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Ephorus on the Cretans  (1)(1) Strabo of Amaseia, Geography X.4.21 (483), tr. A. Goldhammer in Bernard Sergent's Homosexuality in Greek Myth, Boston. Beacon Press, 1984

They have a unique custom in regard to erotic conventions. They do not win the objects of their love by persuasion but rather by abduction. The lover apprises the friends and family of the youth three or more days beforehand that he is planning to abduct him. For them to hide the boy or not permit him to proceed along the ordained path is extremely shameful, since in effect they are publicly admitting that the boy is unworthy to get such a lover. When the parties come together, provided the abductor is an equal or a superior in rank or other circumstances to the youth, the boy's friends and family put on a merely token display of resistance and pursuit after the abductor, thus fulfilling what convention requires, after which they happily allow him to take the youth away. But in the opposite case, when the abductor is not a person of suitable rank, they take the youth from him.

Cretan Bull-leapers; Restored Minoan fresco, ca. 1700 - 1400 BCE; Knossos, Crete

The limit of the pursuit is the point when the boy is led into the Andreium ("men's house") of the abductor. The most desirable youths, according to Cretan conventions, are not the exceptionally handsome ones, but rather those who are distinguished for manly courage and orderly behavior. The lover gives the youth presents and takes him away to some place in the surrounding countryside that he chooses. The persons present at the abduction accompany them and spend two months feasting and hunting together (for it is not permitted to detain the boy longer), after which they come down again to the city.

The youth is sent home with presents which consist of a military outfit, an ox and a goblet (these are the gifts prescribed by convention), and besides these many other costly gifts-so costly that the friends contribute each his share in order to diminish the expense. The youth sacrifices the ox to Zeus and gives a feast to those who came down with him from the mountains. He then declares, concerning his relationship with the lover, whether it took place with his consent or not; the convention encourages this in order that, if any violence is used against him in the abduction, he may restore his honor and break off the relationship.

For those who are handsome and have illustrious ancestors not to have lovers is disgraceful, since their rejection would be attributed to their bad character. The parastathentes ("standers-by")-for this is the term they use for those who are abducted-enjoy certain honors: at choral dances and at races they have the most honored places; they are permitted to wear the outfit presented to them by their lovers, which distinguishes them from other persons; and not only at that time, but in mature age, they appear in a distinctive garb, by which each individual is known to be kleinos ("famous"); kleinos is their equivalent term for eromenos ("beloved"), and philetor ("befriender") for erastes ("lover").

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CITATION: If you cite this Web page, please use the following form of citation:
Andrew Calimach, World History of Male Love, "Gay History", Ephorus on the Cretans, 2000 <>

(1) Strabo of Amaseia, Geography X.4.21 (483), tr. A. Goldhammer in Bernard Sergent's Homosexuality in Greek Myth, Boston. Beacon Press, 1984  back


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