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Plato (427-327 B.C.E.)  
page: 1  2  3  4  5  

Even though Plato opposed giving physical expression to homosexual desires, many Christian writers, from the church fathers onward, regarded it as scandalous that he had gone so far as to portray a society where such feelings were openly recognized, discussed, and approved.

Some learned authors of the English Renaissance, such as Sir Philip Sidney, revealed a (disapproving) knowledge of the original texts, but awareness of the role male love played in Plato's teachings remained, in England at least, a secret to men not versed in Greek and Latin, and rare among them.

The first English translation of the Symposium, published by Floyd Sydenham in 1767, was outrageously bowdlerized: Male references and pronouns were changed to female and Plato's "army of lovers" transformed into an army of knights and ladies. Alcibiades' speech was omitted as contrary to English morals.

To counter this travesty, Percy Bysshe Shelley prepared an accurate translation, but when it was finally published after his death, it too was bowdlerized so as to obliterate any homoerotic elements.

The first candid English version to reveal Plato's world in uncensored form was the Bohn Library edition of 1849.

Louis Crompton

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literature >> Overview:  Censorship

Governments, publishers, editors, and even gay writers themselves have censored gay content in literature from the Renaissance to the present.

literature >> Overview:  English Literature: Renaissance

Homosexuality is writ large in English Renaissance literature, but its inscription is only rarely direct and unambiguous.

literature >> Overview:  English Literature: Romanticism

Since homosexuality was severely persecuted during the Romantic period, writers who treated the subject more or less positively were forced to encode it or leave it unpublished and were themselves frequently forced into exile.

literature >> Overview:  Greek Literature: Ancient

Ancient Greece holds a unique place in the heritage of homosexual literature as it was a society that openly celebrated same-sex love in its poetry and prose.

literature >> Bruno, Giordano

Burned at the stake by the Roman Catholic Church, Italian philosopher Giordano Bruno has been seen as a martyr to religious intolerance; only recently has he also been recognized as a queer hero.

literature >> Dickinson, Goldsworthy Lowes

Goldsworthy Lowes Dickinson, a Cambridge classicist and friend of E. M. Forster, is significant for the glbtq legacy as the author of an immensely popular book on ancient Greece and a posthumously published, surprisingly frank autobiography.

social sciences >> Ficino, Marsilio

The fifteenth-century Italian philosopher Marsilio Ficino introduced the phrase "platonic love," by which he meant a relationship that included both the physical and the spiritual.

literature >> Jowett, Benjamin

Benjamin Jowett, classical scholar and translator whose bowdlerization of Plato illustrates the dishonesty made necessary by Victorian homophobia, was probably homosexual in orientation.

literature >> Plutarch

No ancient is more instructive about pederasty than the Greek biographer and essayist Plutarch.

literature >> Rocco, Antonio

Italian rhetorician and philosopher Antonio Rocco is author of an early classic of pederastic literature, L'Alcibiade fanciullo a scola (Alcibiades the schoolboy), which was written in 1630 and published anonymously in 1652.

literature >> Sappho

Admired through the ages as one of the greatest lyric poets, the ancient Greek writer Sappho is today esteemed by lesbians around the world as the archetypal lesbian and their symbolic mother.

arts >> Subjects of the Visual Arts: Harmodius and Aristogeiton

Athenian lovers Harmodius and Aristogeiton were remembered in ancient Greece as the great tyrannicides and celebrated as lovers, patriots, and martyrs.


Dover, Kenneth. Greek Homosexuality. London: Duckworth, 1978.

Foucault, Michel. The Use of Pleasure. Trans. R. Hurley. New York: Random House, 1985.

Halperin, David. "Why is Diotima a Woman?" One Hundred Years of Homosexuality and Other Essays on Greek Love. New York: Routledge, 1990.

Marrou, H. I. A History of Education in Antiquity. Trans. G. Lamb. New York: Sheed and Ward, 1956.

Plato. Laws. Trans. T. L. Pangle. New York: Basic Books, 1980.

Plato. Phaedrus. Trans. R. Hackworth. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1952.

Plato. Symposium. Trans. W. Hamilton. Harmondsworth: Penguin, l951.

Percy, William Armstrong III. Pederasty and Pedagogy in Archaic Greece. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1996.


    Citation Information
    Author: Crompton, Louis  
    Entry Title: Plato  
    General Editor: Claude J. Summers  
    Publication Name: glbtq: An Encyclopedia of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual,
Transgender, and Queer Culture
    Publication Date: 2002  
    Date Last Updated August 26, 2005  
    Web Address  
    Publisher glbtq, Inc.
1130 West Adams
Chicago, IL   60607
    Today's Date  
    Encyclopedia Copyright: © 2002-2006, glbtq, Inc.  
    Entry Copyright © 1995, 2002 New England Publishing Associates  


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