Andrew Calimach*

Speaking Ill of the Dead

How the moderns pinned anal sex on the Greeks


Original contribution, reproduced here with the permission of the author.




History is a morass of false ideas reverently held and defended tooth and nail. These notions propagate largely unchallenged, gaining authority with every new repetition. One amusing example is the claim that Aristotle thought flies had only four legs. In what has become a paragon of mindless obedience, the old philosopher is depicted as never having bothered to count them properly, leading his readers to parrot the same nonsense for twenty five hundred years.


But wait a moment! Aristotle was speaking specifically of the mayfly, which he called the “day fly” or ephemeron. Many mayflies do indeed use only the four hind and middle legs for walking. The front pair has evolved into grasping limbs for holding on to their mate. The worst we can say about our knee-jerk defamation of Aristotle is that it has fooled us into feeling superior to the ancients without good cause, and thus dismissing too readily their worth.


A far more harmful canard about the ancient Greeks is one that is as ancient as they are. It holds that Greek men typically copulated anally with their boyfriends. From that we get the familiar ethnic slur, encountered in many languages, that refers to men engaging in anal sex, whether with another man or with a woman, as having sex “the Greek way.” But a close reading of Greek texts and a close look at Greek art[2] will show that educated Greeks, while praising ethical male love, in the same breath denounced that particular form of carnal pleasure in the harshest terms and viewed it as gross abuse and base indignity, the domain of vulgarians. Their moral stance of course implies the existence of its opposite, even as light implies darkness. But if that is so, why have we dismissed the light and fixated all this time on the shadows? And why have the Greeks’ repeated condemnations of anal sex been consistently misinterpreted as condemnations of “homosexuality,” when the very opposite was intended?


How can so many have been wrong for so long? Clearly the accusation has served a purpose, or many purposes. Christianity’s battle with Hellenism certainly played a role, as the Church Fathers grasped at any and all straws to denigrate and destroy the old religion. So did nationalistic fervor among the Greeks themselves. Athenians routinely mocked other Greek states for brutishly indulging in an outrage that their more sophisticated Athens despised. We should also blame the very real occurrences of such behavior in antiquity, illustrated by notorious examples documented by ancient historians, as well as by the condemnation directed by ancient authors at the demi-monde of signed contracts for sale of sexual favors, and of tax-paying boy brothels. But these were infractions of the moral code, even if not of the legal code,[3] that is why they were cited by the ancients, and cited with disapproval and ridicule, not with admiration. Why haven’t modern historians, alleged practitioners of a more scientific discipline, debunked the old calumnies? Could it be that the need for self-justification of scholars given to such predilections, who for that very reason are more likely to be drawn to the study of the Greeks, led them to exaggerate the prevalence of anal sex in Greek antiquity, driven by an unconscious impulse to affirm the value of same-sex love? Scholars of the opposite sexual persuasion may well have latched on to the plentiful evidence for the existence of anal sex among the Greeks (who could be immoral as well as moral no less than us today) as a way of expressing their sometimes legitimate and sometimes homophobic revulsion, and tarring the Greeks wholesale with the brush of child abuse. Regardless, speculation is cheap and an analysis of causes and motives must remain the topic of another article; the first order of business here is to show that the claim is false.


To put matters in context, let me first invite you to a thought experiment. Imagine yourself in a society where certain standards are held in high esteem. Actions in accord with those norms are praised and admired, while those that flout the norm are severely condemned. Now imagine that there is one activity above all that is totally at odds with moral standards. This activity is so detested, and viewed with such disgust and contempt that it is effectively unmentionable among decent people. This activity, thought to inflict not only indignity but pain and physical harm upon those subjected to it, is considered profoundly degrading to the person to whom it is done, whether he submits to it voluntarily or is imposed on him by force, and brings dishonor upon the perpetrator as well.


What then would you expect educated and respectable citizens in this society to desire for their own children, with respect to those engaged in this activity? Will they aspire that their offspring will make friends with such dishonorable people and learn from them and practice their despised ways, and will they stand and watch with folded arms should they see such a person leading their children astray? And will they, after having striven to be moral and upstanding all their lives, cast all that aside the first chance they get and openly wallow in depravity with the children of their friends and neighbors?


You wouldn’t expect that?! How can we then be so gullible as to believe, as most of our historians would have it when discussing masculine eros in antiquity, that the same Greeks who put such store by honor, and self-mastery, and moderation, when it came to the very persons they held most dear, individuals pivotal in the preservation of the family line — their own sons — would somehow turn a blind eye to that activity they deemed most depraved? Are we really to accept that they would be complicit in allowing their sons to suffer such indignity as did cause some boys to kill themselves rather than submit, such as young Damocles who, when cornered in the Athenian baths by king Demetrius Poliorcetes, dived into the cauldron of boiling water, preferring an agonizing death to dishonor?[4] Or that caused many boys to avenge themselves for the outrage inflicted upon them in their youth by murdering their abusers upon reaching maturity? And are we further to believe that these Greeks not only abandoned their own sons to that which they called hubris, which in this context they used to signify sexual violation, but then these educated and cultured men systematically betrayed their own core values and, carried away by paroxysms of self-indulgence,  inflicted that same harm and outrage upon the sons of their fellow citizens, corrupting and polluting them in plain sight of their fathers, like so many Dr. Jekylls and Mr. Hydes?!


Perhaps some will object that such an argument is prima facie ethnocentric. After all, how can we impute our values  to the ancient Greeks, when we are separated from them by almost three millennia of social and intellectual evolution? We are far more different from the ancient Greeks that we can imagine. For example, we no longer throw malformed babies off cliffs, nor do we expose them in the wilderness.


That may be true, yet the works of the Greeks speak to us in the same clear tones they once spoke. As they did, we laugh at their comedies, as they were, we are gripped by their tragedies. Their sculptures are still imbued with soul and vitality for us, their majestic ruins awe us. When shipwrecked Odysseus covers his nakedness upon meeting young Nausicaa by the shore we identify with him. When Euripides doubts the gods he voices concerns any man of faith today would find familiar. In the same fashion, we too are outraged when a man today makes use of an adolescent youth as a surrogate vagina, and punish that man more severely than if he had murdered that young man. And as for exposing babies, now we terminate the lives of unwanted babies three months after conception instead of nine, not just the infirm but the able-bodied ones too. So any difference between us and the Greeks is a quantitative rather than a qualitative one, is it not? Most importantly, in what regards the Greeks’ homoerotic practices, not only does current academic dogma and popular belief fly in the face of elementary common sense, it blatantly contradicts what the important Greek intellectuals themselves wrote.


When we listen to these contemporary accounts we hear a very different story. The words of the Greeks, condensed in verse below, reveal a consistent current of erotic ethos flowing across almost one thousand years, from the  Archaic period when we first hear it echoed in Aesop’s fables, to the middle years of the Roman Empire in the second century AD, amid the last stirrings of high Greek culture. This ethos propounded a nuanced morality of male loving that, in the context of a friendship characterized by affection,  generosity, and empowerment, condoned certain forms of erotic expression even as it condemned others. This sexual morality stopped short of carnal coupling, though it permitted other forms of lovemaking which were not considered intrusive and demeaning, such as fondling or thigh sex. Even as they praised male eros, Greek authors directed a barrage of mockery and contempt at those males who mounted others, and even more so at those who willingly allowed themselves be mounted. At their kindest they described it as a neurosis, in the same category as nail-biting, pulling out one’s hair, or eating earth, a classification made by Aristotle who, while clearly pathologizing anal sex, over the course of his own life enjoyed several male love relationships. This pattern of condemnation is only offset by some late poetic works by inconsequential figures, such as Strato of Sardis, who wrote works that can best be described as soft porn. But pornography usually depicts scenarios very unlike everyday life, that’s why it sells.


Thus it is as far fetched to assume anal copulation was practiced by such paragons of Greek male love as Harmodius and Aristogiton, or Solon and Pisistratus, or Epaminondas and his beloveds or by the average civilized Greek as it would be to assume, absent any evidence to that effect, that modern figures such as Mozart, Freud, Churchill, Albert Einstein, or Barack Obama or any average educated man beat their wives. It is nothing but a self-serving accusation, like that of the British in Shakespeare’s time calling syphilis the “French disease.” Not that the ancients were beneath splattering each other with this mud. One term that the Athenians used for the act was to “Lakonize” best rendered in English as “to Spartanize.” Is this not a clear indication that the act was found so grotesque by the average speaker and listener so as to serve as insult, here used by Athenians to demean their arch enemies, the Spartans? Naturally, that does not tell us anything about the Spartans, any more than today the slur that someone has “Jewed” another says anything about the Jews, though it similarly conveys disapproval, in this case a disapproval of greed and dishonesty.


Of course, quite a few men today do beat their wives (and vice-versa), and in the same way, many ancient Greeks did indeed abuse their eromenoi,[5] penetrating them anally. But in both cases the behavior is transgressive, is seen as shameful, and is widely deplored. Thus, just as most men today do not beat their wives, we can deduce from these texts that the typical Athenian citizen or Spartan subject was repelled by this kind of behavior and viewed with contempt the doer and even more so the one done. We might then ask why, despite such explicit condemnation of anal penetration on the part of many of the most important of the ancient Greeks, modern students of the culture still assume that penetration was the common coin of male love? By what stretch of the imagination have the moderns swum counter to this ethical current and concluded the opposite about the ancients from what they repeatedly and consistently claimed about themselves, misconstruing instead their vehement protestations against the act and its perpetrators as condemnation of “homosexuality,” i.e., condemnation of all forms of erotic love and desire between males?


One possibility is that we, living in a culture founded on Christian lore, have internalized the assumed Biblical association between male love and anal sex. Whether such an association is based on an actual identification of the two in Biblical times, whether such an identification was intended by the writers of the Biblical texts or was a later projection, is beside the point. The fact remains that the damage is done, and we live in a culture in which to say “male love” is to evoke an image of one man being impaled by another’s erect penis. We have essentialized this activity as the principal form of male+male sexuality even though today, despite the crumbling of previous moral and legal restraints, close to half of homosexual men still do not engage in it; even though it is widely and increasingly practiced by heterosexual couples; even though there is absolutely nothing masculine about the anus; even though entire homosexual cultures in the past rejected it. Thus they are equally mistaken, those who maliciously impute obligatory anal sex to gay men, presenting it as a shameful act with which to besmirch their reputation, and those who, being gay, take a proprietary attitude toward this activity and defend it.  Nevertheless, in spite of this association being a fallacy, the act has long been essentialized as “gay sex,” and once essentialized for homosexual couples how could we possibly let off the hook that most homosexual of all cultures, the Greeks?


Again, why has this association occurred? Can projection have had something to do with it? After all, in a relationship between a man and a woman there is one and only one act of consummation. What can be more natural for a man who loves women than to assume that a male who loves males would want an analogous satisfaction for himself? Concurrent with these two possibilities stands their converse - our fixation with obligatory anal penetration has rendered us blind to the existence of a male eros that, as the Greeks saw it, moderates sexuality with judgement and reason and also with compassion and decency. Thus all along it has been beyond our ken that those Greek authors who denounce in such scathing tones men who fornicate with youths are the selfsame ones who cultivate intimate friendships with adolescent boys, relationships which include giving and receiving sexual pleasure, of course without engaging in that one practice everybody (who is anybody) denounces.




Whatever might be true of some men who desire other males, whether ancient or modern, it can be shown that the typical educated Greek did discriminate between permitted and forbidden paths to sexual satisfaction. Indeed, in the minds and lives of those Greeks with whom we associate the great achievements of their society, the lofty ideals of male love and the debased practice of anal sex were utterly incompatible with each other, and the disapproval they showed for such behavior lived on in western culture until just yesterday, so to speak.


How is it then that we have, in recent years, made space in our laws and in public discourse for this kind of sexuality, until so recently seen as anathema? Kindness probably, compassion, a desire to right an old injustice and ease the suffering of men who love other males and who have for so long been cruelly persecuted for it. Perhaps we did so out of a belief that modern technology can make safe something that never was or will be safe. Or an unconscious computation that weighs the discomfort of accepting that some males will behave in this way with each other as less onerous than imposing authoritarian control over other’s people’s most private moments. Surely the belief that one of the greatest cultures in history could flourish and reach its acme of glory even as its best men systematically indulged in anal sex with noble youths has played an important part in our newfound tolerance. It can be argued that many of these notions are to some degree misdirected or mistaken, but none more so than the last one.


It is well and good to right centuries of wrongs and liberate men who desire and fall in love with others of their own sex, to free caged love at last. It is a mark of civilization that we have collectively begun to shake free the burden of this insane prejudice. But a liberation that stampedes males who love other males into aping the heterosexual act with each other as an essential mark of their identity is worse than no liberation at all. In effect all we have done is exchange one form of imprisonment for another.


In the first place, by emphasizing this most harmful and dangerous of all sexual acts we have ensured its dissemination among males who have sex with other males, to their detriment in terms of greater incidence of suffering,[6] disease, disability, and death. In the second place, implicitly obligating all males who love other males to march under the banner of anal sex closes off for most men, who do not have an appetite for such acts, a love that in many times and lands was enjoyed by all males. The real liberation that needs to be attained is the liberation of all males from the presumption that they have to engage in activities that are risky for all and painful and aesthetically repugnant for most in order to be in a love relationship with another male. The emancipation of male love will then become not merely an issue of “diversity” and inclusion of the few into greater society, as if we were accommodating the handicapped, but a universal cause that speaks to the emotional and erotic fulfillment of all males.


While it could be argued that if some men choose to break the western taboo against anal sex it is no one else’s business, this is an issue that profoundly impacts the younger generation. The public and explicit identification of male love with anal sex subjects youths who love other males to a profound violation. Its effect is to brainwash the young into believing that in order to satisfy one of their most basic natural instincts, to love whom they love, they must flout an instinct just as strong, to not befoul themselves. These youths have been effectively turned into child soldiers, sent to fight a war that is not theirs. Encouraging the young to “come out” when that coming out enlists them into representing acts that the overwhelming majority of young people finds instinctively repugnant turns them into the target of their age-mates’ disdain and rejection at the most critical and difficult moment of their maturation.


For a youngster this is an unbearable life that all too often ends in suicide. The fault for those needless deaths cannot be laid at the feet of the bullies who mock and ostracize these young people. Their cruelty is a misguided acting out of their natural, sane and healthy revulsion against acts that flagrantly flout instinctive and natural human taboos[7] as well as the most elementary rules of hygiene they are taught practically since birth.[8] Though their actions are in no way excusable, their feelings are very justifiable indeed, and totally beyond blame.


If the children are killing themselves, and each other, the fault lies with the adults who have put the young person who is “coming out” as well as the bullies who react to that youth in an impossible position. We encourage young gays to come out and their colleagues to be tolerant, while keeping them all in a state of ignorance about the various ways in which male eros can be physically expressed, and failing to teach these young people to make a clear value judgement between those different forms of male/male sexuality, as if saying “gay is OK”  somehow obligated us to say “whatever gays do is OK.”  Thus, by not teaching the boys who have the courage to declare they love other males the fact that it is not only possible but crucial for two males attracted to each other to enjoy each other physically without engaging in risky behavior that is intrinsically soiling and is seen by many as debasing, we have compelled those gay adolescents to loudly proclaim the unspeakable, and their schoolmates to swallow the unpalatable. This is a crazy-making environment in which the weak psychically self-destruct.[9] We would do better to heed Plato’s advice, that we should inculcate from the earliest age shame against the penetration of one male by another,  and once again brand it as defiling. Then we could guide youths to value the constructive potential of loving and being loved by another male, and teach them a sensuality of male love that will not endanger them or leave them feeling polluted. Only when male love implies life roles and activities that are generally recognized as enriching, admirable, and ennobling will the instinctive disdain and disgust that feed homophobia come to an end.  Only when we recognize that branding passionate love between two males with the mark of a particular sexual act is an obscenity will we be able to discover who we really are as men, as friends and as lovers.


We  also need to confront the fact that the homophobia that pervades modern society, increasingly fanned to fever pitch over the past century by the stirrings of an often indiscriminate gay liberation, does not only harm gay people, but has alienated all males from each other. It is only possible to get an understanding of the extent to which masculine social space has been damaged in the modern west by going outside that modern west. When we see paintings from the Renaissance, or photographs taken a century or more ago, or when we walk down the street in some Asian countries, or see pictures of native tribes not yet impacted by western customs, we discover men demonstrating surprising intimacy towards each other. They have their arms around each other’s waist or shoulders, they stand or walk hand in hand or arm in arm, or even sit on each other’s laps, or they are bathing together in the nude, they touch, they kiss, they embrace with their entire bodies touching. There is an easy, affectionate animal physicality, and comfort found in the closeness and touch of a friend, that today in the west we only see among very young children, who have not yet gotten the message that males are not allowed to be intimate, or among women, who as a group are too emotionally intelligent to be swindled out of being themselves.


The causal link between this erosion of natural and spontaneous intimacy, an erosion that is nothing less than the disintegration of masculine social space, and the recent upswell of militant anal sex may not be obvious, nor absolute. Yet it is very suggestive that adolescent boys, in their social interactions, will frequently and loudly voice that very association. Any seeming intimacy coming from another male, or between two other males, is instantly struck down with accusations of “gayness.”  And witness the modern young American male embrace, the “bro hug,” a tragicomical caricature of the real thing: as both stand well back from each other the right hands clasp, the two then simultaneously pitch forward turning their faces away from each other, right shoulders bump while the loins are thrust so far back that a shorter person could practically walk between the two, followed by a perfunctory tap on the back, and finished off with a quick retreat to the safety of physical isolation. A specialist in contagious diseases could not have concocted a more sterile embrace. Thus the end result of painting love between males in the lurid colors of anal sex is that we fate gay youths to a life of compulsory anal penetrations, and we condemn their schoolmates to a life of compulsory heterosexuality and alienation from other males. That, according to all that history and anthropology reveal, is what is truly un-natural.





If this thesis is true, then the few have gained access to what they claim are extremes of pleasure at the cost of inflaming collective anxiety, thus depriving the many of the more casual enjoyment of a relaxed social and affectional environment. But pleasure alone has never been sufficient justification for its pursuit. If it were so, there would be no opprobrium attached to injecting heroin. After all, the real objection to heroin is not that it is unhealthy or dangerous since it is neither as long as it is taken in controlled amounts using sterile methods. It is only its illegality, that forces users to take uncertain doses by crude means, which leads to its immediate danger. The true reason for forbidding heroin is a more subtle risk. Precisely because it is so effective in stimulating artificially the pleasure center of the brain, it deprives the user of the motivation to find real satisfaction in life through meaningful and socially constructive ways, like work and love and creativity.  But if the costs of a corrosive narcotic bliss damaging to the individual and to society are deemed too high to be permitted, why are then the costs of of a corrosive sexual bliss, in like fashion doubly damaging, not subjected to the same analysis? Just as we control the harm of intoxicants by restricting some and forbidding others, could we not use a similar model to shape the expression of human sexuality? No one would want to return to the bad old days of outlawing “sodomy” the scalpel of moral suasion would be more effective than the bludgeon of law anyway. As for those for whom anal sex is essential, let the few do what they will, as long as they do not define male love for the many. Why should love and sexuality between males have to be an all-or-nothing affair in the public mind? To the Greeks at least, it certainly was not so.


It is fair to ask whether we could move away from a paradigm identifying male love with penetration to one identifying it with generosity, devotion, duty, empowerment, and accomplishment, analogous to the structured Greek model. Interestingly, our construction of male love is already evolving in that direction. After the chaotic free-for-all of the early post-Stonewall days, the gay universe is cooling down and coalescing into the more structured forms of gay marriage and child rearing. Is it too much to ask that we learn something from the sexual ethics of the Greeks as well? Is such a thing even possible? The history of male love is instructive. If there is one lesson to be learned from gender studies it is that while the love between males has throughout history been ubiquitous and irrepressible, the  particular form that love has taken, socially as well as sexually, has been quite arbitrary, being exclusively a factor of culture. Anecdotal evidence suggests that, individual exceptions aside,  some cultures have tended to practice penetration, such as the Chinese,[10]  the Japanese, many Native American tribes,[11] some Melanesian tribes,[12] the ancient Persians,[13] the Turks, the Italians in the Renaissance,[14] or the Buganda in Africa. Others seem to have tended in the opposite direction, among them the ancient Greeks, the Azande in Africa, other Melanesian tribes, some Sufi sects, Himalayan Buddhists,[15] and the English in colonial times, up to the early years of the 20th century.[16]


Of course, when speaking of the Greeks, it is impossible and unnecessary to avoid evoking the topic of  a man’s love for a youth. That should not be a reason for misconstruing any of this discussion as advocacy of sex with children. The ethical Greeks followed the guidelines of their times, which permitted only adolescents to enter into loving relationships with men, and we too need to respect our laws, whatever they may be from one jurisdiction to another. But lest we be inclined to feel superior to the Greeks, and if we really want to protect the well-being of our young, we should note that unlike our crude arithmetical yardstick of comparing ages in order to evaluate the legitimacy of a relationship, their literature suggests a triple test for such relations not only that of appropriate age, but also that of paternal consent, and that of a moderate and dignified sexuality.[17]


In closing we should ask, how might love between males evolve from its present conflicted condition if there were as clear and common-sensical boundary drawn between moderate forms of sexuality and anal coitus as there has so often been in the past? Would freeing boys from the onus of the anus, the obligation of having to trample their inhibitions and inflict, or submit to, anal sex if they should happen to fall in love with another male,[18] a practice that, as Plato saw, goes against nature,[19] and freeing these youths from the peer-group taint of a brutalizing homosexuality instinctively felt by most adolescents to be  sordid, liberate them to fall in love where now they hold back out of fear? Would they then feel empowered to acknowledge and express their instinctive affection and desire towards other males in ways that are tender, elegant and considerate? Would these boys as they grow up discover what western man once knew full well, and what so many other cultures have also known: that love for another male is every man’s heritage, not restricted to those unable to enjoy the sexuality of women? Perhaps only then would our culture finally transcend the artificial duality of gay and straight and go beyond a hierarchy of desire and identity to a discrimination between superior and inferior paths to pleasure and fulfilment, a discrimination grounded in gentleness, consideration for others, and pragmatism.


In a world in which male desire was free to respond to both male and female beauty and thus more evenly divided, could we then not hope to see lower rates of population growth, that would begin to relieve this world of a burden that threatens to destroy all that is beautiful and magical and wild, leaving a despoiled and barren planet for all future generations to come? And might not the richness and satisfaction of such varied and fulfilling relationships, filling an emotional void that plagues men in all homophobic cultures, diminish somewhat the modern insatiable greed for material goods? If our world is out of balance, as indeed it is, is it also because our eros is out of balance?


The following summation, a polemic on love between males, aims to express the views of the ancient Greeks, in paraphrase. It is also in rhyme, in the hope that by speaking less it will say more. Why another attempt, where so many have tried and so few succeeded? Precisely because after so much effort and earnest good will we still get it wrong, we still project our world-view and expectations, instead of perceiving without preconceptions. This time the ones doing the speaking are the Greeks themselves, or at least those among them who could be said to have fostered the cultural ideals of their day. While no view is free from preconceptions, perhaps this additional perspective will allow us to triangulate the past and the present a bit more accurately. 



The Rape of Ganymede[20]



What is the cause the bookish philologue

Holds that the Greeks were by their bent abusive?

And wherefore the hoary pedagogue

Strains to persuade us that they were intrusive?[21]


Does search for truth inspire these academics?

Does love of learning lead them the Greeks betray?

For some it’s pure bigotry systemic,

While others in plain sight argue pro se.[22]


The straights of dominance accuse the Greeks

While the gays flail desperately for a foil.

Antiquity, they preen, of abuse reeks,

Unlike us modern wags, so don’t recoil.


Thus wed in marriage of convenience,

The lettered prigs of the academy

And the fey profs they scorn for deviance

Drag down the good Greek name in infamy.


Oh, could those Greeks awake, and raise ajar

The heavy lid of time, and with a smile

Across the gulf of years, from afar,

Give lie to all these accusations vile.


Men who rough plough and sword first cast aside

And to the Alps of knowledge strove to stride,

Stripped off their robes and showed themselves undressed

And naked exercised and learned and taught,

Not by some primitive impulse possessed,

But so that by their eyes truth naked might be caught.


Thus out of vision grasped by men farsighted

The flames of art and science first ignited.

From their hands mute stone first stirred to life;

From their stages theater laughed and cried;

Their minds, in search to end brute toil and strife,

To tame men’s savage ways, a subtle path descried.



That path was love, yet not love reproductive,

But a new love, of supermen productive,

And friendships firm, that made strong tyrants quake.[23]

Thence modern man was born, from this found truth:

Man callow lives and dies, lest through man’s love awake.

Thus Greeks their glory won, through man’s love for a youth.


In wise men’s hands this love was no rank scourge

For it was wrought in the same genius forge

Whence came all truth that Hellas yet does teach.

Heart’s primal path it blazed, two bloods to bind,

Yet well limned honor’s boundaries not to breach,

Guarding body pristine, while ennobling the mind.


Though now the mouths of Greeks are stopped with dust

There stands their envoy, whose speech wise men trust.

Their written word, that centuries perdures

Reveals before our disbelieving eye

How well they told love sacred from impure

And that to claim Greeks boys defiled is but a lie.


Aesop man’s greed and foolishness did skewer,

Here fabled Zeus helped him to ford a sewer:

“Fair goddess Shame defied the Olympic king

And warned that she would fly from men, unchained,

Should Eros from behind try entering.”

Shameless such men by Aesop were ordained.[24]


Hear now Plato, whom Ganymede inflamed

And verses penned his boyfriends, not some dame.[25]

His peals of  laughter roll from the tomb’s night

Mocking those men who restraint lack in bed

And his sharp words chide them in black and white:

“Why lurch you on all fours to mate like quadrupeds?”[26]


“You men fancy yourselves of noble stock?

You’re nought but piglets scratching ’gainst a rock.”[27]

Thus Socrates, whom boyish charms entranced.

Thus, since our world was new, the blame in fact

Was not sweet love that man for youth advanced

But the blind urge to barge up his digestive tract.


Plato, when forging man’s ideal laws

Hymned love of lads unmarked by vulgar flaws.

The Spartan foes and myth-weaving Cretans

He put in pillory to make example:

“They sow their seed on barren rocks, like cretins,”

Though well he knew those tribes debauch did not sample.[28]


In vain plied Rome its poison pen to scold

Boy-loving Spartans for lust overbold.[29]

For Cicero’s attack did doubly miss,

First showing Spartans did not brook abuse.

His teasing epigram pining for his slave’s kiss,[30]

Then proved that his own heart did lean to Spartan use.


Speak, O captain of philosophy’s seas,

Futtering males you dubbed mental disease.

Yet, Aristotle, your loves’ names fill a book!

Yet, jibed you, only blind men crave not beauty![31]

How then, in youth, for lover Hermias you took,

And your acolytes embraced as sacred duty?[32]


“Only such men are ill who their beloveds hurt.

A male to top? That’s tantamount to chewing dirt.[33]

But moderate men have leave to taste love’s pleasure.

My son, Nicomachus, exampled my views:

After my death, his life my own did measure,

When my friend Theophrastus for lover he did choose.”[34]


The amphitheater of the Athenians

Thrums still with their laughter and opinions.

Upon its stage of comical reflection,

That oafish lout who his loved boy belittled,

Aristophanes netted for his collection,

Pinning that insect under the tag, “dung beetle.”[35]


Speak, old Aeschines, you fiery orator,

Athenian lads you courted and adored.

But you knew chaste from vicious love of boys.

Before all Athens, one you named a whore:

Timarchus, his honor squandered as men’s toy,

You brought to ground for flinging open his back door.[36]


And say you more, in this Areopagus?

The ancient lore of love would you teach us?

Then pray, make known to all, what kind of man

A woman makes of his beloved male?

“Two stains mark out for us that noisome clan,

Brutal are they, uncultured too, beyond the pale.”[37]


And Plato drains his cup of wine to add:

“Lovers divine can be, as well as bad.

When looking for a tender friend, chase not

Some stripling, seek one who‘s old enough to think.”[38]

And Xenophon the crucial point has wrought:

“You must have leave from the boy’s sire, in ink.”[39]


Thus an unbroken chain of virtuous men

Fused love with honor again and again.

And even as those heroes’ twilight pales

Thebans still taught love’s law you must not break.

Said mild Plutarch, an erudite in love of males:

“Of such outrage no part does Aphrodite take.”[40]


And he brought proof, not through his own frank speech,

But freed the boys their rapists to impeach.

Such riders rode a most resentful horse

As ill used youths for no man bore more hate

Than for the scoundrel who, plying sly trick or force,

Bent them to satisfy his urgent urge to mate.[41]


Greek lads often avenged ill use with death

Though that revenge might cost their last breath.

Thus fared the despot who while feasting asked

The boy he buggered, “Are you yet with child?”

His boyfriend boiled over, so crassly thus unmasked,

And cut that man in two, by hot shame driven wild.[42]


How then held Greeks honest passion blameless?

In their courageous dream, men not nameless

From mythic grandsires ploughed and sowed and fought

And each other’s sons shielded from dangers,

For those hard-to-win lads they sought and loved and taught

Were sprung of friends or neighbors, not faceless strangers.


The Greeks’ own words prove they were not uncouth,

To evil call their love is an untruth.

Against the shadow that man’s lust still casts,

And always will, on many-figured love

Their gentlemanly ways shone a bright ray that lasts.

Where today’s hordes through mire drag, they rose above.


Modern male love kneels down to pleasure’s god

In Greece, Eros the path of duty trod.

True architects of mind the ancients were,

Aware character must many-pillared be.

A father’s word might falter, or be felled in war

Then lovers talented would that son’s worth trustee.


But be no man or woman so naive

As frigid their skilful play believe.

What man with eyes and heart, brain in his head,

Would joy refuse when tender beauty beckons?

No. The very peak of pleasure they assayed

But strode the path of him that honor reckons.


For in that world spun with unpitied pace

In which men’s lives had but a moment’s grace

To win a lasting prize, then through death’s door,

Honor was that one boon all Greeks aspired,

In honor’s quest they steadied shields in war,

Honor the touchstone that tested their love’s fire.


“What honor,” jeers the crowd, “have you gone mad?”

“We’re free at last, pile on, join the gay fad.”

The tribe of man has never been less free,

Hobbled by this mindless orgy’s trammel.

Can you not see, by liberating buggery

You’ve splattered everyone, like a pissing camel?[43]


There is no freedom nor will there ever be

Till boy with boy hand in hand can be free.

The few flaunt license, the rest in shame hide.

To say “It gets better” is a sad lie,[44]

See youth after hurt youth leap into suicide,

Their parents want to know, how many more must die?


Thus pressed, the ranks of these eclectic

Protest, “The feeling is electric,”

And pledge to Socrates allegiance.

In vain they claim to hang with that Greek cat,

They’re just Romans flying a flag of convenience,

Loath to hoist their own “Asinus asinum fricat.”


Like the feeble who lonely solace find

Beguiled by poppies that entrap the mind

These wights cling fast to thrills they deem a treasure.

The learned trade the pleasant for the good,

And just as reason deems opium a fool's pleasure

The Greeks to shun this folly understood.


Wrath told leads me past anger into sadness

To muse upon the random ways of madness.

How blind belief in this dead end of lust

Has robbed all men of love that might have been.

Instead up rise hard walls of fear and disgust

And young and old esteem the tender touch unclean.


John Quincy naked swam in the Potomac

And friend his head could rest on his friend’s stomach.

I yearn for days like these, freedom innate,

And innocent pristine simplicity.

From boyhood I have sought to find that natural state

And glimpsed in youth a world without duplicity.


The promise of those times was soon betrayed,

Offered insight, we chose spectacle’s charade.

Nailed shut now stand the doors of perception

While manly love minces in women’s garb.

Grown men costume as wives, a blatant deception,

And tender friendship disfigure with a lurid fard.


Sage Aldous must be turning in his grave,

For he was right, this new world is not brave.

To mimic boys gay men now depilate.

You should be proud your hearts yearn for the young,

But lest you rightfully be thought a renegade

Turn wisdom’s river to flush out Augean dung.[45]


A better man would keep anger within,

But I... I would not know where to begin.

Long I’ve laboured ’neath this burden not mine

And paid with loves lost for gay lib’s shrill chant.

It’s too late now to tell where lies the boundary line

Between that which I am, and a prisoner’s rant.


But no one wants to hear this dialectic

Why, my gay pals wax downright apoplectic.

Dear friends, you’ll have no more need of gay pride,

Look, nor history nor sense offer refuge

All that you need do is cast your gay shame aside:

Cease drowning mankind under buggery’s deluge.


The lid of time swings shut, the Greeks are gone,

Upon our orb we’re once again alone.

From modern heights we disdain Greeks as rakes

Against whose sins our mores pretend defense.

Yet, in our haste to rise above their mistakes,

We’ve killed what made them great, and saved what gave offense.


And therein the irony does lie

Keep the bathwater, let the baby die.

But for this murder we’ll all pay the price.

Male love repressed morphs into brutish need

From glut of couplings we then multiply like mice

Till pillaged Nature break beneath the human breed.


Nor ask why leering dawns this new dark age,

This maelstrom of materialistic rage,

When in our hearts this unvoiced void does gape,

When mangled Eros stumbles on one leg,

When man’s reduced to matrimonial ape,

And his sole destiny? Filthy lucre to beg.


New York, May 25th, 2013


You are free to use all of this work or parts of this work as long as you attribute it to its author, and as long as you inform me, its author, of the fact. See the Creative Commons license below.


Speaking ill of the dead - How the moderns pinned anal sex on the Greeks by Andrew Calimach is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.


[1] Red figure kylix, ca. 480 BCE, by the Briseis Painter; Louvre G278. Public domain image by M-L Nguyen

[2] Of the many hundreds of vases in some way indicative of male eros, the number that depict or suggest anal sex between males is minuscule. Of these a couple show aroused satyrs and are intended for comical effect, a couple more depict komastic revelry in which inhibitions and judgement have presumably succumbed to drink, and a single one shows two copulating youths being perceived as a surprising anomaly by a viewer in that same scene. (H. A. Shapiro, “Leagros and Euphronios: Painting Pederasty in Athens” in T.K. Hubbard, Greek Love Reconsidered, pp.16-18).

     Many influential historians have interpreted this almost total absence of evidence as evidence of pervasive presence. K. J. Dover is one of the leaders of this chorus. Responding to critics of the first edition of his Greek Homosexuality he asserts, “I was (and remain) well aware that there may have been considerable differences between representation and reality . . .  For example, the fact that comedy assumes anal penetration to be the normal mode of homosexual intercourse suggests that the vase-painters’ overwhelming preference for the intercrural mode is highly conventional, and I would not resist such a suggestion.

     Dover of course is the doyen of modern study of Greek homosexuality, and where he forged ahead many have trooped after. This school of thought explains the art as euphemistic. It is far more plausible that our modern interpretations are dysphemistic, in a “damned if you do and damned if you don’t” logic.

[3] We see such a split today in the US, for example. Prostitution is legal in certain counties in Nevada, but one would be hard pressed to argue that educated Nevadans believe en masse that prostitution is moral, or that the great majority of them frequent such establishments.

[4] Plutarch, Life of Demetrius

[5] The term eromenos, and its counterpart, erastes, were the terms used in Athens for the beloved, who was a little or a lot younger, and for the lover, who was past adolescence. The terms are based on the Greek word for “desire.” Other states, such as Crete or Sparta, used different nomenclature for the two members of the relationships, terms which reflected its social function.

[6] Ancient texts, such as Lucian’s Erotes, frequently speak of the pain and tears that accompany, for the one penetrated, anal sex. It turns out that this is no mere literary flourish. Recent studies indicate that almost two thirds of receptive gay men report pain as their most frequent lifetime sexual difficulty, and one quarter always experience such pain.  Joel J. Heidelbaugh, Clinical Men's Health: Evidence in Practice, p273

[7] Lest we think this taboo is some capricious cultural conceit, we should note that it reflects unalterable biological realities that are so fundamental as to be encountered across large numbers of species.  As biologist Tim Birkhead states, “all animals dislike any contact with fresh faecal material.” (Great Auk Islands; a Field Biologist in the Arctic, p.73)

[8] Some early readers of this text have advised me not to protest so much about the unsanitary aspect of anal sex since the vagina of the woman is not clean either. I can not imagine a more misogynistic rebuttal. Furthermore, unlike a man with a woman, a male with another male is under no compulsion to seek an orifice in order to enjoy pleasure.

[9] Instead of supporting adolescents into making judicious sexual choices, efforts are being made to de-sensitize them to what they instinctively find offensive by teaching them from an early age that anal sex is a valid alternative to other forms of sexual intercourse. A couple of years ago the fifth grade sex ed curriculum proposed by educators in the Helena, Montana school district would have taught that “sexual intercourse includes but is not limited to vaginal, oral, or anal penetration.” Parental opposition put paid to that idea. Sadly, the proposal to teach first graders that it is ok to love someone of the same sex was also killed, no doubt in large measure because it was seen to foster the same sexual agenda.

[10] Japanese shunga and Chinese erotic art is replete with works depicting male/male copulation, and there are also references in the literature referring to sitting on benches equipped with round upright wooden pegs as a way of training young men to serve as passive partners. (James Neill; The origins and role of same-sex relations in human societies, 2009; p.266)

[11] Walter L. Williams, The Spirit and the Flesh, 1992, p.97

[12] On the varieties and mutual exclusivity of Melanesian homoerotic practices, see the works of Gilbert Herdt.

[13] Herodotus in his Histories,(i.135) claims the Persians practiced coitus with boys, having learned it from the Greeks (another indication of the vulgar form coexisting with the more refined one). Darius III had a number of catamites. Of these, Bagoas was later accused of “effeminate outrage” with Alexander the Great by Orsines, one of the principal Persian satraps. Quintus Curtius Rufus: Life and Exploits of Alexander the Great 10.1.22-42

[14] See Michael Rocke, Forbidden Friendships, 1998, p.129 and passim.

[15] Tashi Tsering, in his The Struggle for Modern Tibet, 1997 (pp.26-28) describes a widespread male love custom in HImalayan Buddhist monasteries that is sexual but not penetrative. The period of his own involvement, as a youth with an older monk lover and friend, he qualifies as “some of the best years of [his] life.”

[16] J. A. Symonds, in his A Problem in Greek Ethics, V states, “Herodotus asserts that the Persians learned the habit, in its vicious form, from the Greeks.” Symonds was himself a lover of males and an early historian of male love. In his work we can detect how he, while advocating male love, condemned copulation between males, calling it “vicious,” much as the ancients did. (Sean Brady, John Addington Symonds (1840-1893) and Homosexuality: A Critical Edition of Sources; 2012; p46)

[17] I copy here a footnote from my article The Exquisite Corpse of Ganymede: An Ancient Gender Studies Discourse (THYMOS: Journal of Boyhood Studies I.2 (Autumn 2007), pp. 117-137):

It may strike us as odd that Ganymede’s father plays a role in his intimate relationship with a male figure. Is the presence of the father a chance event? A quick survey of the principal myths of male love reveals that the father of the youth makes an appearance not only in the myth of Zeus and Ganymede, but, in some guise or another, in most of the stories included in Lovers’ Legends. In “Hercules and Hylas” the lover kills the father; in “Pelops and Poseidon” the father sacrifices the son; in “Laius and Goldenhorse” (Chrysippus) the lover deceives the father; and in “Achilles and Patroclus,” whose very name means “the glory of the father,” the lover promises the father the safe return of his son. Xenophon provides more details on the triangular nature of the relationship between lover, youth, and father: “Nothing [of what concerns the boy] is kept hidden from the father, by an ideal [kalos kagathos] lover” (Symposium VIII.11.). Thus the contrast between the relationship of Zeus and Tros (Ganymede’s father) on the one hand, and that of Laius and Pelops (Chrysippus’ father) on the other hand, is significant for what it says about paternal involvement in normative Greek male love, as well as about the relationship between these two stories.

See also this author, Lovers’ Legends: The Gay Greek Myths, 2002, passim

[18] Obviously this is a perceived obligation, a breaking down of one’s internal barriers not because one is forced by another person (that too happens often enough, frequently under the guise of some emotional blackmail or blandishment at one’s most vulnerable moment) but because one is indoctrinated by culture Thus, because we imagine we should because we believe “everyone else does it,” or because we think the other will want it and will love us less if we do not provide that service, we overcome our “wiser horse” as Plato would have had it, and submit and inflict. Once we have done so, of course, this becomes personal territory to defend, because we now identify with what we have done, and done at great cost and sacrifice. Even the best of us can unwittingly fall into such a trap, but having fallen they should not be held out as examples to follow but as cautionary tales.

[19] The much quoted Platonic term para-physin, has long been misinterpreted to mean that homosexuality itself in all its manifestations is “against nature.” In fact Plato was referring only to that particular form of male love which sought its fulfillment in anal sex. Human nature being infinitely variable, it is fair to say that Plato was right only to the extent that his statement applied to cultures and individuals for whom that was indeed the case, such as the educated ancient Greeks and much of modern western culture. In some other cultures it seems to have been widely inculcated and taught, thus rendering it common, and thus was not judged to be against their nature.

Some however, going to the other extreme, have now taken up the tools of biology to try to prove that homosexuality, including in some cases anal sex, is to be found in nature and thus cannot be un-natural. That whole debate seems to miss the point, since it matters little to human relations what American buffalo or African elephants do with each other. We are not beasts lacking self-control. For us humans the naturalness or un-naturalness of anal sex  will continue to vary by culture and by subculture and according to the habituation of individuals. The only determinant seems to be “de gustibus” which of course is largely determined by education or the lack of it.

But acknowledging that something for example cannibalism can become quite natural for a given group or a given individual does not answer the question, “Is it good for that person, for that group, and for society at large?” Certainly in the present case the mass loss of life, loss of health, loss of bodily integrity and function, and loss of dignity that has been the fruition of opening the Pandora’s box of anal sex would suggest that those who aspire to the vision of a benevolent human nature should find a different way to express their very healthy and natural desire for another male.

[20] Preparatory sketch by Rembrandt. A derisive representation of the classical myth of Zeus in the shape of a divine eagle abducting the prince of Troy to Olympus. Here the painter is mocking “sodomites” as vultures fixated on little boys’ anuses. Kupferstichkabinett, Dresden; C1357

[21] The dominant theme in classical studies has been to assume that Greek pederasty automatically implied penetrative sex. Thus with Dover, Foucault, Halperin, and other luminaries of 20th century philology. Against that predominant misconception a few have raised objections (See David Cohen,  “Sexuality, Violence, and the Athenian Law of 'Hubris'”; Harvey Yunis Tr, Plato, Phaedrus pp. 151-152).

[22] K. J. Dover, the most influential historian of Greek homosexuality for the last thirty years waved away Greek eros not as a profound and lasting sensibility to adolescent male beauty but as “episodic behavior at a superficial level.” (Greek Homosexuality, 1978, p.203) David Halperin bizarrely imagined Greek desire for males as an ungendered drive to penetrate orifices of weaker persons so as to subjugate them. The slur stuck, setting back by decades the study of Greek male love.

[23] A common trope in antiquity held that the friendships born from pederastic love were so strong that they were not bowed even by the force of tyrants, thus endangering their hegemony. A number of famous couples were held to have defeated the rule of tyrants, most famously Harmodius and Aristogiton who were lionized by the Athenians as founders of their democracy, but also Chariton and Melanippus, and Antileon and Hipparinos. These may well have inspired the Revolt of the Pages, where the Macedonian personal guard of Alexander the Great, a troop composed of pairs of teenage male lovers, vaingloriously plotted his assassination. The plot was exposed and its leaders put to death.

[24] Aesop, Fables, “Zeus and Shame” (Perry 109; Chambry 118)

[25] Plato, Greek Anthology 7.669 and 670.

[26] Plato, Phaedrus Tr. Harvey Yunis, 2011, p.151

[27] Socrates was said to have told Critias his craving for Euthydemus was like the urge of a piglet to rub against a rock. (Xenophon, Memorabilia i 2.30)

[28] Plato, in his Laws  (836-839) is held by most modern commentators to “condemn homosexuality,” a position that is supposed to be for him a “recanting” of the support he showed for male love in his younger days. Of course Plato does nothing of the kind. That is but a simplistic interpretation that, in order to force a literal reading of the text, contorts the philosophy of the man. Furthermore it is an interpretation based on the identification of anal sex with male/male love, this in a text in which Plato unequivocally disentangles (“unpacks” as we would say today) the two phenomena and indeed holds them to be not only incompatible but diametrically opposite.

      In the Laws Plato simply condemns, as all important Greek intellectuals did, and as he has all along in all his writing, including in the Phaedrus that moderns presumably use to contrast with the Laws, the coital use of one male by another, and reiterates that it is the act of a shameless man devoid of restraint and possessed by hubris, a theme that runs strong and steady throughout the ancient literature on this topic. But Plato has nothing but praise for those men who love youths as long as they refrain from buggering their beloveds. And surely Plato was fully aware of the same ethical currents in Sparta and in Crete, but makes use of the two states as presumed nexi of abuse. His reasons for doing so are open to interpretation, and could range from rhetorical device, to irony and satire, to critique of practices that certainly co-existed with more ethical relations and that were exaggerated to comic effect by writers for the amusement of the average Athenian.

[29] Cicero reveals that the Spartans permitted sex play but drew the line at copulation. “But the Spartans, while they permit every kind of license to their young men, save that of [stuprum], come exceedingly close to the very exception they insist on . . .” Cicero, On the Commonwealth, iv.4

[30] Pliny justifies his own poems of boy love on the premise that they but follow the example set by the great orators. He recounts finding, in a work by Asinius Gallus, an epigram by Cicero reproaching his young slave Tiro for begrudging him the kisses he had promised after dinner. Highly educated and eventually manumitted, Tiro in adulthood was Cicero’s secretary, and his posthumous editor. Pliny, Epistles, 7.4.6

[31] Aristotle, when asked why men spend so much time with the beautiful (this being Greece it is not likely the questioner meant just women, if at all) responded that it was a question only a blind man would ask. (Diogenes Laertius, Lives of Eminent Philosophers, Book V.Ch1.20)

[32] According to Diogenes Laertius (ibid, V.Ch1.3) Aristotle had been the eromenos of Hermias, who later gave him his daughter for wife. Aristotle had eromenoi of his own from among his students, such as Palephatus of Abydos (Suda, pi,71) and Theodectes of Phaselis (William Smith, Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology p.1035, but disputed by some recent scholars), and Aeschrion of Mytilene (Suda, ai,354).

[33] In his Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle groups copulation between males with other neuroses such as eating earth, pulling out one’s hair and chewing one’s fingernails. (1148b15 - 1149a20)

[34] Theophrastus,close friend, executor, and successor of Aristotle as head of the Lyceum was also the erastes of Nicomachus, Aristotle’s son. (Diogenes Laertius, Lives of Eminent Philosophers, “Life of Theophrastus,”  V.2 39)

[35] In Aristophane’s Peace, Trygaeus ascends to heaven on the back of a huge dung beetle, a mockery of Ganymede’s mythical ascent to Olympus on the back of Zeus in the form of an eagle. For food, the beetle is said the like the turds of a buggered boy, “well kneaded.” This may well have been the playwright’s answer to all those who cited the tale of Zeus and Ganymede to justify barbaric behavior.

[36] In his speech Against Timarchus Aeschines indicts Timarchus not only for selling his sexual favors as a young man, but also for having permitted hubris (“outrage”) against himself, i.e. for having submitted to being mounted by men, hubris being a euphemism for the sexual penetration of one male by another. (passim) As a result Timarchus (whose name could be rendered  as “Lord of honor”) was found guilty of atimia (“dishonor”). He permanently lost all his civic rights and was banned thenceforth from public life.

[37] Men who pay boys and then mount them are labeled by Aeschines “hubristou kai apaideutou” or “abusive and uncultured” (ibid. 1.137) His is not a general condemnation of boy love, as he freely and proudly affirms being a well-known pederast himself, but underlines that he is an ethical one.

[38] Though the Greeks have long been blamed for taking advantage of children, the honorable form of boy love restricted itself to older boys, such as would be of legal age in most modern countries, though perhaps not in the US. Plato, Symposium, 181d

[39] The presence of the father, suggesting the importance of his oversight role in pederastic relationships, is a running theme throughout Greek pederastic mythology as well as other pederastic texts, such as Xenophon’s Symposium (4.12) where the father, Axiochus, accompanies Clinias, his son to the house of the son’s lover.  In that same text Socrates asserts that  “the virtuous lover does not make any of these matters [his relations with his beloved] a secret from the father of his beloved.” (8.11) While that lover in the text is presented as a certain “Critobulus,” Diogenes Laertius (ii. 48-9) , quoting Aristippus, asserts that it was Xenophon himself who was the erastes of the boy.

[40] Plutarch seems generally sympathetic to male love in its ethical form, as can be seen throughout his Lives, for example in the life of Solon where he casually and without any negative judgment mentions Solon’s love for his cousin, the beautiful Pisistratus, the future tyrant. (Plutarch, Moralia “On Love” 23)

[41] “As for those who, having no evil predispositions, were by deception or force induced to submit, there is no one whom they look upon with greater revulsion and hate than the doers of that deed, and they inflict on them the most fierce vengeance when given the chance.”  (Ibid)

[42] Plutarch relates this tale, of Periander, tyrant of Ambracia, who met his end at the hands of his vengeful eromenos. He also mentions, in this context, Crateas who killed Archelaus out of the hate and disgust he still felt for having been mounted by him in his youth, and Pytholaus who assassinated Alexander of Pherae, a noted abuser of youths.  (ibid. “On Love” 23)  Aristotle in his Politics (V.10) mentions Derdas who assassinated Amyntas the Little, and of course Philip II of Macedon, Alexander the Great’s father, was assassinated by Pausanias, his disgruntled former eromenos. Perhaps the oldest such tale is the quasi-legendary one of Archias of Corinth who died at the hands of Telephus, a boy he had violated and who took vengeance for the abuse after reaching maturity. (ibid. 773a-b)

[43] For this image I would like to thank, or blame, Abu Nuwas, the eminent Arab poet, or one in his entourage, who employed it in characterizing the relationship between the libertine Caliph al-Amin and his young African eunuch, Kawthar.

[44]  I note here the loss of fourteen year old Jamey Rodemeyer, who killed himself shortly after posting on YouTube a video asserting his allegiance to the credo that “it gets better.” He is one of many.

[45] The Athenians, despite being boy-lovers, had nothing but contempt for the way the Eleans behaved with boys. Could the filthy stables of Elean king Augeas, bursting with dung, have been a not-so-subtle allusion to their misbehavior? Hercules diverted a river to clean out those stables, then killed Augeas and enthroned the son in his place. Could that be a reference to liberating Elean boys from the sexual tyranny of the men? It may be significant that this liberation is carried out by Hercules, who in antiquity was a paragon of ethical male love (as can be seen from his exemplary relationships with Iolaus and with Hylas) and whose love affairs with boyfriends were held to be “beyond counting”. (Calimach, 2002, passim )