Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Five Naughty Facts about Iron Age Greece

Zeus and his lover Ganymede

My story Alexios' Fate takes place in Iron Age Greece. The setting is Thrace, the portion of Greece closest to the ancient Persian Empire, modern day Turkey. Alexios lives during the opening years of the 5th Century BC. He lived in a very different world than we do.

Some of the more interesting differences include:

1. Dildos were common in Greece. They were made of wood or stone. Men frequently gave them as gifts to their wives when they had to be gone for wars or other extended trips. This was viewed as a way to keep her from straying.

2. Pederasty, or the practice of mentoring, was at the core of the Greek homosocial culture. An older aristocrat took a younger man of the same social class under his wing. Most such relationships had a sexual aspect to them; although, the extent of this varied with the social expectations of the polis and the inclination of the partners.

The Greeks did not have a word for homosexual. Men had sex. The gender of their partner did not matter. What did matter was their relative status and penetration. Penetration was for social inferiors (ie women and slaves). Equals were expected to refrain from penetration. Thus intercrural sex was the norm for pederastic relationships.

This was by no means true for lovers; although, the stigma attached to penetration still applied. Men could be lovers, but were still expected to conform to the prevalent cultural expectations of what a man was.

3. The Theban or Sacred Band was made up entirely of men and their male lovers. It was commonly thought that men who were lovers would fight more fiercely in the defense of their home and lovers. For what man could stand to have his lover think him a coward?

4. The Olympian Games were held in honor of Zeus every four years. A PanHellenic truce was declared so all the Greek city-states could compete.

Athletes competed in the nude. One ancient source attributes this to a woman successfully winning the foot race. In an effort to see that women wouldn't be able to impersonate a man and thus compete, all future Olympian Games were held in the nude.

Only uncircumcised/uncut men could compete, as it was considered rude to go uncovered.

5. Beards were considered a sign of virility in ancient Greece. Just look at how much time the men spent on them, preening. They kept their beards carefully trimmed and would oil them and tease them into ringlets for special occasions.


  1. "Only uncircumcised/uncut men could compete, as it was considered rude to go uncovered."

    Hehe, funny.

  2. I know. It was ok to run around baked as long as the glans was covered.

  3. Loved your post and tweeted it!

    This is an early comment but I just wanted to say “Thank You” for letting me be included in your Hop Against Homophobia. I am afraid I am not a talented m/m fiction writer like yourself but I am an avid reader of it.

    I guess I do not fit into any category really since I write non-fiction for an adult gay studio.

    But this is a cause I feel strongly about and I wanted to let you know I appreciate the opportunity to be included.

    I put a post up at the top of my blog on May 5th and it will remain up until May 19th. http://shadowsterling.blogspot.com/2012/05/straights-and-international-day-against.html

    Since I do not write books I will be donating money to PFLAG here in the U.S. in the name of the winner.

    Thank you again for the inclusion.

  4. Thank you, Sterling. I had fun with this post. I really appreciate you tweeting about it.

    I, however, can not take credit for the Hop Against Homophobia. That has been set in motion by others. (Erika Pike, NJ Nielsen, and K-Lee Kline) You can find more information here: http://hopagainsthomophobia.blogspot.com/2012/02/hop-against-homophobia-registration.html

    Donating money to the PFLAG is a great idea!

  5. Ancient greeks had many thing different than we do now (and i'm telling you for sure because i'm greek).

    there was no such thing as pederasty because if a young man was fit to fight at the age of 13-15 then he sure was capable of love. And Love (from the act itself to the wide meaning of EROS) was only sutable for MEN!!!!

    Making love with a woman was a way of having children and women virtue was treasured back then as it is now. So no girl-girl sex was allowed! (Men and their egoes.....)