Although the term is new, discussions about sexuality in general, and same-sex attraction in particular, have occasioned philosophical discussion ranging from Plato's Symposium to contemporary queer theory. Since the history of cultural understandings of "Homosexuality since ancient times" attraction is relevant to the philosophical issues raised by those understandings, it is necessary to review briefly some of the social history of homosexuality.
Arising out of this history, at least in the West, is the idea of natural law and some interpretations of that law as forbidding homosexual sex. References to natural law still play an important role in contemporary debates about homosexuality in religion, politics, and even courtrooms.
Finally, perhaps the most significant recent social change involving homosexuality is the emergence of the gay liberation movement in the West. In philosophical circles this movement Homosexuality since ancient times, in part, represented through a rather diverse group of thinkers who are grouped under the label of queer theory. A central issue raised by queer theory, which will be discussed below, is whether homosexuality, and hence also heterosexuality and bisexuality, is socially constructed or purely driven by biological forces.
There is a wealth of material from ancient Greece pertinent to issues of sexuality, ranging from dialogues of Plato, such as the SymposiumHomosexuality since ancient times plays by Aristophanes, and Greek artwork and vases. What follows is a brief description of ancient Greek attitudes, but it is important to recognize that there was regional variation.
For example, in parts of Ionia there were general strictures against same-sex eroswhile in Elis and Boiotia e. Dover, ; Halperin, Probably the most frequent assumption of sexual orientation is that persons can respond erotically to beauty in either sex. Diogenes Laeurtius, for example, wrote of Alcibiades, the Athenian general and politician of the 5 th century B. For example, Alexander the Great and the founder of Stoicism, Zeno of Citium, were known for their exclusive interest in boys and other men.
Such persons, however, are generally portrayed as the exception. Furthermore, the issue of what gender one is attracted to is seen as an issue of taste or preference, rather than as a moral issue.
Even though the gender that one was erotically attracted to at any specific time, given the assumption that persons will likely be attracted to persons of both sexes was not important, other issues were salient, such as whether one exercised moderation.
Status concerns were also of the highest importance. Given that only free men had full status, women and male slaves were not problematic sexual partners.
Sex between freemen, however, was problematic for status. The central distinction in ancient Greek sexual relations was between taking an active or insertive role, versus a passive or penetrated one. The passive role was acceptable only for inferiors, such as women, slaves, or male youths who were not yet citizens. Hence the cultural ideal of a same-sex relationship was between an older man, probably in his 20's or 30's, known as the erastesand a boy beard had not yet begun to grow, the eromenos "Homosexuality since ancient times" paidika.
In this relationship there was courtship ritual, involving gifts such as a roosterand other norms. The erastes had to show that he had nobler interests in the boy, rather than a purely sexual concern. The boy was not to submit too easily, and if pursued by more than one man, was to show discretion and pick the more noble one.
There is also evidence that penetration was often avoided by having the erastes face his beloved and place his penis between the thighs of the eromenoswhich is known as intercrural sex. The relationship was to be temporary and should end upon the boy reaching adulthood Dover, To continue in a submissive role even while one should be an equal citizen was considered troubling, although there certainly were many adult male same-sex relationships that were noted and not strongly stigmatized.
While the passive role was thus seen as problematic, to be attracted to men was often taken as a sign of masculinity. Greek gods,
Homosexuality since ancient times as Zeus, had stories of same-sex exploits attributed to them, as did other key figures in Greek myth and literature, such as Achilles and Hercules.
Plato, in the Symposium "Homosexuality since ancient times," argues for an army to be comprised of same-sex lovers. Thebes did form such a regiment, the Sacred Band of Thebes, formed of soldiers. They were renowned in the ancient world for their valor in battle. Ancient Rome had many parallels in its understanding of same-sex attraction, and sexual Homosexuality since ancient times more generally, to ancient Greece. This is especially true under the Republic.
Yet under the Empire, Roman society slowly became more negative in its views towards sexuality, probably due to social and economic turmoil, even before Christianity became influential.
Exactly what attitude the New Testament has towards sexuality in general, and same-sex attraction in particular, is a matter of sharp debate. Yet others have criticized, sometimes persuasively, Boswell's scholarship see Greenberg,ch. What is clear, however, is that while condemnation of same-sex attraction is marginal to the Gospels and only an intermittent focus Homosexuality since ancient times the rest of the New Testament, early Christian church fathers were much more outspoken.
In their writings there is a horror at any sort of sex, but in a few generations these views Homosexuality since ancient times, in part due no doubt to practical concerns of recruiting converts.
By the fourth and fifth centuries the mainstream Christian view allowed for procreative sex. This viewpoint, that procreative sex within marriage is allowed, while every other expression of sexuality is sinful, can be found, for example, in St. This understanding leads to a concern with the gender of one's partner that is not found in previous Greek or Roman views, and it clearly forbids homosexual acts.
Soon this attitude, especially towards homosexual sex, came to be reflected in Roman Law. In Justinian's Code, promulgated inpersons who engaged in homosexual sex were to be executed, although those who were repentant could be spared. Historians agree that the late Roman Empire saw a rise in intolerance towards sexuality, although there were again important regional variations. With the decline of the Roman Empire, and its replacement by various barbarian kingdoms, a general tolerance with the sole exception of Visigothic Spain of homosexual acts prevailed.
The latter part of the twelfth through the fourteenth centuries, however, saw a sharp rise in intolerance towards homosexual sex, alongside persecution of Jews, Muslims, heretics, and others.
While the causes of this are somewhat unclear, it is likely that increased class conflict alongside Gregorian reform movement in the Catholic Church were two important factors. This appeal to natural law discussed below became very influential in the Western
Homosexuality since ancient times. A sodomite was understood as act-defined, rather than as a type of person.
Someone who had desires to engage in sodomy, yet did not act upon them, was not a sodomite. Also, "Homosexuality since ancient times" who engaged in heterosexual sodomy were also sodomites. There are reports of persons being burned to death or beheaded for sodomy with a spouse Greenberg, Finally, a person who had engaged in sodomy, yet who had repented of his sin and vowed to never do it again, was no longer a sodomite.
The gender of one's partner is again not of decisive importance, although some medieval theologians single out same-sex sodomy as the worst type of sexual crime. For the next several centuries in Europe, the laws against homosexual sex were severe in their penalties.
Enforcement, however, was episodic.
In some regions, decades would pass without any prosecutions. Yet the Dutch, in the 's, mounted a harsh anti-sodomy campaign alongside an anti-Gypsy pogromeven using torture to obtain confessions. As many as one hundred men and boys were executed and denied burial Greenberg, Also, the degree to which sodomy and same-sex attraction were accepted varied by class, with the middle class taking the narrowest view, while the aristocracy and nobility often accepted public expressions of alternative sexualities.
At times, even with the risk of severe punishment, same-sex oriented subcultures would flourish in cities, sometimes only to be suppressed by the authorities. In the 19 th century there was a significant reduction in the legal penalties for sodomy. The Napoleonic code decriminalized sodomy, and with Napoleon's conquests that Code spread.
Furthermore, in many countries where homosexual sex remained a crime, the general movement at this time away from the death penalty usually meant that sodomy was removed from the list of capital offenses.
In the 18 th and 19 th centuries an overtly theological framework no longer dominated the "Homosexuality since ancient times" about same-sex attraction. Instead, secular arguments and interpretations became increasingly Probably the most important secular domain for discussions of homosexuality was in medicine, including psychology.
This discourse, in
Homosexuality since ancient times, linked up with considerations about the state and its need for a growing population, good soldiers, and intact families marked by clearly defined gender roles.
Doctors were called in by courts to examine sex crime defendants Foucault, ; Greenberg, At the same time, the dramatic increase in school attendance rates and the average length of time spent in school,
Homosexuality since ancient times transgenerational contact, and hence also the frequency of transgenerational sex.
Same-sex relations between persons Homosexuality since ancient times roughly the same age became the norm. Clearly the rise in the prestige of medicine resulted in part from the increasing ability of science to account for natural phenomena on the basis of mechanistic causation. The application of this viewpoint to humans led to accounts of sexuality as innate or biologically driven.
The voluntarism of the medieval understanding of sodomy, that sodomites chose sin, gave way to the modern notion of homosexuality as a deep, unchosen characteristic of persons, regardless of whether they act upon that orientation. The effects of these ideas cut in conflicting ways. Since homosexuality is, by this view, not chosen, it makes less sense to criminalize it.
Persons are not choosing evil acts. Yet persons may be expressing a diseased or pathological mental state, and hence medical intervention for a cure is appropriate.
They also sought to develop techniques to prevent children from becoming homosexual, for example by arguing that childhood masturbation caused homosexuality, hence it must be closely guarded against. In the 20 th century sexual roles were redefined once again. For a variety of reasons, premarital intercourse slowly became more common and eventually acceptable.
With the decline of prohibitions against sex for the sake of Homosexuality since ancient times even outside of marriage, it became more difficult to argue against gay sex. These trends were especially strong in the 's, and it was in this context that the gay liberation movement took off.
Although gay and lesbian rights groups had been around for decades, the low-key approach of the Mattachine Society named after a medieval secret society and the Daughters of Bilitis had not "Homosexuality since ancient times" much ground. This changed in the early morning hours of June 28,when the patrons of the Stonewall Inn, a gay bar in Greenwich Village, rioted after a police raid.
In the aftermath of that event, gay and lesbian groups began to organize around the country. Gay Democratic clubs were created in every major city, and one fourth of all college campuses had gay and lesbian groups Shilts,ch. Large gay urban communities in cities from coast to coast became the norm.
The American Psychiatric Association removed homosexuality from its official listing of mental disorders. The increased visibility of gays and lesbians has become a permanent feature of American life despite the two critical setbacks of the AIDS epidemic and an anti-gay backlash see Berman,for a good Homosexuality since ancient times. The post-Stonewall era has also seen marked changes in Western Europe, where the repeal of anti-sodomy Homosexuality since ancient times and legal equality for gays and lesbians has become common.
Broader currents in society have influenced the ways in which scholars and activists have approached research into sexuality and same-sex attraction. Some early 20 th century researchers and equality advocates, seeking to vindicate same-sex relations in societies that disparaged and criminalized it, put forward lists of famous historical figures attracted to persons of the same sex. Historians and researchers sympathetic to the gay liberation movement of the late s and s produced a number of books that implicitly relied on an essentialist approach.
In the s and s John Boswell raised it to a new level of methodological and historical sophistication, although his position shifted over time to one of virtual agnosticism between essentialists and their critics.