birth of opera
In the late 16th century, the humanists with their great love of antiquity
decided to resurrect the ancient Greek dramas, bringing back the masks or comedy
and tragedy by combining theatre, poetry, music and dance, back to life.
The new genre was became known as Opera. combining polyphonic music,
elaborate backdrops painted in one-point perspective and the great stories
beginning with that of Orpheus and Eurydice..
One of the founders, Giulio Caccini was a tenor and composer to the Medici
family, he brought the voice to the forefront of the recitative, accompanying it
with a basso continuo. This process became the “aesthetic manifesto” of the
In 1600, on the occasion of the wedding of Maria de Medici with Henry IV of
France, Eurydice by Jacopo Peri (1561-1633) was performed at the Palazzo Pitti.
Peri himself played the role of Orpheus and used this new style of expression:
the recitar cantando or "singing recitation.
Orpheus Rejects Women
many stories of his death resulting from the rejecting
of all women after
the death of his wife, Orpheus was torn to pieces by
Thracian women; or in another version, he was
dismembered by Maenads (at Deium in Macedonia) at
the urging of Dionysus, who resented Orphic
rejection of sacrificial murder and the worship of
Apollo (in whose temple Orpheus served as a priest)
Dionysus & Homosexuality
|There is only one rather late
reference to the homosexuality of Dionysos,the
Dionysiaca of Nonnos tells of a tragic love affair
with a youth named Ampelos, who was gored to death
by a wild bull and whom the Dionysus later
transforms into a vine. Bisexuality was common among
Greek men and their gods, so a single reference
would mean this is no god of homoerotic love.
Indeed, in ancient Greece the active role in a
pederastic relationship was considered evidence of
masculinity rather than effeminacy where only the
passive or subordinate partner was thought to be
feminized by male homosexual relationships.
at the Vatican: the first female nude of Western Art
by Praxitles in 4th century B.C. Cyprus is famous
since antiquity as Aphrodite's
(fa - nays)
is the power of erotic energy
Phanes in the Orphic tradition was
the first king of the universe. He passed the
sceptre of kingship on to Nyx (Night), his only
child, who in turn handed it over to her son Ouranos
(Heaven). From him it was first seized by Kronos
(Time), and then by Zeus, the ultimate ruler of the
Zeus devoured Phanes in order to assume his primal
power over the cosmos and redistribute its portions
amongst a new generation of gods - the Olympians.
The Orphics equated Phanes with the Elder Eros
(Sexual Desire) of Hesiod's Theogony, who is there
described as emerging at the beginning of time
alongside Khaos (Air) and Gaia (Earth).
Phanes is the golden winged
Primordial Being, the source of the universe. Called
Protogonos (First-Born) and Eros (Love) — being the
seed of gods and men — Phanes means "Manifestor" or
"Revealer," and is related to the Greek words
"light" and "to shine forth."
An ancient Orphic hymn addresses him thus:
ineffable, hidden, brilliant scion, whose motion is
whirring, you scattered the dark mist that lay
before your eyes and, flapping your wings, you
whirled about, and through this world you brought
relief of Mithraism
us orphic firstborn god Phanes Protogonus, known
also as Eros, Pan and Phanes-Jupiter who sprang from
the primeval egg.
Mithraism most important annual holiday was December
25th which was became Christmas when it was replaced
as the official Roman religion replaced by
Christianity. more at
Sappho & the
Island of Lesbos
superheroine Wonder Woman frequently uses the phrase
"Suffering Sappho!" as an exclamation.
Lesbianism hardly exists in the
myths. No goddess ever has sexual relations with another
goddess, or with a nymph, or with a girl. Not even the
Amazons, though living in an exclusively female society and
being fellow warriors in a female army are described as
doing so. However the head of Orpheus does float to the
Lesbos from which the word lesbianism is derived.
From the late archaic period on there are
hints that women from Lesbos had a reputation for being
sexually adventurous. Yet there is a discontinuity between
these quips about Sappho and/or “Lesbianism,” and her own
poetry, which is intense, sometimes voluptuous, but really
not very carnal.
The bulk of Sappho's poetry is now
lost, but her reputation in her time was immense, and she
was reputedly considered by Plato as the tenth Muse.
Her homoerotic poetry reflects a circle of
mainly adolescent girls or very young women around a
somewhat older and more authoritative Sappho. Passionate
attachments exist between members of this group as well as
between individual girls and Sappho.
The 3rd Century philosopher Maximus of
Tyre wrote that Sappho was "small and dark" and that her
relationships to her female friends were similar to those of
What else was the love of the Lesbian woman except
Socrates' art of love? For they seem to me to have practiced
love each in their own way, she that of women, he that of
men. For they say that both loved many and were captivated
by all things beautiful. What Alcibiades and Charmides and
Phaedrus were to him, Gyrinna and Atthis and Anactoria were
to the Lesbian.
Immortal Aphrodite of the broidered
throne, daughter of Zeus, weaver of wiles, I pray thee break
not my spirit with anguish and distress, O Queen. But come
hither, if ever before thou didst hear my voice afar, and
listen, and leaving thy father's golden house came with
chariot yoked, and fair fleet sparrows drew thee, flapping
fast their wings around the dark earth, from heaven through
mid sky. Quickly arrived they; and thou, blessed one,
smiling with immortal countenance, didst ask What now is
befallen me, and Why now I call, and What I in my mad heart
most desire to see. 'What Beauty now wouldst thou draw to
love thee? Who wrongs thee, Sappho? For even if she flies
she shall soon follow, and if she rejects gifts shall yet
give, and if she loves not shall soon love, however loth.'
Come, I pray thee, now too, and release me from cruel cares;
and all that my heart desires to accomplish, accomplish
thou, and be thyself my ally.
The myth of the amazons only
described limited sex lives for the sake of procreation.
However it was said that they removed one breast so as to
make their archery skills more effective, however, there is
no indication of this practice in works of art, in which the
Amazons are always represented with both breasts. Modern
archaeology in 2003 uncovered some of the Scythian burials
of warrior-maidens entombed under kurgans in the Altai
region of Siberia, giving concrete form at last to the Greek
tales of mounted Amazons
The Roman counterpart of the effeminate male
was the masculine female, the tribade (tribas; plural
tribades). Tribas is the ancient term closest to our notion
of a lesbian. Although the word is Greek and derived from
the Greek verb tribein, "to rub," its earliest surviving
occurrences are in Latin texts. However, Sappho had no
association with with the type of lesbian called dykes today
although Sparta, the great militaristic rival to Athens,
known for not worshiping Dionysos,
did have homoerotic initiation
rituals for girls.
Orphism was a further refined concept based
on the Dionysian rites. Central was a cult of the
primogenitor king, fountainhead of fertility, high priest
and celebrant. Only unmarried men initiated in the cult
could perform the Orphic rites, but unlike today's chaste
priests, they were expected to perform sexually during the
reenactment of the archetypal myth. The rites took place
away from intruding eyes in deep mountain gorges and caves
that are plentiful throughout Bulgaria and the surrounding
Balkans. The participants enacted a pantomime and a
chorus sung the narrative. The high point in the ritual was
the enactment of the death of the King Priest - an allusion
to the archetypal myth in which the Titans dismember and
devour the young god Dionysus - and the conception by the
Mother Goddess. The former involved a blood sacrifice of a
bull, horse or goat, or sometimes even a human; and the
latter, indiscriminate mass copulation, which prompted the
ancient Greek historian Herodotus to denounce the Thracians'
Ovid wrote no poems to boys himself but, like
his fellow-poets, he assumes the universality of
bisexuality. At the beginning of his Loves, he laments that
he has "no boy to sing of" or "long-haired girl," these
being equally acceptable subjects for the erotic poet.
Not all the homoerotic stories of the Metamorphosis are in
book ten. Book three tells the tale of Narcissus. In Ovid's
version, Narcissus is loved by girls and boys, but it is
specifically a boy he scorns who sets the curse on him; he
falls fatally in love with another "lovely boy" when he sees
his image reflected in a pool.
Lesbianism is a theme rarely
treated in Latin literature, but one story in Ovid's book
nine describes the love of two girls. But though Ovid regards the love of boys
as commonplace, love between females is unthinkable in his
world. Ovid represents Iphis as shocked and horrified when
she discovers her feelings; a benevolent goddess resolves
the impasse by changing her into a boy.
Eros is a mysterious
energy inherent in the whole of creation, fascinating
seekers all over the world. Across the cultures, Eros takes
different names but still remains the same agent that has to
be awakened from within, since it is the only element that
can transform the human psyche. Psyche has to be pacified
and Eros’ "fire" has to be transformed into "light" so that
he can become the mediator and guide that gently pushes and
pulls the seeker towards the source of divine love—Eros the
Beloved—that awakens from within, guides and accompanies the
seeker from within the inner planes. He is the inner
witness, the agent within the seeker that unfolds
gnosis, or divine knowledge. This divine knowledge awakens
higher levels of consciousness within him and, in turn,
these levels of consciousness aroused by Eros lead the
seeker back to the source of light.
mysteries relate that at the very beginning of
creation, only chaos existed, and from chaos was born
Eros. Elsewhere, according to mythology, we are told that
amongst the gods, Eros was the most handsome. This is how
theogonia (the birth of the gods) begins and we are
assured that the poet Isiodos heard it from the mouth of the
Muse herself. According to Isiodos, Eros represents the
driving force behind the entire theogonia. The Orphics agree
that Eros appears at the beginning of theogonia and
cosmogonia in general, and they tell us that his mother was
Night, the dark goddess, and his father the Wind. From their
first cosmic and elemental embrace, Eros was born from a
For the Greeks, the essence
of Eros is the unfoldment of human thought, and in Greek
philosophy, he is described as a liberating agent who
releases and activates the creative process of the mind.
Eros inspires and opens the channel of intuition to the
higher and abstract understanding and communion with beauty
Greek philosophers saw the
spirit of Dionysus penetrating the whole of nature and
binding together the two aspects of Eros, the penetration
and blending energy of matter with its counterpart and
complement, spirit. Esoterically, Eros is the leading force
within a seeker that takes him away from a level of duality
to a level of unity and wholeness. Furthermore, Eros is the
key to transforming psychic vibratory rates. He does that by
placing a seeker on his axial center, the neutral and
timeless zone within his conscious self. This level of being
brings about the integration of ego with soul. Hence, Eros
is the god or essence that gives us the possibility of
letting go of the past and living in the present moment,
embracing spontaneously everything within and without our
In the Renaissance this was referred to as "Joy in the
today we might have an opportunity to understand it as part
of a Carnaval experience.
Maenads kill Orpheus for forsaking Dionysus
The ribbon high in the tree is lettered Orfeus der erst puseran
("Orpheus, the first sodomite")
Pastoral Poetry and Pastoral Drama by Walter W. Greg
Project Gutenberg EBook
Summaries from Same-Sex Desire and Love in
Greco-Roman Antiquity and in the Classical Tradition
of the West; Journal of Homosexuality
(ISSN: 0091-8369) Volume: 49 Issue: 3/4 2005
located in the northeastern Aegean Sea. It is the
third largest Greek island and the seventh largest
in the Mediterranean. It has an area of 630
square miles with 230 miles of coastline. Its
population is approximately 108,000 about a third of
which live in the capital city, Mytile
The Absence of Lesbianism in Greco-Roman Myth
Sappho's Immortal Daughters by Margaret
The Divine Sappho,
containing Sappho's poetry, a first line index,
fragments in translation, and great Sappho
- William Harris, Professor Em.
Classics, Middlebury College,
Sappho: The Greek Poems (133 page PDF
file with illustrations). See also his
shorter paper in HTML format.
- Edith Mora,
excerpt from Sappho -- The Story of a Poet
Alice Ouzounian Much
wisdom here, all beautifully written.
taught the men of Thrace the art of loving boys, and
revealed to them that this love was the way to feel young
again, to touch the innocence of youth, to smell the flowers
of spring. Lovers he had many. Of all, he loved young Calais
the best, winged Calais, son of Boreas, the North Wind, his
friend and companion on the Argos.
"But his love for Calais was fated to come to a sudden end.
It was in early spring, during the Dionysian festival. That
was the time when Thracian women took on the role of
Maenads, the wild and crazy attendants of Dionysus, the god
of wine, passion and abandon. They hated Orpheus for turning
them away when they desired him, for keeping to himself the
boys they lusted after, and for mocking them for being free
with their love. That day they came upon him while he was
singing so sweetly that even the birds had grown quiet and
the trees had bent down to listen. He was singing of the
gods who had loved boys, of Zeus and Ganymede, of Apollo and
his lovers, of how even gods can lose their beloveds to the
claws of death."
Roman Homosexuality on the web
Androphile.org Forum on gay life in ancient Greece
Ancient Greece: at glbtq.com
by Eugene Rice
The institution of pederasty (paiderastia)
conspicuous feature of ancient Greek public
and private life, but other forms of
male-male sexual relations flourished in the
of the second and third centuries C.E.
Ancient Rome's attitude toward same-sex
sexual activity was remarkably various, with
role, age, and status as important as gender
in the regulation of sexual relations.
Verses from two epistles of the Apostle Paul
shaped the attitudes of Christianity toward
male and female homosexuality.
Patristic Writers, also known as the Church
Fathers, appropriated currents of hostility
to homoeroticism in pagan thought and used
them to strengthen the prohibitions of
Leviticus and Paul, while also expressing
their own hostile interpretations.