Wednesday, May 20, 2015

History Week Continues: Greek Love by Kayla Jameth

History Week Continues on the Book Blog. Today, we have Kayla Jameth talking about Greek Love and an explanation of the customs of Ancient Greece.

Zeus & his erômenos Ganymede

Pederasty, one of the social institutions of ancient Greece, plays a role my series Apollo's Men. Pederasty is a mentor relationship between an older male aristocrat and a youth of the same class. The relationship was more about instruction in the arts of being a nobleman and less about the sexual aspects. "Greek love" is not what most people assume it to be.

"Greek love" is not even Greek in origin. The practice first developed in Crete where it coincided with the youth's coming-of-age when the young man began his military training and induction into the cult of Zeus. The youth, known as erômenos or "beloved", was usually in his teens. Some sources say as young as thirteen, but most believe starting at between fifteen and seventeen years of age. The relationship usually ended when the young man reached his mid-20s; although, it could continue until the man was 30 in some cases.

Athens and Thebes are the best known Greek city-states to embrace pederasty with all the associated sexual practices. Athenian men hoped for beautiful sons to draw many suitors. The Sacred Band of Thebes paired 150 erastês and erômenos into a band of warriors. The Sacred Band is often mistaken for the Spartans (because obviously no other Greek warriors existed).

Not all Greek city-states allowed pederasty. And even of the ones that did, not all allowed the sexual aspects. The Spartans under Lycurgus the Lawgiver eschewed any sexual practices, insisting that the relationship be like that of father/son or brothers.

 Erastês and erômenos

The older man, known as the erastês or "lover", could be as young as his early 20s, but was often in his 30s. Not quite a May/December relationship, more of a Daddy/Son situation in today's terminology.

While the terms "lover" and "beloved" were titles dictated by the age and relative status of the individuals involved, I don't believe they were intended to convey that all mentor/mentee pairs were lovers. Statistically, that would be unlikely because many of the nobles practicing pederasty would have been straight by today's standards.

Due to the myth of Apollo and the Spartan Prince Hyacinthus, I suspect that pederasty in Sparta once had a sexual aspect to it. But Xenophon, whose sons took part in the Spartan agōgē, states that was no longer the case. “But if, as was evident, it was not an attachment to the soul, but a yearning merely towards the body, he stamped this thing as foul and horrible; and with this result, to the credit of Lycurgus be it said, that in Lacedaemon the relationship of lover and beloved is like that of parent and child, or brother and brother where carnal appetite is in abeyance. I am not surprised, however, that people refuse to believe this. For in many states the laws are not opposed to the indulgence of these appetites.” Constitution of the Lacedaimonians Chapter 2 Section 14

Pederasty was intended as a way of linking individuals and family lines without requiring a marriage. It was networking at its most basic level, allowing the influence of the older man to smooth the way for the untried youth. The pair was expected to continue to be close once the relationship ended.

Intercrural Sex
The sexual aspects of the relationship varied. Most were sexually active to one degree or another in a society that was culturally bi-curious. Intercrural sex, where the erastês thrust between the creamy thighs of his erômenos, was the norm. This preserved the masculinity of the erômenos and kept even the straight youths from feeling ill-treated.

Mirroring the mortal world, some of the Greek gods have male lovers. Apollo had multiple male lovers; although, his love affairs with men were often short lived. Hyacinth, a prince of Sparta, was killed by a jealous god. Cyparissus accidentally slew a deer (a pederastic gift) given to him by Apollo and was turned into a cypress tree in his grief. Leucates threw himself to his death when Apollo attempted to carry him off.

The myth of Zeus and Ganymede is one of the few instances of a god loving a mortal man that ended well. Zeus in the form of an eagle abducted the beautiful youth and took him to Mount Olympus. Once there, Zeus made the young man immortal and kept him as his cup bearer. This was used to legitimize pederasty in the mortal world.


Alone, Andreas toils on a remote farmstead for a Spartan overlord. When a kryptes enters his world, Andreas fears for his life. The dread warriors stalk and kill helots—like Andreas' father—as part of their training.

Andreas sees only one way to save himself: he must tame the fearsome warrior.

But what began as self-preservation develops into attraction. Yearning for the company of someone other than his ferret Ictis, Andreas decides to trust the Spartan warrior and risk the fate that claimed his father.

Born to rule by the sword, Theron sees the world as his and acts accordingly, taking everything Andreas offers and reaching for more. However, love between men in Sparta is considered shameful and requires either exile or suicide to redeem Sparta’s honor. Now, only the gods can save them from the terrible price Sparta extracts from men who desire other men.

A Spartan Love available from Dreamspinner Press.


Lykos, is travelling incognito through conquered Lydia with Narses, a friend of his father the king of Aenus. Hearing cries for help, they intervene, but only manage to save Kas, a young Persian man travelling with a merchant. Now his protector is dead, Kas would like nothing better than to remain with the handsome warrior, but how can he explain that to a man who speaks little but Greek?
Free download from Smashwords.


Kayla Jameth grew up on the family farm in Ohio. An unrepentant tomboy, she baled hay and raised cattle, and her father taught her to weld before she graduated from high school.

She attended Cleveland’s Case Western Reserve University and later, Texas A&M University in her pursuit of veterinary medicine, taking her far away from her rural roots.

But it wasn’t all hard work for her, her sojourn as the princess of the Celestial Kingdom left her with the title “Sir” and a costume closet the envy of many knights, lords, and ladies.

After declaring for years that she was not an author, Kayla now finds herself writing m/m erotic romance outside of Houston, Texas. While you can take the girl out of the country, you can’t turn her into a city slicker. Kayla would still rather be outside getting down and dirty with the boys.

She shares a full house with her favorite animals: a cat, two guinea pigs, a gerbil, three guppies, as well as her husband, son, and daughter.
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In celebration of History Week Part I, I will be giving away an Ecopy of my second novel, Disappear With Me, which will be available from Amber Quill Press on May 31. The prize will be delivered after that date. (Note, this is independent of the Giveaway for the Hop Against Homphobia and Transphobia and Biphobia)

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  1. I've researched and read a lot of MM set in Ancient Rome. I haven't read anything in Greece yet. I learned a lot from this post, and I'm looking forward to reading A Spartan Love.

    Thanks for putting together history week, Dean.

    1. Thanks for stopping by! Kayla's novel A Spartan Love is a beautiful story! I highly recommend!