Guest Post: Cartomancer on Greek Masculinity

I’d like to thank Siobhan and all the lovely people at FtB for their interest in my thoughts. Never one to miss an opportunity to pontificate about the ancient world, I present my take on the basics of how ancient Greek cultures thought about masculinity. I have not footnoted and referenced this essay in formal academic style as it doesn’t really present anything too abstruse that a reader couldn’t chase up with a quick google search or a Penguin Classics paperback (and I’m lazy), but I should probably draw attention to Scott Rubarth’s 2014 article in the Athens Journal of Humanities and Arts on this subject ( which covers much of the same ground more formally and has a fair introductory bibliography attached. A nod to S. Brady and J.H. Arnold (eds.), What is Masculinity?: Historical Dynamics from Antiquity to the Contemporary World (Macmillan, 2011) is also sensible. And, of course, Slatkin and Felson in the Cambridge Companion to Homer (Cambridge, 2004).


Ancient Greek Masculinities – an outline.


How the ancient Greeks thought about masculinity is an absolutely vast subject. Whole academic careers have been devoted to it. I can do no more here than give a brief overview of some key aspects of Greek masculinity and present some revealing ideas from well-known Greek texts for consideration. From the outset I want to stress that Greek ideas about gender and sexuality were neither monolithic nor unchanging. There was no one unified Greek approach to the expression or conception of gender, though there are common threads to be traced. In fact, given how culturally diverse and politically decentralised the Greek world was from the Archaic through to the Hellenistic age, we would expect a diversity of opinions and ideas to proliferate. Ideas of masculinity were not the same in democratic Athens as they were in oligarchic Sparta for instance, and the ideas of the Classical polis were different again from the ideas of the dark-age world that gave rise to it, or the much more globally aware world of the Roman Empire. Which is to say nothing of differing ideas within these societies, although our surviving sources make it quite hard to discern anything but the ideas of the literate elite.

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