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Same-Sex Couples In History

Stemming as far back as ancient Mesopotamia, same-sex couples in history were perhaps more accepted.

By Anthony GramugliaPublished 6 years ago 4 min read

People act as though same-sex couples are somehow a new development in history, but anyone with even an ounce of historical perspective realizes that the LGBTQA+ community has been around since the dawn of the human race. Gay people aren't a new invention, nor is bisexuality or general queerness.

But okay. They were persecuted, surely. Hunted down. Driven through with spears and roasted alive for their perceived sins by an intolerant society.

Well... no, not always.

You would be surprised to know that same-sex couples in history experienced a far warmer welcome than they do, in some cases, now. The history of same-sex couples is vast and complicated, but, should one take the time to examine history, you may be forced to ask how modern society became so damn homophobic.

Ancient Mesopotamia

Ancient Mesopotamia may be the earliest civilization to come into existence. Materializing around the fertile crescent surrounding the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers, society flourished due to the farmland. Kings ruled here. Sumer, Assyria, Babylon – all societies that sprang up here, in what is now Iraq.

It was also very gay.

Let's ignore the fact that Gilgamesh, one of their greatest heroes, was completely and obviously gay for his best friend Enkidu, who joined him on many bad-ass adventures. Let's put that aside.

Mesopotamia's marriage rituals included rites for both male/female and male/male marriages. Men, after all, were seen as the stronger sex, so, if a man wished to make love with another man rather than a soft, puny woman... well, that man clearly had good taste.

So homophobia wasn't a huge deal for the Mesopotamians... but sexism? Oh, huge problem there.

Egypt, however, was far less tolerant. For awhile, the two were rival territories. Homosexuality was not overtly made illicit, but it was far less welcomed. Unions did not exist to unify same-sex couples, nor is there a history of noteworthy same-sex couples in history.

Ancient Greece

Greece also featured numerous same-sex unions throughout its history. While not quite the same as same-sex marriage as we understand it, the Ancient Greeks did have various unions between males in a society that were seen as natural. A part of growing up.

However, modern individuals may have a different interpretation of these... behaviors.

Pedastry was commonly practiced between men in Greece. An older Greek male, teaching a younger boy about life, would often engage in sex acts. It was accepted by society. Often, these same-sex relationships would take place outside of marriage. So same-sex marriage was not practiced, but same-sex unions were.

For obvious reasons, modern people have a different response to seeing a grown man have sex with an adolescent. That reaction typically involves calling the police.

However, it is important to note that, in certain parts of Greece (specifically Athens), bisexuality was not frowned upon... in men. Athens treated women like slaves. The only Greek city-state that treated women like people was Sparta, which, it turns out, did not welcome same-sex unions the same way that Athens did.

In addition, none of these relationships were seen as "permanent." Once the boy turned seventeen, the relationship abruptly ended, as the younger boy had grown too old. In addition, it could only occur with the father's consent. Keep in mind that the younger child's consent need not matter.

In many cases, many Greeks found them immoral and disturbing. At first, this was due to the age gap of the members in the relationship... but it soon became a far simpler moral issue of two men making love that bothered people.

Ancient China

China also had same-sex unions at the same time as Greece. Like Greece, an older adult would start a sexual relationship with a younger member of the same sex in order to educate them.

The difference being, however, that both men and women could enter into these unions.

Before you label China as the scene of progressive activity, however, take into consideration a few things. This only happened in the Fuijan region of China, and really only took place in the Ming Dynasty.

However, this doesn't change the fact that they had a wide range of rights at this point in time. Rarely were same-sex couples in history given this much of an opportunity.

Ancient Rome

It is, however, Rome that paints both the highs of same-sex unions in the old days of history, as well as the turning point against them.

Same-sex marriage was in fact allowed. There were numerous Emperors who engaged in same-sex relationships. Many historians believe most of the Roman Emperors were bisexual. The first Emperor to be married to another man was Nero.

However, the legal benefits of marriage never applied to same-sex unions. Only a marriage between a man and a woman would benefit a citizen in the eyes of the law. Because of this, even homosexuals were encouraged to marry a member of the opposite sex in order to reap the benefits of Roman law.

This was carried out until 342 AD, when same-sex marriage was officially outlawed. The Christian Emperors Constantius II and Constans decreed that the old, immoral ways of Rome would be tossed out – including the unions of same-sex couples.

This was done in order to appeal to the rising populous crowds who opposed the ways of old Rome. After being oppressed by the Roman government for so long, the Christians, now the in-charge religion of the Empire, decided to overturn all the old rules. All of them.

This upheaval of the old order would lead to the leading mindset for the next fifteen hundred years. Homosexuality was associated with the decadence of the old Emperors of Rome. Nero, the first Emperor to be married to a man, became (and rightfully so for his actions as Emperor) a symbol of corruption.

Same-sex couples in history became "sinful" by association with a corrupt institution.

The Old World had begun to decay.

And a New World Order would rise from the ashes.


About the Creator

Anthony Gramuglia

Obsessive writer fueled by espresso and drive. Into speculative fiction, old books, and long walks. Follow me at

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