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  The Affairs of the Heart, attributed to Lucian, is manifestly a later text. It is presented in the quite customary form of interlocking dialogues. 

Theomnestus, whose loves - for women or for boys - reappear more numerous than the heads of Hydra, almost before they have ended, complains of Aphrodite. From the time when as a child he became an ephebe, the wrath of the goddess has been pursuing him. And yet, he is not a child of the Sun, nor does he have the boorish contempt of Hippolytus. He feels equally inclined toward both kinds of love, without managing to decide which of the two is more deserving of his attention. 

He asks Lycinus - who is not affected by either of these two passions - to serve as an impartial judge and to tell him which is the better choice. Fortunately, Lycinus has preserved, as if engraved in his memory, the dialogue of two men on this very subject. One of them loved only boys, considering the female Aphrodite to be only “an abyss”. The other was passionately fond of women. So he will relate their discussion. But Theomnestus should make no mistake - he was able, for his part, to pose the question in jest; Charicles and Callicratidas, whose views are about to be heard, spoke very seriously indeed.

Needless to say, this last piece of information is not to be taken at face value. The two adversaries are certainly serious, but Pseudo-Lucian is being ironic when he writes the emphatic and weighty demonstrations he attributes to them. There is an element of pastiche in these pieces of bravura. Taken together, they constitute the typical discourse of the Advocate of Women and the Devotee of Boys. 

Traditional arguments, obligatory quotations, references to great philosophical ideas, rhetorical flourishes -- the author smiles in reporting the speeches of these imperturbable disputants. And, from this point of view, it should be noted that the pederastic discourse is much more ponderous, pretentious, and “baroque” than the one spoken in favour of women, which is plainer, more Stoicising. 

The final irony - Theomnestus will observe that what it all comes down to is just a matter of kisses, caresses, and hands that wander beneath tunics - will be mainly at the expense of the eulogy of the love of boys. But this very irony indicates the seriousness of the problem that is raised. And whatever enjoyment Pseudo-Lucian may have had in sketching the “theoretical-discursive” portrait of these two devotees - their rhetorical profile, in rather heavy strokes one can see in it a contemporary example, displaying the most prominent features, of that “contest of loves” which had such a long career in Hellenic culture.

There is something surprising at the beginning of the dialogue reported by Lycinus in order to enlighten his friend who is undecided between the two loves: this dialogue, which will be concluded (not without some ambiguity) in favour of the love of boys, is not placed under the sign of Eros, who is regarded as the guardian of this form of attachment, but under that of Aphrodite. 

The scene that Lycinus is supposed to recall in its smallest details unfolds at Cnidus, near the temple of the goddess, where the famous statue sculpted by Praxiteles stands. This does not, however, prevent the advocate of boys from invoking Eros, as tradition demands, in the course of the dialogue: Eros, “the heavenly spirit,” “hierophant of the mysteries of Love..” As for the one who speaks for female pleasures, it is naturally to Aphrodite that he will appeal for support.

 The fact that the goddess of Cnidus may be said to preside over this debate where she is made to vie with Eros, her traditional partner-adversary, is easily explained. The reason is that the problem of physical pleasure traverses the entire dialogue. This is what the perplexity expressed by Theomnestus, equally susceptible to the charm of girls and the beauty of boys, is about; it is a question of the aphrodisia

It is physical pleasure that will have the last word and dismiss the prudish speeches with a peal of laughter. And it is physical pleasure that serves as a pretext for the debate between Charicles and Callicratidas - in the form of a meaningful anecdote: a young man, enamoured of the marble by Praxiteles, had let himself be locked in the temple at night, and he had sullied the statue, but as if it had been a boy. The telling of this story - a very traditional one - occasions the debate. Since the sac­rilegious act was addressed to Aphrodite, was it an homage to the goddess who presides over female pleasures? But given the form in which it was carried out, was it not a testimonial against that particular Aphrodite? An ambiguous act. Should this impious homage, this profanatory reverence, be accounted to the love of women, or of boys?

And the question that runs through the whole dialogue, even if it appears forgotten in the most ethereal statements, will be this: What place, what form, should be given to sexual pleasure in the two loves? The answer to this question will serve as a discriminant, offering to the love of boys, in the heaven of philosophy, a moment's victory, which the irony of reality will soon compromise.

The debate has a rigid composition. Each of the two orators speaks in turn, and pleads, in a continuous discourse, the cause of the love he prefers. A silent witness (Lycinus) will judge the contest and determine the winner. Although the “boy-favouring” discourse of Callicratidas is longer and more ornate than that of Charicles, the two speeches have the same structure. The arguments are arranged in the same order and in such a way that one corresponds exactly to the other. 

Both discourses comprise two parts. 

The first replies to the question: What of the nature of the love being considered, what of its origin and its place in the natural order? 

The second replies to the question: What of the pleasure that one enjoys in this love, or in the other? What should its form be, and what value might it have? 


Rather than follow each of the two expositions in its continuity, we shall examine these two questions in turn in order to see how the partisan of the love of women and the advocate of the love of boys reply to them, each in his own way.  


The “pro-women” discourse of Charicles is based on a conception of the world that is doubtless Stoic in tone. Nature is defined as the power that, by blending the elements, brought life to everything by giving it a soul. It was she as well, Charicles continues, repeating a familiar lesson in well-known words, who provided for the succession of the generations. 

Knowing very well that living beings were made “from perishable matter,” and since the time allotted to each being was brief, she contrived (emechanesato) things in such a way that the death of one would be the birth of another. Thus, through the process of succession, we can live forever. 

To accomplish this, she also contrived the division of the sexes, one being designed to ejaculate semen, the other to receive it. And she imbued each with an appetite (pothos) for the other. From the intercourse of these two sexes can come the succession of the generations, but never from the intercourse between two individuals of the same sex. 

In this way Charicles anchors the proper nature of each sex, and the pleasure that befits each, firmly in the order of the universe, where death, generation, and eternity are interconnected. The “female” must not become unnaturally male, nor “the male be unbecomingly soft.” By defying this determination, one not only transgresses the proper attributes of the individual, one interferes with the concatenation of universal necessity.

The second criterion of naturalness used in Charicles' discourse is the state of mankind at its beginnings. 

A closeness to the gods through virtue, 

a desire to behave heroically, 

marriage at a suitable age, and 

a noble progeny: 

these were the four traits that characterized that lofty existence and ensured its accord with nature. Then came the fall, which was gradual. 

It seems that Charicles distinguishes, as stages in this degeneration, the time when, pleasure leading humans to the depths, people sought “strange and extraordinary paths to enjoy­ment”

(Should this be taken to mean non-procreative forms of sexual relations or pleasures alien to marriage?), 

then the time when they came to “transgress the laws of Nature herself,” a bold development whose basic form -- the only one in any case which is mentioned in the text -- consists in treating a man like a woman. Now, in order for an act so alien to Nature to be possible, it was necessary that what enables one to do violence and to deceive - tyrannical power and the art of persuasion ­ be brought into relations between men.

Charicles finds the third mark of naturalness in the animal world – “the laws of nature” rule over them without restriction or division: neither lions, nor bulls, nor rams, nor boars, nor wolves, nor fish seek out their own sex. For them, “the decisions of Providence are unchangeable.” 

To this chaste animality, Pseudo-Lucian's orator opposes the “perverse bes­tiality” of men, which makes them lower than other creatures whereas they were meant to be superior to the highest of them. Several significant terms are employed in Charicles' speech to characterize this “bestiality” on the part of men: 

passion, but also 

“strange infection,” 

“blind insensibility” (anaisthesia), 

inability to hit the mark, so that they neglect what should be pursued and pursue what should be left alone. 

In contrast to the conduct of the animals, who obey the law and aim for the goal that is assigned to them, men who have sex with men evince all the signs traditionally ascribed to the passionate state: uncontrolled violence, a sickly condition, blindness to the real­ity of things, an incapacity for attaining the goals set for human nature.

In sum, the love of boys is placed in turn on the three axes of nature, as 

the general order of the world, 

the original state of mankind, and 

a behaviour that is reasonably adapted to natural ends.


It disturbs the orderly progression of things; it gives rise to violent and deceitful conduct. Finally, it is pernicious from the standpoint of human objectives. Cosmo­logically, “politically,” and morally, this type of relation transgresses nature.

In the part of his discourse that replies to these assertions, Callicratidas does not so much advance arguments that refute his adversary, as put forward a different conception of the world, the human race, its history, and the noblest ties that can connect men to each other. 

To the idea of nature as a provident “mechanic” who, by means of sex, arranged for procreation and the succession of generations so as to give the human race an eternity that individuals are denied, he opposes the vision of a world formed out of chaos. 

It was the demiurgic Eros who conquered this primeval disorder by creating all things that have a soul and all that do not, by instilling the principle of harmony in the body of men, and by attaching them to one another through “the holy sentiment of friend­ship”. Charicles saw, in relations between men and woman, an artful Nature who established temporal succession in order to circumvent death. Callicratidas recognizes, in the love of boys, the strength of the bond that, by attaching and combining, triumphs over chaos.

From this perspective, the history of the world should not be read as an early disregard for the laws of nature and a plunge into “the depths of pleasure,” but rather as a gradual release from the primary necessities. 

In the beginning, man was pressed by needs. The arts and skills (technai and epistemai) made it possible for him to escape from these pressures and to provide for himself in a better fashion. People learned to weave garments and build houses. Now, as the weaver's art is to the use of animal skins, and as the builder's art is to caves for shelter, the love of boys is to intercourse with women. 

The latter, in early times, was necessary in order that the race might not disappear. The love of boys, on the other hand, came into existence very late, not, as Charicles maintained, because there was a degeneration, but because, on the contrary, there was an elevation toward more curiosity and knowledge. 

Indeed, when men, after having learned so many useful skills, began to “leave nothing unexplored,” philosophy appeared and with it pederasty. Pseudo-Lucian's orator does not really explain this twin birth, but his speech contains enough familiar references so that it would have been readily understandable to any reader. It rests implicitly to the opposition between the imparting of life through intercourse with the other sex and the imparting of “techniques” and “knowledge” through teaching, learning, and the relationship of disciple with master. 

When, emerging from the particular arts, philosophy began to inquire concerning all things, it found, as a means of transmitting the wisdom it obtains, the love of boys - which is also the love of noble souls, capable of virtue. 

One understands, then, how Callicratidas can reply with laughter to the animal lesson presented by his adversary: What exactly is proved by the fact that lions do not love the males of their species, and that he-bears are not enamored of he-bears? Not that men have corrupted a nature that remains intact among the animals, but that animals do not know what it means to “philosophise,” and they are ignorant of the beauty that friendship can produce.

The arguments of Callicratidas are evidently no more original than those of Charicles.

Commonplaces of a vulgarized Stoicism, on the one hand, and a mixture of Platonic and Epicurean elements on the other? No doubt. One cannot help but recognize, in this comparison of the two loves, an excuse for oratorical variations on the texture of traditional arguments. 

The banality (nicely embellished in places) of Charicles' and Callicratidas' explanations shows rather clearly that they were meant to function as philosophical escutcheons: the enthusiast of boys, on the Platonising side, under the colours of Eros; and the defender of women, on the Stoic side, under the exacting sign of Nature. Which does not mean, obviously, that the Stoics condemned a pederasty that Platonism justified while rejecting marriage. 

We know that, from the viewpoint of doctrines, this is not the way things were - in any case, things were far from being so simple. But one cannot fail to notice, in the documents we have, the presence of what might be called “a privileged association.” 

We have seen in the preceding part that the art of conjugal life was understood largely in terms of a Stoic mode of reflection, and in reference to a certain conception of nature, of its basic necessities, of the place and function ordained by it for all beings, of a general scheme of successive procreations, and of a state of original perfection from which the human race was estranged owing to a perverse decadence. 

Moreover, it is from a similar conception that Christianity will amply draw when it decides to construct an ethics of the marital relationship. In the same way, the love of boys, practiced as a way of life, consolidated and reproduced for centuries a rather different theoretical landscape: a cosmic and individual force of love, an upward movement that enables man to escape from immediate necessities, the acquisition and transmission of knowledge through the intense forms and secret ties of friendship. 

The debate between the love of women and the love of boys is more than a literary joust. It is not, however, the conflict of two forms of sexual desire struggling for supremacy or for their respective right to expression. It is the confrontation of two forms of life, of two ways of stylizing one's pleasure, and of the two philosophical discourses that accompany these choices.  


After the theme of “nature,” both of these discourses ­ that of Charicles and that of Callicratidas - develop the question of pleasure. A question that, as we have seen, always constitutes a difficult point for a pederastic practice that is reflected in the form of friendship, affection, and the beneficial action of one soul on another. To speak of “pleasure” to the lover of boys is already to raise an objection. This is clearly how Charicles understands the matter. 

He begins the debate on this theme with a traditional denunciation of pederastic hypocrisy: You pretend to be disciples of Socrates who are not enamored of bodies but of souls. How is it then that you do not pursue old men full of wisdom, but rather children, who are unable to reason? If it's a matter of virtue, why love, as Plato did, a Phaedrus who betrayed Lysias, or, as Socrates did, an impious Alcibiades, an enemy of his country, eager to become a tyrant? One would do well, therefore, despite the claims of this love of souls, “to descend,” along with Charicles, to the question of pleasure, and to compare “the practice of boys” with the “practice of women”.

Among the arguments that Charicles employs to differentiate between these two “practices” and the place that pleasure occupies in each, the first is that of age and transience. Until the threshold of old age, a woman preserves her charms - even if she must lend them the support of her long experience. A boy, for his part, is agreeable only for a moment. 

And Charicles contrasts the body of a woman - who, with her ringlets of hair, her skin always smooth and “not a hair growing on it,” remains an object of desire - with the body of a boy, which very soon becomes hairy and muscled. But from this difference, Charicles does not conclude, as is often done, that one can love a boy only for a very short time, and that one is very soon led to abandon him. Rather, he evokes the man who goes on loving a boy past twenty.

What he pursues in this case is an “equivocal Aphrodite”, a love in which he plays the passive part. The physical modification of boys is here invoked as a cause not of the transience of feelings but of an inversion of sexual roles.

A second reason in favour of the “female practice” is reciprocity. This is doubtless the most interesting part of Charicles' discourse. 

He first refers to the principle that man, a rational being, is not made to live alone. From this he does not, however, deduce the necessity of having a family or of belonging to a city, but the impossibility of “passing one's time” all alone and the need for a “community of affection” (philetairos koinonia), which makes good things more pleasant and painful things more bearable.

That the shared life has this role is an idea that is regularly found in the Stoic treatises on marriage. Here it is applied to the specific domain of physical pleasures. 

Charicles first evokes the meals and banquets that one enjoys with others, because, according to him, shared pleasures are made more intense. Then he speaks of the sexual pleasures.

According to the traditional assertion, the boy who is passive, hence more or less violated (hubrismenos), cannot experience pleasure; no one “could be so mad” as to state the contrary. When he no longer cries and suffers, the other becomes a nuisance to him. The lover of a boy takes his pleasure and leaves; he gives none in return. 

With women, things are completely different. Charicles first states the fact, then the rule. In sexual intercourse with a woman, there is, he affirms, “an equal exchange of enjoyment”; and the two partners separate after having given each other an equal amount of pleasure. To this fact of nature corresponds a principle of conduct: it is good not to seek a selfish enjoyment (philautos apolausai), not to try and have all the pleasure oneself, but to share it by supplying the other with as much of it as one experiences. 

To be sure, this reciprocity of pleasure is already a well-known theme, which amatory or erotic literature has used quite often. But it is interesting to see it used here at the same time to give a “natural” characterization of intercourse with women, to define a rule of behaviour in the practice of the aphrodisia, and to designate what there might be that is non-natural, violent, hence unjust and bad, in the intercourse of a man with a boy. Reciprocity of pleasure in an exchange where one shows concern for the other's enjoyment, while observing as strict an equality as possible of the two partners, inscribes within sexual practice an ethics that extends the ethics of communal existence.

To this serious bit of reasoning, Charicles adds two arguments that are less so, although they both relate to the exchange of pleasures. 

One refers to a theme that was common in erotic literature: women, for anyone who knows how to use them, are capable of offering all the pleasures that boys can give, but the latter cannot provide the pleasure that is held exclusively by the female sex. Women are thus capable of giving all the forms of sensual delight, including those most pleasing to the lovers of boys. 

According to the other argument, if one finds love between men acceptable, one should also accept intercourse between women. 


This polemical symmetry invoked here between inter-male relations and inter­female relations is interesting: 

first, because it denies, as does the second part of Charicles' discourse, the cultural, moral, affective, and sexual specificity of the love of boys, bringing it back into the general category of relations between male individuals; 

second, because, in order to compromise the latter, it uses the traditionally more scandalous love - one is “ashamed” even to talk about it between women; 

and third, because Charicles, reversing this hierarchy, suggests that it is even more shameful for a man to be passive like a woman than for a woman to take the male role; “Is it not better that a woman should play the role of a man “than that the nobility of the male sex should become effeminate and play the part of a woman?”


The part of Callicratidas' discourse that replies to this criticism is by far the longest. Even more so than in the rest of the debate, the characteristic features of a “piece of rhetoric” are visible here. 

Engaging, apropos of sexual pleasure, the most problematic element of the love of boys, the pederastic argumentation is fully deployed, with all its resources and its most noble references. But they are brought into play in response to the question that Charicles has stated very clearly: the reciprocity of pleasure. 

On this point both adversaries refer to a simple and coherent conception: for Charicles, and the “adherents of female love,” it is the fact of being able to occasion the other's pleasure, to be attentive to it, and to take pleasure in it oneself - it is this charis, as Plutarch says, that legitimates pleasure in intercourse between a man and a woman, and allows it to be integrated into Eros; it is the absence of charis, on the other hand, that marks and disqualifies intercourse with boys. 

As the tradition of this other love prescribes, Callicratidas cites as its keystone not charis but arête - virtue. It is virtue that should ensure between partners both an honourable, wisely apportioned pleasure and the commonality that is indispensable to the relationship between two individuals.

Let us say, to be brief, that to the “gracious reciprocity” that only pleasure with women is capable of providing, according to its proponents, its adversaries oppose the “virtuous commonality” that is the exclusive privilege of the love of boys. 

Callicratidas' demonstration consists first of all in criticizing, as illusory, that reciprocity of pleasure which the love of women claims as its specific trait, and in setting against it, as the only relationship capable of truth, the virtuous relationship with boys. Thus, in a single stroke, the privilege of reciprocal pleasure attributed to male-female relations will be contested, and the theme that the love of boys is unnatural will be turned around.

In a display of rancour, Callicratidas reels off a series of commonplaces against women. 

One only has to look closely to see that women are intrinsically “ugly,” “truly” (alethos) so: their bodies are “unshapely” and their faces are as ill-favoured as those of monkeys. They must take great pains to mask this reality: makeup, fancy clothes, coiffures, jewels, adornments. For the benefit of spectators they give themselves a spurious beauty, which a careful gaze suffices to dissipate. And then they have a liking for secret cults, which allow them to envelop their debauches in mystery. 

There is no need to recall all the satirical themes that are echoed, rather flatly, by this passage. One could find many other examples, with similar arguments, in the eulogies of pederasty. Thus Achilles Tatius, in Leucippe and Clitophon, has one of his characters, a lover of boys, say:

 “False are the ways of a woman, words and deeds alike; and although she may seem fair to behold, it is all the result of the laborious use of pigments, and her beauty is all of myrrh, hair dye and makeup; and if she is stripped of all these many devices, she is like the jackdaw that was plucked of its feathers in the fable. A woman's world is deceptive because it is a secret world."

The social separation between the group of men and that of women, their different ways of life, the careful division between female activities and male activities -- all this probably did much to heighten, in the experience of Hellenic men, this apprehension of women as mysterious and deceptive objects. 

One could be deceived about a woman's body, which was hidden by adornments and which might be disappointing when it was uncovered. 

One was apt to suspect it of cleverly masked imperfections. 

One was afraid of discovering some repellent defect. 


The female body, with its secrecy and its particular characteristics, was charged with ambiguous powers. 

“Do you wish”, says Ovid, “to rid yourself of a passion? Look a little more closely at the body of your mistress”. 

One could be deceived, too, regarding morals, with that secret life which women led, a life enclosed in disturbing mysteries. 

In the argumentation that Pseudo-Lucian attributes to Callicratidas, these themes have a precise significance: they enable him to question the principle of reciprocity of pleasure in intercourse with women. 

How could there be such a reciprocity if women are deceptive, if they have their own pleasure, if, unbeknown to men, they indulge in secret debauchery? 

How could there be a valid exchange if the pleasures their appearance lets one imagine are nothing but false promises? 


So that the objection usually made to intercourse with boys - that it does not accord with nature - can just as easily be applied to women, even more seriously in their case, since by choosing to mask the truth of their nature, they deliberately introduce falsehood. 

The makeup argument may seem to us to carry little force in this debate on the two loves. For the ancients, however, it is based on two serious considerations: the apprehension that derives from the female body, and the philosophical and moral principle that a pleasure is legitimate only if the object that gives rise to it is genuine. In the pederastic argumentation, pleasure with a woman cannot be reciprocal because it is accompanied by too much falseness.

In contrast, pleasure with boys is placed under the sign of truth. 

The beauty of a young man is real because it is uncon­trived. As Achilles Tatius has one of his characters say: 

“The beauty of a boy is not fostered by the odour of myrrh perfumes, nor yet by cunning and foreign unguents. And the fresh natural odour of a boy has a sweeter smell than all the anointings and perfumery of a woman”. 

Callicratidas contrasts the deceptive enticements of the female dressing table with a description of the boy who gives no thought to any preparations: 

he jumps out of bed at dawn and washes with pure water. 

He has no need of a mirror, he doesn't use a comb. 

He throws his chlamys on his shoulder and hurries off to school. 

At the palestra he exercises vigorously, works up a sweat, and bathes quickly. 

And once the lessons of wisdom he is given have been understood, he quickly falls asleep as a result of the day's beneficial exertions.


How could one not wish to share one's whole life with this guileless boy?” One would like to “pass one's time sitting opposite this dear friend,” enjoying his pleasant conversation, and “sharing every activity with him.” A sensible pleasure that will last not just for the fleeting time of youth. Since it does not take as its object the physical grace that fades away, it can endure all through life: old age, sickness, death, the tomb even, everything can be experienced in common; “to unite my bones with his and not to keep even our dumb ashes apart.” 

It was a traditional theme, certainly, that friendships could grow out of youthful love affairs and sustain life, until the moment of death, through a lasting manly affection. 

This passage from Pseudo-Lucian appears to be a variation on one of the themes developed in Xenophon's Symposium. The ideas are the same, presented in an analogous order and expressed in similar words: 

the pleasure of looking at each other, the conversation, 

the sharing of feelings in success or failure, 

the care given when one of the two falls ill -- in this way, affection can reign between the two friends through to old age. 


Pseudo-Lucian's text gives particular emphasis to one important point concerning this affection that continues after adolescence. It is a matter of forming a bond in which the equality is so perfect, or the reversibility so complete, that the role of the erastes and that of the eromenos can no longer be distinguished. 

This is how things were, says Callicratidas, between Orestes and Pylades, about whom it was traditional to wonder, as in the case of Achilles and Patroclus, who was the lover and who the beloved. Pylades was the lover, it seems. But as they grew older, and when the time of trial came - the two friends had to decide which one would face death - the beloved behaved as the lover. One should see a model in this. 

It is in this way, says Callicratidas, that the zealous and serious love one bears for a young boy (the famous spoudaios eros) must be transformed. It must become the manly form (androusthai) with the coming of that age when a youth is at last capable of reason. In this masculine affection, the one who had been loved “gives love in return,” and to such an extent that it becomes difficult to know “which of the two is the erastes”; the affection of the one who loves is returned to him by the beloved the way an image is reflected in a mirror.

The return by the beloved of the affection he has received had always been a part of pederastic ethics, whether this was in the form of help in misfortune, care in old age, companionship in life, or unexpected sacrifice. But Pseudo-Lucian's insis­tence on the equality of the two lovers and his use of words that characterize conjugal reciprocity seem to show a concern to adapt male love to the descriptive and prescriptive model of marriage. 

After enumerating everything that is simple, natural, and free of all artifice in the body of a young man, and hence after establishing the “truthfulness” of the pleasure he is capable of providing, the author of the text relates the spiritual bond, not to pedagogical action, or to the formative effect of this attachment, but entirely to the exact reciprocity of an equal exchange. In proportion as the description of the male and female bodies sets them in contrast, in this speech by Callicratidas, the ethics of living as a couple seems to draw manly affection closer to the marriage tie.

But there is still a basic difference. 

For, while the love of boys is defined as the only love in which virtue and pleasure can be combined, pleasure is never designated as sexual pleasure. There is the charm of that juvenile body, without makeup or deception, of that regular, disciplined life, of the amicable conversation, of the affection that is returned - true. 

But the text makes it quite clear: in his bed, the boy is “without a companion”; he looks at no one when he is on his way to school; in the evening, tired from his work, he goes right to sleep. And Callicratidas gives some unequivocal advice to the lovers of such boys: 

Remain as chaste as Socrates when he slept beside Alcibiades. 

Approach them with temperance (sophronos). 

Don't squander a lasting affection for the sake of a brief pleasure. 


And it is this very lesson which will be drawn, once the debate is concluded, when, with an ironic solemnity, Lycinus awards the prize; it goes to the speech that praised the love of boys, insofar as the latter is practiced by “philosophers” and insofar as it pledges itself to ties of friendship that are “just and undefiled.”

The debate between Charicles and Callicratidas thus ends with a “victory” of the love of boys. 

A victory conforming to a traditional schema that reserves for philosophers a pederasty in which physical pleasure is evaded. A victory, however, that gives everyone not only the right but also the duty to marry (according to a formula we have encountered in the Stoics: pantapusi gameteon).

This is in effect a syncretic conclusion, which superimposes on the universality of marriage the privilege of a love of boys reserved for those who, being philosophers, are capable of a “perfect virtue.” 

But one should not forget that this debate, whose traditional and rhetorical character is emphasized in the text itself, is embedded in another dialogue: that of Lycinus with Theomnestus, who asks his opinion on which of the two loves he should choose, since he feels equally drawn to both. So Lycinus has just reported to Theomnestus the “verdict” he gave to Charicles and Calli­cratidas. But Theomnestus immediately waxes ironic about the crucial point of the debate and about the deciding factor in the victory of pederastic love: the latter won because it was linked to philosophy, to virtue, and hence to the elimination of physical pleasure.

Is one expected to believe that this is really the way in which one loves boys? 

Theomnestus does not become indignant, as did Charicles, at the hypocrisy of such a discourse. Whereas, in order to link together pleasure and virtue, the advocates of boys stressed the absence of any sexual act, he reinstates the physical contact that one enjoys, the kisses, the caresses, and the gratification, as the real reason for the existence of this love. Seriously, he says, they can't make us believe that the whole pleasure of this relationship is in looking into each other's eyes and in being enchanted by friendly conversation. 

Looking is agreeable, certainly, but it is only the first stage. After that comes touching, which thrills the whole body. Then kissing, which is timid at first but soon becomes eager. The hand does not remain idle during this time; it glides down under the clothing, squeezes the breasts for a moment, descends the length of the firm belly, reaches the “flower of puberty,” and finally strikes the target. 

For Theomnestus, and doubtless for the author as well, this description does not amount to a rejection of an inadmissible practice. It is a reminder that it is not possible -- without resorting to violence -- to keep the aphrodisia outside the domain of love and its justifications.

Pseudo-Lucian's irony is not a way of denouncing this pleasure which one can take in boys, a pleasure he evokes with a smile. It is a fundamental objection to the very old line of argument of Greek pederasty, which, in order to conceptualize, formulate, and discourse about the latter and to supply it with reasons, was obliged to evade the manifest presence of physical pleasure. He does not say that the love of women is better. But he demonstrates the essential weakness of a discourse on love that makes no allowance for the aphrodisia and for the relations they engage.


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