Images of Ancient Greek Pederasty: Boys were their Gods (book)

From BoyWiki
Jump to: navigation, search

Images of Ancient Greek Pederasty: Boys Were Their Gods (Classical Studies) by Andrew Lear and Eva Cantarella explores the subject of pederasty through Greek images that have survived on vases, etc. from ancient times.

  • Series: Classical Studies
  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Routledge; 1 edition (June 3, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0415564042
  • ISBN-13: 978-0415564045

Publisher's description (

This lavishly illustrated book brings together, for the first time, all of the different ways in which vase-painting portrays or refers to pederasty, from scenes of courtship, foreplay, and sex, to scenes of Zeus with his boy-love Ganymede, to painted inscriptions praising the beauty of boys. The book shows how painters used the language of vase-painting to cast pederasty in an idealizing light, portraying it as part of a world in which beautiful elite males display praiseworthy attitudes, such as moderation, and engage in approved activities, such as hunting, athletics, and the symposium. The book also incorporates a comprehensive catalogue of relevant vase-paintings, compiled by noted archaeologist Keith DeVries. It is the most comprehensive treatment available of an institution that has few modern parallels.[1]

Customer's reviews (

5.0 out of 5 stars
  • A fascinating introduction to Greek vases and Greek love
By C. M. O'Hara

Lear and Cantarella have produced a great cross-over volume. They make a serious contribution to the scholarship on gender and sexuality in the ancient world; at the same time, their book is accessible to the general reader curious about sex and gender or ancient Greek culture and art. The study of same-sex love in the ancient Greek world was fundamental to the birth of modern gender studies, and from the beginning scholars have acknowledged that artistic evidence is as important to this area as literary evidence; the scenes on painted vases have always been considered particularly important. Most scholarship in the area has, however, focused on literary sources (Plato, Aristophanes, etc.), and even when visual evidence has been used, it has generally been interpreted simplistically, as if art portrayed social reality directly. This richly illustrated volume is the first general introduction to scenes of same-sex love in vase-painting. It gathers all the different types of scenes and explains how this artistic genre portrays same-sex love through its own language of repeated elements. It argues (quietly) that vase-painting portrays pederasty (the erotic relations between adult men and adolescent youths that were customary in the Greek world) as a central part of the life of ideal elite males; other types of male-male love, when they appear, are portrayed, by contrast, as comic and ugly.

The book rarely engages explicitly in scholarly debate, though it does so occasionally, as when Lear briefly disproves the common idea that vase-painting portrays pederastic courtship, metaphorically, as a kind of hunt. Instead it responds to other scholars in a subtler way, for instance by focusing less on the relatively rare scenes of consummated sex that dominate scholarly discussion and more on the much more common scenes of courtship. The result is a book that provides the average, interested reader with a fascinating introduction both to Greek pederasty and to the interpretation of the scenes on the painted vases that fill the Classical rooms in every art museum. I have only a few complaints. Although scenes of female same-sex love are extremely rare in vase-painting, it might be nice if the authors at least discussed them briefly: the Greeks may not have seen any connection between female-female love and pederasty, but for a modern reader, they are part of the same phenomenon. Also, it will be a pity if this book does not come out in paperback. It could interest a large market, but at the hardcover price many of us will have to read it in the library.
4.0 out of 5 stars
  • I loved the fact that there were so many direct quotes ...
By Lawrence J. Ruppon February 25, 2015
I got the feeling that the truth was written here. I loved the fact that there were so many direct quotes from the ancient Greek and Roman commentators of the day. It has added to my knowledge of how Greek and Roman society functioned. Excellent read!!
  • Very Informative
By Jane on September 30, 2011
The authors presented 100 vases! Flipping through the pages and looking at them before reading was interesting...but....

When I started reading about each vase - I was amazed at how complex and simple and what I was really looking at it became!

It was well written in that they talked about each vase...sometimes going back to it and referring to specific vases even though the chapter might be dealing with another related topic. Lear and Cantonella pulled it altogether in a logic and easy to read book.

They explained what I was looking at and also other reference books as well. They didn't gloss over each vase...but came back to many of them to tie the story of this love altogether.

It was well laid out and I know I learned a lot, because subsequently I have looked at other vases and now I can really 'see' the courtship, the erastes the eromenus ...the story of the relationship between them. It also taught me to look to the background, the symbols as this too was revealing.[2]

Relevance to BoyLovers

BoyLovers may wonder why some of the images show men with (seemingly) adult "boys," while other images show men with obviously prepubescent boys. Clearly, more scholarship is necessary on this discrepancy. Did the Greeks distinguish between what is currently called "pedophilia" and what is classically considered as "pederasty"? The word "pedophile" does not even appear in the book, while some of the boys are prepubescent.



See also

External links

  •, where the book may be ordered online.
  • Read online/download: Images of Ancient Greek Pederasty: Boys Were Their Gods by Andrew Lear and Eva Cantarella
NOTE: In this (special BoyWiki) edition, the images have been very slightly reduced in quality from the original.

Fledgling.png This article is a fledgling. Help BoyWiki grow by expanding it.