Roman Law and the Banning of ‘Passive’ Homosexuality

In ancient Rome, there was no vocabulary to distinguish between homosexuality and heterosexuality. Sexuality instead was defined by behavioural mannerisms , whether active or passive, in both gay and straight relationships. Roman society had a patriarchal system in which the gender role of the male was the primary authority, emphasized by the “active” masculinity as a symbol of power and status.

Men were free to have intercourse with men, but it was considered acceptable only in accordance with the law of Lex Scantinia, a Roman law that was created to penalise any male citizen of high status for taking a willing role in passive sexual behaviour. It was essentially a rule to police the masculine nature of an individual by enforcing that a freeborn Roman citizen takes the “top” or “active” role in sex. Failure to do so would bring his name and family reputation into disrepute or infamia (a loss of legal or social standing).

From a societal perspective, to be “passive” or “submissive”, threatened the very fabric of masculinity, with feminine traits, submission and passive mannerisms being an act of the lower class and slaves.

Same sex intercourse with prostitutes, slaves or war captives was considered totally acceptable as it did not threaten a freeborn’s masculinity as long as the Roman citizen took the active role in penetration. Same sex activity amongst soldiers of equal status was punishable by death.

Although the Lex Scantinia and the enforcement of the law is mentioned in several ancient sources, such as 227 BC where Gaius Scantinius Capitolinus was put on a Lex trial for sexually molesting the son of Marcus Claudius Marcellus; the full legality and provisions of the law are still unclear.

Same-Sex Rape and Slavery

Lex Scantinia exempted freeborn men from prosecution in the case of rape or forced passive intercourse. However, it was considered a capital crime for one freeborn to rape another, such an act carrying a sentence of death. This differed from same-sex practice in ancient Greece in which homosexual relationship between males of equal social status was considered acceptable.

A Roman citizen was allowed to exploit his own slaves for sex, no matter their age or circumstances of birth - a slave had no civil protection pertaining to their body; in essence the body of a slave was to be used to appease the sexual appetites of their Master.

In fact, the term puer delicatus (sweet and dainty) was often applied to child slaves used specifically for sexual gratification and companionship. This practise is pictured on The Warren Cup, a silver roman vassal from the time of the Julio-Claudian dynasty, 1st century AD, which is decorated with ornate reliefs of same sex acts, one side of which depicts a young adult male having sex with a young slave boy.

In more extreme cases, a puer delicatus would be castrated and dressed with feminine attire. This was a peculiar and sordid attempt to preserve youthful qualities and prolong feminine and passive attractiveness in children and young males.

Even the famous Emperor Nero (54 to 68AD) had a puer delicatus named Sporus, a young man who he castrated and supposedly dressed wearing the regalia, customary only for Roman empresses. Sources believe he later married Sporus after the death of his wife Poppaea Sabina.

A change in religion and new laws against homosexuality

As with time, attitudes towards same sex acts began to change, as did the religious identity of the Empire. The polytheistic pagan gods, were replaced by the monotheistic new religion of Christianity and its influence spread across the classical world.

By the 4th century AD, legal prohibitions against the practise of homosexuality, which was deemed “contrary to nature”, were being criminalised by the Christian Emperors as part of the new Roman laws. In the year 390 AD, homosexuality was declared illegal throughout the empire for any freeborn Romans under condemnation of burning.


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Homosexuality, sexual interest in and attraction to members of one’s own sex. The term gay is frequently used as a synonym for homosexual female homosexuality is often referred to as lesbianism.

At different times and in different cultures, homosexual behaviour has been variously approved of, tolerated, punished, and banned. Homosexuality was not uncommon in ancient Greece and Rome, and the relationships between adult and adolescent males in particular have become a chief focus of Western classicists in recent years. Judeo-Christian as well as Muslim cultures have generally perceived homosexual behaviour as sinful. Many Jewish and Christian leaders, however, have gone to great lengths to make clear that it is the acts and not the individuals or even their “inclination” or “orientation” that their faiths proscribe. Others—from factions within mainstream Protestantism to organizations of Reform rabbis—have advocated, on theological as well as social grounds, the full acceptance of homosexuals and their relationships. The topic has threatened to cause outright schisms in some denominations.

Roman Law and the Banning of ‘Passive’ Homosexuality - History

John Boswell:
The Church and the Homosexual: An Historical Perspective, 1979

Excerpts from the keynote address made by Prof. Boswell to the Fourth Biennial Dignity International Convention in 1979.

"Homosexuality," Plato wrote, "is regarded as shameful by barbarians and by those who live under despotic governments just as philosophy is regarded as shameful by them, because it is apparently not in the interest of such rulers to have great ideas engendered in their subjects, or powerful friendships or passionate love-all of which homosexuality is particularly apt to produce." This attitude of Plato's was characteristic of the ancient world, and I want to begin my discussion of the attitudes of the Church and of Western Christianity toward homosexuality by commenting on comparable attitudes among the ancients.

To a very large extent, Western attitudes toward law, religion, literature and government are dependent upon Roman attitudes. This makes it particularly striking that our attitudes toward homosexuality in particular and sexual tolerance in general are so remarkably different from those of the Romans. It is very difficult to convey to modern audiences the indifference of the Romans to questions of gender and gender orientation. The difficulty is due both to the fact that the evidence has been largely consciously obliterated by historians prior to very recent decades, and to the diffusion of the relevant material.

Romans did not consider sexuality or sexual preference a matter of much interest, nor did they treat either in an analytical way. An historian has to gather together thousands of little bits and pieces to demonstrate the general acceptance of homosexuality among the Romans.

One of the few imperial writers who does appear to make some sort of comment on the subject in a general way wrote, "Zeus came as an eagle to god­like Ganymede and as a swan to the fair­haired mother of Helen. One person prefers one gender, another the other, I like both." Plutarch wrote at about the same time, "No sensible person can imagine that the sexes differ in matters of love as they do in matters of clothing. The intelligent lover of beauty will be attracted to beauty in whichever gender he finds it." Roman law and social strictures made absolutely no restrictions on the basis of gender. It has sometimes been claimed that there were laws against homosexual relations in Rome, but it is easy to prove that this was not the case. On the other hand, it is a mistake to imagine that anarchic hedonism ruled at Rome. In fact, Romans did have a complex set of moral strictures designed to protect children from abuse or any citizen from force or duress in sexual relations. Romans were, like other people, sensitive to issues of love and caring, but individual sexual (i.e. gender) choice was completely unlimited. Male prostitution (directed toward other males), for instance, was so common that the taxes on it constituted a major source of revenue for the imperial treasury. It was so profitable that even in later periods when a certain intolerance crept in, the emperors could not bring themselves to end the practice and its attendant revenue.

Gay marriages were also legal and frequent in Rome for both males and females. Even emperors often married other males. There was total acceptance on the part of the populace, as far as it can be determined, of this sort of homosexual attitude and behavior. This total acceptance was not limited to the ruling elite there is also much popular Roman literature containing gay love stories. The real point I want to make is that there is absolutely no conscious effort on anyone's part in the Roman world, the world in which Christianity was born, to claim that homosexuality was abnormal or undesirable. There is in fact no word for "homosexual" in Latin. "Homosexual" sounds like Latin, but was coined by a German psychologist in the late 1 9th century. No one in the early Roman world seemed to feel that the fact that someone preferred his or her own gender was any more significant than the fact that someone preferred blue eyes or short people. Neither gay nor straight people seemed to associate certain characteristics with sexual preference. Gay men were not thought to be less masculine than straight men and lesbian women were not thought of as less feminine than straight women. Gay people were not thought to be any better or worse than straight people-an attitude which differed both from that of the society that preceded it, since many Greeks thought gay people were inherently better than straight people, and from that of the society which followed it, in which gay people were often thought to be inferior to others.

If this is an accurate picture of the ancient world the social structure from which Western culture is derived-then where did the negative ideas now common regarding homosexuality come from? The most obvious answer to this question, and the one which has most generally been given in the past, is that Christianity is responsible for the change. There is an historical coincidence that seems to lend some credence to this idea- namely that when Christianity appears on the scene that this tolerance spoken of earlier disappears and that general acceptance of homosexuality becomes much less common.

It should be obvious, however, that Christianity alone is not likely to be responsible for this change. (One notes, for instance, that the places in the world today where gay people suffer the most violent oppression happen to be the very places where Christianity is also least welcome.) First of all, I would like to dispose briefly of the notion that the Bible had something to do with Christian attitudes toward gay people. From an historical vantage point, it is easy to do so, but I realize that for people who live by the Bible more must be said about it than what an historian can observe. An historian can simply note that there is no place in the writings of the Early or High Middle Ages where the Bible seems to be the origin of these prejudices against gay people. Where any reason is given for the new hostility. sources other than the Bible are cited. As a matter of fact, from an historical perspective, the Bible would be the last source one would look at after examining growing hostility toward gay people, but so many people have a feeling that the Bible is somehow involved that its teachings on the subject matter must be addressed in detail.

Most serious biblical scholars now recognize that the story of Sodom was probably not intended as any sort of comment on homosexuality. It certainly was not interpreted as a prohibition of homosexuality by most early Christian writers. In the modern world, the idea that the story refers to the sin of inhospitality rather than to sexual failing was first popularized in 1955 in Homosexuality and the Western Christian Tradition' by D.S. Bailey, and since then has increasingly gained the acceptance of scholars. Modern scholars are a little late: almost all medieval scholars felt the story of Sodom was a story about hospitality. This is indeed, not only the most obvious interpretation of it but also the one given to it in most other biblical passages. It is striking, for example, that although Sodom and Gomorrah are mentioned in about two dozen different places in the Bible (other than Genesis 19 where the story is first told), in none of these places is homosexuality associated with the Sodomites.

The only other places that might be adduced from the Old Testament against homosexuality are Deuteronomy 23:17 and Kings 14:24, and­-doubtless the best know n places Leviticus 18:20 and 20: 13, where a man's sleeping the asleep of women" with men is labelled ritual impurity for Jews. None of these was cited by early Christians against homosexual behavior. Early Christians had no desire to impose the levitical law on themselves or anyone else. Most non­Jewish Christians were in fact appalled by most of the strictures of the Jewish law and were not about to put themselves under what they considered the bondage of the old law. St. Paul says again and again that we must not fall back on the bondage of the old law, and in fact goes so far as to claim that if we are circumcised (the cornerstone of the old law), Christ will profit us nothing. The early Christians were not to bind themselves to the strictures of the old law. The Council of Jerusalem, held around 50 A.D. and recorded in Acts 15, in fact took up this issue specifically and decided that Christians would not be bound by any of the strictures of the old law except for which they list - none of which is related to homosexuality.

In the New Testament we find no citations of Old Testament strictures. We do, however, find three places­-I Corinthians 6:9, I Timothy 1:10 and Romans 1:26䎯­­which might be relevant. Again, I'll be brief in dealing with these. The Greek word malakos in I Cor. 6:9 and I Tim. 1 :10, which Scholars in the 20th century have deemed to refer to some sort of homosexual behavior, was universally used by Christian writers to refer to masturbation until about the 15th or 16th century. Beginning in the 15th century many people were bothered by the idea that masturbators were excluded from the kingdom of heaven. They did not, however, seem to be too upset by the idea of excluding homosexuals from the kingdom of heaven, so malakos was retranslated to refer to homosexuality instead of masturbation. The texts and words remained the same, but translators just changed their ideas about who should be excluded from the kingdom of heaven.

The remaining passage - Romans 1:26-7 - does not suffer by and large from mistranslation, although you can easily be misled by the phrase "against nature." This phrase was also interpreted differently by the early church. St. John Chrysostom says that St. Paul deprives the people he is discussing of any excuse. observing of their women that "they changed the natural use. No one can claim, Paul points out, that she came to this because she was precluded from lawful intercourse or that because she was unable to satisfy her desire. Only those possessing something can change it. Again he points the same thing out about men but in a different way? saying they 'left the natural use of women.' Likewise, he casts aside with these words every excuse, charging that they not only had legitimate enjoyment and abandoned it, going after another but that spurning the natural, they pursued the unnatural." What Chrysostom is getting at, and he expounds on it at great length, is the idea that St. Paul was not writing about gay people but about heterosexual people, probably married who abandoned the pleasure they were entitled to by virtue of their own natures for one to which they were not entitled. This is reflected in the canons imposing penances for homosexual activity, which through the 16th century were chiefly directed toward married persons. Little is said of single people.

Perhaps the most significant element of the passage is that it introduced into Christian thought the notion that homosexual relations were "against nature." What Paul, however, seems to have meant was unusual not against natural law, as it is so often interpreted The concept of natural law was not fully developed until almost 1,200 years later. All that Paul probably meant to say was that it was unusual that people should have this sort of sexual desire. This is made clear by the fact that in the same epistle in the 11th chapter, God Himself is in fact described as acting "against nature" in saving the Gentiles. It is therefore inconceivable that this phrase connotes moral turpitude.

One may well ask whether the thundering silence on the subject in the New Testament does not indicate something about the attitude of early Christians toward homosexuality? As an historian, I would say no. Most of the literature of this period, especially legal and moral guidance, is silent on the purely affective aspects of human life. In the New Testament Jesus, St. Paul, and the other writers are generally responding to questions regarding social and moral problems posed to them by a predominantly heterosexual society. People asked them questions about divorce, widows, property, etch and they answered these questions. Most of Jesus' moral commentary, especially about sexuality is in response to specific questions put to him. Jesus does not appear to be giving detailed guidelines on all aspects of human life, especially not affective life, but rather to be offering general principles. There is almost no comment anywhere in the Bible about loving your children there are few comments about friendship and there is not a single comment about what we know as "romantic love," although this is the basis of modern Christian marriage in our own church as well as the entire Christian community.

There are some reasons for the hostility toward homosexuality which now seem characteristic of the Christian community, and I want to mention them. First of all, I want to dispose of what might seem the most likely primary reason for hostility toward homosexuality-namely, general opposition to non-procreative sexuality. There was indeed on the part of many early Christians a feeling of hostility toward any form of sexuality which was not potentially procreative. This cannot, however, be shown to stem from Christian principles. Among other things, there is not a word within the Old Testament or the New about non-procreative sexuality among married persons, and, indeed, most Jewish commentators have agreed that anything was licit between husband and wife. It is a well-established principle in several social science disciplines that there is, however, a class­related prejudice against non-procreative sexual acts, and one would expect to find this among lower class Christians as among any lower class group of the society. Among theologians, explicit rejection of all non-procreative sexuality, does not relate directly to attitudes toward gay people. The theologians of the early church were attempting to impress on all Christians that they had to see every act of heterosexual intercourse as the potential creation of a child. No effective means of birth control was known in this world (except for abstinence)-not even the rhythm method. The only way to avoid having children was to kill or abandon them. Theologians therefore wished to persuade Christian parents that they had to be responsible for the creation of a child every time they had sexual pleasure. The only other alternatives in their world-the world in which the early theology of the church was formulated-were morally unacceptable. Now the original aim of this approach, it appears, was only to protect children. It was not to attack homosexuality. Indeed, it was a very long time before this notion spilled over into homosexuality, but it eventually did.

As late as the eleventh and twelfth centuries, there appears to be no conflict between a Christian life and homosexuality. Gay life is everywhere in the art, poetry, music, history, etc. of the 11th and 12th centuries. The most popular literature of the day even heterosexual literature, is about same­sex lovers of one sort or another. Clerics were at the forefront of this revival of the gay culture. St. Aelred, for instance, writes of his youth as a time when he thought of nothing but loving and being loved by men. He became a Cistercian abbot, and incorporated his love for men into his Christian life by encouraging monks to love each other, not just generally, but individually and passionately He cited the example of Jesus and St. John as guidance for this. 'Jesus himself," he said, "in everything like us. patient and compassionate with others in every matter, Transfigured this sort of love through the expression of his own love. for he allowed only one - not al l- to recline on his breast as a sign of his special love and the closer they were, the more copiously did the secrets of their heavenly marriage impart the sweet smell of their spiritual chrism to their love."

After the twelfth century Christian tolerance and acceptance of gay love seems to disappear with remarkable rapidity. The writings of St. Aelred disappeared because they were kept locked up in Cistercian monasteries until about eight years ago, when for the first time Cistercians could again read them. Beginning about 1150, for reasons I cannot adequately explain, there was a great upsurge in popular intolerance of gay people. There were also at this time violent outbursts against Jews, Muslims, and witches. Women were suddenly excluded from power structures to which they had previously had access-no longer able, for example, to attend universities in which they had previously been enrolled. double monasteries for men and women were closed. There was suspicion of everyone. In 1 180 the Jews were expelled from France.

The change was rapid. In England in the 12th century there were no laws against Jews and they occupied prominent positions, but by the end of the 13th century, sleeping with a Jew was equated with sleeping with an animal or with murder, and in France Jews, according to St. Louis, were to be killed on the spot if they questioned the Christian faith. During this time there are many popular diatribes against gay people as well, suggesting that they molest children, violate natural law, are bestial? and bring harm to nations which tolerate them. Within a single century. between the period of 1250 and 1350, almost every European state passed civil laws demanding death for a single homosexual act. This popular reaction affected Christian theology a great deal. Throughout the 12th century homosexual relations, had, at worst, been comparable to heterosexual fornication for married people, and, at best, not sinful at all. During the 13th century, because of this popular reaction, writers like Thomas Aquinas tried to portray homosexuality as one of the very worst sins, second only to murder.

It is very difficult to describe how this came about. St. Thomas tried to show that homosexuality was opposed to nature in some way, the most familiar objection being that nature created sexuality for procreation and using it for any other purpose would violate nature. Aquinas was much too smart for this argument. In the Summa Contra Gentiles he asks, "Is it sinful to walk on your hands when nature intended them for something else?" No, indeed it is not sinful, so he shifted ground. This is obviously not the reason that homosexuality is sinful he looks for another. First he tried arguing that homosexuality must be sinful because it impedes the reproduction of the human race. But this argument also failed, for, Aquinas noted in the Summa Theologica, "a duty may be of two sorts: it may be enjoined on the individual as a duty which cannot be ignored without sin, or it may be enjoined upon a group. In the latter cases no one individual is obligated to fulfill the duty. The commandment regarding procreation applies to the human race as a whole! which is obligated to increase physically. It is therefore sufficient for the race if some people undertake to reproduce physically." Moreover, Aquinas admitted in the Summa Theologica that homosexuality was absolutely natural to certain individuals and therefore inculpable. In what sense, then, could he argue that it was unnatural? In a third place he concedes that the term "natural" in fact has no moral significance, but it is simply a term applied to things which are strongly disapproved of. "Homosexuality," he says, "is called 'the unnatural vice' by the common people, and hence it may be said to be unnatural." This was not an invention of Aquinas'. It was a response to popular prejudices of the time. It did not derive its authority from the Bible or from any previous tradition of Christian morality, but it eventually became part of Catholic theological thought. These attitudes have remained basically unchanged because there has been no popular support for change in the matter. The public has continued to feel hostility to gay people and the church has been under no pressure to re­examine the origins of its teachings on homosexuality.

It is possible to change ecclesiastical attitudes toward gay people and their sexuality because the objections to homosexuality are not biblical, they are not consistent, they are not part of Jesus' teaching and they are not even fundamentally Christian. It is possible because Christianity was indifferent, if not accepting, of gay people and their feelings for a longer period of time than it had been hostile to them. It is possible because the founders of the religion specifically considered love to transcend accidents of biology and to be the end, not the means. It may not be possible to eradicate intolerance from secular society, for intolerance is, to some extent ineradicable but I believe the church's attitude can and must be changed. It has been different in the past and it can be again. Plato observed of secular society nearly 2,400 years ago that "wherever it has been established that it is shameful to be involved in homosexual relationships, this is due to evil on the part of the legislatures, to despotism on the part of the rulers and to cowardism on the part of the governed."

I don't think we can afford to be cowardly. We have an abundance of ecclesiastical precedent to encourage the church to adopt a more positive attitude. We must use it. As a gay archbishop wrote in the 12th century, "it is not we who teach God how to love, but He who taught us. He made our natures full of love." A contemporary of his wrote, "Love is not a crime. If it were wrong to love, God would not have bound even the divine to love." These statements came from the Christian community, from Christian faith. That community can and must be reminded of its former beliefs, its former acceptance. And we must do the reminding.

The Internet History Sourcebooks Project is located at the History Department of Fordham University, New York. The Internet Medieval Sourcebook, and other medieval components of the project, are located at the Fordham University Center for Medieval Studies.The IHSP recognizes the contribution of Fordham University, the Fordham University History Department, and the Fordham Center for Medieval Studies in providing web space and server support for the project. The IHSP is a project independent of Fordham University. Although the IHSP seeks to follow all applicable copyright law, Fordham University is not the institutional owner, and is not liable as the result of any legal action.

© Site Concept and Design: Paul Halsall created 26 Jan 1996: latest revision 20 January 2021 [CV]

A Timeline of Gay World History

Ancient Times: Cultures such as the Indian, Chinese, Egyptian, Greek and Roman accommodate homosexuality and crossdressing among a minority of its citizens since the earliest recorded times. The castration of homosexual slaves and house servants becomes a custom of the Middle East, and Jewish tribes criminalize homosexual behavior.

8000 B.C. The world’s earliest depictions of homosexuality are found in the ancient San rock paintings of Zimbabwe, Africa.

3100. The Mahabharata of India describes how Arjuna was well-received in the palace of Maharaja Virata while spending one year as a crossdressing transgender.

2697. Legendary Chinese Emperor, Huang Di, is described having male lovers and is by no means alone in the history of China’s ancient ruling monarchs.

2460. One of the earliest Egyptian pharaohs associated with homosexuality is King Neferkare, who is described having an affair with his top military commander, Sasenet, during the Sixth Dynasty.

2450. An Egyptian tomb of two royal manicurists, Niankhkhnum and Khnumhotep, depicts the couple embracing and nose kissing with the inscription “joined in life and joined in death.”

2100. The custom of castrating homosexual slaves and house servants is established in Ancient Assyria.

2040. The Contendings of Horus and Seth, a text of Egypt’s early Middle Kingdom, narrates a homosexual union between the two gods.

1200. The Jewish prophet Moses condemns crossdressing and homosexuality in the Torah (Book of Leviticus), punishing the latter by death for both men and women.

1075. The Code of Assura from Middle Assyria prescribes castration for soldiers caught engaging in passive homosexual behavior.

800. The Shatapatha Brahmana, a text from India’s Vedic Period, mentions homosexual union between the brother-gods, Mitra and Varuna. Eighth-century Greek epics like the Iliad and Odyssey portray homosexual unions between gods and young men such as Zeus and Ganymede, Poseidon and Pelops, Apollo and Hyacinth, etc.

700. The custom of castrating homosexual slaves and house servants is introduced into Persia from conquered Assyria and Media.

600. On the island of Lesbos in Greece, Sappho becomes highly regarded as a female poet and writes many poems speaking of love and infatuation between women.

445. Plato and Xenophon, two prominent disciples of Socrates, describe their teacher as “helpless” among beautiful, adolescent boys. Plato further writes: “Same-sex love is regarded as shameful by barbarians and by those who live under despotic governments, just as philosophy is regarded as shameful by them.”

400. India’s renowned medical text, the Sushruta Samhita, describes homosexual, transgender and intersex conditions as inborn and incurable. Historian Herodotus describes Middle Eastern slave traders selling castrated boys in Sardis to satisfy the lust of wealthy Greeks. The practice of castration, he writes, is considered “undignified, with only a few exceptions.”

338. The Sacred Band of Thebes, a homosexual army comprised of more than three hundred soldiers, is defeated by Phillip II of Macedon and his son, Alexander the Great.

334. In Troy, Alexander the Great and Hephaestion profess their love by garlanding the statues of Achilles and Patroclus.

330. Bagoas, the favorite male concubine of Persia’s emperor Darius III, is presented to Alexander the Great as a gift after the emperor’s death.

300. India’s Manusmriti (Manu Samhita) lists homosexual behavior as a minor offense for ordinary, twice-born males and for underage, unmarried girls but does not condemn it otherwise.

200. The Cybele cult of Greece holds initiation rites wherein men voluntarily castrate themselves, wear women’s clothing, and assume female names and identities.

100. India’s Narada-smriti includes homosexuals in its list of men who are impotent with women and declares them incurable and unfit for marriage to the opposite sex. Roman historian Diodorus Siculus documents one of the earliest known references to homosexuality among the Celtic tribes of Britannia and northern Gaul.

The Dark Ages: With the advent of Christianity, homosexuality and crossdressing are criminalized in the Roman Empire but remain widely accepted throughout the rest of the world. Western Europe resists the Middle Eastern practice of male castration.

0 A.D. In the first century, castration is banned throughout the Roman Empire.

100. Greek moralist Plutarch describes the many male lovers of Heracles (Hercules) that include Apollo, Aberus, several of the Argonauts, Nestor, Iolaos and others said to be beyond counting.

300. The Kama Sutra is put into writing during India’s prosperous Gupta Period. The renowned text describes homosexual practices and people in much detail and refers to them as a third nature or sex (tritiya-prakriti).

303. Two Roman officers, Sergius and Bacchus, are executed in Syria for preaching Christianity. They are later recognized as saints and become a model for the same-sex union or “wedded brotherhood” ceremonies performed in the Christian world from the eighth to the eighteenth century.

313. Rome enacts the Edict of Milan, which ends all religious persecution and returns confiscated property to the Church.

324. The Roman Empire effectively becomes a Christian state with the ascension of Emperor Constantine I.

389. Rome enacts its first law against homosexual citizens under Christian leadership, taking away their right to make or benefit from wills.

370. The Roman Empire criminalizes sex between men with a prescribed penalty of death by burning.

The Middle Ages: With the growth of Christianity and the advent of Islam, the criminalization of homosexuality and crossdressing spreads across Eurasia and into Africa. Although driven underground, the practice itself remains widespread and in most cases silently tolerated within the shadows of society. The Middle Eastern custom of castrating homosexual slaves and house servants becomes commonplace in the East Roman Empire (Byzantium) and is introduced into northern China and India. Oblivious to the outside world, American and South Sea natives maintain their traditional acceptance of homosexual behavior and crossdressing.

632 A.D. Shari’a Law is formulated during the seventh century and gradually established throughout the Islamic world. It punishes homosexuality by flagellation or death by stoning, burning, collapsing a rock wall upon, or throwing off from a high point.

642. The Visigothic Code is crafted in Spain and gradually established throughout Christian Europe. It orders castration or death by burning for anyone convicted of “sodomy.”

700. The custom of castrating homosexual slaves and house servants is introduced into northern China by Muslim merchants during the eighth century.

780. Korean Emperor Hyegong is executed fifteen years after his ascent to the throne when royal subordinates can no longer tolerate his effeminate behavior.

800. Traditional legends and practices of the Norse are put into writing, some of which include homosexual practices and crossdressing.

1000. The custom of castrating homosexual slaves and house servants is introduced into northern India by Muslims during the eleventh century. Temple construction flourishes on the Indian subcontinent and some are adorned with openly erotic images depicting homosexuality.

1100. Archbishop Theophylaktos argues in favor of eunuchs as an important and contributing social class of Byzantine society in his work, Defense of Eunuchs. Eunuchs are placed in charge of guarding the Prophet Mohammed’s tomb in Medina during the twelfth century or earlier.

1184. Roman Catholic Inquisitions begin in France using torture to extract confessions and punishing homosexuality by death. The Inquisitions spread across the globe and remain in effect for more than seven centuries.

1327. England’s King Edward II is grotesquely executed after refusing to end his “unnatural” relationship with Hugh Despenser, a son of the earl of Winchester.

1351. Slavery and male castration reach their peak in India under the Islamic rule of Firuz Shah Tughlaq of the Sultanate of Delhi.

1453. Ottoman Turks conquer the Byzantine Empire and attitudes toward homosexuality improve under the new Islamic emperor, Mehmet II.

1486. In Bengal, India, transgender dancers bless the newborn child Nimai (Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu), an important incarnation of Radha and Krsna.

1492. On his quest to find a shorter route to India, Christopher Columbus discovers the New World.

The Early Modern Age: Christian Europe wages its greatest assault upon homosexuality to date while the practice remains silently tolerated in the Muslim world. Expeditions into sub-Saharan Africa, the New World and the South Seas reveal an astonishing acceptance of homosexuality and crossdressing among the indigenous people there. France becomes the first Christian nation to repeal its sodomy laws.

1519 A.D. In a report to King Carlos V of Spain, conquistador Hernando Cortez reports widespread homosexuality among the Veracruz natives of Mexico.

1528. Spanish conquistador Francisco Pizarro gives detailed reports of Incan priests and chieftains engaged in crossdressing rituals and sodomy.

1533. King Henry VIII of England establishes the Buggery Act, which replaces the penalty for homosexuality from castration or burning at the stake to public hanging.

1536-1821. Thirty homosexuals are burned at the stake in Portugal during the Portuguese Inquisition.

1570-1630. More than one hundred homosexuals are burned at the stake in the city of Zaragoza, Spain, during the Spanish Inquisition (1478-1834).

1591-1593. In one of the earliest accounts of homosexuality in Africa, a series of court records from Portugal’s Brazil colony describes sodomitic practices among the natives of Angola and Congo.

1599. Rome sanctions the castration of young boy singers known as castrati.

1625. Jesuit priest Joao dos Santos writes of a class of native Africans in Portuguese Angola, known as chibados, who dress like women, marry other men and “esteeme that unnaturale damnation an honor.”

1629. A baffled colonial American court orders intersex woman, Thomasine Hall, to dress partly as a man and partly as a woman.

1633. Christina Alexandra, widely believed to be intersex or lesbian, is crowned Queen of Sweden.

1636. Dutch officers Caron and Schouten write of the unabashed acceptance of sodomy they find among Japanese Buddhist priests and gentry.

1646. Jan Creoli becomes one of the first-known persons executed for sodomy in colonial America (Dutch-ruled New Amsterdam, now New York City). He is garroted (strangled to death with a cord) and his body “burned to ashes.”

1656-1663. Several hundred homosexuals are publicly garroted in San Lazaro, Mexico, during a well-publicized effort by Spain to purge that country of sodomy.

1660. Jan Quisthout van der Linde is convicted of sodomy with a servant in New Amsterdam, tied into a sack, thrown in a river and drowned. London’s scandalous periodical, The Wandering Whore, describes English “hermaphrodites” who are “given to much luxury…and to that abominable sin of sodomy.”

1669. Spanish writer and traveler Francisco Coreal reports of a class of “hermaphrodite” boys in Florida who dress up like women and engage in sodomy with the native men.

1682. Robert de La Salle claims the Louisiana Territory for France. Early French explorers in Quebec, Louisiana and the Great Lakes observe crossdressing homosexual natives and coin the term “berdache” to describe them.

1691. Dutchman Engelbert Kaempfer observes the popularity of crossdressing Kabuki dancers that also work as boy prostitutes throughout Japan.

1702. One of the last public burnings of homosexuals occurs in France during a well-publicized male prostitution scandal in Paris.

1730-1732. Seventy-five homosexuals are sentenced to death and garroted in the City Hall cellars of Holland during a harsh campaign to exterminate that country of sodomy “from top to bottom.”

1740. Frederick II the Great, one of the earliest known German homosexuals, is crowned King of Prussia. The Qing Dynasty enacts China’s first law against homosexuality but it is rarely enforced and the penalties are mild.

1770. Captain James Cook observes an acceptance of homosexuality among the Maori tribes of New Zealand. Similar observations are made by European explorers throughout the South Seas.

1771. Gustav III, widely believed to be homosexual, is crowned King of Sweden.

1778. Thomas Jefferson writes a law proposing castration instead of hanging for sodomy but the idea is rejected by the Virginia Legislature.

1791. A Cuban newspaper article criticizes the “effeminate sodomites” that apparently thrive in eighteenth-century Havana.

1791. France becomes the first Christian nation to decriminalize sodomy through a revision of its penal code during the French Revolution.

1796. New York state replaces hanging for sodomy with a maximum prison sentence of fourteen years.

The Nineteenth Century: France, Holland, Spain and Portugal repeal their sodomy laws along with those of their colonies while Great Britain, the United States, Canada and Australia manage only to reduce their penalties from death by hanging to long prison sentences. Britain’s harsh sodomy laws are implanted into all of its many important colonies around the world. The Islamic world maintains a mostly silent tolerance of homosexuality and the practice of male castration dissipates in unison with the global slave market. Germans usher in the world’s very first homosexual rights movement.

1801 A.D. New York state increases its prison sentence for sodomy to a mandatory life sentence.

1803. Austria decreases the punishment for sodomy to one year in prison.

1806. English traveler John Barrow describes the sodomy he finds among Hong Kong officials in his book, Travels in China.

1810. France’s Napoleonic Code is legally established, thus ratifying the country’s landmark repeal of all private sodomy laws. Several German states, including Bavaria and Hanover, adopt the code as well.

1811. The Kingdom of Holland repeals its sodomy laws while incorporated into France from 1810-1813. Spain and Portugal also repeal their sodomy laws during the early 1800s.

1820. Queen Mujaji I, a female monarch of Lesotho’s Lovedu tribe, keeps a large harem of wives and legitimizes the practice for other neighboring South African tribes.

1828. Australia records its first hanging for sodomy and the executions reach their peak in the 1830s. New York state reduces its sodomy penalty from a life sentence to a maximum of ten years in prison.

1830. Brazil repeals its sodomy laws, eight years after gaining independence from Portugal.

1834. The British Slavery Abolition Act ends slavery throughout most of the British Empire. The practice of male castration gradually disappears in tandem with the decline of world slavery during the nineteenth century.

1835. Russia establishes its first sodomy laws.

1836. In a well-publicized trial, Reverend William Yate, second in line to the bishop of Sydney, is prosecuted for engaging in sodomy with six Maori men in New Zealand.

1857. James Buchanan, widely believed to be homosexual, becomes the fifteenth president of the United States. Scottish explorer David Livingstone reports crossdressing shamans among the Ambo tribes of South-West Africa (Namibia).

1860. Great Britain revises its penal code, changing the penalty for sodomy from death by hanging to life imprisonment. The new code is established in British colonies all over world including India, Malaysia, Hong Kong, Canada, Australia, the Caribbean, etc. and has a long-lasting effect in those countries.

1861. German psychiatrists study homosexuality and begin to consider it innate. Karl Heinrich Ulrichs popularizes “Uranism” and the concept of a “third sex.”

1862. Mexico repeals its sodomy laws while under French rule from 1862-1867.

1864. Ludwig II, widely believed to be homosexual, becomes a popular albeit eccentric king of Bavaria. Australia replaces hangings for sodomy with long prison sentences and floggings. Sweden establishes sodomy laws prescribing up to two years in prison. British explorer Richard F. Burton locates the mysterious Amazon women of Dahomey (Benin, Africa) who identify as men, engage in warfare and “share passions between each other.”

1865. British-ruled Hong Kong enacts sodomy laws prescribing life sentences.

1869. The modern term “homosexuality” (homosexualitat) is first coined in a German pamphlet written by Karoly Maria Kertbeny.

1870. Anna Leonowens expresses shock at the crossdressing and “unnatural vice” among Siamese natives in her bestselling book, The English Governess at the Siamese Court. Italy outlaws the castration of young boy singers.

1871. King Wilhelm of Prussia creates a new German Empire and reestablishes sodomy as a crime (Paragraph 175).

1873. Japan briefly establishes sodomy laws from 1873 to 1881.

1883. The Kama Sutra is translated into English and published by Sri Richard Francis Burton. A German translation is published by Richard Schmidt in 1897.

1886. Native American two-spirit, We’wha, creates a sensation in Washington D.C. when introduced to President Grover Cleveland and dined at the White House. Two-spirit traditions are documented and occasionally photographed in nearly 150 North American tribes.

1889. Italy repeals its sodomy laws.

1890. South African Zulu chief, Nongoloza Mathebula, orders his bandit-warriors to abstain from women and take on boy-wives instead, a time-honored practice in the region.

1892. New York state eliminates its minimum requirement of five years in prison for sodomy.

1892-1921. Over two-hundred and fifty sodomy cases are tried in the British colony of Southern Rhodesia, with the most common defense being that sodomy has been a longstanding custom among the African natives.

1893. Famous Russian composer and known homosexual Pyotr Tchaikovsky dies unexpectedly at age 53.

1894. Canada replaces flogging as a penalty for homosexuality with prison terms of up to fifteen years.

1895. London’s most popular playwright, Oscar Wilde, is convicted of “gross indecency” (homosexual acts not amounting to buggery) and sentenced to two years of hard labor in a highly-publicized trial.

1897. Magnus Hirschfeld founds the very first modern homosexual movement, the Wissenschaftlich-Humanitare Komitee, in Germany.

1899. Hirschfeld publishes the first annual journal for homosexuals, Jahrbuch Fur Sexuelle Zwischenstufen, in Germany.

The Twentieth Century: The English-speaking world begins repealing its sodomy laws en masse and the modern gay rights movement is born in the United States. Islamic countries begin to modernize but fall back into anti-gay religious fundamentalism. Asian countries maintain a mostly silent tolerance of homosexuality while Western Europe begins offering equitable marriage rights for gay couples.

1901 A.D. Reputed German psychiatrist Richard von Krafft-Ebing concedes that homosexuality is inborn and not pathological, as he had earlier claimed.

1903. Celebrated British soldier, Sir Hector Archibald Macdonald, commits suicide when his homosexuality is uncovered while stationed in British Ceylon.

1908. The Inquisitions are officially ended by the Roman Catholic Church.

1912. The last vestige of China’s eunuch system ends with the collapse of the Qing Dynasty.

1917. Russia repeals its sodomy laws after the Bolshevik Revolution, citing their origin in Biblical teachings.

1918. The world’s first demonstration for homosexual rights takes place one day before Germany surrenders in the Great War. Hirschfeld speaks before a Berlin crowd of five thousand, calling for the repeal of Paragraph 175.

1921. California lowers its sodomy penalties from a maximum life sentence to a maximum of fifteen years in prison.

1926. Portugal reinstates its sodomy laws under the Salazar dictatorship.

1930. The world’s first modern sex change operation is performed on Danish painter Andreas Wegener, who travels to Germany for the procedure.

1932. Poland repeals its sodomy laws but homosexuals are soon persecuted under Nazi and later Soviet rule.

1933. Denmark repeals its sodomy laws. Joseph Stalin reinstates sodomy laws within the Soviet Union. In Germany and throughout much of Europe, homosexuals are viciously persecuted, imprisoned and killed by the Nazis up until the end of World War II.

1935. J. Edgar Hoover, founder of modern police investigation and widely believed to be homosexual, is appointed as the FBI’s first director.

1944. Sweden repeals its sodomy laws.

1945. Nazi concentration camps are liberated at the close of World War II. Approximately 15,000 homosexuals, marked with inverted pink triangles, are believed to have died in the camps.

1948. Kinsey’s Sexual Behavior in the Human Male (The Kinsey Report) is published, bringing the taboo subject of homosexuality up for debate in the United States.

1949. Strict sodomy laws are enacted in China after the communist takeover.

1950. New York becomes the first U.S. state to reduce sodomy from a felony to a misdemeanor. America’s first homosexual organization, The Mattachine Society, is founded in New York City. Homosexual marriages among the Zulu of South Africa peak during the 1950s, with weddings held monthly.

1951. Greece repeals its sodomy laws. California’s Supreme Court rules against the practice of suspending liquor licenses at bars serving homosexual clientele.

1952. Christine Jorgensen becomes America’s first modern transsexual after returning home from a sex-change operation in Denmark.

1955. America’s first lesbian organization, Daughters of Bilitis, is founded in San Francisco.

1956. Allen Ginsberg crosses censorship lines by publishing Howl, a book celebrating his homosexuality, and emerges victorious when challenged in court one year later. Thailand abolishes its British-inherited sodomy laws during an effort to purge Thai legal codes of obsolete edicts.

1962. Illinois becomes the first U.S. state to repeal its sodomy laws.

1963. Israel repeals its sodomy laws.

1964. Life magazine dubs San Francisco the “Gay Capital of the U.S.”

1966. The commencement of China’s notorious Cultural Revolution includes a vicious and organized attack against homosexual people and art (1966-1976).

1967. England and Wales repeal their sodomy laws.

1969. In June, homosexual riots break out on Christopher Street at the Stonewall Inn in New York City as a response to routine police harassment, marking the beginning of the modern gay rights movement. Canada and West Germany repeal their sodomy laws.

1970. The world’s first Gay Pride parades occur in Chicago, New York and San Francisco to mark the first anniversary of the Stonewall Riots.

1971. British anthropologist Edward Evans-Pritchard documents the widespread tradition of homosexual marriage among the Zande tribes of Sudan. Austria repeals its sodomy laws. Minnesota invalidates the first known same-sex marriage in the U.S. between Jack Baker and Michael McConnell. The U.S. Supreme Court upholds the ruling a year later.

1972. Sweden enacts the world’s first law legalizing transsexual operations. A comprehensive study of female-female seagull pairing on Santa Barbara Island (California) creates a sensation as the first publicized observation of homosexuality in the animal kingdom. Norway repeals its sodomy laws.

1973. The American Psychiatric Association removes homosexuality from its list of mental and emotional disorders, followed two years later by the American Psychological Association.

1974. Chris Vogel and Rich North, a gay couple from Winnipeg, Canada, shock the world by becoming the first homosexual couple to publicly marry in a church and file a legal challenge to the country’s ban on same-sex marriage. A Manitoba judge declares their union invalid later that year.

1975. South Australia becomes the first Australian state to repeal its sodomy laws. California repeals its sodomy laws by a single vote.

1977. Harvey Milk becomes the United States’ first openly gay elected official. Florida bans homosexuals from adopting children.

1979. Cuba repeals its sodomy laws. Pakistan adds Shari’a law to existing penal codes and consequently the death penalty for sodomy. Iran similarly reverts to Shari’a law and the death penalty for sodomy after its 1979 revolution. Spain removes anti-homosexual laws imposed under the dictatorship of General Franco. Homosexuals riot in San Francisco after Dan White receives the lightest possible sentence for his murder of Harvey Milk and mayor George Moscone.

1980. New York sodomy laws are ruled unconstitutional by the state Supreme Court but not formally repealed until 2000. Colombia and Scotland repeal their sodomy laws.

1981. HIV/AIDS is diagnosed for the first time among American homosexual males.

1982. Wisconsin becomes the first U.S. state to outlaw discrimination against homosexuals. Portugal repeals the sodomy laws imposed under the Salazar dictatorship.

1984. The Unitarian Universalist Association becomes the first major Protestant church to approve religious blessings for gay unions. The U.S. Virgin Islands repeals its sodomy laws.

1985. France becomes the first country in the world to enact an anti-discrimination law protecting homosexuals.

1986. Equal rights and freedom from discrimination are guaranteed to homosexuals and transgenders under Canada’s new Charter of Rights and Freedoms. New Zealand repeals its sodomy laws.

1987. Rep. Barney Frank (D) becomes the first member of the U.S. Congress to come out publicly as homosexual.

1989. Denmark becomes the first country in the world to establish civil unions for gay couples.

1990. The World Health Organization removes homosexuality from its list of mental disorders.

1991. Hong Kong abolishes its sodomy laws.

1993. Minnesota becomes the first U.S. state to ban discrimination against transgenders. The Intersex Society of North America becomes the world’s first organization in support of rights for intersex people. Hawaii’s Supreme Court rules in favor of same-sex marriage and ignites America’s gay marriage debate. Russia and Ireland repeal their sodomy laws. Norway establishes civil unions for gay couples.

1994. Alain Danielou publishes The Complete Kama Sutra. Bermuda repeals its sodomy laws.

1995. Sweden establishes civil unions for gay couples.

1996. The South African Constitution specifically guarantees equal rights and protections on the basis of sexual orientation. Iceland establishes civil unions for gay couples. The U.S. Congress enacts a law forbidding the federal recognition of same-sex marriage or any similar union (The Defense of Marriage Act).

1997. China repeals its sodomy laws. Tasmania becomes the last Australian state to repeal its sodomy laws.

1998. South Africa repeals its sodomy laws. Chile becomes the last major Latin American country to repeal its sodomy laws. Alaska and Hawaii become the first U.S. states to effectively ban same-sex marriage by constitutional referendum. The Netherlands establishes civil unions for gay couples.

1999. France establishes civil unions for gay couples. California becomes the first U.S. state to extend limited domestic partnership benefits to gay couples. India’s very first Gay Pride march is held in Kolkata. Brazil becomes the first country to ban "conversion therapy" for gay minors.

The Twenty-first Century: LGBTI people continue their fight for full equality under the law, culminating in the quest for equal marriage rights. Modern gay movements begin to effect change in Latin America and parts of Asia while most African, Middle Eastern and East European countries are held back by anti-gay religious fundamentalism.

2000 A.D. Germany establishes civil unions for gay couples and Vermont, after great resistance, becomes the first U.S. state to do the same.

2001. The Netherlands becomes the first country in the world to legalize same-sex marriage. Bertrand Delanoe becomes the first openly gay mayor of a major world city (Paris). Nova Scotia becomes the first Canadian province to extend limited domestic partnership benefits to gay couples. The Cayman and British Virgin Islands repeal their sodomy laws. GALVA-108, the Gay and Lesbian Vaishnava Association, is established.

2002. Quebec becomes the first Canadian province to establish civil unions for gay couples.

2003. The United States repeals all remaining state sodomy laws by virtue of the Supreme Court. Belgium becomes the second country in the world to legalize same-sex marriage. Puerto Rico repeals its sodomy laws. Tasmania becomes the first Australian state to extend limited domestic partnership benefits to gay couples.

2004. Massachusetts becomes the first U.S. state to legalize same-sex marriage. New Zealand establishes civil unions for gay couples. San Francisco begins issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples in California but is stopped one month later by court order.

2005. Spain becomes the third country in the world to legalize same-sex marriage. Canada becomes the fourth country in the world and the first in North America (and the New World) to legalize same-sex marriage. The United Kingdom establishes civil unions for gay couples. California extends full marriage benefits to registered domestic partners. Fiji’s sodomy laws are invalidated by its High Court.

2006. South Africa becomes the fifth country in the world and the first in Africa to legalize same-sex marriage.

2007. Nepal repeals its sodomy laws.

2008. Uruguay becomes the first Latin American country to establish civil unions for gay couples. In California, same-sex marriages resume in June by court order but are stopped after a constitutional referendum is passed five months later. A Florida court strikes down that state’s ban on gay adoptions. India holds its first official Gay Pride marches in six major cities.

2009. The High Court of Delhi strikes down much of Section 377, effectively decriminalizing sodomy in India. Norway and Sweden become the sixth and seventh countries in the world to legalize same-sex marriage. Johanna Siguroardottir becomes the first openly gay head of government (Iceland). Hungary establishes registered partnerships for gay couples.

2010. Argentina becomes the first Latin American country to legalize same-sex marriage. Portugal, Iceland, Washington D.C. and New Hampshire legalize same-sex marriage. Austria establishes registered partnership laws for gay couples.

2011. New York becomes the sixth U.S. state to legalize same-sex marriage. The United States lifts its ban on homosexuals serving in the military. Colombia bans discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.

2012. Denmark and the U.S. states of Washington and Maine legalize same-sex marriage. Hawaii establishes civil unions for same-sex couples. The American Psychiatric Association removes transgender identity from its list of mental and emotional disorders. California becomes the first U.S. state to ban "conversion therapy" for gay minors.

2013. Brazil, Uruguay, New Zealand, France and the U.S. states of Maryland and Hawaii legalize same-sex marriage. The U.S. Supreme Court strikes down the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and legalizes same-sex marriage in California. Russia enacts “gay propaganda” laws criminalizing public support for gay rights or identity. India’s Supreme Court upholds its colonial-era sodomy laws.

2014. The United Kingdom, Scotland and Finland legalize same-sex marriage. More than 25 additional U.S. states legalize same-sex marriage after DOMA is repealed. Mozambique, Northern Cyprus, Palau and Sao Tome & Principe decriminalize homosexuality. Eleven African nations tighten their sodomy laws.

2015. Same-sex marriage is legalized in the United States after its Supreme Court strikes down all same-sex marriage bans. Conservative U.S. states begin enacting “religious liberty” laws, allowing LGBTI discrimination based on religious views. Ireland legalizes same-sex marriage by referendum. Mexico’s Supreme Court of Justice allows state courts or legislatures to legalize same-sex marriage state-by-state.

2016. Nauru, Seychelles and Belize repeal their sodomy laws. Colombia and Greenland legalize same-sex marriage. The United States allows transgenders to serve in the military. Conservative U.S. states begin enacting “bathroom bills” to prevent transgenders from using public restrooms matching their gender identity. Chad criminalizes homosexuality.

2017. Germany, Bermuda, Malta and Australia legalize same-sex marriage.

2018. India's Supreme Court reads down Section 377, effectively legalizing homosexuality. San Marino establishes civil unions for same-sex couples. Trinidad and Tobago's High Court overturns its colonial-era sodomy laws.

2019. Angola legalizes homosexuality and bans discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation in its new penal code. Taiwan becomes the first Asian country to legalize same-sex marriage. The World Health Organization removes transgender identity from its list of mental disorders. Botswana's High Court overturns its colonial-era sodomy laws. Gabon criminalizes homosexuality but repeals the law one year later. Brunei tightens its sodomy laws to punish homosexuality with death by stoning. Northern Ireland legalizes same-sex marriage.

2020. Costa Rica legalizes same-sex marriage by court order. U.S. Supreme Court bans gay and transgender employment discrimination on the basis of sex (Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act). Russia bans same-sex marriage in its constitution. Sudan abolishes flogging and death penalty as punishments for homosexuality. Conservative U.S. states begin enacting laws to ban transgender girls and women from school sports.

(Tritiya-Prakriti: People of the Third Sex, Abridged Edition, pp. 125-139)

Ban on Homosexuality in the Roman Army

ROMAN EMPIRE = DECADENCE, MY FRIENDS and i'm not judging here, please let's make that clear!

Hope this helps salh ding ding


Firstly, that would be Salah ad-Din thank you, not "salh ding ding". SALAH AD-DIN.

Secondly, this thread is not about the alleged decadence of an empire whose population consisted predominately of peasants and slaves - this is about a very real ban on gay sex and/or relationships that I've read existed in the legionary element of the Roman army.

I was specifically hoping for a response from someone very knowledgeable, such as sylla1.


The heavens have never been known to be kind to those who abuse Salah ad-Din's username

Back on topic, in the Republican era homosexuality was something that was frowned on in Roman society, let alone the army. It goes without saying that this was magnified in the legions, and I do believe that it was a serious offence for a legionary to be caught in such an act. However what rules and regulations did exist in this regard can probably be said to have truly be set in stone under Augustus when he made his extensive reforms to the Roman army that transformed it into what really does sound like a truly miserable occupation even more so than it already had been.



One thing to remember when bashing the Romans for immorality and such is that history tends to record the sensational more often and in more detail
than the benign and boring events.

Imagine what someone would think of America, after learning about us only by seeing Fox News and scanning the latest political novels and "I was there in the White House" memoirs and scapegoatings, and the scandals like Tot Mom and OctoMom, and the Gosselin affair, and Tiger's doings..

They'd get no clue about the regular life of the average American, raising their kids well, being fair and disciplined.

The "read" would be that America was the most immoral and backward and corrupt society on earth .

Ban on Homosexuality in the Roman Army

One thing to remember when bashing the Romans for immorality and such is that history tends to record the sensational more often and in more detail
than the benign and boring events.

Imagine what someone would think of America, after learning about us only by seeing Fox News and scanning the latest political novels and "I was there in the White House" memoirs and scapegoatings, and the scandals like Tot Mom and OctoMom, and the Gosselin affair, and Tiger's doings..

They'd get no clue about the regular life of the average American, raising their kids well, being fair and disciplined.

The "read" would be that America was the most immoral and backward and corrupt society on earth .




Firstly, that would be Salah ad-Din thank you, not "salh ding ding". SALAH AD-DIN.

Secondly, this thread is not about the alleged decadence of an empire whose population consisted predominately of peasants and slaves - this is about a very real ban on gay sex and/or relationships that I've read existed in the legionary element of the Roman army.

I was specifically hoping for a response from someone very knowledgeable, such as sylla1.

to say the least i had an incident with HadleyH before, but come on Salah ad-Din be nice like your man Salah

P.S just joking with both of you.





I agree with Rasta, I just couldn't find anything that stated a ban in the Legions specifically, and no ban at all before Constantius II declared the death penalty "for a male who aped the role of a bride", which Rasta confirmed for me as being codified by Theodosius.

Also in complete agreeance with the statement on the ban of marriage possibly creating a subculture in the Legions as well.


Not exclusively. I figure its pretty much a given that homosexual sex would have been - at least nominally - a nasty crime in the Christian Empire. But I've seen several references to romances/sex between soldiers being illegal long before the bulk of the army became Christian.

I think I remember reading about a law banning sex in the military that dates from Republican times, but alas I cannot remember where.

Just recently, I was reading Harry Sidebottom's excellent novel Fire in the East - which is extremely well-researched, in my opinion - and one of the characters therein mentioned that legionaries who acted on their lusts for their comrades were liable to be executed. Considered just how well-researched this novel was, I figured Sidebottom must have been inspired by a historical law to put this in his book.


Not exclusively. I figure its pretty much a given that homosexual sex would have been - at least nominally - a nasty crime in the Christian Empire. But I've seen several references to romances/sex between soldiers being illegal long before the bulk of the army became Christian.

I think I remember reading about a law banning sex in the military that dates from Republican times, but alas I cannot remember where.

Just recently, I was reading Harry Sidebottom's excellent novel Fire in the East - which is extremely well-researched, in my opinion - and one of the characters therein mentioned that legionaries who acted on their lusts for their comrades were liable to be executed. Considered just how well-researched this novel was, I figured Sidebottom must have been inspired by a historical law to put this in his book.

Heterosexual Pedophilia in Greco-Roman Myth and Legend

The Abduction of the Sabine Women by Nicolas Poussin , a depiction of the Roman myth where at least 30 underaged Sabine women were kidnapped, Metropolitan Museum of Art

Because the standard age for Greco-Roman women was between 12 and 16, it is assumed that most of the popular, lusted after women in mythology were quite young, most notably Helen of Troy . Based on different accounts from Hellanicus of Lesbos and Diodorus, she was somewhere between seven and ten years old when she was abducted by Theseus. Based on this and descriptions of other Greco-Roman maidens , it is assumed that the abduction of the Sabine women was an abduction of teenage girls. The abduction was orchestrated by Romulus and his men, shortly after the founding of Rome. The newly founded city was flourishing but missing one essential thing: women. The men devised a plan to abduct the women of Sabine, a neighboring population, during their festival celebrating the Neptune Equester. The young girls were abducted and promised a lawful marriage and rights to citizenship. This story paved the way for traditional marriage customs in Rome, where women, albeit young and innocent, were given equal rights to citizenship and property just like their husbands.

Venus and Adonis sculpture by Antonio Canova , Musee d’Art et d’Histoire, Geneva

Although it is minimal, there is evidence that women participated in some sexual activities with minors, although it was not a mentorship or celebrated relationship in the way that pederasty was. One example tells the tale of Aphrodite (or Venus according to the Romans), the goddess of love, falls madly in love with the mortal Adonis. Although it is common to hear “Adonis” used to refer to strapping, strong men in modern times, he was often portrayed in art and writing as a youthful, beardless boy. Beardedness was a symbol of male adulthood in Greco-Roman art, so seeing Adonis depicted as beardless and childlike points to the idea that he was indeed an adolescent teenager. There were female cults devoted to Adonis who celebrated the Adonia , a festival of highly secretive rituals that made the men of Greece, specifically Athens, feel suspicious and inferior.

4 Julius Caesar&rsquos Last Words

Many believe that, upon his death at the hands of assassins, Julius Caesar uttered the famous words, &ldquoEt tu, Brute?&rdquo (&ldquoAnd you, Brutus?&rdquo) But the controversial dictator of Rome and lover of close-cropped haircuts said no such thing. William Shakespeare invented the line for his fictional version of Caesar to recite. But even in Shakespeare&rsquos play, &ldquoEt tu, Brute?&rdquo is not Caesar&rsquos last line. Caesar&rsquos last line in the script is actually &ldquoThen fall, Caesar.&rdquo

But what of the real, historical Julius Caesar? The man of historical fact was upper-class and well educated. In ancient Rome, that meant Caesar would have been conversant in Greek&mdashunlike the Bard, who was famously unfamiliar with the language. The only ancient writer who mentions any last words, who himself was not even a contemporary of Caesar, suggests his life ended with a gasp of Greek directed at Brutus: &ldquoKai su teknon?&rdquo However, it&rsquos possible he may have simply been repeating gossip, since the phrase translates to &ldquoYou, too, my child?&rdquo Rumors abounded regarding Julius Caesar, and one rumor suggested Brutus was Caesar&rsquos bastard progeny. Alternatively, though less poetically, Caesar reportedly pulled his toga over his head as his assailants stabbed him to death.

"The History of Fellatio"

By Annie Auguste
Published May 22, 2000 12:16PM (EDT)


According to recent press reports, Americans are having oral sex at alarmingly younger ages -- and with increasing nonchalance. (Note: Oral sex here refers exclusively to fellatio.) Oral sex precedes and often replaces sexual intercourse because it's perceived to be noncommittal, quick and safe. For some kids it's a cool thing to do for others it's a cheap thrill. Raised in a culture in which speed is valued, kids, not surprisingly, seek instant gratification through oral sex (the girl by instantly pleasing the boy, the boy by sitting back and enjoying the ride). A seemingly facile command over the sexual landscape of one's partner is achieved without the encumbrances of clothes, coitus and the rest of the messy business. The blow job is, in essence, the new joystick of teen sexuality.

In short, if we are to believe today's sociologists and culture mavens, oral sex has become ordinary. But the increased banality of the blow job is perplexing. When I was a teenager, in the bad-taste, disco-fangled '70s, fellatio was something you graduated into. Rooted in the great American sport of baseball, the sexual metaphors of my generation put fellatio somewhere after home base, way off in the distant plains of the outfield. In fact, skipping all the bases and going directly to fellatio was the sort of home run reserved only for racy, borderline delinquents, who enjoyed a host of licentious and forbidden activities that made them stars in the firmament of teen recklessness.

The first blow job I ever gave (after methodically groping my way past all the bases) was an act of faith. After finally figuring out how to manually manage my boyfriend's strange vestigial organ -- how to brandish, manipulate and handle his distended, tumescent pink love shaft -- I now had the daunting task of having to figure out how to manage it orally. Lick? Suck? Use your hands? If only the how-to books that exist today existed back then.

"Put both hands into the L position around the base of the shaft," says "Sex Tips for Straight Women From a Gay Man." "Lick the whole tip and then use your tongue to lick up and down the sides. Covering your teeth with your lips, and keeping your mouth taut, glide the head inside and lick the sensitive spot underneath with both the tip and flat part of your tongue . proceed down the shaft as far as you can go in one fell swoop." And on it goes. It includes tips on curiosities like dick whipping, hummers and tinglers, plus advice on how to breathe. (Men may fear the cavernous tunnel that leads to the primordial soup of the womb, but women risk death by gagging.)

Clearly even the most rigorous bout of coitus pales in comparison with the intimacy of fellatio, at least for the one giving it: nesting one's face in the musty, doughy pelt of your partner's loins bringing the full force of your tongue, lips, teeth (indeed, your entire face) to bear on the swollen, supplicant shaft coaxing the salty swell of seed-bearing spermatozoa burgeoning from deep within the vulnerable, fuzz-laced scrotum and, finally, partaking in the ultimate exchange of bodily fluids. (For what could be more carnal and, well, in your face than swallowing sperm?) All this is far more complex than the simple act of coitus, where the key fits in the ignition and things more or less just happen. Fellatio is hard labor, in every sense of the word.

Perhaps it's true that attitudes toward fellatio have changed. The infamous stain left on Monica Lewinsky's dress -- as coveted and totemic as it has become in the context of America's most famous blow job -- suggests a sterile, trite expediency that may reflect a general trend in America. In a recent article in the New York Times about teen sex, a source reported that kids "'had oral sex 50 or 60 times . It's like a goodnight kiss to them.' Dr. Levy-Warren refers to the recent shift in teen fellatio as 'body-part sex.'"

But generational blips -- like empires and economic upheavals -- come and go. As French writer/professor Thierry Leguay notes in his (not yet translated into English) "History of Fellatio," as long as the penis has the power to please, fellatio is not likely to be bumped off the bestseller list of all-time favorite male joys anytime in the next millennium or two.

What are the earliest traces of fellatio?

A well-known French paleontologist by the name of Yves Coppens suggested that the famous Lucy (the first prehistoric woman) practiced a sort of "paleo-fellatio." But the first clear real traces of fellatio are from ancient Egypt. Many of the more stellar examples are in the British Museum, where we find the famous myth of Osiris and Iris: Osiris was killed by his brother and cut into pieces. His sister Iris put the pieces together but, by chance, the penis was missing. An artificial penis was made out of clay, and Iris "blew" life back into Osiris by sucking it. There are explicit images of this myth.

As an aside, Egyptian women were particularly well known for their sexual prowess. Egyptian women are also purported to be the first women to use makeup.

What about other ancient cultures like China, or India, where you have the Kama Sutra?

Indeed, these are two other ancient cultures that ritualized fellatio. Ancient China was similar to India insofar as there were practically no sexual censures or taboos whatsoever. But it was in India where we find the Kama Sutra. Today the Kama Sutra has been reduced to a sort of caricature of a sex manual, but in fact it's a tome dedicated to the art of loving. An entire chapter in the Kama Sutra is devoted to an act called "auparishtaka," otherwise known as "oral congress." Oral congress involved eight highly descriptive and semicodified ways of performing fellatio. There are also detailed chapters on bites, scratches and other aspects of the aesthetic of the body.

You also cover a lot of Roman ground in your book.

Ancient Rome was a society of soldiers, of machos and rapists, and their perception of fellatio was interesting. The practice of fellatio in ancient Rome was perceived in terms of active and passive: The active one was in fact the person getting fellatio. In this case we're talking about the soldier, the virile male. The passive one -- usually a woman or a slave -- was the one giving fellatio or, to understand it more clearly, the one receiving the penis.

Today, of course, it's the other way around. We perceive the one who's giving fellatio as the active one and the one receiving it as the passive one. But in Rome to give fellatio was a passive act, a submissive act. For example -- and this is very clear in Roman texts -- to punish a person who stole potatoes from his field, a Roman might oblige the person to give him fellatio. He might stand up, drop his pants and say, "Now you're going to kneel down and take it in your mouth." The one who was required to give fellatio was the passive one, the one who went against the valor of virility. The Roman perception is interesting.

We [again] find some aspects of the Roman idea in certain cultures that are slowing disappearing, for example, in New Guinea. There are initiation rituals for young people that involve practicing fellatio on adults and ingesting the sperm -- sperm considered, of course, a vital, precious resource. These are not homosexual communities. On the contrary, the fellatio ritual is performed to make men acquire strong, active, macho values in a society where women are totally submissive and dominated.

The Incas were the same. There are traces on their pottery that suggest that, like New Guinea, fellatio was a practice modeled on domination and power.

Western European culture didn't necessarily ritualize fellatio, but there was a time when it was much more openly libertine than today.

Yes, even in Western culture going back to the 18th century. In 18th century France the upper clergy lived according to principles that were similar to Roman times. You had your chapel, your chateau, your wife and then all your mistresses. The bishops lived this way as well. The population of 18th century Paris was 600,000, with 30,000 recorded prostitutes. That's enormous. Enormous. In the Palais Royal 50,000 little booklets from the 18th century were found they were mini-directories of prostitutes and their specialties. One can assume that fellatio was a basic staple here.

Obviously the church has played a significant role in condemning fellatio.

As recently as the 19th century, sexual pleasure and any relation that didn't lead directly to procreation -- even within the structure of a traditional marriage -- were mortal sins. So fellatio was, and remains to some extent, a taboo. The only sexual activity sanctioned by the Catholic Church is coitus for the strict purpose of procreation. In the 19th century there was also a relationship between religion and medicine that came together under the general aegis of onanism. In fact everything fell under the aegis of onanism: fellatio, petting, lesbianism, masturbation. There were priests who were also doctors, and many of them wrote lengthy descriptions of apocalyptic things that could happen to anyone who practiced any form of onanism.

That's similar to notions about circumcision back in the Victorian era in America. Doctors and religious officials associated the foreskin with masturbation, which was in turn associated with horrific physical and mental aberrations. That's where we find the roots of systematic circumcision in America. There's not much difference here between the two cultures.

What about countries where women have few -- or less -- social liberties than contemporary Western women do? Islamic countries, for example.

Islam shares a common ground with Judeo-Christian societies in that fellatio is condemned in part because it is not directly linked to the act of procreation. In traditional Islamic cultures -- as in black African cultures -- there's a taboo associated with the mouth. The mouth is a "pure organ" it's an organ of the spoken word, of the truth. Fellatio, in this light, sullies the mouth.

You suggest in your book that this is why the Islamic veil covers the mouth.

Of course. There's an immediate analogy right there in the word "lips" between the vagina and the mouth. That analogy has obviously been overexploited today. Fellatio sexualizes the mouth, makes the mouth a sexual organ in and of itself. There are, after all, few things more suggestive than a highly made-up mouth. The Islamic veil can be criticized, but there's a logic behind it. What's being hidden is, in part, all that which is intimate.

There are also cultures that don't practice fellatio at all.

Yes, the Inuit culture, for example. Fellatio is something that takes away their strength, that can potentially weaken them. They have more important things to do, like hunting seal. In a culture where the mouth is not a sexual object -- we shouldn't forget that Eskimos kiss with their noses -- fellatio is a taboo. Interestingly, according to French anthropologist Jean Malaurie, Eskimos have extremely quiet sex. An Eskimo orgasm is barely audible. In a communal igloo lovemaking is rarely perceived [by others].

When did fellatio become an act unto itself?

It's hard to say, but it's safe to assume that as a contemporary phenomenon fellatio took center stage as an act unto itself when it began to figure prominently in X-rated films. "Deep Throat" and Linda Lovelace had a lot to do with making fellatio almost a cultural cliché.

You touch only lightly on Freud and his views about fellatio.

There's such an enormous amount of literature written by and about Freud -- and it is so easy to fall prey to certain platitudes -- that I've been careful here. Freud obviously spent a great deal of energy describing our oral, anal and genital stages, but it would be a gross simplification to say that people who smoke a lot or are heavily into oral sex are stuck in the oral stage. Freud doesn't speak directly much about it. He evokes it, but he passes quickly over the subject. Of course he heard about fellatio in the course of treating patients, but he never drew a specific theory as it relates to the oral stage in our development. It's somewhat of a paradox. I'm not a psychoanalyst, so I don't want to make any sweeping commentary here.

There has been some talk about teens in America having oral sex at increasingly younger ages and with increasing casualness. This seems very much the opposite of how it's perceived in France, where fellatio is considered more intimate than lovemaking. To what do you attribute these particular cultural differences?

We have to be careful not to generalize and stereotype here. But on some level Monica Lewinsky has become a symbol for us. She performed fellatio, talked about it, made money off of it. In her milieu, people engage in superficial sex they don't commit or engage themselves. It's not about lovemaking. In France we're more Mediterranean we don't take these things lightly. You'll never find a French Monica Lewinsky. She performed the most lucrative blow job in the history of humanity.

It's unlikely that Lewinsky was thinking about the historical or financial ramifications of fellating the president when she was doing it.

Maybe not, but she clearly profited from it later. If Lewinsky is a symbol of anything, she's a symbol of America's relationship to money and sex.

You cite a few polls in your book. One of them suggests that only 32 percent of women give fellatio out of pleasure the remaining roughly two-thirds do it as an obligation.

What's clear is that a certain number of women find fellatio violent. Some refuse completely to do it. They find it degrading, particularly the posture involved in performing oral sex. Certain women, on the other hand, consider it as an intimate exchange, a gift.

This reminds me of another study you cite in your book. A 1993 French report called the "Rapport Spira-Bajos" indicated that the majority of women who perform fellatio are educated women with a certain level of social status. It seemed to reveal a sort of social hierarchy around fellatio.

Yes, I think that's uncontestable. Women who have participated in certain social movements -- women's liberation, the right to abortion, the pill, etc. -- are the most inclined to explore their sexuality and hence have an impact on sexual practices on some level. And these women are usually more educated, are more aware, have a certain level of accomplishment in their lives. The idea of the lustful, country farm-girl-type bumpkin is really more a fantasy than a reality.

There's also a big perception/reality difference between what figures in a poll tell us and what images tell us. Images in, for example, pornography. There are around 15 states in America that have criminalized fellatio, and yet America is by far the biggest producer of pornography on earth. Curious for a so-called Puritan country.

Indeed. Pornographic cinema is an American business. There's very little of it going on in Europe. America produces an astronomical quantity of pornographic material, and almost all of it invariably features fellatio.

Are human beings the only mammals who practice fellatio?

There are certain male chimpanzees who lick their female mates, but that of course is called cunnilingus, and it seems as much an act of hygiene and play as it does an expression of innate sexual pleasure. It's certainly not an act in and of itself. While animals have an incredibly rich and complex sexual life, we humans are unique. As far as fellatio is concerned, at least as a sexual act unto itself, we human beings are all alone in the animal kingdom.

Roman Law and the Banning of ‘Passive’ Homosexuality - History

Justinian I: Novel 77 [538] and Novel 141 [544 CE]

There had been earlier Roman legislation against homosexual acts. There was a shadowy Lex Scantinia supposedly passed in the early Republic against homosexual activity, but it seems to have had little effect. Certainly in the late Republic/early Empire the law was not applied, and social attitudes did not condemn homosexual sex (although "passive" sexual roles for men were despised). A tax was indeed levied on homosexual prostitutes. In the later Imperial period legal commentators enlarged the Lex Julia de adulteris (originally of c.17BCE) to include first offenses against boys and then, possibly, all male homosexual practices

In the Institutes of the Corpus Juris Civilis [which went into effect Dec 30, 533] summed up the legal opinons:

Institutes IV. xviii .4: In criminal cases public prosecutions take place under various statutes, including the Lex Julia de adulteris, "…which punishes with death (gladio), not only those who violate the marriages of others, but also those who dare to commit acts of vile lust with [other] men (qui cim masculis nefandum libidinem exercere audent)."

Note that this not only extends the law to homosexual acts, but also extends the death penalty to adultery, which was not part of the original law.

The Christian emperors continued to collect taxes on male prostitutes until the time of Anastasius (ruled in Constantinople - 491-581). But there are occasional laws which seem to have been directed against homosexuality.

Against Same-Sex Marriage?

On Dec 16 342 Constantius and Constans passed a law (actually issued a a legal decision) which was included in the later Theodosian Code:

The meaning of this law has been hotly debated. Some have argued it indicates a previous legal status of same-sex marriage [John Boswell], others that "marries" simply means "give himself sexually" and others that it relates to a a particular legal case.

A clearer law was issued by Valentinian II, Theodoisus and Arcadius on Aug 6, 390. It also survives in the Theodosian Code:

Cod.Theod. IX. Vii. 6: All persons who have the shameful custom of condemning a man's body, acting the part of a woman's to the sufferance of alien sex (for they appear not to be different from women), shall expiate a crime of this kind in avenging flames in the sight of the people.

The wording is obscure - is it directed at passive partners or "sodomists" for instance? - but the attitude is clear. Again, it is less clear that this was ever applied, and, as noted, the tax on boy prostitutes continued to be collected. Still, this is beginning of the penalty or burning which was supposed to have been applied in areas in which Roman law ran. .

With Justinian, the situation seems to change. First we have historical accounts in Procopius and Malalas indicating that there was active persecution of some homosexuals. Secondly, Justinian's legislative activity was persistent. First there was the strictness of the Corpus Juris Civilis of 533. More significantly, Justinian issued two "Novels" directed against homosexual activity. Because of Justinian's fame as a legislator these have been widely read and were influential. But they are also qualitatively different from the earlier laws: they are as much about mix moralism with sterness and as extreme punishment. Although legal provisions against homosexual activity [Bailey 80, thinks primarily concerned with the corruption of boys and male prostitution] were maintained in later Byzantine legal codes, there is much less evidence that these laws were applied in practice, especially in the later years of the Byzantine empire.. [See the bibliography attached, especially Laiou..]

NOVEL 77 [358 CE] [relevant extracts]

…since certain men, seized by diabolical incitement practice among themselves the most disgraceful lusts, and act contrary to nature: we enjoin them to take to heart the fear of God and the judgment to come, and to abstain from suchlike diabolical and unlawful lusts, so that they may not be visited by the just wrath of God on account of these impious acts, with the result that cities perish with all their inhabitants. For we are taught by the Holy Scriptures that because of like impious conduct cities have indeed perish, together with all the men in them.

#1: [there follows a section condemning various blasphemies -- swearing by God's Hairs', or "by God's head"]…For because of such crimes [not clear if this means just blasphemies or homosexual practices as well] there are famines, earthquakes, and pestilences wherefore we admonish men to abstain from the aforesaid unlawful acts, that they may not loose their souls. But if, after this our admonition any are found persisting in such offenses, first they render themselves unworthy of the mercy of God, and then they are subjugated to the punishment enjoined by law.

#2: For we order that most illustrious prefect of the Capital to arrest those who persist in the aforesaid lawless and impious acts [this must refer to homosexual and blasphemous acts] after they have been warned by us, and to inflict on them the extreme punishments, so that the city and the state may not come to harm by reason of such wicked deed. And if, after this our warning, and be found who have concealed their crime, they likewise shall be condemned by the Lord God. And if the most illustrious prefect find any who have committed any such offense. And shall omit to punish them according to out laws, first he will be liable to the judgment of God, and he will also incur our indignation.

[trans. in Derrick Sherwin Bailey, Homosexuality and the Western Christian Tradition, (London: Longmans, Green, 1955), 73-74]

NOVEL 141 [344 CE] [complete]

Preamble: Though we stand always in need of the kindness and goodness of God, yet is this specially the case at this time, when in various ways we have provoked him to anger on account of the multitude of our sins. And although he has warned us, and has shown us clearly what we deserve because of our offenses, yet he has acted mercifully towards us, and, awaiting our penitence has reserved his wrath for other times -- for he "has no pleasure in the death of wicked but that the wicked turn from his way an live". Wherefore it is not right that we should all despise God's abundant goodness, forbearance, and long-suffering kindness and, hardening our hearts and turning away from penitence, should heap upon ourselves wrath in the day of wrath. Rather, we ought to abstain from all base concerns and acts -- and especially does this apply to such as have gone to decay through that abominable and impious conduct deservedly hated by God. We speak of the defilement of males (de stupro masculorum) which some men sacrilegiously and impiously dare to attempt, perpetrating vile acts with other men.

#1: For, instructed by the Holy Scriptures, we know that God brought a just judgment upon those who lived in Sodom, on account of this very madness of intercourse, so that to this very day that lands burns with inextinguishable fire. By this God teaches us, in order that by means of legislation we may avert such an untoward fate. Again, we know what the blessed Apostle says about such things, and what laws our state enacts. Wherefore it behoves all who desire to fear God to abstain from conduct so base and criminal that we do not find it committed even by brute beasts. Let those who have not taken part in such doings continue to refrain in the future. But as for those who have been consumed by this kind of disease, let them not only cease to sin in the future, but let them alos duly do penance, and fall down before God and renounce their plague [in confession] to the blessed Patriarch let them understand the reason for this charge, and, as it is written, bring forth the fruits of repentance. So may God the merciful, in abundance of pity, deem us worthy of his blessing, that we may all give thanks to him for the salvation of the penitents, who we have now bidden [to submit themselves] in order that the magistrates too may follow up our action, [thus] reconciling to themselves God who is justly angry with us. And we also, wisely and prudently having in reverence the sacred season, entreat God the merciful that those who have been contaminated by the filth of this impious conduct may strive for penitence. Next, we proclaim to all who are conscious that they have committed any such sin, that unless they desist and, renouncing it [in confession] before the blessed Patriarch, take care for their salvation, placating God during the holy season for such impious acts, they will bring upon themselves severer penalties, even though on other counts they are held guilty of no fault. For there will be no relaxation of enquiry and correction so far as this matter is concerned, nor will they be dealt with carelessly who do not submit themselves during the time of the holy season, or who persist in such impious conduct. Lest if we are negligent we arouse God's anger against us. If, with eyes as it were blinded, we overlook such impious and forbidden conduct, we may provoke the good God to anger and bring ruin upon all - a fate which would be deserved.

[trans. in Derrick Sherwin Bailey, Homosexuality and the Western Christian Tradition, (London: Longmans, Green, 1955), 74-75]

It may be noted that, although Justinian was clearly concerned with homosexuality, these Novels do not, as Bailey points out create any new crime or impose any new penalties Corpus Juris Civilis . In fact the are more exhortations than laws, and refer to local circumstances and seasons.

Bailey notes that the so-called "crusade" of the Christian emperors against homosexuals was nothing of the sort. Late Roman pagan lawyers already applied the Lex Julia to homosexual acts the number of decrees issued by the Christian emperors amounts to four in a two-hundred year period, and of these, the two by Justinian are as much concerned with penance as penalty [Bailey 79-81]. The implications of this point of view in understanding homosexuality in Byzantine society have not really been explored.

By Paul Halsall, April 1997

Bailey, Derrick S., Homosexuality and the Western Christian Tradition, (London: Longmans, Green, 1955repr. Hamden, Ct.: Archon/Shoestring Press, 1975)

Beck, Hans-Georg, Byzantinisches Erotikon: Orthodoxie-Literatur- Gesellschaft, (Munich: 1983)

Boswell, John, Christianity, Social Tolerance and Homosexuality, (Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press, 1980) , esp. 137-66

Boswell, John, Same-Sex Unions in Pre-Modern Europe, (New York: Villard, 1994)

Brooten, Bernardette J, Love Between Women: Early Christian Respones to Female Homoeroticism, (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1996)

Bullough, Vern L., Sexual Variance in Society and History, (Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press, 1976)
see Chapter 12: Byzantium and Eastern Orthodox Christianity.

Dalla, Danilo. "Ubi Venus mutatur": omosessualità e diritto nel mondo romano. (Milan. 1987)

Galatariotou, Catia, "Holy Women and Witches: Aspects of Byzantine Conceptions of Gender", Byzantine and Modern Greek Studies 9 (1984/85), 55-94

Galatariotou, Catia, "Byzantine Ktetorika Typika: A Comparative Study", Revue des études byzantins 45 (1987), 77- 138

Galatariotou, Catia, "Eros and Thanatos ", Byzantine and Modern Greek Studies 13 (1989), 95-137
esp. pp. 105, 117-124

Jenkins, Romilly J.H., "Constantine VII's Portrait of Michael III", in Bulletin de las Classes Des Lettres et des Sciences morales et politiques, Académie Royale de Belgique, 5e série, XXXIV, (1948), 71-77

Koukales, P, The Private Life of the Byzantines
Byzantinon bios kai politismos 8 vols., (Athens: Institut Francais, 1947-57)(in modern Greek) Vol IV, 505-39 on homosexuality: NB sometimes referred to as Vie et Civilisation byzantines - check for French translation.

Laiou, Angeliki, Marriage, Amour et parenté à Byzance aux XIe-XIIIe siècles, (Paris: De Boccard, 1992)
pp. 74 ff. Contains one of the most important modern analyses of Byzantine homosexuality.

Levin, Eve, Sex and Society in the World of the Orthodox Slaves, 900-1700, (Ithaca and London: Cornell University Press, 1989)

Mullet, Margaret, "Byzantium: A Friendly Society?", Past and Present 118 (1988), pp. 3-23
p. 11 on homosexuality.

Pitsakes, Konstantinos, "He thes ton homophylophilon ste Byzantine Koinia" in Chrysa A. Maltezou, ed., Praktika Hemeridas: Hoi Peridoriako sto Byzantio, (Athens: 1993), 171-269
A major article in modern Greek.

Ringrose, Kathryn, "Living in the Shadows: Eunuchs and Gender in Byzantium", in Gilbert Herdt, ed., Third Sex, Third Gender, (New York: Zone, 1994), 85-110

Troianos, Spyros, "Kirchliche und weltliches Rechtsquellen zur Homosexualität in Byzanz", Jahrbuch des Öst. Byzantinistik 39 (1989), 29-48
"Ecclesiastical and secular legal sources on Homosexuality in Byzantium". A vital summary.

Zymaris, Nicholas, "The Rite of `Spiritual Brotherhood', Homosexuality, and the Orthodox Church", Axios (May 1984), 6-8

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