A group of teenage girls are carrying a plough through the night, like a Greek soldiers homosexual of oxen. Teenage girls, invol-ved in some kind of ritual, processing towards a mountain ridge. They are singing a beautiful song, a work of art, full of obscure allusions and some familiar names from ancient myths: Helen's devoted twin brothers, Castor and Pollux, "Aphrodita", the goddess of love, the dangerous, teasing Sirens.
But now the girls seem to be calling out to each other, strange, old-fashioned names: And they are flattering each other - "lovely Wianthemis". No, something more than that. Hints, even, of sexual jealousy: A hard sound, chink,
Greek soldiers homosexual. Metal chipping out stone.
High on a precipitous altar-dotted promontory, a man is surrounded by a small crowd of youths. They are watching him, as the sweat pours off him, chiselling strange, old-fashioned letters into the lava. Fast-forward a couple of hundred years. Athens in the age of Plato. A man accused of attempted murder.
He begins to tell his side of the story, how he got into fight with some worthless creature called Simon. They nod sympathetically, as if all is now clearer. The secret of Greek homosexuality has only ever been a secret to those who neglected to inquire.
The Greeks themselves were hardly coy about it. Their descendants under the Greek soldiers homosexual empire were amazed to read what their ancestors had written centuries earlier, drooling in public over the thighs of boys, or putting words into the mouth of Achilles in a tragic drama, as he remembered the "kisses thick and fast" he had enjoyed with his beloved Patroclus.
The Romans certainly noticed what they called the "Greek custom", which they blamed on too much exercising with not enough clothes on. Christians mocked a people who worshipped gods who kidnapped handsome boys like Ganymede, or who, like Dionysus, promised a man his body in exchange for information about how to get into the underworld.
Nor was it forgotten in the Middle Ages, when Greek Ganymede became a codeword for sodomitical vice. At the end of the 17th century the great classicist Richard Bentley knew well enough that the Greek word for a male "admirer", erastes, indicated a "flagitious love of boys".
And inwhen Moritz Hermann Eduard Meier was asked to contribute a book-length article on the subject to a "Greek soldiers homosexual" encyclopaedia of arts and sciences, he made no bones about it: And yet there was always another side to the story.
We hear of laws that punished men who "mixed with" or even "chatted" with boys. Xenophon, who knew Sparta better than anyone, says that the Spartan lawgiver had laid down that it was shameful even "to be seen to reach out to touch the body of a boy". Slaves called "pedagogues" - paidagogoi - were employed by Athenians to protect their sons from unwanted attention, and by Plato's time there were some people who had "the audacity to say" that homosexual sex Greek soldiers homosexual shameful in any circumstances.
Indeed Plato himself eventually made so bold. Greek soldiers homosexual one time he had written that same-sex lovers were far more blessed than ordinary mortals. He even gave them a headstart in the great race to get back to heaven, their mutual love refeathering their moulted wings. Now he seemed to contradict himself.
In his ideal city, he says in his last, posthumously published work known as The Laws, homosexual sex will be treated the same way as incest. It is something contrary to nature, he insists, and although there won't be laws against it, nevertheless a propaganda programme Greek soldiers homosexual encourage everyone to say that it is "utterly unholy, odious-to-the-gods and ugliest of ugly things".