Cashman Kerr PRINCE

Pederasty and Pedagogy in Democratic Athens

In this paper I explore the social dynamics of pederasty and pedagogy in Democratic Athens, focusing on the early 4th century BCE, especially in Plato's dialogues (e.g., Phaedrus and The Symposium); Xenophon's Symposium; and speeches of the Attic orators Aeschines (Against Timarchus) and Lysias (Against Simon). Throughout, I treat these documents as historical texts, imbued with a cultural significance and engaged in a circulation of social energy (Greenblatt).

Since I wish to argue for a different understanding of pederasty -- and, indeed, of sexuality in general -- in Democratic Athens than is embodied in recent works on the topic, I begin with a review of critical writings on Greek sexuality (e.g., Symonds' A Problem in Greek Ethics; Dover's Greek Homosexuality; Foucault's The Use of Pleasure; Winkler's The Constraints of Desire, specifically "Laying Down the Law"; Halperin's One Hundred Years of Homosexuality, "Platonic Eros and What Men Call Love", and "Plato and Erotic Reciprocity"; Cohen's Law, Sexuality, and Society). My purpose in reviewing such a large body of criticism is to show the paradigm shift from a pedagogical to a power-based understanding of Greek sexuality. The pedagogical model, based largely on readings of Plato, accounts for the role of the eromenos in a pederastic relationship in ways in which the recent power-based understandings do not. I hope to address this imbalance and so produce a more nuanced understanding of pederasty in Greek sexuality -- and, specifically, in Democratic Athens -- and, reading against the grain of much of our surviving evidence, attempt to write for the eromenos. At the same time, I want to show how pederasty fits within the larger frame of pedagogy in Athens, and so draw on the works of Golden (Children and Childhood in Classical Athens), Robb (Literacy and Paideia in Ancient Greece), and Svenbro (Phrasikleia: An Anthropology of Reading in Ancient Greece).

Having reviewed and critiqued the secondary source material on Greek sexuality, I turn to the aforementioned primary sources and read out how Plato, Xenophon, Aeschines and Lysias understood the role of the eromenos in a pederastic relationship. By comparing their writings with Cartledge's work on Spartan pederasty, I hope to show how pederasty and pedagogy were combined, at least in early 4th century BCE Athens. I speculate that pederastic relationships served as a means for Athenian youths -- especially those of upper-class families -- to engage in social education, to learn how to be an Athenian male, and that these relationships were also a means for Athenians to create social bonds between families which served to unite a highly competitive social order into a polis.