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Greek love is a term originally used by classicists to describe the primarily homoerotic customs, practices, and attitudes of the ancient Greeks. It was frequently used as a euphemism for homosexuality and pederasty. The phrase is a product of the enormous impact of the reception of classical Greek culture on historical attitudes toward sexuality, and its influence on art and various intellectual movements.
If tolerance and approval of male homosexuality had happened once—and in a culture so much admired and imitated by the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries—might it not be possible to replicate in modernity the antique homeland of the non- heteronormative? Following the work of sexuality theorist Michel Foucault , the validity of an ancient Greek model for modern gay culture has been questioned.
It often serves as a "coded phrase" for pederasty ,  or to "sanitize" homosexual desire in historical contexts where it was considered unacceptable. The German term griechische Liebe "Greek love" appears in German literature between and , along with socratische Liebe "Socratic love" and platonische Liebe " Platonic love " in reference to male-male attractions. In his classic study Greek Homosexuality , Kenneth Dover states that the English nouns "a homosexual " and "a heterosexual " have no equivalent in the ancient Greek language.
According to Dover, there was no concept in ancient Greece equivalent to the modern conception of "sexual preference"; it was assumed that a person could have both hetero- and homosexual responses at different times. Both romantic love and sexual passion between men were often considered normal, and under some circumstances healthy or admirable. Martin Litchfield West views Greek pederasty as "a substitute for heterosexual love, free contacts between the sexes being restricted by society". Greek art and literature portray these relationships as sometimes erotic or sexual, or sometimes idealized, educational, non-consummated, or non-sexual.
Some Greek myths have been interpreted as reflecting the custom of paiderasteia , most notably the myth of Zeus kidnapping Ganymede to become his cupbearer in the Olympian symposium. The main Greek literary sources for Greek homosexuality are lyric poetry, Athenian comedy, the works of Plato and Xenophon , and courtroom speeches from Athens.
Vase paintings from the s and s BCE depict courtship and sex between males. In Latin , mos Graeciae or mos Graecorum "Greek custom" or "the way of the Greeks" refers to a variety of behaviors the ancient Romans regarded as Greek, including but not confined to sexual practice. Effeminacy or a lack of discipline in managing one's sexual attraction to another male threatened a man's "Roman-ness" and thus might be disparaged as "Eastern" or "Greek". Fears that Greek models might "corrupt" traditional Roman social codes the mos maiorum seem to have prompted a vaguely documented law Lex Scantinia that attempted to regulate aspects of homosexual relationships between freeborn males and to protect Roman youth from older men emulating Greek customs of pederasty.
By the close of the 2nd century BCE, however, the elevation of Greek literature and art as models of expression caused homoeroticism to be regarded as urbane and sophisticated. One of his few surviving fragments is a poem of desire addressed to a male with a Greek name, aling the new aesthetic in Roman culture. The poems of Gaius Valerius Catullus , written in forms adapted from Greek meters , include several expressing desire for a freeborn youth explicitly named "Youth" Iuventius. His Latin name and free-born status subvert pederastic tradition at Rome.
The literary ideal celebrated by Catullus stands in contrast to the practice of elite Romans who kept a puer delicatus "exquisite boy" as a form of high-status sexual consumption, a practice that continued well into the Imperial era. The puer delicatus was a slave chosen from the s who served in a high-ranking household. He was selected for his good looks and grace to serve at his master's side, where he is often depicted in art. Among his duties, at a convivium he would enact the Greek mythological role of Ganymede , the Trojan youth abducted by Zeus to serve as a divine cupbearer.
Male same-sex relationships of the kind portrayed by the "Greek love" ideal were increasingly disallowed within the Judaeo-Christian traditions of western society. In his commentary to the Symposium , Ficino carefully separates the act of sodomy , which he condemned, and praises Socratic love as the highest form of friendship. Ficino maintained that men could use each other's beauty and friendship to discover the greatest good, that is, God, and thus Christianized idealized male love as expressed by Socrates.
During the Renaissance, artists such as Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo used Plato's philosophy as inspiration for some of their greatest works. The "rediscovery" of classical antiquity was perceived as a liberating experience, and Greek love as an ideal after a Platonic model.
When Montaigne chooses to introduce his essay on friendship with recourse to the Greek model, "homosexuality's role as trope is more important than its status as actual male-male desire or act German 18th-century works from the "Greek love" milieu of classical studies include the academic essays of Christoph Meiners and Alexander von Humboldt , the parodic poem "Juno and Ganymede" by Christoph Martin Wieland , and A Year in Arcadia: Kyllenion , a novel about an explicitly male-male love affair in a Greek setting by Augustus, Duke of Saxe-Gotha-Altenburg.
Neoclassical works of art often represented ancient society and an idealized form of "Greek love". The concept of Greek love was important to two of the most ificant poets of English Romanticism , Byron and Shelley. During the Regency era in which they lived, homosexuality was looked upon with increased disfavour and denounced by many in the general public, in line with the encroachment of Victorian values into the public mainstream.
The philosopher Jeremy Bentham , for instance, appealed to social models of classical antiquity, such as the homoerotic bonds of the Theban Band and pederasty, to demonstrate how these relationships did not inherently erode heterosexual marriages or the family structure. The high regard for classical antiquity in the 18th century caused some adjustment in homophobic attitudes on the Continent. Plato was little read in Byron's time, in contrast to the later Victorian era when translations of the Symposium and Phaedrus would have been the most likely way for a young student to learn about Greek sexuality.
To those such as Byron who were steeped in classical literature, the phrase "Greek love" evoked pederastic myths such as Ganymede and Hyacinthus , as well as historical figures such as the political martyrs Harmodius and Aristogeiton , and Hadrian 's beloved Antinous ; Byron refers to all these stories in his writings.
Shelley complained that contemporary reticence about homosexuality kept modern readers without a knowledge of the original languages from understanding a vital part of ancient Greek life. His translation of the Symposium did not appear in complete form until Throughout the 19th century, upper-class men of same-sex orientation or sympathies regarded "Greek love", often used as a euphemism for the ancient pederastic relationship between a man and a youth, as a "legitimating ideal":  "the prestige of Greece among educated middle-class Victorians The efforts among aesthetes and intellectuals to legitimate various forms of homosexual behaviors and attitudes by virtue of a Hellenic model were not without opposition.
John Tyrwhitt  warned against the perceived immorality of this agenda. Tyrwhitt, who was a vigorous supporter of studying Greek , characterized the Hellenism of his day as "the total denial of any moral restraint on any human impulses", and outlined what he saw as the proper scope of Greek influence on the education of young men.
In , the poet and literary critic John Addington Symonds wrote A Problem in Greek Ethics , a work of what could later be called " gay history ", inspired by the poetry of Walt Whitman. He treats "Greek love" as central to Greek "aesthetic morality". Greek love is for modern studies of Plato no 'figure of speech' and no anachronism, but a present poignant reality. Symonds also translated classical poetry on homoerotic themes, and wrote poems drawing on ancient Greek imagery and language such as Eudiades , which has been called "the most famous of his homoerotic poems": "The metaphors are Greek, the tone Arcadian and the emotions a bit sentimental for present-day readers.
One of the ways in which Symonds and Whitman expressed themselves in their correspondence on the subject of homosexuality was through references to ancient Greek culture, such as the intimate friendship between Callicrates , "the most beautiful man among the Spartans", and the soldier Aristodemus.
It is a pagan idea. The legacy of Greece in homosexual aesthetics became problematic, and the meaning of a "costume" derived from classical antiquity was questioned. Not to be confused with Philhellenism or Greek words for love. Types of love. Social views. Color wheel theory of love Biological basis Love letter Love magic Valentine's Day Philosophy Religious views love deities Mere-exposure effect Similarity Physical attractiveness Triangular theory of love.
Main articles: Homosexuality in ancient Greece and Pederasty in ancient Greece. See also: Homosexuality in ancient Rome and Sexuality in ancient Rome. See also: Platonic love. In Petrilli, Susan ed. Translation, Translation. ISBN Lucey M. Oxford University Press. Greek love is a modern phrase. Lytton Strachey and the search for modern sexual identity.
Routledge; 1 edition. June Men desiring men. Wayne State University Press. Haworth Press. Craven Nussbaum and J. Homosexuality and Civilization. Harvard University Press, Byron and Greek Love: Homophobia in 19th-century England. May 15, The Columbia anthology of gay literature. Columbia University Press. Forster's Maurice ", in Alma parens originalis? Leonardo the Florentine - A Study in Personality. Kiefer Press. Platt, "Montaigne", p. Montaigne also regards women as incapable of true friendship. David Irwin London: Phaidon, , pp. June 20, Yale University Press; Revised edition.
Potter echoes Athenaeus 's praise of pederasty, and Strabo 's of Cretan pederasty. James A. Notopoulos Duke University Press, , p.Greek of love
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