Philip of Macedon, when he pronounced the panegyric of the Sacred Band at Chæronea, uttered the funeral oration of Greek love in its nobler forms. With the decay of military spirit and the loss of freedom, there was no sphere left for that type of
comradeship which I attempted to describe in Section IV. The philosophical ideal, to which some cultivated Attic thinkers had aspired, remained unrealised, except, we may perhaps suppose, in isolated instances. Meanwhile paiderastia as a vice did not diminish. It only grew more wanton and voluptuous. Little, therefore, can be gained by tracing its historical development further, although it is not without interest to note the mode of feeling and the opinion of some later poets and rhetoricians.
The idyllists are the only poets, if we except a few epigrammatists of the Anthology, who preserve a portion of the old heroic sentiment. No true student of Greek literature will have felt that he could strictly censure the paiderastic passages of the Thalysia, Aïtes, Hylas, Paidika. They have the ring of genuine and respectable emotion. This may also be said about the two fragments of Bion which begin Hespere tas eratas and Olbioi oi phileontes. The Duserôs, ascribed without due warrant to Theocritus, is in many respects a beautiful composition, but it lacks the fresh and manly touches of the master's style, and bears the stamp of an unwholesome rhetoric. Why, indeed, should we pity this suicide, and why should the statue of Love have fallen on the object of his admiration? Maximus Tyrius showed more sense when he contemptuously wrote about those men who killed themselves for love of a beautiful lad in Locri: 1 "And in good sooth they deserved to die."
The dialogue entitled Erotes, attributed to Lucian, deserves a paragraph. More than any other composition of the rhetorical age of Greek literature, it attempts a comprehensive treatment of erotic passion, and sums up the teaching of the doctors and the predilections of the vulgar in one treatise. 2 Like many of Lucian's compositions, it has what may be termed a retrospective and resumptive value. That is to say, it represents less the actual feeling of the author and his age than the result of his reading and reflection brought into harmony with his experience. The scene is laid at Cnidus in the groves of Aphrodite. The temple and the garden and the statue of Praxiteles are described with a luxury of language which strikes the keynote of the dialogue. We have exchanged the company of Plato, Xenophon, or Æschines for that of a Juvenalian Græculus, a delicate æsthetic voluptuary. Every epithet smells of musk and every phrase
is a provocative. The interlocutors are Callicratides the Athenian and Charicles the Rhodian. Callicratides kept an establishment of exoleti; when the down upon their chins had grown beyond the proper point--"when the beard is just sprouting, when youth is in the prime of charm," they were drafted off to farms and country villages. Charicles maintained a harem of dancing-girls and flute-players. The one was "madly passionate for lads;" the other no less "mad for women." Charicles undertook the cause of women, Callicratides that of boys. Charicles began, The love of women is sanctioned by antiquity; it is natural; it endures through life; it alone provides pleasure for both sexes. Boys grow bearded, rough, and past their prime. Women always excite passion. Then Callicratides takes up his parable. Masculine love combines virtue with pleasure. While the love of women is a physical necessity, the love of boys is a product of high culture and an adjunct of philosophy. Paiderastia may be either vulgar or celestial; the second will be sought by men of liberal education and good manners. Then follow contrasted pictures of the lazy woman and the manly youth. The one provokes to sensuality, the other excites noble emulation in the ways of virile living. Lucian, summing up the arguments of the two pleaders, decides that Corinth must give way to Athens, adding, "Marriage is open to all men, but the love of boys to philosophers only." This verdict is referred to Theomnestus, a Don Juan of both sexes. He replies that both boys and women are good for pleasure; the philosophical arguments of Callicratides are cant.
This brief abstract of Lucian's dialogue on love indicates the cynicism with which its author viewed the subject, using the whole literature and all the experience of the Greeks to support a thesis of pure hedonism. The sybarites of Cairo or Constantinople at the present moment might employ the same arguments, except that they would omit the philosophic cant of Callicratides.
There is nothing in extant Greek literature of a date anterior to the Christian era which is foul in the same sense as that in which the works of Roman poets (Catullus and Martial), Italian poets (Beccatelli and Baffo), and French poets (Scarron and Voltaire) are foul. Only purblind students will be unable to perceive the difference between the obscenity of the Latin races and that of Aristophanes. The difference, indeed, is wide and radical, and strongly marked.
[paragraph continues] It is the difference between a race naturally gifted with a delicate, aesthetic sense of beauty, and one in whom that sense was always subject to the perturbation of gross instincts. But with the first century of the new age a change came over even the imagination of the Greeks. Though they never lost their distinction of style, that precious gift of lightness and good taste conferred upon them with thew language, they borrowed something of their conquerors' vein, This makes itself felt in the Anthology. Straton and Rufinus suffered the contamination of the Roman genius, stronger in political organisation than that of Hellas, but coarser and less spiritually tempered in morals and in art. Straton was a native of Sardis who flourished in the second century. He compiled a book of paiderastic poems, consisting in a great measure of his own and Meleager's compositions, which now forms the twelfth section of the Palatine Anthology. This book he dedicated, not to the Muse, but to Zeus; for Zeus was the boy-lover among deities; 1 he bade it carry forth his message to fair youths throughout the world; 2 and he claimed a special inspiration from heaven for singing of one sole subject, paiderastia. 3 It may be said with truth that Straton understood the bent of his own genius. We trace a blunt earnestness of intention in his epigrams, a certainty of feeling and directness of artistic treatment, which show that he had only one object in view. Meleager has far higher qualities as a poet, and his feeling. as well as his style, is more exquisite. But he wavered between the love of boys and women, seeking in both the satisfaction of emotional yearnings which in the modern world would have marked him as a sentimentalist. The so-called Mousa Paidiké, "Muse of Boyhood," is a collection of two hundred and fifty-eight short poems, some of them of great artistic merit, in praise of boys and boy-love. The common-places of these epigrams are Ganymede and Erôs; 4 we hear but little of Aphrodite-her domain is the other section of the Anthology, called Erotika. A very small percentage of these compositions can be described as obscene; 5 none are nasty in the style of Martial or Ausonius; some are exceedingly picturesque; 6 a few are written in a strain of lofty or of lovely music; 7 one or two are delicate and subtle in their humour. 8 The whole collection supplies good means
of judging how the Greeks of the decadence felt about this form of love. Malakia is the real condemnation of this poetry, rather than brutality or coarseness. A favourite topic is the superiority of boys over girls. This sometimes takes a gross form; 1 but once or twice the treatment of the subject touches a real psychological distinction, as in the following epigram: 2--
"The love of women is not after my heart's desire; but the fires of male desire have placed me under inextinguishable coals of burning. The heat there is mightier; for the more powerful is male than female, the keener is that desire."
[paragraph continues] These four lines give the key to much of the Greek preference for paiderastia. The love of the male, when it has been apprehended and entertained, is more exciting, they thought, more absorbent of the whole nature, than the love of the female. It is, to use another kind of phraseology, more of a mania and more of a disease.
With the Anthology we might compare the curious Epistolai Erotikai of Philostratus. 3 They were in all probability rhetorical compositions, not intended for particular persons; yet they indicate the kind of wooing to which youths were subjected in later Hellas. 4 The discrepancy between the triviality of their subject-matter and the exquisiteness of their diction is striking. The second of these qualities has made them a mine for poets. Ben Jonson, for example, borrowed the loveliest of his lyrics from the following concetto:--"I sent thee a crown of roses, not so much honouring thee, though this, too, was my meaning, but wishing to do some kindness to the roses that they might not wither." Take, again, the phrase, "Well, and love himself is naked, and the graces and the stars;" or this, "O rose, that has a voice to speak with!"--or this metaphor for the footsteps of the beloved, "O rhythms of most beloved feet, O kisses pressed upon the ground!"
While the paiderastia of the Greeks was sinking into grossness, effeminacy, and aesthetic prettiness, the moral instincts of humanity began to assert themselves in earnest. It became part of the higher doctrine of the Roman Stoics to suppress this form of passion. 5 The Christians, from St. Paul onwards,
instituted an uncompromising crusade against it. Theirs was no mere speculative warfare, like that of the philosophers at Athens. They fought with all the forces of their manhood, with the sword of the Lord and with the excommunications of the Church, to suppress what seemed to them an unutterable scandal. Dio Chrysostom, Clemens Alexandrinus, and Athanasius, are our best authorities for the vices which prevailed in Hellas during the Empire; 1 the Roman law, moreover, proves that the civil governors aided the Church in its attempt to moralise the people on this point.
55:1 Tusc., iv. 33; Decline and Fall, cap. xliv. note 192.
55:2 See Meier, cap. 15.
55:3 Cap. 23.
55:4 Cap. 54.
55:5 Page 4.
55:6 It is noticeable that in all ages men of learning have been obnoxious to paiderastic passions. Dante says (Inferno, xv. 106):--
"In somma sappi, che tutti fur cherci,
E letterati grandi e di gran fama,
D' un medesmo peccato al mondo lerci."
Compare Ariosto, Satire, vii.
56:1 Dissert., xxvi. 9.
56:2 I am aware that the genuineness of the essay has been questioned.
58:1 Mousa Paidiké, i.
58:2 Ibid., 208.
58:3 Ibid., 258, 2.
58:4 Ibid., 70, 65, 69, 194, 220, 221, 67, 68, 78, and others.
58:5 Perhaps ten are of this sort.
58:6 8, 125, for example.
58:7 132, 256, 221.
59:2 17. Compare 86.
59:3 Ed. Kayser, pp. 343-366.
59:4 It is worth comparing the letters of Philostratus with those of Alciphron, a contemporary of Lucian. In the latter there is no hint of paiderastia. The life of parasites, grisettes, lorettes, and young men about town at Athens is set forth in imitation probably of the later comedy Athens is shown to have been a Paris à la Murger.
59:5 See the introduction by Marcus Aurelius to his Meditations.