Why wasnt lgbt an identity back in the ancient world?

The periods of less prejudice against homosexuals is our time and the ancient period before the 4th century.

Yet when I look back, nobody said so and so is gay

Nobody said so and so is a dyke

That guy is a ******, etc...

Nobody said that.

Yet so many people practiced homosexuality.

I was so surprised to learn that Sulla, one of the greatest Roman commanders, had a tranny actor lover.

Yep, thats right.

His boy toy, Metrobius, would play female roles in the theatre. Sulla always invited him to parties.

Alexander had relations with some of his young soldiers and slaves, Trajan had a male lover, Hadrian had a male lover,

You have the word 'catamite' but that was a more technical term for a slave boy for sex.

So how come the ancients didnt really identify sexual orientation? Why is this primarily a modern phenomenon?

8 Answers

  • Anonymous
    2 years ago
    Favorite Answer

    Ancient concepts of sexuality are very complex and there are many books and scholarly articles concerning this, particularly in reference to the New Testament (Romans 1:26-27) and its explicit condemnation of homosexuality.

    Greeks saw homosexuality as a natural function of teaching young boys by sexually dominating them. In the military, it was seen as a function towards preservation: not only protecting one's nation but also one's lover. Women did not have status in this male-dominated society.

    Pagan societies such as Greece and Rome did not have a concept of straight or gay because they did not view sex as merely a biological function for the production of children. It fulfilled the role of dominance and submission as a reflection of the social hierarchy of their society. Sex was recreation, a pleasure for the socially dominant members of society, and one which often reflected their social standing: thus a Roman citizen could do what he wanted to his slaves, be they male or female, or even young children. To Romans, it only mattered whether someone was the active or passive partner. If a Roman male enjoyed sodomizing his male lovers, it only mattered if he was the active or passive partner. If he was the penetrator, he as a good dominant male; if he was the penetrated, he was weak and effeminate. Sexuality was only viewed in its effect on the Roman male citizen. If he was constantly engaged in sexual conquests, he was regarded as a sybarite neglecting his duties to Roman society.

    Martial and other Roman authors referred to female homosexuals as women followers of Sappho, modern interpretation being based on the false premise that the Greek poet Sappho was homosexual; in actuality, it was in reference to an author of an erotic manual under the pseudonym Sappho that began this misconception. But these Roman authors never had a specific term for homosexuality.

    Roman historians such as Seutonius did not condemn Roman Emperors as homosexuals but as passive partners, claiming Nero lost his rear-end virginity before an audience (probably a false report). If a Roman condemned a man for such acts it was only due to his overindulgence in erotic activities or in his assuming the passive role.

    In short, Greeks and Romans regarded sex as a pleasure source and a method to assert authority. They did not see it as moderns do, a procreative biological function, a contrast between "normal" procreative sex and unnatural homosexual sex. Thus they did not have modern labels. It is very difficult for historians to dispense with their modern sense of sex and understand how ancient societies saw it. Modern people visit Pompeii and see things of everyday life, so that they feel they can relate directly to them; "they were just like us!" But nothing can be more deceptive: they weren't like us; their perceptions of life, the world, nature, morality, sex, was very different and foreign.

  • Tai
    Lv 7
    2 years ago

    People who have been attracted to members of the same sex and/or identified as a different gender than their biological sex have always existed, but those characteristics being viewed an identity in and of themselves is rather new.

    You can find plenty of historical references to people being attracted to/loving/having sex with/etc. members of the same sex or acting/dressing as/wanting to be/thinking of themselves as a member of the opposite sex or a different gender category, but they wouldn't have considered themselves to be a certain type of person because of it anymore than someone who liked certain foods or preferred one color over another; although if they were from a culture that scored such behavior they likely would have still had negative/conflicting feelings about said feelings.

    I can't say for sure exactly how or when being LGBT+ went from being seen a single (and often deviant) characteristics or action to identities, but I would think it had something to do with both their demonization by the larger culture (making them be viewed as a certain class/group of people) and the movement toward gaining acceptance and equal rights. Back in the day, the law/church would condemn people who had sex with those of the same sex (especially men who had sex with men) as people who committed deviant acts and in more recent times they were grouped together (e.g. in concentration camps in WWII, or those in Communist Cuba), but when they started banding together to say that this is not just an act but who we innately are and we should be accepted rather than scorned a group identity was formed. That's my guess, anyway.

    Source(s): I'm queer.
  • Athena
    Lv 7
    2 years ago

    People got on with their lives and were too busy to demand recognition for something that was really nobody's business.

  • Anonymous
    2 years ago

    In Ancient Greece it was no big thing to be as gay as a parasol, so nobody remarked on the fact.

    In modern times it was alluded to - somebody like Radclyffe Hall would probably have been described as 'quaint'.

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  • Fred
    Lv 7
    2 years ago

    I would say the reason is that populations were still very small back then and those who did not have children were seen as letting their civilization down as numbers of males meant more security for any country as they were needed to fight off invaders. Gay people would have been seen as weakening society as they contributed no children for the future to build up the civilization.

  • Anonymous
    2 years ago

    "Yet when I look back"

    Yes, of course you do darling. Or maybe you are just not that bright.

  • 2 years ago

    Holding homosexuality as bad or sinful is NOT a modern phenomenon. Homosexuality is called "an abomination" in the Old Testament. written many centuries before the Roman Empire. Since Judaism, Christianity and Islam share the Words of the Old Testament lots of people down thru the millennia have felt that homosexuality is sinful.

  • John
    Lv 7
    2 years ago

    they did, they just had different words/terms for them. for example, a lot of times when people talk about some cultures having a third gender, in reality it's just that cultures term for homosexual or transgender people. they weren't thought of as being men or women, but something else entirely

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