Forbidden Friendships: Homosexuality and Male Culture in... and over 2 million other books are available for Amazon Kindle . Learn more
£17.99
FREE Delivery in the UK.
In stock.
Dispatched from and sold by Amazon.
Gift-wrap available.
Quantity:1
Forbidden Friendships: Ho... has been added to your Basket
Trade in your item
Get a £1.50
Gift Card.
Have one to sell?
Flip to back Flip to front
Listen Playing... Paused   You're listening to a sample of the Audible audio edition.
Learn more
See this image

Forbidden Friendships: Homosexuality and Male Culture in Renaissance Florence (Studies in the History of Sexuality) Paperback – 1 Mar 1998


See all 3 formats and editions Hide other formats and editions
Amazon Price New from Used from
Kindle Edition
"Please retry"
Paperback
"Please retry"
£17.99
£15.18 £9.81

Trade In Promotion



Trade In this Item for up to £1.50
Trade in Forbidden Friendships: Homosexuality and Male Culture in Renaissance Florence (Studies in the History of Sexuality) for an Amazon Gift Card of up to £1.50, which you can then spend on millions of items across the site. Trade-in values may vary (terms apply). Learn more

Product details

  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; New Ed edition (1 Mar. 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0195122925
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195122923
  • Product Dimensions: 22.9 x 2.5 x 15.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 641,035 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Discover books, learn about writers, and more.

Product Description

Review

Rocke does a brilliant job of teasing out this wealth of material, and of presenting the complex relationships which underlie the criminal statistics ... this book makes a substantial contribution to the history of homosexuality. (Tim Hitchcock, Urban History)

remarkable ... (Times Literary Supplement)

About the Author

Michael Rocke is the Nicky Mariano Librarian of the Biblioteca Berenson at Villa I Tatti, the Harvard University Center for Italian Renaissance Studies, in Florence.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
First Sentence
"In the whole world I believe there are no two sins more abominable than those that prevail among the Florentines," commented Pope Gregory XI in 1376. Read the first page
Explore More
Concordance
Browse Sample Pages
Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index
Search inside this book:

Customer Reviews

3.5 out of 5 stars
5 star
1
4 star
0
3 star
0
2 star
1
1 star
0
See both customer reviews
Share your thoughts with other customers

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Edmund Marlowe on 17 Jun. 2014
Format: Hardcover
I believe this may be the most important book yet written on human sexuality. During the generation or so in which historians have been openly discussing variations in sexual behaviour, it has often been shown that modern ways of thinking about sexuality are little more than culturally-induced assumptions and fundamentally different to those made by most historical societies. The available evidence had not however quite amounted to proof until Rocke put it well beyond reasonable dispute with this monumental study of 15th century Florence, unique in what her records are detailed enough to establish.

To simplify (including ignoring exceptional individuals who have always existed), only starting around 1700 in northern Europe and only spreading to most of the world in the 20th century, did society adopt its present idea of a heterosexual majority opposed to a homosexual minority mostly comprised of men whose behaviour challenged traditional gender roles. Contrarily, under the old system of thinking which had prevailed since ancient times, it was assumed that men in general were attracted to both women and boys, but not to other men. This assumption survived mediaeval Christendom despite the terrible conflict it implied with Christian condemnation of sodomy. In even sharper contrast to modern thinking, traditional society was far more indulgent of boys taking the passive role than of men doing so, the transitional nature of boyhood avoiding the threat to gender role-playing that everyone supported.
Read more ›
Comment Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback. If this review is inappropriate, please let us know.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
1 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Robin Croll on 22 July 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Disappointing, as it is not a book on Gay History at all but a book on Legal court convictions in Florence, which has nothing to do with the history of homosexuality. Not a good read by any standards.
1 Comment Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback. If this review is inappropriate, please let us know.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again

Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 9 reviews
35 of 40 people found the following review helpful
A Masterpiece of Scholarship in Its Field! 19 Oct. 1997
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
I won't hide my praise; this book is a masterpiece in the study of male-male sexuality in the Renaissance. Finally, due to some historically fortuitous and unfortunately rare records, some one has provided firm demographic evidence on the phenomenon in one major city. These demographics settle a number of thorny questions that have plagued the field since its inception. Over two-thirds the male population of Renaissance Florence was involved in pederasty. We are not dealing with a small but relatively free homosexual minority; instead, the average Florentine Renaissance male, regardless of sexual orientation, engaged in some form of sex with males. This book is essential not only to those interested in the Renaissance but also to all interested in ancient (Western) history. Those interested in ancient Greece and Rome in particular will be fascinated to learn that Greek practices are still very much alive in Renaissance Italy, over two-thousand years later. The book casts serious doubt on the notion that a small, aritocratic minority practiced pederasty in Classical Antiquity. Rocke firmly establishes that male pederastic sex and relationships in Renaissance Florence were embedded in the broader contexts of male culture and sociality, class, retribution, and politics. His book is an additional verification of the anthropological theory that most pre-industrial societies accepted male pederasty as a valid expression of a man's sexual desires, though only ancient Greece and Rome seem to have so publicly lauded the practice in their art, literature, and philosophy.
30 of 35 people found the following review helpful
Eye opening scholarship 13 Aug. 2000
By Richard Harrold - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Michael Rocke's tome on male culture and sexuality in Renaissance Florence is a tremendous work that provides exceptional insight into male sexuality. After reading this, only the most obdurate student of gay life and history could fail to attain a more significant understanding of the present-day forces that seek to quash gays and their efforts for equality under the law. Rocke's careful research of 15th- and 16th-century documents unequivocably shows that if not most, quite nearly a mjority of Florentine males at the time had sex at least once with another male. The significance of such a finding should not be missed.
Present day gays roll their eyes whenever they encounter the supposition that a person can "be made gay" or "converted" to being gay because of the firm belief that one's sexuality is predominantly innate. But after reading Rocke's book, one can't help but see how males that today would undoubtedly be identified as heterosexual had freely enjoyed sex with other males. The significance of this, however, should not be interpreted to mean that one's sexuality is entirely a choice. It does, however, provide an understanding of why some homophobes fear gays.
The Dominican cleric Savonarola's rhetoric in the war he waged against sodomy in Florence provides a historical background as well for understanding the position of today's Religious Right and its stance against gays. Savonarola figures heavily in Rocke's book and the author provides wonderful detail on the political machinations of the time, a politic that essentially recognized the need to publicly take a stand against sodomy, but in practicality often lacked the nerve to do what was necessary to rid the city of "this vice."
Anyone interested in the history surrounding gays and homosexuality is strongly urged to add this title to their list.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Kindle only review 26 Dec. 2011
By J. Fried - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This is a review of the Kindle version only, and so, it is a review of the implementation on Kindle and not a review of the content. Once i've completed reading the book i will add to this review.

I have only two problems with the Kindle implementation of this book: the font face is fixed to a serif type, and, the footnotes are not "live". My concern with a fixed serif font is that for people with reading disabilities, sans-serif fonts are more easily read and for people without reading difficulties sans-serif fonts will work as well as serif fonts. On well formatted Kindle books you can choose the desired font along with other display attributes that are missing in this Kindle book. By "live" i mean that one can click on footnotes to be taken to a separate page where you can read the footnotes. In this book the footnotes are not live, so you will have to search the book to locate the footnotes, add a bookmark, and move between your current reading location and your footnote bookmark. And even with that approach you must move the bookmark over time as the page containing your "current" footnote will change. I think this is an important failure in a complex book like this with so many footnotes in that it reduces the reading flow considerably to have to go through the process i outlined in order to read each footnote. The alternative is to skip the footnotes and read them later, thus losing the context of the footnote - won't really work.

I think it is reasonable to expect the above features in a Kindle book. Compared to producing a book on the printed page, the above features require very little time and provide considerable reading pleasure.

*** Update 17 Feb 2012

Someone (Lev) replying to my original review has helped me see a flaw in my original review of the Kindle version of this book. Even with my criticisms, the price of the paper version is significantly more expensive than the Kindle version, the Kindle version is probably still easier to read than the paperback version because the other Kindle features, like adjusting font size, are there and you can search the Kindle version, something you cannot do with a book. So, it is not all terrible, just a reduction by one star for failing to use Kindle publishing features that would have made this a more easily read book.
Staggeringly important insights hidden in a scholarly gem 17 Jun. 2014
By Edmund Marlowe - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition
I believe this may be the most important book yet written on human sexuality. During the generation or so in which historians have been openly discussing variations in sexual behaviour, it has often been shown that modern ways of thinking about sexuality are little more than culturally-induced assumptions and fundamentally different to those made by most historical societies. The available evidence had not however quite amounted to proof until Rocke put it well beyond reasonable dispute with this monumental study of 15th century Florence, unique in what her records are detailed enough to establish.

To simplify (including ignoring exceptional individuals who have always existed), only starting around 1700 in northern Europe and only spreading to most of the world in the 20th century, did society adopt its present idea of a heterosexual majority opposed to a homosexual minority mostly comprised of men whose behaviour challenged traditional gender roles. Contrarily, under the old system of thinking which had prevailed since ancient times, it was assumed that men in general were attracted to both women and boys, but not to other men. This assumption survived mediaeval Christendom despite the terrible conflict it implied with Christian condemnation of sodomy. In even sharper contrast to modern thinking, traditional society was far more indulgent of boys taking the passive role than of men doing so, the transitional nature of boyhood avoiding the threat to gender role-playing that everyone supported.

The growing understanding of this profound change has been sometimes bitterly contested by so-called essentialists who refuse to believe people brought up with fundamentally different cultural beliefs could have felt differently to them sexually, either because they lack the imagination to escape "the parochialism of our own notions" or because (whether straight or gay) they feel threatened by the implications for the alleged immutability since birth of their own orientation. I find their resistance depressing, as I think knowing our sexual culture and individual tastes could have been constructed differently should be liberating and enrichening. I am therefore glad that Rocke has cleared up the matter for anyone interested and open-minded enough to peruse the mountain of evidence here presented.

I shall not attempt more than a very brief summary of what Rocke has established about homosexuality in Florence or how. Florence was unique in having between 1432 and 1502 an "Office of the Night" with the sole purpose of controlling endemic "sodomy." Its extraordinarily thorough records as well as those of the other Florentine courts with jurisdiction have enabled him to draw some irrefutable conclusions about Florentine men in general. Amazingly, "by age forty at least two of every three men had been incriminated" in sodomy at least once, backing up opinions of the time that "nearly no one ... hasn't committed such mischief." Rocke is extraordinarily well-read in the literature of the time, which he uses brilliantly both to illustrate more humanly the court records and to enliven his text.

Most of the most salient characteristics of Florentine sodomy will be familiar to students of ancient Greece, though not of course the statistical evidence. "There was only a single male sexual culture with a prominent homoerotic character. ... In Florence, and probably elsewhere as well, sodomy between males assumed a hierarchical form that would now be called 'pederasty'. ... Normally men over the age of eighteen took the so-called active role in sex with a passive teenage adolescent. Relations in which roles were exchanged or reversed were rare and occurred almost solely between adolescents, while sex between mature men was, with very few exceptions, unknown." Sodomising boys was never felt to be incompatible with heterosexual pursuits, though the numbers continuing to be involved with them after marriage were much smaller. As in classical Athens, men married late at thirty, which contributed to the prevalence of pederasty. Some striking differences from ancient Greece were that in Florence pederasty flourished despite fierce official hostility, both men and boys were highly promiscuous and men sometimes fellated their boys.

Rocke's findings provoke one extremely important question neither he nor anyone else I have heard of has ever attempted to answer: what effect does ubiquitously-practised pederasty have on a society? The ancient Greeks believed erotic bonds between men and boys were vitally important in transmitting skills and virtues from one to the other and historians such as W. A. Percy have backed them up by underlining the correlation in time between the "Greek miracle" and the institutionalisation of pederasty there. 15th-century Italy in general was considered "the mother of sodomy" and Florence in particular was in Savonarola's words "defamed throughout all of Italy" for it. One might well say exactly the same about their respective reputations at the forefront of the extraordinary cultural flowering known as the Renaissance, a flowering that included the revival of the naked male youth as a worthy subject of art by artists themselves often well known for their love affairs with boys. Is this just an amazing coincidence? I suggest it is a stunning indictment of the intellectual cowardice of our times that decades after abundant evidence has been furnished that at least the two most culturally renowned societies in European history were equally renowned for a now-forbidden form of love, no general study of this question has been attempted.

Some may find this a book to refer to or dip into for fascinating insights and riveting anecdotes rather than to read from cover to cover. Though Rocke's style is lucid and elegant, he never strays far enough from balanced examination of the statistical evidence to become less than heavy reading. I can only guess it is this that has held Forbidden Friendships back from the far more widespread acclaim it richly deserves. I strongly urge anyone to read it who has the slightest interest in either how Renaissance Italians thought or its broader sexual implications for humanity.

Edmund Marlowe, author of Alexander's Choice, a modern British tale of Florentine-style amore masculino, www.amazon.com/dp/1481222112
Sodomy, Then and Now 4 May 2014
By Anthony C. Graziano - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Forbidden Friendships by Michael Rocke is a scholarly work which explores, principally, homosexuality and male culture in renaissance Florence. Rocke reminds us that “sodomy,” as the term was used by contemporary moralists, is any sexual act which by its nature frustrates the fertilization of an egg of a female. Thus, the overwhelming majority of people in the United States are, have been, or will be sodomites.
Rocke occasionally ventures into heterosexual sodomy and to places other than Florence, but the focus is male homosexuality in Florence, where, he believes, perhaps half of the male population copulated with other males. This astounding number reflects the male culture of the city. The usual form of the arrangement involved an older male as the active partner and the younger as the passive, as has been suggested in other Mediterranean societies. This arrangement is often considered benign, involving protection and caring by the older for the younger.
However, an amicable arrangement does not describe anywhere near the total relationships found. Rape and gang rape are, perhaps, common. Some families (read, “fathers”) pimped their boys in order to gain gifts from the active partner. Often families made such arrangements in order to receive indirect non-monetary favors which would serve to promote the welfare or status of the boy’s family. Also, “...working boys often had to give their employers their bodies as well as their labor.” (p. 163)
On the other hand, some boys--the term could include men up to about the age of twenty--received older men in exchange for gifts or money. Some solicited sex for gifts or money. Some were prostitutes. Many boys enjoyed the pleasure of other boys just for fun.
The sources of Rocke’s numbers and narratives are largely court records. He mentions some of the penalties for sodomy: fines of several magnitudes, public humiliation of several sorts, exclusion from office, exile for varying periods of time, castration, life sentence to the galleys, and, of course, death, burning being the method especially advocated by the most illustrious clergy.
Given the threats to sodomites, how could there have been so many?
Appendix A contains tables of penalties levied by various organizations for several periods of time. It does not take great study, thanks to the format and presentation of the data (which did take great study), to discern massive non-enforcement.
Rocke’s narrative suggests that influential families had their share of sodomites, who could be convicted only with great cost and difficulty. In addition, sodomy was conceived in this culture as part of coming of age. This attitude led to widespread sympathy, including non-enforcement and mitigated enforcement for offending youths, where a youth might be as old as forty.
Despite the law, when everybody does it, it is not a crime, is it? This tension pits dogma against life, an old, new, and even present drama. Victories prove that the dogmatists (ranting clergy, corrupt politicians, frightened control freaks) are in charge , even as such victories allow the majority of the unconcerned to approve of a situation in which Probity rules while reprobates are not harmed to the point of reaction.
Two further points deserve mention. When anti-sodomists, or anti-culturalists, made life very difficult in Florence, Savonarola was deposed and burned.
One reviewer has trumpeted Rocke’s findings as “proof” that there is no biological basis for homosexuality, which they do not. Such a conclusion ignores the 10% rate of recidivism he found, the continued homosexual relations between older and younger he reported, the continued homosexual relations between younger and older he reported, the passive role assumed by some older men, and the continued homosexual relations between persons in the same age cohort. Such a conclusion flies in the face of expert opinion and assigns Michael Rocke a competence in the physiology of sex, which, I am sure, he, as a scholar, would demure.

Mr. Graziano is the author of From the Cross to the Church: The Emergence of the Church from the Chaos of the Crucifixion
Were these reviews helpful? Let us know


Feedback