three pairs of lovers with space

THE GREEK EXPERIMENT BY PARKER ROSSMAN

 

The following is the one of the sections of the seventh chapter of Dr. Parker Rossman’s Sexual Experience Between Men and Boys (New York, 1976), entitled "The Uses of History", and introduced here.

 

The Greek Experiment

This sensuous “sport of kings” had always existed in Greece.[1] Indeed, Alexander the Great’s father was killed by such a catamite.[2] Alexander probably indulged in such erotic pleasures himself.[3] The Persians said that pederasty had begun in Crete,[4] which was one of the first civilizations with the wealth and leisure to enjoy such tastes. Aristotle said that man-boy sex play was encouraged there to prevent overpopulation. Varied sorts of pederasty may have existed in Greece from prehistoric times, for Greek gods were portrayed in mythology as being sexually involved with boys in ways which appear to sanction religious and ritualistic pederasty. As Greek civilization began to flower a few centuries before Christ, the Greeks sought through philosophy and science to beautify and elevate all aspects of human life; for example, seeking to transform avarice into industriousness and lust into love. They sought to deal creatively in this way with the erotic attraction of boys for men by ennobling and beautifying the relationship in an experiment aimed at transforming pederastic desires into a constructive force for education. Men who were erotically attracted to boys were obliged to love their souls and to cultivate in boys a beauty of mind which would endure and enrich all life.[5] The Greeks glorified youth and beauty and sought thus to transform the “sport of kings” which exploited boys into the paiderastia which would use the erotic bond as a teaching device, enhancing the learning process by a bond of affection.[6]

This Greek experiment in transforming pederasty was probably limited from the beginning by two cultural factors. First, Greek sexual culture degraded women,[7] and second, the existence of slavery inevitably corrupted the experiment.[8] As one pederast says: “It was never as platonic as some writers suggest. The beauty they praised in boys was frankly erotic, as they sang of bright laughing eyes, teasing sex games, youthful skin to massage after a game, grace in wrestling and kissing contests, sleeping entwined.” The Greek experiment succeeded in one sense, however, in that it used pederast eroticism to strengthen the bond between soldiers and the apprentice warriors, thus inspiring heroism on the battlefield, but the use of phrases like “frenzied, uncontrolled passion” do not suggest that such sexual experience between soldier and boy was entirely spiritual even at the height of the experiment’s success.[9] In Crete it was the custom for a man to kidnap a boy he liked, taking him home for a two-month “honeymoon” after which the boy was rewarded by a gift of armor.[10] Beside this image of the noble tutor who nurtured the soul of a boy, we must place the record of the well-bred twelve-year- old boy seduced by sweet-talking cynics at the gymnasium,[11] who coquettishly asked for gifts in exchange for sexual favors, and the continuing existence of perfumed pubescents in the brothels.[12] A pederast who has studied the epoch concludes: “Then as now the world was peopled by all sorts. Ancient Greece was not a pederast culture, but it tolerated several pederast subcultures, as reflected in religion, literature, and art. There is a continuing influence across history of the Greek experience, with Greek philosophy used by some to justify homosexuality, sensuous exploitive pederasty, and platonic friendship. Man-boy sex play may not have been so different then, perhaps the Greeks were just more poetic and artistic. The constructive aspect of the Greek experiment was an emphasis on motive - that the same act could be destructive or loving, depending on how one valued a boy and respected him.”[13]

 

[1] By ‘this sensuous “sport of kings” ‘, Rossman apparently means what he had just previously described, that is to say the behaviour of “heterosexual men” who “were not seeking love, but play and diversion.” There is no evidence that this form of pederasty “had always existed in Greece”. Indeed, there is little evidence that pederasty existed in any form in pre-7th-century BC Greece beyond the belief of Greeks of the classical age that it had. (This is not to say it had not existed; the general problem with Rossman's ancient history is not that his account is inherently unlikely, but that so much of it is unadmitted guesswork.)

[2] Alexander’s father, Philip II of Macedon, was killed by a former loved-boy who felt himself to have been dishonoured. His notion that this had happened rested on his noble background and his having been a free agent in his affair with the King, so the description of him as a “catamite” is a misleading calumny.

[3] See Mary Renault, The Persian Boy. New York: Pantheon, 1972 [Author’s footnote]. The source cited here is a novel, not a historical study, albeit an excellent and historically-realistic one. It is again an entirely unjustified calumny to use this fine piece of fiction to present Alexander as an exemplar of this exploitive form of pederasty since Renault went to painstaking lengths to make clear that it would have been utterly alien to Alexander’s personality to make sexual use of an unenthusiastic lover. As she points out, this was a man who angrily rejected as an insult the offer of beautiful slave-boys.

[4] D. H. Cory, Homosexuality: A Cross Cultural Approach (New York: Julian Press, 1956). [Author’s footnote]. The source cited is (typically for Rossman on history) a non-historian modern apparently as ignorant of historical evidence as Rossman himself. Nothing whatsoever is recorded about where the ancient Persians said they got pederasty from. Herodotos, the single greatest source for their history, said (The Histories I 135) that “the Greeks taught them pederasty”. It was numerous Greek writers who credited the Cretans with having invented pederasty, whence it spread to the rest of them. See the article Pederasty in ancient Crete.

[5] A. Kenney et al. Symposium (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1968), p. 13. [Author’s footnote].

[6] There are simply no grounds for believing in such a transformation, which presupposes on no evidence that a different, more selfish form of pederasty had existed before.

[7] As usual, no evidence cited. It is most unlikely any ancient Greek would have agreed with this bigoted modernist claim.

[8] How so? Saying that the Greek “experiment” of making good use of the bonds of affection in pederastic love affairs was “corrupted” by the existence of sex between men and slave-boys amounts to claiming the benefits of true love cannot be felt in a world in which there is also coercion.

[9] It is ludicrous of Rossman to venture to discredit the integrity of military pederasty in ancient Greece on the grounds of its having an erotic basis it did not admit to when (1) no Greek writer ever claimed this form of pederasty was chaste, and (2) it would not have been pederasty if it was not founded on eros.

[10] This jaundiced account ignores the fact that, according to our sole source of information on the matter, Strabon’s Geography X 4 xxi-xxii, the “kidnapping” was a ritual to legitimise a mutually-desired elopement accepted in advance by the boy’s family.

[11] No evidence of a boy of twelve thus seduced exists in Greek literature.

[12] No evidence exists that boys in ancient Greek brothels were “perfumed”.

[13] At long last in this inadequately-considered venture into remote history, one arrives at a clear truth about not only pederasty, but all sexual activity!

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