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Birth of the Opera
Sappho & Lesbos
Ovid on Sexual Orientation
Ovid Illustrated
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Orpheus home
Orpheus & Eurydice
Final panels from Pompeii Dionysian Initiation
Love by Emerson
Erotic Art from Pompeii
The 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 opera.

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
There are 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.

Knidian Aphrodite 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 Island

Phanes: (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 cosmos.
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 pure light.

This famous relief of Mithraism  shows 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 saturnalia



Sappho & the
 Island of Lesbos

Sappho, an artistic notion of the Greek poet by Charles-August Mengin (1877).

Sappho, an artistic notion of the Greek poet by Charles-August Mengin (1877).

The 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.

Ancient Greek bust of Sappho the Eresian.

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 Socrates:

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 wiki/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' sexual wantonness.

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.

The Greek 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 silver egg.

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 and truth.

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 reach.
In the Renaissance this was referred to as "Joy in the
present" today we might have an opportunity to understand it as part of a Carnaval experience.

Maenads  kill Orpheus for forsaking Dionysus and themselves.
Albrecht Dürer  1494 (Kunsthalle, Hamburg) The ribbon high in the tree is lettered Orfeus der erst puseran ("Orpheus, the first sodomite") from Ovid


Ovid (2nd Ed.) Book Ovid Illustrated:
 The Renaissance Reception
of Ovid in Image and Text

An Online Edition; Daniel Kinney, Director

  •  (1563)illustrations by Virgil Solis et al.*, with a verse commentary by Johann Spreng

  • (1632)George Sandys, Ovid's Metamorphosis

Eurydice Dies from a Snakebite
1557  1563  1582  1591
Orpheus Descends to the Underworld
1557  1563  1582  1591
Orpheus Is Slain by Female Bacchantes
1557  1563  1582  1591
Orpheus Playing the Lyre
1557  1563  1582  1591
The Hebrus Receives Orpheus' Head and Lyre
1557  1563  1582  1591
Chione Slain by the Arrows of Diana
1557  1563  1582  1591
Midas' Wish
1557  1563  1582  1591
A Wolf into Stone
1557  1563  1582  1591
Midas' Ears into Ass's
1557  1563  1582  1591
Peleus and Thetis
1557  1563  1582  1591
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 630Sappho's Immortal Daughters jacket square miles with 230 miles of coastline. Its population is approximately 108,000 about a third of which live in the capital city, Mytile

Prophet of Gay Love

"He 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."
Greco 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) was a
Chiron-Achilles.jpg conspicuous feature of ancient Greek public and private life, but other forms of male-male sexual relations flourished in the Greco-Roman cosmopolis of the second and third centuries C.E.
Ancient  Rome:
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.

St.  Paul
Verses from two epistles of the Apostle Paul shaped the attitudes of Christianity toward male and female homosexuality.

Patristic Writers

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.

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