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Homosexuality: Greco Roman Period To Today Essay

961 words - 4 pages

Homosexuality, the sexual attraction between members of the same sex, is a term not coined until the late nineteenth century; however, its prevalence throughout Western history is apparent and cannot be ignored. Some of the earliest accounts of homosexual relationships date back to 700 BCE in Ancient Greece. Spanning from that period up to today, the history of the GLBT (gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender) minority is one that is commonly overlooked. Only by analyzing the historical records of homosexuality can one fully understand the widespread GLBT movement of the current era.
In ancient Greece, sexual relationships were common across both genders. The most prevalent form was pederasty, which means “boy love.” This involved an older man, erastes, and an adolescent male, eromenos. The erastes’s role was to educate, protect, love, and provide a role model for his eromenos. A complex social code, with standards for courtship, served as a model for the social institution of pederasty. In the military, same-sex love was used as a means of boosting morale. The most prominent example of this was the Sacred Band of Thebes. A troop of elite soldiers, the band was made up of same-sex couples with the belief that lovers would fight more passionately than strangers. Same-sex relationships between two adults were not as acceptable as pederasty. The passive man was considered weak and feminine. However, the issue was not with the sexual act but with the man’s perceived masculinity. A famous homosexual relationship is that of Achilles and Patroclus in Homer’s Iliad. Due to the civilization’s focus on men, less is known about same-sex relationships between women. Sappho, a poet from the island of Lesbos, wrote a large amount of verses about her love for other women. Similar relationships took place in the Roman Republic because of the close correlation of the two cultures. However, the Romans soon took offense to same-sex relationships, passing the Lex Scantinia in 149 BCE. This law regulated sexual behaviors. It condemned pederasty and legislated the death penalty for illegal sexual acts. This law applied only to free born Romans, and therefore did not pertain to slaves. Masters could penetrate slaves with no consequence.
The shift from apparent tolerance to persecution was largely due to the adoption of Christianity in Rome. Greek and Roman religions were polytheistic and pagan. Their many gods, goddesses, and deities were portrayed as human, which allowed for sin even among this higher order. Hence, Greeks and Romans could justify many actions with the immense collection of stories of their gods. Christianity, however, set forth a standard moral and ethical code, and has only one, non-human god. This reduced the ease of defending their actions. Sin was a concept introduced by Christianity. In the ancient pagan religions, there was not as rigid a moral standard and therefore more was acceptable. The rise of Christianity spread...

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