A small addendum to yesterday's post on homosexuality in ancient Hellas today. In it I mention that the topic goed through the news cycle, often with a lot of misinformation. I didn't have room to include a little pet-peeve of mine in that post: namely that Solon had made laws against homosexuality.

Solon (Σόλων) was an Athenian statesman, lawmaker, and poet, who lived from 638 BC to 558 BC. He spent most of his adult life trying to legislate against political, economic, and moral decline in archaic Athens. His ideologies are often credited with having laid the foundations for Athenian democracy. As a statesman, Solon put principles before expediency. In a time when Athens was struggling under the burden of civil war, his reforms strove to bridge the gap between the rich an the poor. Solon's reforms created a system where the power was in the hands of the people, if they were willing to work hard for it. For those without political aspirations, Solon's reforms provided judicial safety and a sense of power. His efforts brought into being many laws on a large variety of topics.

According to many news outlets (and subsequently many blogs and other interest sites) Solon was said to have made laws against homosexuality that stated the folllowing: any man practising homosexuality was

- banned from becoming a member of the council of nine
- banned from standing for elections as a priest
- banned from being a citizen’s advocate
- not allowed to exercise power in or outside the city of Athens
- not permitted to be sent an emissary of war
- banned from expressing his opinions
- banned from entering public temples
- banned from being wreathed in races
- not allowed to enter the agora

The only place where these bans are mentioned  is in Aeschines' 'The Speeches of Aeschines, Speech I, Against Timarchus'. Against Timarchus (Κατὰ Τιμάρχου) was a speech to the Assembly by Aeschines in which he accused a man named Timarchus of being unfit to involve himself in public life. The speech provides evidence of a number of actions which, according to Aeschines, would cause a citizen to lose the right of addressing the Assembly. Aeschines accuses Timarchus of two of these forbidden acts: prostituting himself, and wasting his inheritance. Aeschines, a Hellenic statesman, provides no evidence that any of Timarchus' lovers ever paid him, nor does he have a single witness who will testify that Timarchus had any sexual relationship with the men in question at all. Despite this, he won the case and Timarchus was punished by disenfranchisement. The quote is as follows:

"And I beg you, fellow citizens, to remember this also, that here the lawgiver [Solon] is not yet addressing the person of the boy himself, but those who are near him, father, brother, guardian, teachers, and in general those who have control of him. But as soon as the young man has been registered in the list of citizens, and knows the laws of the state, and is now able to distinguish between right and wrong, the lawgiver no longer addresses another, Timarchus, but now the man himself. And what does he say?

"If any Athenian," he says, "shall have prostituted his person, he shall not be permitted to become one of the nine archons," because, no doubt, that official wears the wreath ; "nor to discharge the office of priest," as being not even clean of body ; " nor shall he act as an advocate for the state," he says, "nor shall he ever hold any office whatsoever, at home or abroad, whether filled by lot or by election ; nor shall he be a herald or an ambassador " — nor shall he prosecute men who have served as ambassadors, nor shall he be a hired slanderer — "nor ever address senate or assembly," not even though he be the most eloquent orator in Athens.

And if any one act contrary to these prohibitions, the lawgiver has provided for criminal process on the charge of prostitution, and has prescribed the heaviest penalties therefor. (To the Clerk.) Read to the jury this law also, that you may know, gentlemen, in the face of what established laws of yours, so good and so moral, Timarchus has had the effrontery to speak before the people — a man whose character is so notorious." [17-20]

Aeschines recites Solon's laws about male prostitution, not homosexuality. That Timarchus is accused of prostituting himself to men is of secondary importance when it comes to the actual laws. So, please, always research your sources, my friends. Especially when it comes to a subject as complicated as this one, things are only very rarely cut and dry.