Undisclosed Gay Greeks

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On
September 23, we are told about a sign of change that the New
York Times obviously approves of. The editors of the Loeb Greek
and Latin classics (published at Harvard) are now offering translations
of ancient authors that do justice to their homoerotic interests.
Though the account makes it appear that the new enlightened editors
are at last honoring James Loeb, the founder and patron of the series
who had no use for "bowdlerized" translations, these comments
are both vacuous and hypocritical.

The
media and the filmmakers doctor reality incessantly to make it fit
their escalating ideological agenda. Thus in films we hardly ever
see blacks committing violent crimes in inner cities, while media
reports of black and Hispanic riots typically attribute them to
economic oppression and white racism. Note also the cloying way
homosexual activists are presented in the Times, unlike such
predictable heavies as (non-leftist) Southern whites, non-media
big business, and Christian traditionalists. If disclosing the full
truth is what the past Loeb editors failed to do, their sins fall
far short of those committed by our national press, including the
Times.

The
two ancient authors mentioned in the news item whose homoerotic
interests had been allegedly hidden by prudish or mendacious translators,
Aristophanes and Plato, are bad illustrations for a questionable
argument. Aristophanes, in his plays, reported the "bawdy"
humor surrounding Athenian pedophiles, but it is doubtful this playwright
had any sympathy for the libertines featured or ridiculed in his
work. A critic of Socrates, whom he thought was corrupting Athens's
youth, Aristophanes detested non-traditional morals and beliefs
and never, as far as I know, treated homoeroticism in a favorable
light. Moreover, Plato was so critical of homosexual acts that he
made them a capital offense in The
Laws
. Though the accuracy of this harsh judgment has been
subject to dispute by politically correct classicists, most famously
Martha Nussbaum, it is hard to read the disputed text without agreeing
with the established translation. When the Eleatic Stranger, who
leads the conversation, concludes that homosexuality is para
phusin, he does mean what he says, that the act is "against
Nature."

Plato's
Symposium
is another case in point, a now misrepresented text that offers
negative judgments about homoerotic relations. Here the future political
adventurer and self-absorbed pedophile Alcibiades recalls a night
spent sleeping next to Socrates. This deeply ascetic teacher resisted
his advances and acted in such a manner as would "befit a father
or older brother." Alcibiades and the other former symposiasts
testify to Socrates's efforts to contrast homoerotic passions to
the yearning for a "higher beauty" that is spiritual.

If
gay activists and their media boosters are looking for a usable
past, they might try such plausible candidates as Ernst Roehm's
Brown Shirts. On the other hand, misrepresenting the intentions
of respected ancient authors does have its propagandistic advantage,
especially if scholars can be browbeaten or rewarded into going
along.

October
4, 2000

Paul
Gottfried is professor of history at Elizabethtown College and author,
most recently, of the highly recommended After
Liberalism
.

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