Differences and practices of love

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Ambrosia
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Differences and practices of love

Post by Ambrosia »

Hello, everyone I wanted to discuss the major differences and simuliraties in the values and practices of love, sex, and marriage with regards to two of the following civilizations.
A) The ancient Greeks
B) The civilization of Rome
Curious to hear what you all have to say.
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Re: Differences and practices of love

Post by heinrich »

Oops, that's comparing two civilizations with a history of a millennium and a half; and with the complication that we are very poorly informed about the female side.All this being said, I think that the Romans were more close to the attitudes in western Europe today: marriage existed and was monogamous, but it was possible and acceptable to share a house with someone who was not your lawful partner. Same sex relations were also possible, but could make a political career difficult.The point to keep in mind when we discuss Greece (more precise: Athens) is, I think, that they would say that "homosexual" and "heterosexual" were adjectives to describe two types of acts, and were not nouns to describe categories people (as in "I am gay").HM
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Re: Differences and practices of love

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Just on your last point (homsexual relations as a type of love), the Greeks (or as you say Athenians as they are who we know most about) would have viewed a homsexual relationship prior to "settling down" with a wife as the normal course of events.Indeed it was quite normal for such relationships (between adults and adolescents) to be "put away" as the stuff of "youth" when one was all grown up and ready for marriage.That such relationships continued is, I would think, a given. The Theban Sacred Band being an outstanding example of such.
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Re: Differences and practices of love

Post by Efstathios »

Homosexual activity was introduced to greece by the Dorian race as mentioned by Plato. You read too much "Renault".The state of Athens had laws prohibiting any sexual contacts between adults and children or teenagers.For example,the parents were responsible among other things to not let their children fall pray to ambitious child lovers.The ancient source refers to this action (child falls pray to child lover) as "YVRIS" against the child.This word was used not only to express desrespect to the gods but for other actions too like this. And then of course we have the famous laws depriving homosexuals from their political rights e.t.c. We do not have enough evidence to speak about the love life of the ancient greeks.We know that in Plato's symposium many of the attendies were homosexuals probably,such as Agathon, but we dont know in which extent this was reflected to life in Athens.Plato's symposium is clearly coming in contrast with the laws of the state and gives us the impression that this group of people may have had their homosexual behaviours hidden.Aristogeiton who was killed by his lover surely had his homosexuality hidden or else he would have faced the penalty of death. Among 400 thousand Athenians many of them would have been homosexuals e.t.c but we dont have evidence as for how many.This view (about child loving e.t.c) is very strange because lets say that if indeed men were keen to homosexual behaviours with teenagers,then when the teenager would become an adult it would be very hard for them to stop being lovers.We see that in Mary Renault's "The last wine" and it is indeed very akward.Why would a society let men have sexual relations with teenage boys and then when boys became men prohibit it?If it was for reproduction,it wouldnt be a problem sleeping with a woman for a couple of times until she was pregnant and then go on with their homosexual relations.That is why i find it very unlikely that these were the facts. And also i find it very unlikely for all men and teenage boys in Athens and or in greece to be attracted by the same gender.It is rediculus to believe that there was a status quo like this were all men would have no problem coming in sexual contact with another man.This is beyond human nature,and greeks were known to be the first to teach about ethics and human nature...
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Re: Differences and practices of love

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"And also i find it very unlikely for all men and teenage boys in Athens and or in greece to be attracted by the same gender."Whilst I take your earlier points Efstathios, I didn't quite claim that "all men" were attracted to the same gender.I'm currently reading Cartledge's "History of Laconia" and have conflated Spartan practice with Athenian (with respect to "teenagers") - my error (too many books). That Athenians - not all - (and other Greeks) had same sex relationships and tended to "put them away" after marriage is attested (I just need to find the damn book). It was nothing greatly remarkable is, I think, my point.I have never read Renault, though Cartledge claims hers is the best literary fiction about Alexander. Would you recommend it?
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Re: Differences and practices of love

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The problem that clouds any debate on the subject of sexuality in Greece or Macedonia is the use of the word "homosexuality." In the modern day context it defines a sexual relationship exclusively between males and (almost) always presumes the act of sodomy. This did not apply in ancient Athens or even Greece/Macedonia as a whole. There is plenty of archaeological evidence of intercrural activity or other homoerotic practices, but the act of sodomy is almost exclusively depicted as being between a man and a courtesan, or a man and female or male slaves. It is the implication of this act that is evident in Athenian laws depriving what you call "homosexual" citizens of their rights, wherein, by this act, one partner has been reduced to the role of a woman or could be considered as prostituting himself. Being brought to the level of a woman is where the offense lies - there seems to be no worse insult than to be compared to a woman, whether it was the Persians being labeled as effeminate because they wore trousers (like the female Amazonians), Philip's insulted lover who committed suicide by "battle," or even Philotas because he cried out (like a woman) during his torture. However, none of the above precludes homoerotic desires and relationships, and as the epitome of beauty was considered to be the perfect naked male form - well, one can assess the tastes of any period by the cultural evidence. I can't agree with you that the group in Plato's symposium had their behaviors "hidden." It's really too much of a stretch of imagination to presume that their relationships with men were all illicit. If that were the case, why would Plato bother to write this piece? By your reasoning these men would all be criminals and pariahs and their opinions would have no value, least of all to a philosopher like Plato. As for hubris in this kind of situation - the hubris involved is all about exploitation and the misuse of power and not the sexual act itself. Bringing the focus away from the Athenians for a moment and back towards monarchies (such as Macedonia), David Cohen in Sexuality, Violence and the Athenian Law of 'Hubris,' Greece and Rome, 2nd Ser., Vol. 38, No. 2 (Oct., 1991), 171-188, has this to say:continued
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Re: Differences and practices of love

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"In a long passage of Politics, Aristotle advises rulers above all to avoid two kinds of hubris: corporal punishment of free men and sexual abuse of boys and girls (Politics 131a15-28). These two forms of hubris should be shunned because they are most likely to cause attempts at revenge by the outraged families. Hubris here clearly refers to sexual intercourse gained through a relation of power, for Aristotle advises the tyrant to appear to be acting under passion (and cf. Politics 1311b19). This would presumably ameliorate the appearance of hubris, and hence might placate the guardians of these youths who would take revenge if they thought that hubris was being done to their charges (1315a27-8). The connection to sexual honor and shame appears explicitly when Aristotle further advises the ruler to make good such dishonors by granting public honors to the victims. . . . If, for Aristotle, the underlying motivation of hubristic behavior is the affirmation of one's superiority by disgracing or humiliating another person (Rhetoric 1378b20, 1374a13), one arena in which to find such affirmation is in sexual relations. If the sexual relation arises from an act of power, RATHER THAN PASSION (my caps), then it is necessarily a relation of domination where the boy or girl submits to hubris and the disgrace it entails. Aristotle intends these remarks to extend beyond his immediate discussion of the sexual exploitation of minors, for in Politics 1311b19 a man who comes to believe that he submitted to someone who was not motivated by passion regards himself as the object of hubris."Finally, although the Greeks were the first to teach about ethics and human nature this does NOT mean that all their acts, thoughts, and values must be admired by us all, and therefore we must automatically rule out them doing anything that might be considered morally offensive to a particular group today. What about the extremely subordinate role of women or the fact that the Greeks condoned and encouraged slavery? And again I disagree with your statement that sexual contact between men goes against human nature. The fact that it has existed for thousands of years and continues today suggests that it is, indeed, a part of human nature. It isn't considered an "unnatural" act unless you are spouting church dogma or something similar.Best regards,Amyntoros
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Re: Differences and practices of love

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.No,i didnt say that homosexual behaviour is against human nature.What i said was that it is not possible for all men to be attracted to their own gender.Among 100 men maybe 5 of them can be homosexuals.(i am just guessing,this number may not be correct,it may be + or -).But what many people suggest is that homoerotism was a common practise between men and teenagers thus suggesting that most of them were attracted to eachother(although sexual contact may have been absent).And if we read Mary Renault's "The last wine" we come to the conclusion that most of the men in Athens followed these homoerotic behaviours. I believe that part,that most of the men acted like this,goes against human nature.I find it very difficult even if a whole society was encouraging this,for all men to not be disgusted to kiss or come in any kind of intercourse with another man.It is not about superstition or anything like this,it's what comes natural.For some it may be homoerotism but to others not. About Mary Renault.She was a great writter.I havent read yet "Persian boy" ,i have only read "The last wine" which i found a very nice book,and yes i would recommend it.The part i didnt like was the one i mentioned above, where she describes this common homoerotic practise between men ,although she doesnt mention any sexual activity going on between teenagers and men.Just pure love,kisses,hugs e.t.c.Mary Renault was not a historian or archaiologist.She did her research about these matters and obviously because the main belief was the one described above,she based her book at that belief.The main character of the book is a teenager and his relationship with a 25 year old man that he admired and loved.Regardless of the homoerotic matter she had the touch.While reading this book its like you are there.I dont know what it is exactly in her writting, but she had the touch..
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Re: Differences and practices of love

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About Plato's symposium:Of course i am not suggesting that because some of these philosophers were homosexuals their ideas were junk.Quite the opposite.These ideas were the base for future civilizations.
Now you have a point there.Why would Plato write about this symposium if these attendies were in danger because of their homosexuality,or if this would lower them into the eyes of the people?
Because philosphers were hunted down for many things and reasons.Socrates for his teachings about religion,Thalis for his ideas about the universe,e.t.c.And homosexuality many times became a reason for Athenian citizens to be hunted down in certain periods,even if they werent politics.You said it yourself people were mocked if they behaved like women,or dressed alike,or developed homosexual behaviours with other grown men.So maybe these people had a reason for hiding their homoerotism.And of course this was wrong.The whole system that mocked homosexuals and hunted them down was wrong.(And that is a reason why i cannot see how they would do this and still allow homoerotism between men and teenager). But anyway,Plato was at a safer distance chronicly.And maybe he wanted to show how wrong it was for these people to be hunted for their philosophical ideas as well as their sexual behaviours.But lets not forget that Plato presents Socrates in the symposium to be an example to the opposite.A man that would not give in to Alciviades' sexual intentions and to talk about these things differently than the others.Should i remind you the phrase about Phaidon and the pigs?Socrates would mock such behaviours.And Ksenophon's symposium was even more clear to this matter,as if Ksenophon tried to furthermore defend Socrates removing any suspicion that he may have "corrupted" the youth in a sexual way. Finally maybe Plato wanted to show how Socrates was so different than the other attendies who were keen to homoerotism.And by doing that he may wanted to show that some of the ideas of the others were not good or were disrespectful while Socrates' ideas were on the "right path".Lets not forget that Plato wrote harsh things about homoerotism in his Laws. Complicated matter that is.These are just speculations,since we have a very tiny point of view of these matters...
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Re: Differences and practices of love

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***You said it yourself people were mocked if they behaved like women,or dressed alike,or developed homosexual behaviours with other grown men.****Sorry, Efstasios, but I never said people were mocked for homosexual behaviors. They were mocked for having feminine attributes which may occasionally have included appearance or manner, but as in the example I gave of Philotas, sometimes it was just the perception of being as "weak" as a woman. And please don't confuse femininity in a male with homosexual desire or behavior. Even though there have always been feminine males, the idea that it is a *required* attribute in homoeroticism or even homosexuality is a huge myth. Would you call Rock Hudson feminine?I understand your argument about Plato although I don't agree with you on many points. What's interesting though is that here you acknowledge that homoerotic behavior existed and give various reasons why Plato would have wanted to discuss it, yet you have used Plato's Symposium on earlier threads as part of a debate to prove that a particular individual would NOT have practised homoeroticism!Plato, in fact, is the most well-known example of a shift in attitudes from the Archaic to the Classical periods, and there were also further changes in the Hellenistic period when women became the epitome of the body beautiful. As in all periods of history, social and cultural changes are gradual and Plato did not speak for everyone in his time. Certainly he had followers, but there were many other schools of philosophy. The biggest change came after the advent of Christianity and not just as regards homoeroticism but all things sexual The early Christian fathers were very fond of Plato and it's understandable why they would have appreciated him. With them the change in societal attitudes became more marked, but this is because there were now religious "leaders" dictating behavior to the populace. This, however, was hundreds of years later and the change in moral attitudes of the population still didn't happen overnight! The danger lies is assuming that because people today accept moral teachings under a religious umbrella it means that everyone in previous times shared these beliefs. Evidence, both literary and archaeological tells us that they didn't. I would never argue that every Greek male had some kind of sexually charged relationship with a younger man. There's no proof that this was a behavior *expected* of every man. On the other han
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Re: Differences and practices of love

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On the other hand, there's plenty of proof that it existed, whether it be writers and artists praising it or an occasional philosopher objecting to it. When it comes to individuals such as Alexander (for we shouldn't forget that he is at the core of all these arguments), yes, there are passages that suggest he might have had homoerotic relationships. These are obviously debatable - a quick look at the forum archives is sufficient evidence - and anyone may argue for or against. However, any discussion attempting to prove that such behavior was against all morals and laws of the time is doomed to failure. Plato is just one man's opinion and even there he praises physical love between a man and a woman without an outright condemnation of love between men. And we must also remember that Athenian attitudes did not dictate the mores of the entire Greek world. There's no reason to believe that every city state and any monarchy (or monarch) felt compelled to live their lives by Athenian standards.Best regards,Amyntoros
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Re: Differences and practices of love

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"There's no reason to believe that every city state and any monarchy (or monarch) felt compelled to live their lives by Athenian standards."Quite so "Amyntoros". Particularly Alexander or his father Philip.Much of the argument arises because of the propensity to view classical Greek, Hellenistic and Roman behaviours and attitudes through "modern" mores - particularly religious. I find it difficult (impossible?) to believw that those living at the time saw things in that fashion.I will admit here that being born in the fifties and growing up in the second half of the twentieth century certainly informs my view of Alexander by virtue of the fact that it was not a particularly "romantic" period. Hence my distinct tendency to a "Badian" or Peter Green view of Alexander. It's difficult to shake (not that I actually want to I suppose).Reading Xenophon, one gets a very distinct flavour that homoerotic behaviour and relationships were nothing remarkable to Greeks - even given his overwhelmingly Spartan informed view. He wrote most of what we now have towards the end of his life and I doubt much had changed some twenty years after his death.This homoerotic behaviour did not (necessarily) make one a "homosexual" in the modern sense - that is a modern overlay. Ninety odd years before Alexander, Alcibiades outraged Athenian society. Not because of any homoerotic behaviour but because of his apparent disregard of the gods and their rituals.
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Re: Differences and practices of love

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When we examine things like these we must take into concideration everything.On the one hand we have the symposium but on the other hand we have the laws of Athens.You spoke of Alciviadis.Well,Alciviadis was well known to the public for his sexual behaviours.His enemies would have "crusified" him for that if he ever had chosen to be a politician.Because being a politician in Athens and having homoerotic relationships did not mix.Penalty was death.But Alciviadis did not become a politician.(Although he had a huge influence to the matters of the state and the city).And evenmore he was so loved from the people that they could forgive him anything, and they did that many times. For me,the matter of homosexuality in ancient greece and in Athens ,as well as the symposium is a puzzle.Of course there were homosexual behaviours.But in what extent?Can we tell?Just from some paintings in vases (who might as well have been ordered from homoerotic men to decorate their houses),and from some texts which come in contradiction with other texts,can we really tell for sure? Ok,i have mentioned Plutarch's work in the past too .I dont take it as a bible.But why would that man lie when he talked about "non sexual behaviours" and no body contacts between lovers?Afterall he wasnt a Christian,he was an ethnic so there was no obvious reason for him to cover up homoerotic behaviours between "erastes" and "eromenous".Plutarch informed as that the relationship between erastes and eromenoi was not sexual oriented,so no hugs,kisses,sex or anything like this.Did he lie?And why? But 800 hundreds years before Plutarch,Lykourgos of Sparta also mentions this.No body contacts between the erastis and eromenos. Now, is there a chance that some things have been unwillingly or intentionally misinterpretated?Or not?Then why these men were lying about these matters?In his work Plutarch also informs us about homoerotism but nothing leads to the conclusion that "grown men" have sexual relationships with "younger men".This conclusion was mainly derived from the symposium.Where some men talk about love and love between males.And these men were homosexuals.But nothing in this book suggests that these peoples' beliefs were mirroring their society. And yes of course Athens was not the entire greece.In other parts of greece homoerotism may have flourished.Lets remember again the Dorian race that brought homosexual behaviour according to Plato.In some parts of greece the dorian race m
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Re: Differences and practices of love

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In some parts of greece the dorian race may have been dominant among the population,and thats why these behaviours were more spread. And wait.If we accept that Plato speaks the truth,and indeed the Dorian race brought homosexuality with them,at least as a more common practise than it was before,then lets remember the troyan war.The dorians descented after the troyan war.So during this war homoerotic behaviours were very sparse(again if we accept Plato's statement),maybe like they are today.In a normal percentage,lets say 5%?So were Achilles and Patroclus lovers?Lovers as in "actually making love"?(Because i have heard this statement many times).Well probably not.They should have been at that 5% both of them.Which gives us a 5% chance that they were,and a 95% chance that they were not. But they loved one another.Achilles mourned for Patroclus as if he had been his beloved brother and maybe even more.But if they were not "sexual lovers" then this would give another dimension to the words "lovers",erastis,eromenos e.t.c.A dimension that would not include body contacts,That if we believe Plato,and we would be in the 95% chance that we spoke of earlier.But wait.Isnt this what actually Plutarch tell us about erastis and eromenos? Just some thoughts... P.S if it sounds too strange why some people may have missinterpretated intentionally and make judgement of the whole "homoerotic" erastis and eromenos matter ,i could give you some clues but i think that we would be getting into "prohibitted areas" then... Just look into the past and greece's history.From the byzantine years until modern years.
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Re: Differences and practices of love

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"Well,Alciviadis was well known to the public for his sexual behaviours.His enemies would have "crusified" him for that if he ever had chosen to be a politician.Because being a politician in Athens and having homoerotic relationships did not mix.Penalty was death.But Alciviadis did not become a politician.(Although he had a huge influence to the matters of the state and the city).And evenmore he was so loved from the people that they could forgive him anything, and they did that many times."Interesting Efstathios. As with "homosexuality", the term "politician" did not really exist (as the current usage knows it). Certainly individuals were "elected" to positions in classical Athens. Most positions though were obtained via "lot". The chief (elected) position GÇô and the only one really worth having as far as any attached "power" was concerned GÇô was that of Strategos (General") GÇô the position Pericles held for twenty-nine years (from memory) and Phocion (in Alexander's time) even more I f I recall. This Alcibiades was elected to for the Sicilian disaster (and again when he was embraced for a while during the Ionian phase of the war). What defines a politician in Athens? To me Alcibiades was nothing if not a political animal. He was never (to my knowledge) a magistrate or any other official but he was Strategos. As to whether his sexual proclivities impinged on that, the evidence does not say. It does however describe how his "political" enemies contrived to bring him down over his apparent religious disrespect. He was never in the position (Strategos) long to satisfy that most Greek (at least Athenian) fetish with elected officials: accounting for their spending over their tenure. Indeed, in his second tenure, he (of necessity) had to finance himself (to the chagrin of several Ionian/Hellespontine "allies").
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