While lesbian and gay couples have legal and social sanction in today’s emancipated societies, the situation was not the same even a century ago. Homosexuality in ancient times was largely forbidden and scorned. Several leading historians are still reluctant to acknowledge that many famous people in history were in fact homosexual. But notwithstanding the social rebuttal, these men enjoyed the companionship of their same-sex partners. Here’s taking a look back in time.
Publius Aelius Hadrian (76-138 AD) was one of the most famous Roman emperors. Antinous was his favorite slave. The two met when Hadrian was 39 and Antinous 14. Contrary to popular belief, Antinous may have been drowned by other jealous servants of Hadrian. The emperor, saddened by the death of his partner, declared him a god and founded a city named Antinopolis at the spot where he died. Statues of Antinous were erected all across the Roman Empire.
Alexander III of Macedon, more popularly known as Alexander the Great, was perhaps the greatest of all conquerors. The Greek emperor was smitten by Hephaestion who was his childhood friend. The son of a Macedonian nobleman Amyntor, Hephaestion was also the second in command in Alexander’s army and accompanied the conqueror in all his campaigns. Alexander’s famous words “Hephaestion is Alexander” is taken by many historians as a definitive testimony that the two were a couple. When Hephaestion was killed in fighting, Alexander pronounced him god and he himself died within six months. This was one of the earliest examples of homosexuality in ancient Greece.
Roman emperor Julius Caesar and Nicomedes IV Philopator, the ruler of Bithynia were rumored to be one of the most famous gay couples in history. Roman historian Gaius Suetonius Tranquillus, wrote in his biography that Caesar could never keep his hands off Nicomedes, even in the face of slander and mockery. Stories about homosexuality in ancient Rome are incomplete without the escapades of Caesar and Nicomedes.
Their relationship is proof that brainy men have irresistible appeal. Socrates, the classical Greek philosopher, widely acknowledged as one of the leading founders of Western philosophy, was a fat old man, by the time he developed a liking for Phaedo. The night before his execution, Socrates summoned Phaedo for some public display of affection, playing with his hair. The Greek philosopher spent some intimate moments with Phaedo and invited him to fight the forces of ignorance.
One of the world’s greatest painters, Leonardo da Vinci, had a long lasting gay relationship with two of his apprentices Gian Giacomo Caprotti da Oreno and Count Francesco Melzi. Caprotti entered the painter’s household in 1490 and Melzi in 1506 at the age of fourteen. Both remained with Leonardo until his death. Caprotti, nicknamed Salai, is widely believed to have been the greater object of affection of Leonardo. Erotic drawings like The Incarnate Angel and John the Baptist were probably inspired by his relationship with Salai.
The two together were the symbol of democracy in ancient Athens. Harmodius and Aristogeiton came to be known as Tyrannicides because they killed Peisistratid tyrant Hipparchus. Talk of gay couples, Harmodius and Aristogeiton will be there on the list. They built statues all across Greece within their lifetime. Ancient historians Thucydide and Herodotus have mentioned about the homosexual love between Harmodius and Aristogeiton. Symposium, a text by classical Greek philosopher Plato, also reportedly mentions about their homosexual relationship.
First things first, Achilles and Patroclus were never cousins, regardless of what the films say. But their relationship was more than just a friendship. There are several myths associated with the two. Homer in Iliad describes a meaningful and deep relationship between Achilles and Patroclus. The former is said to be always tender to Patroclus but arrogant and callous towards others. However, both classical and modern historians continue to debate about the exact nature of their relationship. But the two warriors do have a place of importance in gay history.
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