The Times are a Changin!

In 1997 Bill Clinton signed into law the Defense of Marriage Act that excluded same sex couples from federal benefits.  13 years later Bill Clinton disavowed that same legislation, stating that,  “…the fabric of our country has changed, and so should this policy.”   Likewise, Barak Obama initially opposed same sex marriage in his 2008 election campaign but reversed his position 6 months before his 2012 campaign for reelection. (source) Joe Biden suggests that one of President Obama’s most significant achievements will be his championing of gay rights.  (source)  Hillary Clinton did not speak out publicly in favour of gay marriage until 2013.   In an interview with NPR she observed how quickly public opinion has changed on this issue.  “I did not grow up even imagining gay marriage and I don’t think you probably did either… we are living at a time when this extraordinary change is occurring and I am proud of our country…” Clinton said in the interview.   (source)

Both Bill and Hillary Clinton acknowledge that same sex marriage was unheard of in their own generation but no longer.  The times, they are a changing!  So where do we go from here?  A study recently issued by the APA (American Psychological Association) may provide a clue.  It warns that the sexual portrayal of children (particularly girls) in the media is becoming “increasingly common’ (source).  The increasing acceptance of sexual images of children is also evident in the very lenient laws Canada has toward online sites containing sexualized images of children – the courts apparently favoring the freedom of expression over the safety of our children.    One other instance is the ‘manga’ cartoons that have successfully circumvented Japan’s laws against child pornography. (source)

Despite the increasingly sexual portrayal of children in the media, pedastery remains shockingly wrong for most people who live in the West.  But it hasn’t always been viewed this way.  It was a normal part of Greek and Roman society.

In his book, Meditations, the Roman emperor and Stoic philosopher, Marcus Aurelius, thanks his mentors.  He singles out his adoptive father in particular for praise.

In my adoptive father I observed a smooth and inoffensive temper, with great steadiness in keeping close to measures judiciously taken; a greatness proof against vanity and the impressions of pomp and power. From him a prince might learn to love business and action, and be constantly at it; to be willing to hear out any proposal relating to public advantage, and undeviatingly give every man his due; to understand the critical seasons and circumstances for rigour or remissness. To have no boy-favourites.  (Meditations)

Marcus Aurelius thought it worth mentioning that his step father did not have boy-favorites.  Apparently many other rich Roman patrons did have boy-favorites, the most famous of which was Antinous, Hadrian’s boy favorite.  Antinous was only 11 or 12 when he was introduced to the aging emperor – 35 years his senior.  Within several years of their introduction, Antinous accompanied Hadrian on all his tours of the empire until he died mysteriously on the Nile on October 130 AD, at the time of festival of Osiris.  It was possible, even likely, that Antinous death in the Nile was a voluntary human sacrifice.  Dio Cassius thought so. (source) And certainly the circumstances are suspicious.   This probably explains why Hadrian deified Antinous and erected statues of him throughout the Roman world.  Over 100 such statues have been discovered.

Antinous made to look like Osiris - the Egyptin god of the underworld.  Location: Vatican Museum in Rome
Antinous made to look like Osiris – the Egyptin god of the underworld. Location: Vatican Museum in Rome

Another source that reveals the widespread practice of pedastery in the Roman world is a work titled the “Banquet of the Learned” (Deipnosophistae) written by the Athenaeus in Rome (3rd century AD).  Athenaeus notes that in Greek myths, the gods “were fond of having boys” but there was a debate whether this fondness should be traced back to Zeus or to Minos (the ancient deified king of the Cretans).

And many men used to be as fond of having boys as their favourites as women for their mistresses. And this was a frequent fashion in many very well regulated cities of Greece. Accordingly, the Cretans, as I have said before, and the Chalcidians in Euboea, were very much addicted to the custom of having boy-favourites. Therefore Echemenes, in his history of Crete, says that it was not Zeus who carried off Ganymedes, but Minos. But the before-mentioned Chalcidians say that Ganymedes was carried off from them by Zeus; and they show the spot, which they call Harpagium; and it is a place which produces extraordinary myrtles. http://www.attalus.org/old/athenaeus13d.html

Young slave boys were used  to serve food in the symposium where they were they became the objects of lust.

Sophocles, too, had a great fancy for having boy-favourites, equal to the addiction of Euripides for women. And accordingly, Ion the poet, in his book on the Arrival of Illustrious Men in the Island of Chios, writes thus:- “I met Sophocles the poet in Chios, when he was sailing to Lesbos as the general: he was a man very pleasant over his wine, and very witty. And when Hermesilaus, who was connected with him by ancient ties of hospitality, and who was also the Proxenus of the Athenians, entertained him, the boy who was mixing the wine was standing by the fire, being a boy of a very beautiful complexion, but made red by the fire: so Sophocles called him and said, ‘Do you wish me to drink with pleasure?’ and when he said that he did, he said, ‘Well, then, bring me the cup, and take it away again in a leisurely manner.’ And as the boy blushed all the more at this, Sophocles said to the guest who was sitting next to him, ‘How well did Phrynichus speak when he said- ‘The light of love doth shine in purple cheeks.’ [Sophocles and an Eretrian discuss poetry] …and Sophocles again turned to pursue the conversation with the boy; for he asked him, as he was brushing away the straws from the cup with his little finger, whether he saw any straws: and when he said that he did, he said, ‘Blow them away, then, that you may not dirty your fingers.’ And when he brought his face near the cup he held the cup nearer to his own mouth, so as to bring his own head nearer to the head of the boy. And when he was very near he took him by the hand and kissed him. And when all clapped their hands, laughing and shouting out, to see how well he had taken the boy in, he said, ‘I, my friends, am practicing the art of generalship, since Pericles has said that I know how to compose poetry, but not how to be a general; now has not this stratagem of mine succeeded perfectly?’ And he both said and did many things of this kind in a witty manner, drinking and giving himself up to mirth: but as to political affairs he was not able nor energetic in them, but behaved as any other virtuous Athenian might have done.” (Athenaeus Deipnosophistae – Book 13) http://www.attalus.org/old/athenaeus13d.html

Athenaeus also describes a dance in which young boys took part.

For Demodocus sang while “boys in their first bloom” danced, and in the Forging of the Arms a boy played the lyre while others opposite him “frisked about to the music and the dance.” (Athenaeus Deipnosophistae – Book 1) http://penelope.uchicago.edu/Thayer/E/Roman/Texts/Athenaeus/1B*.html

Pedastery was also part of the Gymnasium.

Ball-players also paid attention to graceful movement. Damoxenus, at any rate, says: “A youngster, perhaps sixteen or seventeen years old, was once playing ball. He came from Cos; that island, it is plain, produces gods. Whenever he cast his eye upon us seated there, as he caught or threw the ball, we shouted together, ‘What rhythm! what modesty of manner, what skill!’ Whatever he said or did, gentlemen, he seemed a miracle of beauty. Never before have I heard of or seen such grace.  Something would have happened to me if I had stayed longer; as it is, I feel that I am not quite well.” Even Ctesibius, the philosopher of Chalcis, liked to play ball, and many of King Antigonus’s friends would strip for a game with him. Timocrates the Laconian wrote a treatise on ball-playing. http://penelope.uchicago.edu/Thayer/E/Roman/Texts/Athenaeus/1B*.html Famous ball-players were Demoteles, brother of Theocritus the Chian sophist; also one Chaerephanes. He, when following a licentious young man, would not converse with him, and moreover prevented the young fellow from inducing his passion. So the young man said, “Chaerephanes, if you will stop following me you shall have of me everything you desire.” “What!” he replied; “I converse with you?” “Why, then,” said the young man, “do you persist in following me?” To this he answered, “I like to look at you, but I do not approve of your morals.” http://penelope.uchicago.edu/Thayer/E/Roman/Texts/Athenaeus/1B*.html

So apparently many within Roman society would have been quite comfortable with modern attitudes towards homosexuality and even the sexualizing of children.  On at least one point, however, the ancient Romans differed from modern progressives.  There is no indications that the Romans or the Greeks ever thought it necessary to change the definition of marriage.  It is doubtful that any society before our own thought it a good idea to have two men raise a child or two woman…   They may not have had Christian morals but when it came to the family they at least had enough common sense to recognize that there is a certain order established in nature that is best left alone.

So progress on!

How you have fallen oh Helel, Son of the Dawn.  You said I will ascend to Heaven, I will become like the Most High…  but you have been brought to down to the farthest reaches of the pit.

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