Law, Society and Homosexuality in Classical Athens<sup>†</sup>

David Cohen

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:
Law, Society and Homosexuality in Classical Athens†

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Recent scholarship has succeeded in greatly advancing our understanding of ‘Greek homosexuality’. Kenneth Dover and Michel Foucault have argued that the modern dichotomisation of sexuality as heterosexuality/homosexuality does not apply to the ancient world, and they have shown how distinctions between active and passive roles in male sexuality defined the contours of the permissible and impermissible in pederastic courtship and other forms of homoerotic behaviour. Among the Greeks, active homosexuality was regarded as perfectly natural (sexual desire was not distinguished according to its object). There was, however, a prohibition against males of any age adopting a submissive role that was unworthy of a free citizen. This chapter explores law, society and homosexuality in classical Athens, and argues that Athenian homoeroticism must be understood in the context of a theory of social practice that emphasises the centrality of cultural contradiction and ambivalence.

Keywords: Athens; law; society; homosexuality; Kenneth Dover; Michel Foucault; homoeroticism; sexuality

Chapter.  7545 words. 

Subjects: Classical History

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