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Indeed if the Greeks and Romans did not outlaw it, it was because the shame of the act was punishment enough – though the weight of shame fell mostly on the penetrated.
Of greater taboo still was for an older man to allow himself to be penetrated by a younger man – the modern word ‘pathetic’ derives from the Latin for such a man.
Hadrian and Antinous were lovers for five years until Antinous fell from a boat in the Nile and drowned.
Some have suggested he killed himself to avoid shaming the emperor as he grew older.
Heartbroken, Hadrian had Antinous declared a god, built temples to him all over the empire, named a star after him and built a city in Egypt, Antinopolis, in his honor.
When the Roman Empire became Christian the temples of the cult of Antinous were destroyed – though many of the statues ended up in the Vatican art collections where they were seen by the artist Raphael, who used his likeness when painting angels as his model of male perfection.
And of course, the island of her birth, Lesbos, gives us the word ‘lesbian’ that we still use today.
Where sex between males was deemed acceptable to occur was between men and youths, and in theory it was only supposed to be inter-crucial (where one partner grips the other’s penis between his thighs) though from the writings the Greeks and Romans have left to us, it was often not.Both the Greeks and Romans could appeal to religion in their belief that their behavior was moral, though we might have a different view on what is proper today.For the Greeks, Zeus had his male lover Ganymede, and Plato rated this love as higher than that found in marriage.In practice, however, many of these relationships probably would have carried on behind closed doors.In Greece such relationships occurred between free born males – though there were also male prostitutes.
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In both societies youths were considered to be able to consent to sex from around their mid teens, which was similar to the age that girls were considered ready for marriage, and it was acceptable for youths to be in same-sex relationships until they could grow a full beard – and for this reason, there were all manner of depilatory products on sale in order to help you keep your boyfriend respectable!