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Greek Homosexuality: Updated and with a new Postscript Paperback – October 15, 1989

ISBN-13: 978-0674362703 ISBN-10: 0674362705

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Greek Homosexuality: Updated and with a new Postscript + Games of Venus: An Anthology of Greek and Roman Erotic Verse from Sappho to Ovid (The New Ancient World) + The History of Sexuality, Vol. 2: The Use of Pleasure
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press (October 15, 1989)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0674362705
  • ISBN-13: 978-0674362703
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.1 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.1 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #546,874 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


A landmark study...One cannot underestimate the importance of Mr. Dover's book. With philological brilliance and scholarly objectivity, he presents facts that can no longer be ignored. It is a step closer toward understanding the complex nature of the Greeks, whom we claim as cultural fathers. It is also a step closer to understanding human nature. (Erich Segal New York Times Book Review)

An unprejudiced description of the homosexual phenomena depicted by classical Greek artists and writers has long been an urgent desideratum. Dover's book fills this need successfully. In its collection and interpretation of the ancient evidence it will be indispensable for broader and/or more specialized explorations of the sexual aspects of Greek art and society. (Jeffrey Henderson Classical World)

In Greek classes past teachers used to slide quickly over the exact nature of the relationships between men and boys in ancient Athens... In this expert, candid, and wry study all is made clear. (Washington Post)

Greek Homosexuality provides--finally--an unvarnished look at Athenian homosexuality...[It is] now the standard volume on the subject. (John Scarborough American Historical Review)

Dover's is an authoritative discussion; he is a philologist of great stature with wide achievement as editor, commentator, and literary critic...The subject was one which needed to be exposed to the light of day; we can be thankful that it has been done by a great scholar and one who treats the subject without prejudice. (Bernard Knox New York Review of Books)

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Customer Reviews

How such a skimpy selection of sources could be expected to yield a valid thesis defies reason.
William A. Percy
Plato's hard line against it was conservative, not radical, not an "ideal philosophical construction," as Dover would have it.
A. Maturin
The resemblances between modern heterosexuality and ancient homosexuality are just that strong!
J. C. Woods

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

48 of 55 people found the following review helpful By D. S. Heersink on July 3, 2005
Format: Paperback
When one considers that male-male relations had their dominant Western etiology in Greece antiquity, it's only natural to look back to the ancient records and artefacts to illustrate and examine how these relations existed in their antique form. What we see is probably different from what we expect.

First, it's important to distinguish "homosexuality" from its practice in antiquity to what it is today. In Greek culture several centuries before Christ, homosexuality as we know it today did not exist, except in Sparta. While Dover does not make this as explicit as he could, one cannot read the extensive material Dover covers without forming this conclusion. In Greek antiquity, the relationships were more oriented toward man-boy relations rather than man-man relations. Identifying these man-boy relations as "homosexual" is certainly tendentious, at best.

Second, the "mentoring" that older men functioned for their younger devotees in exchange for the devotee's sexual favors is in stark contrast to anything "homosexual" in our own age. Indeed, today we more likely to lock the older man up in prison for paedophilia, rather than extol him for his service of introducing younger boys to upper Greek society. The cultural context of Athens is anything but homosexual, but truly something else.

Third, the ubiquity of the man-boy pattern (primarily around Athens) as opposed to the man-man pattern (primarily around Sparta) illustrates another distinguishing form of "homosexuality" in antiquity. The historian must go where the artefacts are, and the artefacts are not from Sparta, but from Athens, where the man-boy paradigm prevailed. The book's title might have been more appropriately been retitled "Athen's Paedophilia" rather than "Greek Homosexuality.
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30 of 37 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on May 18, 1998
Format: Paperback
An excellent, extremely thorough study of homosexuality in Ancient Greece. Dover distinguishes between actual gays, gigolos, and heterosexuals who behave as if they are gay. The author provides mounds of thoroughly critiqued evidence to support every point, as well as candidly admitting to errors in past editions of the book--and correcting them. Yes, it's a history book, but it's also incredibly fascinating. The style is very readable, and the text is approachable by the layman as well as by the scholar. I couldn't put it down. Excellent work!
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By A. Maturin on March 1, 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
A blurb from the Washington Post on the dust jacket says, "In this expert, candid and wry study all is made clear--who, what, where, why and how." Not so. Not even close. We know that man-boy love was practiced extensively in ancient Greece and that it sometimes involved sexual gratification. We know that Greeks -- at least those of the upper classes -- approved of man-boy romance. We don't know, however, what the general attitude was toward man-boy sex and how frequently it was a part of erotic relationships between men and boys. I am a scholar of ancient philosophy. I came to this book believing that sexual interaction between a man and his beloved was accepted by some, frowned upon by most but generally not taken too seriously. Plato's hard line against it was conservative, not radical, not an "ideal philosophical construction," as Dover would have it. Nothing in Dover's book convinces me that this view is wrong. Indeed, Aischines' speech against Timarchos, to which Dover devotes much space, tends to confirm it. The most natural inference from Aischines' speech is that neither he nor his audience saw anything wrong with being a "lover," but that they did disapprove of using one's beloved for sexual gratification. On p. 54 Dover admits that the physical relationship between lover and beloved is a "matter of conjecture," but elsewhere he seems to take it for granted. The title of his book is _Greek Homosexuality_, but a main question is to what extent Greek pederasty resembled the homosexual relationships with which we are familiar. I don't fault Dover for not answering that question decisively. I do fault him for not asking it.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Jane on November 15, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Two things hindered my reading of this book. First Dover's over parsing of words in one sentence using just about every punctuation mark. It was distracting and I would have much preferred if he had just put the words down and gave us the derivatives during translation and how it affected to-days ideas.

Secondly - I could not follow his numbering on the vases! Don't get me wrong, this is not the first book I've read dealing with ancient vase painting....but his reference numbers were indecipherable.

But I like that there were lots of vases and lots of good descriptions and references to stories and events.

Dover was very precise in his discussion of homosexual behaviour and the rites of different localities. He was also very detailed in how the homosexual or pederastic relationship came about, expanded and gave many references to rules and regulations. He cited many examples using the vases. It helped me get a more indepth idea of the entire relationship.

Also included were relationships between women and women and women and men.

I felt this book was more a reference book for scholars studying vases and homosexual behaviour in antiquity than a book for the lay person.
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