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Classical Mythology  
 
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Master and pupil were mutually devoted and inseparable. They joined Jason, in quest of the golden fleece, aboard the Argo. At Chios, the Argonauts disembarked and began to prepare a meal. Hylas wandered off by himself to fetch water for his lover, and as he bent over a spring to fill his pitcher, the nymph of the water was dazzled by his beauty and grace and pulled him into her element to be her paramour. He cried out, but to no avail.

Heracles frantically sought his lost eromenos and got the local inhabitants to join in the fruitless search. While it was going on, the Arognauts, with the winds favorable, set sail and left the bereft hero behind.

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Heracles and Iolaus

Iolaus, Heracles' nephew, the son of his half or twin brother Iphicles, was initially his eromenos and afterward continued as a lifelong companion who shared in many of the hero's exploits and adventures. Here the pederastic eros of uncle for nephew grew into deep and abiding philia, in contrast to the love between Heracles and Hylas that was aborted when the love was still in an erotic phase.

Orpheus and Male Love

Orpheus, the Thracian singer and classical pattern of the poet-musician, was woebegone after failing at the very last moment to regain his wife Eurydice from Hades. Thereafter, whether from a continuing commitment to her or from the pain of losing her twice, he resolved to shun women (and was later butchered for so doing by resentful maenads).

Instead, he gave "his love to tender boys . . . enjoying the springtime and first flower of their youth." He introduced pederastic behavior into Thrace, but his mode of conduct as represented in Ovid's Metamorphoses (10.83-85) may be criticizable from an Hellenic viewpoint for being rather promiscuous and nonpedagogical.

Mythical Originators of Same-Sex Love

Mythology is obsessed with origins; hence the focus on the provenance of same-sex love. A number of originators are designated in myths, either with respect to a particular locale, as Orpheus in the case of Thrace, or as radical innovators.

Another Thracian bard, Thamyris, is regarded by some as the first to love another male, with Hyacinthus or Hymenaeus (both of whom Apollo loved too) and perhaps Narcissus as the objects of his passion; but he seems not to have won any of them, or at least we are never informed that he did.

King Laius of Thebes as the Originator of Homosexuality

Although other scattered and peripheral stories may deal with the initiation of homosexuality, the most widespread Hellenic traditions were that it arose in Crete or, alternatively, that Laius, the king of Thebes and the father killed by his son Oedipus, deserves credit for its invention.

When the Theban throne was usurped for a time, Laius was exiled to the court of Pelops in Pisa, where he was hospitably received. Of Pelops' many sons, the youngest and favorite was Chrysippus, whose mother was not the queen Hippodamia but a nymph. He was a young beauty, and Laius, when teaching him to drive a chariot, fell passionately in love with him, thus bringing pederastic eros into being.

Later when Laius was recalled by his subjects, he abducted the youth, who was the great love of his life, and returned with him to Thebes. The aftermaths vary considerably.

In one version, Chrysippus killed himself for shame; in another, Hippodamia killed him sleeping in Laius's bed and used Laius's sword to pin the crime on him, but the dying boy cleared his lover of suspicion. Or else was he murdered by his half brothers Atreus and Thyestes? The Sphinx may have been sent to Thebes by Hera as a punishment for the king's abduction of Chrysippus.

The Oedipus Complex

Laius as founder of the paiderasteia, as the Greek institution of pederasty is called, is especially interesting in connection with the psychoanalytic theory of the Oedipus complex. The informing and defining myth of this psychosexual process details the relations of the eponymous hero with his parents Laius and Jocasta.

According to Freud, the father (the Laius ectype) has crucial functions in the sexual development of the son (the Oedipus ectype), and if he performs them successfully, the boy can move along a libidinal path toward the goal, reached at puberty, of choosing a female love-object (a Jocasta-substitute figure).

Now what happens to this theory when the grand passion of the archetypal father turns out to be an adolescent boy? Could that paternal figure be effectual in helping to bring the conflict with the son to a heterosexual resolution? Discussions of the Oedipus complex in either its positive or negative forms rarely take into account Laius's pederastic libido.

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