Ancient Greece

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Greek empire.jpg
700 - 600 B.C.

Ancient Greece was the area of the world similar to modern day Greece but also had Greek colonies in the modern nations of Turkey, and Macedonia.

Greece was responsible for much of modern democracy, philosophy, mathematics, and science, as well as a great deal of art and the introduction of the Olympic Games (See: Greek influence on Western Culture). Ancient Greek works had a great influence on the Romans. By the time of Christ, Greek was the dominant language and literary form of the day even though Greece itself had been conquered by Rome. Many of the early missionary journeys were into Greek areas and all of the epistles that Paul wrote were to churches set up in Greek lands. Paul's philosophical discussions in Athens and the belief of the people that he was Zeus, all tied into the Greek culture of the day as well as the New Testament books themselves being written in Greek and using a Greek translated Old Testament (Septuagint). Ancient Church Fathers were careful to draw a distinction between Greek culture and the unique message of Christianity that was meant for all.[1]

Oedipus and the Sphinx

The ancient Greek consciousness made a common reference to the Trojan War as the point of cultural origin, and self-awareness as a society in works such as the Iliad and the Odyssey.

While it was independent, the ancient Greek world never unified into a central polity. Rather, individual city-states fought for dominion over many centuries, fighting with one another as to who would be prominent. This was especially true between Athens and Sparta. But while they fought amongst themselves, when a foreign entity sought to invade, such as the Persian Empire, the Greeks would come together in a unity seldom rivaled in history. Alexander the Great of Macedonia would eventually subdue Greece along with almost the entire known world at the time, but that would only lead to the spreading of Greek culture as Macedon was Hellenistic in nature and Greece was once again "free" after his death. Rome eventually put an end to ancient Greek independence, but not its influence.

Greek life was dominated by religion and so it is not surprising that the temples of ancient Greece were the biggest and most beautiful.They also had a political purpose as they were often built to celebrate civic power and pride, or offer thanksgiving to the patron deity of a city for success in war.[2]

Greek mythology is a collection of stories and narratives concerning their gods, heroes and mythological creatures. Hesiod's Theogony is an important source of myths as well as Homer's epic poems.

Homosexuality and the effects on Greece

Homosexuality was generally accepted in Ancient Greece, although not in the way it is known in the modern world. Gay rights activists sometimes use Greece as an example of how homosexuality can be beneficial, normally unaware of methods such as pederasty which were commonly practiced.

Homosexual practices in ancient Greece were rooted in a philosophical disdain for the vulgar and the belief that homosexual practices were more rooted in a higher form of love which was not lustful but contributed to an 'everlasting disposition.' This is reflected by attitudes in Plato's Symposium:

With disdain, Pausanius explains that common Love “has no discrimination...and is of the body rather than of the soul.” Common Love was lustful, casual, and careless fornication. To Pausanias, common Love would lead a man to women and (male) youths too young to pursue, and that a practitioner of common Love “[did] good and evil quite indiscriminately.” Heavenly Love, on the other hand, inspired the male to “turn to the male, and delight in him who is the more valiant and intelligent nature.” Heavenly Love caught the hearts of men who saw youths as intelligent persons in whom reason was beginning to be developed. Men engulfed by heavenly Love did not deceive these youths, but intended to remain their companions, if not lovers, for life. In such a pursuit, the pursuer “[endured] a slavery worse than any slave,” that to Eros. To be such a slave, however, did not matter to the scores of men who devoted themselves to boys on the verge of adulthood. As Pausanius explains, “a man fairly argues that in Athens to love and to be loved is held to be a very honorable thing.” Heavenly Love was a noble and commendable form of Eros, which disregarded a one-time lustful tryst instead for an everlasting disposition.[3]

While these bonds would last throughout life, it was rooted in the practice of pederasty, which does not bear a resemblance to modern homosexuality as it was highly restricted. Scholars observe that the laws put upon homosexuality in ancient Greece implicitly recognize the potential for it to corrupt morals.

Pederasty was permitted, but had to be practiced through a refined courtship marked by self-control and dignity. Laws protected youths from the sexual aggression of adult males. Laws also stripped adult males who lost their self-control and sold their bodies to the sexual and psycho-logical dominance of other adult males. Though ancient Athens permitted limited forms of pederasty, restrictions on male prostitution reveal a deep-seatedfear that if not checked, homosexuality could corrupt its citizenry and subvert the polis. [4]

Several prominent Ancient Greek statesmen and philosophers, such as Plato[5] and Lycurgus[6] spoke out against homosexuality and pederasty, and more ancient writers such as Homer and Hesiod do not make mention of homosexuality. Because of this, and accounts from Plato and Aristotle[7] regarding the origin of pederasty, it is believed that homosexuality and homosexual mythology was not native to mainland Greece but introduced to it by the Cretans and/or the peoples of the Near East during the late Archaic period.

Some historians also believe that homosexuality helped lead to the downfall of Ancient Greece, as the population was not growing so much and food sources were not being produced as a result and armies became small.

Famous poets

See also

Further reading


  1. As Tertullian said, "What has Athens to do with Jerusalem?"
  2. Architecture in ancient Greece
  3. , Kelleher, Brigid, in Historical Perspectives: Santa Clara University Undergraduate Journal of History, Series II, Vol. 16 [1]
  4. , Kelleher, Brigid, in Historical Perspectives: Santa Clara University Undergraduate Journal of History, Series II, Vol. 16 [2]
  8. Nuttall Encyclopedia of General Knowledge, article on Bion originally published in 1907 written by Reverend James Wood