Upon a topic of great difficulty, which is, however, inseparable from the subject-matter of this inquiry, I shall not attempt to do more than to offer a few suggestions. This is the relation of paiderastia to Greek art. Whoever may have made a study of antique sculpture will not have failed to recognise its healthy human tone, its ethical rightness. There is no partiality for the beauty of the male sex, no endeavour to reserve for the masculine deities the nobler attributes of man's intellectual and moral nature, no extravagant attempt to refine upon masculine qualities by the blending of feminine voluptuousness. Aphrodite and Artemis hold their place beside Erôs and Hermes. Ares is less distinguished by the genius lavished on him than Athene. Hera takes rank with Zeus, the Nymphs with the Fauns, the Muses with Apollo. Nor are even the minor statues, which belong to decorative rather than high art, noticeable for the attribution of sensual beauties to the form of boys. This, which is certainly true of the best age, is, with rare exceptions, true of all the ages of
[paragraph continues] Greek plastic art. No prurient effeminacy degraded, deformed, or unduly confounded the types of sex idealised in sculpture.
The first reflection which must occur to even prejudiced observers is that paiderastia did not corrupt the Greek imagination to any serious extent. The license of Paganism found appropriate expression in female forms, but hardly touched the male; nor would it, I think, be possible to demonstrate that obscene works of painting or of sculpture were provided for paiderastic sensualists similar to those pornographic object's which fill the reserved cabinet of the Neapolitan Museum. Thus, the testimony of Greek art might be used to confirm the asseveration of Greek literature, that among free men, at least, and gentle, this passion tended even to purify feelings which in their lust for women verged on profligacy. For one androgynous statue of Hermaphroditus or Dionysus there are at least a score of luxurious Aphrodites and voluptuous Bacchantes. Erôs; himself, unless he is portrayed, according to the Roman type of Cupid, as a mischievous urchin, is a youth whose modesty is no less noticeable than his beauty. His features are not unfrequently shadowed with melancholy, as appears in the so-called Genius of the Vatican, and in many statues which might pass for genii of silence or of sleep as well as love. It would be difficult to adduce a single wanton Erôs, a single image of this god provocative of sensual desires. There is not one before which we could say--The sculptor of that statue had sold his soul to paiderastic lust. Yet Erôs it may be remembered, was the special patron of paiderastia.
Greek art, like Greek mythology, embodied a finely graduated half-unconscious analysis of human nature. The mystery of procreation was indicated by phalli on the Hermæ. Unbridled appetite found incarnation in Priapus, who, moreover, was never a Greek god, but a Lampsacene adopted from the Asian coast by the Romans. The natural desires were symbolised in Aphrodite Praxis, Kallipugos, or Pandemos. The higher sexual enthusiasm assumed celestial form in Aphrodite Ouranios. Love itself appeared personified in the graceful Erôs of Praxiteles; and how sublimely Pheidias presented this god to the eyes of his worshippers can now only be guessed at from a mutilated fragment among the Elgin marbles. The wild and native instincts, wandering, untutored and untamed, which still connect man with the life of woods and beasts and April hours, received half-human shape in Pan and Silenus, the Satyrs and the Fauns. In this department of semi-bestial instincts we find one solitary instance bearing upon paiderastia. The group of a Satyr tempting a youth at Naples stands alone among numerous
similar compositions which have female or hermaphroditic figures, and which symbolise the violent and comprehensive lust of brutal appetite. Further distinctions between the several degrees of love were drawn by the Greek artists. Himeros, the desire that strikes the spirit through the eyes, and Pothos, the longing of souls in separation from the object of their passion, were carved together with Erôs by Scopas for Aphrodite's temple at Megara. Throughout the whole of this series there is no form set aside for paiderastia, as might have been expected if the fancy of the Greeks had idealised a sensual Asiatic passion. Statues of Ganymede carried to heaven by the eagle are, indeed, common enough in Græco-Roman plastic art; yet even here there is nothing which indicates the preference for a specifically voluptuous type of male beauty.
It should be noticed that the mythology of the Greeks was determined before paiderastia laid hold upon the race. Homer and Hesiod, says Herodotus, made the Hellenic theogony, and Homer and Hesiod knew only of the passions and emotions which are common to all healthy semi-civilised humanity. The artists, therefore, found in myths and poems subject-matter which imperatively demanded a no less careful study of the female than of the male form; nor were beautiful women wanting. Great cities placed their maidens at the disposition of sculptors and painters for the modelling of Aphrodite. The girls of Sparta in their dances suggested groups of Artemis and Oreads. The Hetairai of Corinth presented every detail of feminine perfection freely to the gaze. Eyes accustomed to the "dazzling vision" of a naked athlete were no less sensitive to the virginal veiled grace of the Athenian Canephoroi. The temples of the female deities had their staffs of priestesses, and the oracles their inspired prophetesses. Remembering these facts, remembering also what we read about Æolian ladies who gained fame by poetry, there is every reason to understand how sculptors found it easy to idealise the female form. Nor need we imagine, because Greek literature abounds in references to paiderastia, and because this passion played an important part in Greek history, that therefore the majority of the race were not susceptible in a far higher degree to female charms. On the contrary, our best authorities speak of boy-love as a characteristic which distinguished warriors, gymnasts, poets, and philosophers from, the common multitude. As far as regards artists, the anecdotes which are preserved about them turn chiefly upon their preference for women. For one tale concerning the Pantarkes of Pheidias, we have a score relating to the Campaspe of Apelles and the Phryne of Praxiteles.
It may be judged superfluous to have proved that the female form was idealised in sculpture by the Hellenes at least as nobly as the male; nor need we seek elaborate reasons why paiderastia left no perceptible stain upon the art of a race distinguished before all things by the reserve of good taste. At the same time, there can be no reasonable doubt that the artistic temperament of the Greeks had something to do with its wide diffusion and many-sided development. Sensitive to every form of loveliness, and unrestrained by moral or religious prohibition, they could not fail to be enthusiastic for that corporeal beauty, unlike all other beauties of the human form, which marks male adolescence no less triumphantly than does the male soprano voice upon the point of breaking. The power of this corporeal loveliness to sway their imagination by its unique æsthetic charm is abundantly illustrated in the passages which I have quoted above from the Charmides of Plato and Xenophon's Symposium. An expressive Greek phrase, "youths in their prime of adolescence, but not distinguished by a special beauty," recognises the persuasive influence, separate from that of true beauty, which belongs to a certain period of masculine growth. The very evanescence of this "bloom of youth" made it in Greek eyes desirable, since nothing more clearly characterises the poetic myths which adumbrate their special sensibility than the pathos of a blossom 'that must fade. When distinction of feature and symmetry of form were added to this charm of youthfulness, the Greeks admitted, as true artists are obliged to do, that the male body displays harmonies of proportion and melodies of outline more comprehensive, more indicative of strength expressed in terms of grace, than that of women. 1 I guard myself against saying--more seductive to the senses, more soft, more delicate, more undulating. The superiority of male beauty does not consist in these attractions, but in the symmetrical development of all the qualities of the human frame, the complete organisation of the body as the supreme instrument of vital energy. In the bloom of
adolescence the elements of feminine grace, suggested rather than expressed, are combined with virility to produce a perfection which is lacking to the mature and adult excellence of either sex. The Greek lover, if I am right in the idea which I have formed of him, sought less to stimulate desire by the contemplation of sensual charms than to attune his spirit with the spectacle of strength at rest in suavity. He admired the chastened lines, the figure slight but sinewy, the limbs well-knit and flexible, the small head set upon broad shoulders, the keen eyes, the austere reins, and the elastic movement of a youth made vigorous by exercise. Physical perfection of this kind suggested to his fancy all that he loved best in moral qualities. Hardihood, self-discipline, alertness of intelligence, health, temperance, indomitable spirit, energy, the joy of active life, plain living and high thinking--these qualities the Greeks idealised, and of these, "the lightning vision of the darling," was the living incarnation. There is plenty in their literature to show that paiderastia obtained sanction from the belief that a soul of this sort would be found within the body of a young man rather than a woman. I need scarcely add that none but a race of artists could be lovers of this sort, just as none but a race of poets were adequate to apprehend the chivalrous enthusiasm for woman as an object of worship.
The morality of the Greeks, as I have tried elsewhere to prove, was æsthetic. They regarded humanity as a part of a good and beautiful universe, nor did they shrink from any of their normal instincts. To find the law of human energy, the measure of man's natural desires, the right moment for indulgence and for self-restraint, the balance which results in health, the proper limit for each several function which secures the harmony of all, seemed to them the aim of ethics. Their personal code of conduct ended in "modest self-restraint:" not abstention, but selection. and subordination ruled their practice. They were satisfied with controlling much that more ascetic natures unconditionally suppress. Consequently, to the Greeks there was nothing at first sight criminal in paiderastia. To forbid it as a hateful and unclean thing did not occur to them. Finding it within their hearts, they chose to regulate it, rather than to root it out. It was only after the inconveniences and scandals to which paiderastia gave rise had been forced upon their notice, that they felt the visitings of conscience and wavered in their fearless attitude.
In like manner the religion of the Greeks was æsthetic. They analysed the world of objects and the soul of man, unconsciously perhaps, but effectively, and called their generalisations
by the names of gods and goddesses. That these were beautiful and filled with human energy was enough to arouse in them the sentiments of worship. The notion of a single Deity who ruled the human race by punishment and favour, hating certain acts while he tolerated others--in other words, a God who idealised one part of man's nature to the exclusion of the rest--had never passed into the sphere of Greek conceptions. When, therefore, paiderastia became a fact of their consciousness, they reasoned thus: If man loves boys, God loves boys also. Homer and Hesiod forgot to tell us about Ganymede and Hyacinth and Hylas. Let these lads be added to the list of Danaë and Semele and Io. Homer told us that, because Ganymede was beautiful, Zeus made him the serving-boy of the immortals. We understand the meaning of that tale. Zeus loved him. The reason why he did not leave him here on earth like Danaë was that he could not beget sons upon his body and people the earth with heroes. Do not our wives stay at home and breed our children? "Our favourite youths" are always at our side.
68:1 The following passage may be extracted from a letter of Winckelmann (see Pater's Studies in the History of the Renaissance, p. 162): "As it is confessedly the beauty of man which is to be conceived under one general idea, so I have noticed that those who are observant of beauty only in women, and are moved little or not at all by the beauty of men, seldom have an impartial, vital, inborn instinct for beauty in art. To such persons the beauty of Greek art will ever seem wanting, because its supreme beauty is rather male than female." To this I think we ought to add that, while it is true that "the supreme beauty of Greek art is rather male than female," this is due not so much to any passion of the Greeks for male beauty as to the fact that the male body exhibits a higher organisation of the human form than the female.