Plato of Classical Greece

Plato lived around 385 B.C. and, known to many, is now a major source of scholarly information and insight into the Greek culture at its peak. One of the philosophical texts that he wrote is called The Symposium and, when studied in depth and through a gay lens, shows us the beautiful way in which Plato and his friends discuss gay male love.

Our insight into classical Greece tells us that it was incredibly misogynistic and centered around males rather than females. Because of this, women were oppressed in terms of their rights and had much less of an impact on civilization than men. Gay men, however, were actually held in high esteem and given many opportunities to express themselves freely, teach, and make an impact on society. Plato’s The Symposium is one of his most famous pieces of literature and, in addition to discussing this revered gay male eros, it also talks about the difference between the goddesses.

In classical Greece, although females weren’t socially on par with men, both male gods and female goddesses were revered; one of the most important female goddesses was named Aphrodite, who later became Venus. Aphrodite was the goddess of love, and in The Symposium, Plato and his friends discuss the two versions of Aphrodite, both of whom were significant in the community. One was Aphrodite Dionaea, who was the heterosexual goddess involved with fertility and literal children and granting these for heterosexual couples. The other was called Aphrodite Urania, and she was the goddess for gay love who dealt with celestial aspects of gay male love and of gay love generally. Moreover, Aphrodite Urania supported what Plato called “mental children of the mind,” and Plato and his friends paid homage to Aphrodite Urania to get support in creating mental children of the mind.

This element of Greek history helps us understand that LGBT individuals were important artistically and culturally, helping to fight against homophobic ideas of the present.