Classical Greek Attitudes to Sexual Behaviour

K. J. Doveri

in Sex and Difference in Ancient Greece and Rome

Published by Edinburgh University Press

Published in print July 2003 | ISBN: 9780748613199
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780748651016 | DOI:
Classical Greek Attitudes to Sexual Behaviour

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The Greeks regarded sexual enjoyment as the area of life in which the goddess Aphrodite was interested, as Ares was interested in war and other deities in other activities. Sexual intercourse was aphrodisia, ‘the things of Aphrodite’. Sexual desire could be denoted by general words for ‘desire’, but the obsessive desire for a particular person was eros or love. Our own culture has its myths about the remote past, and one myth which dies hard is that the ‘invention’ of sexual guilt, shame and fear by the Christians destroyed a golden age of free, fearless, pagan sexuality. That most pagans were in many ways less inhibited than most Christians is undeniable. This chapter explores attitudes to sexual behaviour in classical Greece, focusing on inhibition, women's segregation and adultery, commercial sex, resistance to sexual desire, homosexuality, class and status, and Greek philosophy and sexual intercourse.

Keywords: classical Greece; Aphrodite; sexual behaviour; inhibition; segregation; adultery; commercial sex; sexual desire; homosexuality; philosophy

Chapter.  6484 words. 

Subjects: Classical History

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