Homosexuality & Civilization

An archive of poetry, pictures, history, and quotes dedicated to queer individuals before the year 1900.

The title is an homage to a book by Louis Crompton, but the blog will contain content expressing all forms of sexuality and gender identity.

Have a question or request for a certain artist or era? Feel free to leave a message in the askbox. Submissions are open (please provide a date and source).

The manager of this tumblr does not add commentary or provide translations. This blog may be NSFW.

All donations go to purchasing new books and related materials to bring more content to H&C.

Zeus came as an eagle to god-like Ganymede, as a swan came he to the fair-haired mother of Helen. So there is no comparison to the two things; one person likes one, another likes the other; I like both.

—From the Anthologia Palatina (Greek Anthology), a collection of Greek poems and epigrams dating from the 7th century BCE to 600 CE and discovered in 1606. A selection of other English translations can be read here.

Brother Anselm to Dom Gilbert, brother, friend, beloved lover…sweet to me, sweetest friend, are the gifts of your sweetness, but they cannot begin to console my desolate heart for its want of your love. Even if you sent every scent of perfume, every glitter of metal, every precious gem, every texture of cloth, still it could not make up to my soul for this separation unless it returned the separated other half.

The anguish of my heart just thinking about this bears witness, as do the tears dimming my eyes and wetting my face and the fingers writing this.

You recognized, as I do now, my love for you, but I did not. Our separation from each other has shown me how much I loved you; a man does not in fact have knowledge of good and evil unless he has experienced both. Not having experienced your absence, I did not realize how sweet it was to be with you and how bitter to be without you.

—Epistle 1.75 from the Patrologia Latina, attributed to Saint Anselm of Canterbury (1033-1109), a Benedictine monk, philosopher, and prelate of the church.

(Source: latina.patristica.net)

My soul, there is a proper time of life
in which to gather love;
yet, should a person catch the gleams
that flash from Theoxenus’ eyes
and not be deluged with desire, his heart is black
and hammered over frozen flame to adamant
or iron.

Slighted by eyelid-fluttering
Aphrodite, he either
labors crushingly for money, or, effeminately
bold, he wafts down
every road and mollifies his mind.
But I, beneath her influence, melt like the wax
of sacred bees beneath the sun, when I gaze
upon the fresh-limbed youth of boys.
Yes, in Tenedos, seductiveness and grace reside
in Hagesila’s son.

Pithian 8, Pindar, c. 522–443 BCE.

One of the canonical nine lyric poets of ancient Greece, it was said, “His life ended as he had wished it to; in answer to his prayer for the finest of life’s blessings, he met death quickly in the theatre, lying in the arms of his beloved Theoxenus.”

(Source: books.google.com)

Boy, you’re like a horse.
Just now sated with seed,
You’ve come back to my stable,
Yearning for a good rider, fine meadow,
An icy spring, shady groves.

Theognis of Megara

A lyric poet near the 6th century BC, little is known of his life save for his poetry about morals and cynicism and what he wrote about the men he was involved with. The name of his erômenos (beloved) seems to have been Cyrnus.

Honestly, I wish I were dead.
Weeping she left with many tears,

And said; “Oh what terrible things
we endured. Sappho, truly,
against my will I leave you.”

And I answered: “Go, be
happy, and remember me;
For you know how we cared for you.

And if not, then I want
to remind you…of the wonderful
things we shared.

For many wreaths of violets and
you put on by my side.

And many woven garlands
fashioned of flowers,
you tied round your soft neck.

And with rich myrrh,
fit for a queen,
you anointed…

And on a soft bed,
you satisfied our desire.

And there was
no sacred place
from which we were absent.

No grove,
No dance,
No sound…

Fragment 94, Sappho. Translation by Ellen Greene.

Ellipses are in place where words are absent from the original damaged text.

She has gone out, and she is far away, but I see her still, for all within this room is full of her, all is hers, and I just like the rest.

This bed, still warm, where my mouth is wandering now, is rumpled to the pattern of her body. In this soft pillow her little ringleted head has softly slept.

This is the basin where she oft has washed; this comb has smoothed the knots of her tangled hair. These slippers have held her little naked feet. This gauze bandeau restrained her swelling breasts.

But I dare not touch, even with my finger, this mirror in which she sees her burning bruises, and in which, perhaps, the image of her sweet moist lips is still reflected.

Absence, The Songs of Bilitis (1894).

(Source: sacred-texts.com)

Admin Note

Due to some commentary, I’d like to make it clear that this tumblr is supposed to be inclusive of the entire LGBTQ+ community and not just a narrow umbrella of ‘homosexuality’. The title of this blog came from Louis Crompton’s text of the same name, which inspired me to make this tumblr in the first place. All of this information has been in the blog header since the day I opened H&C.

Trans content in particular can be very hard to find due to trying to discern if something is appropriate or something else like ritual or satire that isn’t a reflection of personal identity, although I’m always looking for more and it is a part of this tumblr.

I refrain from listing historical figures as gay, bisexual, lesbian, or queer as well unless they self-identify (like Natalie Clifford Barney) because the labels we use today don’t apply cleanly to historical context or universally to every culture.

Sappho would have only called herself a Lesbian because she was a citizen of Lesbos. That doesn’t change that she wrote a score of poems about loving women or what her sexuality happened to be, but I don’t know what word she would have used to identify her love of women, so I refrain from tagging with a particular label.

Anyone who follows or reblogs can tag as they like, but I don’t want it assumed that the lack of particular tags on H&C is a sign of exclusivity.

Lord in heaven,
who brought forth wonders
by fire and water for our Fathers,
cooling Abraham’s Chaldean kiln,
so in its flames he’d not be burned;
who altered Dina’s fate in the womb,
and made a serpent of Moses’ wands;
who whited with illness Miriam’s hands
and turned the Sea of Reeds into land-
transforming the muddy bed of the Jordan
into passable sand,
and making from stone and shale
a pool whose springs would not fail
if only you would make me female!
If that alone might be done,
how wondrous then would be my fortune
Spared the arduous labor of men,
I’d settle down and raise my children.
But why complain and so bitterly whine?
If my Father in heaven is so inclined
as to fashion me with a lasting deformity,
how could I ask that He take it from me?
Worry about what just can’t be
is incurable pain and endless misery;
empty condolence is hardly an answer.
“I’ll just have to bear it,” I said, “though I’ll suffer
until I wither away and die.”
And since long ago I learned from tradition
that both good and bad deserve benediction,
in the faintest whispers I’ll mutter each morning;
Blessed art Thou, O Lord - who has not made me a woman.

On Becoming A Woman by Qalonymos ben Qalonymos, c. 1322 CE.

Another translation from the original Hebrew is available here.

(Source: transtorah.org)

My heart’s desire, my eyes’ delight:
the hart beside me and a cup in my right hand!

Many denounce me for loving, but I pay no heed.
Come to me, fawn, and I will vanquish them.
Time will consume them and death will shepherd them away.
Oh, come to me, fawn, refresh me with the nectar of your lips until I am satisfied.

Why, why would they discourage me?
If it be because of sin or guilt,
I am ravished by your beauty—and God is there!
Let your heart not be swayed by the words of my tormentor,
that close-minded man.
Oh, come put me to the test!

He was enticed and we went to his mother’s house.
There he bent his back to my heavy yoke.
Night and day I alone was with him.
I took off his clothes and he took off mine.
I sucked at his lips and he suckled me.

But once his eyes stole my heart,
his hand fastened the yoke of my sin,
and he looked for grievances.
He raged against me and shouted in fury,
“Enough! Leave me alone!
Do not drive me to crime, do not lead me astray!”

Oh, do not be unrelenting in your anger, fawn.
Show me the wonders of your pleasure, my love.
Kiss your friend and fulfill his desire.
If you wish to revive me, then give life;
but if you would instead kill—then kill me.

The Desire of My Heart by Moses ibn Ezra, a Jewish and Spanish philosopher, linguist and poet (1055?-1138 CE).

(Source: on1foot.org)

Look at me, my fawn, look!
Take full note of my misery
lest I fill with sorrow …
Drip, drip, drip goes my blood,
my life in your hands.

Let your heart be compassionate to the downcast,
who cannot eat and cries when you rage
and waits for your love to return …
Manna, manna, manna for my hunger,
give my daily wage.

If you rejoice in my lovesickness,
so here are my cheeks,
abuse me then, afflict me …
No, no, no disgrace,
just the casualties of innocence.

I have fought this miser of the heart,
and were he only to fear me
he would return my sleep
and I would …
Fly, fly, fly in my slumber,
I would dream double.

I would ask for his honeycomb lips,
reddening like the setting sun
my eyes transfixed on his form …
How, how, how does this man from Aram
color his lips so ruddy?

His song ploughs through my body,
he sings to awaken my fire.
Enough, my love, drink from my mouth.
Kiss, kiss, kiss my mouth,
Put aside your black mood, my friend.

Look At Me, My Fawn, Look by Yehuda Halevi, a 16th century rabbi and religious writer. Translated by Rabbi S. Greenberg.

(Source: on1foot.org)