(BLSB) - An Excerpt from 'Birds' by Aristophanes

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Two men in ithyphallic bird costumes face off on either side of a piper. Attic red-figure calyx-krater, c. 440–430 B.C.E. Naples, Museo Nazionale 205239.


From Homosexuality in Greece and Rome: A Sourcebook of Basic Documents, edited by Thomas K. Hubbard (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2003).

3.13 Aristophanes, Birds 127–42

This play dates to 414 B.C.E. The two protagonists, Peisetaerus and Euelpides, are running away from Athens, where they can’t stand life. They are asked what their ideal city would be like.

TEREUS: Well, what kind of city would you most like to live in?

PEISETAERUS: One where my greatest troubles would be of this sort: one of my friends would come to my door of a morning and say this: “In the name of Olympian Zeus, make sure you give your children a bath and come with them early to my place; I’m going to be celebrating a wedding. Do this without fail; if you don’t, you needn’t come to me when the time comes that I’m in trouble!”

TEREUS: By Zeus, you do love a toilsome life! [to Euelpides] What about you?

EUELPIDES: I fancy the same sort of thing.

TEREUS: What sort of thing?

EUELPIDES: A place where the father of an attractive boy would meet me and complain to me like this, as if I’d done him wrong: “A fine thing you did to my son, old sparkler! You met him coming away from the gymnasium after bathing, and you didn’t kiss him, you didn’t greet him, you didn’t draw him close, you didn’t finger his balls—and you an old family friend of mine!”


A man titillating a boy, who responds, flanked by grape vines with large clusters of grapes. Two-handled cup with male couples. Greek, Late Archaic Period, about 520 B.C. Greece, Boiotia. Ceramic, Black Figure. Boston, Museum of Fine Arts, 08.292.

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