Review of Craig Williams'
Although now for the first time titled simply Roman Homosexuality, the second edition is the most detailed synthesis yet; that is not saying much, because the earlier attempts by Kiefer, Lilja, Dalla and Cantarella are all less comprehensive. In this third effort (dissertation, Yale, 1992) of his, Williams quibbles endlessly with the often frivolous theories proposed during the decade after his first edition. Having clearly now become a full blown lesbyterian himself, Williams approved the shocking new “Foreward” by Nussbaum. Like most feminists, she loves Dover’s skimpy, simplistic, skewered, homophobic screed Greek Homosexuality (1980) and praises R.H. as being just as fine.
Like Dover, Williams fails to understand that Greeks and Romans differed fundamentally in their romancing and their marriage patterns. Romans always educated their own sons but after the Hannibalic Wars, if wealthy enough with the help of Greek pedagogues,. They or their own patres familias married off their sons at 18 or 19 to brides of 14 or 15, engaged by the girls’ own patres familias. After about 630BC, Greek males postponed marriage till 30 when they themselves, having negotiated with their brides’ fathers, married girls of 18 in Sparta and 14 to16 elsewhere.
Only Western Indo-Europeans practiced monogamy, although serially. No other peoples anywhere at the time married girls as old as the Greeks did, adolescents lucky enough to have a few extra years to mature. After 200BC, the end of manus marriage, by which they were virtually slaves to their their husbands’ patres familias, wives became emancipated and widowed matrons, especially ones with children, became as free as modern feminists.
By the 6th century, upper-class Greek pederasts loved and educated youths of their own class. As Cornelius Nepos noted Romans [except for a few Hellenizers, my qualification!], were as appalled at Greek gymnastic nudity as Greeks always remained that Romans dined with ladies. Consequently, teenagers who assumed the toga virilis at 14 could flirt with and quite easily seduce or be seduced by Roman wives, cougars or girls as young as 12, not only at dinner parties but also in theatres and at the games. Greek ladies, on the other hand [except girls in Sparta], always confined to women’s quarters, could never attend banquets, theatres or games. Consequently, Roman gents enjoyed romancing ladies of all ages, a privilege Greek gents never enjoyed.
Of course,Greeks as well as Romans had slaves, although Romans apparently used them more often for sex because they had more of them and less access to free born boys. Both could afford prostitutes, sexually available servants of both sexes as well as fancy ladies called hetaerae in Greek. In his critical review of the 2nd edition in The Bryn Mawr Classical Review, Beert Verstraete noted that the best addition to the second edition is a careful analysis of graffiti but also that Williams failed to discern some Latin elegies might have expressed tender love toward upper-class youths.
Both Williams and Dover emphasized far too much the priapic, testastrone filled predators dominating and penetrating whomever they could, whenever they wished, a distortion that David Halperin exaggerated. These opinions please misguided feminists as well as other critics of the classical model who attack Greco-Roman civilizations from all directions, denouncing the patriarch elite as pedophilic, misogynistic and generally despicable. They prefer the far less documented and accurately analyzed Hamitic, Semitic, Judaic, East Asian, Sub-Saharan and North American civilizations as well as even barbaric and salvage cultures, which sometimes indulged in cannabilism and child sacrifices to those who created Western Civilization to which all civilized people are now hopelessly and irretrievably indebted because they can make of them what they wish. In the years since Williams’ first edition, other scholars have also established their own reservations about this oversimplified paradigm, which James Jope’s review of the first edition may still serve as a detailed and balanced critique that can be found at http://jjope.blogspot.com/2007/09/craig-williams-roman-homosexuality.html.