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  5. Homosexuality among citizens: male homoerotic courtship scenes

Homosexuality among citizens: male homoerotic courtship scenes

Floor 2, Room 36, Showcase 36.10. The Palaestra. The Pig Painter Amphora and Lekythos
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There was a homosexual practice between citizens that was not only accepted, but extremely common in the Greek poleis. This was the relationship between an adult citizen, the so-called erastes or lover, and an adolescent, the eromenos or beloved. This type of relationship was considered a very important element in the education of the Greek citizen, as the lover or erastes had a mentoring function for the young eromenos. As in other areas of Greek sexuality, the roles in these relationships were clearly demarcated: the citizen-lover, as in his other relationships, was to be dominant, while the young beloved, in an exception to the rest of his life, was expected to assume a passive role. In the patriarchal and deeply unequal Greek society, these relationships were not only accepted, but even idealised, being perceived as the closest thing to a relationship between equals, as Plato's writings record.

In Greek pottery, depictions of the courtship of adult citizens towards youths are very common. We can see this courtship represented in these two exhibits. On the paintings decorating these vases, we recognise the young eromenoi by their smaller size, smooth faces and demure attitude, while the erasteis are characterised by their long beards, walking sticks, as well as the act of presenting gifts to the eromenoi, as part of the courtship ritual. The objects hanging in the background evoke the educational sphere. The diptych with the wax tablets is hanging above. Below, the painter represented the objects relating to the palaestra: the long, curved strigil; the scented aryballos, recognisable by its round shape; and the sea sponge. The popularity of these images in Greek pottery is patent in this room, where we can find 17 vessels with homoerotic courtship scenes. Most of these scenes, however, occupy the secondary side of the vases, and are therefore not easily visible in the current display.

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