Kenneth Dover's 1978 GREEK HOMOSEXUALITY remains the most recent single-volume treatment of the subject as a whole. Drawing on fifteen years of ensuing research, James Davidson rejects Dover's excessively theoretical approach, using a wide variety of sources unknown to him - court cases, romantic novels, satirical plays and poems - to present a view of the subject that, in contrast to Dover and to Foucault, stresses the humanity of the ancient Greeks, and how they lived their loves and pleasures, rather than their moral codes and the theorising of philosophers. Homosexuality in Ancient Greece remains a central area of debate in the classics, in ancient history and lesbian and gay studies. Greek civilisation centrally underpins our own, providing a basis of so much of the west's culture and philosophy, yet the Greeks were more tolerant of homosexuality than virtually any other culture, certainly than the western civilisations that followed. The extent to which Greek attitudes to sexuality and in particular their privileging of 'Greek Love' were comparable and different to our own underlies the continuing debate over the formation of sexuality and the much wider question of the roles of nature and nurture in the formation of human behaviour and personality.
This is a hugely important book and it has provoked much debate. The reviews were magnificent: 'Davidson, with his wit, range and learning is able to admit honestly the limitations of historical understanding, while never being less than fascinating' Independent on Sunday 'James Davidson's revisionist account emerges with winning charm from the bloodshed... a landmark in gay studies' Time Out 'Massively informed and informative ... (an) outstanding study' Spectator 'A highly erudite work of social and cultural history, astonishingly wide-ranging an extraordinary achievement, ranging far and wide unpredictable and lateral-thinking superb' Guardian 'Familiar in some respects and radically new ... with witty diversions ... quite an achievement' Independent 'This is an excellent book on an important subject' Literary Review
"Davidson's own scholarship is impressive, but worn lightly, and matched with an easy tone that makes The Greeks and Greek Love a lively, and often very funny, read" LONDON REVIEW OF BOOKS "poses a radical challenge to prominent assumptions about same-sex love in ancient Greece" OXONIAN REVIEW
JAMES DAVIDSON is Reader in Ancient History at the University of Warwick. He has written on a wide range of ancient topics, including prostitution, drinking to get drunk, sacred time and fish. He is an irregular contributor to The London Review of Books among other journals.