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Bates / Ganymede 1 Christopher Bates Professor Simmons 20 January 2011 Pederasty and the Myth of Ganymede: Love Between

Men and Boys in Ancient Greece When I was eight years old, my grandfather gave me a collection of Greek myths. I read about Zeus and Hera, Pericles and Hercules, Aphrodite and Persephone - and fell in love. I cobbled together a picture of the men who wrote and told these stories that was both romantic and idealized, and thought for many years that my vision was accurate. Recently, I decided to retell the story of Ganymede, the young prince chosen by Zeus as "cup-bearer." In the process of preliminary research for the story, I soon discovered that the innocent myth in my children's book was not altogether accurate: the boy wasn't invited to Olympus, he was abducted; he wasn't a cup-bearer, he was a sex-object; his family wasn't outraged by his disappearance, they were "paid off" with a few horses. My idealized vision of the ancient Greek people became increasingly frayed around the edges as I went still deeper into the heart of the old stories. Just as the original legends within The Brother Grimm's Fairytales are much darker and more frightening than those in the book currently published, so too the old Greek stories have been watered-down and cleaned-up for a squeamish public. Few seem to know or care that the deities worshiped by the Greeks raped children and that the society that produced the legend would not have found pederasty at all unusual. Ganymedes tale is just one of many such accounts! How is it possible that a civilization so deeply influential to the progression of Western society could be so significantly misunderstood?

Bates / Ganymede 2 Almost since the beginning of written history, philosophers, historians, and academics have been unable to reconcile the sexual attitudes of the ancient Greeks with the foundational accomplishments of their civilization. That intellectual resistance led to a dismissal of the reality of adult-child sex as inflammatory by even well-respected thinkers. Among contemporary western civilization, Hollywood movies have helped to foster an idealized image of Greek life and further entrench a cultural resistance to an honest appraisal of the sexual proclivities of the ancient Greeks. However, if we are to understand the context of Greek mythology and honestly consider their civilization, we must gain a greater understanding of how the Greeks of the fifth century viewed children (and indeed, their attitude toward women, family as a whole), and carefully inspect the ancient Greeks mindset towards love and physical attraction. Intellectual Resistance Among Philosophers If we were to take the myth of Ganymede as point of departure for understanding the opposition among the intelligentsia to Greek sexual attitudes, we would discover a long line of philosophers and historians, academics and researchers, who discount and in some cases, flatly reject the place adult-child sex had in ancient Greece. In The Image of Ganymede in France, 1730 1820: The Survival of a Homoerotic Myth, Michael Preston Worley explains that from Plato to Napoleon, every major thinker has rejected the idea that pederasty was accepted among the ancient Greeks. Stories like Ganymede were either romanticized (Zeus and Ganymedes love was symbolic of spiritual ecstasy; a rejoicing in God) or simply transformed into a legend more acceptable to current morality (Ganymede became a girl; the rape became service unto a deity). Why? As children have

Bates / Ganymede 3 difficulty recognizing a parents flaws, so too is it difficult for anyone who abhors an act to ascribe it to a hero; we must admit, by any measure, that the ancient Greeks were heroic. Worley makes the point that even the most progressive thinkers were willfully, even intentionally ignorant about this fact when he writes in The Image of Ganymede: Voltaire [in response to a question about Ganymede] insisted that the Greeks did not practice a love that insults nature, and that infamous love was linked to the caprices of his enemies, the ecclesiastiques [the church leaders] (633). Among Historians Even those whose profession calls for academic integrity have allowed their moral indignation to overwhelm their approach to the topic of Greek eroticism. Robert Flacelier, the preeminent cultural historian of ancient Greece, is barely able to control his disdain when he writes in Daily Life in Greece at the Time of Pericles: Distasteful though this topic may be, we cannot pass over it in silence; the love of boys played altogether too large a part in Greek education. It is observed, indeed, that the word for love (ers) is seldom employed in texts of the classical period when reference is made to normal attraction between the sexes; it is more or less exclusively used for homosexual attachments. (109) We shall return to the question of ers later in the paper, but for now it is important to make two observations: 1) Homosexuality is only currently becoming more acceptable among modernity; we should not be surprised that the ancient Greek's mindset towards sexuality, in large part more modern than our own, has been ignored or discounted until very recently, even by those who study them. Flanciere cannot be faulted for holding an opinion that is echoed by his contemporaries; an

Bates / Ganymede 4 opinion bound up in the shared cultural mores of his colleagues. It is the aim of this paper to look past that judgment to the facts behind it. 2) The ancient Greeks, with their pronounced stoic antipathy towards passion of any kind, were as uncomfortable with the passion that accompanied these types of relationships as we are, these two millennia later. Such affairs were not the subject of public discussion among the ancient Greeks, were not recorded, and indeed, there is very little in the tangible archaeological record to give a curious historian much solid evidence. Our only proof comes from vase paintings, scattered references among contemporary philosophers and historians like Plato and Plutarch, as well as the later editorializing of Roman writers. Although an overview of the paucity of artifact is outside the scope of this paper, it is interesting to note that the scarcity of evidence may have contributed to the misgivings of historians. This lack of solid research has led to a second area of resistance to an honest appraisal of ancient Greek culture: a generalized idealization of the period. Cultural Resistance: Ethnocentrism The twisting of an ancient culture to prove a point, in which history is reframed to add legitimacy to a current trend, is on display (both figuratively and literally), in museums, libraries and college exhibition halls across the United States. Edward Rothstein writes, when the subject is Greece, such public displays are notorious for taking cultural artifacts out of context. Rothstein, who reviewed one such exhibition for the New York Times, believes that the tendency to examine the lifestyle and attitudes of the ancient Greek people in light of current sensibilities creates as an insurmountable roadblock to understanding. Rothstein writes that Judging from much of the material [at the Vincent Astor Gallery of the New York

Bates / Ganymede 5 Public Library], an archaeologist might conclude that ancient Greece was a civilization of narcissists, antiwar activists, and ardent feminists that had little patience for convention and little taste for bourgeois life the examples [presented at the exhibition] become evidence of limitation rather than insight. (How the Ancients) In attempting to find a reflection of our own perceived cultural greatness within the Greek historical record, Rothstein believes that we choose ignorance over understanding when we fail to acknowledge the Greek cultures limitations as well as achievements. A Squeamish Public In 2003, Dartmouth College presented the exhibition Coming of Age in Ancient Greece; Images of Childhood from the Classic Past, which was then written about by Grace Glueck, art reviewer for The New York Times newspaper. An appraisal of her article illuminates a further challenge the modern American has to seeing the ancient Greeks with clarity: modern people dont want to think about the less-pleasant bits. Glueck begins her article by recognizing that childhood in ancient Greece was no idyll. What today would be called pederasty or child molestation was condoned or even encouraged; so was child slavery.(Art Review) With such an ominous introduction, we might find the remainder of the article to be uncomfortable or even disturbing. Instead, Glueck leads us through the exhibition casually, and never mentions again the difficulty of being a child in Greece. Instead, she chooses to introduce the reader to the exhibitions lighter fare: The show is enhanced by a clever, hands-on area for visitors called The Friends House. It contains replicas of ancient toys, pots, utensils and brings children into the learning process.(Glueck) An observer cant fault the public for accepting the exhibition at face value when a trained journalist doesnt notice the disparity

Bates / Ganymede 6 between what life was actually like for children in ancient Greece, and how Dartmouth reinterprets it. In Hollywood Even as you read these words, there are a flood of movies entering the American landscape that glorify - and misrepresent - the ancient Grecian culture. From teen movies like Percy Jackson and the Lightening Thief or Disney's Hercules, to adventure films like the remake of Clash of the Titans, 300 and Troy; Hollywood is on an ancient Greek craze. Unfortunately, such movies have not made much effort to capture the reality of Greek life, "gritty" though they may at first appear. Alexander, the film by Oliver Stone that celebrates the career of Alexander the Great, is a good example. Eugene N. Borza, professor emeritus at Pennsylvania State University, explains in his review of the film Alexander that both the paucity of background information as well as the ideological slant of the production team led Stone to put an undue emphasis to Alexander's so-called "bisexuality." The problem with such an emphasis, Boraza writes, is that the cultural divide between the way in which sexual orientation was viewed by the ancient Greeks and currently by the modern west is not acknowledged. Stone portrays Alexander as having a surreptious gay lover while simultaneously being passionately in love with his wife. For Borza, such a view misses the key issue: the ancients did not adhere to later Christian codes of conduct in sexual matters. A man was relatively free to pursue sexual activities with both males and females. The code of conduct, such as it was, had more to do with social status, age, and fidelity than with gender preferences. (5) The Greeks saw little distinction between heterosexual and homosexual acts, they had no words for the concepts of gay or straight; for the Greeks, sex was sex.

Bates / Ganymede 7 Moving Towards a Greater Understanding Children, Women, and Family The ancient Greeks had a bipolar attitude toward children. On one hand, they regularly abandoned unwanted children to the elements; on the other, children who died in early childhood often had elaborate funeral monuments erected in their memory. Extravagant festivals marked the coming of age for many children; others were sold into slavery to pay off debts. (Salisbury) Children were wanted, even cherished; however, abortion was by no means uncommon. This attitude of expendability shocking to a modern audience- was tempered with real affection. How can we untangle these contradictory elements? Joyce Salisbury and Gregory Aldrede, in their article on the issue, explain that the Greeks had no word for family, and instead, only had the term for household, of which the Father was the undisputed master. It was the Fathers responsibility to maintain the only source of security the ancient household had: the farm. As such, children were not only members of the household, they were assets that needed to join in the work of the household as soon as possible; for the Greeks, as in many ancient cultures, childhood was very short. In addition, the desirability of male children in such a society is reflected in the famous quote by the poet Posidippus: If you have a son, you bring him up even if you are poor; but if you have a daughter, you abandon her, even if you are rich. (Salisbury) Although it is tempting for the modern reader to castigate the ancient Greeks for their attitude toward children, it is not that different from present day western civilization and we cannot, in intellectual integrity, simplify, idealize or demonize the fifth century Greek s for their attitudes. Some were caring parents, loving and protective just as

Bates / Ganymede 8 some parents are today. Others were exploitive, neglectful and abusive just as some parents are today. Another issue that merits mention is the place of women in the ancient Greek society. If children were considered expendable constituents of the household, what place did the women hold? Sarah Pomeroy writes in Ancient Greece: A Political, Social, and Cultural History, that in fifth century Greece, women and wives were second place citizens, viewed as naturally wanton, weak in both mind and spirit, and incapable of being even considered as part of polis governance. Those women who were able to side-step the strict rules that kept them from position of authority - like Queen Artemis of Halicarnassus (who ruled the kingdom alone after the death of her husband) or Cynisca of Sparta (the first woman to participate in and win the Olympic games) were seen as suspect. Women in ancient Greece were not the object of mens affection or romance but were instead .in the strict control of their male relatives from birth to death [and] are the most valuable prizes of raid and war because taking another's mother, wife, daughter, sister is the ultimate insult.(Pomeroy et al.62) Michael Scott, in an article published in History Today, drives home the point: The place of women in ancient Greece is summed up most accurately by the historian Thucydides writing in the fifth century BC when he comments: The greatest glory [for women] is to be least talked about by men, whether in praise or blame. Sex and Love In a society that devalues women and regards them as unworthy of being the objects of romantic passion, is it any surprise that the concept of love is reserved for love between men? Of course not! We have already noted that the concept of ros (romantic love) was used almost exclusively to describe the relationship

Bates / Ganymede 9 between men. On this point, Robert Flanciere reluctantly admits that The Greek city-state, even at its most highly developed pointremains a mens club, a closed masculine society from which the opposite sex is barred, but where a passionate attachment between an adult male (the erasts [or lover]) and some adolescent boy of twelve to eighteen (the ermenos [or beloved]) could generate the most noble sentiments of honor and bravery. (78) The relationship between erasts and ermenos began with wooing through gifts and gestures of affection, and lasted for as long as both wanted it to; sometimes till the younger man took a wife. Oftentimes, the romance would continue on and exist simultaneously with the young man's marriage and not end until the younger partner became an ermenos himself. Infrequently, such relationships lasted all through life. Two of the most famous couples of this last variety are Achilles and Patroculus and Alexander the Great and Hephastion. (Borza) Of course, the idea of a society that celebrates passion between men is not too terribly difficult for the modern reader to accept; rather, it is the sexual relationship between adult men and those we consider to be children that causes us to cringe. In order to provide context, several points must be made. Recall that, as already mentioned, childhood was short: in most cases, adult-child relationships were considered at the time to be between an older and a younger man. Also, it is highly significant that while our culture frowns on romantic liaisons between teacher and student, the ancient Greeks incorporated that relationship into their system of education. The attraction of teachers to their youthful, beautiful pupils was considered to have social utility, encouraging the enamored teacher to work hard at educating the student, who was, in turn, offered an inspiring role model in an older, wiser, more accomplished suitor. (Pomeroy et al. 145) A third consideration

Bates / Ganymede 10 concerns rape. Current custom holds that sexual congress with a minor is statutory rape (even when the victim is willing); for the ancient Greeks, however, there was only one kind of rape: forcing sexual intimacy through violence or threat. Such acts were highly frowned upon, viewed as criminal acts, and punished severely. (Flancielier 76) Although adult-child romance is highly distasteful to our modern-day sensibilities, if understanding the culture is our aim, we must refrain from passing twenty-first century judgments on a civilization that has been dead and gone for two millenia. Conclusion Greek attitudes toward sex - in general and sexuality expressed between those of the same gender - are very different from our own. Despite the moralistic blinders that have been worn by many of the intelligentsia while commenting on the ancient Greeks, we have discovered that rigid guidelines of sexual orientation were simply not part of the Greek experience. Even the father of philosophy, the revered Socrates, went through a period in which he was in love with a young man; is it any wonder that Greek myths of the same period would reflect this cultural attitude? (Flanceliere 110) We may be disturbed that the Greek society- the people we admire and idealize- not only tolerated, but condoned adult men having romantic relationships with teenagers. However, it is important to remember that child sexuality was a normal part of life. Consider this indicator of cultural bias: few seem nearly as outraged that Greek daughters were given away in marriage as early as twelve! (Flanceliere 63) When our own ethnocentricity and resulting skewed view of history is removed, we discover that it is inappropriate to consider the relationships between ancient Greek men and boys as pederasty; as far as the

Bates / Ganymede 11 people of the time were concerned, women were "unfit," the boy was a man, and after all, the romance between them served an educational purpose. What can we learn from all this? In an age in which gay men fight for the privilege of serving in the military, it is good to be reminded that the question of the status of homosexual love is not a new one. Catherine Glass, in a New York Times letter to the editor, quotes Phaedrus discussing same-sex affection with Socrates in Platos Symposium when she writes: Imagine a man in love being found out doing something humiliating, or letting someone else do something degrading to him, because he was too cowardly to stop it. It would embarrass him more to be found out by the boy he loved than by his father or his friends, or anyone. And you can see just the same thing happening with the boy. He is more worried about being caught behaving badly by his admirers than by anyone else. So if there were some way of arranging that a state, or an army, could be made up entirely of pairs of lovers, it is impossible to imagine a finer population. They would avoid all dishonor, and compete with one another for glory: in battle, this kind of army, though small, fighting side by side could conquer virtually the whole world. After all, a lover would sooner be seen by anyone deserting his post or throwing away his weapons, rather than by his boyfriend. We may not approve of their childrearing, but we can hardly discount their logic.

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Works Cited Borza, Eugene M. "Movie Commentary: Alexander." Archaeological Institute of America 57.6 (2004). Academic Search Complete. Web. 27 Jan. 2011. Burnstein, Stanley M., et al. Ancient Greece: A Political, Social, and Cultural History. New York: Oxford University Press, 1999. Flanciere, Robert. Daily Life in Greece at the Time of Pericles. Trans. Peter Green. 4th Ed. London: Phoenix Press, 2002. Glueck, Grace. "Art Review: Relics of Childhood from an Antique World." The New York Times 5 Sep. 2003. Web. 25 Jan. 2011. "The Military Has a Real Flair for Integration; What Plato Says." New York Times 13 Feb. 1993: 20. MasterFILE Premier. EBSCO. Web. 13 Feb. 2011. Rothstein, Edward. "How the Ancients Became Trendy: The Road from Euripides to Revolution." The New York Times 29 Oct. 2004. Web. 25 Jan. 2011.

Bates / Ganymede 13 Salisbury, Joyce E., and Gregory Aldrete. "Children in Ancient Greece." Daily Life Through History 2011. ABC-CLIO. Web. 1 Feb. 2011. Satchell, Michael. "Dangerous Liaisons." Mysteries of History: The Ancient World (2004): 48. MasterFILE Premier. EBSCO. Web. 13 Feb. 2011. Scott, Michael. "The Rise of Women in Ancient Greece." History Today 59.11 (2009): 34-40. Academic Search Complete. Web. 1 Feb. 2011. Worley, Michael Preston. "The Image of Ganymede in France, 1730 - 1820: The Survival of a Homoerotic Myth." The Art Bulletin 76.4 (1994): 630 - 643. JSTOR Archive. Web. 27 Jan. 2011.