On the Reception of Same-Sex Marriage in Classical Greece and Beyond

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


This chapter considers the reception of same-sex marriages in Classical Greece. In order to do so, it is first necessary to acknowledge that such a concept existed and, as such, there were observable receptions of it. The demonstration of this concept will be the main subject of inquiry, as opposed to actual same-sex marriages, as the latter are more difficult to evidence if they ever existed at all. The Greek historian/philosopher/mercenary Xenophon (430–355/354 BC ) has helpfully provided an example of just such a reception, and it derives from his tendency to promote what we might call today a ‘heteronormative agenda’ in his
works. He has indicated that some Boeotian and other Greek males “live together as married people”. 1 It is this work’s informed position that such a statement alone demonstrates the existence of the concept; but, it must be interrogated and analysed in context alongside other pertinent evidence. Of course, just as there can be ‘anti-feminism’ or ‘proto-feminism’ in ancient and medieval times without an equivalent concept of ‘feminism’, it is necessary to acknowledge that there might be a reception of same-sex marriage, in some sense, without the phenomenon’s namesake itself being evident. Even so, this work argues that it likely did exist, if at the margins. What becomes clear, at least, is that there were contemporary receptions of same-sex marriage, seemingly exclusively between men; there were later, Roman and other receptions of it; and there were and are modern receptions. Each is unique to its era and context and most tend to be un-self-conscious that they are receptions, thus distorting any underlying reality.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Routledge Companion to the Reception of Ancient Greek and Roman Gender and Sexuality
EditorsK. R. Moore
Place of PublicationMilton Park, Abingdon, Oxon
Number of pages24
ISBN (Electronic)9781003024378
ISBN (Print)9780367900908, 9781032307022
Publication statusPublished - 2023


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