If anyone has ever studied Classics (Ancient Rome or Ancient Greece), or seen shows such as ‘Rome’ on HBO, you will know that the practice of an older Roman or Greek male citizen having a wife for procreation and a younger male lover for companionship, friendship and pleasure was completely normal.
The ancient world had such an open and fluid view of sexuality that we would argue homosexuality didn’t really exist as they had no concept of it in the way that the modern world classifies it.
You can find depictions of same-sex (notably only male-on-male) sexual relationships in Greek and Roman decorative pottery, wall frescoes and other art work. These scenes were usually used to depict scenes of everyday life – which inevitably leads one to conclude that these types of relationships were an everyday part of both Greek and Roman society.
So what changed? One word – Religion. When Christianity became the state religion of the Roman Empire under Constantine, the view of morality changed. The multiple deities of the Roman religion were replaced with the one God of Christianity and practices started to evolve.
But why is this significant to us now? As we continue to fight for our rights against the religious right wing, we need to look to our heritage to fundamentally point out that this is not and never has been about waning morality in the modern age. Gay relationships have existed for millennia and it was the suppression of these relationships by the rise of the Abrahamic religions that made the gay world retreat in to the closet for over 1500 years.
This sounds like a long time, but in the blip of human evolution on this planet, 1500 years is nothing. We are once again beginning to be treated as equals. Maybe looking to the ancient world and their harmonious approach to sex and relationships, we can learn something. Wouldn’t it be fantastic to live in a world where Homosexual, Bisexual and Heterosexual labels faded and we were just people all living together as one human family?
The LGBTQ Heritage Team