Discussion on Davidson’s The Greeks and Greek Love

Don’t miss the recent discussion in Bryn Mawr Classical Review on James Davidson’s book The Greeks and Greek Love: A Radical Reappraisal of Homosexuality in Ancient Greece (Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 2007):

  1. Original review by Eric C. Brooks (2008.07.20)
  2. Supplemental review by Beert Verstraete (2009.09.61)
  3. Response to Mr Verstraete by James Davidson (2009.11.03)
  4. Response to Mr Davidson by Kirk Ormand (2009.11.15)
  5. A referred review by Thomas K. Hubbard (February 2009)

Destroyer printed a review of Davidson’s book in issue 08 – the reviewer Eva-Carin Gerö was critical. A few quotes:

In his monograph The Greeks and Greek Love, ancient historian James Davidson sets out to do justice to Greek same-sex love the way he sees it, as a complex, multi-faceted phenomenon, polemicizing against the “twisted” theories of Dover, Foucault and followers as marked by “sodomania” – an obsession with issues of sexual dominance and anal penetration. Davidson argues that this is a one-sided, anachronistic view only based on the idiosynchrasies of modern scholars.

Instead, he coins the term “homobesottedness,” defined as a passion and a strong interest between men, in particular for younger men. This permeated Greek culture, though he stresses it was not necessarily sexual, and certainly not necessarily so in the terms of “power penetration” of Dover and Foucault. Davidson wants to show that ancient same-sex love could be both tender, mutual and lasting, even resembling marriage.


And entertaining as Davidson’s marathons are, his arguments are often highly speculative.


Davidson sees his research task as as a sort of “archaeology,” but sometimes his interprations get so aery and maverick that one wonders if he’s really serious. Parallels can be drawn to the debate over how to interpret the archaeological findings in Hisarlık/Troy, which raised the question: How freely can you speculate in the fields of history and archaeology, and how do you separate the serious interpretations from Schaumschlägerei designed for controversy?

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