Myths and Creatures of the Past: Males

9 02 2010

The Role of Males in Ancient Greece/Classical Athens

Males were the ultimate authority within their households over their wives and other family members. There were some duties and obligations which accompanied this privilege, however, as males alone were expected to take up arms in times of war.

“As education from early childhood prepared them for these roles. They not only learned to read and write but also to be athletic, in rigorous control of their appetites, and fearless in battle and the hunt….there was no forgiveness for failure” in their society (P.32, Classical Myth by Barry B. Powell).

Now, I advise you to skip over this next part if you typically lead a sheltered life or prefer for your viewpoint of the Ancient Greeks, the fathers of democracy and, to some extent, our American culture, to remain pure and untarnished. Consider this my disclaimer.

As I mentioned in my first blog post, I had always been an avid consumer of Greek mythology, history, and culture and it shocks me still how only recently I discovered some of the darker aspects to their lifestyles. So apparently it was not uncommon for Greeks to practice pederasty, or sexual intercourse between a man and a boy.

The men actually courted these young prepubescent boys through gifts and poetry among other things. I won’t go too much farther into detail, but if you want to learn a little more about what exactly happened *cough pervert cough* (totally kidding), just check out the article they have on Wikipedia, though I will tell you it involved fondling, caressing, and other sexual acts.

It’s kinda weird how while these practices were acceptable, there were very few instances of homosexual activities between two grown adults. Their justification for these behaviors were that it was some sort of twisted character building exercise :/

To quote the book: “Pederasty was an aspect of Greek preparation for manhood and war was thought to refine the moral qualities of loyalty, respect, affection, and courage.” To each his own, I suppose. OK, I’m gonna take a break from being judgmental now.

War was an integral part of each male’s life and each man had to pay for his own equipment which, more often than not, was beautifully designed. These men were called hoplites (hoplon = shield). Their principal weapons were the spear and the one-edged sword. Their formations ranged from sixteen ranks deep to phalanxes which were perfect for neutralizing archers. One thing to draw from what I’ve said thus far is how the Greeks relied on their superior equipment in their military conquests.

For some actual art portraying pederasty, click here.

UPDATE (notes from my class):

  1. Men in Classical Greece.
    1. Birth to mid-teens:
      1. i.      Grow up in women’s quarters.
      2. ii.      Physical and mental training in public and private schools.
    2. Late teens: training as ephebe in the citizen army.
    3. Late teens-middle age:
      1. i.      Marry daughters of a fellow citizen, have children.
      2. ii.      Juggle civic (military, political, cultural) and family (including financial) duties.
        1. Cultural contributions go along the lines of somehow participating in the production of a tragedy.
      3. iii.      Profession – agriculture, trade, crafts, etc.
    4. Maybe live to old age (50+).




8 responses

10 02 2010

Are you by any chance taking history 111b?

10 02 2010

no, but i’m in history 10a (world history to the 1350’s). why do you ask?

11 02 2010

oh, I see. I thought you would be because I am taking history 111b (ancient greece). Are you a classics major? Just curious.

12 02 2010

ahh okok, do you recommend the class? no, i’m actually an economics major and i’m looking to double major in technocultural studies but i’m not decided on that yet. i love history, mythology, and english though, so i tried to make as many of my GE’s relevant to those subjects. are you a classics major?

16 02 2010

Oh I see. I am switching in to the Classics major. You should try to sign up for history 111c (if you still have room in your schedule) with spyradakis.
If you ever get a chance.. I recommend taking any class from that series, the teacher is amazing. My friend suggested that I take it this quarter, and I have no regrets.

19 02 2010

ahh unfortunately i can’t fit it in this quarter and i’m pretty much done with GE’s, but i’ll keep my eyes open for next year. keep me updated 😀 and that’s awesome, why did you switch into classics? any specific reason?

19 02 2010

This is really interesting I can completely see your passion for this subject! I am curious as to what emphasized the role of women.

19 02 2010

haha, they pretty much completely repressed women. they believed women were the sources of all their troubles but it’s weird because their female heroes acted completely opposite of their views of how women SHOULD behave. they had the amazon women who partook in wars and only came together with men every once in awhile. atlanta took part in the boar hunt, but i think i’ve already said enough 😀 appreciate your curiosity.

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