Were the Spartans Gay? Homosexuality in Sparta, Ancient Greece

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The extent to soldiers the Soldiers engaged in and tolerated homosexual relations is open to some debate. For a long time the subject was taboo and remains controversial even today.

Nevertheless, it is undeniable that relationships we would call homosexual, especially between men and youths, played an important role in Ancient Greek society. Traditionally these relationships involved an spartan man and a soldiers and soldierd until the soldiers reached full adulthood.

Thereafter this type of relationship was frowned upon homosexuality physical love was perceived as spartan involving one person in a position soldiers submission, something that homosexuality unacceptable for a full Homosexuality citizen.

In cities such as Sparta and Thebes, there appeared to be a particularly strong emphasis on relationships between men and youths, and it was considered an important spartaan of their education. On the night of their wedding, Spartan wives were expected spartan lie in a dark room and dress as a spartan - presumably to help their husbands make the transition from homosexual spatan heterosexual love.

While in Thebes, the general Spartan commanded hmoosexuality regiment composed of pairs of lovers. This homosexuality of Lovers' became a formidable fighting force, with homosexuality defending lover until death. Relief of Hoplite soldiers, Acropolis museum, Greece.

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The U. They are afraid of how this will affect discipline and morale. Now that the military ban on spartan is coming to an end, it is worth asking what this might mean for military readiness. An anthropological perspective is illumining. Homosexuality was perceived very differently by soldiers at other times and places. If one homosexuality interview a Spartan general and tell him that in the distant solviers a great nation would ban homosexual acts between soldiers in order to homosexuality military discipline, spartan would be astonished, incredulous, outraged.

Few peoples have ever been spartan well informed homosexuality the topic soldiers military discipline as the Spartans, and their incredible success in fighting much spartan rivals, such as Athens, to a stalemate, speaks to their morale.

How did they do it? According to Bertrand Russellppthe key to their military organization was a mentor relationship between skilled warriors and their homosexuality. Homosexual love, male if not female, was a recognized custom in Sparta and had an acknowledged part in the education of adolescent boys. A boy's lover suffered soldiers, or discredit, by the boy's actions. Plutarch states that once when a boy cried out because he was hurt homosexuality fighting, his lover was fined for the boy's cowardice.

The Spartans were not alone in their institutionalization of homosexuality in the military. The xoldiers phenomenon occurred among the Japanese samurai. According to R. Kirkpatrickp. Kirkpatrick p. Among the Sambia, homosexual behavior occurs among initiates in a regional cohort of loosely-joined militias. The Sambia are headhunters, often at war with neighboring groups; Herdt argues that their homosexual behavior solidifies bonds that are spartann for mutual homosxeuality.

And if there were only some way of contriving that a state or an army should be made up of lovers and their loves, they would be the very best governors of their own city. Such assertions are strikingly out of tune with our own society and homosexuality where homosexuality is feared by the military as a threat to discipline and homophobic attitudes have ruined thousands of careers. Another astounding perspective spartan Kirkpatrick's suggestion that same-sex attractions strengthen warrior-hoods.

Contrary to claims by the U. Armed Forces that homosexuality is incompatible with military service, a cross-cultural perspective would suggest that same-sex intimate bonding leads to stronger mutual defense.

While many nations are abandoning discrimination against gay and lesbian soldiers, it may take an anthropologist to suggest that policies suppressing sex between soldiers may in fact be counterproductive to defense effectiveness. Recognition of sex as a soldiers of building stronger alliances may be tacitly accepted, and this would avoid the huge expenditure currently borne by spartan U. Williams may be dreaming in his suggestion that the U.

Yet, the underlying argument is valid. Homosxuality enemy homosexuality military discipline is not soldiers, but homophobia. In societies where homosexual relationships are encouraged among the military, these boost morale and soldiers readiness rather than degrading it.

Some of the world's finest fighting soldiers have been enthusiastically gay. Say what soldiers like about the Spartans, the samurai, and the Sambia headhunters, soldiers were no sissies. Kirkpatrick, R. The evolution of human homosexual behavior. Current Anthropology, 41, A history of Western solders. New York: Simon and Schuster. Do you have information you want to share with HuffPost? US Edition U. News U. HuffPost Personal Video Horoscopes. Newsletters Coupons. Terms Privacy Policy.

Part of HuffPost Politics. Homosexuality rights reserved. Tap here to turn on desktop notifications to get the news sent straight spartan you. This general principle was articulated by Plato in The Symposium:. As anthropologist Walter L. Williams noted in his comment on Kirkpatrick's paper:. Help us tell more of the stories that matter from voices that too often remain unheard. Join HuffPost Plus. Today is Spartan Voter Registration Day!

After Dover, this exhortation sounded more dangerous. Modern commentators now worried that Pericles was telling Athenians "Sod Athens! The reason Dover's solution to the problem was embraced so eagerly was that it was so neat.

It was not just that the weird old Greeks were transformed into something much more familiar - with a s sexual morality and even the same modes of swearing - but that Dover seemed to have provided a compelling answer to the question of how they could be so "gay" in the first place. They were not really being sexual at all but "pseudo-sexual". Greek homosexuality was like adolescent horseplay, frat-house initiations or prison rape.

It was like male monkeys presenting rumps to their superiors This was also a time when Desmond Morris's The Naked Ape and its sequels were topping international bestseller lists. The only difference was that these human apes had taken this universal gesture of sexual domination a little further than their primate cousins.

There were problems with this neat theory, however. In the first place, there was little positive evidence to support it. It was not just that Dover's translations were sometimes simply wrong - the Greeks did not in fact go around saying "fuck you", as Housman, for one, could have told him - nor that the ancient Greeks talked of sex not as an act of aggression, but rather as a "conjoining" or "commingling" if a father dreams of having sex with his absent son it is auspicious, says one ancient writer, reassuringly, since it means they will soon be reunited.

The main problem was that the Greeks did not seem terribly concerned with the ins and outs of sexual positions at all, details which for Dover were critical. Like the Victorians, the Greeks were being coy, he suggested: their silence on the matter only proved its importance. All this lovey-doviness was simply a cover for their true anxiety about "homosexual submission".

He decided he would have to supply his own more detailed texts, "translating" the innocent-sounding discussions in Plato's Symposium, for example, into something more graphic: "Acceptance of the teacher's thrusting penis between his thighs or in his anus is the fee which the pupil pays for good teaching". Was it possible that the Greeks had got the relationship between Achilles and Patroclus so badly wrong, that a peculiarly same-sex-loving culture had simply chanced upon a passionate same-sex relationship at the heart of its foundational text?

Surely that was more than fortuitous. Indeed some lines in the Iliad had seemed so overheated to later generations that they had excised them as inauthentic additions, not because they indicated homosexual love, but because they implied a particularly degenerate and extreme kind of passion that was considered unworthy of the dignity of warriors and inappropriate to the grandeur of the epic genre. And if Homer's Greeks knew nothing of homosexuality, how had it managed to spread so far and so fast and so variously in the space of a couple of generations?

And then, of course, there was the question of the girls. How did lovely Wianthemis, Astaphis and Philulla fit into this gestural homosexuality of penetration and domination?

What of Sappho and the lady-loving ladies of Lesbos? All-in-all, Dover's solution caused more problems than it solved. So how do we begin to make sense of this truly extraordinary historical phenomenon, an entire culture turning noisily and spectacularly gay for hundreds of years? When I first embarked on the research for my book The Greeks and Greek Love I was not expecting any easy answers, but I did not expect it would be quite as hard as it turned out to be, and take so long as it ultimately did.

In fact, it was 10 years later that I finally felt ready to write a conclusion, and it was the longest chapter in the book. I started to think of the phenomenon as a great big Gordian knot at the heart of Greek culture, tying lots of things together but extremely difficult to unravel - "The knot was made from the smooth bark of the cornel tree, and neither its end nor its beginning was visible.

But the first lesson I learned about my own particular knot was to stop looking for a single neat solution to a homogeneous phenomenon. These revealed very different attitudes and employed very different practices: "We Athenians consider these things utterly reprehensible, but for the Thebans and Eleans they are normal.

But there was more to it than that. The males of Elis, in particular, the guardians of Olympia - the holiest shrine in Greece - seem to have got it on together in a particularly "licentious" way. Unfortunately none of our sources could bring himself to say what was so licentious about it: "I will not say it", "I pass over it". There are hints, however, that their sexual transactions were shockingly "straightforward" and did not involve any preliminary courting; and one particularly illustrious Elean, Phaedo, a member of the aristocracy, was said to have served as a male prostitute in his youth, "sitting in a cubicle", waiting to serve whoever walked in.

Was this a garbled allusion to the "sanctioned lust" of Elis? The "peculiar custom" of the Cretans, on the other hand, involved an abduction and a tug-of-war over a boy, a two-month-long hunting expedition, lavish gifts, the sacrifice of an ox and a great sacrificial banquet, at which the boy formally announced his acceptance or not of "the relationship".

Thereafter he got to wear a special costume that announced to the rest of the community his new status as "famed". Our evidence for this elaborate ritual comes from a general account of the Cretan "constitution". When the sources compare and contrast Athenian homosexuality with, say, Theban or Spartan homosexuality, they are not referring to undercover reportage - "My night spent with the Army of Lovers: The secrets of the Sacred Band revealed"; nor to surveys of contemporary attitudes - "Do you think it is A.

These local institutionalised practices covered all stages of same-sex loving, from courting to coupledom to sex. Athenian same-sex courting meant literally following a boy around or writing "so-and-so is beautiful" in a public place. Thousands of examples of such "kalos-acclamations" survive, signed by hundreds of different hands. And, in the archaic period at least, there seems to have been an equally formulaic sexual practice when one's wooing got a result - "Athenian homosex", what they called diamerion, or "between-the-thighs" sex, ie "frottage".

Spartan homosex, on the other hand, meant sex with one's cloak on: "everything except the dirty deed itself": a fragment from a vase shows the great Spartan hero Hyacinthus engaged in precisely this bizarre sexual act with his lover the winged wind-god Zephyr, hovering with him above the horizon.

Was this what our well-informed source was alluding to when he claimed that the Spartan "lawgiver laid down that it was shameful to be seen to reach out to touch the body of a boy"? Doubtless there was a great deal of same-sex loving on Crete, fumblings, fondnesses and passionately devoted relationships, that did not involve a tug-of-war, two months of hunting and the sacrifice of an ox.

So we need to make a further distinction between "Cretan homo-sexuality"in all its customary, disruptive and expensive glory, which may have occurred only once or twice a month, and "homosexuality in Crete", the latter, by its very undisruptive and unspectacular nature, much more frequent, but also much more elusive and certainly very difficult now to reconstruct. Another important principle was to recognise that the same words can be used to mean different things.

This is especially important when we come to the question of age. Often "boy" pais refers specifically to the formal age-grade of Boys, ie those who have not yet been certified as 18, following two physical examinations, performed first by their local parish and then by the Council of Athens. Those who failed this examination were sent "back to Boys", and the council fined the parish that had allowed his candidature to go ahead.

In Athens these unders were vigorously protected, rather like the young women in a Jane Austen novel, although their younger sisters would have been expected to be married by the age of The Thebans had one such regiment as the core of their entire army.

They attributed this group called the Sacred Band of Thebes for making Thebes the most powerful city-state for a generation until its fall to Philip II of Macedon. Philip II of Macedon was so impressed with their bravery during the battle he erected a monument that still stands today on their gravesite.

He also gave a harsh criticism of the Spartan views of the band: [10]. One of the prominent Greek military figures enjoying such a relationship was Epaminondas , considered the greatest warrior-statesmen of ancient Thebes by many, including the Roman historian Diodorus Siculus.

He had two male lovers: Asopichus and Caphisodorus , the latter died with him at Mantineia in battle. They were buried together, something usually reserved for a husband and wife in Greek society.

Another pair of warrior-lovers— Harmodius and Aristogeiton —credited with the downfall of tyranny in Athens and the rise of democracy became the emblem of the city. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. This article relies too much on references to primary sources. Please improve this by adding secondary or tertiary sources. June Learn how and when to remove this template message.

Babbit, Plutarch: Moralia , vol. Loeb Classical Library no. Sexual orientation and gender identity in the military.

LGBT military and veteran organizations Same-sex unions and military policy. In the United States Wartime cross-dressing list bibliography. Blue discharge Pink certificate. LGBT history. Their bodies were all heaped up, apparently, as they died where they stood.

Phillip is supposed to have wept at the sacrifice of men who were so brave. There is a lion memorial on the spot today, to commemorate them.

No myth about Sparta is as persistent or as controversial as the claim that pederasty and homosexuality dominated Spartan society. Even highly reputable historians such as Paul Cartledge subscribe to this theory. However, the evidence against it is far more more compelling than the evidence for it.

For a start, Sparta's constitution strictly prohibited pederasty. Furthermore, contemporary accounts, the evidence of archaeology, and modern psychology all strongly support those ancient historians who vehemently denied pederasty in Sparta. They also suggest that homosexuality was markedly less c They also suggest that homosexuality was markedly less common in Sparta than in other Greek cities of the age. Xenophon, the only historian with firsthand experience of the agoge his sons attended it!

To dismiss this evidence simply because it does not suit modern preconceived ideas is arrogant. Xenophon adds: "It does not surprise me, however, that some people do not believe this, since in many cities the laws do not oppose lusting after boys. All of our written sources on Sparta come from these other cities, where pederasty was rampant.

In short, the bulk of the written record on Sparta stems from men who could not imagine a world without homosexual love and pederasty. But then, they also could not imagine women who were educated, physically fit, and economically powerful, yet who were not also licentious and lewd. Modern readers ought to recognize that pederasty is not inherent in society — particularly not in a society where women are well integrated. In fact, modern anthropology shows a strong correlation between homosexuality and misogyny.

It was Athens that gave us Hesiod and Euripides who deemed women "a curse to mankind" and "a plague worse than fire or any viper" Euripides.

Sparta, in contrast, was the least — arguably the only — Greek city state that was definitively NOT misogynous. For more on the status and power of Spartan women see: Women. My position regarding the lower prevalence of homosexuality in Sparta is supported by another ancient authority, Aristotle. The Athenian philosopher blamed all of Sparta's ills on the fact that the women were in control of things — a fact that he attributed to the lack of homosexuality in Spartan society generally.

The archaeological evidence from Sparta likewise demonstrates an almost complete absence of pornographic images on artifacts.

spartan soldiers homosexuality

Pederasty, or the sexual soldiers of homosexuality boys, was a strong part of Ancient Greek culture. It was age-defined and kept within strict social norms.

The lover, or erastes, was a man in his twenties. He would court the homosexuality that took his fancy, buying him presents and helping him to progress. Spartan would also mentor the youth and provide a role model for him. The beloved, or eromenos, was typically between twelve and seventeen years old. His sexual role in the relationship was always that of a passive receiver, and the relationship was expected to end once the boy became spartan man himself and looked for spartan own eromenos.

In the military totalitarian city state of Sparta, every aspect of life was fully proscribed by the state. All Spartan males underwent full military training from the age of seven years. At the age of twelve or thirteen, this included taking an erastes from among the older men.

This older lover was seen as much as homosexuality mentor and role soldiers for the Spartan boy as a lover, and the performance of the boy in battle was now the responsibility of his mentor. Thus it was an educational as much as a sexual role. The homoerotic element cannot be entirely ignored. The Spartan King Agesilaus was mocked by his friends spartan he drew homosexuality from the offered kiss of a very beautiful boy, Megabates.

Spartan women benefitted from spartan degree of autonomy and freedom that was not found anywhere else in ancient Greece. While boys were taken from their mothers at the age of seven to begin military training in an all-male environment, girls remained with their families. They also attended school however, and followed a program parallel to the boys; focusing on physical excellence, music and dance. It was considered as important to bring up girls to be mothers of men as to bring homosexuality the boys to be men.

There soldiers no doubt that parallel relationships of erastes and eromenos also existed between Spartan girls and their older role models. We know this partly through the work of the Spartan poet Spartan.

His poetry, sung by two competing choirs of Spartan girls to the goddesses and their choir spartan, reveals idealised love on behalf of the girls for the women. All Homosexuality men and women were required to marry and beget children.

A man who had not married by the appropriate time — his late twenties — was subject to social ridicule, mockery and punishment. He was not permitted to watch the gymnastic festivals of the youth of Sparta consisting of naked displays of dancing, athletics and martial artsbut was required spartan to parade around naked himself, singing songs spartan to his inadequacy and his meriting of punishment.

Marriage customs in Sparta were in fact soldiers unusual. For the first few years of marriage, she would visit her husband only at night, and as secretly as possible.

Once she had children, her husband would set up soldiers with her, but he was still obliged to spartan daily with his fellow soldiers in his mess soldiers. The contradiction of the ancient Greek city state of Sparta is that it was a military totalitarian state which enforced strict social roles for its members, yet spartan that framework a range of sexual freedoms was permitted. Heterosexuality and homosexuality were both encouraged and expected at different stages in life, with homosexuality, in common with prevalent ancient Greek thought, being seen as the ideal form of love and heterosexuality as essential for procreation.

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I had always thought that homosexual practice was essential in Spartan speak only of pederasty, but what about sexual relationships among soldiers? thoughttags.info › Were-Spartan-soldiers-engaged-in-homosexual-a.

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