three pairs of lovers with space

MISCELLANEOUS GREEK EPIGRAMS OF THE IMPERIAL ROMAN ERA

 

Presented here are epigrams in the Greek Anthology on the subject of pederasty from the Roman imperial era (27 BC-AD 476). They range in date from one written at very approximately the beginning of that era to two that are most probably fourth century. They are miscellaneous in that they consist of one or two by various authors, and are all those of Greek love interest except the ninety-eight by Straton (probably early 2nd century AD) and those from the anthology known as the Garland of Philip that belong to the earliest part of this period.

Given the long time period involved in this miscellany, it has seemed best to arrange them in most likely chronological order, even though that order is very far from certain.

The translations are by W. R. Paton in The Greek Anthology, Volumes I and IV: Loeb Classical Library Vols. LXVII and LXXXV (Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1916, 8). The only amendments are to undo his Latinisation of Greek names in favour of more literal transliteration of the Greek.

 

Tudicius Gallus

The Gallus who wrote the following epigram is called by the lemmatist τοῦ δικαίου Γάλλου, which translates as “the righteous Gallus”, but the τοῦ δικαίου is generally thought to be a corruption of “Tudicius”, a real Roman nomen. Nothing is known about him and there is no way of knowing if he was the Gallus who wrote another epigram in the Anthology (XVI 89) that is of no Greek love interest. “Obscene epigrams [like the following]  are very rare in Philip's Garland, but the style and vocabulary of 5.49 are consistent with that period (c. 90 B.C. to c. A.D. 40).[1]

V (Erotic Epigrams by Various Poets) 49

A very wrong epigram[2]

I, Lyde, service three men at once (one above the belly, one below, and one behind): I grant admittance to one man who likes boys, one crazy for women, and one who likes it rough.[3] If you’re in a hurry, don’t hold back, even if you came with two others.

πγραμμα δικτατον

Ἡ τρισὶ λειτουργοῦσα πρὸς ἓν τάχος ἀνδράσι Λύδη,
     τῷ μὲν ὑπὲρ νηδύν, τῷ δ᾽ ὑπό, τῷ 〈δ᾽〉 ὄπιθεν,
εἰσδέχομαι φιλόπαιδα, γυναικομανῆ, φιλυβριστήν·
     εἰ σπεύδεις, ἐλθὼν σὺν δυσί, μὴ κατέχου.



Anonymous

“The context in [The Greek Anthology] offers no clue to the source of the epigram; theme and style suggest a date not later than the period of Philip's Garland”, ie. AD 50.[4]

V (Erotic Epigrams by Various Poets) 65

As an eagle Zeus came to godlike Ganymede, and as a swan to the blond mother of Helen.[5] So there is no comparison between the two passions:[6] some prefer one of the two and others the other. I like both. Αἰετὸς ὁ Ζεὺς ἦλθεν ἐπ᾽ ἀντίθεον Γανυμήδην,
     κύκνος ἐπὶ ξανθὴν μητέρα τὴν Ἑλένης.
οὕτως ἀμφότερ᾽ ἐστὶν ἀσύγκριτα· τῶν δύο δ᾽ αὐτῶνἄ
     λλοις ἄλλο δοκεῖ κρεῖσσον, ἐμοὶ τὰ δύο.
 
Roman mosaics of the loves of Zeus. On the l., Helen's mother Leda and the swan (3rd century AD, found at the Sanctuary of Aphrodite at Palaipaphos, Cyprus & now in the museum there). On the r., Ganymede and the eagle (Archaeological Museum, Sousse, mid-2nd century AD)



Plato the Younger

IX (The Declamatory Epigrams) 751

Plato Πλάτων the Younger, so-called to distinguish him from the famous philosopher, was the author of six epigrams in the Anthology, of which only the following one is of Greek love interest. His date “can only be conjectured from his relation to some of the latest contributors to Philip's Garland: […] It is a fair guess that he lived about the middle of the first century A.D.”[7]

The stone is Hyakinthos, and on it are Apollo and Daphne. Of which was Apollo rather the lover?[8] 

Ἁ σφραγὶς ὑάκινθος· Ἀπόλλων δ᾿ ἐστὶν ἐν αὐτῇ
     καὶ Δάφνη· ποτέρου μᾶλλον ὁ Λητοΐδας;

 

Julius Leonides

Julius Leonides of Alexandria settled in Rome, where he was a court poet in the reign of Nero (AD 54-68).  He was the author of forty-two epigrams in the Greek Anthology, of which only the following one is of Greek love interest.

XII 20

Zeus is again rejoicing in the banquets of the Ethiopians,[9] or, turned to gold, hath stolen to Danae’s chamber; for it is a marvel that, seeing Periandros, he did not carry off from Earth the lovely youth or is the god no longer a lover of boys?[10]  Ὁ Ζεὺς Αἰθιόπων πάλι τέρπεται εἰλαπίναισιν,
     ἢ χρυσὸς Δανάης εἵρπυσεν εἰς θαλάμους·
θαῦμα γὰρ εἰ Περίανδρον ἰδὼν οὐχ ἥρπασε γαίης
     τὸν καλόν· ἢ φιλόπαις οὐκέτι νῦν ὁ θεός.
 

 

Eros with Danae as Zeus comes to her in the form of a shower of gold, by Antonio Correggio, 1531



Lucilius

“Loukillios”, whose name is probably the Roman nomen Lucilius, wrote 123 humorous epigrams in Rome in the reign of Nero (AD 54-68), but the following is the only one of Greek love interest.

XI (The Convivial and Satirical Epigrams) 216

You have heard of Kratippos as a lover of boys. It is a great marvel I have to tell you, but great goddesses are the Avengers. We discovered that Kratippos, the lover of boys, belongs now to another variety of those persons whose tastes lie in an inverse direction. Would I ever have expected this? I expected it, Kratippos. Shall I go mad because, while you told everyone you were a wolf, you suddenly turned out to be a kid? Τὸν φιλόπαιδα Κράτιππον ἀκούσατε· θαῦμα γὰρὑμῖν
     καινὸν ἀπαγγέλλω· πλὴν μεγάλαι Νεμέσεις.
τὸν φιλόπαιδα Κράτιππον ἀνεύρομεν ἄλλο γένος τι
     τῶν ἑτεροζήλων. ἤλπισα τοῦτ᾿ ἂν ἐγώ;
ἤλπισα τοῦτο, Κράτιππε· μανήσομαι εἰ, λύκος εἶναι
     πᾶσι λέγων, ἐφάνης ἐξαπίνης ἔριφος;


                                                                            Explanation:
This poem “deals with a homosexual who acts as a kid, that is, a pathicus or eromenos, although from his age one would expect him to be the aggressive partner or wolf. This situation was considered shameful and abnormal, and it is here the 'new wonder' more wonderful than his taste for men in the first place. Hair is not mentioned, except in so far as Cratippus is called a λκος. There is, however, one more reason to deal with the poem here: the likelihood that the plural μεγλαι Νεμσεις in line 2 suggests 'hairs' as in Automedon 10.4. The nemesis consisting in hairs would then be the result of having refused a lover at the time when Cratippus was still a hairless 'kid'. Hence, the same situation as Fronto A.P. xii I74, who urged Cyrus to yield, warning him that hairs would soon make him cut the oxymoronic figure of an adult erōmenos because of impotence. Thus in Lucillius’ epigram it seems likely that  Νεμσεις gives us a clue for interpreting the main motif - new marvel about Cratippus - in the light of a secondary motif: the appearance of hair as a punishment for earlier resistance.”[11]

 

Anonymous

Based on style and substance, this “may come from the circle of Strato”,[12] ie. belong to the first half of the second century AD.

XI (The Convivial and Satirical Epigrams) 52

Caught, Thrasyboulos, in the net of a boy’s love, thou gaspest like a dolphin on the beach, longing for the waves, and not even Perseus’ sickle[13] is sharp enough to cut through the net that binds thee.  Παιδειῳ, Θρασύβουλε, σαγηνευθεὶς ὑπ᾿ ἔρωτι
     ἀσθμαίνεις, δελφὶς ὥς τις ἐπ᾿ αἰγιαλοῦ
κύματος ἱμείρων· δρέπανον δέ σοι οὐδὲ τὸ Περσέως
     ἀρκεῖ ἀποτμῆξαι δίκτυον ᾧ δέδεσαι.
 
Cupid, the Roman boy god of love, riding a dolphin (Roman mosaic at Colonia Aelia Hadriana Augusta Bulla Regia, Numidia)



Anonymous

Alone of the anonymous epigrams in The Boyish Muse, this does not come from the Garland of Meleagros, but “probably comes from the circle of Strato”,[14] ie. belongs to the first half of the second century AD.

XII (The Boyish Muse) 19

Though I would, I cannot make thee my friend[15] for neither dost thou ask, nor give to me when I ask, nor accept what I give. Οὐ δύναμαί σε θέλων θέσθαι φίλον· οὔτε γὰρ αἰτεῖς,
     οὔτ᾿ αἰτοῦντι δίδως, οὔθ᾿ ἃ δίδωμι δέχῃ.
 



Noumenios of Tarsos

Noumenios Νουμήνιος of Tarsos in Bithynia lived roughly around the early 2nd century AD, like Straton, in whose Boyish Muse his only epigram appears.

XII (The Boyish Muse) 28

Kyros is Lord (kyrios). What does it matter to me if he lacks a letter? I do not read the fair, I look on him.  Κῦρος κύριός ἐστι· τί μοι μέλει, εἰ παρὰ γράμμα;
     οὐκ ἀναγινώσκω τὸν καλόν, ἀλλὰ βλέπω.

 

Lucian

Loukianos of Samosata was an Assyrian satirist and rhetorician who during a stay of ten years in Athens ca. AD 165-175 wrote in Greek a large number of popular books mostly deploying tongue-in-cheek sarcasm to ridicule the common practices of the day.

VI (The Dedicatory Epigrams) 17

(A Skit on the above Exercises.)[16]

To you, Lady Venus, three harlots dedicated offerings from their various practices: Euphro from the buttocks, Kleio from the lawful orifice, Atthis from the mouth. In return, Mistress, give the first a boy’s reward[17], the second a woman’s, and the third, neither’s.  Αἱ τρισσαί τοι ταῦτα τὰ παίγνια θῆκαν ἑταῖραι,
     Κύπρι μάκαιρ᾿, ἄλλης ἄλλη ἀπ᾿ ἐργασίης·
ὧν ἀπὸ μὲν πυγῆς Εὐφρὼ τάδε, ταῦτα δὲ Κλειὼ
     ὡς θέμις, ἡ τριτάτη δ᾿ Ἀτθὶς ἀπ᾿ οὐρανίων.
ἀνθ᾿ ὧν τῇ μὲν πέμπε τὰ παιδικά, δεσπότι, κέρδη,
     τῇ δὲ τὰ θηλείης, τῇ δὲ τὰ μηδετέρης.
 
Harlots in a variety of positions for intercourse, 6th-century BC (vase in The Louvre)


                                                                               Comment
“The humour involved, and the attention to detail, tempt one to accept the poem as Lucianic. Unhappily, as always, the self-same details revealed by analysis indicate that both theme and treatment are too conventional to prove anything.”[18]

 

Fronto

Fronto, whose name is Roman, was, according to William Smith’s authoritative A Dictionary of Greek and Roman biography and mythology (1867) the Fronto of Emesa in Syria whom the 10th-century Byzantine encyclopaedia, the Souda (phi 735) says lived in the reign of Septimius Severus (AD 193-211), taught rhetoric in Athens and died there aged about sixty.

He wrote one other epigram, also in The Boyish Muse, no. 233, but, like some others in it, it appears to have nothing to do with pederasty and the translator said he could not see its point.

XII (The Boyish Muse) 174

How long wilt thou resist me, dearest Cyrus? What art thou doing? Dost thou not pity thy Cambyses? tell me. Become not a Mede,  for soon thou shalt be a Scythian and the hairs will make thee Astyages. Μέχρι τίνος πολεμεῖς μ᾿, ὦ φίλτατε Κῦρε; τί ποιεῖς;
     τὸν σὸν Καμβύσην οὐκ ἐλεεῖς; λέγε μοι.
μὴ γίνου Μῆδος· Σάκας γὰρ ἔσῃ μετὰ μικρόν,
     καί σε ποιήσουσιν ταὶ τρίχες Ἀστυάγην.


                                                                             Explanation
The names are all taken from the Cyropaedia, Xenophon’s biography of Cyrus the Great, founder of the Persian Empire. Besides Cambyses being the latter’s father and thus the older male, ie. lover, his name also suggests kamno, ‘to get tired’, while Cyrus evokes ‘master’. “In other words: ‘Master, take pity upon me who am growing tired’. The two fold metaphor continues in the second couplet. ‘Do not become a Μῆδος’, alluding to the time Cyrus spent with the Medes, suggests μη δός, one who does not yield to erotic pursuit. In Xenophon Sakas is Cambyses’s handsome cup-bearer. Yet on hearing Σάκας we make the association with σάκ(κ)ος, ‘coarse beard’, and the line gets a second meaning ‘you will soon have a beard’. Finally, in the last verse Astyages, the name of Cyrus’s maternal grandfather, also suggests α-privative + στύω ‘to have an erection’. “ So the hairs will not only make you an old man, but lead to impotence in others.[19]

 

Rufinus

Rufinus, who probably lived near Ephesus, was the author of thirty-seven amatory epigrams in the fifth book of the Greek Anthology that are hard to date. He could have written any time between the second half of the 1st century AD and the second half of the 4th, but his vocabulary makes the 4th century most likely.[20]

V (Erotic Epigrams by Various Poets) 19

A contrarian love poem

No longer mad for boys, as before, I am now called mad for women; now my discus is a rattle.[21] Instead of the unadulterated complexion of boys, I am now fond of chalked skin, accented with the blush of rouge. Dolphins will feed on tree-crowned Erymanthos,[22] and swift deer in the foaming wave of the sea!

ρωτικν λλκοτον

Οὐκέτι παιδομανὴς ὡς πρίν ποτε, νῦν δὲ καλοῦμαι
     θηλυμανής, καὶ νῦν δίσκος ἐμοὶ κρόταλον·
ἀντὶ δέ μοι παίδων ἀδόλου χροὸς ἤρεσε γύψου
     χρώματα καὶ φύκους ἄνθος ἐπεισόδιον.
βοσκήσει δελφῖνας ὁ δενδροκόμης Ἐρύμανθος
     καὶ πολιὸν πόντου κῦμα θοὰς ἐλάφους.

 
V (Erotic Epigrams by Various Poets) 28

On a young man

Now you say goodbye, malicious one, when the more than marble smoothness of your face is gone. Now you tease me, when you have done away with the ringlets that strayed onto your haughty neck.[23] Don’t come near me anymore, lofty one; don’t meet with me! I don’t accept a bramble for a rose.

ες μειρκιον

Νῦν μοι “χαῖρε” λέγεις, ὅτε σου τὸ πρόσωπον ἀπῆλθεν
     κεῖνο τὸ τῆς λύγδου, βάσκανε, λειότερον·
νῦν μοι προσπαίζεις, ὅτε τὰς τρίχας ἠφάνικάς σου
     τὰς ἐπὶ τοῖς σοβαροῖς αὐχέσι πλαζομένας.
μηκέτι μοι, μετέωρε, προσέρχεο μηδὲ συνάντα·
     ἀντὶ ῥόδου γὰρ ἐγὼ τὴν βάτον οὐ δέχομαι.

Relief from Pompeii showing Roman boys with ringlets straying onto their necks (National Archaeological Museum, Naples)

[1] D. L. Page, Further Greek Epigrams, Cambridge University Press, 1981, p. 61.

[2] The lemmatist puns on the name of the author, which his text transmits as “the righteous Gallus.” [Translator’s note]

[3] τῷ ὑπό refers to the γυναικομανής, τῷ ὄπιθεν to the φιλόπαις. The editions refer τῷ ὑπὲρ νηδύν to the φιλυβριστήνς, equating this with irrumator, presumably rightly, though the phrase u-rrep vr|8uv does not immediately suggest this.” (D. L. Page, Further Greek Epigrams, Cambridge University Press, 1981, p. 61). Therefore this is yet another epigram affirming the general Greek assumption that boy-lovers will want to penetrate bottoms.

[4] D. L. Page, Further Greek Epigrams, Cambridge University Press, 1981, p. 314.

[5] I.e., Leda. [Translator’s note]

[6] I.e., for boys or for women. [Translator’s note]

[7] D. L. Page, Further Greek Epigrams, Cambridge University Press, 1981, p. 82.

[8] Hyakinthos was the Greek name for jacinth, a gemstone, as well as a boy loved by Apollo and the flower into which he was turned when killed by accident. Daphne was a nymph loved by Apollo.

[9] Homer, Iliad i. 423. [Translator’s note]

[10] Zeus appeared as a shower of gold to the beautiful Argive princess Danae, who bore him the hero Perseus. The poem is a compliment to the beauty of the boy Periandros whom only the two extreme distractions mentioned or a new indifference to boys could have prevented Zeus from carrying him off (as he did Ganymede).

[11] Sonya Lida Tarán, “An Erotic Motif in the Greek Anthology” in The Journal of Hellenic Studies, Vol. 105 (1985), p. 103.

[12] D. L. Page, Further Greek Epigrams, Cambridge University Press, 1981, p. 311.

[13] The sickle-shaped knife with which he was armed and with which he liberated Andromeda. [Translator’s note]

[14] D. L. Page, Further Greek Epigrams, Cambridge University Press, 1981, p. 311.

[15] φίλον, translated here as “friend” is necessarily masculine, and sometimes used in the sense of “beloved”, like eromenos, hence why this epigram is assumed to be pederastic  here and by the 10th-century organiser of the Greek Anthology (and very likely also by Straton as original compiler of The Boyish Muse).

[16] The “above exercises” were six epigrams by different poets about three brothers who dedicated to Pan the three nets they had used to catch three different kinds of game.

[17] Hence this is yet another epigram illustrating the universal assumption in ancient Greek literature, whenever means of consummation is addressed, that penetration of the buttocks was what sex with boys amounted to.

[18] Barry Baldwin, “The Epigrams of Lucian” in Phoenix, Winter 1975, Vol. 29, No. 4 (Winter, 1975), p. 333.

[19] Walter Dynes and Stephen Donaldson (editors), Homosexuality in the Ancient World (1992) p. 99.

[20] This is the conclusion of Sir Denys Page, who considered the question exhaustively in the introduction to his The Epigrams of Rufinus, Cambridge University Press, 1978. Barry Baldwin, “Notes on Rufinus” in Phoenix, Vol. 34, No. 4, Winter 1980, pp. 337-346 gives copious literary references “all of which seem […] strongly to reinforce Page's late dating.” On the other hand, Alan Cameron, “Strato and Rufinus” in The Classical Quarterly , 1982, Vol. 32, No. 1 (1982), pp. 162-173, argues against Page that Rufinus influenced Straton, for whom he strongly supports the most common dating to Hadrian’s reign, and was probably writing between AD 80 and 100.

[21] The discus was a boy’s toy, the rattle a girl’s, but an obscene allusion is concealed [Translator’s note]. Barry Baldwin may have exposed it: “Sexual double-entendres are common enough in the poets of the Anthology; […] Conceivably, the discus could symbolize a boy’s bottom, the rattle the vagina” (“Notes on Rufinus” in Phoenix, Vol. 34, No. 4, Winter 1980, p. 339).

[22] Erymanthos was a high mountain in Arcadia.

[23] Roman boys wore their hair long, and had it cut when they turned eighteen. [Translator’s note] However, D. L. Page says this happened when they were a year younger: “on the ceremonial cutting of the hair, and of the first beard, at the end of a boy’s seventeenth year, see Marquardt Privatleben der Römer (2nd ed. Leipzig, 1879) 581; the custom appears to have entered Rome from Greece in the imperial period.” (The Epigrams of Rufinus, Cambridge University Press, 1978, p. 82).

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