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Homosexuality & Civilization


Homosexuality & Civilization Cover


Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

How have major civilizations of the last two millennia treated people who were attracted to their own sex? In a narrative tour de force, Louis Crompton chronicles the lives and achievements of homosexual men and women alongside a darker history of persecution, as he compares the Christian West with the cultures of ancient Greece and Rome, Arab Spain, imperial China, and pre-Meiji Japan. Ancient Greek culture celebrated same-sex love in history, literature, and art, making high claims for its moral influence. By contrast, Jewish religious leaders in the sixth century B.C.E. branded male homosexuality as a capital offense and, later, blamed it for the destruction of the biblical city of Sodom. When these two traditions collided in Christian Rome during the late empire, the tragic repercussions were felt throughout Europe and the New World. Louis Crompton traces Church-inspired mutilation, torture, and burning of "sodomites" in sixth-century Byzantium, medieval France, Renaissance Italy, and in Spain under the Inquisition. But Protestant authorities were equally committed to the execution of homosexuals in the Netherlands, Calvin's Geneva, and Georgian England. The root cause was religious superstition, abetted by political ambition and sheer greed. Yet from this cauldron of fears and desires, homoerotic themes surfaced in the art of the Renaissance masters--Donatello, Leonardo, Michelangelo, Sodoma, Cellini, and Caravaggio--often intertwined with Christian motifs. Homosexuality also flourished in the court intrigues of Henry III of France, Queen Christina of Sweden, James I and William III of England, Queen Anne, and Frederick the Great. Anti-homosexual atrocities committed in the West contrast starkly with the more tolerant traditions of pre-modern China and Japan, as revealed in poetry, fiction, and art and in the lives of emperors, shoguns, Buddhist priests, scholars, and actors. In the samurai tradition of Japan, Crompton makes clear, the celebration of same-sex love rivaled that of ancient Greece. Sweeping in scope, elegantly crafted, and lavishly illustrated, Homosexuality and Civilization is a stunning exploration of a rich and terrible past.


2003 Bonnie and Vern L. Bullough Book Award, Foundation for the Scientific Study of Sexuality


A Choice Outstanding Academic Title of 2005

About the Author

Louis Crompton was Professor of English, Emeritus, at the University of Nebraska.

University of Nebraska

Table of Contents

  • Preface
  • 1. Early Greece: 776–480 BCE
    • A Millennium of Greek Love
    • Homer’s Iliad
    • Crete, Sparta, Chalcis
    • Athletics and the Cult of Beauty
    • Sappho
    • Alcaeus, Ibycus, Anacreon
    • Theognis of Megara
    • Athens’ Rulers
    • The Tyrannicides
  • 2. Judea: 900 BCE–600 CE
    • The Judgment of Leviticus
    • The Threat to Population
    • Sodom’s Gold
    • Who Were the Kedeshim?
    • Philo of Alexandria
    • The Talmud
  • 3. Classical Greece: 480–323 BCE
    • Pindar’s Odes
    • Greek Tragedy
    • Phidias
    • The Comedies of Aristophanes
    • Plato’s Symposium
    • The Phaedrus and the Laws
    • Xenophon
    • Aristotle’s Dicta
    • Zeno and the Stoics
    • Aeschines’ Against Timarchus
    • The Sacred Band of Thebes
    • Philip and Alexander
  • 4. Rome and Greece: 323 BCE–138 CE
    • Sexuality and Empire
    • Cicero and Roman Politics
    • Greek Love in the Aeneid
    • Meleager and Callimachus
    • Catullus and Tibullus
    • Theocritus and “Corydon”
    • Horace
    • Ovid’s Myths
    • Lesbianism
    • Petronius’ Satyricon
    • Suetonius and the Emperors
    • Statius, Martial, Juvenal
    • Hadrian and Antinous
  • 5. Christians and Pagans: 1–565 CE
    • The Gospels
    • Intertestamental Judaism and Paul
    • “Moses” and the Early Church
    • Greek Love in Late Antiquity
    • Plutarch’s Dialogue on Love
    • The Lucianic “Affairs of the Heart”
    • Two Romances and an Epic
    • Roman Law before Constantine
    • The Edicts of 342 and 390
    • Sodom Transformed
    • Saint John Chrysostom
    • The Persecutions of Justinian
  • 6. Darkness Descends: 476–1049
    • The Fall of Rome
    • Visigothic Spain
    • Church Councils and Penitentials
    • The Carolingian Panic
    • Love in Arab Spain
    • The Growth of Canon Law
    • The Book of Gomorrah
  • 7. The Medieval World: 1050–1321
    • The Fortunes of Ganymede
    • Scandal in High Places
    • The Theological Assault
    • The Inquisition and Its Allies
    • The Fate of the Templars
    • Secular Laws: The Sowing
    • The Harvest Begins
    • Poets for the Prosecution
    • Dante’s Admirable Sinners
  • 8. Imperial China: 500 BCE–1849
    • A Peach, a Fish, and a Sleeve
    • The Han Emperors
    • Taoism, Confucianism, Buddhism
    • Poets and Lovers
    • From Tang to Song
    • Ming China: The West Reacts
    • Feng Menglong’s Anatomy of Love
    • Fiction and Drama
    • The Qing Dynasty
    • The Peking Stage
  • 9. Italy in the Renaissance: 1321–1609
    • A New Ethos and an Old
    • Repression in the Italian City States
    • Death in Venice
    • Florence: The Price of Love
    • Donatello, Botticelli, Leonardo
    • Michelangelo: Love, Art, and Guilt
    • Sodoma and Cellini
    • Rome and Caravaggio
  • 10. Spain and the Inquisition: 1497–1700
    • The Spanish Inquisition
    • Subcultures in Valencia and Madrid
    • The Inquisition in Portugal
    • Spain and the New World
  • 11. France from Calvin to Louis XIV: 1517–1715
    • Outings, Protestant and Catholic
    • Calvinism and Repression
    • Henry III and the “Mignons”
    • The Poets’ Revolt
    • Louis XIII, “The Just”
    • Monsieur and Madame
    • Six Generals
    • Les Lesbiennes
    • Queen Christina
  • 12. England from the Reformation to William III: 1533–1702
    • Silence and Denial
    • Monasteries and the Law
    • Elizabethan Literature
    • Christopher Marlowe
    • The Tragedy of Edward II
    • Shakespeare’s Sonnets
    • James VI and I
    • Francis Bacon
    • Puritanism and the Restoration
    • Between Women
    • William III in England
  • 13. Pre-Meiji Japan: 800–1868
    • Europe Discovers Japan
    • The Buddhist Priesthood
    • Samurai and Shoguns
    • No Drama and Kabuki
    • A Debate and an Anthology
    • Saikaku’s Great Mirror
    • Tokugawa Finale
  • 14. Patterns of Persecution: 1700–1730
    • Policing Paris
    • “Reforming” Britain
    • Souls in Exile
    • Witch Hunt in the Netherlands
  • 15. Sapphic Lovers: 1700–1793
    • Law and Religion
    • Romance and Innuendo
    • A Nun and an Actress
    • An Ill-Fated Queen
  • 16. The Enlightenment: 1730–1810
    • Montesquieu and Beccaria
    • Frederick the Great
    • The Vagaries of Voltaire
    • Diderot and Sade
    • Toward Reform
    • Bentham vs. Blackstone
  • Conclusion
  • Notes
  • Bibliography
  • Acknowledgments
  • Illustration Credits
  • Index

Product Details

Crompton, Louis
Belknap Press
Gay Studies
Lesbian Studies
Christianity - General
World - General
Gay and Lesbian-General
RELIGION / Christianity/General
Edition Description:
Trade paper
Publication Date:
October 2006
Grade Level:
108 black and white halftones
9.5 x 6.5 in

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Related Subjects

Gay and Lesbian » Fiction and Poetry » General
Gay and Lesbian » History and Social Science » History and Biographies
History and Social Science » Gender Studies » General
History and Social Science » World History » General
Humanities » Philosophy » General

Homosexuality & Civilization New Trade Paper
0 stars - 0 reviews
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Product details 648 pages Belknap Press - English 9780674022331 Reviews:
"Synopsis" by , 2003 Bonnie and Vern L. Bullough Book Award, Foundation for the Scientific Study of Sexuality
"Synopsis" by , A Choice Outstanding Academic Title of 2005
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