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+).

Advertisements