You might not think there have been many LGBTQ rulers in world history. But you would be wrong! From Alexander the Great’s Macedonia to Mad Ludwig’s Bavaria and beyond, there have been rulers (and members of ruling families) with many different sexualities and gender identities throughout world history. And a number of them, unsurprisingly, have left behind fantastic palaces and castles.
Penises in art are a bigger theme than you might think. After all, what is the number one question people ask in the Greek and Roman collection of any museum? There is no competition: why the penises in Classical art are smaller than real-life average adult penises. And the second is: whether Christians really broke off the penises that are missing from so many male nude statues.
Why is Greece a great place for travel? Well, it doesn’t hurt that Greece has some of the world’s most beautiful beaches and that some of them–especially Mykonos–have a wild gay club scene. But there is another, fascinating level to Greece for the gay traveler, because travel to Greece is all about its ancient culture and the glorious ruins it left behind.
In a way, this blog post is a protest against Facebook and its homophobia. I am intentionally writing a post that I will not be able to treat as an ad on Facebook, because (as you may or may not know) Facebook will not allow companies to have any nudity in their ads—even the naked chest of a statue in the Metropolitan Museum. When I first started advertising on Facebook, they claimed that art was exempt, but it wasn’t, if my experience is any guide; now they don’t even claim it is. And yes, as you may already suspect, they are stricter about this when the subject is gay. I know that directly, because I also do tours that focus on courtesans and royal mistresses, and they seem to give my “straight” ads a little leeway. With my “gay” ads, we get none: they tell me (a professor selling history tours) that I cannot advertise ‘adult products’ on Facebook. An obvious case of homophobia—and there is no-one to appeal to.
When Oscar Wilde Tours designs gay history tours, we always try to show people the gay side of famous places. We do for instance “gay secrets” tours of Westminster Abbey, the Louvre, and the Vatican. But we also try to take people to some places that are important in gay history and that they might otherwise never think to visit. Bletchley Park is an example, where Alan Turing (as in The Imitation Game) developed the machine that broke secret German codes in World War II and at the very least hastened the victory over Hitler. Another of these places is the Naples Archaeological Museum. Most people these days seem to skip Naples on their way from Rome to Pompeii (another place with great gay history), but Naples merits a stop for a number of reasons. On our gay Italy tour, we spend 3 days exploring Naples and its surroundings (Pompeii, Paestum, Capri).
Since I wrote my blog post last week about my gay history explorations, people have been asking me to say something more about gay history in Greece. And this is very much on my mind, as I am leading Oscar Wilde Tours’ gay history and art tour in Greece in only 3 or 4 months (https://www.oscarwildetours.com/gay-greece-travel-tours/)!
Greece is of course one of the great countries for gay history, because some form or forms of same-sex love were customary in the ancient Greek world. And lots of evidence remains—if you know where to look!
Check out my latest blogpost for the Gay and Lesbian Review. It’s about Harmodius and Aristogeiton. Along with Achilles and Patroclus in the Iliad (whom the ancient Greeks mostly saw as a couple), Harmodius and Aristogeiton were the biggest gay heroes of ancient Greece . Harmodius and Aristogeiton were a Greek-style male-male couple, who assassinated Hipparchus, brother of the Athenian tyrant Hippias. This may have been a private act of revenge, and it happened more than ten years before the end of the tyranny. But the Athenians thought of them as the founders of the democracy. Their story shows how different cultural attitudes toward gay love can be. The Athenians wanted a male-male couple to have founded the democracy, because they considered a certain kind of male-male love the ideal matrix for courage and loyalty to your fellow soldier!
We recently got a great write-up from Merryn Johns, Curve Magazine’s wonderful editor-in-chief. This is a source of great pleasure to me, as I have struggled hard to include Lesbian history in our tours. Unfortunately, as anyone who studies LGBT history knows, there is less evidence for Lesbian history than gay male history from almost every period and place and culture. This is not as you might imagine because of prejudice against Lesbians.
While I was in Greece researching Oscar Wilde Tour’s 2016 Greece tour, I was following a great story from gay history: the story of the ancient Athenians’ favorite heroes—right up there with Theseus, the city’s mythical founder— Harmodius and Aristogeiton, the male-male couple who assassinated the brother of the last tyrant of Athens and whom the Athenians regarded as the founders of the democracy. It would be hard to exaggerate how honored these guys were in Athens.