**Preamble: ** There is still a modern controversy about the role and level of acceptance of homosexuality in ancient Greece. I have found that modern Greeks can be among the most homophobic of people in their reaction to this idea. For example, there was an attempt by modern Greeks to ban the recent Oliver Stone movie about Alexander the Great because his relationship to Hephaestion was shown as having a sexual side.
It seems obvious that what we are hearing is modern Greeks conditioned to homophobic thinking by 2000 years of Christianity and Greek Orthodoxy.
Also, when we hear about the attitudes of ancient Greeks, often what we are really talking about are Athenians and to a lesser degree other Greeks like Corinthians and Thebans. But we know that marriage, sexuality and social interaction were very different in Sparta.
My question: So keeping in mind that what I am saying is perhaps mostly appropriate to ancient Athens, can anyone tell me if historians have considered whether the marriage patterns of Athenian men and women might not account for the tolerance and acceptance of homosexuality in that society?
I refer to the fact that Athenian men (at least of the upper classes) rarely married until they were 30, and then they married young girls of about 12 or 13!
Add to this the fact that Athenian custom and law gave fathers the right to abandon newborn children they did not wish to raise, and the fact that many families prefered not to raise girls. This would of course have created a population in which there were many more males than females.
So we end up with the following demographics:
A population in which most young males from puberty to 30 (remember that males reach their sexual peak at 19) are not married. Lotsa ragin’ hormones there!
A population in which almost all females from puberty on are already married, and jealously guarded by their husbands.
So what are all these young, horny Athenian lads supposed to do for the first 18 year of their active sex life?
Sex with another man’s wife is difficult, and would create great social disruption and conflict.
We also have a situation in which young men make a cult of perfecting their bodies through sporting events in the nude (“gymnasium” comes from the Greek word “gymnos” meaning “naked”).
Add all this up and what would you expect? A society that is very tolerant of homosexual behaviour because it takes up a great deal of the “slack” with a minimum of social disrupotion, and also very tolerant of female prostitution (for those who are incurably straight or bisexual). One would expect that many prostitutes, far from being shuned or deprecated, would become famous and respected practitioners of their art.
In fact, this is exactly what appears to have been the case in ancient Athens and other Greek city-states as well.
Does this theory make any sense?