13 Weird Facts about Sex in Ancient Greece

Sex has fascinated mankind from the very beginning of time. Conservatives may argue that it has become more than central in today’s over-liberal society, a far cry from the pious nature of our forebears. The truth, however, is that people from the ancient Greek and Roman civilizations practiced various sexual traditions that were downright weird. Many of these traditions are bizarre even by today’s standards. We chronicle here some surprising facts about sex in ancient Greece that were practiced both by royals and the common people.

1. Pederasty

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It was a big thing in ancient Greece and was taught as a skill like warfare and hunting. A Cretan man (erastes), upon sighting a potential love (eromenos), would first inform the boy’s friends about his liking. He would then kidnap the boy in presence of his friends and flee to the countryside to spend some quality time. But the “romantic” gateway was not allowed to last more than a couple of months. The erastes, after returning, would present the eromenos with expensive gifts like a drinking cup, fine clothes, a soldier’s uniform and a pair of oxen.

2. Use of olisbos

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Talking of facts about sex, the ancient Greek women liked their dildos and even experimented to improve them. They would often cover the stone or wooden dildo with leather to get the feel of a real penis and better stimulation. Known as olisbos, these dildos were so popular that Greek women, in the play Lysistrata, organized a sex strike for ending the Peloponnesian War because they couldn’t import superior quality leather dildos. If an olisbos failed to serve the purpose, the women simply used baked loaves of hard bread and used them instead.

3. Top and bottom

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Homosexuality wasn’t a taboo in ancient Greece and was considered okay as long as it didn’t stray from the cultural views of masculinity. The masculine man, as a result, always played the dominant role in sex. Gay relationships were fine but no penetration was allowed. But the liberality wasn’t extended to the passive partner. The man at the bottom was considered abominable by the ancient forebears. It meant to have surrendered control and taking a more feminine role.

4. Bestiality

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There are various Greek myths that tell of bestiality, including Zeus abducting or seducing favorite mortals in the form of an animal, like Leda and the Swan, Europa and the bull, Ganymede and the eagle. Only the first legend had actual copulation between Zeus and Leda in the former’s animal form. Depictions of bestiality are fairly rare in antiquity, though it became quite popular in Renaissance art. Bestiality sex in ancient Greece was practiced more for religious reasons than pleasure. It was a key ritual during Bacchanalia and part of the Temple of Aphrodite Parne ceremony.

Also Read: Top 15 Famous Ancient Greek Sculptures

5. Satyrs and Satyriasis

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In Greek mythology, satyrs are depicted as beast-like men with a donkey’s ears, horse’s tail, a receding hairline, upturned pug nose and an erect penis, reputed to have a liking for sodomy and necrophilia. Some ancient vase paintings depict ejaculating satyrs. The satyrs left the word satyriasis, or hypersexuality. According to the International Classification of Diseases by WHO, hypersexuality is termed as nymphomaniacs among women and satyriasis among men. Satyriasis frequently appeared in the texts of ancient Greek medical authors. Greek physician Galen called satyriasis furor uterinus or “uterine fury”.