Homosexuality Relief of Hoplite soldiers, (Acropolis museum, Greece)

The extent to which the Greeks engaged in and tolerated homosexual relations is open to some debate. For a long time the subject was taboo and remains controversial even today. Nevertheless, it is undeniable that relationships we would call homosexual, especially between men and youths, played an important role in Ancient Greek society.

Traditionally these relationships involved an older man and a youth and lasted until the youth reached full adulthood. Thereafter this type of relationship was frowned upon because physical love was perceived as always involving one person in a position of submission, something that was unacceptable for a full Greek citizen.

In cities such as Sparta and Thebes, there appeared to be a particularly strong emphasis on relationships between men and youths, and it was considered an important part of their education. On the night of their wedding, Spartan wives were expected to lie in a dark room and dress as a man - presumably to help their husbands make the transition from homosexual to heterosexual love. While in Thebes, the general Epaminondas commanded a regiment composed of 150 pairs of lovers. This 'Band of Lovers' became a formidable fighting force, with lover defending lover until death.

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