Love and Marriage

Silvanus has publicly announced the celebration of the renewal of the wedding vows between Wes and Flatron in Mythos on April 8. I thought it’s a good moment to focus a bit on the Myth of Love and Marriage, eeeh pardon … on the history of Love and Marriage in Myths and Ancient Times.

Greek Love

Love was a hot topic in Greek Mythology, and the proliferation of romantic, tragic themes is astounding, as we know. The Greeks honored love, but it seems they did not particularly laud the goddess of love, Aphrodite. Her epithets — which are indicative of how the Hellenes felt about this powerful emotion — include Androphonos [killer of men], Epitymbidia [she upon the graves], and Melaina [the blackened one].

So in Mythology, Love was important … and hurtful, deadly and destructive. Ariadne saved Theseus, but he dumped her on an island. Orpheus was worried that Eurydice wouldn’t follow him and by looking back at her, he lost her forever. The 49 sisters of Hypermnestra all killed their husbands, and were doomed for a lifetime of carrying jars of water with perforations. And Alcmene, wife of Amphitryon, slept with Zeus, and gave birth to twins, Heracles to Zeus and Iphicles to Amphitryon … to name just a few dramatic love stories. [1]

Uranus - Love and Marriage - Mythology - Mythos
Uranus

Divine Incestuous Relationships

The Greek god Zeus married his sister, the goddess Hera. So did the Egyptians’ Osiris, marrying Isis. The same goes for a long list of gods from across the world. Why are there so many relationships between relatives? Most common explanation is that they didn’t have much choice; There is literally nobody in existence for the gods to mate with except relatives.

There is literally nobody in existence for the gods to mate with except relatives

A nice example: Gaia (Earth) gave birth to Uranus, the sky. If she did mate to produce him, it would have been with Chaos, her father, or one of her siblings, or one of her nephews, because no other options are available to her.

After producing Uranus, she takes her son as a lover. (Every other option would also be incestuous), and Earth and Sky then go nuts with a population explosion to produce Titans, Cyclopes, monsters like the Hecatonchoires.

By the time the Titan Cronos is devouring his kids, and Zeus rebels and frees his siblings from Cronos’ stomach, Zeus again has an incest problem. He could (but does not) mate with various unappealing monsters, nor does he mate with his mom Rhea, but he does mate with female Titans who are his aunts (Metis and Dione), and he does it with nymphs (who are also his aunts or his nieces / nephews / cousins). [2]

Marriages between Mortals

For sure there were extramarital and incestuous relationships between mortals as well, but what about the Institution of Marriage in Ancient Times? Was it very different? Hm, kinda boring here: The institution of marriage in ancient Greece encouraged responsibility in personal relationships. Marriages were usually arranged by the parents; professional matchmakers were reluctantly used. Orphaned daughters were left to uncles or cousins … bla bla bla [3].

Greek-sex - Love and Marriage - Mythology - Mythos
Erastes and eromenos

Gay Marriages in Ancient Times?

And gay marriage? What are the findings? … In Greece, the well-known pederastic relationships between Greek men (erastes, older lover, seen as the active or dominant partner) and youths (eromenos, the beloved and younger submissive partner) were similar to marriage; the relationship could only be undertaken with the consent of the father. This consent, just as in the case of a daughter’s marriage, was contingent on the suitor’s social standing. The relationship consisted of very specific social and religious responsibilities and also had a sexual component. Unlike marriage, however, a pederastic relation was temporary and ended when the boy turned seventeen.

Numerous examples of same sex unions among peers, not age-structured, are found in Ancient Greek writings: Harmodius and Aristogiton, Pelopidas and Epaminondas, Alexander and Bogoas. However, in none of these same sex unions is the Greek word for “marriage” ever mentioned.

The Romans seem to do a better job; They appear to have been the first to perform same sex marriages. In fact, thirteen out of the first fourteen Roman emperors are held to have been bisexual or exclusively homosexual and at least two of the Roman emperors were in same-sex unions.

Nero is known as the first Roman emperor to have married a man

The first Roman emperor to have married a man was Nero, who is reported to have married two other men on different occasions. First with one of his freedman, Pythagoras, to whom Nero took the role of the bride, and later as a groom Nero married a young boy named Sporus in a very public ceremony with all the solemnities of matrimony, and lived with him as his spouse.

The child emperor Elagabalus referred to his chariot driver Hierocles, a blond slave from Caria (a region now in Turkey) as his husband. He also married an athlete named Zoticus in a lavish public ceremony in Rome amidst the rejoicings of the citizens.[4] [5]

Elagabalus-Hierocles - Love and Marriage - Mythology - Mythos
Elagabalus and Hierocles

 

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