(BLSB) - Pederastic Desire in a Poem by Theocritus

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Theocritus (c. 300–260 BC). Engraved portrait.


From Idylls (Ancient Greek: Εἰδύλλια Eidullia, c. 270 BC) by Theocritus, in Theocritus. Moschus. Bion, translated by Neil Hopkinson, Loeb Classical Library (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 2015). Footnotes omitted.

IDYLL 30

Alas for this cruel and fateful malady of mine! For two months now I have been in the grip of a quartan passion for a boy; he is only moderately handsome, but from top to toe he’s a complete charmer, with a sweet smile on his cheeks. At present the fever grips me on some days and abates on others, but soon there will not be enough respite even for me to get to sleep. Yesterday as he passed he stole a quick glance at me from beneath his eyelids, too shy to look at me directly, and blushed; love seized my heart even more, and I went home with a fresh wound inside me. I called up my soul and had a long debate: “What are you up to again? When will there be an end to your folly? Have you forgotten that you have gray hair at your temples? It’s high time to show sense: you are not young in looks, and you should not keep behaving like those just getting a taste for life. And you are forgetting another thing: for an older man it’s better to be a stranger to the cruel love of boys. A boy’s life moves along like the running of a swift deer; the next day he will cast off and sail elsewhere; the flowering of his sweet youth is spent with his companions. But as for his lover, desire gnaws at his inmost marrow as he reminisces; at night he often dreams, and a year is not enough to put a stop to his cruel malady.” With these and many other things I reproached my heart; but the answer came, “Whoever believes he can defeat crafty Love believes also that he can easily discover how many times nine are the stars above. Willing or unwilling, I must now stretch out my neck and drag at the yoke: that, my friend, is the will of the god who can upset the great mind of Zeus and of Aphrodite herself. As for me, he swiftly takes me up and carries me away like a short-lived leaf which needs only the slightest breeze.”


Eros Making the World Turn According to His Pleasure (modelled in 1879, carved in 1903). Marble and bronze sculpture by Claudius Marioton. Copenhagen, Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek.

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