On Greek love
(When asked why he wrote hymns to boys instead of the gods) "Because boys are our gods."
Anakreon, 6th century BC, as recorded in a footnote to an ancient edition of Pindar's 2nd Isthmian Ode
"I cannot say what greater good there is for a boy than finding a good lover, or for a lover than finding a boy to love. Love, more than anything …, implants in men the thing which must be their guide if they are to live a good life. And what is that? It is shame of what is shameful, and a passionate desire for what is good."
Plato, Symposium 178, words reportedly spoken by Phaidros in 416 BC.
"Those who are mad about sex cannot be taught to care about anything more than that. It is not easy to discover any hope or concern more pleasurable than a passionate desire for sexual intercourse with boys."
Xenophon, Economics XII 13-14, words reportedly spoken in 401 BC.
"Do not look upon beardless boys, for their eyes hold more of a temptation than the eyes of hūrīs."
The Prophet Mohammed, early 7th century, as attributed in the tale "Girls or Boys?" in The Thousand Nights and One Night
"He who claims that he experiences no desire when looking at beautiful boys or youths is a liar, and if we could believe him, he would be an animal, not a human being."
Ibn al-Jawzi, 12th century.
"It appears you don't have any fun.... Here there are no young lads, nor any women. What kind of fucking house is this?"
Niccolò Macchiavelli, in a letter imagining his reaction visiting the house of a friend he fears will become ill through listening to prudish admonitions, 1514.
"All they that love not tobacco and boys are fools."
Remark attributed to Christopher Marlowe from the testimony of Richard Baines, a government informer, in 1593
"If it be sinne to love a lovely lad,
Oh then sinne I, for whom my soule is sad."
Richard Barnfield, The Teares of an Affectionate Shepheard Sicke for Love, 1594.
"Boy-love is as old as mankind, and one can say of it that it is natural even though it is 'against' nature."
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe in one of his conversations (No. 265, 7 April 1830 with Chancellor Friedrich von Mülle)
"At school, friendship is a passion... All loves of after-life can never bring its rapture, or its wretchedness; no bliss so absorbing, no pangs of jealousy...so keen! What bitter estrangements and what melting reconciliations; what scenes of wild recrimination, agitating explanations, passionate correspondence...what earthquakes of the heart...are confirmed in that simple phrase, a schoolboy’s friendship!"
Benjamin Disraeli, Coningsby, 1844
"Greek culture of the classical era is a masculine culture. ... The erotic relationship of the men with the youths was, to a degree we can no longer comprehend, the sole and necessary presupposition of all male education. ... All the practical idealism of the Hellenic nature threw itself upon this relationship, and young people have probably never since been treated with so much attention and kindness or so completely with a view to enhancing their best qualities (virtus) as they were in the sixth and fifth centuries — in accordance, that is, with Hölderlin’s fine maxim ‘for the mortal gives of his best when loving’."
Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche, ‘A Masculine Culture’, Aphorism 259 of Human, All Too Human, 1878
"Worldwide, in Greece and Rome as in the Near East, China, and Japan, pretty boys have usually been considered by men to be as sexually desirable as women. This seems to me to be perfectly natural. Judeo-Christianity is unusual in finding the practice of boy-love abhorrent. Exclusive sex or love affairs between adult males is another matter. This phenomenon is so rare, when we consider history as a whole, that it requires explanation."
Camille Paglia, "Homosexuality at the Fin de Siecle" in Sex, Art, and American Culture, 1992
"Naturally, like most men, I am attracted to adolescent males - this is, by the way, one of the best kept secrets of the male lodge."
Gore Vidal, Palimpsest, 1995
On writing about Greek love
“To other subjects, it is expected that you sit down cool: but on this subject if you let it be seen that you have not sat down in a rage you have given judgment against yourself at once. … There is a kind of punishment annexed to the offence of treating it with any sort of temper, and that one of the most formidable that a man can be subjected to, the punishment of being suspected at least, if not accused, of a propensity to committ it, [if he] pleads for the liberty of trying the offence by the principle of utility. … On this subject a man may indulge his spleen without controul. Cruelty and intolerance, the most odious and most mischievous passions in human nature, screen themselves behind a mask of virtue. [In speaking of this crime, men] make a merit of discarding all reason and all humanity.”
Jeremy Bentham, Offences against One's Self: Paederasty, 1785
"Children of the future age
Reading this indignant page
Know that in a former time
Love, sweet Love, was thought a crime!"
William Blake, Songs of Innocence and Experience, 1794
"Those who find ugly meanings in beautiful things are corrupt without being charming. This is a fault. Those who find beautiful meanings in beautiful things are the cultivated. For these there is hope. They are the elect to whom beautiful things mean only Beauty."
Oscar Wilde, in the Preface to The Picture of Dorian Gray, 1890
"Did you believe perhaps that I would have cried out to you because I hoped for sympathy, tolerance, understanding from you? Because I still believed in the possibility of justice in our time? Because I still had hope?
Happiness? None of us believes any longer in happiness. Justice? We laugh at it as an empty word. Hope? We have given it all up, down to the last.
No. I cried out to you, because I had to cry out!"
John Henry Mackay, Sagitta's Books of the Nameless Love, 1913