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three pairs of lovers with space



Dioskourides Διοσκουρίδης, “the author of thirty-nine epigrams in The Greek Anthology […] seems, from the internal evidence of his epigrams, to have lived in Egypt, about the time of Ptolemy Euergetes,”[1] (who reigned there 246-222 BC). Presented here are eight of his epigrams. Six of them are from the specifically pederastic twelfth book of The Greek Anthology known as The Boyish Muse, while two from other books allude to the practice of boy-love. His other epigrams were on various subjects, including some erotic ones about sex with women.

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


V.  Erotic Epigrams by Various Poets


Nonsense directed at men like himself: how to sleep with a pregnant woman

Never lay a pregnant woman on your bed face-to-face and enjoy her in procreative sex; there will be a large swell between you, and a lot of work for both—her being rowed, and you being tossed. Instead, turn your partner around and enjoy her rosy buttocks, practicing boy-sex.[2]

φλυαρία πρὸς ὁμοίους αὐτοῦ· πῶς δεῖ μετὰ γυναικὸς ἐγκύμονος συγκαθεύδειν

Μήποτε γαστροβαρῆ πρὸς σὸν λέχος ἀντιπρόσωπον
     παιδογόνῳ κλίνῃς Κύπριδι τερπόμενος.
μεσσόθι γὰρ μέγα κῦμα καὶ οὐκ ὀλίγος πόνος ἔσται
     τῆς μὲν ἐρεσσομένης σοῦ δὲ σαλευομένου.
ἀλλὰ πάλιν στρέψας ῥοδοειδέϊ τέρπεο πυγῇ
     τὴν ἄλοχον, νομίσας ἀρσενόπαιδα Κύπριν.

A man enjoying a girl's "rosy buttocks" as if she were a boy, while saying "Hexe hexukos" (Hold still!). Attic kylix of ca. 480 BC by the Douris painter, inscribed "The girl is beautiful" (Boston Museum of Fine Arts)


VII.  Sepulchral Epigrams

31.  On Anakreon[3]

O Anakreon, delight of the Muses, lord of all revels of the night, thou who wast melted to the marrow of thy bones for Thracian Smerdies,[4] O thou who often bending o’er the cup didst shed warm tears for Bathyllos,[5] may founts of wine bubble up for thee unbidden, and streams of ambrosial nectar from the gods; unbidden may the gardens bring thee violets, the flowers that love the evening, and myrtles grow for thee nourished by tender dew, so that even in the house of Demeter thou mayest dance delicately in thy cups, holding golden Eurypyle in thy arms.[6]  Σμερδίῃ ὦ ἐπὶ Θρῃκὶ τακεὶς καὶ ἐπ᾿ ἔσχατον ὀστεῦν,
     κώμου καὶ πάσης κοίρανε παννυχίδος,
τερπνότατε Μούσῃσιν Ἀνάκρεον, ὦ ᾿πὶ Βαθύλλῳ
     χλωρὸν ὑπὲρ κυλίκων πολλάκι δάκρυ χέας,
αὐτόματαί τοι κρῆναι ἀναβλύζοιεν ἀκρήτου,
     κἠκ μακάρων προχοαὶ νέκταρος ἀμβροσίου·
αὐτόματοι δὲ φέροιεν ἴον, τὸ φιλέσπερον ἄνθος,
     κῆποι, καὶ μαλακῇ μύρτα τρέφοιτο δρόσῳ·
ὄφρα καὶ ἐν Δηοῦς οἰνωμένος ἁβρὰ χορεύσῃς,
     βεβληκὼς χρυσέην χεῖρας ἐπ᾿ Εὐρυπύλην.


XII. The Boyish Muse


If Demophilos, when he reaches his prime, gives such kisses to his lovers as he gives me now he is a child, no longer shall his mother’s door remain quiet at night.[7]   Δημόφιλος τοιοῖσδε φιλήμασιν εἰ πρὸς ἐραστὰς
     χρήσεται ἀκμαίην, Κύπρι, καθ᾿ ἡλικίην,
ὡς ἐμὲ νῦν ἐφίλησεν ὁ νήπιος, οὐκέτι νύκτωρ
     ἥσυχα τῇ κείνου μητρὶ μενεῖ πρόθυρα.


Boy with exposed buttocks carrying a basket of food. Attic kylix inscribed "the boy is beautiful", by the Brygos painter, ca. 480 BC


Love, the murderer of men, moulded soft as marrow the back-side of Sosarchos of Amphipolis in fun, wishing to irritate Zeus because his thighs are much more honeyed than those of Ganymede.  Πυγὴν Σωσάρχοιο διέπλασεν Ἀμφιπολίτεω
     μυελίνην παίζων ὁ βροτολοιγὸς Ἔρως,
Ζῆνα θέλων ἐρεθίξαι, ὁθούνεκα τῶν Γανυμήδους
     μηρῶν οἱ τούτου πουλὺ μελιχρότεροι.



When you look on Hermogenes, boy-vulture, have your hands full, and perhaps you will succeed in getting that of which your heart dreams, and will relax the melancholy contraction of your brow. But if you fish for him, committing to the waves a line devoid of a hook, you will pull plenty of water out of the harbour; for neither pity nor shame dwells with an expensive screw-boy.   Βλέψον ἐς Ἑρμογένην πλήρει χερί, καὶ τάχα πρήξεις
     παιδοκόραξ ὧν σοι θυμὸς ὀνειροπολεῖ,
καὶ στυγνὴν ὀφρύων λύσεις τάσιν· ἢν δ᾿ ἁλιεύῃ
     ὀρφανὸν ἀγκίστρου κύματι δοὺς κάλαμον,
ἕλξεις ἐκ λιμένος πολλὴν δρόσον· οὐδὲ γὰρ αἰδὼς
     οὐδ᾿ ἔλεος δαπάνῳ κόλλοπι συντρέφεται.



I escaped from your weight, Theodoros, but no sooner had I said “I have escaped from my most cruel tormenting spirit” than a crueller one seized on me, and slaving for Aristokrates in countless ways, I am awaiting even a third master.  Ἐξέφυγον, Θεόδωρε, τὸ σὸν βάρος. ἀλλ᾿ ὅσον εἴπας
     “Ἐξέφυγον τὸν ἐμὸν δαίμονα πικρότατον,”
πικρότερός με κατέσχεν. Ἀριστοκράτει δὲ λατρεύων
     μυρία, δεσπόσυνον καὶ τρίτον ἐκδέχομαι.


Boy with a discus (Museum of Archaeology of Aléria, Corsica)


Libation and Frankincense, and ye Powers mixed in the bowl, who hold the issues of my friendship, I call you to witness, solemn Powers, by all of whom the honey-complexioned boy Athenaios swore.   Σπονδὴ καὶ λιβανωτέ, καὶ οἱ κρητῆρι μιγέντες
     δαίμονες, οἳ φιλίης τέρματ᾿ ἐμῆς ἔχετε,
ὑμέας, ὦ σεμνοί, μαρτύρομαι, οὓς ὁ μελίχρως
     κοῦρος Ἀθήναιος πάντας ἐπωμόσατο.
Zephyr, gentlest of the winds, bring back to me the lovely pilgrim Euphragoras, even as thou didst receive him, not extending his absence beyond a few months’ space; for to a lover’s mind a short time it as a thousand years.  Τὸν καλόν, ὡς ἔλαβες, κομίσαις πάλι πρός με θεωρὸν
     Εὐφραγόρην, ἀνέμων πρηΰτατε Ζέφυρε,
εἰς ὀλίγων τείνας μηνῶν μέτρον· ὡς καὶ ὁ μικρὸς
     μυριετὴς κέκριται τῷ φιλέοντι χρόνος.


[1] William Smith. Dictionary of Greek and Roman biography and mythology (Boston, 1870) I 1051.

[2] Sir Kenneth Dover, in his ground-breaking book Greek Homosexuality (1978) p. 99, cites this recommendation of Dioskourides to “a friend to 'delight in the rosy bum' of his wife when she is pregnant, 'treating her as male Aphrodite' “ as an example of how when Hellenistic poetry refers unambiguously to how pederastic love was consummated, it is invariably to pedication. Putting it mildly, Dioskourides’s assumption that this is what happened is upsetting for the currently-popular myth to the contrary described in the essay Did the Greeks Pedicate their Loved-Boys?

[3] Anakreon (ca. 570-ca. 485 BC) was a much-admired lyric poet well-known for his love of boys, which was also alluded to by three other poets in this book of the Greek Anthology.

[4] Smerdis was a boy loved in Samos by both Anakreon, who particularly admired his hair, and the tyrant Polykrates (Aelian, Varia Historia IX 4).

[5] Bathyllos was another beautiful boy loved by Anakreon in Samos and described in his 22nd ode.

[6] Eurypyle was a girl mentioned in poems by Anakreon, whose love for her was unrequited.

[7] J. Z. Eglinton, Greek Love (London, 1971) p. 263 says “The reference is clearly to serenaders.”




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