Ancient Greek Pederasty: The most common form of same-sex relationships between males in Greece was “Paiderastia” meaning “boy love“. It was a relationship between an older male and an adolescent youth. In Athens the older man was called erastes, he was to educate, protect, love, and provide a role model for his eromenos, whose reward for him lay in his beauty, youth, and promise.
Roots of Greek Pederasty
The roots of Greek pederasty lie in the tribal past of Greece, before the rise of the city-state as a unit of political organization. These tribal communities were organized according to age groups. When it came time for a boy to embrace the age group of the adult and to “become a man,” he would leave the tribe in the company of an older man for a period of time that constituted a rite of passage. This older man would educate the youth in the ways of Greek life and the responsibilities of adulthood.
Ancient Greek Pederasty
The rite of passage undergone by Greek youths in the tribal prehistory of Greece evolved into the commonly known form of Greek pederasty after the rise of the city-state or polis. Greek boys no longer left the confines of the community but rather paired up with older men within the confines of the city.
These men, like their earlier counterparts, played an educational and instructive role in the lives of their young companions; likewise, just as in earlier times, they shared a sexual relationship with their boys. The adult man enacted the role of the penetrator in these relationships, while the youth was the passive, penetrated partner.
Mechanics of Greek Pederasty
An elaborate social code governed the mechanics of Ancient Greek Pederasty. It was the duty of the adult man to court the boy who struck his fancy, and it was viewed as socially appropriate for the younger man to withhold for a while before capitulating to his mentor’s desires.
This waiting period allowed the boy to ensure that his suitor was not merely interested in him for sexual purposes but felt a genuine emotional affection for him and was interested in assuming the mentor role assigned to him in the pederastic paradigm.
The age limit for pederasty in ancient Greece seems to encompass, at the minimum end, boys of twelve years of age. To love a boy below the age of twelve was considered inappropriate, but no evidence exists of any legal penalties attached to this sort of practice.
Traditionally, a pederastic relationship could continue until the widespread growth of the boy’s body hair, when he is considered a man. Thus, the age limit for the younger member of a pederastic relationship seems to have extended from 12 to about 17 years of age.
The ancient Greeks, in the context of the pederastic city-states, were the first to describe, study, systematize, and establish pederasty as a social and educational institution. It was an important element in civil life, the military, philosophy and the arts.There is some debate among scholars about whether pederasty was widespread in all social classes, or largely limited to the aristocracy.
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