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three pairs of lovers with space



The celebrated Greek lyric poet Simonides of Keos (ca. 556-468 BC) spent his last years in Sicily as the friend and confidant of Hieron, the tyrant (ruler) of Syracuse from 478 to 467 BC.  There they had a dialogue comparing the joys and sorrows of being a tyrant with those of being a citizen, which is the entire subject of Hieron by the Athenian Xenophon, written in about 360 BC.  

The translation of the first passage is by Thomas Hubbard in his Homosexuality in Greece and Rome (University of California Press, 2003), pp. 62-3.  The other short passage is from the translation by E.C. Marchant in the Loeb Classical Library volume CLXXXIII (Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1925), with one word amended and explained in a footnote.


Hieron by Xenophon

I 29-38

In the middle of his first long speech explaining the disadvantages for happiness of being a tyrant, Hieron said:

“And the tyrant is at a disadvantage in the pleasures that come from making love to boys even more than in the pleasures that come from begetting children. For we all, presumably, know that making love is by far the most pleasurable if one does it with desire.[1] But desire, in general, comes to a tyrant less easily than to anybody. For desire does not like to aim at available things, but rather at hoped-for ones. Therefore, just as someone who is unacquainted with thirst would not enjoy drinking, in the same way someone who is unacquainted with desire is unacquainted with the sweetest forms of love.”

That is what Hieron said, but Simonides, having had a laugh, said, "What is that you said, Hieron? You say that desire for boys isn't native to tyrants? How does it then come that you are in love with Daïlochos, whose nickname is 'the loveliest'"?

"Because, by Zeus, Simonides," he said, "I do not desire to get from him that which I could obviously have for the asking, but rather that which a tyrant is least likely of anyone to win. For certainly I love Daïlochos on account of those things which human nature compels us to seek from the beautiful. But I very much desire to get the things my love wants from a willing lover, and with friendship. And I think I would want to take them from him by force less than I would want to do myself harm. For I consider that to take from your enemy against his will is the sweetest of all things; but the sweetest of all charms, I think, are the charms of a boy who yields to you willingly. For when a boy loves you in return, how sweetly he looks back at you, how sweetly he asks questions, how sweetly he answers; and the sweetest of all and the most erotic is when he fights with you and argues. But to enjoy the charms of an unwilling boy," he said, "seems to me to be more like robbery than love-making. In fact, a robber at least gets some pleasure from his profits and from making his enemies unhappy; but for a man to take pleasure in the unhappiness of the person he loves and to be hated in return for his love and to force himself on someone he makes miserable: how could this not be a nasty, debasing experience? The private citizen, as soon as the boy he loves does him a favor, has proof that the boy is being kind to him out of love, because he knows that he is doing these things under no compulsion, while it is never possible for a tyrant to feel sure that he is loved. For we know that those who do things for one out of fear do everything they can to make it seem that they act out of friendship. Indeed plots are most often formed against tyrants by none other than those who claim to love them the best."

[29] Ἐν δὲ τοῖς παιδικοῖς ἀφροδισίοις ἔτι αὖ πολὺ μᾶλλον ἢ ἐν τοῖς τεκνοποιοῖς μειονεκτεῖ τῶν εὐφροσυνῶν ὁ τύραννος. ὅτι μὲν γὰρ τὰ μετ᾿ ἔρωτος ἀφροδίσια πολὺ διαφερόντως εὐφραίνει, πάντες δήπου ἐπιστάμεθα.

[30]ὁ δὲ ἔρως πολὺ αὖ ἐθέλει ἥκιστα τῷ τυράννῳ ἐγγίγνεσθαι. οὐ γὰρ τῶν ἑτοίμων ἥδεται ὁ ἔρως ἐφιέμενος, ἀλλὰ τῶν ἐλπιζομένων. ὥσπερ οὖν οὐκ ἄν1 τις ἄπειρος ὢν δίψους τοῦ πιεῖν ἀπολαύοι, οὕτω καὶ ὁ ἄπειρος ὢν ἔρωτος ἄπειρός ἐστι τῶν ἡδίστων ἀφροδισίων.

[31] Ὁ μὲν οὖν Ἱέρων οὕτως εἶπεν. ὁ δὲ Σιμωνίδης ἐπιγελάσας, Πῶς λέγεις, ἔφη, ὦ Ἱέρων; τυράννῳ οὐ φὴς παιδικῶν ἔρωτας ἐμφύεσθαι; πῶς μὴν συ, ἔφη, ἐρᾷς Δαϊλόχου τοῦ καλλίστου ἐπικαλουμένου;

[32] Ὅτι μὰ τὸν Δί᾿, ἔφη, ὦ Σιμωνίδη, οὐ τοῦ ἑτοίμου παρ᾿ αὐτοῦ δοκοῦντος εἶναι τυχεῖν τούτου μάλιστα ἐπιθυμῶ, ἀλλὰ τοῦ ἥκιστα τυράννῳ προσήκοντος κατεργάσασθαι.

[33]  ἐγὼ γὰρ δὴ ἐρῶ μὲν Δαϊλόχου ὧνπερ ἴσως ἀναγκάζει ἡ φύσις ἀνθρώπου δεῖσθαι παρὰ τῶν καλῶν, τούτων δὲ ὧν ἐρῶ τυχεῖν, μετὰ μὲν φιλίας καὶ παρὰ βουλομένου πάνυ ἰσχυρῶς ἐπιθυμῶ τυγχάνειν, βίᾳ δὲ λαμβάνειν παρ᾿ αὐτοῦ ἧττον ἄν μοι δοκῶ ἐπιθυμεῖν ἢ ἐμαυτὸν κακόν τι ποιεῖν.

[34] παρὰ μὲν γὰρ πολεμίων ἀκόντων λαμβάνειν πάντων ἥδιστον ἔγωγε νομίζω εἶναι, παρὰ δὲ παιδικῶν βουλομένων ἥδισται οἶμαι αἱ χάριτές εἰσιν.

[35]εὐθὺς γὰρ παρὰ τοῦ ἀντιφιλοῦντος ἡδεῖαι μὲν αἱ ἀντιβλέψεις, ἡδεῖαι δὲ αἱ ἐρωτήσεις, ἡδεῖαι δὲ αἱ ἀποκρίσεις, ἥδισται δὲ καὶ ἐπαφροδιτόταται αἱ μάχαι τε καὶ ἔριδες·

[36] τὸ δὲ ἀκόντων παιδικῶν ἀπολαύειν λεηλασίᾳ, ἔφη, ἔμοιγε δοκεῖ ἐοικέναι μᾶλλον ἢ ἀφροδισίοις. καίτοι τῷ μὲν λῃστῇ παρέχει τινὰς ὅμως ἡδονὰς τό τε κέρδος καὶ τὸ ἀνιᾶν τὸν ἐχθρόν· τὸ δὲ οὗ ἂν ἐρᾷ τις τούτῳ ἥδεσθαι ἀνιωμένῳ καὶ φιλοῦντα μισεῖσθαι καὶ ἅπτεσθαι ἀχθομένου πῶς οὐχὶ τοῦτο ἤδη δυσχερὲς τὸ πάθημα καὶ οἰκτρόν;

[37] καὶ γὰρ δὴ τῷ μὲν ἰδιώτῃ εὐθὺς τεκμήριόν ἐστιν, ὅταν ὁ ἐρώμενός τι ὑπουργῇ, ὅτι ὡς φιλῶν χαρίζεται, διὰ τὸ εἰδέναι, ὅτι οὐδεμιᾶς ἀνάγκης οὔσης ὑπηρετεῖ, τῷ δὲ τυράννῳ οὔποτ᾿ ἔστι πιστεῦσαι, ὡς φιλεῖται.

[38] ἐπιστάμεθα γὰρ τοὺς διὰ φόβον ὑπηρετοῦντας ὡς ᾗ μάλιστ᾿ ἂν δύνωνται ἐξεικάζουσιν αὑτοὺς ταῖς τῶν φιλούντων ὑπουργίαις. καὶ τοίνυν αἱ ἐπιβουλαὶ ἐξ οὐδένων πλέονες τοῖς τυράννοις εἰσὶν ἢ ἀπὸ τῶν μάλιστα φιλεῖν αὐτοὺς προσποιησαμένων.


VIII 6-7

Much later in their debate, Simonides included the following in one of his counter-arguments outlining the advantages possessed by the tyrant:

“And loved boys[2], mark you, who were the subject of your bitterest complaint against despotism, are not offended by old age in a ruler, and take no account of ugliness in the patron with whom they happen to be associated. For high rank in itself is a most striking embellishment to the person: it casts a shade over anything repulsive in him and shows up his best features in a high light. Moreover, inasmuch as equal services rendered by you rulers are rewarded with deeper gratitude, surely, when you have the power of doing far more for others by your activities, and can lavish far more gifts on them, it is natural that you should be much more deeply loved than private citizens.”

[6] καὶ μὴν παιδικά γε, ἐν οἷς δὴ καὶ σὺ μάλιστα κατεμέμψω τὴν τυραννίδα, ἥκιστα μὲν γῆρας ἄρχοντος δυσχεραίνει, ἥκιστα δ᾿ αἶσχος, πρὸς ὃν ἂν τυγχάνῃ ὁμιλῶν, τούτου ὑπολογίζεται. αὐτὸ γὰρ τὸ τετιμῆσθαι μάλιστα συνεπικοσμεῖ, ὥστε τὰ μὲν δυσχερῆ ἀφανίζειν, τὰ δὲ καλὰ λαμπρότερα ἀναφαίνειν.

[7] ὁπότε γε μὴν ἐκ τῶν ἴσων ὑπουργημάτων μειζόνων χαρίτων ὑμεῖς τυγχάνετε, πῶς οὐκ ἐπειδάν γε ὑμεῖς πολλαπλάσια μὲν διαπράττοντες ὠφελεῖν δύνησθε, πολλαπλάσια δὲ δωρεῖσθαι ἔχητε, ὑμᾶς καὶ πολὺ μᾶλλον φιλεῖσθαι τῶν ἰδιωτῶν προσήκει;



[1] [Footnote by Hubbard:] The word translated as “desire” in this passage is erōs.

[2] Marchant’s “favourites” has here been replaced with “loved boys”, as a more precise translation of “παιδικά”.




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