- Paperback: 288 pages
- Publisher: Harvard University Press; Updated and with a New Postcript edition (1 July 1989)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0674362705
- ISBN-13: 978-0674362703
- Product Dimensions: 15.5 x 1.9 x 23.7 cm
- Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars See all reviews (1 customer review)
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 213,902 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Greek Homosexuality Paperback – 1 Jul 1989
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A landmark study...One cannot underestimate the importance of Mr. Dover's book. With philological brilliance and scholarly objectivity, he presents facts that can no longer be ignored. It is a step closer toward understanding the complex nature of the Greeks, whom we claim as cultural fathers. It is also a step closer to understanding human nature. -- Erich Segal New York Times Book Review An unprejudiced description of the homosexual phenomena depicted by classical Greek artists and writers has long been an urgent desideratum. Dover's book fills this need successfully. In its collection and interpretation of the ancient evidence it will be indispensable for broader and/or more specialized explorations of the sexual aspects of Greek art and society. -- Jeffrey Henderson Classical World In Greek classes past teachers used to slide quickly over the exact nature of the relationships between men and boys in ancient Athens... In this expert, candid, and wry study all is made clear. Washington Post Greek Homosexuality provides--finally--an unvarnished look at Athenian homosexuality...[It is] now the standard volume on the subject. -- John Scarborough American Historical Review Dover's is an authoritative discussion; he is a philologist of great stature with wide achievement as editor, commentator, and literary critic...The subject was one which needed to be exposed to the light of day; we can be thankful that it has been done by a great scholar and one who treats the subject without prejudice. -- Bernard Knox New York Review of Books
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First, it's important to distinguish "homosexuality" from its practice in antiquity to what it is today. In Greek culture several centuries before Christ, homosexuality as we know it today did not exist, except in Sparta. While Dover does not make this as explicit as he could, one cannot read the extensive material Dover covers without forming this conclusion. In Greek antiquity, the relationships were more oriented toward man-boy relations rather than man-man relations. Identifying these man-boy relations as "homosexual" is certainly tendentious, at best.
Second, the "mentoring" that older men functioned for their younger devotees in exchange for the devotee's sexual favors is in stark contrast to anything "homosexual" in our own age. Indeed, today we more likely to lock the older man up in prison for paedophilia, rather than extol him for his service of introducing younger boys to upper Greek society. The cultural context of Athens is anything but homosexual, but truly something else.
Third, the ubiquity of the man-boy pattern (primarily around Athens) as opposed to the man-man pattern (primarily around Sparta) illustrates another distinguishing form of "homosexuality" in antiquity. The historian must go where the artefacts are, and the artefacts are not from Sparta, but from Athens, where the man-boy paradigm prevailed. The book's title might have been more appropriately been retitled "Athen's Paedophilia" rather than "Greek Homosexuality."
Dover's account is both exhaustive and replete. His historian's viewpoint reports the facts and artefacts dispassionately as his discipline allows, but it might seem to many a bit too confining now that other histories have subsequently appeared. (For an excellent history of homosexuality over the ages, I heartily recommend Crompton's "Homosexuality & Civilization" by Harvard University Press.)
If one's purpose is a limited understanding of sexual mores as it was practice in Athen's antiquity, then this book certainly achieves that goal. However, this book really isn't a "gay" or true "homosexual" history at all. It's only by a stretch of definition that man-boy sexual and social enculturation in Greek antiquity really reflects any "homosexuality." If this limited scope is your interest, then this is really the best book of its kind. But if your interest is more broadly "homosexual," then Crompton's book is the one to turn to.
Secondly - I could not follow his numbering on the vases! Don't get me wrong, this is not the first book I've read dealing with ancient vase painting....but his reference numbers were indecipherable.
But I like that there were lots of vases and lots of good descriptions and references to stories and events.
Dover was very precise in his discussion of homosexual behaviour and the rites of different localities. He was also very detailed in how the homosexual or pederastic relationship came about, expanded and gave many references to rules and regulations. He cited many examples using the vases. It helped me get a more indepth idea of the entire relationship.
Also included were relationships between women and women and women and men.
I felt this book was more a reference book for scholars studying vases and homosexual behaviour in antiquity than a book for the lay person.