Loving, Committed Relationships 

The discussion over Bible doctrine on homosexuality has taken an odd turn. The Christian reader will find it difficult to track the twists and turns; why, exactly, are Christians expected to prove there were loving, homosexual relationships in the world of pagan antiquity? What takes us down this unexpected kink in the road is Matthew Vines' insistence that committed, long-term homosexual relationships were unknown during antiquity and therefore Paul's remarks on the subject are irrelevant. It is certainly true that paederasty, the foul abuse of innocent boys by grown men, was an epidemic in the ancient world, originating in Crete and Sparta and spreading like a virus throughout the civilized household. No doubt the highest and purest love seeks only what is best for its object, spiritually as well as emotionally; still, the distinction these advocates draw between brutally exploitive relationships and, conventionally speaking, 'loving' ones remains a meaningful one. The stain of the vice of paederasty cannot blot out the fact that in antiquity there were also age-mates joined in, conventionally speaking, loving homosexual relationships, all of which are unambiguously condemned by the Bible as immoral.

Realizing that liberal Christians like Matthew Vines join the consensus in abhorring paederasty, how are we to define it, to segregate it from other behaviors? Modern homosexual advocates, to the best of my knowledge, are not opposed in principle to relationships between persons of different ages, provided the age of the younger be above the age of consent: children cannot offer meaningful consent. Nor are they, to the best of my knowledge, opposed to relationships characterized by differing roles mimicking heterosexual marriage. Consider: Encolpius and Giton, the homosexual pair at the heart of Petronius' Satyrica. GIton's age is "about 16:" "'Wanted: A boy recently lost in the public baths. Age: About 16. . .Called "Giton".'" (Petronius, Satyrica, p. 92). Let it go; but what about 18? Do contemporary homosexuals really object to a relationship between, say, a 55-year-old and an 18-year-old? In those states where gay marriage is legal, are such unions forbidden? For purposes of this page, I'll consider paederasty as any relationship that would generally be illegal under U.S. law, one of the parties being a child.

"I'm not sure, Dr. Brown, can you cite me any first century text that refers to long-term, committed same-sex relationships?" (Matthew Vines, Debate between Matthew Vines and Michael Brown, hosted by Moody Radio, host Julie Roys, 7/15/14 30:37-46).

Not one, but several, examples of loving, committed homosexual relationships in antiquity:

Theognis and Kurnos Meleager
Harmodius and Aristogeiton Sacred Band of Thebes
Orestes and Pylades Sappho and Damophyle
Pausanias and Agathon Plato and Dion
Philip and Pausanias Alexander and Hephaestion
Cleomenes and Panteus Crates and Polemo
Terence and Scipio Julius Caesar and King Nicomedes
Marc Antony and Curio Gracchus and Spouse
Callistratus and Afer Nisus and Euryalus
Hadrian and Antinous Septimius Severus and Plautianus
Heliogabalus and Hierocles Sexual Orientation
Just Friends Nero and Sporus
Antonius and Julius Calvaster Bassianus and Hierocles

Theognis and Kurnos

It is plain what Theognis wants from his Kurnos: total devotion,

"Oh, Kurnos, if you love me as you say,
Don't cuddle up with words and let your mind
Go wandering elsewhere; either keep your thoughts
Wholly for me, or tell me now, straight out,
You hate me; quarrel, and let the break be clean.
A friend who lies so well is frightening;
I'd rather have an enemy." (Theognis, Elegies, [87-92], p. 100 Penguin).

It's clear from his incessant kvetching that he didn't get what he wanted. Alas,

"You haven't fooled me, boy, with your deceit.
I see right through you. . .
I once thought you, of all my friends, could be
faithful, but now you love another man.
I, who did well by you, am tossed aside:
I hope men see, and quit the love of boys!" (Theognis, Elegies, [1311-180], p. 144).

However he does have the paradigm in mind of a faithful, committed relationship. He actually even seems to have in mind the ideal of relationships between age-mates: "When he's young, a man can sleep the whole night long With a friend of his own age, and have his fill Of making love. . ." (Theognis, Elegies, [1063-8], p. 134), although given the sound advice he keeps shoving at him, Kurnos would seem to be a younger man. But there must have been a time in this relationship of long standing when he would fit within our time window. While his works are thankfully free of the rank misogyny to which most ancient homosexual literature is connected by an umbilical cord, it does sometimes pop out: "There's gratitude in boys. A woman loves Her current man; no loyalty's in her." (Theognis, Elegies, [1367-8], p. 146).

This sixth or fifth century B.C. author is plainly not in our time frame! However, what he promised Kurnos is that he would immortalize him. . .and he delivered on his promise; we're still talking about him.

"At length, my boy, you'll enter Hades' dwelling,
That black hole where departed spirits moan,
But even then your glory will not cease,
Your well-loved name will stay alive, unworn;
You'll skim across the mainland, over Greece,
Over the islands and the sea, not borne
By horses, Kurnos; you'll be whirled along
By violet-crowned maids, the Muses; yours
Will be each practiced singer's finest song,
As long as light exists and earth endures." (Theognis, Elegies, [237-54], p. 105 Penguin).

His works were never lost nor out of print.



The poet Meleager entered into a vow with his unnamed boyfriend:

"Holy night, and thou, O lamp, you and none other we took to witness of our vows; and we swore, he that he would love me, and I that I would never leave him, and you kept witness between us. And now he says that these vows are written in running water, O lamp, and thou seest him on the bosom of another."
(Chapter I, LXVIII Broken Vows, Meleager, The Greek Anthology, Select Epigrams from the Greek Anthology (Kindle Locations 1566-1568)).

Never is a long time. That the beloved undertook a vow, and that Meleager was surprised he broke it, suggest the other party was not a child. Meleager, as the reader of the Greek Anthology realizes, has many loves, of both genders; is that so because this, his true love, was unfaithful? Certainly Meleager had conceptualized the idea of a faithful, committed homosexual relationship; that the concept remained on the drawing board is, perhaps, more of a similarity between gay life then and now than a divergence. This work of the first century B.C. is somewhat in advance of our target period. With almost all literary genres except autobiography, and even sometimes including autobiography, the characters and situations depicted may be fictional; in which case, these 'vows' nonetheless reflect Meleager's beliefs and expectations as to human possibilities.

It is lopsided to compare an ideal with an actuality. Even Petronius, perhaps, expresses the ideal of loving committed same-sex relationships: "Let it always be like this, just like this, a never-ending festival, lying with you, mouth to mouth, nothing to do, nothing to be ashamed of. In this there is, there has been, and there will be, for along time to come, nothing but delight, never diminishing, always just beginning." (Attribution uncertain, preserved with the work of Petronius, The Sweetness of Honey and the Sting of Bees, Michelle Lovric and Nikoforos Doxiadis Mardas,  p. 94). Achieving this goal is uncommon today, so likely was too in antiquity; articulating it is easy, and common in both eras.

Harmodius and Aristogeiton

These two lovers helped to liberate Athens from the tyranny of Hipparchus and Hippias. After Solon had liberated the Athenians from debt slavery and established a democracy, they unheedingly lost their liberty and drifted into tyranny. Harmodius was a noble young man, Aristogeiton his middle-class suitor; Hipparchus made advances to the young man, which were rejected. As an act of spite, the spurned tyrant insulted Harmodius' sister, not allowing her to serve as basket-girl in a religious procession. They, with others, plotted to kill the tyrants; fearing the plot had been detected, they acted precipitously, and succeeded in killing Hipparchus alone. These are not first century figures, though first century authors discuss them; they are mentioned by the father of history, Herodotus:

  • “When Hipparchos the son of Peisistratos and brother of the despot Hippias, after seeing a vision of a dream which signified it to him plainly, had been slain by Aristogeiton and Harmodios, who were originally by descent Gephyraians, the Athenians continued for four years after this to be despotically governed no less than formerly,—nay, even more.
  • “Now the vision of a dream which Hipparchos had was this:—in the night before the Panathenaia it seemed to Hipparchos that a man came and stood by him, tall and of fair form, and riddling spoke to him these verses:
  • “'With enduring soul as a lion endure unendurable evil:
    No one of men who doth wrong shall escape from the judgment appointed.'
  • “These verses, as soon as it was day, he publicly communicated to the interpreters of dreams; but afterwards he put away thought of the vision and began to take part in that procession during which he lost his life.”

  • (Herodotus, The Histories, Volume II, Book V, Chapter 55-56, pp. 28-29).

Harmodius was killed in the act, Aristogeiton survived, but was brutally tortured to exact information; he gave false information. Thus he is the "lion" of the prophetic dream. The tyrant had insulted Harmodius' sister: "To return to Harmodius; Hipparchus having been repulsed in his solicitations insulted him as he had resolved, by first inviting a sister of his, a young girl, to come and bear a basket in a certain procession, and then rejecting her, on the plea that she had never been invited at all owing to her unworthiness." (Thucydides. The History of the Peloponnesian War, Book VI, Chapter XIX, (p. 263). Kindle Edition). Aristogeiton's later willingness to endure torture rather than betray his accomplices, if he did indeed so act, shows strength of character:

  • “Hippias and Hipparchus assumed the control of affairs on grounds alike of standing and of age; but Hippias, as being also naturally of a statesmanlike and shrewd disposition, was really the head of the government. Hipparchus was youthful in disposition, amorous, and fond of literature (it was he who invited to Athens Anacreon, Simonides, and the other poets), while Thessalus was much junior in age, and was violent and headstrong in his behavior. It was from his character that all the evils arose which befell the house. He became enamored of Harmodius, and, since he failed to win his affection, he lost all restraint upon his passion, and in addition to other exhibitions of rage he finally prevented the sister of Harmodius from taking the part of a basket-bearer in the Panathenaic procession, alleging as his reason that Harmodius was a person of loose life. Thereupon, in a frenzy of wrath, Harmodius and Aristogeiton did their celebrated deed, in conjunction with a number of confederates. But while they were lying in wait for Hippias in the Acropolis at the time of the Panathenaea (Hippias, at this moment, was awaiting the arrival of the procession, while Hipparchus was organizing its dispatch) they saw one of the persons privy to the plot talking familiarly with him. Thinking that he was betraying them, and desiring to do something before they were arrested, they rushed down and made their attempt without waiting for the rest of their confederates. They succeeded in killing Hipparchus near the Leocoreum while he was engaged in arranging the procession, but ruined the design as a whole; of the two leaders, Harmodius was killed on the spot by the guards, while Aristogeiton was arrested, and perished later after suffering long tortures.”
  • (The Athenian Constitution, Aristotle (?), Chapter 18).

Harmodius and Aristogeiton

These two were heroes of Greek democracy. Arguably this is an instance of paederasty, inasmuch as Harmodius is described as a youth, but he was not a child when he stabbed the tyrant, and it was to avenge a insult against him that the plot was set afoot. Inequality of power is one of the wrongful things about any adult-child relationship; and yet the noble Harmodius could have dropped his middle-class lover Aristogeiton at any moment he tired of their quasi-public relationship. The ancient imagery is difficult to decode; Harmodius is depicted as of adult height and well-muscled, though also beardless. But no 13-year old or 14-year old could possibly have that kind of body mass! The cultural ideal proclaimed that the beloved should be beardless, but it is clear not everyone drawn to this way of life was able to submit his emotions to this implacable demand: "The saying of Euripides, that 'beauty's autumn, too, is beautiful,' is not always true. But it was certainly the case with Alcibiades. . . ." (Plutarch, Life of Alcibiades, Chapter 1.3). The cultural ideal was confining:

"Elegant therefore was that which was said by Euripides. For as he was clasping and embracing the fair Agatho, after the down began to sprout forth upon his chin, he cried that the very autumn of lovely youths was pleasing and delightful." (Plutarch, Moralia, Book IX, Dialogue on Love, Chapter 24).

We cannot make this cultural ideal a Procrustean bed and lop off everything which does not conform. Was Harmodius under-age at the time of his final act of devotion by standards of U.S. law? His leading role in the conspiracy and his willingness to attack a grown man suggest otherwise.

It may be objected, that these are not first century figures. Indeed they are not, but no one in the first century A.D. can have been unaware of them. Some quotes:

"No, by Hercules! the Athenians call Harmodius and Aristogiton, tyrannicides; the hand of Mucius which he left on the enemy’s altar was equivalent to the death of Porsena, and valor struggling against fortune is always illustrious, even if it falls short of accomplishing its design." (Seneca, On Benefits, Book VII, Chapter XV).
"Could that city ever find peace in which there were as many tyrants as there might be satellites? No hope even of recovering liberty could offer itself, nor did there seem to be room for any sort of help against such mighty strength of wicked men. For where could the wretched state find enough Harmodiuses?" (Seneca, On Tranquility of Mind).

To revert to a first century B.C. author, "From hence they proceed to instances of a fresher date. Harmodius and Aristogiton are in everybody’s mouth; the memory of Leonidas the Lacedaemonian and Epaminondas the Theban is as fresh as ever." (Cicero, Tusculan Disputations, Book 1, Chapter XLIX). Undoubtedly they talked about the tyrant-killers, although their own Caesar-killers failed to accomplish the end of tyranny, as had the old-time regicides. Inhabitants of the Roman empire, after the fall of the republic, lived under one of the most irrational and arbitrary tyrannies ever devised by the wickedness of man, yet they still talked about Harmodius and Aristogeiton; maybe it made them feel better. Maybe it was a cry for help; maybe Seneca was saying, 'Will somebody please kill this monster before he compels me to commit suicide!'

It is really not possible that Paul could have been unaware of Harmodius and Aristogeiton. Not only was he a well-travelled and well-educated man, but he went on a walking tour of Athens: "Then Paul stood in the midst of Mars’ hill, and said, Ye men of Athens, I perceive that in all things ye are too superstitious. For as I passed by, and beheld your devotions, I found an altar with this inscription, TO THE UNKNOWN GOD. Whom therefore ye ignorantly worship, him declare I unto you." (Acts 17:22-23). What other statues might Paul have seen? The original statue of Harmodius and Aristogeiton by Antenor had been plundered by Xerxes and carried back to Persia, but it was repatriated by successors of Alexander the Great. The sources agree on the basic fact but differ on whether Alexander himself, or one or the other of his successors deserve credit for this tip of the hat to Athenian patriotism. In the meantime a new statue had been commissioned. Harmodius and Aristogeiton were both still there when Pausanias travelled through Greece: "Not far off stand Harmodios and Aristogeiton the murderers of Hipparchos; other writers have said why and how. These statues are by Kritios, the ancient ones were by Antenor. When the Athenians deserted their city and Xerxes captured it, he carried away these statues among the spoils, but Antiochos later sent them back to Athens." (Pausanias, Guide to Greece, Book I, Attica, pp. 29-30).

Arrian credits Alexander: "A good deal else was captured there, all that Xerxes brought back from Greece, and among this bronze statues of Harmodius and Aristogeiton. These Alexander sent back to the Athenians, and they are now set up at Athens in the Cerameicus, on the way by which one ascends the Acropolis, just opposite the Metroon, not far from the altar of the Eudanemi." (Arrian, Anabasis, Book III, Chapter XVI, again in Book VII, Chapter XVIII). A first century author, Valerius Maximus, agrees they were there, though he gives the credit to a different successor: "When Xerxes conquered Athens, he transferred the bronze effigies of Harmodius and Aristogeiton, who tried to free that city from tyranny, to his own kingdom. Then after a long interval Seleucus had them brought back to their old situation. The Rhodians too invited them as public guests when they touched at their city and even put them on sacred couches." (Valerius Maximus, Memorable Doings and Sayings, Book II. 10, p 229, Loeb edition). If Paul didn't see them, he wasn't looking.

Anti-democratic authors are more skeptical and belittling of their motivation, stressing the personal element, and yet the personal is also the political. Lucretia was complaining about a personal wrong when she objected to being raped, but her complaint brought down the Roman monarchy. Whatever their motivation, they were held in high esteem by the Greeks: "Some relate too that Philotas once asked him [Callisthenes] whom he thought to be held in highest honor by the Athenians; and he replied, Harmodius and Aristogeiton, because they slew one of the two tyrants, and destroyed the tyranny." (Arrian, Anabasis, Book IV, Chapter IX). These two national heroes were known to be homosexual, though little else was really known about them. Their relationship was understood to involve love, even to death, not exploitation.

Harmodius and Aristogeiton, Red-Figure Vase

Sacred Band of Thebes

Plutarch, who was born during the first century A.D., talks about the Sacred Band of Thebes in his Life of Pelopidas. Greece generally did not use child warriors, so it is not likely any of the 300 men were younger than the age of consent. Ancient warfare was physically very demanding, and a child sent out in armor would have been tossed aside, although some service as armor-bearers and attendants is attested. These were committed relationships, perhaps even pledged; Plutarch mentions, “And Aristotle says that even down to his day the tomb of Iolaus was a place where lovers and beloved plighted mutual faith.” This military unit was ultimately wiped out at the Battle of Chaeroneia:

  • “Gorgidas, according to some, first formed the Sacred Band of three hundred chosen men, to whom, as being a guard for the citadel, the State allowed provision, and all things necessary for exercise: and hence they were called the city band, as citadels of old were usually called cities. Others say that it was composed of young men attached to each other by personal affection, and a pleasant saying of Pammenes is current, that Homer's Nestor was not well skilled in ordering an army, when he advised the Greeks to rank tribe and tribe, and family and family together, that
  • “So tribe might tribe, and kinsmen kinsmen aid,
  • “but that he should have joined lovers and their beloved. For men of the same tribe or family little value one another when dangers press; but a band cemented by friendship grounded upon love, is never to be broken, and invincible; since the lovers, ashamed to be base in sight of their beloved, and the beloved before their lovers, willingly rush into danger for the relief of one another. Nor can that be wondered at; since they have more regard for their absent lovers than for others present; as in the instance of the man, who, when his enemy was going to kill him, earnestly requested him to run him through the breast, that his lover might not blush to see him wounded in the back.
  • “It is a tradition likewise, that Iolaus, who assisted Hercules in his labors and fought at his side, was beloved of him; and Aristotle observes, that even in his time, lovers plighted their faith at Iolaus's tomb. It is likely, therefore, that this band was called sacred on this account; as Plato calls a lover a divine friend. It is stated that it was never beaten till the battle at Chaeronea: and when Philip, after the fight, took a view of the slain, and came to the place where the three hundred that fought his phalanx lay dead together, he wondered, and understanding that it was the band of lovers, he shed tears and said, 'Perish any man who suspects that these men either did or suffered anything that was base.'”
  • (Plutarch, Lives of the Noble Greeks and Romans, Life of Pelopidas, Chapter 18).

The well-established military connection with ancient homosexuality argues against the idea these relationships were all conducted with under-age children:

"And therefore we find that the most war-like of nations are most addicted to love, as the Boeotians, Lacedaemonians, and Cretans. And among the most ancient heroes none were more amorous than Meleager, Achilles, Aristomenes, Cimon, and Epaminondas; the latter of which had for his male concubines Asopichus and Caphisodorus, who was slain with him at the battle of Mantinea and lies buried very near him." (Plutarch, Dialogue on Love, Moralia, Book IX, Chapter 17).

If they were slain on the battlefield together, then neither party was under-age by the standards of U.S. law. Were there any other comparable military units in antiquity? An irregular mercenary band described by Xenophon comprised of 'handsome men' comes close:

“There was a certain Episthenes of Olynthus who was a lover of boys, and upon seeing a handsome boy, just in the bloom of youth and carrying a light shield, on the point of being put to death, he ran up to Xenophon and besought him to come to the rescue of a handsome lad. So Xenophon went to Seuthes and begged him not to kill the boy, telling him of Episthenes’ turn of mind, how he had once assembled a battalion with an eye to nothing else save the question whether a man was handsome, and that with this battalion he proved himself a brave man. And Seuthes asked: 'Would you even be willing, Episthenes, to die for this boy’s sake?' Then Episthenes stretched out his neck and said, 'Strike, if the lad bids you and will be grateful.' Seuthes asked the boy whether he should strike Episthenes in his stead. The boy forbade it, and besought him not to slay either. Thereupon Episthenes threw his arms around the boy and said: 'It is time, Seuthes, for you to fight it out with me for this boy; for I shall not give him up.'” (Xenophon, Anabasis, Book VII, Chapter IV, 7-10).

One cannot fault Episthenes for not loving his little victims, he certainly did love them: "Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends." (John 15:13). One must revert to the older charges that this love is sick and perverse, and harms those unfortunate enough to get in its way. Episthenes' actual preference seems to have been for beardless boys, like the native youngster who fled from the Greeks' plundering band. Could one half the members of the battalion of 'handsome men' have been "just in the bloom of youth"? If so this military unit falls outside the parameters set for this page. However there is no indication that this youth, who fled with others when his village was attacked, was intended by his captors for military service. What the age of the 'handsome men' comprising the former unit may have been is not stated; presumably they were not children.

Orestes and Pylades

While the stories told of the eminent figures of the Trojan War are variable and sometimes mythical, these people seem themselves to be real enough, and Orestes and Pylades were, reportedly, lovers. Orestes was the son of Agamemnon and his faithless wife Clytemnestra, who with her adulterous lover murdered her husband, and was herself in turn murdered by the son, who was thence pursued by the Furies, though he had one faithful companion, Pylades. Here we see them escaping a miserable death by human sacrifice:

  • “Equal they were in youth and love, one Orestes, the other Pylades: fame holds fast their names. Forthwith were they led to Trivia’s cruel altar, hands bound behind their backs. With lustral water the Grecian priestess sprinkled the captives that the long fillet might encircle their yellow locks. . .
  • “Thus spake the pious girl, and when she heard the name of her native land, she discovered that they were dwellers in her own city. ‘Let one of you,’ she said, ‘fall as a victim in these rites, let the other go a messenger to the home of his fathers.’ Pylades, bent on death, bade his Orestes go. He refuses, and each in turn fights to die. On this alone they did not agree: on all else those twain were at one and free from dispute. . .
  • “A marvel was the love of the youths: though so many years have passed, in Scythia even now they have a great name.”

  • (Ovid, Letters, Book III, Letter II To Cotta).

Don't believe that really happened? Neither do I, but the issue is what human possibilities people in the first century A.D. believed in, and Ovid was a first century author. Greatly impressed, he describes them as one heart in two bodies:

"Hither came Orestes, whether in loyalty or crime, I know not, driven by his own furies, and his Phocean comrade, the model of sincere love; these twain were a single heart in two bodies. Forthwith in bonds they were brought to the harsh altar that stood reeking with blood before the double doors. Yet neither the one nor the other feared his own death: each sorrowed for the other’s fate."  (Ovid, Tristia, Book IV, Chapter IV, Delphi Classics, Kindle location 28345).

Regardless of whether Orestes and Pylades were even real people, the first century Ovid thought them a stirring example of mutual affection. Lucian, a second century author, likewise offers Orestes and Pylades as a touching emblem of life-long devotion; they were understood to be lovers. Certainly to be willing to die to save another, as were both, shows love.

There are glories that survive amongst the literary remains of classical antiquity, but also shameful things, like the defense of paederasty offered by many eloquent voices. Some of these people made it clear that, in their opinion, only beardless youth could be loveable; in other words, the beloved would naturally age out of the relationship and require to be replaced. But Lucian's advocate for homosexuality in the dialogue 'Amores' makes it clear he is envisioning a life-long relationship: ". . .worship Heavenly Love and keep your emotions constant from boyhood to old age." (Lucian, or pseudo-Lucian, Amores, Chapter 49). So that possibility certainly did exist, even if most homosexual relationships did not fit that pattern, either then or now:

  • “Phocis united Orestes to Pylades right from their infancy. Taking the love-god as the mediator of their emotions for each other, they sailed together as it were on the same vessel of life. Both did away with Clytemnestra as though both were sons of Agamemnon, by both of them was Aegisthus slain. Plyades it was who suffered the more from the Avengers who hounded Orestes, and he stood trial along with him in court. Nor did they restrict their affectionate friendship to the limits of Hellas, but sailed to Scythia at the very ends of the earth, one of them afflicted, the other ministering to him. . .
  • When at any rate it had been decided that, while one remained to be killed, the other should depart for Mycenae to bear a letter, each wished to remain for the sake of the other, considering that he himself lived in the survival of his friend. But Orestes refused to take the letter, claiming Pylades was the fitter person to do so, and showed himself almost to be the lover rather than the beloved. . .
  • This too is the case generally. For, when the honorable love inbred in us from childhood matures to the manly age that is now capable of reason, the object of our longstanding affection gives love in return and it's difficult to detect which is the lover of which, since the image of the lover's tenderness has been reflected from the loved one as though from a mirror.”
  • (Lucian, Amores, Affairs of the Heart, Chapter 47 and 48).

Orestes and Pylades were an instance of faithful commitment and devotion, which is the speaker's ideal:

"For my part, ye gods of heaven, I pray that it may for ever be my lot in life to sit opposite my dear one and hear close to me his sweet voice, to go out when he goes out and share every activity with him. And so a lover might well pray that his cherished one should journey to old age without any sorrow through a life free from stumbling or swerving, without having experienced at all any malicious spite of Fortune. But, if in accordance with the law governing the human body, illness should lay its hand on him, I shall ail with him when he is weak, and, when he puts out to sea through stormy waves, I shall sail with him. And, should a violent tyrant bind him in chains, I shall put the same fetters around myself. All who hate him will be my enemies and those well disposed to him shall I hold dear. Should I see bandits or foemen rushing upon him, I would arm myself even beyond my strength, and if he dies, I shall not bear to live. I shall give final instructions to those I love next best after him to pile up a common tomb for both of us, to unite my bones with his and not to keep even our dumb ashes apart from each other." (Lucian, Amores, Chapter 46).

Cicero mentions these two, who had become so emblematic of friendship that they earned a standing ovation in the Roman theater, "Accordingly, what repeated acclamations lately echoed through the theater at the new play of my host and friend Pacuvius, in that scene where Pylades and Orestes are introduced before the king; who being ignorant which of them was Orestes, whom he had determined to put to death, each insists, in order to save the life of his associate, that he himself is the real person in question." (Cicero, On Friendship, Section 7). Cicero, incidentally, lays down as a rule of friendship, "Let this, then, be laid down as the first law of friendship, that we should ask from friends, and do for friends, only what is good." (Cicero, On Friendship, Chapter 13). And so he did not think Orestes and Pylades were sexually involved; friendship, and love for that matter, want only what is good for their object. Christians must agree; but whether we can find in antiquity relationships which would pass Matthew Vines' test as loving and committed is a different matter, and surely we can. This is a lower standard. One can argue about Orestes' and Pylades' ontological status, and about whether they were friends or lovers, but it is certain there were people in the first century world who thought that they really existed, that they were lovers, and that they really did was was said of them.

Sappho and Damophyle

According to Philostratus, a third-century author outside our time period, the notorious Lesbian poetess Sappho and Damophyle were an item:

"Accordingly Apollonius entered escorted by a number of people, for they had learnt that the king was pleased with the newcomer and thought that this would gratify him; but as he passed into the palace, he did not glance at anything that others admired, but he passed them by as if he was still traveling on the highroad, and calling Damis to him he said: 'You asked me yesterday what was the name of the Pamphylian woman who is said to have been intimate with Sappho, and to have composed the hymns which they sing in honor of Artemis of Perga, in the Aeolian and Pamphylian modes.'

"'Yes, I did ask you," said Damis, "but you did not tell me her name.'

"'I did not tell you it, my good fellow, but I explained to you about the keys in which the hymns are written, and I told you about the names; and how the Aeolian strains were altered into the highest key of all, that which is peculiar to the Pamphylians. After that we turned to another subject, for you did not ask me again about the name of the lady. Well, she is called -- this clever lady is -- Damophyle, and she is said, like Sappho, to have had girlfriends and to have composed poems, some of which were love-songs and others hymns. The particular hymn to Artemis was transposed by her, and the singing of it derives from Sapphic odes.'" (Philostratus, Life of Apollonius of Tyana, Book I, Chapter 30).

Philostratus is not generally a reliable source of information, and he is late. However his work is based on a memoir by an earlier author and associate of Apollonius, Damis. The issue is not whether this Pamphylian woman either a.) existed or b.) was an associate of Sappho, but what people of the day thought were the human possibilities for such relationships. These two are imagined as colleagues and peers.


Pausanias and Agathon

Pausanias and the playwright Agathon turn up in Plato's Symposium, where they are at pains to differentiate their relationship from commonplace pedophilia:

"Those who are inspired by this love turn to the male, and delight in him who is the more valiant and intelligent nature; any one may recognise the pure enthusiasts in the very character of their attachments. For they love not boys, but intelligent beings whose reason is beginning to be developed, much about the time at which their beards begin to grow. And in choosing young men to be their companions, they mean to be faithful to them, and pass their whole life in company with them, not to take them in their inexperience, and deceive them, and play the fool with them, or run away from one to another of them. But the love of young boys should be forbidden by law, because their future is uncertain; they may turn out good or bad, either in body or soul, and much noble enthusiasm may be thrown away upon them; in this matter the good are a law to themselves, and the coarser sort of lovers ought to be restrained by force; as we restrain or attempt to restrain them from fixing their affections on women of free birth." (Plato's Symposium).

It is difficult to see in what way their relationship falls short of Matthew Vines' ideal. That their life-style was counter-cultural they fully realize; the paedophile's ideal was time-limited: "But if thou art slow, thou wilt be lost. How soon youth passes by! Time stands not idle, nor returns. . .Cruel gods! The snake sheds his years, and is young: but the Fates grant no respite to beauty. Only Bacchus and Phoebus have youth everlasting; of either god are unshorn tresses the glory. Do thou yield to thy lad in aught that he is minded to attempt: loves wins most by compliance." (Tibullus, Book I, Chapter IV, 27-39, p. 213 Loeb edition). However the point is made, not that there were not many paedophiles in antiquity, there were: but that not all homosexuals in antiquity were paedophiles.

A protest against the paradigm of the beloved aging out of the relationship is also lodged by Strato in the Greek Anthology: "Who may know if a loved one passes the prime, while ever with him and never left alone? who may not satisfy to-day who satisfied yesterday? and if he did satisfy, what should befall him not to satisfy to-morrow?" (Chapter I, LXXVII, Love's Immortality, Strato, The Greek Anthology, Select Epigrams from the Greek Anthology (Kindle Locations 1587-1589).).

To judge by the literary evidence, paederasty would seem to have been common in both Greece and Rome, in spite of a hostile legal environment. In Rome, hostile legal measures included the Scantinian law:

"Let us distinguish, therefore, the different kinds of causes; for in causes in which there is no question about the charge, but only about a legal point, we may, though the matter be against us, admit the truth: . .  He dishonored a well-born youth; and the youth, on being dishonored, hung himself, yet the author of his dishonor is not to be capitally punished as being the cause of his death, but is to pay ten thousand sesterces, the fine imposed on him who is guilty of such a crime." (Quintilian, Institutes of Oratory, Book IV, Chapter 2, Section 68-69.)

Part of the problem though is revealed in Cicero's correspondence; M. Caelius Rufus, accused under the Scantinian law, promptly lodged a counter-accusation. . .against the Censor who accused him!: "Their impudence was so boundless, that they secured an information being laid against me under the Scantinian law at the very height of the Circensian games, in which I was presiding. Scarecly had Pola got the words out of his mouth, when I laid an information under the same law against the censor Appias. I never saw a more successful stroke." (Letter 12, Complete Works of Cicero, Delphi Classics, Kindle location 108054).

Solon's laws in Greece, which required school to be held during day-light hours, and permitted no adult to hang around the school-house who was not either a teacher or a relative of one of the students, were intended to retard not facilitate this abuse. So it would be an overstatement to say that paederasty was ever entirely tolerated by society. Even Plato is careful to leave himself an 'out,' that they are really talking about 'Platonic love:'


However, if you, dear reader, are disposed to believe that all these man-boy relationships were 'Platonic,' I have a bridge in Brooklyn to sell you. How open these paedophiles were willing to be in flaunting their vice is disgusting; look at this pitiful little boy, a child, "past his prime":

"He [Trimalchio] was then wrapped in a scarlet cloak and placed upon a litter. Four runners bristling with decorations pranced before him along with a little wagon on which his darling was riding — a boy past his prime, puffy eyed, and even uglier than his master." (Petronius, Satyrica, p. 24).

One wonders why God withheld His hand, deploying only fires and volcanoes to throw at these people. But they blinded themselves to the wrath of heaven, telling one another comforting fables about how Zeus had a favorite, Ganymede, and Apollo, Hyacinth. The pseudo-Clementine literature provides a catalog:

“And not to spend the time in an endless exposition, you will find numerous unions with Jupiter of all the gods. But senseless men call these doings of the gods adulteries; even of those gods who did not refrain from the abuse of males as disgraceful, but who practiced even this as seemly. For instance, Jupiter himself was in love with Ganymede: Poseidon with Pelops; Apollo with Cinyras, Zacyinthus, Hyacinthus, Phorbas, Hylas, Admetus, Cyparissus, Amyclas, Troilus, Branchus the Tymnaean, Parus the Potnian, Orpheus; Dionysus with Laonis, Ampelus, Hymenaeus, Hermaphrodites, Achilles; Asclepius with Hippolytus, and Hephaestus with Peleus; Pan with Daphnis; Hermes with Perseus, Chrysas, Theseus, Odrysus; Hercules with Abderus, Dryops, Jocastus, Philoctetes, Hylas, Polyphemus, Haemon, Chonus, Eurystheus.” (The Clementine Homilies, Homily V, Chapter 15, p. 556).

Were these meaningful relationships or encounters at highway rest stops, public sex environments?

Plato and Dion

The accusation was levelled in antiquity that the eloquent idealist philosopher Plato was involved with various persons, one of them at least over the age of consent:

"Aristippus in his fourth book On the Luxury of the Ancients says that he [Plato] was attached to a youth names Aster,  who joined him in the study of astronomy, as also to Dion who has been mentioned above, and as some aver, to Phaedrus too." (Diogenes Laertius, Lives of the Philosophers, Plato, Book III, 29, p. 303 Loeb edition).

To Aster he allegedly wrote, "Star-gazing Aster, would I were the skies, To gaze upon thee with a thousand eyes." (Diogenes Laertius, Lives of the Philosophers, Plato, Book III, 29, p. 303 Loeb edition). Of these three, the Sicilian tyrant Dion, alternately rival, relation and associate of Sicilian tyrants Dionysius the elder and younger, was an adult when Plato first met him. Diogenes' former reference runs, "Neanthes of Cyzicus says that, on his [Plato's] going to Olympia, the eyes of all the Greeks were turned towards him, and there he met Dion, who was about to make his expedition against Dionysius." (Diogenes Laertius, Lives of the Philosophers, Plato, Book III, 25, pp. 299-301 Loeb edition). Plato's efforts to establish his ideal totalitarian state in Sicily came to nothing. The inscription he penned for Dion's tombstone, reportedly, ran,

"And he wrote thus upon Dion:
"'Tears from their birth the lot had been
Of Ilium's daughter and their queen.
By thee, O Dion, great deeds done
New hopes and larger promise won,
Now here thou liest gloriously,
How deeply loved, how mourned by me.'
"This, they say, was actually inscribed upon his tomb at Syracuse."
(Diogenes Laertius, Lives of the Philosophers, Plato, Book III, 30, p. 305 Loeb edition)

No doubt this is actually inscribed on the tomb-stone, however it does not actually deliver the goods; it might have been written by a friend. How one evaluates this evidence depends upon one's interpretation of the Symposium. Certainly it is easy enough to start a rumor, and rivalry would be motive enough, but people rarely accuse others of engaging in behavior no one has ever even heard of. Aristippus must at least have thought it possible for one grown man to be in a relationship with another grown man. When Plato expresses his feelings as "How deeply loved," etc., the accuser interprets this erotically. This is not a first century reference, because Aristippus is too early and the chatty Diogenes Laertius is too late; however, it seems unlikely there was a blank spot in between when people could make nothing of Aristippus' allegation.

Plato would seem to have occupied the apex of a love triangle,

"As for Plato, Dionysius at once removed him to the acropolis, where he contrived to give him a guard of honor under pretense of hospitable kindness, in order that he might not accompany Dion and bear witness to his wrongs. But after time and intercourse had accustomed Dionysius to tolerate his society and discourse, just as a wild beast learns to have dealings with men, he conceived a passion for him that was worthy of a tyrant, demanding that he alone should have his love returned by Plato and be admired beyond all others, and he was ready to entrust Plato with the administration of the tyranny if only he would not set his friendship for Dion above that which he had for him. Now, this passion of his was a calamity for Plato, for the tyrant was mad with jealousy, as desperate lovers are, and in a short space of time would often be angry with him and as often beg to be reconciled; for he was extravagantly eager to hear his doctrines and share in his philosophical pursuits, but he dreaded the censure of those who tried to divert him from this course as likely to corrupt him." (Plutarch, Life of Dion, Chapter 16, Complete Works of Plutarch, Kindle location 28329).

These characteristics: possessiveness, intense jealousy,— do not belong to casual hookups. The reader of the Symposium comes away convinced that paederasty was a normal and accepted part of life in fourth century Athens. Even in antiquity this portrayal was controversial, with some authors wondering how much of it was just Platonic propaganda: "For I know of no book at all which is written by Pausanias. Nor is he introduced by any one else as speaking of lovers and boys, but only by Plato." (Athenaeus, The Deipnosophists, or Banquet of the Learned, Book V, Chapter 56, Kindle location 6942). When democracy sprung up, Athens saw a great flowering of inquiry. It's a shame and a paradox that, once it was all over, the voices that reverberated loudest came from the despisers of very democracy which had made it all possible, like Plato and Aristotle. People in the Middle Ages, who never knew democracy in any form, parrotted the contemptuous phrases of these authoritarian authors and assured one another that democracy was really, really bad, or would be if anyone ever caught a glimpse of it. While paederasty was prevalent in antiquity, there seems always to have been a 'Silent Majority,' moms and dads who did not like it, and their views colored the laws, not the voluble chatter of the glitterati. People knew about it and were troubled: "I shall not mention the troops of luckless boys who must put up with other shameful treatment after the banquet is over." (Seneca, Letter XCV). Perhaps Dion and Dionysius neglected to notice that this intense romantic attachment is supposed to be 'Platonic,' a point which is in fact easy to overlook.

Philip and Pausanias

The man who assassinated king Philip of Macedon was linked to him romantically:

"There was a Macedonian Pausanias who came of a family from the district Orestis. He was a bodyguard of the king and was beloved of him because of his beauty."

(Siculus, Diodorus. Library of History, Book XVI, 93.3. Complete Works of Diodorus Siculus (Delphi Ancient Classics Book 32) (Kindle Locations 18935-18936).)

This gets complicated, and ugly, but it is clear there were strong feelings involved. Pausanias felt threatened by a rival, who ended his life heroically, absorbing blows meant for the king. Then being abused and insulted by Attalus, an influential insider, he did not receive satisfaction from the king. Brooding over these wrongs, he determined to kill Philip, encouraged by the sophist Hermocrates, who convinced him he would win fame for the deed. He succeeded, but did not survive long enough to enjoy his revenge. Kind of a 'he done him wrong' story.

Alexander and Hephaestion

Sometimes the apple does not fall far from the tree. A first century collector of edifying anecdotes, Valerius Maximus, reports about Alexander the Great:

"That this is so king Alexander realized. Having possessed himself of Darius' camp , in which were all those close to him, he went to console them, his favorite [gratissimo] Hephaestion bearing him company. At his coming the mother of Darius revived, raised her prostrate head from the ground and saluted Hephaestion with homage in the Persian fashion, taking him for Alexander because in stature and appearance he had the advantage. Advised of her mistake, she cast about in the utmost trepidation for words of apology. 'You have no need,' said Alexander, 'to be embarrassed on this account. He too is Alexander.'" (Valerius Maximus, Memorable Doings and Sayings, Book IV.7, pp. 425-427 Loeb edition).

The idea that Hephaestion is "another Alexander" suggests the concept of one soul in two bodies. It sounds loving, if claustrophobic. These two individuals were certainly close; that Alexander mourned intensely after Hephaestion's death is conceded by all: "But this also I think has been recorded not wholly outside the bounds of likelihood, that when Alexander was going to Babylon there met him in the way several envoys from Greece, and that among these were several Epidaurian envoys; these received from Alexander what they sued for, and Alexander gave them a statue to take back to Asclepius, with the words: 'Yet Asclepius has not been kind to me, for he did not save for me the comrade whom I valued more than my life.'" (Arrian, Anabasis, Book VII, Chapter XIII). (Asclepius was a god of healing; by some accounts, Alexander had the physician who failed to save Hephaestion executed.) Of course this does not settle the question whether there was a sexual relationship between these two individuals, but if there was, it was loving: "The following, however, harmonizes in all accounts, that for three days after Hephaestion's death Alexander neither tasted food nor took any care of his health, but lay either moaning or in a sorrowful silence. . ." (Arrian, Anabasis, Book VII, Chapter XIII).

Cleomenes and Panteus

Plutarch, in his Life of Cleomenes, paints a dramatic portrait of the end of Cleomenes, a one-time Spartan king whose life took various turns of fortune. After a failed uprising, he and his friends died together:

"So Hippitas first, at his own request, was smitten down by one of the younger men, then each of the others calmly and cheerfully slew himself, except Panteus, the man who led the way int he capture of Megalopolis. He had once been the king's favorite, because in his youth he was most fair, and in his young manhood most amenable to the Spartan discipline; and now his orders were to wait until the king and the rest of the band were dead, and then to die himself. At last all the rest lay prostrate on the ground, and Panteus, going up to each one in turn and pricking him with his sword, sought to discover whether any spark of life remained. When he pricked Cleomenes in the ankle and saw that his face twitched, he kissed him, and then sat down by his side; at last the end came, and after embracing the king's dead body, he slew himself upon it." (Plutarch, Life of Cleomenes, Chapter 37).

People killing themselves over the dead bodies of their lover is the stuff of grand opera, in any other settings it might be taken as evidence of affection. There is no indication however of any ongoing physical relation from the time of Panteus' youth, and Cleomenes and Panteus of course like most others of that tribe in antiquity, including flaming characters like Alcibiades, also had relations with women. The challenge is to find ancient homosexuals exactly like modern homosexuals, or rather like a projected idealized image of modern homosexuals. Bishop Eugene Robinson was, after all, also married to a woman. This seems like a fairly arbitrary demand, because many marriages in antiquity were arranged by the parents are were not necessarily expected to be emotionally fulfilling to the participants, although these particular individuals did have devoted wives.

Crates and Polemo

The philosopher Crates succeeded Polemo as head of the Platonic Academy:

"Crates, whose father was Antigenes, was an Athenian belonging to the Deme of Thria. He was a pupil and at the same time a favorite [ερωμενος] of Polemo, whom he succeeded in the headship of the school. The two were so much attached to each other that they not only shared the same pursuits in life but grew more and more alike to their latest breath, and, dying, shared the same tomb." (Diogenes Laertius, Lives of the Philosophers, Volume I, Book IV, Chapter 4 Crates, 21, p. 399 Loeb edition).

The word Diogenes uses to describe their relationship, ερωμενος, from εραω, means 'one's love' according to Liddell and Scott. Diogenes repeats the allegation, "Crates, as already stated, was the favorite [ερωμενος] of Polemo and Arcesilaus of Crantor. " (Diogenes Laertius, Lives of the Philosophers, Volume I, Book IV, Chapter 4 Crates, 22, p. 401, Loeb edition). (Not hard to guess which their favorite Platonic dialogue might be.) A desire to share the same tomb is not one we commonly share with our social friends; it suggests an intense emotional relationship. These two resided together: "According to Antigonus, their common table was in the house of Crantor; and these two and Arcesilaus lived in harmony together. Arcesilaus and Crantor shared the same house, while Polemo and Crates lived with Lysicles, one of the citizens." (Diogenes Laertius, Lives of the Philosophers, Volume I, Book IV, Chapter 4 Crates, 22, pp. 399-401, Loeb edition). Alas the third century Diogenes Laertius falls outside our period; however, the reader of his works realizes, from his quotations of prior authors, that the ground he plows had been turned up many times before, although the works of these earlier authors are, many of them, lost.

Terence and Scipio

Publius Terentius Afer, a great Roman dramatist, was rumored to be involved with Scipio Africanus among others:

  • “Terence lived in great familiarity with many persons of high station, and especially with Scipio Africanus, and Caius Delius, whose favor he is even supposed to have purchased by the foulest means.”

  • (Suetonius, Lives of the Poets, The Lives of the Grammarians, Life of Terence).

Whether these means are fair or foul is of course precisely the point under examination. Neither Scipio nor Terence was a child at the time, given that their relationship purportedly involved literary collaboration, and no doubt had they been questioned, they would have put a positive spin on their relationship. Of course, this rumor of an affair may be altogether unfounded, as rumors often are. However, people do not start rumors accusing others of behavior of which they have never heard, and if people thought that Terence and Scipio were involved in a romantic relationship, they must have thought it possible for two grown men to be so involved.

Although of course one cannot verify scurrilous rumors over two millenia old, if Scipio Africanus (there are a father and son of the same name) was of this persuasion, he was of the modern type, of men who have sex with men, though not exclusively. The apostate emperor Julian offers rather weak evidence that Scipio was into 'friendship:' "Shall I tell how the famous Scipio, who loved Laelius and was loved by him [αγαπησας και φιληθεις] in return with equal yoke of friendship, as the saying is, not only took pleasure in his society, but undertook no task without first consulting with him and obtaining his advice as to how he should proceed?" (Julian the Emperor, Volume II, VIII, To Sallust, p. 177, Loeb edition). Of course often enough friendship means just exactly that. Valerius Maximus also mentions this figure in connection with promiscuity, though not homosexuality. It should not be forgotten that in demanding the searcher find an ancient homosexuality characterized by exclusivity and monogamy, he is demanding we find something which scarcely exists today; it is easy enough to find ancient homosexuality similar to today's format, according to all available statistics.


Julius Caesar and King Nicomedes

A rumored homosexual affair between Julius Caesar and Nicomedes, King of Bithynia, was widely believed in Rome. Nor was this the only such accusation against this first of the Caesars, who tossed the Republic into the trash bin of history. Though paederasty was common in classical antiquity, the ancients were by no means unaware of homosexual relations between grown men, such as Caesar and Mamurra, as scurrilous gossip had it: "Well agreed are the abominable profligates, Mamurra he effeminate, and Caesar; no wonder either." (Catullus, Poems, LVII, p. 65 Loeb edition). These two men, a general and a military engineer, were by no means children.

Caesar was a magnet for rumors of this sort: "Persistent rumors surrounding Caesar's time in Bithynia claim that he even had an affair with its king, Nicomedes. The details were salaciously relayed by Cicero: 'Caesar was led by Nicomedes' attendants to the royal bedchamber, where he lay on a golden couch, dressed in a purple shift. . .'" (Cleopatra the Great, by Joann Fletcher, p. 111). The evidentiary weight of gossip ranges from nil to substantial, depending on the proximity and integrity of the source, and the veracity of rumors of this sort cannot now be tracked down with any degree of certainty. The length of time he spent at the king's court seems to have given rise to the story: "His first campaign was served in Asia, on the staff of the praetor, M. Thermus; and being dispatched into Bithynia, to bring thence a fleet, he loitered so long at the court of Nicomedes, as to give occasion to reports of a criminal intercourse between him and that prince; which received additional credit from his hasty return to Bithynia, under the pretext of recovering a debt due to a freed-man, his client." (Suetonius, Lives of the Twelve Caesars, Julius Caesar, Chapter II). These rumors stuck with him all his life: "The only stain upon his chastity was his having cohabited with Nicomedes; and that indeed stuck to him all the days of his life, and exposed him to much bitter raillery. I will not dwell upon those well-known verses of Calvus Licinius:

"'Whatever Bithynia and her lord possessed,
Her lord who Caesar in his lust caressed.'" (Suetonius, Lives of the Twelve Caesars, Julius Caesar, Chapter XLIX).

Suetonius goes on to explain, ". . . I would likewise say nothing of the edicts of Bibulus, in which he proclaimed his colleague under the name of 'the queen of Bithynia;' adding, that 'he had formerly been in love with a king, but now coveted a kingdom.' At which time, as Marcus Brutus relates, one Octavius, a man of a crazy brain, and therefore the more free in his raillery, after he had in a crowded assembly saluted Pompey by the title of king, addressed Caesar by that of queen." (Suetonius, Lives of the Twelve Caesars, Julius Caesar, Chapter XLIX). The parties to these dalliances, if actual, would not have perceived themselves as socially unequal, any more than were Cleopatra and her lover and husband Caesar, nor was one party a child. Of course Caesar cannot have been exclusively homosexual; distaste and aversion for women is, for some reason, considered by some partisans as definitional for homosexuality, although the majority of the men who have sex with men do not share this dislike. Whether any of Caesar's rumored affairs are factual or not, people do not make up rumors reporting behavior of which no one has ever heard.


Marc Antony and Curio

In his second Philippic, Cicero dredges up old news about Marc Antony: that he had supposedly had a homosexual relationship when a young man, with another young man:

"You assumed the manly gown, which you soon made a womanly one: at first a public prostitute, with a regular price for your wickedness, and that not a low one. But very soon Curio stepped in, who carried you off from your public trade, and, as if he had bestowed a matron's robe upon you, settled you in a steady and durable wedlock. No boy bought for the gratification of passion was ever so wholly in the power of his master as you were in Curio's. How often has his father turned you out of his house?. . .And he himself [Curio], burning with love, declared positively that because he was unable to bear the misery of being separated from you, he should go into banishment." (Cicero, The Second Philippic, 44-45).

If this relationship began at some time after Antony had assumed the toga virilis, they may or may not have been under-age by our standards; however, evidently Antony was able to contract debts, and Curio to go surety for him, without requiring any other male in the household to counter-sign. Antony's impecunious habits continued throughout life. Antony was not a "boy bought" but a volunteer.

As with all scurrilous gossip from antiquity, one can't now disentangle what actually happened, if anything. But certainly Cicero thought it was possible for two age-mates, both free-born and thus equal in the eyes of the law, to fall in love. Rome was never too proud to adopt practices and customs from the societies she conquered. Sometimes they showed oddly poor judgment; instead of chewing the meat and spitting out the bones, they took on the least impressive features of the fallen society. From the ancient and imposing Etruscan culture, why adopt bird augury, which one must imagine exhibits a poor track record in prognosticating the future? And from the Greeks, who offered such treasures as advanced mathematics and natural science, why adopt paederasty, which is such a horror that even we don't recommend it? Why listen to the Greek arguments in favor of male homosexuality, founded mostly on misogyny? But they did, leaving an open door for invective such as this; youngsters eager to show how 'Greek' they were, that they 'got' it, could thereafter be painted as a public disgrace before a public which did not 'get' it.


Gracchus and Wife

Juvenal, in his First Satire, reports on a homosexual marriage celebrated with great ceremony:

"Gracchus has settled four hundred thousand on a lowborn
Trumpet player. . .
The license, the contract, are signed.
A huge reception. The 'bride' is lying snugly within
Her husband's arms." (Juvenal, Satires, Satire 1, p. 41, line 117)

The poet indignantly invokes Romulus, "O Romulus, where did such wickedness come from to assail Your shepherds? How, O Mars, did this itch spread to your sons? Just look — a rich man of high birth wed to a man. . ." (Juvenal, Satires, Satire 1, p. 42, Line 126). The mere fact of this Gracchus, scion of an ancient and honorable family, being willing to wed this trumpet player and settle a considerable sum on him shows commitment. The unnamed spouse, a professional musician, cannot have been a child, unless he was a prodigy. This author was born in the first century, though his literary activity spilled over into the second.


Callistratus and Afer

Another first century homosexual marriage is that between Callistartus and Afer:

"Bearded Callistratus as a bride wedded the brawny Afer in the usual form as when a virgin weds a husband. The torches shone before him, a wedding-veil disguised his face, nor were the words of thy song, God of Marriage, unheard. A dower even was arranged." (Martial, Epigrams, Book XII, XLII.)

"Barbatus rigido nupsit Callistratus Afro,
Hac qua lege viro nubere virgo solet.
Praeluxere faces, velarunt flammea vultus,
Nec tua defuerunt veba, Talasse, tibi."

Given that one party was 'brawny' and the other 'bearded,' we need not fear they were under legal age.


Nisus and Euryalus

The poet Virgil is a first century figure. . .first century B.C., that is; he did not survive to see 'A.D.' His 'Aeneid' is a work of imaginative fiction, a mythologized history of Rome aimed at being more impressive and stirring than the actual history. Rome rose from a village because it was a sanctuary city; escaped slaves who resorted there were not returned. It was, from the start, a polyglot assemblage of peoples, vagabonds and dreamers. But in Virgil's version of history, refugees from fallen Troy settled the place, bringing their idols and sacred utensils with them. Nisus and Euryalus are fictional characters; their features are those the author chooses to give them. Virgil does not detail a sexual relationship between them, but neither does he do so for Dido and Aeneas; yet the reader is expected, and is entitled to, make that inference. This is not an age-uniform relationship, so it does not meet Matthew Vines' ideal. However, all available evidence suggests these two lovers would have been able to enter into a marriage in those states where two men can marry; Euryalus was probably 16-18 years of age, though his age is not stated. The cult of youth and beauty is, reportedly, by no means dead in modern gaydom; if anyone is the odd man out, it is Matthew Vines' gay Christians, if they do indeed insist upon age-uniformity.

Running is not a sport, like women's gymnastics, in which a 14-year old would have the advantage over old competitors.

"Now he called on those
Whom hope for gain led to compete in running,
And set out prizes for them. From all sides
They came up, Teucrians with Sicilians mixed,
Nisus and Euryalus in the lead—
Euryalus exceptional for beauty
And bloom of youth, whom Nisus dearly loved." (Virgil, Aeneid, Book V, Robert Fitzgerald translation, p. 135).

Euryalus however won the race, after the leader Nisus fell and tripped another competitor. Later we see him holding his own in combat; he was not a child. Euryalus was not bare-cheeked:

"Euryalus was his comrade, handsomer
Than any other soldier of Aeneas
Wearing the Trojan gear; a boy whose cheek
Bore though unshaven manhood's early down.
One love united them, and side by side
They entered combat, as that night they held
The gate on the same watch." (Virgil, Aeneid, Book IX, p. 266)

Nisus may not have been much older, because he says, "'Soldiers of Aeneas, listen With open minds, and let what we propose Be looked on without reference to our years." (Virgil, Aeneid, Book IX, p. 268). After their night raid went bad, Nisus got clear of the thicket and could have run away, saving himself. But he went back for doomed Euryalus:

"And with his sword unsheathed
He went straight for Euryalus. Now truly
Mad with terror, Nisus cried aloud.
He could not hide in darkness any longer,
Could not bear his anguish any longer:

"'No, me! Me! Here I am! I did it! Take
Your swords to me, Rutulians. All the trickery
Was mine.'" (Virgil, Aeneid, Book IX, p. 275).

Nisus died trying to save his friend: "Pierced everywhere, He pitched down on the body of his friend And there at last in the peace of death grew still. Fortunate, both!" (Virgil, Aeneid, Book IX, p. 276). So he was not cynically using this young man for his gratification. And if the 'gay Christians' intend to stamp out such relationships in their brave new world, how are they going to do it? By raising the age of consent for gay marriage to 21? In ay event the theory behind these relationships is that they were understood to be loving.

Hadrian and Antinous

Upon the death of his boyfriend Antinous, Hadrian decreed that the departed was a god and commanded worship. Had Hadrian and Antinous presented themselves to the town clerk in a place where gay marriage is legal, would they have been turned down? No, Antinous was probably between 18-20 years of age when he died; he was not a child. But were they of unequal status? Perhaps; the man Hadrian was bold indeed to lay lustful hands on a living God! The early Christian writers did not care much for this state of affairs and mentioned it frequently. They were being slaughtered for the crime of worshipping Jesus, mocked for worshipping a man as God; yet the Romans did so without remorse, and what men! A rogues' gallery, a line-up of criminal suspects. Something is upside-down. The reader of Philo Judaeus' 'Embassy to Gaius' is struck at how perfect a substitute, alter, or anti-Christ, is Caligula; he finds inspiration in the image of the king as a shepherd; he considers himself to be the God worshipped at the temple at Jerusalem. But what is this strange god, Antinous?:

"And it is not out of place, we think, to mention here Antinous, who was alive but lately, and whom all were prompt, through fear, to worship as a God, though they knew both who he was and what was his origin." (The First Apology of Justin Martyr, Chapter 29, p. 313).

"And how was the dead Antinous fixed as a beautiful youth in the moon? Who carried him thither: unless perchance, as men, perjuring themselves for hire, are credited when they say in ridicule of the gods that kings have ascended into heaven, so some one, in like manner, has put this man also among the gods, and been recompensed with honor and reward? Why have you robbed God?" (Address of Tatian to the Greeks, Chapter 10, p. 125).

"I am silent about the temples of Antinous, and of the others whom you call gods. For when related to sensible persons, they excite laughter." (Theophilus to Autolycus, Book 3, Chapter 8, p. 219).

"Thus Antinous, through the benevolence of your ancestors towards their subjects, came to be regarded as a god." (A Plea for the Christians, by Athenagoras, Chapter 30, p. 279).

"Another new deity was added to the number with great religious pomp in Egypt, and was near being so in Greece by the king of the Romans, who deified Antinous, whom he loved as Zeus loved Ganymede, and whose beauty was of a very rare order: for lust is not easily restrained, destitute as it is of fear; and men now observe the sacred nights of Antinous, the shameful character of which the lover who spent them with him knew well. Why reckon him among the gods, who is honored on account of uncleanness? And why do you command him to be lamented as a son? And why should you enlarge on his beauty?" (Clement of Alexandria, Exhortation to the Heathen, Chapter IV, p. 358).

Insisting the whole world worship your dearly departed lover, building temples and cities in his honor, shows a kind of mad devotion. Definitely a loving, committed relationship.


Septimius Severus and Plautianus

Seizing the empire in the second century, he falls outside our desired time slot. He was not born to the imperial purple. Nor was his friend Plautianus, whom some suspected of having been more than a friend:

"Before his admission to the imperial ruling company, the elder son had the name Bassianus, but when he had the good fortune to receive the honor of a share in the imperial power, Severus called the youth Antoninus, wishing him to bear the name of Marcus. He also gave him a wife in the hope that marriage would mature him somewhat; the girl was the daughter of Plautianus, the praetorian prefect.  As a youth this Plautianus had been a poor man (some say he was banished after being convicted of treason and many other crimes), but he was a fellow countryman of the emperor (Severus was also from Libya) and, as some say, he was related to the emperor; there are those too who charge him with being something worse, saying that when he was in the prime of youth he was the emperor's beloved. Consequently, Severus raised the man from a position of small and negligible honor to a post of great authority; by giving him the property of condemned men, he made Plautianus enormously wealthy. The emperor in fact shared the rule with no one except this man."

(Herodian. History of the Roman Empire (Kindle Locations 1771-1781). Book Three, Chapter X, Section 5-6.)

They did not have competitive bidding back in those days, and the emperor's friends found it possible enrich themselves. These two do not fit Matthew Vines' paradigm; since their children married each other, they must have been approximate age-mates, and both being self-made men, they were also social equals. It is no counter-evidence that their status of married with children defeats the assumption that men who have sex with men must be misogynists who abhor the thought of union with women; this expectation does not always hold good even for today, the CDC cannot rely upon it in planning preventative health measures, no more for antiquity. Of course at this late date it is impossible to verify the information, and even the gossips make no suggestion of a continuing relationship; but whoever made this information up, if make it up they did, never got the memo about homosexual relationships in antiquity being invariably unequal and exploitive. Alas, things went bad; like they don't often do so today.



Now for a personal favorite, although he falls way outside our time zone. The United States has never had an openly gay president; the same cannot be said for the Roman Empire: "Hierocles, in fact, he loved to such an extent that he used to kiss him in the groin, which it is indecent even to mention, claiming that he was celebrating the festival of Flora." (Lives of the Later Caesars, p. 294, Penguin edition). Faithful commitment was perhaps not a big thing for him, but who's to throw stones: it has not really been so long since the gay bath-houses of NYC were shut down, for public health reasons. In those places, the kind of efficiency experts who speed up the factory floor were evidently set to work over romantic relations, deciding that social chit-chat and gazing longingly into the beloved's eyes were time-wasters that could be dispensed with. Heliogabalus ended badly: "He alone of all principes was both dragged along and thrown into a swer and hurled into the Tiber." (Lives of the Later Caesars, p. 303). There was a back-lash, it would seem.


Sexual Orientation

It is alleged that the ancients had no concept of sexual orientation. This way of arguing has the unfortunate consequence of bundling paganism together with Biblical religion. As the reader plodding through Catallus in search of off-hand references to stable homosexual couples will discover, there is a world of difference. Christians do not count carnal, x-rated Roman poets as authorities. But Matthew Vines is making an argument in the form, 'People back then did not know about x. . .' Compare, 'People back then did not know about Saran Wrap,' 'People back then did not know about radio.' One Christian response is to point out that no Christian has any reason to care what these worldly, pagan poets have to say. God has not learned to plug the gaps in His anthropology since that time. A better response, however, is to point out that these people do not say what he thinks they say, what he has been told they say. . .because in point of fact they do not.

Even if the gospel were not the truth leading to eternal life, you'd almost have to be grateful to Christianity for cleaning out this Augean Stable. It is true that the Roman poets indifferently write love lyrics both to boys and to girls; but this is a way in which the ancient world was like the modern world, not unlike it. This is why they had to change the wording on the questions asked of blood donors, no longer asking if the prospective donor is a homosexual, but asking if he has had sex with men. Aren't the two questions identical? No, because most of the men having sex with men also have sex with women. If that isn't clearly understood today, one must wonder why: have generations of school psychologists been inculcating myths on this subject? To be sure there are men who are of exclusively homosexual orientation. Such are mentioned in the Bible:

"Neither shall he regard the God of his fathers, nor the desire of women, nor regard any god: for he shall magnify himself above all." (Daniel 11:37).

. . .and also in pagan literature. The satirist Juvenal offers a little set-piece in which a male hustler, whose client list includes both husband and wife, mocks the husband, claiming that he would have left no heirs, he would have produced no citizens to take up his place in the ranks, but for the prostitute's efforts:

"And though you ignore or slight my other services, what
Fair price would you put on this one favor— that if I were not
Your devoted, loyal client, your wife would be virgin right now?
. . .Do I get no credit, treacherous ingrate, for having increased
Your family, siring a little son or daughter for you?
For you are bringing them up, and you love to put on view
In the records proof of your manhood. Hang garlands on your door—
You're now a father! I've given you something you can oppose
To gossip. You have the rights of a parent; thanks to me,
You're written down as the heir. . ." (Juvenal, Satires, Satire IX, The Woes of a Male Hustler, pp. 153-154).

This man is a 'modern' homosexual, uninterested in sex with women. It seems that this feature,— of aversion to women,— is so fundamental to Matthew Vines' conception of sexual orientation that it can sweep away the documented public health reality that most of the men who have sex with men do not share it. As to why this man, if he wasn't interested in women, nevertheless married one, part of the reason may have been the masks of honored ancestors lining the family home; at certain times, unmarried men were fined in Rome, albeit only a small amount, indicating public disapproval: "Censors Camillus and Postumius ordered persons who had reached old age as bachelors to pay copper coins to the treasury as a penalty. They deserved a second punishment for daring to protest against so just an ordinance in the face of a rebuke such as this: 'Nature writes a law for us; as we are born, so must we beget. By raising you your parents bound you in decency with a debt to bring up grandchildren.'" (Valerius Maximus, Notable Doings and Sayings, Book II.9, p. 211, Loeb edition).

The suggestion is made by Trimalchio, an uninformed source, that the astrological sign one is born under determines one's sexual orientation: "'Now under Gemini pairs are born, horses and oxen, ballsy fellows, and people who like it both ways.'" (Trimalchio, Petronius, Satyrica, Chapter 39, p. 34). This is one theory; readers of Lucretius may recall his theory of images hurtling through the air impinging upon people. Martial, in one of his epigram, talks of, "Y's queer, but hates it. . . [mollis Dindymus est sed esse non vult]" (Martial, Epigrams, Book 12, Epigram 75, p. 189 Penguin edition). He stresses the involuntary nature of this man's sexual orientation, as well might anyone shackled to the service of pagan gods who have no might to break down strong-holds. They are enslaved to sin; the key to open that prison door dangles beyond their grasp.

Ptolemy also finds an astrological connection, in speaking of "nations" prone to this behavior: "These nations are uninterested in women and think poorly of the arts of love. They prefer and are more satisifed by relationships with men." (Ptolemy, Tetrabiblos, quoted p. 105, Race and Ethnicity in the Classical World, Kennedy, Roy and Goldman). The author's astrological explanation is devoid of value, but there is a concept present, of a continued behavioral preference. That some "nations" are more prone to this aberration is an empirical observation, that could be verified by a glance at the ancient world; nurture as well as nature must be involved.

Philostratus, in his Life of Apollonius of Tyana, reports a false accusation of same-sex attraction: "With such conversations, the occasions providing as usual the topics he talked about, he turned his steps towards Memnon; an Egyptian showed them the way, of whom Damis gives the following account: Timasion was the name of this stripling, who was just emerging from boyhood, and was now in the prime of life and strength. He had a stepmother who had fallen in love with him; and when he rejected her overtures, she set upon him and by way of spiting him had poisoned his father's mind against him, condescending to a lower intrigue than ever Phaedra had done, for she accused him of being effeminate, and of finding his pleasure in pederasts rather than in women." (Philostratus, Life of Apollonius of Tyana, Book 6, Chapter 3). "[R]ather than in women" implies exclusivity. If no one had any such concept as sexual orientation, the step-mother's false charge would not have been understood. Of course they are unlikely to have believed this was an 'immutable' characteristic; these were realistic people. The characters in the story, if they existed at all, flourished in the first century, though the work is of the third century.

The mythological minstrel Orpheus went through a gay phase:

"But many women
Wanted this poet for their own, and many
Grieved over their rejection. His love was given
To young boys only, and he told the Thracians
That was the better way: enjoy the springtime,
Take those first flowers!
" (Ovid, Metamorphoses, Book Ten, lines 80-85 approximately, p. 136)

The maenads took this the wrong way, they resented his indifference: "One of them, her tresses Streaming in the light air, cried out: 'Look there! There is our despiser!" and she flung a spear Straight at the singing mouth. . ." (Ovid, Metamorphoses, Book Eleven, lines 10-15 approximately, p. 259). Orpheus defended himself by means of harmony for a while, but, sadly, ended up torn to pieces. A hate crime, no doubt; recall, it all happened because "His love was given To young boys only." It's not like this actually happened, but it does reflect some awareness of certain possibilities on the part of first century author Ovid. The same tale is mentioned by Hyginus: "Some say that because Orpheus introduced the love of young boys, he was perceived by women to disdain them and, for this reason, they killed him." (Poetic Astronomy 2.7, The Lyre, Star Myths of the Greeks and Romans: A Source Book, Theony Condos, p. 135). If they are really serious about defining people, not by those whom they love, but by those for whom they feel an aversion, then Martial mentions a possible candidate: "You were once rich, but then young men were your favorites, and for long no woman was known to you. Now you run after old crones. Oh, how compelling is poverty!" (Martial, Epigrams, Book XI, LXXXVII).

The architect Vitruvius tells about a gay spring, though he does not believe the story himself:

"There is a mistaken idea that this spring infects those who drink of it with an unnatural lewdness. It will not be out of place to explain how this idea came to spread throughout the world from a mistake in the telling of the tale. It cannot be that the water makes men effeminate and unchaste, as it is said to do; for the spring is of remarkable clearness and excellent in flavor." (Vitruvius, The Ten Books on Architecture, Book II, Chapter VIII, Section 12, p. 54).

The idea of a gay spring is every bit as fatuous as the idea of gay gene; however, both mythologies reveal that those who formulated them did hold a concept of sexual orientation. The spring that makes men effeminate would appear to be an instance of the fallacy known as post hoc ergo propter hoc: certain persons were observed to drink of the spring, who then subsequently adopted a gay lifestyle, though no plausible cause-and-effect relationship can be established between the two things. Observers with no concept of sexual orientation would never have formulated the theory. One of the speakers in the Clementine Recognitions blames the stars,

"In short, when Mars, holding the center in his house, regards Saturn quarterly, with Mercury towards the center, the full moon coming upon him, in the daily genesis, he produces murderers, and those who are to fall by the sword. . .But the unpropitious Venus makes men to be as women, and not to act in any respect as men, if she is with Mars in Aries; on the contrary, she produced women if she is in Capricorn or Aquarius." (Clementine Recognitions, Book 9, Chapter 17).

A speaker with no conception of sexual orientation would not have floated this theory. He feels there is a phenomenon which demands an explanation, and offers one, ill-established as it is.


Just Friends

Some of the people of antiquity occasionally 'outed' as gay are not being fairly treated; for instance, what actual evidence is there of any physical relationship between Achilles and Patroclus? From the Iliad, no more than for Jonathan and Saul in the Bible. It's a slur against the human race to think that two men cannot be devoted friends without something else going on. On the other side of the coin, the fact that some authors in our time period thought that Achilles and Patroclus were lovers might suggest a range of possibilities for these relationships, including that the participants might be age-mates and mutually devoted. From an abundance of caution, I do not list here Marcus Aurelius and M. Cornelius Fronto, even though their epistolary correspondence is laden with sentiments like, "Farewell, my Fronto, wherever you are, most honey-sweet, my love, my delight." (M. Cornlius Fronto, Correspondence, Volume I, Loeb edition, p. 183). Is that literary affectation? Or a loving, committed relationship? Who knows?

Some well-meaning people claim that this was really all about friendship. There is an effort in the sources to have your cake and eat it, too; for instance we are told the story about Socrates and Alcibiades going to bed, but nothing happened. This however seems on the same level with Michael Jackson's similar protestations. Though paederasty was evidently very common in antiquity, that does not mean it was legal, and so a measure of deniability may have been deemed prudent.

Matthew Vines' argument in favor of permission for homosexuality is convoluted beyond the norm. Usually advocates for this viewpoint claim they are 'born that way:' doesn't Lady Gaga have a song with those lyrics? There is not really much evidence that homosexuality is an inherited trait, or else identical twins would invariably display identical sexual behavior, which is not the case. Nevertheless, so they say. However Matthew Vines is saying there were no homosexuals of the modern type in existence in antiquity. Certainly if this were so, it would sink the 'genetic' theory, because there cannot possibly have been so much genetic drift in a few thousand years as to have created a heretofore unknown group of people. While it's true that much of the homoerotic literature of antiquity was written by people who were actually bisexual, and that paederasty was a common plague, it cannot be confirmed that there were no loving, committed homosexual relationships in antiquity which were basically on a plane of equality. There is no reason to think Paul was unaware of these relationships, much less that God was.

Certainly if the task were to find paederastic couples, there would be no difficulty, take Critias and Euthydemus:

"Well, when he [Socrates] found that Critias loved Euthydemus and wanted to lead him astray, he tried to restrain him by saying that it was mean and unbecoming in a gentleman to sue like a beggar to the object of his affection, whose good opinion he coveted, stooping to ask a favor that it was wrong to grant. As Critias paid no heed whatever to this protest, Socrates, it is said, exclaimed in the presence of Euthydemus and many others, 'Critias seems to have the feelings of a pig: he can no more keep away from Euthydemus than pigs can help rubbing themselves against stones.'" (Xenophon, Memorabilia, Book I, Chapter 2, 29-31)

This disorder was widespread in the ancient world:

"And they have not base intercourse with boys,
As do Phœnicians, Latins, and Egyptians
And spacious Greece, and nations many more
Of Persians and Galatians and all Asia,
Transgressing the immortal God's pure law
Which they were under." (Sibylline Oracles, III)

The mere fact that this was at the time such a widespread disorder should argue against the idea that sexuality is genetically determined. Most men today would be horrified at the thought, so why were a substantial percentage of their forbears capable of persuasion by a misguided culture that this was a fun thing to do? What happened in the mean-time? Christianity.

In the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, a quack named Sigmund Freud articulated the idea that repression of sexual urges causes all of humanity's ills. Although no objective study ever showed any therapeutic benefit from his system, and no method of verifying it was ever suggested other than therapeutic benefit, it caught on like wild fire. Embracing these ideas produces a certain vocabulary and mind-set. For those yoked to this world view, it can be difficult to articulate what might be wrong with any sexual relationship premised upon love, as to them all such are presumed liberating, although of course for Bible-believers the idea that a sexual relationship might involve sincere affection and yet nonetheless be wrong presents no difficulties. It is wrong if it is displeasing to God.

They are obliged to recast relationships which, thankfully, they wish to discourage, as exploitive and hateful rather than loving; however, in some cases this may involve creating a reality rather than discovering it. Though the ancients had plenty of data showing that sexual relationships involving children are always objectively harmful,— they knew of cases where grown-up abuse victims had murdered their tormentors,— they did not always draw the right conclusions, although some even of the pagan moralists glimpsed the truth. Nevertheless their ideal did revolve around love, and the individuals mentioned above were not children when their self-sacrificing behavior passed into the history books. It would be more encouraging if modern advocates of this behavior could point out many living examples of the life-style they commend, because otherwise it may be suspected the behavior they cherish was, in objective fact, as rare in antiquity as it is today, for the same reasons:


Nero and Sporus

Initially when I set up this page I was going to omit the well-known duo of the Emperor Nero and his hubby Sporus, the Caitlyn Jenner of his day. After all there is no parity between the power held by the ruler of the world and a castrated boy. Isn't this precisely the kind of ancient homosexuality which Matthew Vines wants to make into the whole? Long before anyone had spied a 'right' to marriage in the as-yet unwritten U.S. Constitution, Nero and Sporus tied the knot:

"He [Nero] gelded the boy Sporus, and  endeavored to transform him into a woman. He even went so far as to marry him, with all the usual formalities of a marriage settlement, the rose-colored nuptial veil, and a numerous company at the wedding. When the ceremony was over, he had him conducted like a bride to his own house, and treated him as his wife." (Suetonius, Lives of the Twelve Caesars, Life of Nero, Chapter XXVIII).

Unfortunately this wasn't Nero's only such wedding: ". . .he had him [Sporus] castrated and used him in every way like a woman; and in due time he formally married him though he [Nero] was already married to a freedman Pythagoras. He assigned the boy a regular dowry according to contract, and Romans as well as others held a public celebration of their wedding." (Cassius Dio, Roman History, Book 62, Chapter 28). So we are a bit weak on the 'committed' part.

Back in slavery days, obtaining consent was a different proposition than it is under equality before the law, and so today we do not get to hear the castrati sing. It would be easy to imagine Sporus had little choice in the matter and that this was a love-less marriage. But fortune's wheel revolved, and instead of master of the world, Nero was declared a public enemy by the Senate of Rome. No Judas, Sporus was with him to the end: ". . .he [Nero] mounted a horse, barefoot as he was, and in his tunic, only slipping over it an old soiled cloak; with his head muffled up, and an handkerchief before his face, and four persons only to attend him, of whom Sporus was one." (Suetonius, Lives of the Twelve Caesars, Life of Nero, Chapter XLVIII).

And so there was something there after all; Sporus could have cut and run, it would have been the safest course, but he did not. Like the faithful Eva Braun, he stayed for the final curtain. But in the end, is that really what matters? Does it make adultery any more pleasing to God, that Monica Lewinsky was genuinely fond of Bill? Great-grandchildren of the Romantic movement as we are, we tend to root for the star-crossed lovers, whose paths are kept separate by the inconvenience of their having entered into covenant relationship with other parties; but God does not. The sub-text of Matthew Vines' endeavor, it would seem, is that no one, not God, not man, can say anything against love, as if Cupid is not only the mightiest, but the most righteous deity. But this is not the Bible's perspective.

Proponents like Matthew Vines point out that ancient same-sex relationships often involved an unfree partner, and thus in one very telling particular do not resemble anything we are likely to see today, in the first world at any rate. This is true, for a very simple reason. An ancient predator who molested a free-born young man in Rome had to worry about being murdered, without consequences, by the young man's father, or facing prosecution by the state:

"Gaius Laetorius, with the cognomen Mergus, a man of distinguished birth and not without bravery in warlike deeds, who had been appointed tribune of one of the legions in the Samnite war, attempted for a time to persuade a youth of exceptional beauty among his tentmates to put the charms of his body at his disposal voluntarily; then, when the boy was not to be lured either by gifts or by any other friendly gesture, Laetorius, unable to restrain his passion, attempted to use effort. When the man’s disgraceful conduct had become noised throughout the entire camp, the tribunes of the people, holding that it was a crime against the whole state, brought an indictment against him publicly, and the people unanimously condemned him, after fixing death as the penalty; for they were unwilling that persons who were of free condition and were fighting on behalf of the freedom of their fellow citizens should be subjected by those in positions of command to abuses that are irreparable and do violence to the male’s natural instincts."
(Dionysius of Halicarnassus, Roman Antiquities, Book XVI, 4.2-3, (Delphi Ancient Classics Book 79)).

Though he might possibly get in trouble for raping a slave, this was less likely, as the unfortunate young man lacked a protector. This is not some exotic and unintelligble aspect of ancient life, but the common and universal instinct for self-preservation in action.


Antonius and Julius Calvaster

Antonius, a Roman general in Germany, was accused of plotting against the Roman emperor Domitian. After putting this upstart down, they went after his confederates:

"Antonius, a certain commander of this period in Germany, revolted against Domitian: him Lucius Maximus overcame and overthrew. . .But one young man, Julius Calvaster, who had served as military tribune in the hope of getting into the senate, was saved in a most unexpected fashion. Inasmuch as it was being proved that he had frequent meetings with Antonius alone and he had no other way to free himself from the charge of conspiracy, he declared that he had met him for amorous intercourse. The fact that he was of an appearance to inspire passion lent color of his statement. In this way he was acquitted." (Cassius Dio, Roman History, Book 67, Chapter 11).

This young man was on an upward career path, he had hopes of entering the senate. He was not Antonius' social inferior, though his junior in rank. Nor was he a child. Now it may be they really did meet to foment the revolution; it may be their conferences ended by singing 'The East is Red.' But somebody believed that a homosexual relationship between equals was possible; he was acquitted on the strength of his story. How committed they were I couldn't say.


Bassianus and Hierocles

Bassianus, also called Elagabalus, was emperor of Rome for several years. He was married to a guy named Hierocles, for whom historian Cassius Dio specifically says that his affection was "firmly fixed:"

"And finally (to go back now to the story which I began) he was bestowed in marriage and was termed wife, mistress, queen. He worked in wool, sometimes wore a hair-net, painted his eyes. . .'Her' husband was Hierocles, a Carian slave. . .from whom he had learned chariot-driving. . .Certain other persons, too, were not seldom honored by the emperor and became powerful, some because they had joined in his uprising and others because they committed adultery with him. For he was anxious to have the reputation of committing adultery, that in this respect, too, he might imitate the most lascivious women; and he would often get caught voluntarily and in the very act. Then, for his conduct, he would be brutally abused by his husband and would be beaten, so that he had black eyes. His affection for this 'husband' was no light inclination, but a serious matter and a firmly fixed passion, so much so that he did not become vexed at any such harsh treatment, but on the contrary loved him the more for it and actually wished to appoint him Caesar. . ." (Cassius Dio, Roman History, Book 80, Chapter 15).

This all took place a century and a half after Paul wrote his letters. We know about this relationship because one party was emperor. Had they been private citizens, we would know nothing about it.