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Kayla Jameth's Corner

I'm a reader and author of m/m erotic romance.

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A place for the discussion of m/m set against the backdrop of the Greco-Roman world.

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Spartan Myths - Spartan Women Had to Dress like Men to Catch a Man

Spartan Myths - Spartan Women Had to Dress like Men to Catch a Man

 A bit of malarkey I ran into the other day, insisted that Spartan wedding traditions were proof that Spartans were gay. On the surface, that kind of statement is absurd.

 

Nothing could be further from the truth. While Spartans did practice pederasty, which most people point to as their main proof of homosexuality, the practice in Sparta was purely platonic mentorship. Unlike Crete or Athens where the practice was often sexual.

 

In Sparta, the older man, or mentor, was considered to stand in as a foster father for the youth. They did not court the boys, as occurred elsewhere. Instead, the boy asked them to be their mentor. As a foster father, any sexual activity between the man and boy would be tantamount to incest and punished as such. The pair would be required to commit suicide or go into exile to erase the stain on Sparta's honor and to a lesser degree, their own.

 

This prohibition extended to any males seeking the arms of another man. Possibly because Spartans were slowly dying out and needed to increase their population to refill their ranks. Either way, the Spartans were some of the more homophobic people in ancient Greece.

 

Now for that wedding tradition.

 

Young women in Sparta had to be at least 20 years old to wed. While in the rest of Greece thirteen-year-old girls were routinely given to men up to more than twice their age. The Spartan maids cut their hair and dressed as men before going to their own bed on their wedding night. Not as one person postulated, because the Spartan men couldn't stand to touch a woman.

 

The young warrior had to sneak into the bed with his new wife and be gone before dawn the next day. In fact, that was the pattern of the early years of their marriage, until at age 30 he could have a home other than the barracks. Then the couple could live together for the rest of their lives.

 

The sneaking around was good practice for a warrior. Men who were caught visiting their wives were likely teased for not being stealthy enough, not for desiring a woman.

 

The Spartans were surrounded by a culture, and had probably shared the same culture at one point, that believed marriage by capture to be the norm. So much so that the tale of Hades kidnapping Persephone was a myth designed to legitimize the practice and give it the godly stamp of approval.

 

The practice of cutting the woman's hair may have started as a way to prevent a bride from being kidnapped on the eve of her wedding. Later, this practice likely became a rite of passage. A visible sign that she had left childhood behind, as such she would have been proud of her newly shorn hair. It also allowed men to tell at a glance who was recently wed (her hair would be short for a couple of years) and they wouldn't court another man's wife.

 

 

As you can see, putting a modern spin on an ancient and often misunderstood culture while ignoring what the people themselves did or said about the subject is misleading to say the least.