Gay History 101: Greek Edition

In 'The School of Athens,' a fresco painted by Rafael in 1511, Aristotle (in blue) and Plato (in red) are depicted conversing among many other great students of philosophy.

SOCRATES, (469 – 399 BC)of Athens, the most influential thinker (470-399 BC). Diogenes Laërtius tells that as a boy Socrates was loved by his teacher Archelaus, which is confirmed by Porphyrius, who says that as a youth of 17 Socrates did not disdain the love of Archelaus, because he was then very sensual. Later he managed to overcome this by eager brain-work. Socrates did not write himself, and his remarks about pederasty, as handed down by others, are not unequivocal. In the upshot, one may suppose that, as a Greek, he had an eye for the beauty of boys and young men. Also to him it was absolutely necessary to keep company with youths, but usually he renounced the physical activity of this love. He could do without sensualism because he compensated it by his incomparable art of shaping the souls of the youths and leading them as far as possible to perfection. He presented this power of continence as ideal also to others; still, it is nowhere documented that he demanded of everybody to follow his example, which besides would have been inconsistent with the wisdom of "the wisest of all Greeks".

Socrates' most famous disciple PLATO (427-347 BC) founded the Academy of Athens in 386, the first institution of higher learning in the Western world.. "Platonic", i.e. chaste pederasty, is a frequent and important theme of his writings. Among the boys whom he loved were Agathon, Dion, Alexis, Aster. He was a philosopher, as well as mathematician.He is considered an essential figure in the development of philosophy, especially the Western tradition, Along with his teacher Socrates and his most famous student, Aristotle, Plato laid the foundations of Western philosophy and science. Alfred North Whitehead once noted: "the safest general characterization of the European philosophical tradition is that it consists of a series of footnotes to Plato.

Plato's disciple ARISTOTLE (384-322 BC), the philosopher and universal scholar, whose ideas, notably his logic, dominated European thought for many centuries. According to antique historians he had love affairs with several of his adolescent students, among them the "ravishing" Nicanor. His writings cover many subjects – including physics, biology, zoology, metaphysics, logic, ethics, aesthetics, poetry, theater, music, rhetoric, linguistics, politics and government – and constitute the first comprehensive system of Western philosophy.

Another disciple of Socrates, ARISTIPPUS of Cyrene (ca. 435-355 BC), founded a hedonistic school of philosophy, similar to the later epicurism: A wise man should enjoy all lust but not let himself be governed by it. He loved a boy named Euthichydes.

EURIPIDES (480-406 BC), the youngest of the three eminent Athenian tragedians, whose works reflect the doubts and insecurity of a skeptical mind and therefore have a special appeal to our time. He wrote 92 plays, of which 17 tragedies and one satiric drama have been preserved. One of the lost plays of Euripides was a tragedy entitled "Chrysippos" which treated the love of King Laios, the father of Oedipus, for the boy of that name. Very likely Euripides was caused to write it by the personal experience of his love for AGATHON, who was then a youth praised for his beauty as well as for his culture, and who later became himself a respectable playwright. In Plato's Symposium he appears as the host at a feast to celebrate the prize he has won for a drama. To all appearances the relationship between the two poets remained amorous and sexual long after the younger one had passed the age up to which this was regarded as becoming, and therefore the comedian Aristophanes made them the butt of gross jokes.


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