Homer, then, knew nothing of paiderastia, though the Iliad contained the first and noblest legend of heroic friendship. Very early, however, in Greek history boy-love, as a form of sensual passion, became a national institution. This is proved abundantly by mythological traditions of great antiquity, by legendary tales connected with the founding of Greek cities, and by the primitive customs of the Dorian tribes. The question remains how paiderastia originated among the Greeks, and whether it was introduced or indigenous.
The Greeks themselves speculated on this subject, but they arrived at no one definite conclusion. Herodotus asserts that the Persians learned the habit, in its vicious form, from the Greeks; 1 but, even supposing this assertion to be correct, we are not justified in assuming the same of all barbarians who were neighbours of the Greeks; since we know from the Jewish records and from Assyrian inscriptions that the Oriental nations were addicted to this as well as other species of sensuality. Moreover, it might with some strain on language be maintained that Herodotus, in the passage above referred to, did not allude to boy-love in general, but to the peculiarly Hellenic form of it which I shall afterwards attempt to characterise.
A prevalent opinion among the Greeks ascribed the origin of paiderastia to Crete; and it was here that the legend of Zeus and Ganymede was localised. 2 "The Cretans," says Plato; 3
[paragraph continues] "are always accused of having invented the story of Ganymede and Zeus, which is designed to justify themselves in the enjoyment of such pleasures by the practice of the god whom they believe to have been their lawgiver."
In another passage, 1 Plato speaks of the custom that prevailed before the time of Laius--in terms which show his detestation of a vice that had gone far toward corrupting Greek society. This sentence indicates the second theory of the later Greeks upon this topic. They thought that Laius, the father of dipus, was the first to practise Hybris, or lawless lust, in this form; by the rape committed on Chrysippus, the son of Pelops. 2 To this crime of Laius the Scholiast to the Seven against Thebes attributes all the evils which afterwards befell the royal house of Thebes, and Euripides made it the subject of a tragedy. In another but less prevalent Saga the introduction of paiderastia, is ascribed to Orpheus.
It is clear from these conflicting theories that the Greeks themselves had no trustworthy tradition on the subject. Nothing, therefore, but speculative conjecture is left for the modern investigator. If we need in such a matter to seek further than the primal instincts of human nature, we may suggest that, like the orgiastic rites of the later Hellenic cultus, paiderastia in its crudest form was transmitted to the Greeks from the East. Its prevalence in Crete, which, together with Cyprus, formed one of the principal links between Phnicia and Hellas proper, favours this view. Paiderastia would, on this hypothesis like the worship of the Paphian and Corinthian Aphrodite, have to be regarded as in part an Oriental importation. 3 Yet, if we adopt any such solution of the problem, we must not forget that in this, as in all similar cases, whatever the Greeks received from adjacent nations, they distinguished with the qualities of their own personality. Paiderastia in Hellas assumed Hellenic characteristics, and cannot be confounded with any merely Asiatic form of luxury. In the tenth section of this Essay I shall return to the problem, and advance my own conjecture as to the part played by the Dorians in the development of paiderastia into a custom.
It is enough for the present to remark that, however introduced, the vice of boy-love, as distinguished from heroic friendship, received religious sanction at an early period. The legend of the rape of Ganymede was invented, according to the passage recently
quoted from Plato, by the Cretans with the express purpose of investing their pleasures with a show of piety. This localisation of the religious sanction of paiderastia in Crete confirms the hypothesis of Oriental influence; for one of the notable features of Græco-Asiatic worship was the consecration of sensuality in the Phallus cult, the Hiero douloi (temple slaves, or bayadères) of Aphrodite, and the eunuchs of the Phrygian mother. Homer tells the tale of Ganymede with the utmost simplicity. The boy was so beautiful that Zeus suffered him not to dwell on earth, but translated him to heaven, and appointed him the cupbearer of the immortals. The sensual desire which made the king of gods and men prefer Ganymede to Leda, Io, Danaë, and all the maidens whom he loved and left on earth, is an addition to the Homeric version of the myth. In course of time the tale of Ganymede, according to the Cretan reading, became the nucleus around which the paiderastic associations of the Greek race gathered, just as that of Achilles formed the main point in their tradition of heroic friendship. To the Romans and the modern nations the name of Ganymede, debased to Catamitus, supplied a term of reproach, which sufficiently indicates the nature of the love of which he became eventually the eponym.
4:1 i. 135.
4:2 Numerous localities, however, claimed this distinction. See Ath., xiii. 601. Chalkis in Euba, as well as Crete, could show the sacred spot where the mystical assumption of Ganymede was reported to have happened.
4:3 Laws, i. 636. Cp. Timæus, quoted by Ath., p. 602. Servius, ad Aen. x. 325, says that boy-love spread from Crete to Sparta, and thence through Hellas, and Strabo mentions its prevalence among the Cretans (x. 483). Plato (Rep. v. 452) speaks of the Cretans as introducing naked athletic sports.
5:1 Laws, viii. 863.
5:2 See Ath., xiii. 602. Plutarch, in the Life of Pelopidas (Clough, vol. ii, p. 219), argues against this view.
5:3 See Rosenbaum, Lustseuche im Alterthume, p. 118.