Simon Goldhill

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Below is taken from his faculty website

Please check out his review of Andrew Lear and Eva Cantarella's book Images of Ancient Greek Pederasty: Boys Were Their Gods below or click on this link I could not agree more except I would broaden to include most other city state with certain regional variations in my book Pederasty and Pedegogy in Archaic Greece which has recently been endorsed by flamboyant new book by Davidson who without any evidence whatsoever had maintained that ancient Greeks adhered to current UN guideline - no sex till the guys reach 18!

Professor Simon Goldhill is Professor in Greek Literature and Culture and Fellow and Director of Studies in Classics at King's College.


King's College Cambridge, CB2 1ST
tel. 01223 335169 (LT and ET)/ 331257

Major publications:

Language Sexuality Narrative: the Oresteia

Reading Greek Tragedy

The Poet's Voice

Foucault's Virginity

Being Greek Under Rome (ed)

Who Needs Greek?

The Invention of Prose

Art and Text in Greek Culture (co-ed)

Rethinking Revolutions (co-ed)

Performance Culture in Ancient Athens (co ed)

The Temple of Jerusalem

Love Sex and Tragedy

How to Stage Greek Tragedy Today

Research interests:

Greek Tragedy; Greek Culture; Literary Theory; Later Greek Literature; Reception.

Recent graduate research topics supervised:

Deception in Greek Culture

Athens in Paris

Homer's People

Dissent in Greek Literature

2nd Sophistic Greek

Epiphany in Homer

Tragedy and Suicide

Other Faculty positions:

Academic Secretary (from 2008)

Director, Cambridge Victorian Studies Group

Review of Andrew Lear and Eva Cantarella's book Images of Ancient Greek Pederasty: Boys Were Their Gods

Athenian art lauding men's sexual relations with beardless youth still unsettles, says Simon Goldhill

Boys will be boys" is a depressing prediction not only for feminists with an eye to the future, but also - retrospectively - for historians of sexuality. If it were true that the crasser forms of masculine strutting were inevitable, many historical investigations into cultural difference or the social construction of human behaviour would be condemned to conclude with no more than the tedious repetition of stereotypes.

But fortunately for historians, Ancient Greek pederasty is always there to throw a spanner in the machine of the ideologues who believe that human sexuality has a natural and ineluctably proper form. Modern academics may argue fiercely whether Greek pederasty is committed to pursuit and penetration, or whether it finds space rather for hugging and sweetness (as the Victorians would put it). But however sweet or harsh the description, pretty well everyone over the past 1,500 years has found the expression of male desire in classical Athens distinctly odd. It is still a shock to see a politician stand up in court, as Aeschines does in the fourth century BC, and cheerfully admit to being an avid lover of boys. Greek pederasty is argued over so intently because it poses so sharply the question of the nature of male desire in society. An ancient Athenian gym is one place where a modern boy would find his modern boyishness the least self-evident of performances.

The varied images of male lovers depicted on Greek pots offer an important body of evidence for understanding ancient pederasty. This material was set centre stage by Kenneth Dover's influential book Greek Homosexuality, which selected some particularly vivid pictures to make his case. Andrew Lear correctly notes that there has been no systematic collection of Athenian erotic imagery, and the primary aim of this book is to provide such a resource. It has the fullest account currently available of the repertoire of pederastic imagery, from courtship scenes, through idealised or squalid consummations, to the pursuit of boys by rapacious divinities.

Lear, a Classicist, writes all the chapters. The introduction and conclusion are co-written with the Italian legal scholar and historian of sexuality Eva Cantarella. This is primarily an iconographic study, and there is surprisingly little engagement with the current historiographical debate - Foucault, Davidson, Halperin and their pals scarcely get a look-in. In general, Lear's conclusions from the artistic evidence correspond to a standard picture developed from the written sources: elaborate courtship of young males by older bearded men; intercrural sex (where the penis is inserted between the thighs); and a strong contrast between idealised male desire and more brutish forms of pursuit and enactment. In the interests of comprehensiveness, there are few extended readings of particular images, and at times this leads to a lack of sophistication about the relation between imagery, idealisation and social norms.

In particular, not enough space is allowed for the playfulness, humour and transgressions of sexuality. The delightful image of a naked young sculptor working on the statue of a bearded Herm with a large erection, which the boy holds between his thighs, is not just an image of an artisan at work, but a playful and sexy image which makes sense within a specific erotic milieu. It is a pity that such images are not discussed in Lear's account: they are essential to a fully nuanced picture of the erotic. But this volume will be a much-used starting point for students and scholars of Greek male sexuality.

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