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social sciences

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Alcibiades (ca 450-404/3 B. C. E.)  
 
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In the above listed examples, Alcibiades is presented as a more or less historical figure, a military commander and student of Socratic teaching. In Marlowe's Edward II (ca 1592), Sir Francis Bacon's essay "Of Beauty" (1597), and Antonio Rocco's Alcibiades the Schoolboy (1652), however, the allusions are specifically . In these works, Alcibiades is presented as a symbol of homosexual desire.

Even in our times, Alcibiades remains a pertinent symbol. He is referred to in Gore Vidal's The City and the Pillar (1948, revised 1965) and Messiah (1954), and in Mary Renault's The Last of the Wine (1956). Lawrence Schehr entitles his study of gay discourses in French literature Alcibiades at the Door (1995). In these works, the emphasis is on Alcibiades and Socrates as lovers and their dysfunctional relationship in the end.

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Alcibiades is also a prototype of the dandy. As such, he inspired Charles Baudelaire, Walter Pater, Oscar Wilde, Lord Alfred Douglas, Charles Kingsley, John Addington Symonds, Lytton Strachey, and André Gide. This aspect of Alcibiades is explored in Dietmar Jovy's drama Alcibiades the Athenian: Dandy, Statesman, and Strategist (2000).

Even for lesbians, Alcibiades has become a symbolic figure. For example, Margaret Fuller, in a diary entry in 1842, describes her relationship with Anna Barker, as well as the friendship between Madame de Staël and Madame de Récamier, in terms of the intimacy between Socrates and Alcibiades.

The best-known artistic depictions of Alcibiades include Raphael's School of Athens (1508-1511), Peter Paul Rubens's The Drunken Alcibiades Interrupting the Symposium (ca 1600), and Pietro Testa's painting of the same title (1648).

Nikolai Endres

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social sciences >> Overview:  Greece: Ancient

The institution of pederasty (paiderastia) was a conspicuous feature of ancient Greek public and private life, but other forms of male-male sexual relations flourished in the Greco-Roman cosmopolis of the second and third centuries C.E.

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.

social sciences >> Overview:  Rome: Ancient

Ancient Rome's attitude toward same-sex sexual activity was remarkably various, with role, age, and status as important as gender in the regulation of sexual relations.

arts >> Overview:  Subjects in the Visual Arts: Dionysus

The Greek god of wine, revelry, and orgiastic delights, and the patron god of hermaphrodites and transvestites, Dionysus has been extremely popular as a subject of Western art.

literature >> Bacon, Sir Francis

Although he condemned homosexuality in his more magisterial, philosophical works, Bacon inserted homosexual innuendo elsewhere in his writings, particularly in several essays.

literature >> Baudelaire, Charles

Baudelaire was among the first French poets to include lesbians as subjects.

literature >> Chaucer, Geoffrey

In The Canterbury Tales, Geoffrey Chaucer uses homosexual relations and desires as a means to cast moral judgments on characters and to satirize them.

literature >> Douglas, Alfred Bruce

Lord Alfred Douglas is remembered today for his tumultuous association with Oscar Wilde and as a minor poet.

literature >> Gide, André

André Gide, one of the premier French writers of the twentieth century, reflected his homosexuality in many of his numerous works.

literature >> Marlowe, Christopher

Christopher Marlowe represents homoerotic situations and incidents in his plays and poems more frequently and more variously that any other major English Renaissance writer.

literature >> Pater, Walter

The aesthetic of the important and influential Victorian critic Walter Pater reflected a homosexual sensibility.

literature >> Petronius

Petronius' Satyricon is both the best evidence for homosexual behavior at the height of the Roman Empire and one of the most bumptious homoerotic picaresque narratives ever written.

literature >> Plato

Among Greek writers on homosexual themes, Plato is preeminent not only as a major philosopher but also as the greatest master of Greek prose.

literature >> Plutarch

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

literature >> Renault, Mary

After five novels which included suggested lesbianism, Mary Renault turned to open male homosexuality in the last nine, which included The Charioteer and eight celebrated historical novels set in ancient Greece.

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 >> Shakespeare, William

As one of the key figures that western civilization has used to define itself, William Shakespeare stands in a complicated, fiercely contested relationship to homosexuality.

literature >> Strachey, Lytton

The English biographer and essayist Lytton Strachey spoke openly of his homosexuality to his Bloomsbury friends, but his openly gay works were published only after his death.

literature >> Symonds, John Addington

John Addington Symonds was the most daring innovator in the history of nineteenth-century British homosexual writing and consciousness.

literature >> Vidal, Gore

The multifaceted Gore Vidal is important in the gay literary heritage because of the straightforwardness with which he pursued gay themes and included gay characters in his work.

literature >> Wilde, Oscar

Oscar Wilde is important both as an accomplished writer and as a symbolic figure who exemplified a way of being homosexual at a pivotal moment in the emergence of gay consciousness.


    Bibliography
   

Ellis, Walter M. Alcibiades. London and New York: Routledge, 1989.

Endres, Nikolai. "The Pillaged Pillar: Hubris and Polis in Gore Vidal's The City and the Pillar." Classical and Modern Literature (forthcoming Spring 2004).

Finlay, John. "The Night of Alcibiades." Hudson Review 47 (Spring 1994): 57-79.

Forde, Steven. The Ambition to Rule: Alcibiades and the Politics of Imperialism in Thucydides. Ithaca, N. Y.: Cornell University Press, 1989.

Gagarin, Michael. "Socrates' Hybris and Alcibiades' Failure." Phoenix 31 (Spring 1977): 22-37.

Gribble, David. Alcibiades and Athens: A Study in Literary Presentation. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1999.

Maggi, Armando. "The Discourse of Sodom in a Seventeenth-Century Venetian Text." Reclaiming the Sacred: The Bible in Gay and Lesbian Culture. 2nd ed. Raymond-Jean Frontain, ed. New York: Haworth Press, 2003. 41-60.

Nussbaum, Martha C. "The Speech of Alcibiades: A Reading of the Symposium." The Fragility of Goodness: Luck and Ethics in Greek Tragedy and Philosophy. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1986. 165-99.

Penwill, J. L. "Men in Love: Aspects of Plato's Symposium." Ramus 7 (1978): 143-75.

Steiner, Deborah. "For Love of a Statue: A Reading of Plato's Symposium 215a-b." Ramus 25 (1996): 89-111.

Tiffany, Grace. "Shakespeare's Dionysian Prince: Drama, Politics, and the 'Athenian' History Play." Renaissance Quarterly 52 (Summer 1999): 366-83.

Wohl, Victoria. "The Eros of Alcibiades." Classical Antiquity 18 (October 1999): 349-85.

 

    Citation Information
         
    Author: Endres, Nikolai  
    Entry Title: Alcibiades  
    General Editor: Claude J. Summers  
    Publication Name: glbtq: An Encyclopedia of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual,
Transgender, and Queer Culture
 
    Publication Date: 2004  
    Date Last Updated November 7, 2006  
    Web Address www.glbtq.com/social-sciences/alcibiades.html  
    Publisher glbtq, Inc.
1130 West Adams
Chicago, IL   60607
 
    Today's Date  
    Encyclopedia Copyright: © 2002-2006, glbtq, Inc.  
    Entry Copyright © 2004, glbtq, inc.  
 

 

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