three pairs of lovers with space

GREEK LOVE IN THE NEAR EAST AND NORTH AFRICA SINCE ANTIQUITY

 

Greek love down to the 4th century in both this part of the world and Europe is treated under "Antiquity". Though on the European side of the Bosphoros, Constantinople (Istanbul) is here treated as part of the Near East for its obvious greater cultural affinity with it. Much the most penetrative and balanced study of the love phenomenon summarised here is Before Homosexuality in the Arab-Islamic World, 1500-1800 by Khaled El-Rouayheb (2005).

The single most decisive change in the fortunes of Greek love in the Near East and North Africa was the triumph of Christianity in the 4th century, with its fierce denunciation and prohibition of male homosexuality.  The more enduring triumph of Islam, another Abrahamic religion with a similar prohibition, in the 7th century, was less shattering in its implications.

Attitudes to Greek love in this region down to the nineteenth century remained fairly similar to those in Christendom down to the seventeenth.  In both, it was generally taken for granted that beautiful boys (but not men, the principal distinction here being the beard), as well as women, were sexually attractive to men. Liwāt (the act of the people of Lot), like its Christian equivalent of sodomy, was interpreted as severely prescribing pedication, which was assumed to be what men longed for sexually with boys.

There was, however, one remarkable difference.  Whereas in Christendom, the feelings that led men to want sex with boys were themselves condemned as temptations from Satan, a considerable body of Moslem religious opinion held that the love of boys, including the love of them for their beauty, was acceptable or even commendable, so long as it remained chaste.

Unsurprisingly, the fact that love of boys could be expressed with an openness and frequency that was unthinkable in Christendom meant that men succumbed to the temptation to consummate it more often than is known to have been the case there.

Pre-twentieth century Islamic attitudes to Greek love were much the same as those to fornication or drinking wine and on the whole resembled those of Christendom towards adultery rather than pederasty.

The age of the loved boy in the Arab-Islamic World, 1500-1800 is historian Khaled El-Rouayheb's thoroughly well-sourced discussion of the important question of the age range and physical development of the boys who attracted men.

The Thousand Nights and One Night includes some colourful stories involving Greek love in mediaeval Islamic societies.

"Le Vice" in Turkey by Jonathan Drake is a history of the trading and treatment of catamites in Turkey.

The works of the contemporary Byzantine historians Doukas and Laonikos Chalkokondyles, both covering regional history from the early 14th century to the 1460s, mention the pederastic activity of several early Ottoman rulers.

The Ottoman prince Jem and the lovely French boys is a poem, probably by his foremost follower, celebrating the beauty of the boys at a banquet given for the exiled prince at Nice in 1482.

The English adventurer Sir Thomas Sherley, in Constantinople from 1603 to 1606,  reported of the Turks in his generally accurate account, Discours of the Turkes:

Theyre mannor of liuinge in priuate & in generalle is moste vnciuille & vicious; & firste, for theyre vices they are all pagans & infidelles, Sodomittes, liars, & drunkardes, & for theyre Sodommerye they vse it soe publiquelye & impudentelye as an honest Christian woulde shame to companye his wyffe as they doe with theyre buggeringe boyes.

The totall discourse of the rare adventures & painefull peregrinations of long nineteene yeares travayles from Scotland to the most famous kingdomes in Europe, Asia and Affrica by William Lithgow published in London in 1632, of which everything bearing on Greek love has been extracted here, offers valuable insights on its prevalence in Turkey (see the extracts from 1610-11 on pp. 145-6), Egypt (see the extract from 1612 on p. 272) and Morocco (see the extract from 1615 on pp. 322-23).

Henry Blount, an Englishman who travelled in the Ottoman Empire in 1634 witnessed the Turks' sexual preference for boys with unusually non-judgemental eyes, even befriending a pasha's favourite catamite as  a social introduction, as he described in his  A Voyage into the Levant.

His more typically opinionated compatriot John Fryer's A New Account of East India and Persia makes it clear that in the 1670s Persians were generally as sexually enthusiastic about boys as women.

A Faithful Account of the Religion and Manners of the Mahometans is by Joseph Pitts, an English sailor who, following his capture by pirates, lived in North Africa from 1678 to 1693, mostly as a slave, and includes his remarks on the popularity of Greek love in Algiers.

The brief reference of the French nobleman C-F. Volney in his Travels Through Syria and Egypt to the addiction to Greek love of the Mamlouks dominating Egypt in 1783 is notable for the writer's perceptive observation of its appeal in societies where there was plentiful guaranteed availability of sex with females: only boys could offer the emotional fulfilment of winning love or sex through success in courtship.

English traveller J. S. Buckingham's Travels in Assyria, Media, and Persia has a detailed description of a passionate but chaste love affair between a man and boy in Baghdad in 1815. Buckingham's struggle to understand the man, his esteemed travelling companion, highlights the cultural clash between locals and Europeans in an age when the latter had come to believe homosexuality was the propensity of a depraved minority, as well as remaining unable to accept chaste but physically-inspired love.

Egypt and Mohammed Ali by James St. John, an 1834 account by a visiting Welsh journalist, includes a briefdescription of the mostly Greek slave-boys kept as catamites in Cairo.

The initiation of André Gide is his own account of his first sexual experiences in Tunisia and Algeria in 1893-5.

Lord Alfred "Bosie" Douglas's Adventures in Algeria, 1895 are recounted from the primary sources.

The Oasis of Siwa in 1947-8, by Robin Maugham is one of several accounts of the pederasty practised in that remote part of Egypt, where it flourished on a par with heterosexuality and man/boy weddings were common.

D. Drew & J. Drake, in their Boys for Sale. A Sociological Study of Boy Prostitution (New York, 1969) give accounts of boy prostitution in Algeria and Morocco from the 17th century, Egypt from the 19th century, and the Near East, mostly Mecca, The Lebanon, Syria, Turkey and Iran from 1945.

In the same book, An American initiated in war-time Naples, 1943-67 includes a first-hand account of sex in the boy-brothels of Tangier in 1943.

Michael Davidson's loves in French Morocco, 1937-40 and 1947 is an English boysexual journalist's autobiographical account. A Chleuh Dance: Marrakech in 1947 is his description of a then regularly performed erotic dance by boys, Enthrallingly Wicked Tangier, 1939-48 is an account of his many liaisons in the Arab city then most famous for sex with boys,  The Boys of the New Israel, 1948 is a chapter of personal appreciation of that country, and Cyprus 1954-7 presents the brief references to Greek love in his account of his time on that island.

The Orton Diaries, 1967 include vivid description of English playwright Joe Orton's sexual liaisons with Tangerine boys over seven weeks. Tangier: A Writer's Notebook is boysexual British writer Angus Stewart's time in Tangier from 1961 to 1974, personally reticent, but revealing as to the local scene.

The Way It Is in Morocco is an Englishman's account of his Greek love adventure in Morocco in 1974.