For much of the first portion of her historical documentary about the Spartans, Bettany Hughes insists that the Spartans mandated male-on-male pederasty:
I studied Sparta under historians who specialized in Greek history. Not once was it ever suggested that the Spartans were institutional pederasts. Well, I thought, perhaps it just wasn't said at that time, the 1960's. However, I remembered that no subject was taboo in my history classes.
Bettany Hughes on the Wikipedia didn't turn up that she was an out lesbian or bi-sexual. Her official about page on her website didn't turn that up either. Other sources say she's married with two children.
I wanted to know because I wondered about what can be termed pro-homosexuality activism, not to say that women married to men and with children can't be pro-homosexuality. Many are.
These days though, simply seeing that someone is married with children doesn't mean necessarily married under the secular law to someone of the opposite sex. Even some denominations are claiming it's okay to be married to someone of the same sex. So my brief search about her is far from definitive, though it seems clear she has no problem with homosexuality.
Turning to the Wikipedia again, just to see if there were any quick citations on the issue of the Spartans and pederasty, I found this:
Sparta is thought to be the first city to practice athletic nudity, and some scholars claim that it was also the first to formalize pederasty. According to these sources, the Spartans believed that the love of an older, accomplished aristocrat for an adolescent was essential to his formation as a free citizen. The agoge, the education of the ruling class, was, they claim, founded on pederastic relationships required of each citizen, with the lover responsible for the boy's training.
However, other scholars question this interpretation. Xenophon explicitly denies it, as does Plutarch. Aristotle in his critique of the Spartan constitution claims that the lack of homosexuality among Spartan men explained the, in his opinion deplorable, power of Spartan women. Aristotle's assessment intriguingly conforms with the argument of modern psychologists that pederasty produces misogyny [sentence slightly edited]. Since there was no society in the ancient world in which women enjoyed higher status, greater freedom or more economic power than in Sparta, the role of Spartan women would appear to refute the allegations of widespread, institutionalized pederasty.
The Spartans, claims Athenaeus sacrificed to Eros before every battle, but Eros had many roles and meanings in Ancient Greece, not least of which was as the God of procreation - not something appropriate for homosexual love. Thus the practice neither proves nor disproves the role of pederasty in Spartan society.
The Xenophon reference seemed interesting, but it proved a bit off. It appears that Xenophon may not have authored the source material.
What did this "Pseudo-Xenophon" write:
The customs instituted by Lycurgus were opposed to all of these. If someone, being himself an honest man, admired a boy's soul and tried to make of him an ideal friend without reproach and to associate with him, he approved, and believed in the excellence of this kind of training. But if it was clear that the attraction lay in the boy's outward beauty, he banned the connexion as an abomination; and thus he caused lovers to abstain from boys no less than parents abstain from sexual intercourse with their children and brothers and sisters with each other.
Here's another paragraph from the Wikipedia about the Spartans and the alleged institutional, mandatory pederasty:
Sparta, a Dorian polis, is thought to be the first city to practice athletic nudity, and one of the first to formalize pederasty. The nature of this relationship is in dispute among ancient sources. Xenophon in his Constitution of the Lacedaimonians says that Spartan customs were unsuited to pederasty: a man might aim for idealized friendship with a boy but a sexual relationship was considered "an abomination" tantamount to incest. Plutarch also describes the relationships as chaste and states that it was just as unthinkable for a lover to have sex with his beloved as it was for a father and son. Aelian relates that in Sparta, for a man not to have a youth for a lover was considered a deficiency in character, and he could even be punished for it. But Aelian also says that if any couple succumbed to temptation and indulged in carnal relations, they would have to redeem the affront to the honor of Sparta by either going into exile or taking their own lives.
Personally, I lean way over to the idea that this whole Spartans-as-pederasts thing as more false propaganda being foisted on the world by pro-homosexuality activists. Bettany Hughes didn't say "the debated" or "debatable" pederasty. She simply spewed it out to millions of people as a settled, proven thing.
Contrary to Bettany Hughes' claims, it appears clear that it is not settled or proven that the Spartans were institutional pederasts who mandated sexual pederasty.
Spread the word. Truth-seekers and tellers are way too few in this dark world.
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