Chapter III: spartan hegemony, 404-371

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December 3, 1992


This then is the fourth type of madness, which befalls when a man, reminded by the sight of beauty on earth of the true beauty, grows his wings and endeavours to fly upward, but in vain, exposing himself to the reproach of insanity because like a bird he fixes his gaze on the heights to the neglect of things below; and the conclusion to which our whole discourse points is that in itself and in its origin this is the best of all forms of divine possession, both for the subject himself and for his associate, and it is when he is touched with this madness that the man whose love is aroused by beauty in others is called a lover. . . . (Plato, Phaedrus, 250)

Then if any device could be found how a state

or an army could be made up only of lovers and beloved, they could not possibly find a better way of living, since they would abstain from all ugly things and be ambitious in beautiful things towards each other; and in battle side by side, such troops although few would conquer pretty well all the world. For the lover would be less willing to be seen by his beloved than by all the rest of the world, leaving the ranks or throwing away his arms, and he would choose to die many times rather than that; yes, and as to deserting the beloved, or not helping in danger, no one is so base that Love himself would not inspire him to valour, and make him equal to the born hero. (Plato, Symposium, 179)

Boy love continued to be an integral part of Greek culture in the fourth as it had been in the fifth and sixth centuries. In spite of the relative hard times from the Peloponnesian War to the Macedonian conquest, Greeks built more and larger gymnasia and sang love songs at symposia where erastei pursued eromenoi as keenly as ever without heed for the advice of carping philosophers and cautious physicians. It was not merely in philosophy, sculpture, architecture, and oratory, all of which depend on one's taste, but in heroism and generalship as well, the display for which chronic wars and revolutions gave ample opportunity, that Greeks reached their apex in the fourth century. The death of Socrates and the deed of the tyrannicides Antileon and Hipparinus preceded the Sacred Band that defeated Sparta and faced Philip and the conquests of Alexander. If Hellenes resisted the King of Kings in the fifth century, they conquered all his realms in the fourth and more besides, creating the largest empire yet. Then they inspired and improved its every part. If not more beautiful, the buildings at least were larger in the new cities of Asia and Africa, for they belong to the Hellenistic Age, but the splendid gymnasia and schools of Athens, imitated by Syracuse and by so many lesser poleis in Sicily and southern Italy as well as in Greece and the Aegean.

To call the Greeks of the fourth century degenerate would be to denigrate what might be their greatest achievements and to deny the loves of Plato, Aristotle, Epaminondas, Philip, and Alexander would constitute the height of hypocrisy. Pederasty remained as central and as inspirational to Greek life as it had been before. Even in dry science the sculptor Agoracritus of Pharos, a pupil of Phidias, loved the distinguished astronomer and mathematician Eudoxus of Cnidus (c.390 c.340), who perhaps was also the beloved of Theomedon the physician (Diogenes Laertius, VIII, 86), as well as Lysander of Sparta.1
Because taste is subjective, it is not reasonable to claim that the fourth century witnessed a degeneration from the finer sensibilities and higher standards of the fifth. Many prefer Praxiteles to Phidias, or Lysippus to Polyclitus. Neither Aristotle nor Plato was necessarily a whit inferior to Socrates, whom some dub a mere quibbler, but no fourth century tragedies have survived for us to compare with those of the fifth. Oratory peaked with Isocrates and Demosthenes. From the fourth century we have few lyricists or elegiasts praising boy love, if indeed, as many now theorize, the Theognidea were mostly from the fifth century and the Anacrontea were mostly from the Hellenistic Age. Except for certain verses in the Greek Anthology, including Plato's, between Pindar and Theocritus there were no great pederastic poets. Although intellectually as vital and as creative as the fifth, the prosaic fourth century, philosophical and oratorical rather than lyrical, contributed fewer boy-love poems than either the fifth or third which consciously revived topoi as well as forms from the Archaic Age.
Politics and demography changed dramatically. The Peloponnesian War was a greater watershed in Greek history than the Civil War was in American history. Plague killed many times more Athenians during that war than did the Spartans and the Persian fleet. The population of Athens never regained pre war heights before the twentieth century. Fearing an aggressive Sparta, by 394 the Persians were backing Conon's and Ipicrates's bloody attempt to restore the Athenian empire. Thinned out by wars, Spartiates became too few to confront Philip of Macedon. Spearheaded by the Sacred Band of lovers, Thebes rose meteorically to overshadow the old rival poleis. Athens became embroiled in wars between upsurging Thebes and declining Sparta and then in the sanguinary struggles to avenge the Phocians' brutal pillage of the treasury of Delphi and then to stop Philip, who had gained prestige by defeating the Phocians, and topple Alexander. Like the Pied Piper, Alexander made the population shortage worse by leading off many Greeks to Asia, more males than females, to which, as to Egypt, his successors continued to lure them, for wars among the Diadochi continued to bleed Hellas during the late fourth century.
The lethal century from 431 to Alexander caused an acute shortage of citizens. Those whose patrimonies Solon's reforms and those of other sages in other poleis had intended to save from fragmentation owing to too many progeny were now in short supply. Partly because more rather than fewer ephebes were needed, Plato, the first to claim that it was "against nature" because it did not lead to reproduction, Xenophon, and Aristotle found a ready audience for their criticism of pederasty. The old style life of gentlemen survived from Solon's establishment to the lifetime of Socrates, whose death in 399 was as great a watershed in Athenian intellectual life as the war was to demography.
Like Aristophanes, Socrates's students complained of the passing of the "good old days" and of gentlemanly erastai and properly modest eromenoi. Criticism of pederasty increased and the taste of those practicing it, now including nouveaux riches, often greedy merchants, changed, aped, or scorned, as the case might be, the manners of the old gentlemanly class, the old landholders, who had largely died out during the war and revolutions that accompanied and followed it, in Athens and elsewhere, lost its wealth due to Spartan occupation or ravaging of the countryside (where their estates lay), or been pushed aside. Their wealth and sophistication made the lifestyle of the often boorish country gentleman seem simplistic and dull. Anticipated by Alcibiades, the flaming youth now became more flamboyant. The marked increase in the number of male prostitutes, at least as far as we can tell from surviving sources, some of whom were available for a pittance, indicates not only a more mercenary type of sex in a more monetized economy, but that many middle and even lower class citizens had developed a taste for boy-love.
Although pederastic vase painting virtually ceased before the war, hardly anyone believes that old fashioned pederasty, pederastic symposia, or even the courting of boys by the gifts of small animals portrayed on vases, ceased or even declined then. But afterwards life did not return to normal, even in the realm of courtship and love making. This is not to say that the growing criticism of physicians and philosophers had much effect on the conduct of even the upper classes who alone read their difficult works and could afford their services, unsuited for the working lower middle and lower classes who, after all, then and now, would hardly want to follow the precepts of Plato or that of the typical physician whose regimen would remove most of the pleasures of life. The critics reached but a small audience. The practice of pederasty nonetheless changed essentially with its democratization and the collapse of the old aristocratic classes and their value systems. Throughout most of Hellas, pederasty became less heroic and deviated more from its Spartan model designed to train invincible warriors, for the merchants rose relatively to landowners in most poleis. Increasingly paid teachers, often resorting to the strap, instructed boys in classrooms, replacing infatuated erastai in symposia and gymnasia.
Even before Philip's victory at Chaeronea extinguished Greek liberty, the education of an upper-class Athenian boy came to resemble that received by a young gentleman of Hellenistic times more than that of Miltiades or Cimon. Although brave hoplites as well as persuasive orators and sophisticated politicians were in desperate demand as long as freedom endured and even afterwards, the training of them became professionalized and routinized after the Peloponnesian War and the dependence of the polis upon the erastes/eromenos relationship seems to have diminished. The revival of that relationship in the Sacred Band made the Theban army invincible until Philip himself, after overpowering them with his massive cavalry and overwhelming numbers, wept over the fallen heroes at Chaeronea.
However similar they were in literary genres, more dramas and better histories survive from the fifth than from the fourth century, but far more orations and philosophical treatises from the fourth. Nine comedies and 33 tragedies survive from the hundreds of each that were performed from the fifth, but from the fourth we have nothing but fragments of tragedies and only four comedies (two of Aristophanes and two of Menander, better considered a Hellenistic writer, whose works have been recovered from the sands of Egypt), usually considered Middle Comedy. For the fifth century we have the excellent histories of Herodotus, Thucydides, and Xenophon, after whose termination date of 362 we have to rely mainly on the late and unreliable summary of Diodorus Siculus and Plutarch's Lives. From the fifth century not a single complete work of philosophy survives; from the fourth we have the voluminous writings of Plato and Aristotle. In fourth-century Athens a public record office was founded.2
The bulk of Greek philosophy that survives was written in the fourth century. The greatest source for fourth century pederasty is Plato, the theorist of love who in his long life went from enthusiasm to hostility. All Socrates's other students took differing positions on pederasty, from the enthusiastic approval of the Cyrenaics to the dire disapproval of any physical contact by Xenophon who, however, frequently recorded instances of pederasty without condemnation. Believing that some men were born with and others developed an inclination for pederasty, Aristotle seems not to have been as enthusiastic as the young Plato or as hostile as the old.
Momigliano has observed that only the works of the most serious Greek historians are extant and that "If we still had the library of Alexandria, we would be shocked by the historical trash which we would find in it." "Rhetoric" and the desire to amuse predominated over concern for fact in most historians.3 Ephorus investigated the origins of pederasty and Theopompus its course in the royal house of Macedonia but nowhere did it play as great a role as in Thebes with its invincible Sacred Band of lovers described by Xenophon and much later by Plutarch.
In the fourth century, verbal, witnessed declarations began to yield to written contracts, pleas, and affidavits. The oldest extant contract was drafted in 311 at Elephantine in Egypt.4 If it is correct, as is usually assumed, that all of Lysias's surviving orations were delivered after 400, we have 124 between 400 and 322; only the fifteen speeches of Antiphon antedate 400. Almost all of the surviving political orations of the Greeks also come from the fourth century. From Athens alone the Loeb Classical Library has devoted seven volumes to Demosthenes, three (not all of which are orations) to Isocrates, and one each to Aeschines, Isaeus, and Lysias, with two volumes entitled Minor Attic Orators that contain speeches by Antiphon, Demades, Hyperides, Andocides, Lycurgus, and Deinarchus. These composed the canon made in Hellenistic times of ten Attic orators. Amazingly, the earliest oration to survive by an orator from another city was . Like most of their contemporaries, the orators believed that pederasty was good if it followed the rules that citizens should not be passive, should not sell their bodies, and otherwise behave decorously. Providing more details than Demosthenes does, Lysias and Aeschines go more deeply into two sordid cases than any other ancient source before Petronius's lurid Satyricon, composed perhaps for the emperor Nero's delectation. But this chance survival does not necessarily indicate that Greek love was purer in earlier times, just that we have no comparable accounts. Lysias's Against Simon involves a violent young drunk's attempt to steal a boy kept by a middle  aged man for whom he seems to have affection. Against Timarchus, in which Aeschines attempts to disbar Timarchus by charging him with prostitution, is almost too disreputable to believe.
Only fragments survive of tragedies. Though no fourth- century pederastic comedies are extant, pederasty was occasionally made the subject of a comedy: Antiphanes's Paiderastes, Diphilos's (c. 360/50 c.300) Paiderastai, Strattis's version of the story of Chrysippus, and that of Ganymede by Alcaeus Comicus (f.c.388), Antiphanes, who presented his first play in 385, and Eubulus, who mounted his between 376 and 373.5 Athenaeus conserved a fragment

(25 C) of Eubulus about the Greek army before the walls of Troy:

Not one of them has seen the prettiest end of

a woman and near ten years they have satisfied

one another. What a bitter campaign! After having

taken the city by assault they returned from it

with wider assholes than the gates of the city they conquered.
Of Middle Comedy we are less informed than of earlier Old or New, not only because no complete work survives but also because there are fewer fragments and paraphrases or allusions to it. Plautus and especially Terence preferred New Comedy models. The Suda informs us that Alexis of Thurii in Magna Graecia (c.375 c.275) produced 245 comedies. His Agonis featured the pederast Misgolas who had a special attraction to flute playing youths (and maidens). As the orator Aeschines reported: "It is this Misgolas, son of Naucrates, of [the Attic deme] Collytus, in other respects a man of beautiful body and soul; but he has always been fond of boys and is constantly in the habit of having about him players on the lute, both male and female" (Against Timarchus, I, 41). Fr. 3 of the Agonis depicts a girl beseeching her mother: "O mother dear, do not give me, I beg, to Misgolas, for I do not play the lute." Antiphanes's Fishermen (fr. 26, 14 18) and Timocles's Sappho (fr. 30) also alluded to Misgolas. We also have a tantalizing fragment from Alexis's Hypnos (Sleep): "The young man does not eat chives, to avoid disgusting his lover when he kisses him" (242). In Timocles's Orestautocleides cited by Aeschines (Against Timarchus, I, 52), the unfortunate pederast is chased by hetairai, in the same fashion that Orestes was by the Furies, eleven of whom keep Autocleides under observation at all times, even during sleep (fr. 25).
Erotic scenes on vases had gone out of fashion before the Peloponnesian War. After homoerotic vase paintings disappeared, sculpture, although hampered by the fact that in that medium it was uncommon to represent two free standing individuals, continued as the main Greek visual expression of homoeroticism. It reached a new high of eroticism with Praxiteles, Lysippus, and Leochares. Like his earlier rival Phidias, the Athenian Praxiteles (f.c. 350), judged most successful in portraying emotion in marble, dramatically changed sculpture. One of the most famous works, the Aphrodite of Cnidus, perhaps the most discussed statue in Antiquity, first portrayed a life size, completely nude woman so realistically that Aphrodite purportedly asked, "When did Praxiteles see me so?" ( ). The Dionysus with the infant Hermes at Olympia, one of the few original marbles surviving from the classical period, partly because of the polished surface and delicate musculature seems to some more homoerotic than any fifth century statue as do some of his satyrs. In spite of his famous mistress Phryne, his bronzes as well as his marbles still today probably excite more homosexuals than any other Greek sculpture.
Lysippus of Sicyon (f.c.328) was the only sculptor that Alexander permitted to figure him  which he did many times. Copies of Lysippus's Erotis and satyrs seem to some particularly stimulating. Famed for the new slender proportions of his figures, precision in detail, and capturing the moment, he was far the most productive sculptor in antiquity. Leochares, whose signature on the Acropolis dates to about 350, decorated the Mausoleum at Halicarnassus' west side with slim, tall, striking figures, somewhat resembling his contemporary Lysippus's slimmed down figures, and might be considered effeminate, like his Apollo Belvedere in the Vatican, which Winckelmann particularly extolled. His undated Zeus as an eagle with Ganymede is the most famous representation of the scene.

Some assume that the readiness with which men volunteered for the hard and dangerous life of mercenaries is an indication of overpopulation in the fourth century, even though among Greeks no war was as sanguinary as the Great Peloponnesian War, until Alexander and his successors lured many to the Near East.6 According to Isocrates, "It is easier to raise a bigger and better force from the floating population than from the citizen population" (4.42).7 The less widespread fourth-century wars did not disrupt trade as much as the Peloponnesian War had and except to Spartans and perhaps Thebans were not as deadly. Some areas, like Phlius, a great exception to the general shrinkage between 479 and the mid fourth century, which increased its hoplites five fold, experienced net growth in part because slaves or other immigrants swelled certain populations.
The urban population increased. Mercenaries came mostly from those who moved from country to town but remained unemployed or underemployed like the Roman proletariat. Athens imported more cereals, but this does not necessarily mean more mouths to feed because more wines and oils were exported from the Attic countryside in which agriculture became more specialized from infusion of capital for expensive vineyards and olive groves. The city of Athens itself contained c.330 almost one-half of its citizens; a century earlier it had contained just over one-third. According to Aristotle, "in ancient times, and among some nations, the artisan class were slaves or foreigners, and therefore the majority of them are so now. The best form of state will not admit them to citizenship . . . (Politics, 1278a).
[Table -Population of Athens]
Sparta's victory in the Peloponnesian War was extremely costly. Her enormous losses were never repaired. If the number of Spartiates had long been declining from the 9,000, for which cleroi were provided at the end of the Second Messenian War, there were still, according to Herodotus (VII, 234), 8,000 at the time of Xerxes' invasion. Low birth rates owing to long and frequent absences of men on campaigns, late marriage, perhaps also pederasty, anal intercourse with wives, and exposure, which was carried out with the intent that the weak and deformed male infants would die, compounded war casualties. According to Thucydides (V, 68.3), by 418 the number of Spartiates had been reduced to 3,072. On the island of Sphacteria alone in 424 the Spartans lost 420 hoplites  128 killed and 292 captured, of whom 120 were "equals" (IV, 41). Even after the tide turned irreversibly for Sparta after the Athenian disaster at Syracuse, casualties mounted. Probably Spartans resorted to earlier marriages with hasty trips home from the front and the allowance of virile young men to father children on wives of older, impotent, absent, or less active fellows, practices mentioned during their previous crises during the Messenian Wars. But nothing stemmed the decline or replaced the losses during the war.
No one has been able to estimate how far the number of Spartiates rebounded after the war. From the testimony given about female heiresses and the concentration of wealth in the hands of a few with a consequent loss of equality, we can assume that they did not recover to the 7,000 or 5,000 of earlier times. Critical of a fallen Sparta after the debacles at Leuctra (371) and Mantinea (362), Aristotle explained that the excessive reduction of the number of Spartans caused the undesirable concentration of property that had weakened the state:
For we find that some Spartans have come

to have far too many possessions, others

very few indeed; hence the land has fallen

into the hands of a small number. Here there

have been errors in the legal provisions too.

For their lawgiver, while he quite rightly

made it a disgrace to buy and sell in

someone's possession, left it open to anyone

to transfer it to other ownership by gift or

bequest  and yet this inevitably leads to the

same result. Moreover, something like two fifths

of all the land is possessed by women. There

are two reasons for this: heiresses are

numerous and dowries are large. It would have

been better to have regulated dowries,

prohibiting them altogether or making them

small or at any rate moderate in size. But

as it is an heiress may be given in marriage

to any person whatever. And if a man dies

intestate, the person he leaves as heir

gives her to whom he likes. So although

the land was sufficient to support 1,500

cavalry and 30,000 heavy infantry, the

number fell to below 1,000. The sheer

facts have shown that these arrangements

were bad: one single blow was too much for

Sparta, and she succumbed owing to the

shortage of men (Politics, 1270a).

The disastrous Spartan routs by the Thebans at Leuctra, where the Spartans and their allies lost half of their force of 11,000, including 400 Spartans (one fourth of citizen hoplites), and Mantinea accelerated the population decline which had been endemic since 479 and catastrophic since 431. The ranks of Spartans dwindled as more and more became unable to contribute to the syssitia while a minority, buying up land and impoverishing many, enriched itself from the plunder of the Spartan empire after 404. By 400 Sparta could count on a maximum of 3,000 hoplites. During the fourth century, Spartans were compelled to fill their depleting numbers by recruiting ever more periokoi into the army and even by emancipating thousands of helots and training them as hoplites.8 The decline continued with only 900 in 339 and 700 in the third century before Agis IV and Cleomenes III redistributed the wealth and created new citizens in a valiant but tardy attempt to revive the state.
In Sicily, Thessaly, Messenia, and Arcadia new cities were founded. With a population between 300,000 and 400,000 in town and country, Syracuse apparently surpassed Athens during the Peloponnesian War more because of Athenian shrinkage than Syracuse's growth. One authority claims, not too plausibly, that Acragas was not far behind. He estimates the total population of Greek Sicily at 800,000 and Magna Graecia at approximately the same.9 The number of citizens may have declined in other poleis besides Sparta as many sank into poverty and did not marry or raise children while the lower classes increased their numbers.

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