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In warfare soldiers often fought side-by-side with their grown beloveds, as in the renowned Theban band; later, led by Alexander the Great and his boyfriend Hephaestion, the Greeks conquered the known world.Greece, of course, was no Utopia: prostitution, often attended by slavery, was common, and parallel to the ethical culture in which young beloveds were treated with consideration and moderation, there ran an undercurrent seen by the Greeks as debauched, in which young citizens were paid for sex and subjected to practices seen as degrading, such as oral and anal penetration.In the Moslem lands, famous Iranian and Arab poets such as Hafiz i-Shirazi and Abu Nuwas praised and rued the charms of boys (whom they plied with wine and seduced).Sufi holy men from India to Turkey sought to find Allah by gazing upon the beauty of beardless youths. Artists like Riza i-Abbasi amused kings and princes with exquisitely wrought erotic Persian miniatures and calligraphies.Where forbidden, it has prevailed over stonings, burnings, lobotomies, schoolyard homophobia, the gallows and the gaol.Where openly welcomed, it has blossomed into the highest achievements of the human mind.The World History of Male Love, gleaning the work of scholars in gay studies, aims to undo that censorship by publicizing gay love’s role in man’s spirit and culture: its successes, its failures, and the controversies it has given rise to over the millennia.We hope the prose and poetry, religion and mythology, art, philosophy and history collected here from around the world will serve to deepen understanding of male love’s place in human nature.
Uncensored, the historical record reveals just the opposite: the male love instinct is universal. Most cultures have regulated male love, integrating it by means of customs and traditions.Democracy was another invention of the Greeks, and the two men they honored for its introduction were Harmodios and Aristogiton, a gay couple.Love between males was thought to bring out the best qualities in a youth AND in his lover, especially manliness and courage.It is past time every school child knew of these things.
One time, during a workshops at a gay youth conference, a young man piped up from the back of the room, exclaiming “No one told us Hercules was gay! They choose what will be remembered, and what covered up. Looking at any history textbook, one would think that never has a society praised love between men, never has a painter, a poet or a pope shared his bed and his heart with another male.