Letter to Boston Globe regarding Richard Hoffman's article about Ancient Greece
I don’t know what NAMBLA has said about Ancient Greece- I’ve just managed to get copies of their publications. I do not think, however, that they have appealed very much to “the glory that was Greece”. In any case, Richard Hoffman (Globe, 5 September) has it all wrong about Ancient Greece. There the ideal was that a gentleman takes an upper-class boy as a “beloved” to train in character and athletics, molding him into a fine warrior and citizen. Some of the Greek city-states, of which there were hundreds, were the first and for many centuries the only literate democracies, and the main innovators in math and science, as well as politics, philosophy, and medicine.
Like the Israelites and all other ancient Mediterranean peoples, the Greeks marginalized females and in addition had chattel slaves with whom they could do as they liked. Nevertheless, never have so few made so many contributions to the progress of the human race. As to their boy friends many had only mentoring “Platonic” relationships and those who too weak to abstain, as Plato recommended that they do, and went on to sex, were supposed to do so decorously only after a long and demanding courtship.
What Hoffman alleges about slave boys for sex could be true for Ancient Rome, Egypt, Persia, India, Mesopotamia, Meso-America and the High Andes as well as much of sub-Saharan Africa- poorly documented as the early history of most of them is- but emphatically was not so for Greece.
William A. Percy III
Professor of History