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Author Topic: Question about Graeco-Roman culture  (Read 670 times)

missgraceless

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Question about Graeco-Roman culture
« on: March 03, 2014, 09:41:39 pm »
So I'm not sure this is the right spot (feel free to move it), and it's not exactly religion related. But the BSA losing funding thread reminded me of this.

A few years ago in one of my high school history classes we got on the topic of Don't Ask Don't Tell and homosexuality in general. My teacher had said that the ancient Greeks and Romans revered homosexual relationships over hetero because the "love between people of the same sex was more pure."

My question is, has anyone heard this before, and how valid is it?
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Leirion

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Re: Question about Graeco-Roman culture
« Reply #1 on: March 03, 2014, 10:28:11 pm »
Quote from: missgraceless;141505
So I'm not sure this is the right spot (feel free to move it), and it's not exactly religion related. But the BSA losing funding thread reminded me of this.

A few years ago in one of my high school history classes we got on the topic of Don't Ask Don't Tell and homosexuality in general. My teacher had said that the ancient Greeks and Romans revered homosexual relationships over hetero because the "love between people of the same sex was more pure."

My question is, has anyone heard this before, and how valid is it?


I have heard of this, in my college classes. I cannot remember the sourcing for it, though. I am not sure about same-sex relationships being more pure, but more accepted I have read in multiple sources before.

I am not as well-versed with Graeco-Roman culture, as I am one of the pre-cursors, the Minoans. There was an established and respected tradition of Cretan pederasty, where a man would abduct a boy (with the father's permission) and in some cases it would lead to a more permanent, intimate relationship.

I am not a big fan of using Wikipedia as a solid source, but more of a springboard. However, their article on it sums it up rather nicely in theory.

Melamphoros

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Re: Question about Graeco-Roman culture
« Reply #2 on: March 03, 2014, 10:49:44 pm »
Quote from: missgraceless;141505
So I'm not sure this is the right spot (feel free to move it), and it's not exactly religion related. But the BSA losing funding thread reminded me of this.

A few years ago in one of my high school history classes we got on the topic of Don't Ask Don't Tell and homosexuality in general. My teacher had said that the ancient Greeks and Romans revered homosexual relationships over hetero because the "love between people of the same sex was more pure."

My question is, has anyone heard this before, and how valid is it?

 
The short answer is...it's complicated as they didn't have the same conceptions of sexual orientation that we do today.

In Ancient Greece, relationships between twenty-something men and adolescent boys were rather common and encouraged as part of the boy's relationship.  However, these relationships normally ended when the man got married or the boy reached adulthood.  In some areas it would be considered unusual for the relationship lasted longer than that.

In Ancient Rome, sexual orientation tended to be defined by whether the participant took the active or passive role during sex.  They also tended to see sex in similar terms of military conquest, so men who took a passive role during sex tended to be looked down upon.


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Faemon

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Re: Question about Graeco-Roman culture
« Reply #3 on: March 03, 2014, 11:47:57 pm »
Quote from: missgraceless;141505
one of my high school history classes we got on the topic of Don't Ask Don't Tell and homosexuality in general. My teacher had said that the ancient Greeks and Romans revered homosexual relationships over hetero because the "love between people of the same sex was more pure."

My question is, has anyone heard this before, and how valid is it?


From Plato's Symposium, Aristophanes describes a legend... the short rock musical version, without the...um...heterophobia? Aristophanes essentially says that heterosexuals are more prone to adultery and make inferior senators compared to male homosexuals.

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The original human nature was not like the present, but different. The sexes were not two as they are now, but originally three in number; there was man, woman, and the union of the two, of which the name survives but nothing else. Once it was a distinct kind, with a bodily shape and a name of its own, constituted by the union of the male and the female: but now only the word 'androgynous' is preserved, and that as a term of reproach.

In the second place, the primeval man was round, his back and sides forming a circle; and he had four hands and the same number of feet, one head with two faces, looking opposite ways, set on a round neck and precisely alike; also four ears, two privy members, and the remainder to correspond. He could walk upright as men now do, backwards or forwards as he pleased, and he could also roll over and over at a great pace, turning on his four hands and four feet, eight in all, like tumblers going over and over with their legs in the air; this was when he wanted to run fast.

Now the sexes were three, and such as I have described them; because the sun, moon, and earth are three; and the man was originally the child of the sun, the woman of the earth, and the man-woman of the moon, which is made up of sun and earth, and they were all round and moved round and round because they resembled their parents. Terrible was their might and strength, and the thoughts of their hearts were great, and they made an attack upon the gods; of them is told the tale of Otys and Ephialtes who, as Homer says, attempted to scale heaven, and would have laid hands upon the gods.

Doubt reigned in the celestial councils. Should they kill them and annihilate the race with thunderbolts, as they had done the giants, then there would be an end of the sacrifices and worship which men offered to them; but, on the other hand, the gods could not suffer their insolence to be unrestrained. At last, after a good deal of reflection, Zeus discovered a way.

He said: 'Methinks I have a plan which will enfeeble their strength and so extinguish their turbulence; men shall continue to exist, but I will cut them in two and then they will be diminished in strength and increased in numbers; this will have the advantage of making them more profitable to us. They shall walk upright on two legs, and if they continue insolent and will not be quiet, I will split them again and they shall hop about on a single leg.'

He spoke and cut men in two, like a sorb-apple which is halved for pickling, or as you might divide an egg with a hair; and as he cut them one after another, he bade Apollo give the face and the half of the neck a turn in order that man might contemplate the section of himself: he would thus learn a lesson of humility. Apollo was also bidden to heal their wounds and compose their forms. So he gave a turn to the face and pulled the skin from the sides all over that which in our language is called the belly, like the purses which draw tight, and he made one mouth at the centre, which he fastened in a knot (the same which is called the navel); he also moulded the breast and took out most of the wrinkles, much as a shoemaker might smooth leather upon a last; he left a few, however, in the region of the belly and navel, as a memorial of the primeval state.

After the division the two parts of man, each desiring his other half, came together, and throwing their arms about one another, entwined in mutual embraces, longing to grow into one, they began to die from hunger and self-neglect, because they did not like to do anything apart; and when one of the halves died and the other survived, the survivor sought another mate, man or woman as we call them,--being the sections of entire men or women,--and clung to that.

Thus they were being destroyed, when Zeus in pity invented a new plan: he turned the parts of generation round to the front, for this had not been always their position, and they sowed the seed no longer as hitherto like grasshoppers in the ground, but in one another; and after the transposition the male generated in the female in order that by the mutual embraces of man and woman they might breed, and the race might continue; or if man came to man they might be satisfied, and rest, and go their ways to the business of life. So ancient is the desire of one another which is implanted in us, reuniting our original nature, seeking to make one of two, and to heal the state of man.

Each of us when separated, having one side only, like a flat fish, is but the tally-half of a man, and he is always looking for his other half. Men who are a section of that double nature which was once called androgynous are lovers of women; adulterers are generally of this breed, and also adulterous women who lust after men. The women who are a section of the woman do not care for men, but have female attachments; the female companions are of this sort. But they who are a section of the male follow the male, and while they are young, being slices of the original man, they have affection for men and embrace them, and these are the best of boys and youths, because they have the most manly nature.

Some indeed assert that they are shameless, but this is not true; for they do not act thus from any want of shame, but because they are valiant and manly, and have a manly countenance, and they embrace that which is like them. And these when they grow up become our statesmen, and these only, which is a great proof of the truth of what I am saying.
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