Homosexuality & Civilization

Homosexuality & Civilization

Book - 2003
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How have major civilisations of the last two millennia treated people who were attracted to their own sex? In a narrative tour de force, Louis Crompton chronicles the lives and achievements of homosexual men and women alongside a darker history of persecution as he compares the Christian West with the cultures of Ancient Greece and Rome, Arab Spain, imperial China and pre-Meiji Japan. making high claims for its moral influence. By contrast, Jewish religious leaders in the sixth century BC branded male homosexuality as a capital offence and, later, blamed it for the destruction of the biblical city of Sodom. When these two traditions collided in Christian Rome during the late empire, the tragic repercussions were felt throughout Europe and the New World. sodomites in sixth-century Byzantium, medieval France, Renaissance Italy, and in Spain under the Inquisition. But Protestant authorities were equally committed to the execution of homosexuals in the Netherlands, Calvin's Geneva and Georgian England. The root cause was religious superstition, abetted by political ambition and sheer greed. Yet from this cauldron of fears and desires, homoerotic themes surfaced in the art of the Renaissance masters - Donatello, Leonardo, Michelangelo, Sodoma, Cellini and Caravaggio - often intertwined with Christian motifs. Homosexuality also flourished in the court intrigues of Henry III of France, Queen Christina of Sweden, James I and William III of England, Queen Anne and Frederick the Great. Anti-homosexual atrocities committed in the West contrast starkly with the more tolerant traditions of pre-modern China and Japan, as revealed in poetry, fiction and art and in the lives of emperors, shoguns, Buddhist priests, scholars and actors. In the samurai tradition of Japan, Crompton makes clear, the celebration of same-sex love rivaled that of ancient Greek.
Publisher: Cambridge, Mass. : Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2003
ISBN: 9780674011977
067401197X
Branch Call Number: 306.766 Crompton
Characteristics: xv, 623 p. : ill. (some col.) ; 25 cm
Alternative Title: Homosexuality and civilization

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ChocolateChips
Oct 09, 2011

A thorough examination of the history of homosexuality throughout the world. To someone growing up in a Western culture that has only just begun to unlearn homophobia, it is a surprise to learn about cultures like pre-globalized Japan and China, where homosexual relationships were considered just as ordinary and variable as heterosexual relationships, and about same-sex partnerships surviving both behind closed doors and in the open in Europe. All in all, it's a fascinating read, and definitely not too dry to chew through in a couple of weeks. There are a few cultural groups left out--Indians, most notably--but otherwise it's an impressive scholarly work.

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