Pederastic couples in classical antiquity
In classical antiquity there were many known pederastic relationships between adult men and adolescent boys. In some of these cases both members became well-known historical figures, while in others, only one of the two may have.
Though all such relationships were by definition homoerotic in nature, the individuals involved did not identify themselves as homosexuals, but rather as ordinary men having ordinary desires. The nature of the relationships have ranged from overtly sexual to what is now referred to as platonic, in accordance with ancient ethical and philosophical standards.
In the following list the couples are listed in chronological order, and the name of the older partner precedes that of the younger. Though many more men are known to have engaged in such relationships, only those instances in which the name of the younger partner is known are included. In keeping with ancient traditions which promoted chaste pederastic relationships (See Philosophy of Greek pederasty) included below are also relationships in which there is evidence of an erotic component even in the absence of actual sexual relations.
Archaic period in Greece
- Archias and Telephus:
- Archias is a semi-legendary personage, the richest man in Corinth and the colonizer of Syracuse in 733. He left his native city as penance for having caused the death of the boy Actaeon, son of Melissus, with whom he had fallen in love and who had rejected his advances. Finally, he had gathered his servants and stormed the boy's house. The family and neighbors resisted, and in the altercation Actaeon was torn apart. Telephus is another eromenos of Archias, who once grown up captained a ship to Syracuse and there slew Archias by some subterfuge, to avenge himself for having been taken advatage of as a boy.
- Anton and Philistus:
- Alternative names for Cleomachus and his eromenos, Thessalians famous for having helped the Chalcidians in their war against the Eretrians, inspiring the Chacidians to adopt pederasty after having previously prohibited it, some time between 700 and 650.
- Solon and Peisistratus:
- The law giver was the erastes of the future tyrant, presumably around 590 BCE. Aristotle, however, claims that the story is "mere gossip" and cannot possibly be true due to the large difference in age between the two.
- Peisistratus and Charmus:
- Later in life, Charmus would name his own son after Peisistratus' second son, Hipparchus, and give his daughter, Myrrhina, in marriage to Hippias, his old erastes' son.
- Chariton of Agrigentum and Melanippus:
- The two lovers plotted against Phalaris around 560 BCE. Chariton was discovered and tortured to divulge accomplices, but remained silent. Melanippus, to save his friend, presented himself and freely confessed. The tyrant, impressed, set both free, but sent them into exile. About them, the Suda records that "For Chariton and Melanippos breathed together in love. Chariton was the lover, but Melanippos, the beloved, his soul set on fire towards his inspired friend, made known the spur of love with equal honour." Their valor and love were also celebrated in a Delphic oracle:
:''Blessed were Chariton and Melanippus:
:They showed mortals the way to a friendship that was divine.
- Charmus and Hippias:
- After having been the eromenos of the father, Charmus, by now a polemarch, became the erastes of the son, who later also became his son-in-law. In Charmus' honor, a statue of Eros was erected, either by Pisistratus or Hippias, before the entrance of the Akademia, where the runners in the sacred torch race lit their torches. The inscription claimed that Charmus had been the first to dedicate to love,
:''Eros of many devices, Charmus built you this altar
:''Among the shady boundaries of the gymnasium.
- Prokleides and Hipparchus:
- Prokleides, an important citizen, as behooves the erastes of a ruler's son, also is known for setting up the Hermes Trikephalos, a three-headed road-marker statue, on the Hestia Road.
- Theognis of Megara and Cyrnus:
- The poet, thought to have lived in the sixth c. BCE, addressed many of his poems to his young beloved, using them to pass on his wisdom to the boy.
- Polycrates and Smerdies:
- The love of the tyrant of Samos for his Thracian favorite, some time between 535 and 515, was recorded by the poet Anacreon.
- Anacreon and Bathyllus:
- Legend has it that while in Samos, Anacreon competed with the tyrant for the love of another beautiful boy, Bathyllus, who is considered the most famous of his beloveds, and whom he celebrated in his poems, such as the following one:
:''O boy, with virgin-glancing eye,
:''I call thee, but thou dost not hear;
:''Thou know'st not how my soul doth cry
:''For thee, its charioteer.
- Anacreon and Critias:
- Hipparchus invited Anacreon to Athens after the death of Polycrates. There Anacreon took an eromenos, in whose house he lived, and who, in a reversal of the usual roles, wrote love poetry to his erastes. It is not certain which Critias this is, though it has been proposed that it is the same as the eponymous archon.
- Aristogeiton and Harmodius:
- Heroic couple, later lionized by the Athenian democrats, whose 514 BCE plot to assassinate Hippias was credited with the overthrow of tyranny in Athens.
- Parmenides of Elea and Zeno of Elea:
- According to Plato, Zeno was "tall and fair to look upon" and was "in the days of his youth . . . reported to have been beloved by Parmenides." This would have occurred around 475 BCE.
- Parmenides of Elea and Empedocles:
- The younger philosopher was first student and later the eromenos of Parmenides, according to Porphyry in his Philosophical History.
- Hiero I of Syracuse and Daelochus:
- Hiero, tyrant of Syracuse surrounded himself with pederastic intellectuals and had a number of lovers. Around 470 BCE, on being challenged by Simonides on the ethics of being a pederast while a tyrant, he replied: "My passion for Daelochus arises from the fact that human nature perhaps compels us to want from the beautiful, but I have a very strong desire to attain the object of my passion [only] with his love and consent."
- Antileon and Hipparinos:
- Natives of Herakleia, near Metapontum, the two were famed as tyrant killers in the style of Harmodius and Aristogiton. After the tyrant of Herakleia accosted Hipparinos, Antileon assassinated him, but paid with his life.
- Pausanias (general) and Argilius:
- The general was sending treasonous letters to the Persians by means of his former lovers, none of whom ever returned. Argilius, upon being appointed messenger, opened the letter in secret, only to find out that it instructed the receiver of the letter to kill its bearer. He divulged Pausanias correspondence to the ephors, who had Pausanias walled up within the temple where he had taken refuge, starving him to death for communicating with the enemy.
- Archelaus and Socrates:
- The older philosopher loved the younger when the latter was seventeen.
- Phidias and Agoracritus:
- The youth, both beloved and student of the sculptor, is also known for his sculpture of Nemesis at Rhamnus.
- Phidias and Pantarkes:
- Pantarkes, was an Elian youth and winner of the boys' wrestling match at the 86th Olympics in 436 BCE. He modeled for one of the figures sculpted in the throne of the Olympian Zeus, and Phidias, to honor him, carved "Kalos Pantarkes" into the god's little finger.
- Empedocles and Pausanias of Sicily:
- Pausanias was both friend and student of the philosopher.
- Anytus and Alcibiades:
- One of the lovers whom Alcibides grew to despise, he defended the youth to his guests on the occasion of a symposium during which the boy entered the room only to make off with half the cups on the table. Rather than agreeing with the guests who accused Alcibides of insolence and contempt, Anytus claimed the boy did him a kindness, since he could just as easily have walked off with all the cups.
- Socrates and Alcibiades:
- Each is said to have saved the life of the other in battle, and the relationship, which took place around 435-430 was said to have been chaste.
- Critias and Euthydemos:
- A relationship mocked by Socrates for the brutish physicality of Critias' desire.
- Plato and Aster:
- The boy is said to have been a student of Plato's, to whom he was teaching astronomy. Upon Aster's untimely death Plato wrote an epitaph,
:My Aster, you're gazing on the stars,
:Would that I were the heavens, that so I might
:Gaze in return with many eyes on thee.
- Xenophon and Clinias:
- Of his eromenos, Xenophon said, "Now I look upon Clinias with more pleasure than upon all the other beautiful things which are to be seen among men; and I would rather be blind as to all the rest of the world, than as to Clinias. And I am annoyed even with night and with sleep, because then I do not see him; but I am very grateful to the sun and to daylight, because they show Clinias to me."
- Callias III and Autolycus:
- The relationship between the two, in 421 BCE, is touched upon in Xenophon's Symposium, where Callias entertains both the boy and the father.
- Themistocles and Stesilaus of Ceos:
- Around 420 BCE Themistocles competed for the boy's love with Aristides. As Plutarch recounts, "... they were rivals for the affection of the beautiful Stesilaus of Ceos, and were passionate beyond all moderation."''
- Pytheas and Teisis:
- Pytheas, who was also the guardian of the youth, appointed to that position by Teisis' father in his will, is held up as being an unwise erastes, concerned with impressing his eromenos and as a result giving him bad advice.
- Archedemus and Alcibiades II:
- In his childhood, Alcibiades II, son of the famous general by the same name, was notorious for frequenting the house of his erastes, drinking, and reclining with him under a single cloak in sight of all.
- Archebiades and Alcibiades II:
- After the death of the older Alcibiades, his old associate and co-defendant in the desecration of the Eleusinian mysteries, became the erastes of his son, then in his early teens, ransoming him from imprisonment, a ransom the boy's father had refused to pay, out of disgust with his own son.
- Lysander and Agesilaus II:
- Lysander had been the eispnelas of Agesilaus and was instrumental in the latter's rise to kingship, only to be spurned by him once he rose to power in 399BCE.
- Archidamus and Cleonymus:
- Archidamus, son of Agesilaus II, is described by Xenophon to have been in love with the handsome son of Sphodrias. The boy asked his eispnelas to intervene with the king in favor of his father in a life and death legal matter, promising that Archidamus would never be ashamed to have befriended him. That proved to be so, as he was the first Spartan to die at the battle of Leuctra.
- Ariaeus and Menon the Thessalian:
- Menon, a commander of Greek mercenaries in Cyrus the Younger's army who had received his commission on account of his youthful beauty, took Ariaeus, a Persian, as his lover. The matter was badly seen, as it was deemed especially base to submit sexually to a barbarian.
- Menon the Thessalian and Tharupas:
- In a reversal of the usual custom, Menon, a commander of a troop of mercenaries despite his adolescence, took as "beloved" the bearded Tharupas.
- Artaxerxes II of Persia and Tiridates:
- The Persian king, distraught at the death of his beloved eunuch, found consolation in placing the dead youth's cloak over the shoulders of Aspasia, his Greek hetaira.
- Archelaus I of Macedon and Craterus (or Crateuas):
- The king of Macedon was assassinated in 399 BCE by this eromenos, upon reneging on a promise to give the boy his daughter in marriage.
- Amyntas the Little and Derdas:
- The couple is cited by Aristotle as another exampled of an eromenos killing his erastes (in 393/4), in this case for a boast by the latter that he had "possessed" the youth.
- Lysias and Theodotus:
- Though already in his early fifties, Lysias took on an eromenos from Platea. The youth, however, had already signed a companionship contract with a certain Simon, who, claiming prior rights to the boy, proceeded to stalk him, resorting to several kidnapping attempts. As a result of that, and the street brawls which ensued, the case was heard before the Areopagus.
- Aristippus of Cyrene and Euthychides:
- The youth was a slave of the philosopher, compared by him with the students of Socrates.
- Agesilaus II and Megabates:
- By taking on the Persian boy as beloved, the king of Sparta was following Spartan law.
''The group below (indented) consists of relationships revealed during the course of Aeschines' speech (ca. 345) to the court bringing suit against the politician Timarchus so as to deprive him of his political rights for having behaved like a prostitute in his adolescence. They occurred around 375, except the first two, presumably about ten to fifteen years earlier. ''
- Diopeithes of Sounion, and Hegesandros of Sounion:
- Diopeithes, besides being the judge before whom Pittalakos (see below) brought his suit, had also been an erastes of Hegesandros. Not surprisingly, he stalled the suit until it was withdrawn.
- Leodamas and Hegesandros:
- During his testimony, Hegesandros indicated that he previously had been in a similar relationship with Leodamas. Hegesandros himself is accused of having prostituted himself in his youth, and of having misbehaved sexually with Leodamas.
- Misgolas, son of Naukrates of the deme of Kollytos, and Timarchus:
- Timarchus is accused not only of having sold his services, but of submitting to anal penetration, particularly shameful behavior at the time.
- Antikles, son of Kallias of the deme Euonymon, and Timarchus:
- As Antikles was away at the time of the trial no further information was presented by Aeschines.
- Pittalakos and Timarchus:
- As Pittalakos was a public slave, Timarchus incurred even greater shame for his sexual submission and penetration.
- Hegesandros, son of Diphilos of Steiria, and Timarchus:
- Hegesandros, having accumulated great wealth on a military campaign, bribed Timarchus away from Pittalakos, causing the latter great jealousy. As he was making a nuisance of himself Hegesandros and Timarchus beat him up, to which he responded with a lawsuit against both.
- Epaminondas(Epameinondas) and Micythus
- Epaminondas and Asopichos(Asopichus):
- A couple famed for their military prowess, such as in their victory at Leuctra in 371 BCE.
- Epaminondas and Caphisodorus:
- Caphisodorus was his last lover. He fell with Epaminondas in 362 at Mantineia and was buried by his side. .
- Demosthenes and Cnosion:
- After the orator took in his young beloved, his wife is said to have bedded the boy in a fit of jealousy, though Aeschines claims that it was Demosthenes who put his own wife in bed with the youth so as to get children by him.
- Demosthenes and Aristarchus:
- Much of what is known about this relationship comes from the speeches of Demosthenes' enemy, Aeschines. He accuses Demosthenes of having been such a bad erastes to Aristarchus so as not even to deserve the name. Among his alleged crimes are his complicity in Aristarchus' murder of Nicodemus of Aphidna, whose eyes and tongue were gouged out. This murder took place while the youth was under Demosthenes' tutelage. Another misdeed of Demosthenes, the one allegedly disqualifying him from calling himself an erastes, is his pillaging of Aristarchus' estate. He is alleged to have pretended being in love with the youth so as to get his hands on the boy's inheritance, which he is said to have squandered and from which he is said to have taken three talents upon Aristarchus' fleeing into exile so as to avoid a trial.
- Demosthenes and Aristion:
- Again, according to Aeschines, Demosthenes had the handsome youth in his house, engaged in unspeakable behavior: ''There is a certain Aristion, a Plataean..., who as a youth was oustandingly good-looking and lived for a long time in Demosthenes' house. Allegations about the part he was playing ('undergoing or doing what') there vary, and it would be most unseemly for me to talk about it.''
- Philip II of Macedon and Pausanias:
- In 336 BCE Pausanias killed Philip out of jealousy over another lover.
- Darius III of Persia and Bagoas:
- Bagoas was the favorite of Darius, who was said to have been "intimate" with him.
- Alexander the Great and Bagoas.:
- The two met in 330 BCE after the death of Bagoas' previous patron, Darius III.
- Dimnus and Nichomachus:
- One of Alexander the Great's Hetairoi (or Companion Cavalry), Dimnus enlisted his eromenos in a plot to kill Alexander, revealing to him the names of the conspirators. The boy told his brother, who denounced them, leading to the trial and execution of the plotters, in 330.
- Aristotle and Palaephatus of Abydus:
- According to the Suda, Palaephatus was Aristotle's paidika.
- Aristotle and Aeschrion of Mitylene:
- The boy was both student and eromenos of the philosopher, and is known for becoming an epic poet and forjoining the expedition of Alexander the Great.
- Polemon (scholarch) and Crates:
- The friendship between the older philosopher and his student was legendary, and the two were buried in the same tomb. Hesychius says of them that,
:"Krates and Polemon loved each other so well that they not only were occupied in life with the same work, but they almost drew breath simultaneously; and in death they shared the same grave. On account of which, Archesilaus, who visited them in company with Theophrastus, spoke of them as gods, or survivors from the Golden Age."
- Theophrastus and Nicomachus:
- Theophrastus was the successor of Aristotle and erastes to his son.
- Demetrius Phalereus and Diognis:
- Between 317 BC and 307 BC, when he was despot of Athens, he had a boyfriend by the name of Diognis, of whom all the Athenian boys were jealous.
- Zeno of Citium and Persaeus:
- According to Diogenes Laërtius, the philosopher had Persaeus as his eromenos and lived with him in the same house.
- Dionysius the Renegade and Panculus:
- Dionysus "wrote a tragedy called Parthenopaeus, and forged the name of Sophocles to it. And Heraclides was so much deceived that he took some passages out of one of his works, and cited them as the words of Sophocles; and Dionysius, when he perceived it, gave him notice of the real truth; and as he would not believe it, and denied it, he sent him word to examine the first letters of the first verses of the book, and they formed the name of Panculus, who was an eromenos of Dionysius."
- Demetrius I of Macedon and Cleaenetus:
- Known for his requent debauches, the Macedonian king waived a fine of 50 talents imposed on a citizen in exchange for the favors of Cleaenetus, that man's son.
- Archeboulus the Theran and Euphorion of Chalcis:
- Euphorion, after studying philosophy with Lakydes and Prytanis, became the student and beloved of the poet Archeboulus.
- Hamilcar Barca and Hasdrubal the Fair:
- The Carthaginian Hasdrubal was noted for his beauty, first becoming the catamite of Hamilcar (240?), and later his son-in-law.
- Xenares and Cleomenes III:
- Xenares inspired the future king before 235 BCE.
- Cleomenes III and Panteus.:
- According to Plutarch, Panteus was "the most beautiful and valorous youth of Sparta." Later he joined his inspirer in death - when Cleomenes took his own life upon being exiled to Egypt, Panteus, seeing that he could still knit his brows, "...kissed him and raised him. Holding the body next to him, he plunged his sword into his own breast."
- Ptolemy IV Philopator and Agathocles of Egypt:
- This Ptolemaic Pharaoh of Egypt was ruled by his beloved and the latter's sister.
- Ptolemy VI Philometor and Galestes:
- The king loved the boy not only for his good looks but also for his wisdom. Ca. 170-140 BCE
- Lucius Quinctius T.f. Flaminius and Philip:
- While consul in 189 BCE, Flaminius took the Carthaginian boy as catamite on his travels away from Rome, only to be berated by the youth for making him miss the gladiator games. At dinner one day, a Gaul presented himself to ask for safety. The consul asked the boy if he wanted to see a man killed, and ran the Gaul through with his sword.
- Gaius Lucilius and Gentius (and Macedo):
- In his poetry, Lucilius blames a praetor for having stolen Gentius from him, and predicts the boy will return. The satirist was blamed in later antiquity for having "prostituted" his lovers by using their actual names in his poem, instead of veiling them, as other authors were wont to do, by the use of pseudonyms.
- Piso and Cicero:
- According to an accusation by Sallust, the youthful Cicero was taught rhetoric by Piso, at the cost of his sexual integrity (pudicitia).
- Cicero and Marcus Tullius Tiro:
- Though his beloved was a slave (to whom the master wrote an amatory epigram bemoaning Tiro's refusal to let himself be kissed) he is nonetheless seen as having benefited from his connection with his master, as he went on to have a distinguished literary career of his own - as well as being Cicero's literary executor. Thus the couple is seen as a Roman example of the erastes/eromenos pair.
- Octavian and Sarmentus:
- One of the favorites (or, "delicia") of the emperor, Sarmentus was held up as an example of rank favoritism by the historian Dellius. He incurred Cleopatra's wrath by complaining that while he and others dignitaries were served sour wine by Marc Antony in Greece, Octavian's catamite was drinking Falernian in Rome.
- Virgil and Alexander:
- According to an account by Suetonius preserved in the writings of Aelius Donatus, itself incorporated in a critical account by Servius, the Alexis of the Bucolics was based on a real-life beloved of Virgil. Allegedly, Virgil was fond of boys, with later commentary specifying that his love was patterned along the lines of chaste pederasty. The boy, a slave, was a gift from one of his patrons, Asinius Pollio.
[Aelius Donatus, Life of Virgil; tr. David Wilson-Okamura (1996; rev. 2005); 9-11 "With regard to pleasure, he was partial to boys. He loved Cebes and Alexander most of all. Alexander was a gift to him from Asinius Pollio; the second poem of his Bucolics refers to him as "Alexis." Nor was the other one unlearned; in fact, Cebes was a poet as well."] While some modern historians accept the story as credible, an opposing school of thought deems it a fabrication.
- The "Capernaum centurion" and the "Beloved pais":
- The couple entered history as a result of the Centurion's request, around 27 CE, to Jesus to heal his beloved, who was close to death. As the story goes, Jesus complied and the boy was healed. Loving relationships between Roman soldiers and their camp boys were common.
- Nero and Sporus:
- According to Suetonius, "He castrated the boy Sporus and actually tried to make a woman of him; and he married him with all the usual ceremonies, including a dowry and a bridal veil, took him to his home attended by a great throng, and treated him as his wife. [...] This Sporus, decked out with the finery of the empresses and riding in a litter, he took with him to the courts and marts of Greece, and later at Rome through the Street of the Images, fondly kissing him from time to time."
- Vitellius and Asiaticus:
- First slave and catamite of Vitellus, the boy ran away, was found, imprisoned, reinstated in his former position, sold as gladiator, recovered again, freed and finally knighted by his lover on his first day as emperor in 69 CE, to whom he became a trusted adviser for the short duration of his reign.
- Gaius Scribonius Curio (the younger) and Marc Antony:
- Cicero accuses Marc Antony of having surrendered his pudicitia (sexual integrity) to Gaius as soon as he had donned his adult toga (customary at the age of fourteen in Roman times).
- Marc Antony and Dellius:
- Dellius was the paidika of Antony and later attempted to procure for him the services of Aristobulus, the sixteen year old brother in law of Herod, brother of his wife Mariamne, which Herod refused, as he knew what purpose the boy would be put to.
- Martial and Diadoumenos:
- The poet immortalized his slave catamite, playing on the topoi of sweet kisses and cruel boys.
- Aulus Pudens and Encolpus:
- The poet Martial (around 90 CE) celebrated the love of his centurion friend for his young slave, in several epigrams describing their mutual love and the cruelty of the boy who decides to cut his hair to the consternation of his master.
- Domitian and Earinos:
- A number of poets hurried to flatter the emperor by praising his beloved, a slave eunuch who was compared to Ganymede. Domitian decreed that thenceforth castration would be forbidden.
- Trajan and Arbandes:
- Trajan's love of youths influenced even his governing, leading him, around 115 CE, to favour the king of Edessa in Mesopotamia out of appreciation for his handsome son: "On this occasion, however, Abgarus, induced partly by the persuasions of his son Arbandes, who was handsome and in the pride of youth and therefore in favor with Trajan, and partly by his fear of the latter's presence, he met him on the road, made his apologies and obtained pardon, for he had a powerful intercessor in the boy."
- Emperor Hadrian and Antinous:
- The Roman emperor met this 13 or 14 years old boy from Bithynia in 124 CE. Antinous was deified by Hadrian, when he died six years later. Many statues, busts, coins and reliefs display Hadrian's deep affections for him: antinoos.info/antinous.htm
- Herodes Atticus and Polydeukion:
- Herodes emulated Hadrian in establishing a heroic cult for the boy upon his early death ca. 174 CE.
- Ptolemy and Eutropius:
- Eutropius, an Armenian or Assyrian slave castrated at birth, was derided for having had many masters, beginning with Ptolemy, a groom or soldier in the imperial stables of Byzantium. Promised his freedom by his master, he was instead given as a gift (being still too young to be bought) to the general Arintheus, whom he served as pander.
- Greek love
- Pederasty in ancient Greece
- Platonic love
- Louis Crompton. Homosexuality and Civilization, Cambridge, Mass. and London, 2003. ISBN 0-674-01197-X
- Michel Larivière. Homosexuels et bisexuels célèbres, Delétraz Editions, 1997. ISBN 2-911110-19-6
- Kenneth J. Dover. Greek Homosexuality, New York; Vintage Books, 1978. ISBN 0-394-74224-9
- Thomas K. Hubbard. Homosexuality in Greece and Rome, U. of California Press, 2003. ISBN 0-520-23430-8
- Harald Patzer. Die Griechische Knabenliebe [Greek Pederasty], Wiesbaden: Franz Steiner Verlag, 1982. In: Sitzungsberichte der Wissenschaftlichen Gesellschaft an der Johann Wolfgang Goethe-Universität Frankfurt am Main, Vol. 19 No. 1.
- Carola Reinsberg. Ehe, Hetärentum und Knabenliebe im antiken Griechenland, C.H.Beck Verlag, München 1993. ISBN 3-406-37374-7
- Eva Cantarella, Cormac O Cuilleanain. Bisexuality in the Ancient World , Yale University Press, 1992. ISBN 0-300-04844-0
- W. A. Percy III. Pederasty and Pedagogy in Archaic Greece, University of Illinois Press, 1996. ISBN 0-252-02209-2
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