Apart from the 'nature' (Muses) of the human species, each human
being has his own 'nature', i.e. the way in which he has developed
mentally and physically; and whatever characteristic anyone has, he
is likely to have it more than some people and less than others. Greek
recognition that some people are more homosexual than others need
not surprise us. It is clearest in the story put into the mouth of
Aristophanes by Plato in S'mp. 189c-193d: human beings were
originally double, each with two heads, four legs, two genital systems.
and so on, but Zeus ordered their bisection, and ever since (a
commonly in the folktale genre, the time-scale is ignored and the
distinction between species and individual is blurred) 4 each of us goes
round seeking his or her 'other half' and falling in love with it when we
find it. In this story the products of an original double male are
homosexual males (191e-192c), who marry and beget children 'under
the compulsion of custom, without natural inclination' (192b); the
products of an original double female are homosexual females (191e
and the rest are heterosexual, the products of an original male-female.
The variability of people in respect of their sexual orientation
(genetically determined, in Aristophanes' story) is incidentally
recognised in Aiskhines' reference to the 'extraordinary enthusiasm '
of Misgolas for homosexual relations (§41) and in Xenophon's use. of
tropos –'way', 'character', 'disposition', 'inclination' – in describing
the behaviour of the extravagant paiderastes Episthenes (cf. p. 51); cf.
also Aiskhines' use of prohairesis (p. 32). Aiskhines contemplates
(§140) substituting tropos for 'eros' as the appropriate word for the
emotion which inspired Harmodios and Aristogeiton (it is, of course.
to his advantage if he can deprive the defence of such support as it
might gain from the magic names of the tyrannicides):
Those whose valour has remained unsurpassed, Harmodios and
Aristogeiton, were educated by their chaste and law-abiding — is 'eros '
the right word, or 'inclination'? — to be men of such a kind that anyone
3. Cf. Dover (1973a) 65. On sexual 'compulsion' cf. Schreckenburg 54-61.
4. Cf. Dover ( 1966) 4 I -?.
who praises their deeds is felt never to do justice. in his encomium, to
what they accomplished.
(It should however be mentioned that Aiskhines may have written
'law-abiding Bros. or however one should call it, to be men ...').'
Aphrodite and Eros are both, in somewhat different ways,
personifications of the forces which make us desire people and fall in
love with them. In so far as the term aphrodisia, lit., 'things of
Aphrodite', denotes sexual intercourse, and the verb aphrodisiazein is
have sexual intercourse', there is some justification for the
generalisation that genital activity as a whole is the province of
Aphrodite and the obsessive focussing of desire on one person, which
we call ' falling in love', the province of Eros. Not surprisingly, the
distinction, though implicit in much Greek literature, is nowhere
made explicit, nor was there a consistent Greek view of the relation
between Aphrodite and Eros as personal deities; in the archaic period
Eros is regarded as having come into being at a much earlier stage of
the world's history than Aphrodite, the classical period tends to treat
him as her minister or agent, and in Hellenistic literature he is often
her spoilt and unruly son. Nlorcover, the notion that the female deity
inspires heterosexual passion and the male deity homosexual appears
only as a Hellenistic conceit, in Meleagros 18:
Aphrodite. female (sc. deity), ignites the fire that makes one mad for a
woman, hut Eros himself holds the reins of male desire. Which way am
T to incline? To the boy or to his mother? I declare that even Aphrodite
herself will say: 'The bold lad is the winner!'
In Theognis 1304, 1319f. the beauty of the eromenos is a 'gift of
Aphrodite', and among the Hellenistic epigrams we find several (e.g.
Asklepiades 1, Meleagros 119) in which it is Aphrodite who has
caused a man to fall in love with a boy.
Aphroduia can denote homosexual copulation, as in Xen. Hiero 1.29
(contrasting paidika aphrodi-sia with 'child-begetting aphrodi-sia'), 1.36,
Mein. i 3.8. indeed, a general reference to aphrodtsia may be followed by a homosexual exemplification and by no other. So Xen. Ages. 5.4, speaking of the superhuman self-restraint which characterised the
Spartan king Agesilaos in respect of aphrodisia, chooses as his example
an occasion on which the king avoided kissing a certain young
5 .•' Whatever !moth ' means 'however'. and the insertion of'whatever' was suggested
by Baiter and Sauppe in 1840. to give the sense '... law-abiding eros. or however one should call it. to be men ...'. This emendation, however. is not required by grammar, Style or sense.