Greek style sex
Known for their adventurous and seemingly unconventional attitudes to love, sex and gender, the Ancient Greeks have long appealed to our most basic instincts, satisfying our curiosity with lurid tales. Though widely remembered for their practice of homosexuality, their legacy today is definitely much more than that of a sex-mad civilisation, with depraved practices to make any reader with 21st century sensibilities cringe. Paul Chrystal , author of new book In Bed With the Ancient Greeks out now from Amberley , shines a light on sex and sexuality in the ancient world. What do you think this says about the Greeks — and about our own society for relying on just one word? Ancient Greeks were patently much more philosophically and psychologically nuanced than their contemporary counterparts to the north and west. While the Pre-Socratics 6th and 5th centuries and their successors were exercised by the very meaning of life — and love — the Celts, for example, were consumed by matters much less cerebral.
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Greek sex is a euphemism for anal sex. Ancient Greeks were accepting of romantic or sexual relationships between males. However, anal sex was not a universally accepted practice outside of Greece, and was therefore the target of jokes in Roman comedies and plays. Romans often used Greek settings and characters as the backdrop for explicit acts of anal intercourse, indicating that the Romans may have considered anal sex to be specific to Greek culture. Ancient Greek language had no words for "homosexual" and "heterosexual. A person was assumed to experience both homo- and heterosexual feelings at different times. Romantic love and sexual passion were considered normal and healthy, particularly between male partners.
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The Greeks and Romans have left many legacies--democracy, philosophy, mathematics But they have also left a plethora of sexually explicit imagery--statues with erect penises, bestiality as garden sculpture, and drinking vessels, oil lamps and wall paintings showing scenes of rape and sexual intercourse. Some of these even had religious significance. Next time you are tempted to think the ancients "just like us," remember these images. Not that any of these images make the Greeks and Romans decadent or debauched; not when they are put back into a world in which people hung phallic pendants around their necks and from their doorways and worshipped gods who had the power to punish with their penises.
James Robson does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment. A new exhibition at the British Museum promises to lift the lid on what beauty meant for the ancient Greeks. But while we gaze at the serene marble statues on display — straining male torsos and soft female flesh — are we seeing what the ancients saw? The feelings that beautiful faces and bodies rouse in us no doubt seem both personal and instinctive — just as they presumably did for the ancient Greeks who first made and enjoyed these artworks.