Pederasty and Pedagogy in Archaic Greece

From William A. Percy
Jump to: navigation, search

William A. Percy

(University of Illinois Press, 1996)

Description from University of Illinois Press: Combining impeccable scholarship with accessible, straightforward prose, Pederasty and Pedagogy in Archaic Greece argues that institutionalized pederasty began after 650 B.C., far later than previous authors have thought, and was initiated as a means of stemming overpopulation in the upper class.

William A. Percy III maintains that Cretan sages established a system under which a young warrior in his early twenties took a teenager of his own aristocratic background as a beloved until the age of thirty, when service to the state required the older partner to marry. The practice spread with significant variants to other Greek-speaking areas. In some places it emphasized development of the athletic, warrior individual, while in others both intellectual and civic achievement were its goals. In Athens it became a vehicle of cultural transmission, so that the best of each older cohort selected, loved, and trained the best of the younger.

Pederasty was from the beginning both physical and emotional, the highest and most intense type of male bonding. These pederastic bonds, Percy believes, were responsible for the rise of Hellas and the "Greek miracle": in two centuries the population of Attica, a mere 45,000 adult males in six generations, produced an astounding number of great men who laid the enduring foundations of Western thought and civilization.

Author’s afterthought: Late marriages (females at 16 to 18 rather than at 12 to 15 as in other societies) gave time to both sexes to mature physically and intellectually. This also helped spark the Greek miracle.

Order this book from University of Illinois Press, Amazon or Barnes and Noble booksellers.


Outline and Original manuscript files


Paucity of Sources

What the Greeks Did

Pederasty vs. Androphilia




Sacred Ritual or Casual Sex?

Proto-Greeks: "The Coming of the Greeks"

Minoan Origins? Nudity in Art



Legend and Fact

Pure or Sacred Pederasty?

Lustless Pederasty?


Greek Love in Homer?


Womenless Colonists

Mariners, Soldiers, and Their Mates

"Nouveaux pauvres," Poor Farmers,

Emigrants, Paupers, and Slaves

Levantine Origins?

Middle Archaic Innovations: A New View



Pederastic Gods and Heroes

Mythological Originators of Pederasty

Local Founders




Shamans, "Musicians," Sages, and Lawgivers

The Pederastic System of Age-Classes

Demographic Consequences

Diffusion to Sparta and Other Areas



Pre-Pederastic Sparta

"Lycurgus," Tyrtaeus, and Thaletas

The Eunomia


Inspirers and Listeners

Cultural Efflorescence and Blight





Nudity in Athletics

Symposia and Schools

Erotic Vases



Athletic Elis

Backward Arcadia and Achaea

The Dorian Argolid

Heterosexual Corinth?

Sober Megara

Knightly Thessaly and Boeotia


Phocis, Locris, Doris, and the Northern Marchlands

Premature Euboea











The Aegean Islands




Persian Oppression





Simonides and Bacchylides



Pre-Pederastic Athens

Epimenides the Cretan and "Folktale" Lovers

Solon the Lawgiver

Solon the Pederast

Pisistratid Tyrant-Patrons

The Tyrannicides

Pederastic Democracy in the Age of Themistocles and Aristides


Unpublished Second Volume

I, as an elderly and frail academic, warily present two rough drafts hoping that someone may find something of use in them. The first covers Roman homosexuality from the Early Republic down until its end and also the Classical and Hellenistic homosexualities in the Greek-speaking areas, emphasizing the fundamental differences rather than the similarities between Greek and Latin customs. The second (hardly more than roughly sketched) tries to explore Greek and Latin homosexualities under the Pagan and Christian Empires.

When I wrote the first of the two drafts, the best single volume about Roman homosexuality was still Otto Keifer’s Sexual Life in Ancient Rome (English translation, 1934). This manuscript of mine was last revised around 1992 before Craig Williams’ masterpiece Roman Homosexuality: Ideologies of Masculinity in Classical Antiquity (Oxford University Press, 1999) appeared. Therefore it relied only on his unrevised and still flawed dissertation. It also, of course, did not use the special Journal of Homosexuality double-volume issue edited by Beert Verstraete and Vernon Provencal (Vol. 49, Nos. 3 & 4 – also available in book form as Same-Sex Desire and Love in Greco-Roman Antiquity and in the Classical Tradition of the West) in which a variety of scholars try to improve upon Williams’ work.

The first of these sketches of manuscripts have not been revised since 1992 and the second not since 1989. They relied for Greek primarily on the works of Hans Licht (Paul Brandt), Father Buffiere (Eros adulescent: la pédérastie dans la Grèce antique, a much neglected and massive, if unanalytical work), Dover’s brief, tendentious, and unconsciously homophobic collection of essays Greek Homosexuality, Foucault’s ambitious three volume work, and Boswell (an interlocking trinity that I try to refute as well as the particularly unconvincing, pretentious, self-loathing essays derived from them in Halperin’s One Hundred Years of Homosexuality). I also used Pogey-Castries and Warner Jaeger’s Paideia. Lombardi-Nash had not yet translated Hirschfeld’s Die Homosexualitat Des Mannes Und Des Weibes, which is excellent and more inclusive and better, I believe, than Kiefer. Naturally I also used Wayne Dynes’ Encyclopedia of Homosexuality, of which I was associate co-editor along with my housemate of 5 years Warren Johansson. I concentrated on the dates of the setting and the corruption of Plato’s dialogues, especially of the Phaedrus.

When I asked Nick Pappas who else believed that Plato’s παρα φυσιν in the Laws was meant ironically, he brought me the very next week Leo Strauss’ Commentary on the Laws, which maintained exactly that. How else would an aristocratic Athenian lecture a Cretan and Spartan, the very people that his class most admired, on how to constitute a polis – such irony, like the prohibition of music, was meant to be understood by the cognoscienti.

Like my good friend Louis Crompton, of whose Homosexuality and Civilization I was the second reader for Belknap, I am not a social constructionist or a phantom construction essentialist (as many charged John Boswell with being). We are unabashed Hellenophiles holding Abrahamic religions responsible for almost all institutionalized homophobia. For this reason, we cannot agree that the much discussed Lex Scantinia ever prohibited sex tout court between Roman citizens or even that a Roman citizen couldn’t legally be penetrated by a phallus, even though my old professor and admired mentor Eugene Rice holds that it did (see his article on Ancient Rome at Claude Summers’ GLBTQ —the best successor to the Encyclopedia of Homosexuality and one containing eight excellent entries from Rice).

Thomas Hubbard's sourcebook Homosexuality in Greece and Rome, often with his own translations and erudite introduction, is essential and irreplaceable. No one could fail to mention the contributions by Amy Richlin, Halperin’s nemesis, or of Pogey-Castries and Marron, let alone J. A. Symonds and the 18th and 19th century German scholars who lay behind his A Problem in Greek Ethics.

Andrew Lear is publishing a book that is not only erudite, but sensible – a quality ever so rare among scholars. Essentially he cuts halfway between Sir Kenneth, who claimed that citizens merely lusted after boys to bugger them, and traditionalists like me who argue that Greek pederasts often very earnestly and successfully mentored their boyfriends. How many did either or both can doubtless never be settled, considering that even today not all youths are clearcut victims in such age-asymmetrical sex, as is today asserted by almost all. It is indeed dangerous not to echo the mantra, as one leading expert Bruce Rind learned when both houses of Congress unanimously censured his fine research on intergenerational sex. Fortunately for me it is somewhat less dangerous to cite certain advantages arising from ancient Greek pederasty, i.e. with adolescents – all too often today confused with pedophilia: properly meaning sexual relations with prepubescents of either sex.

Another point is that Black Athena and all its supporters who claim everything good originated in Africa not Greece, fail to discuss pederasty, the most constructive type of which I argue was first institutionalized in Greece in the late 7th century, B.C. Although Martin Bernal, in a phone conversation with me several years ago, promised to discuss pederasty in his forthcoming works, he has so far failed to do so, while Mary Lefkowitz and the other Hellenophiles who support her against that Afro-centrist, also steadfastly avoid mention of pederasty. How they refuse to tarnish their idols with intergenerational sex, as J.A. Symonds pointed out almost a century and a half ago!

Did the Greeks copy pederasty from the Egyptians, and was the custom in Greece harmful, neutral, or beneficial? When and why did it start, and when and why did it stop? I’m hoping to entice more scholars to post on this and other GLBTQ items on Wikipedia (which I believe is well on its way to upstage the Encyclopedia Britannica — that stodgy, old thing hardly mentions homosexuals and bisexuals) in the expectation that we may eventually get into the textbooks to give status and role models to persecuted and scorned gay and lesbian youths.

Part I: Classical

I. - The Pentecontaetia, 479-431

PDF Version

A. Heroes of the Persian Wars

B. Cimon and Aeschylus

C. Increasing Democracy: Pericles

D. Sophocles and the Parthenon

E. Sophists

II. - The Peloponnesian War, 431-404: Debate and Criticism

PDF Version

A. Battles and Economic Problems

B. Aristophanes and the Old Comedians

C. Euripides, Socrates and Alcibiades

D. Symposiasts and Gymnasts

E. Athenian and Lesbian Ladies

III. - Spartan Hegemony, 404-371

PDF Version

A. Demographic and Social Changes

B. Harmosts and Spartan Oppression

C. Xenophon

D. Lysis, Charmides, and Protagoras

E. Socrates' Other Students

F. Sicilian Tyrants

G. The Hippocratics on Sexual Types

IV. - Theban Hegemony, 371-359

PDF Version

A. Symposium, Republic, and Phaedrus

B. Heroes of the Sacred Band

C. Spartan Depopulation

D. The Sacred War

V. - Rise of Macedonia, 359-323

PDF Version

A. The Laws

B. Aristotle

C. Other Later Philosophers

D. Orators and Comedians on Cinaedi, Pornoi and Effeminates

E. Gymnasia, Games and Symposia

F. Laws in Other Poleis

G. Philip's and Alexander's Eromenoi

VI. - The Early Roman Republic, 509-264

PDF Version

A. Monarchical and Divine Excesses

B. Rustic Puritanism

C. Expansion and Conquests

VII. - Jews under Persian Rule, 538-332

PDF Version

A. The Second Temple

B. Nehemiah

C. Ezra and His Reforms

D. The Pentateuch, Constitution of the Jewish Community

E. Beginning of Jewish Homophobia

Part II: Hellenistic

VIII. - Early Hellenistic Dynamism, 323-146

PDF Version

A. Anacreontea

B. Diffusion and Diversity

C. Demography

D. Pederastic Rulers

E. "Hens in the Coop" at the Library

F. Stoicism and Epicureanism

G. Bucolic and Epigrammatic Poets

H. Mathematics, Science and Medicine

I. Princesses and Femmes fatales

IX. - Late Hellenistic Decadence, 146-31

PDF Version

A. Demography

B. Pederastic Poets

C. Erotic Tales and Romances

D. Art

E. Philosophy

F. Astrological Characterology

G. Dream Interpretation

H. Sexual Magic

I. Pagan Gods and Goddesses of Love

X. - The Middle Roman Republic, 264-133

PDF Version

A. Annexation of the East

B. Hellenization

C. Plautus and Terence

D. The Scipios and Cato

XI. - The Late Roman Republic, 133-31: The Conqueror Imitates the Conquered

PDF Version

A. The Gracchi

B. Social and Civil Wars

C. Triumvirs

D. Cicero and Cataline

E. Catullus and Lucretius

F. Greek Pederasty at Rome?

XII. - Hellenistic Judaism, 332-40: Homophobic Rejection of Greek Love

PDF Version

A. Completion of the Hebrew Scriptures: The Prophets and Hagiographa

B. Reaction to Hellenization

C. The Maccabean Uprising

D. Independence of Judea under Roman Protection

E. Mounting Homophobia: Jubilees, the Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs, the Sybilline Oracles, pseudo-Phocylides


Review in Les Éstudes Classiques

Excerpts from unfinished Third Volume

The Classical Goldenage

Avant Garde Hellenizers challenge Republican Puritans

The Julio Claudians & other Imperial powers

Bisexual Tyrants and courtiers disregard caustious Philosophers and Physicians

Judaism from Herod the Great to the Mishnah

Judaism in Babylonia and the Roman Empire

The Founding of Christianity

New Testament and Apostolic Christianity

The Collapse of Pederasty and other Classical Institutions

System Collapse and the Christian coup de grâce

Personal tools