship, was not challenged; and that no particular shame attached to profligate persons so long as they refrained from tampering with the sons of citizens.

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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 Eros 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 sexual 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 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 objects 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. Eros 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 that 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 Eros, 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 Eros, 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 Hermae. 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 Eros 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 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 Eros 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 Graeco-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 paiderastic 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 AEolian 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.

It may be judged superfluous to have proved that the female form was idealised in sculpture by the Hellenes at least as noble 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 aesthetic charm is abundantly illustrated in the passages which I have quoted above from the Charmades 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. (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 ideal, 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.) 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 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 aesthetic. 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 desire,s the right moment for indulgence and for self-restraint, the glance 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 paiderastic. 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,[1883: like all forms of passion, may] give 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 aesthetic. They analysed the world of objects and the soul of man, unconsciously perhaps, but effectively, and called their generalisations 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 word,s 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, paiderastic 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.


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 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. here 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 AEolian women did not found a glorious tradition corresponding to that of the Dorian men. If homosexual love between female assumed the form of an institution at one moment in AEolia, 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 palaestra, and the schools of the philosophers. Consequently, while the Greeks utilised the 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:

If you concede homosexual love to males, you must in justice grant the same to female; 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 Philaenis 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. Philaenis may, perhaps, be the poetess of an obscene book on sensual refinements, to whom Athanaeus alludes (Deipnosophistae, viii, 335). It is also possible that Philaenis 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, Myrtalä a common whore, and possibly Philaenis a Lesbian invert.

The upshot of this parenthetical 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.


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 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.

[1883: It is not imaginable that humanity, after the discipline of the last eighteen centuries, should revert to the conditions of Greek life. It is scarcely possible that the moral sense should resume paiderastia after resolutely through so many generations rejecting it. Only in a camp, a prison, a convent, or a public school, some sequestered cyst within the social organism, can the circumstances needful for its reappearance now be found. Yet the manners of camps, prisons, convents, public schools, together with recurrences of vice in cities, prove that there is something persistent in human nature making for this habit. The whole argument of the foregoing inquiry has been to show that the Greek race made one brilliant, if finally unsuccessful, effort to regulate and elevate that gross persistent instinct. Whether any other effort in the course of future evolution will be attempted in the same direction is indeed open to question; and on this point it may be worth while to mention the celebration of comradeship in Calamus by Walt Whitman, which rings curiously like the Doric celebration of paiderastia. But such speculations are, to say the least, premature, if not entirely idle. Modern society is at present sufficiently occupied in regulating and controlling intersexual relatinos, in considering the problems suggested by prostitution, and in speculating upon the inequalities of population. It is rational to predict that what may still remain of an instinctive tendency toward paiderastia in the social organism, will continue to be treated much in the same manner as we treat the inconvenient survival of a superfluous member in the corporeal organism; even if further researches into the history of primitive mankind do not confirm the Christian opinion that this habit, instead of being a normal instinct, is truly a disease which has become hereditary, and which must be remorselessly stamped out like syphilis or madness.]


Section I as it appeared in the 1897/1910 edition:

For the student of sexual inversion, ancient Greece offers a wide field for observation and reflection. Its importance has hitherto been underrated by medical and legal writers on the subject, who do not seem to be aware that here alone in history have we the example of a great and highly-developed race not only tolerating homosexual passions, but deeming them of spiritual value, and attempting to utilise them for the benefit of society. Here, also, through the copious stores of literature at our disposal, we can arrive at something definite regarding the various forms assumed by these passions, when allowed free scope for development in the midst of a refined and intellectual civilisation. What the Greeks called paiderastia, or boy-love, was a phenomenon of one of the most brilliant periods of human culture, in one of the most highly organised and nobly active nations. It is the feature by which Greek social life is most sharply distinguished from that of any other people approaching the Hellenes in moral or mental distinction. To trace the history of so remarkable a custom in their several communities, and to ascertain, so far as this is possible, the ethical feeling of the Greeks upon this subject, must be of service to the scientific psychologist. It enables him to approach the subject from another point of view than that usually adopted by modern jurists, psychiatrists, writers on forensic medicine.

A selection of short passages in the 1873 edition omitted from later editions:

With AEschylus, Solon, and Pindar for companions, it is probable that Sophocles would only have smiled at those modern apologists, who seek to screen him from what, according to our notions of morality, is a reproach.

But enough has been adduced to show that we cannot read Greek biography by the light of modern notions, or criticise Greek morality by our own canons of conduct.

The common reproaches of "sowing the barren rocks," and so on, were met by the advocates of paiderastia in Greece wtih reasoning which offers considerable difficulty to those moralists who do not prohibit sexual intercourse with women past the age of childbirth and with prostitutes.

It is very well for the sages to frown and talk majestically. Nothing will persuade him (Lucian) that Socrates suffered Alcibiades to leave his side unsmitten, or that Achilles sat opposite Patroclus and stroked his lyre. The real ladder of love is to begin with modest kisses, to proceed to sensual caresses, and then — but decency cuts short the eloquence of even Theomnestus at this point.

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