Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Homocentric Nature of the Ancient Greek World with Kayla Jameth

Welcome back to one of the most witty M/M writers Kayla Jameth, with her new short 496 BC, and some of the background research she did on the tale.  

My latest release 496 BC continues the story begun in Alexios' Fate and can be found in the MLR anthology Lust in Time. It can be read as a standalone, but does better if you've read Alexios' Fate first.
496 BC takes place on the Attic coast after Alexios and Galen set sail with King Lykos on his way to deliver Cyrus to Delphi. The title is actually the year the events take place. I had the series set roughly during that decade, but the naming of the stories in the anthology required an actual date. So I buckled down and did some research on the Persian War, structures present at Delphi during that era, and what city-states were overrun by the Persians at different times. There is a little slop (pool term) in there, but that is the closest I can come to an actual date that gets me everything I need in this story and the series in general.

But the most important aspect of this story is it gives us our first look inside Galen's heart and mind, exploring his feelings for Alexios, his new status as a recently freed slave, and his antipathy toward his lover's mentor. As well as giving a better view of slavery, class status, and the homocentric nature of portions of the ancient Greek world.

There are some basic facts that play into that homocentric culture. The first of which is pederasty. Pederasty is the practice of an older male taking a teenaged male under his wing for guidance. This relationship was often sexual, especially in Crete where it originated. Athens kept the sexual aspects as well. Although, Sparta considered the older male in the role of a foster father and thus any sexual interaction was considered incestuous.

Homocentric means fundamentally that boys hang out with boys and girls hang out with girls. None of this mix and matching that is considered PC these days. In Athens, that font of democracy, women and girls were kept in the back of the house unless they were slaves and the men owned the world. In Sparta where women had more rights than anywhere else except Egypt, the boys and girls trained, but were still segregated.

Everywhere, however, class distinctions were the rule. The upper class boys were mentored by older men of their class or higher. This was social networking at its earliest. Commoners might be apprenticed, but not mentored by their betters. Women and slaves were at the bottom. Free women might aspire to being considered better than slaves, but slaves had more relative freedom than any woman. A slave could leave the house, have a trade, and even buy their own freedom. A woman needed permission and an escort to leave her home.

Greece has been considered a place where homosexuality was embraced, but that isn't quite the truth. Pederasty is an age-based system. The eromenos, the boy being mentored, had to be a youth, not another man. Equals could not be lovers. Rarely did the relationship extend past maturity. Any sexual behavior was intercrural, between the thighs, because penetration was for women and slaves.
Male brothels did exist, populated by slaves and war captives. The prostitutes often shaved to continue to look like "youths."

Men who visited the brothels or had an eromenos were still expected to marry and produce heirs. Their wives were kept in the background and were rarely part of their lives. So the eromenos was the only one who could be considered "out" in anything approaching the modern sense and even then only until he reached maturity.

The Spartans, on the other hand, were homophobes. If two men were found together, they had to redeem Sparta's honor by either committing suicide or going into exile. Even though the Spartans revered their own Prince Hyacinthus, one of Apollo's male lovers, with a religious festival every year.
Every city-state was autonomous and had its own culture set against the backdrop of the Hellenistic world. We just lump them together as Greeks even though they arose from different clans.

Visit Kayla Jameth Online


  1. Thank you for hosting me today, Louisa. I hope this post wasn't to geeky.

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