The transmutation of Hellas proper into part of the Roman Empire, and the intrusion of Stoicism and Christianity into the sphere of Hellenic thought and feeling, mark the end of the Greek age. It still remains, however, to consider the relation of this passion to the character of the race, and to determine its influence.
In the fifth section of this essay I asserted that it is now impossible to ascertain whether the Greeks derived paiderastia from any of the surrounding nations, and if so, from which. Homer's silence makes it probable that the contact of Hellenic with Phoenician traders in the post-heroic period led to the adoption by the Greek race of a custom which they speedily assimilated and stamped with an Hellenic character. At the same time I suggested in the tenth section that paiderastia, in its more enthusiastic and martial form, may have been developed within the very sanctuary of Greek national existence by the Dorians, matured in the course of their migrations, and systematised after their settlement in Crete and Sparta. That the Greeks themselves regarded Crete as the classic ground of paiderastia favours either theory, and suggests a fusion of them both; for the geographical position of this island made it the meeting-place of Hellenes with the Asiatic races, while it was also one of the earliest Dorian acquisitions.
When we come to ask why this passion struck roots so deep into the very heart and brain of the Greek nation, we must reject the favourite hypothesis of climate. Climate is, no doubt, powerful to a great extent in determining the complexion of sexual morality; yet, as regards paiderastia we have abundant proof that nations of the North and of the South have, according to circumstances quite independent of climatic conditions, been
both equally addicted and equally averse to this habit. The Etruscan, 1 the Chinese, the ancient Keltic tribes, the Tartar hordes of Timour Khan, the Persians under Moslem rule--races sunk in the sloth of populous cities as well as the nomadic children of the Asian steppes, have all acquired a notoriety at least equal to that of the Greeks. The only difference between these people and the Greeks in respect to paiderastia is that everything which the Greek genius touched acquired a portion of its distinction, so that what in semi-barbarous society may be ignored as vice, in Greece demands attention as a phase of the spiritual life of a world-historic nation.
Like climate, ethnology must also be eliminated. It is only a superficial philosophy of history which is satisfied with the nomenclature of Semitic, Aryan, and so forth; which imagines that something is gained for, the explanation of a complex psychological problem when hereditary affinities have been demonstrated. The deeps of national personality are far more abysmal than this. Granting that climate and descent are elements of great importance, the religious and moral principles, the æsthetic apprehensions, and the customs which determine the character of a race leave always something still to be analysed. In dealing with Greek paiderastia, we are far more likely to reach a probable solution if we confine our attention to the specific social conditions which fostered the growth of this passion in Greece, and to the general habit of mind which permitted its evolution out of the common stuff of humanity, than if we dilate at ease upon the climate of the Ægean, or discuss the ethnical complexion of the Hellenic stock. In others words, it was the Pagan view of human life and duty which gave scope to paiderastia, while certain special Greek customs aided its development.
The Greeks themselves, quoted more than once above, have put us on the right track in this inquiry. However paiderastia began in Hellas, it was encouraged by gymnastics and syssitia. Youths and boys engaged together in athletic exercises, training their bodies to the highest point of physical attainment, growing critical about the points and proportions of the human form, lived of necessity in an atmosphere of mutual attention. Young men could not be insensible to the grace of boys in whom the bloom of beauty was unfolding. Boys could not fail to admire the strength and goodliness of men displayed in the comeliness of perfected development. Having exercised together in the wrestling-ground, the same young men and boys
consorted at the common tables. Their talk fell naturally upon feats of strength and training; nor was it unnatural, in the absence of a powerful religious prohibition, that love should spring from such discourse and intercourse.
The nakedness which Greek custom permitted in gymnastic games and some religious rites no doubt contributed to the erotic force of masculine passion; and the history of their feeling upon this point deserves notice. Plato, in the Republic (452), observes that "not long ago the Greeks were of the opinion, which is still generally received among the barbarians, that the sight of a naked man was ridiculous and unseemly." He goes on to mention the Cretans and the Lacedæmonians as the institutors of naked games. To these conditions may he added dances in public, the ritual of gods like Erôs, ceremonial processions, and contests for the prize of beauty.
The famous passage in the first book of Thucydides (cap. vi.) illustrates the same point. While describing the primitive culture of the Hellenes he thinks it worth while to mention that the Spartans, who first stripped themselves for running and wrestling, abandoned the girdle which it was usual to wear around the loins. He sees in this habit one of the strongest points of distinction between the Greeks and barbarians. Herodotus insists upon the same point (book i. 10), which is further confirmed by the verse of Ennius: Flagitii, &c.
The nakedness which Homer (Iliad, xxii. 66) and Tyrtæus (i. 21) describes as shameful and unseemly is that of an old man. Both poets seem to imply that a young man's naked body is beautiful even in death.
We have already seen that paiderastia as it existed in early Hellas was a martial institution, and that it never wholly lost its virile character. This suggests the consideration of another class of circumstances which were in the highest degree conducive to its free development. The Dorians, to begin with, lived like regiments of soldiers in barracks. The duty of training the younger men was thrown upon the elder; so that the close relations thus established in a race which did not positively discountenance the love of male for male rather tended actively to encourage it. Nor is it difficult to understand why the romantic emotions in such a society were more naturally aroused by male companions than by women. Matrimony was not a matter of elective affinity between two persons seeking to spend their lives agreeably and profitably in common, so much as an institution
used by the state for raising vigorous recruits for the national army. All that is known about the Spartan marriage customs, taken together with Plato's speculations about a community of wives, proves this conclusively. It followed that the relation of the sexes to each other was both more formal and more simple than it is with us; the natural and the political purposes of cohabitation were less veiled by those personal and emotional considerations which play so large a part in modern life. There was less scope for the emergence of passionate enthusiasm between men and women, while the full conditions of a spiritual attachment, solely determined by reciprocal inclination, were only to be found in comradeship. In the wrestling-ground, at the common tables, in the ceremonies of religion, at the Pan-hellenic games, in the camp, in the hunting-field, on the benches of the council chamber, and beneath the porches of the Agora, men were all in all unto each other. Women meanwhile kept the house at home, gave birth to babies, and reared children till such time as the state thought fit to undertake their training. It is, moreover, well known that the age at which boys were separated from their mothers was tender. Thenceforth they lived with persons of their own sex; their expanding feelings were confined within the sphere of masculine experience until the age arrived when marriage had to be considered in the light of a duty to the commonwealth. How far this tended to influence the growth of sentiment and to determine its quality may be imagined.
In the foregoing paragraph I have restricted my attention almost wholly to the Dorians: but what has just been said about the circumstance of their social life suggests a further consideration regarding paiderastia at large among the Greeks, which takes rank with the weightiest of all. The peculiar status of Greek women is a subject surrounded with difficulty; yet no one can help feeling that the idealisation of masculine love, which formed so prominent a feature of Greek life in the historic period, was intimately connected with the failure of the race to give their proper sphere in society to women. The Greeks themselves were not directly conscious of this fact; nor can I remember any passage in which a Greek has suggested that boy-love, flourished precisely upon the special ground which had been wrested from the right domain of the other sex. Far in advance of the barbarian tribes around them, they could not well discern the defects of their own civilisation; nor was it to be expected that they should have
anticipated that exaltation of the love of women into a semi-religious cult which was the later product of chivalrous Christianity. We from the standpoint of a more fully organised society, detect their errors and pronounce that paiderastia was a necessary consequence of their unequal social culture; nor do we fail to notice that just as paiderastia was a post-Homeric intrusion into Greek life, so women, after the age of the Homeric poems, suffered a corresponding depression in the social scale. In the Iliad and the Odyssey, and in the tragedies which deal with the heroic age, they play a part of importance for which the actual conditions of historic Hellas offered no opportunities.
It was at Athens that the social disadvantages of women told with greatest force; and this perhaps may help to explain the philosophic idealisation of boy-love among the Athenians. To talk familiarly with free women on the deepest subjects, to treat them as intellectual companions, or to choose them as associates in undertakings of political moment, seems never to have entered the mind of an Athenian. Women were conspicuous by their absence from all places of resort--from the palæstra, the theatre, the Agora, Pnyx, the law-court, the symposium; and it was here, and here alone, that the spiritual energies of the men expanded. Therefore, as the military ardour of the Dorians naturally associated itself with paiderastia, so the characteristic passion of the Athenians for culture took the same direction. The result in each case was a highly wrought psychical condition, which, however alien to our instincts, must be regarded as an exaltation of the race above its common human needs--as a manifestation of fervid, highly pitched emotional enthusiasm.
It does not follow from the facts which I have just discussed that, either at Athens or at Sparta, women were excluded from an important position in the home, or that the family in Greece was not the sphere of female influence more active than the extant fragments of Greek literature reveal to us. The women of Sophocles and Euripides, and the noble ladies described by Plutarch, warn us to be cautious in our conclusions on this topic. The fact, however, remains that in Greece, as in mediæval Europe, the home was not regarded as the proper sphere for enthusiastic passion: both paiderastia and chivalry ignored the family, while the latter even set the matrimonial tie at nought. It is therefore precisely at this point of the family, regarded as a comparatively undeveloped factor in the higher spiritual life of Greeks, that the two
problems of paiderastia and the position of women in Greece intersect.
In reviewing the external circumstances which favoured paiderastia, it may be added, as a minor cause, that the leisure in which the Greeks lived, supported by a crowd of slaves, and attending chiefly to their physical and mental culture, rendered them peculiarly liable to pre-occupations of passion and pleasure-seeking. In the early periods, when war was incessant, this abundance of spare time, bore less corrupt fruit than during the stagnation into which the Greeks enslaved by Macedonia and Rome declined.
So far, I have been occupied in the present section with the specific conditions of Greek society which may be regarded as determining the growth of paiderastia. With respect to the general habit of mind which caused the Greeks, in contradistinction to the Jews and Christians, to tolerate this form of feeling, it will be enough here to remark that Paganism could have nothing logically to say against it. The further consideration of this matter I shall reserve for the next division of my essay, contenting myself for the moment with the observation that Greek religion and the instincts of the Greek race offered no direct obstacle to the expansion of a habit which was strongly encouraged by the circumstances I have just enumerated.
60:1 See quotations in Rosenbaum, 119-140.
61:1 See Athen., xii. 5 17, for an account of their grotesque sensuality.