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Interpretation and authenticity of the Lucianic Erotes.


In Greek literature under the Roman Empire, a number of works debated the merits of women versus boys as objects of desire (Fleury 2007, 776). The Erotes contains such a debate between two characters named Charicles and Callicratidas, framed within a discussion between two others named Lycinus and Theomnestus. This dialogue has come to us among Lucian's works, where Lycinus would, at least initially represent the authorial persona, and Lycinus in this work does seem to have that role. However, the Erotes, regarded as inauthentic, was neglected through most of the twentieth century until Michel Foucault (1984) examined it as a document for the history of sexuality Following Foucault, David M. Halperin (1992) argued that even though Charicles pursues only women and Callicratidas only boys, the argument is about not heterosexuality versus homosexuality, but a difference of taste. (1) To trivialize the ancient debate as a question of taste or, at the other extreme, to denounce the Erotes as simply a defense of pederasty involves a loss of historical perspective. In Charicles' discourse, the issue of same-versus opposite-sex relations does assume serious importance, but the modern obsession over 'intergenerational' sex is strikingly absent in the ancient debate.

It is true that Callicratidas and Charicles both assume bisexual attraction. Indeed, Charicles, who represents the 'heterosexual' preference, condemns same-sex relations as overindulgence in pleasure; similarly, Plutarch (Erotikos 766E), who also championed women, felt obliged to assert that women are just as desirable as boys. Still, Charicles wishes to ban all same-sex relations, regardless of age. The only mention of age in the Erotes occurs when he asserts the conventional Greek view that adult males are no longer desirable. Callicratidas envisions man-boy romances as evolving into equal relationships lasting to old age--a less conventional vision that, however, is also evidenced by, e.g., Plato's Symposium and the early Stoic view of eros (love/desire) leading to philia (love/friendship).

Whereas Foucault and Halperin were concerned more with sexuality than with a literary interpretation of the Erotes, Simon Goldhill (1995, 102-11) and Michael Klabunde (2001) compared the debate here with women versus boys arguments in Plutarch and Achilles Tatius. While this comparative method is a logical approach to the highly mimetic literature of the Second Sophistic, a full appreciation of the Erotes has actually been impaired by the habitual desire to contextualize it within that debate without first understanding its internal dynamics.

Plutarch's Erotikos was an innovative essay, a major station in an apparent shift of Greek sexual interest from boys to women in the imperial age; and the Erotes too certainly was a response to that shift. However, the Erotes does not advance the philosophical debate--Lycinus and Theomnestus share conventional values, and the position that is ultimately affirmed is traditional. Rather, the Erotes is a sophisticated literary composition that must be understood rhetorically and dramatically as well as philosophically. In the present paper I begin with a closer reading of the Erotes in order to isolate what is unique about this work, which turns out to be remarkably Lucianic in content and values. Then I will demonstrate its authenticity by reexamining the key issue of its style.


As stated above, the debate here is not a philosophical dialogue, it is an amusingly formal rhetorical contest--amusing because it is held in private, as a kind of duel to settle a grudge. Both speakers have some rhetorical background, (2) and they each have one turn to speak. When Lycinus is obliged to pick a winner, he assesses their rhetorical skill, and even credits them for covering all of the topical arguments (50)--which would hardly distinguish them philosophically. Lycinus congratulates Charicles for his brave defense of what Lycinus considers the weaker case (52), praise that a philosopher would not appreciate. Callicratidas goes so far as to blame Charicles for making their argument far more serious by unexpectedly "philosophizing" (31). Evidently it was not the purpose of the Erotes to advance the philosophical debate. But neither does Lycinus take the rhetorical contest seriously. The two speakers are not seeking truth, but opposing each other; both, with their exclusive preference for women or boys, are extremists, and Lycinus, who expected a playful diversion, is annoyed by their mutual hostility (17).

The Erotes, like many Lucianic dialogues, is a satirical seriocomedy The shallow, self-indulgent lifestyles of both speakers contrast pointedly with their idealistic speeches. 'Hypocrisy' may be too strong a word, since rhetoricians were expected to be able to argue any position (5); but irony is certainly intended.

Details of the lifestyles of Charicles and Callicratidas show their shallow extremism. Callicratidas is a gymnast, an occupation that was stereotyped as an ideal niche for a pederast. Strato (Antk Pal. 12.34) enviously pictures a gymnast enjoying the favors of several boys simultaneously in a scene reminiscent of the modern pornographic stereotype of the virile coach frolicking with his athletic admirers. Lycinus suspects that ped-erastic activity is Callicratidas's real reason for loving gymnastics (9). (3) Callicratidas keeps himself surrounded by boys, but as soon as their youth fades, they are packed off to work on his rural estates. As for Charicles, he comes from Corinth, the proverbial capital of courtesans, where he surrounds himself with women and excludes all male servants other than eunuchs and old men. He is handsome, foppish, and effeminate--traits commonly ascribed to womanizers and adulterers. Notably, Theomnestus, who is an eager and successful bisexual Casanova, also dresses foppishly, although he too frequents the gym (3).

There are touches of humor and witty mots justes throughout the Erotes. Even Callicratidas's misogynist discourse, though drawing on stock material, exhibits both rhetorical skill and fresh flashes of humor, such as the exaggerated assortment of concoctions, powders, and boxes at the lady's dresser filled with materials like "mischief" ([TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], 39). But other parts of Callicratidas's discourse seem extreme even by ancient standards. Men who, like him, preferred to discontinue sexual relations with their wives as soon as they had children must have been exceptional. And his spiteful wish that women's serpentine bracelets were real snakes contrasts sharply with, for example, the attitude of Lucretius, who, albeit equally cynical about cosmetics, dismissed it as folly because men can appreciate women of character regardless of their appearance (4.1174--91). Rhetorically, however, Callicratidas's version is effective, because it follows the decadent women step by step through their daily activities, building a rhythmical contrast with the parallel steps in the daily routine of wholesome young men which follows.

Here, rather than relying solely on the standard Platonic model of pederasty, our gymnast draws his material largely from the poets: Homer, Euripides, Callimachus, even Sappho. (4) Euripides' model of lifelong companionship between Orestes and Pylades inspires Callicratidas, who works himself up to a climax by asserting his desire for an exclusive relationship with one young man lasting to old age (46)--this from a man who banishes his minions to the countryside at the first appearance of the dreaded whiskers. The ideal that Callicratidas advocates sounds surprisingly ascetic, since intercourse with women is limited to reproductive activity and physical intercourse with the boys seems to be implicitly denied. Or is it? Callicratidas is cagy about this. He cites approvingly the Platonic story that Socrates would not have sex with Alcibiades (54), yet he boasts that his own ideal combines virtue with pleasure (37). There is a telling allusion to Aristophanes' Clouds (975--6), where modest boys are said to erase traces of their bottoms in the sand when leaving the gym. This is from the Just Argument's idealized Archaic model of pederasty, with which Aristophanes apparently sympathized, but which he found hypocritical because of the sexual nature of the relationship (5) --just as, in the Erotes, Theomnestus does humorously, and Charicles does scornfully, and as Lucian does in other works where he satirizes pederastic philosophers (e.g., in the tenth Dialogue of the Courtesans).

Charicles may have more initial appeal for some modern readers. When Robert Bloch (1907) wrote the study chiefly responsible for rejecting the authenticity of the Erotes, he was responding to an oversimplified interpretation that equated Charicles with Stoicism and Callicratidas with Epicureanism; thus, he deployed Quellenforschung to demonstrate that both speakers drew on various sources. Nonetheless, Charicles' core position is recognizably Stoic. His commendation of mutual affection between husband and wife echoes the Roman Stoic Musonius (Skinner 2005, 244) as well as Plutarch. His insistence that Nature dictates, for the purpose of reproduction, a rigid differentiation of gender roles can be traced to Plato's Laws, but Charicles' identification of Nature with "Providence" ([TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]) is Stoic.

Kathy Gaca (2003) has traced the doctrine of "procreationism," which specified reproduction as the only proper function of sex, from Plato and the Pythagoreans to the later Stoics and ultimately to Christianity. Although Zeno's sexual ethics were progressive, later Stoics, particularly Roman Stoics, became increasingly obsessed with the repression of all nonreproductive sex as illicit pursuit of pleasure. (6) Charicles' rant against same-sex relations as unrestrained indulgence ([TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]) echoes the abusive homophobic rhetoric that is often affected by Roman authors (e.g., Seneca; cf. Hubbard 2003, 392--5) and is much less prominent in, e.g., Plutarch. For Charicles, the history of civilization is one of increasing indulgence, and this must be stopped. In this respect he, just like Callicratidas, advocates an austere ideal, in amusing contradistinction to what we know of his own lifestyle.

As the frame narrative suggests, emotion is just as important as doc-trine here. Callicratidas's misogyny is matched by Charicles' homophobia. Predictably, both of them manipulate the Platonic differentiation of two kinds of love, physical and noble, to claim the noble type as exclusively their own, and ascribe the physical to their opponent.

At the climax of the dialogue, Lycinus reluctantly chooses a winner by asserting that everyone should marry but pederasty should be reserved for wise men only (51). This sounds like victory for Callicratidas, yet there is irony Lycinus's judgment directs some sarcasm at both speakers: he sets marriage in the real world, as a boon "if you are lucky," and deliberately accepts Callicratidas's "high-blown talk" [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], 50) at face value by agreeing that same-sex relations "respecting the ties of friendship" are possible only for philosophers. For if Callicratidas's "high-blown talk" be taken at face value, then his position, too, is in effect procreationist and calls for abstinence from nonreproductive sex. Of course, the irony is lost on Callicratidas, whose unbounded joy at the result suggests that he classes himself among the "wise" who will be allowed to indulge.

Lycinus himself does not place much value on the judgment; the rhetorical score, he says, is really about equal, but he is anxious for closure so that he need no longer be bothered with their annoying dispute (50). Nonetheless, Lycinus still reveals that he considers Charicles' cause inherently weaker (52); this means that he must be inclined to favor some element of Callicratidas's arguments. It cannot be the extreme misogyny or the ideal of a lifelong same-sex relationship, for by Lycinus's conventional standards these are extremist sentiments. As mentioned previously, Callicratidas's position, at any rate as formulated by Lycinus, amounts to neither more nor less than the traditional Greek attitude. But that, precisely, is the point: Callicratidas tells Charicles, "You seem almost ashamed to be Greek" (36). His own version of history is more positive, associating 'nature' with barbarian and 'culture' with Greek. Philosophy, as an umbrella concept for wisdom as a guide to living, plays a key role in this Hellenism with which our author evidently sympathized. Yet by reverting from Plato to the poets, and particularly to Aristophanes' Just Argument, Callicratidas has affirmed the oldest classical stratum of the Greek pederastic tradition. Charicles, in contrast, with his dogma of 'natural law' and his emphasis on marital companionship represents a relatively recent innovation with Hellenistic and especially Roman associations.

Charicles' temper, which surprises the other interlocutors and changes a playful pastime into a serious dispute, reflects the pompous moralism of the Roman Stoics, and foreshadows the repressive implementation of their ideology under Christian influence. Our author, as represented by Lycinus, does not sympathize with this reformist strain of philosophical thought. Indeed, although he does respect philosophy as the Greek approach to wisdom, he does not seem interested in sectarian philosophical disputes. Pederasty is simply accepted for its role in philosophy as part of the Hellenic way of life. This final affirmation of philosophical pederasty is not so much a theoretical refutation of the reformist ideology as the down-to-earth--one might even say reactionary--response of an educated traditionalist. It was the swan song of the Greek pederastic tradition, and from its perspective the question of women versus boys was, as both Lycinus and Theomnestus believed, trivial; the real issue was affirming past centuries of intellectual culture against a rising tide of repression.

The theme of the contestants' temper and Lycinus's impatience with it is emphasized throughout the frame narrative. Lycinus warns Theomnestus that whereas he might expect a discussion of this subject to be a mere diversion, it was actually a serious clash (5). Charicles and Cal-licratidas are constantly bickering until Lycinus proposes the contest to stop their uncultured noise (17). Charicles ends his speech with a "beastly glare" (29) ironically reminiscent of his admiration for animals as natural, while Callicratidas looks full of anger. But Lycinus only smiles (30) and comments that he feels as if Charicles has been addressing the Areopagus court rather than a couple of friends (29). (7)

One might think that anger and righteous indignation would have a legitimate role in oratory. But this particular kind of anger--loss of temper, therefore loss of self-control--was not admired. Philostratus in his Lives of the Sophists cites it as a fault of speakers more than once, referring to Antiochus (568) and Philagros (579-81), and even, in exceptional circumstances, Herodes Atticus (561). A modern term roughly equivalent to this uncontrolled anger towards opposing views is 'fanaticism.' Lycinus dislikes any kind of fanaticism on the grounds that it is unbecoming a gentleman ([TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]) And while both speakers are fanatical in their character, Charicles' fanaticism is intrinsic to his reformist views. The author expresses this through repeated references to Lycinus's desire, and his companions' failure, to strike a proper balance between aruouSri (earnestness) and [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (fun) (1, 4, 5, 7, 17, 53), as well as through Lycinus's surprise and annoyance at the vehemence of their emotion.

The contrast between Lycinus's equable restraint and the irascibility of his companions is developed throughout the frame narrative. As nus narrates his voyage to Cnidos with Charicles and Callicratidas and then gives an extensive description of the temple precinct of Aphrodite, the author strives to create an atmosphere of cheerful reverence and pleasant dallying in lush and prosperous surroundings. There are no storms at sea, and the placid voyage reflects Lycinus's attitude. The difficult passage of the Swallow Islands is acknowledged only in passing, and even the impoverished conditions along the Lycian coast serve to elicit his cultured conviviality. Lycinus's quietism is not founded upon ivory-tower illusions, but on a learned gentleman's restraint. The temple precinct in particular is beautifully depicted, its luxuriant gardens teeming with flora and worshippers. All of this creates an atmosphere of placid reverence leading up to the viewing of the statue of Aphrodite. Bloch (1907, 52), citing the author's "Asianism" as evidence of inauthenticity, singled out this portion as a specimen sermonis putidi atque ornati. But these scenes contribute to the dramatic movement of the Erotes, as they resonate with the peace and prosperity that Lycinus both desires and embodies, and which contrasts with his companions' rage.

Scholars studying Lucian's The Hall have shown how Second Sophistic authors were expected to criticize a work of art.8 Vulgar art admirers would merely gape or express inarticulate enthusiasm, whereas a cultured viewer would respond with a verbal description of its merits. From this point of view, the performance of Charicles and Callicratidas in front of the Aphrodite is laughable. Charicles, overcome by lust, gushes. Callicratidas does a little better, commenting appropriately on the composition, but only after gushing even more foolishly at the back of the statue, which reminds him of boys.

The temple guide recites a story of an amorous youth who embraced the statue, stained its thigh, and came to a bad end. This story was commonplace, but its treatment here is hardly merely conventional. Apart from the fact that it is engagingly narrated with a sensitive and realistic psychological analysis and a well-constructed gradient of dramatic tension, it is a moving reminder of the danger of obsessive eros. Charicles and Callicratidas, however, each interpret it blindly in support of their own type of erotic interest. Indeed, the champion of monogamous heterosexual fidelity cannot restrain himself from fondling the statue, just like the young man in the story.

The authorial response is expressed more through the opening and closing conversations between Lycinus and Theomnestus than through Lycinus's forced and qualified judgment. Lycinus is not prudish--he delights in Theomnestus's tales of his many affairs with boys and women alike. However, he orients his own conduct on the Greek ideal of self-control. (9)ycinus can accept the judge's role and make the proper choice. What he cannot do is express the comical aspect of this seriocomedy by duly debunking the false idealism of the two debaters. This is undertaken by Theomnestus, who charges both of them with "high-blown talk" [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] and proceeds to bring us back down to earth with an explicit step-by-step account of a typical sexual encounter.

This passage, while certainly amusing, is also serious. It is meaningful both for the history of sexuality and for understanding the Erotes. Unlike much of ancient philosophical discourse, Theomnestus's discourse reflects experience, not ideology. That the author was knowledgeable about such matters is shown by Theomnestus's awareness of the tactics of male-to-male lovemaking and Charicles' description of the feelings associated with anal penetration (27).

Theomnestus's discourse, like the contemporary poetry of Strato, is usually regarded as relating only to purely physical or recreational sex.10 But do Strato and Theomnestus merely discuss more openly a type of relations that had long coexisted with educational pederasty? Or did Greek practice really change? Charicles apparently assumes that the new interest in marital relationships and the professionalization of higher education reduced same-sex relations to purely physical liaisons. Yet the emphasis on courtship, seduction, and mutual enjoyment in Strato's anthology and in Theomnestus's discourse suggests that same-sex relations may have become more equal and reciprocal outside of the educational frame. Both of these sources indicate, for example, that men should expect boys to enjoy the sex too.

To understand the function of Theomnestus's account within the Erotes, however, we should also remember that Aphrodite not only nominally presides over this dialogue; her presence is salient. Theomnestus dismisses pretences of abstinence by emphasizing the passivity of erotic arousal: If you look, you are overwhelmed with the desire to kiss; if you kiss, you are overwhelmed with the desire to touch; and the hands seem to move on to less innocent activities as if of their own volition.11 Theomnestus is reminding us that eros is not exclusively about either reproduction or education; it is a power that commands respect and, as Theomnestus knows only too well, threatens self-control. This suggestion seriously undermines the position of Lycinus, who appears to be perhaps too much a gentleman.


Postmodern critics sensitive to irony, ambivalence, and different authorial personae have a very different appreciation of Lucian than Bloch's generation, when it was fashionable to judge questions of authenticity on tenuous grounds.12 If it is not clear, for example, to what extent Theomnestus, as well as Lycinus, represents the authorial point of view, we should more likely regard this as characteristically Lucianic than as evidence of inauthenticity Jas Eisner's (2001) essay on The Syrian Goddess is a fine example of more current scholarship on Lucian. After analyzing the sophisticated layers of ambiguity in that work, Eisner concludes it is hard to believe it is not by Lucian, although he does not address the issue of authenticity directly (probably because of the numerous studies already on this topic).

The authenticity of the Erotes has received scant attention; however, some scholars betray discomfort with the dogma of inauthenticity. C. P. Jones (1984, 178) has written that the Erotes, if not by Lucian, was at least greatly influenced by him, while Simon Goldhill describes a remark by Lycinus as "a characteristic Lucianic [even if this is a pseudo-Lucianic dialogue] gesture" (1995, 102; original brackets) and refers to the speakers as "the Lucianic debaters" (1995, 104). If, on the other hand, the Erotes was written by an imitator, he was a skilled rhetorician able to compose a satirical seriocomedy of literary merit that reproduced his model's attitudes and values surprisingly well. He was broadly acquainted with poetry and philosophy, and respectful of philosophy as a general source of wisdom, but cynical regarding philosophical posturing and innovations, and as sensitive to character as to theory. He could appreciate pleasure and comfort, but admired--and presented himself as a practitioner of--self-control. He was a man ambivalent towards Roman influence, with a sentimental preference for Greek classical values; a man who could be cynical about classical idealism yet fond of tradition, and who, in this connection, sympathized with Aristophanes. He could be both skeptical and respectful as regards religion;13 had a relaxed attitude towards sex, but could readily satirize pretentious or exploitative sexual ideologues; could tolerate differing views and tastes, but disliked fanaticism; and above all, had a lively sense of irony and constantly targeted [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII].

In spite of all this, most twentieth-century scholars endorsed the view that the Erotes is not authentic after making only brief, vague references to its style. Although Michael Klabunde (2001, 165) has been able to trace denials of authenticity to before the twentieth century, the last detailed presentation of this view was put forth by Bloch (1907) and Helm (1927), who disparaged the style as "Asianist" because it was supposedly too ornate, pedantic, and marked by outlandish vocabulary similar to what Lucian condemned in his Lexiphanes. The only aspect given further serious attention was external evidence to corroborate the presumption of inauthenticity. The Erotes states that the statue is Parian marble, while Lucian elsewhere (Zeus Rants 10) says it is Pentelic (although I would argue that an author could make such a mistake in two of his works). Jones (1984) dates the Erotes to the third century C.E. because it describes Cnidos as prosperous and the Lydian coast as depressed and fails to mention the earthquakes that damaged Cnidos in Lucian's time. The dramatic setting of the dialogue, however, can explain this apparent contradiction. Since the travelers must go to Cnidos to see Aphrodite, Cnidos must be peaceful and thriving to reflect the atmosphere of their encounter, and so any mention of earthquakes would need to be omitted. In any case, Jones's reasoning depends on the assumption that the dialogue must have read like plausible reportage.14 Although much of Lucian's work did relate to contemporary events or persons, an author who wrote of trips to the moon and the underworld would not hesitate to fictionalize aspects of the real world as well if it suited his purpose. In support of authenticity, the social and intellectual environment described in the Erotes--the prosperity of the High Empire, thriving sophists, safe travel, and the pagan religious revival--typify Lucian's own time. The Stoic character of Charicles' procreationist arguments is significant in this regard. A century later, with Stoicism in decline, one might have expected a pagan intellectual attacking fanaticism, especially as regards sex, to allude rather to the Neoplatonic or Christian doctrines prevalent at that time.

When all is said, the essential argument against authenticity is the treatise's style. Lucian is known for the variety of his writing, and the Erotes does use more complex, even difficult, sentence structures and unusual vocabulary than we usually find in, e.g., Lucian's dramatic sketches. The style has been compared to Philostratus's (Jones 1986, 178), although the flow is smoother, and the syntax more elegant. The core of Bloch's argument against authenticity, which has been docilely accepted now for a century, was the description of the voyage in sections 7-8; the passage was adduced as a self-evident example of the pedantic affectation known as "Asianism." Although this term was commonly used in the ancient world, it was only vaguely defined; yet scholars of Bloch's era surmised it readily. Bloch even regarded the fact that the passage conveys a vivid image of the narrated events and setting as Asianist. Now, this passage is among the most ornate in the Erotes and, taken out of context, might seem needlessly detailed; however, like the encounter with the temple statue and the story of the statue's pollution, it is well written, at least when read in connection with the overall theme of the dialogue. If "Asianist" is well written, graphic narrative, then Lucian indulged in this style on many other occasions. For example, the function of the seafaring narrative in the Erotes is remarkably analogous to that of another seemingly gratuitous seafaring story reported in The Ship (7-9). In both accounts, the navigational details are expanded with material chosen to set the atmosphere of the dialogue. In the Erotes, it is Lycinus's calm, contrasted with his companions' temper. In The Ship, an atmosphere of almost juvenile excitement begins with the docking of an impressive cargo ship and sweeps Lycinus's companions into ambitious fantasies of wealth and power, only to have a cynical Lycinus eventually burst the bubble and bring them back down to earth. The report of the voyage which, this time, does have a storm and exciting heroics as well, contributes to the excitement.

If we examine the supposed pedantic verbosity of Bloch's "Asianist" passage in this light, the style actually is wholly appropriate. (15) "Expedition" [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] is a grandiose term for this safe trip, apparently said tongue-in-cheek to contribute to the atmosphere of camaraderie. The breezes "shepherd" [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] their ship in response to Lycinus's conventional piety. "Smooth" [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] sailing continues the emphasis on the calmness of the voyage. Lycinus's seemingly fulsome statement that he will not give a detailed account of their conversations "serious and playful" [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] belongs to the leitmotif contrasting Lycinus's expectation of playful diversion and his companions' earnestness. And if I am correct in arguing that Callicratidas's Hellenism scores points for him in the contest, the patriotic reference to the shores of old Greece as [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (blessed) even when they are not prosperous is not gratuitous.

An argument against authenticity is the number of 'non-Lucianic' words in the treatise. For example, the vividness of the voyage account is artfully reinforced by invoking the sense of sound as well as sight: [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] for the dashing of the oars, and [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]for the subdued roar of the waves. The latter word is not found elsewhere in Lucian. Notice, however, that it is just the right touch for the waves. Other words not found elsewhere in Lucian occur here, e.g., [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] for the entertainment of the passengers on their stopovers occurs, but it fits Lycinus's values nicely with its combined reference to entertainment and hospitality. The fact that the Erotes has hapax legomena (words occurring only once) is not relevant; other Lucianic works contain them--in fact, such words are very [numerous.sup.16]. The important consideration is whether these words are used in an appropriate manner in context, especially when the word choice creates an ironic or comic effect, as it often does in Lucian's writing.

Recent scholars, observing that word usages condemned by Lucian in the Lexiphanes are employed elsewhere by Lucian himself, have transformed our understanding of the Lexiphanes and of sophistic stylistic criticism generally (17) Their criterion is not avoidance of obscure vocabulary, but using it appropriately So Michel Casevitz (1994, 86): "II semble que ce n'est pas tant la creation de mots ... que raille Lucien, luimeme ayant pratique le neologisme, mais son indiscret emploi."(18) This observation certainly applies to the Lexiphanes. What strikes the reader as comical is not only Lexiphanes' far-fetched vocabulary, but the fact that he recites a conspicuously banal narrative in which to scatter these words, just like the incompetent rhetorician in The Professional Public Speaker who advises his student to memorize a short list of pompous Attic vocables and pepper any speech with them. In the Erotes, to the contrary, such words are almost invariably mots justes eminently suited to their context.

The following is a sampling of several relatively unusual words in the text of the Erotes, with a notation of whether their use is appropriate and whether the word in question is cited elsewhere in Lucian by LSJ or Reitz (1765).

[TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (2): the active means 'to tend cattle,' the middle and passive 'to graze, feed on, or be beguiled by'; a picaresque description of Theomnestus's passionate career, ruminating on one lust after another; used in the same way in Lucian, Trag. 29. As with [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], the image is reiterated with a less common term: [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (16); the active means 'to lead astray,' the middle 'to go astray'. LSJ also list the figurative meanings 'beguile, seduce,' and sooth,' drawing citations for these figurative meanings exclusively from Lucian. LSJ translates the word here as 'sooth,' but the connotation of self-deceit is clearly suited to the lovesick youth's attempt to 'sooth' his passion with a game equivalent to plucking daisy petals ("She loves me, she loves me not"). Surely this was ate (blasphemous recklessness) when directed at a goddess. LSJ cites five texts altogether, two of them from Lucian.

[TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (10): Callicratidas is a plain, straightforward fellow (in contrast to his foppish opponent); two of the six examples cited in LSJ are from Lucian, and Reitz cites four Lucianic texts.

[TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (16): 'panderer'; once again, two of the four texts cited in LSJ are from Lucian, while Reitz found it four times.

[TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (19): 'Ur-root', a hapax legomenon; the word is neatly applied to Nature's cosmogonic function.

[TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (26): 'unnatural lust.' LSJ cites a few late authors, including Lucian.

[TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (39): 'inauspicious.' Used by Lucian only here, but the reference is explained by Lucian in The Mistaken Critic (17); the word refers to monkeys, because they were inauspicious to mention in the morning. Here applied to women rising with a hangover, the idea of the inauspicious morning humorously links the women and the monkeys.

[TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (41): a hapax legomenon in Lucian, referring to the 'smoke and mirrors' of cosmetics. The suggestion of sorcery is an apt comical exaggeration.

[TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (52): the high-blown arguments 'frown'; a striking and amusing metaphor also found in Philostratus.

In summary, four of the above words occur only in the Erotes, but all are used appropriately, even imaginatively; and five words are attested in other works by Lucian.

The style of the Erotes, with complex syntax and unusual vocabulary cleverly deployed, as shown by the above examples, for suitable and especially comical effect (19) is, as mentioned previously, less common in Lucian's dramatic sketches and fantasies. It does appear in varying degrees, though, where the discourse is that of cultured rhetoricians, whether they are characters satirized by Lucian, or Lucian himself in his more academic essays. In the Erotes, the two debaters are rhetoricians, while Lycinus represents Lucian at the height of his activity as an itinerant speaker (6), and so polished speech should be expected.

Lucian's Nigrinus is informative in this connection, because in that dialogue the author actually signals this usage. The Nigrinus presents a reported interview with a philosopher of that name within a frame dialogue between two unnamed interlocutors. The syntax is fairly complex throughout, but conspicuous vocabulary is more frequent in the opening part of the interlocutors' dialogue. Here, the speaker who will report on Nigrinus is reluctant to start, and teases his friend with verbose procrastinations until the other man tells him to leave off the rhetoric and go on (10); thereafter, fewer conspicuous words are employed. Here are some interesting words from that dialogue:

[TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (5): 'haughty' which designates exultant pride. It is found only here in Lucian. In a comically exaggerated description of the elation that induced him to employ conspicuous rhetoric, the speaker says that he was [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] and [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (lofty); the latter term is reminiscent of the Clouds. The Erotes, incidentally, uses nexecoQoXsoxai as a variant for highblown talkers; LSJ gives four citations for this word, including one from Lucian's Icaromenippus; Reitz also found it in Lucian's Prometheus.

[TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (7): 'to unroll'; LSJ cites only two instances of this word, both from Lucian.

[TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (7): 'to pressure'; commonly used in a physical sense, the figurative meaning used here is rarer; indeed, LSJ cites only Lucian.

[TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (8): 'to backwater'; another striking figurative use, referring to going back in a speech. It occurs several times in Lucian.

[TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (10): 'to bear a gnidge.' This word occurs three times in Lucian, but all of the instances cited in LSJ are from classical authors; it is apparently an Atticism as well as a compound with graphic meaning.

[TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (12); 'to help to train, to reform gradually.' An apt image for the manipulative conditioning of crass Roman visitors by the Athenians, the word occurs only here in Lucian, with only one other citation in LSJ (from Plutarch).

In this sample, then, four words occur elsewhere in Lucian, but two are found solely in the Nigrinus.

The appearance of mots justes unique within the Lucianic corpus, therefore, is not an exceptional feature of the Erotes, and conversely, some conspicuous words encountered in the Erotes are found elsewhere in Lucian, sometimes more frequently than in other authors. The style represents one extreme of a genuine Lucianic spectrum between rhetoric and drama. Given the prevalence of homophobia in most of the twentieth century, both the eager condemnation of the intriguing Erotes and its subsequent neglect were symptomatic of the climate of the times. My study of specific vocabulary, however small, far exceeds the meager specifics offered by opponents of authenticity, and my conclusion of authenticity is supported by the manuscript tradition.


The loyalty of Callicratidas and Lycinus to Greek tradition is consistent with the predominant cultural trend of the Second Sophistic. The desire to revivify Greek self esteem by reviving aspects of classical culture did not find its only expression in the rhetoricians' Atticism and their repertoire of themes for declamation. Bjoern Christian Ewald (2004, 242-7) discusses Attic sarcophagi, which were differentiated from Roman ones in several aspects reflecting Greek traditional values, including a greater emphasis on male nudity and the gaze of older men directed at young men. Perhaps inevitably, Second Sophistic attempts to revive classical phenomena were sometimes artificial and unrealistic; after all, the excited audiences of the pompous declaimers could not decide critical issues of the Persian War. The text of the Erotes strongly suggests that both Char-icles and Callicratidas, as well as Theomnestus, are actually engaged only in casual, recreational love affairs. Lucian's cynical realism may have contributed to his marginalization from the ranks of the sophists. Philostra-tus implies that what rhetoricians disliked in some philosophers, too, was sarcasm and vulgarity ([TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII])vixov [the usual ironic attitude of philosophy in general, 487]).

Much of the evidence for same-sex relations in the imperial age does describe recreational sex. This reality is attested by Theomnestus's discourse. Admittedly, any attempt to practice educational pederasty whether chastely or not, must have been problematized by the fact that philosophers too had become paid professionals. The Erotes, however, shows that the supposition that same-sex relations were purely physical is a biased procreationist view, and there was still a serious awareness of the educational paradigm, at least as an ideal.

Lucian evidently sympathized with this traditional ideal more than with Stoic prudery but he also acknowledged the reservations expressed by Theomnestus. Lycinus's receptive (albeit distanced) attitude toward Theomnestus's cynicism, and the amusing contradiction between the lifestyles of the two ideologues and their ascetic doctrines, together suggest that the author of the Erotes, though aware of the dangers of unrestrained eros, regarded ideological calls for abstinence as unrealistic. Thus, the structure of the dialogue conforms to a characteristic Lucianic pattern in which Lucian's own apparent spokesman is satirically undermined. Lucian mocks extremist idealism, unequivocally rejecting the repressive reformism of the Stoics, but not without a sardonic smile at Callicratidas's pretensions of chastity. Still, he has Lycinus opt in favor of philosophical pederasty as an essential aspect of Hellenism; but at the end of the dialogue, he allows Theomnestus to effectively question the practicality of any chaste erotic relationship. We are left with a quandary between respected tradition and cynical realism. While the value of this document for the history of sexuality is gradually being recognized today part of its message for Lucian's contemporaries was an endorsement of the Second Sophistic revival of Hellenism--but with strong reservations regarding its practicality in the imperial era. (20)

Works Cited

Billault, Alain, ed. 1994. Lucien de Samosate: Actes du colloque international de Lyon organise au Centre d'Etudes Romaines et Gallo-romaines k 30 septemhre-1er octohre 1993. Lyon.

Bloch, Robert. 1907. De Pseudo-Luciani Amoribus. Strassbourg.

Bompaire, Jacques. 1994. "UAtticisme de Lucien." In Billault 1994, 65-75.

Buffiere, Felix. 1980. Eros adolescent: La pederastie dans la Grice antique. Paris.

Cascvitz, Michel. 1994. "La creation verbale chcz Lucien: Lc Lcxiphancs, Lcxiphane et Lucien." In Billault 1994, 77-86.

Dobrov, Gregory W. 2002. "The Sophist and His Craft." Helios 29.2: 173-92.

Eisner, Jas. 2001. "Describing Self in the Language of Other: Pseudo-(?) Lucian at the Temple of Hierapolis." In Goldhill 2001a, 123-53.

Ewald, B. C. 2004. "Men, Muscle and Myth." In B. Borg, ed., Paideia: The World of the Second Sophistic. Berlin and NewYork. 229-67.

Fleury, Pascale. 2007. "Eroticos: Un dialogue (amoureux) entrc Platon et la Secondc Sophistique?" REG 120.2: 776-87.

Foucault, Michel. 1984. Histoire de la Sexualite, vol. 3. Paris.

Gaca, Kathy L. 2003. The Making of Fornication: Eros, Ethics, and Political Reform in Greek Philosophy and Early Christianity. Berkeley.

Goldhill, Simon. 1995. Foucault's Virginity: Ancient Erotic Fiction and the History of Sexuality. Cambridge.

--, ed. 2001a. Being Greek under Rome: Cultural Identity, the Second Sophistic and the Development of Empire. Cambridge.

--. 2001b. "The Erotic Eye: Visual Stimulation and Cultural Conflict." In Goldhill 2001a, 154-94.

Halpcrin, David M. 1992. "Ilistoricizing the Sexual Body." In Domna Stanton, ed., Discourses of Sexuality from Aristotle to AIDS. Ann Arbor. 236-61.

Helm, Rudolf. 1927. "Lukianos." RE 13: 1725-78.

Henderson, Jeffrey. 1991. The Maculate Muse: Obscene Language in Attic Comedy. Oxford.

Hubbard, Thomas K. 2003. Homosexuality in Greece and Rome: A Sourcebook of Basic Documents. Berkeley.

Jones, C. P. 1984. "Tarsos in the Amores Ascribed to Lucian." GRBS 25: 177-81.

--1986. Culture and Society in Lucian. Cambridge, MA.

Klabunde, Michael R. 2001. "Boys or Women? The Rhetoric of Sexual Preference in Achilles Tatius, Plutarch, and Pseudo-Lucian." Ph.D. dissertation, University of Cincinnati.

Lear, Andrew. 2007. 'Aristophanes' Gentle Mockery of Pederasty." Paper delivered at the national meeting of the American Philological Association.

Macleod, M. D. 1967. Lucian, vol. 8. Cambridge, MA and London.

Reitz, C. C. 1965 [1765]. Index verborum acphrasium Luciani. Amsterdam.

Schofield, M. 1999. The Stoic Idea of the City. Chicago.

Skinner, Marilyn B. 2005. Sexuality in Greek and Roman Culture. Oxford.

Whitmarsh, Tim. 2005. The Second Sophistic. Oxford.


(1.) Citing Callicratidas's enthusiasm for the rear view of the statue of Aphrodite, he concluded that it is merely a question of taste for different body parts. But even in that scene gender is relevant, as the focus of Callicratidas's interest is described as "the boy part" ([TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] 14). Section numbers of the Greek texts of Lucian and Philo-stratus refer to the Loeb editions.

(2.) Callicratidas's rhetorical skill is mentioned explicitly in section 9, and since Charicles is praised for his skilful speaking he too must have been trained in rhetoric.

(3.) Lucian, incidentally, does not regard gymnasts highly as cultural achievers. In his On Salaried Posts in Great Houses (4), he concedes that some other professions, such as rhetoricians, might press a claim to status comparable to a philosopher's, but he draws the line at gymnasts.

(4.) Bloch 1907, 41; for Sappho, MacLeod 1967, 220.

(5.) Slightly differing views, both compatible with this, are expressed in Henderson 1991, 76-7 and Lear 2007.

(6.) Skinner 2005, 161-2 and Gaca 2003, 110-5. For Zeno, see esp. Schofield 1999, 22-56. Charicles' procreationism is not fully articulated; however, he does argue that sex must be for reproduction, and that sex for pleasure alone is wrong; and he not only condemns intercourse between members of the same sex, but even excludes women beyond reproductive age (25).

(7.) Lycinus's sarcasm is usually directed evenly at both speakers. This remark is balanced by his assertion that Callicratidas's joy over his victory is as if he had won the battle of Salamis (52).

(8.) Goldhill 2001 and esp. Dobrov 2002.

(9.) Thcomnestus regards Lycinus as an impartial arbiter of women versus boys "since I don't see you more passionate either way" ([TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], 4). This has been interpreted to mean that Lycinus is 'asexual.' Apart from the questionable applicability of 'asexual' as an ancient concept, it would be pointless to ask an individual who has experienced neither of two alternatives which is better. The key word is naBoq: Lycinus is not susceptible to either passion. He can judge fairly because he is not obsessed with either.

(10.) Foucault 1984, 245: "G 'est le plaisir physique qui aura le dernier mot et congediera dans un eclat de rire les discours pudibonds"; cf. also 209, and Buffiere 1980, 5259.

(11.) This passivity of desire may reflect religious conceptions. The Greeks regarded sexual arousal not as a purely physiological phenomenon, but as the expression of the spiritual power of Aphrodite. According to Gaca, this applies even to Christians like Tatian (2003, 228-39) and Clement of Alexandria (2003, 262-6); these authors believed not that the pagan gods did not exist, but that they were demons. Gaca traces the extreme valuation of abstinence in their ethics to a desire to avoid the influence of the demon Aphrodite.

(12.) Even Helm (1927, 1729) wrote: "Die Frage der Echtheit der einzelnen Werke ist vielfach mit sehr grosser Willkuer behandelt worden."

(13.) Lycinus reverently observes ritual, for example, when embarking on the voyage (6), but prefers to explain the stain on the statue by natural causes (15).

(14.) Jones (1986) made a highly valuable contribution by tracing contemporary alluvSions wherever possible in Lucian's corpus. Other Lucianic scholars, however, have adopted more moderate positions.

(15.) I omit both the technical terminology of navigation here and technical theatrical vocabulary in my discussion of the Nigrinus below.

(16.) Bompaire (1994, 68), referring to an earlier study of Lucian's language, writes: "Des hapax de Lucien et des mots qu'il est le premier a employer (plus de 600)."

(17.) See esp. Whitmarsh 2005, 41-56.

(18.) See also Whitmarsh 2005, 51.

(19.) An interesting modern literary parallel is the narrative style of Noel Coward.

(20.) Thanks to Bjoern Ewald and Andreas Bendlin for valuable suggestions regarding the content of this article, to Denise Hudson and A. P. Booth for stylistic improvements, and to C. R Jones and Denise Hudson for guidance to acquire the dissertations by Bloch and Klabunde. I am especially thankful to David Konstan, the late James Butrica, and Thomas Schmidt for their encouragement of my independent scholarly research.
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