Alastair Blanchard from the University of Queensland writes about why your ideas about homosexuality in Ancient Greece might be wrong.
In recent years, we have seen significant advances won for LGBT rights through hard-fought legal cases and well-targeted political campaigns. Yet it is worth remembering that for decades, recourse to such methods was not available to LGBT people. The law-court and the parliament were deaf to their pleas. For many, it was only in their dreams that they could escape oppression.
One should not underplay the importance of such fantasies. They provided succour and hope in a grim world. It was comforting to imagine a time before Christianity told you that the acts of love that you committed were a sin or the law pronounced that your public displays of affection were acts of “gross indecency”. The persistent dream of a “gay utopia” is one of the constants in gay and lesbian historical imaginings over the last 200 years.
One place in particular attracted the longings of gays and lesbians. This was the world of ancient Greece, a supposed gay paradise in which same-sex love flourished without discrimination. It was a powerful, captivating dream, one which scholars of ancient Greece have started to pull apart, revealing a culture in which homosexuality was much more regulated and controlled than previously thought.