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three pairs of lovers with space



Greek love down to the 4th century in both this part of the world and Europe is treated under "Antiquity". Though on the European side of the Bosphoros, Turkish-ruled Thrace is here treated as part of the Near East for its obvious greater cultural affinity with it. Much the most penetrative and balanced study of the love phenomenon summarised here is Before Homosexuality in the Arab-Islamic World, 1500-1800 by Khaled El-Rouayheb (2005).

The single most decisive change in the fortunes of Greek love in the Near East and North Africa was the triumph of Christianity in the 4th century, with its fierce denunciation and prohibition of male homosexuality.  The more enduring triumph of Islam, another Abrahamic religion with a similar prohibition, in the 7th century, was less shattering in its implications.

Attitudes to Greek love in this region down to the nineteenth century remained fairly similar to those in Christendom down to the seventeenth.  In both, it was generally taken for granted that beautiful boys (but not men, the principal distinction here being the beard), as well as women, were sexually attractive to men. Liwāt (the act of the people of Lot), like its Christian equivalent of sodomy, was interpreted as severely proscribing pedication, which was assumed to be what men longed for sexually with boys.

There was, however, one remarkable difference.  Whereas in Christendom, the feelings that led men to want sex with boys were themselves condemned as temptations from Satan, a considerable body of Moslem religious opinion held that the love of boys, including the love of them for their beauty, was acceptable or even commendable, so long as it remained chaste.

Unsurprisingly, the fact that love of boys could be expressed with an openness and frequency that was unthinkable in Christendom meant that men succumbed to the temptation to consummate it more often than is known to have been the case in Christendom.

Pre-twentieth century Islamic attitudes to Greek love were much the same as those to fornication or drinking wine and on the whole resembled those of Christendom towards adultery rather than pederasty.

Greek love in mediaeval and modern Persia is treated in a separate article, whence links will be found to the other articles which concern Persia only.

The Jewel in the Lotus (1959) by Allen Edwardes, a scholar of oriental erotica, offers a lively description of Asian pederasty down the ages and concentrating on the Near East.

The age of the loved boy in the Arab-Islamic World, 1500-1800 is historian Khaled El-Rouayheb's thoroughly well-sourced discussion of the important question of the age range and physical development of the boys who attracted men.

The Thousand Nights and One Night includes some colourful stories involving Greek love in mediaeval Islamic societies.

"Le Vice" in Turkey by Jonathan Drake is a history of the trading and treatment of catamites in Turkey. The Scented Garden by Bernhard Stern is a survey of Greek love in the Ottoman Empire from the different perspective that it was unnatural and depraved.

The works of the contemporary Byzantine historians Doukas and Laonikos Chalkokondyles, both covering regional history from the early 14th century to the 1460s, mention the pederastic activity of several early Ottoman rulers, while Kritoboulos's History of Mehmed the Conqueror supplements their accounts of that Sultan's acquisition of boys.

The Ottoman prince Jem and the lovely French boys is a poem, probably by his foremost follower, celebrating the beauty of the boys at a banquet given for the exiled prince at Nice in 1482.

The Portuguese theologian Antonio de Sosa left a lively account of widespread pederasty practised in Algiers while he was a captive slave there 1577-81.

George Manwaring, attached to the English adventurer Sir Anthony Sherley, described the Turks' habitual sex with boys in 1598. Just afterwards, Sir Anthony's brother Sir Thomas, in Constantinople from 1603 to 1606,  reported of the Turks in his generally accurate account, Discours of the Turkes:

Theyre mannor of liuinge in priuate & in generalle is moste vnciuille & vicious; & firste, for theyre vices they are all pagans & infidelles, Sodomittes, liars, & drunkardes, & for theyre Sodommerye they vse it soe publiquelye & impudentelye as an honest Christian woulde shame to companye his wyffe as they doe with theyre buggeringe boyes.

However, much more insightful into the practice of Greek love in Turkey is the courtier Mustafa Âli's manual of etiquette, Tables of Delicacies Concerning the Rules of Social Gatherings, written in 1599-1600, because this provides a commentary on how it was practised, especially in high society, rather than attacking or extolling the practice as a whole.

The totall discourse of the rare adventures & painefull peregrinations of long nineteene yeares travayles from Scotland to the most famous kingdomes in Europe, Asia and Affrica by William Lithgow published in London in 1632, of which everything bearing on Greek love has been extracted here, offers valuable insights on its prevalence in Turkey (see the extracts from 1610-11 on pp. 145-6), Egypt (see the extract from 1612 on p. 272) and Morocco (see the extract from 1615 on pp. 322-23).

The French orientalist Michel Baudier gave a lively account of the taste for boys of the Ottoman sultans and pashas in his The History of the Serrail, and of the Court of the Grand Seigneur, Emperour of the Turkes (1626).

Henry Blount, an Englishman who travelled in the Ottoman Empire in 1634 witnessed the Turks' sexual preference for boys with unusually non-judgemental eyes, even befriending a pasha's favourite catamite as  a social introduction, as he described in his  A Voyage into the Levant.

In his authoritative survey, The Present State of the Ottoman Empire (1666), English diplomat Paul Rycaut described the involvement in Greek love of the boys trained in the Ottoman sultan's seraglio.

Their more typically opinionated compatriot John Fryer's A New Account of East India and Persia makes it clear that in the 1670s Persians were generally as sexually enthusiastic about boys as women.

The Diaries of John Covel describe a man/boy dance with decidedly pederastic undertones at the Ottoman Sultan's court in Adrianople in 1675.

The journal of Thomas Baker, English Consul in Tripoli, 1677-85, recorded two instances of Turks pedicating boys there that he found particularly outrageous.

A Faithful Account of the Religion and Manners of the Mahometans is by Joseph Pitts, an English sailor who, following his capture by pirates, lived in North Africa from 1678 to 1693, mostly as a slave, and includes his remarks on the popularity of Greek love in Algiers.

In his The Present State of the Ottoman Empire, the young Englishman Aaron Hill brought to life the newly fierce bigotry over sodomy in his native land in his description of rudely interrupting a pederastic tryst in Constantinople in 1702. Similarly, the Irish Lord Charlemont's observations of Turkish pederasty on his Grand Tour in 1749 reveal a young man whose mind had not been much opened by travel.

The Memoirs of Baron de Tott, a French military engineer in Constantinople, recount an episode in about 1771 when fighting broke out between the Janissaries and other Ottoman troops over rivalry for a dancing-boy of 13 or 14.

The brief reference of the French nobleman C-F. Volney in his Travels Through Syria and Egypt to the addiction to Greek love of the Mamlouks dominating Egypt in 1783 is notable for the writer's perceptive observation of its appeal in societies where there was plentiful guaranteed availability of sex with females: only boys could offer the emotional fulfilment of winning love or sex through success in courtship.

English traveller J. S. Buckingham's Travels in Assyria, Media, and Persia has a detailed description of a passionate but chaste love affair between a dervish and a boy in Baghdad in 1815. Buckingham's struggle to understand the man, his esteemed travelling companion, highlights the cultural clash between locals and Europeans in an age when the latter had come to believe homosexuality was the propensity of a depraved minority, as well as remaining unable to accept chaste but physically-inspired love. For understanding the widespread view in the Islamic world that loving a boy for his beauty was no different to loving a maiden for the same, and commendable so long as it was chaste, the critical moment for Buckingham was this:

"[the dervish] contended that if it were possible for a man to be enamoured of every thing that is fair, and lovely, and good and beautiful, in a female form, without a reference to the enjoyment of the person, which feeling may most unquestionably exist, so the same sentiment might be excited towards similar charms united in a youth of the other sex, without reference to any impure desires."

The Beautiful Çârpâre Dancer was a song about the beauty of a boy of 14 composed by Nedîm, one of the foremost Ottoman poets, during the Tulip era (1718-30). The late-18th-century erotic poems of Fazil Bey, an Arab brought up in the Ottoman seraglio, of which only his Book of Women has been translated, illuminates the boysexual attitudes of educated Turks before adverse European influence was felt.

Moslem accounts of France 1803-46 inadvertently reveals through the writers' surprised comments on French distaste for Greek love just how commonplace it was in the Moslem lands of the Mediterranean.

Records of Travels in Turkey, Greece, 1829, 1830 by Adolphus Slade, an English naval officer, includes many brief but perceptive incites into the practice of pederasty in Turkey.

Egypt and Mohammed Ali by James St. John, an 1834 account by a visiting Welsh journalist, includes a brief description of the mostly Greek slave-boys kept as catamites in Cairo.

Flaubert in Egypt is the travel notes and letters from Egypt of the future French novelist from his stay in Egypt and Constantinople in 1849-50: in the former he partook of Greek love, while he observed boy prostitution in the latter.

The initiation of André Gide is his own account of his first sexual experiences in Tunisia and Algeria in 1893-5. Experience in Another Culture: A Nobel Prize-Winner’s Story is Parker Rossman's account of Gide's liaisons in North Africa, drawn from various sources.

Lord Alfred "Bosie" Douglas's Adventures in Algeria, 1895 are recounted from the primary sources.

In his book The Moulids of Egypt, "Bimbashi" McPherson recounted witnessing a saint's archaic festival at Giza in Egypt in 1908, in which the centre of attention in the procession was a naked boy of 14 or 15 standing on a cart with a dancing "virile organ".

Notes on the People of Siwah by Walter Cline and The Oasis of Siwa in 1947-8, by Robin Maugham are two of several accounts of the pederasty practised in that remote part of Egypt, where it flourished on a par with heterosexuality and man/boy weddings were common.

D. Drew & J. Drake, in their Boys for Sale. A Sociological Study of Boy Prostitution (New York, 1969) give accounts of boy prostitution in Algeria and Morocco from the 17th century, Egypt from the 19th century, the Arab Near East (mostly Mecca, The Lebanon and Syria) from 1945, and Turkey, as well as Iran (Persia).

Two of the most popular venues for boy prostitution in Istanbul, much the greatest city in the region, were coffee-shops and men’s bath-houses, where the attendants were usually boys available for pedication. Most of the dellaks (bath-attendants) were Albanians, until a decree of 1734-5 banned their employment following an Albanian revolt. Aged around 13-14, they lived and ate in the bath-houses and received tips, but no wages. This ended suddenly with the 1908 revolution which introduced radical modernisations, including legislation which stipulated that dellaks must be at least 21 and not prostitutes.[1]

In the same book, An American initiated in war-time Naples, 1943-67 includes a first-hand account of sex in the boy-brothels of Tangier in 1943.

Michael Davidson's loves in French Morocco, 1937-40 and 1947 is an English boysexual journalist's autobiographical account. It mentions an erotic dance by Chleuh boys then regularly performed in Marrakech, and which he went on to describe at length in his Some Boys. Tangier, 1940-48 is his portrait of the Arab city then most famous for sex with boys, which he later elaborated on in a chapter of his Some Boys.  "Tel Aviv" is a chapter of personal appreciation of that country, and Cyprus 1954-7 presents the brief references to Greek love in his account of his time on that island. Some of what he wrote  about the boys of the new Israel is included in this site's introduction to Palestine.

Irfan Orga's The Caravan Moves On, an account of his travels in rural Anatolia in 1955-6, makes plain how men's attraction to and sex with boys (as well as women) was still then taken for granted after decades of modernisation.

In The Slave Trade Today (1961), investigative journalist Sean O'Callaghan described what he witnessed of the trade in slave-boys for sex in Aden and Jeddah.

The Orton Diaries, 1967 include vivid description of English playwright Joe Orton's sexual liaisons with Tangerine boys over seven weeks. Tangier: A Writer's Notebook is boysexual British writer Angus Stewart's time in Tangier from 1961 to 1974, personally reticent, but revealing as to the local scene.

Four of the seven accounts of pederastic experience between 1943 and 1976 which made up "The Impact of Other Cultures", a chapter in Parker Rossman's study Sexual Experience Between Men and Boys, were by foreigners in the Near and North Africa, namely A Frenchman in Morocco, An American in North Africa, An Englishman in Syria and An American in Lebanon.

The Way It Is in Morocco is an Englishman's account of his Greek love adventure in Morocco in 1974.


[1] See Reşat Ekrem Kocu, İstanbul Ansiklopedisi (İstanbul, 1966), VIII 4362ff.




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