1. What are the recurring themes in the literature of homoerotic desire?
(jealousy, break-ups, youthful beauty, infidelity, horses/sailing, the pleasure and
pain of love),
2. How are lesbians portrayed? Is there any attention given to the mechanics of
lesbian lovemaking? (NB: lesbians as sexually rapacious. No attention given
over to mechanics, not even by Sappho. And the penetrative model is at work
here). Sappho lived in the city of Mytilene on the island of Lesbos from about
630 BCE onwards. It is not known when she died. Biographical sources mention
parents, three brothers, a husband, and a daughter.
3. Are there recognized roles for lesbian lovers to play, as there are for male
4. How is the eromenos (the pursued boy) portrayed? (often as young and
beautiful, unfaithful, headstrong, some are unwilling to yield, How is the erastes
(the older male pursuer) portrayed? (as sexually eager, almost powerless,
jealous) ; answered in upcoming lecture
5. How is male-to-male lovemaking/erotic contact portrayed? What are the
ideals? (Symp: one young boy, one elder; no lewdness; intellectual love;
seduction not likely; democratic in nature; the eromenos feels no desire; very
young boys should not be pursued; eromenos should be noble and virtuous; elder
man does the pursuing; ‘two classes of lover’). Ongoing question: is it base to
yield to your lover (see p. 46 where Plato is extremely vague on this question.
Depends on the way the boy yields, to whom, and why)
6. How does Plato characterize homoerotic desire (in the Phaedrus and the
Symposium passages: (as exalted and pure). Heteroerotic (as earthly and vulgar)
7. What role does Eros play in homoerotic behavior? Aphrodite? Interestingly,
the Greek word for intercourse (aphrodisia) is applied to heterosexual and
homosexual intercourse. 2
Lesbianism: there are more poems concerning female homosexuality than artistic
depictions of it. Evidence for lesbianism is (outside of Sappho) very sparse, possibly
because the strong "penetration model" obscured non-penetrative eroticism. We also need
to distinguish between homoerotic and homosocial.
• (2) Two women anointing— lesbian activity?
• statuette from
• two women; one rolling wool— note anakalypteria gesture
• naked spinning hetaerae?
•Male homoeroticism: It was taken for granted in the Classical period that a man could
be sexually attracted to a good-looking younger male, and no Greek who said he was
“in love” would take it amiss if his hearers assumed without further enquiry that he
was in love with a boy and that he desired more than anything to ejaculate in or on the
boy’s body. Interestingly, the Greek word for intercourse (ta aphrodisia) is applied to
heterosexual and homosexual intercourse.
The whole relationship (in Plato at any rate) is one of sophrosyne or self-control
on both sides. In Platonic er