Though the issue of Greek homosexuality has been the subject of extensive research and debate in recent years, Kenneth Dover's 1978 GREEK HOMOSEXUALITY remains the most recent single-volume treatment of the subject as a whole. Drawing on fifteen years of ensuing research, James Davidson rejects Dover's excessively theoretical approach, using a wide variety of sources unknown to him - court cases, romantic novels, satirical plays and poems - to present a view of the subject that, in contrast to Dover and to Foucault, stresses the humanity of the ancient Greeks, and how they lived their loves and pleasures, rather than their moral codes and the theorising of philosophers. Homosexuality in Ancient Greece remains a central area of debate in the classics, in ancient history and lesbian and gay studies. Greek civilisation centrally underpins our own, providing a basis of so much of the west's culture and philosophy, yet the Greeks were more tolerant of homosexuality than virtually any other culture, certainly including the western civilisations that followed.
The extent to which Greek attitudes to sexuality and in particular their privileging of 'Greek love' were comparable and different to our own underlies the continuing debate over the formation of sexuality ('is it natural or cultural?') as well as, both then and in our own time, the much wider question of the roles of nature and nurture in the formation of human behaviour and personality.
JAMES DAVIDSON is Reader in Ancient History at the University of Warwick. He has written on a wide range of ancient topics, including the historiography of Roman imperialism, prostitution, drinking to get drunk, sacred time and fish. He is the author of Courtesans and Fishcakes: The Consuming Passions of Classical Athens (1997), and is a irregular contributor to The London Review of Books among other journals.