LGBT References in Greek Culture

The Greco-Roman civilizations have often been called the birthplaces and center points of Western civilization, and their history and culture has long influenced art, philosophy, and other aspects of Western culture. Yet the mythology of Ancient Greece had many references to differing types of sexuality, which had a wide prevalence within their society. In fact, “[a]mong the Greeks, active homosexuality was regarded as perfectly natural (sexual desire was not distinguished according to its object),” to reveal that it was not frowned upon and caused no harm, there was no stigma attached to same-sex attraction (Cohen 3). Social mores were quite liberal, which would only decline in the future. Homosexuality was acceptable so that “some Athenians in the classical period may well have thought that some men by nature liked boys, others women, and still others both” (Cohen 3). Even Plato supported its existence, saying “Homosexuality 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"(Boswell 1). Even divinity engaged in LGBT sexual acts, such as when "Zeus came as an eagle to god­like Ganymede and as a swan to the fair­haired mother of Helen,” attracted to individuals of both genders (Boswell 1).  Under the Romans, there was a similar tolerance, as “individual sexual (i.e. gender) choice was completely unlimited” and “[g]ay marriages were also legal and frequent in [early] Rome for both males and females” showing how various types of sexualities were embraced and considered natural in the early Greco-Roman world, fully accepted to reveal that they were significant aspects of the society and culture of the time (Boswell 1).

LGBT themes were an essential part of the culture that developed, with LGBT references adorning artwork and other aspects of the ancient society that reveal how LGBT behavior was widely promoted, even extolled. This proves that there is nothing inherently negative about being LGBT; in fact, various types of sexualities were present and were openly practiced at the dawn of Western civilization. Anthropologically, this lends evidence that humans have quite often engaged in numerous different types of sexual behavior, it is a natural tendency within large parts of the population and has even enhanced cultural development.