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NIHIL NOVUM SUB SOLE

1001 deeds, sayings, curiosities and anecdotes of the ancient world

Ancient myths try to explain the various kinds of sexual relationships between men and women

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Phaedrus explains in a fable why homoeroticisme or homosexuality exists, both male and female; Ovid also does it with his account of Iphis and Ianthe. Plato also did it in his dialogue The Banquet, as I said in this blog. Even without understanding it very well, they tried to explain transsexuality and transgender.

The ancients do not question heterosexuality, that is, social order and social morality, but they recognize the natural reality that some women can feel and want to live as men and some men as women.

Two thousand years later, there are countries of advanced legislation with this recognition of a natural reality, in front of others that even punish very hard these facts not so much of female homosexuality as of transgender or transsexuality.

Female homosexuality, that a woman loves as a woman to another of the same sex, is hardly understood as possible and very little visible in the ancient world, although not nonexistent.

There is certainly, although virtually invisible also, the homosexuality of a woman who assumes the role of a man to relate her to another woman, that is, the masculinization of her behavior. It is the so-called tribade or tribas, a woman with homoerotic behavior, who seeks sexual intercourse with another woman, or more specifically, a woman who in the female homoerotic relationship assumes the dominant role, the masculinized role;  it comes from the Greek τριβάς, tribas, derived from the verb τριβηιν, tribein, which means to rub, scrub or masturbate.

This female homosexual or homoerotic practice is generally rejected socially because it implies a violation of the practice considered normal, the heterosexual, but in any case, in the old world its existence is recognized recognizing the complexity and diversity of the social relation between humans; moreover, not only it does not hide itself but its explanation is approached with some naturalness, even if it is by recourse to myth.

This is that  Plato made, as I said  in http://en.antiquitatem.com/homosexuality-lesbian-gay-andorogynous

This is that  Phaedrus does also for example in his fable IV, 16, eliminated along with the previous 15 of numerous editions, and Ovid in Book IX of the Metamorphoses when he narrates the history of Iphis and Ianthe.

Both texts have been widely studied and commented by researchers interested in the knowledge of sexual behavior in antiquity; I only now intend to give an account of the existence of these texts for the knowledge of the interested reader.

Phaedrus 4.16 (Perry 515)

Someone asked Aesop why lesbians and fairies had been created, and old Aesop explained, 'The answer lies once again with Prometheus, the original creator of our common clay (which shatters as soon as it hits a bit of bad luck). All day long, Prometheus had been separately shaping those natural members which shame conceals beneath our clothes, and when he was about to apply these private parts to the appropriate bodies Bacchus unexpectedly invited him to dinner. Prometheus came home late, unsteady on his feet and with a good deal of heavenly nectar flowing through his veins. With his wits half asleep in a drunken haze he stuck the female genitalia on male bodies and male members on the ladies. This is why modern lust revels in perverted pleasures.' (Translated by Laura Gibbs (2002))

Note: According to Pseud-Apollodorus, in his Mythological Library, 1,7,1 Prometheus was the creator of men, making them of water and earth, and for this he was punished by Zeus; in other versions Prometheus is only the benefactor, but not the creator of mankind:

Prometheus moulded men out of water and earth1 and gave them also fire, which, unknown to Zeus, he had hidden in a stalk of fennel.2 But when Zeus learned of it, he ordered Hephaestus to nail his body to Mount Caucasus, which is a Scythian mountain. On it Prometheus was nailed and kept bound for many years. Every day an eagle swooped on him and devoured the lobes of his liver, which grew by night. That was the penalty that Prometheus paid for the theft of fire until Hercules afterwards released him, as we shall show in dealing with Hercules. (English Translation by Sir James George Frazer,)

Phaedrus  IV, 16

Rogavit alter, tribadas et molles mares
Quae ratio procreasset? Exposuit senex:

«Idem Prometheus, auctor vulgi fictilis
Qui simul offendit ad fortunam frangitur,
Naturae partis veste quas celat pudor,
Cum separatim toto finxisset die,
Aptare mox ut posset corporibus suis,
Ad cenam est invitatus subito a Libero.
Ubi irrigatus multo venas nectare
Sero domum est reversus titubanti pede.
Tum semisomno corde et errore ebrio
Applicuit virginale generi masculo
Et masculina membra applicuit feminis.
Ita nunc libido pravo fruitur gaudio».

Note: from the fable it follows that homosexuality, both male and female, is the result of an error and therefore it  is at odds with normal behavior, that  is heterosexuality, but the error is of the creator himself of the "human  Race "and therefore it is" natural " and permanent, not a "disease " that can be healed, and so it is intended to be explained with myth.

Ovid on the  his hand narrates in his most important work, The Metamorphoses, various myths referred to the sexual behavior of men and women. The myth of Iphis and Ianthe  addresses the reality of some people whose feelings and psychological behavior do not match their physical sex.

Ovid describes the reality of a girl, a woman physically, who feels like a man and falls in love with another woman. The reality observed certainly poses a problem in the old society in which a marriage between women is not conceived. The main purpose of marriage was to procreate children for the family and for society. The solution, according to the prevailing social norm, is to turn the girl  into a boy, even if that conversion is due to the powerful goddess  Isis and not to the human art of modern surgery.

Ovid, after narrating the impossible love of Biblis with his brother Caunus, tells the story of Iphis and Ianthe.

  Metamorphosis IX, 666-798  The Fable of Iphis and Ianthe

The fame of this, perhaps, thro' Crete had flown:
But Crete had newer wonders of her own,
In Iphis chang'd; for, near the Gnossian bounds
(As loud report the miracle resounds),
At Phaestus dwelt a man of honest blood,
But meanly born, and not so rich as good;
Esteem'd, and lov'd by all the neighbourhood;
Who to his wife, before the time assign'd
For child-birth came, thus bluntly spoke his mind.
If Heav'n, said Lygdus, will vouchsafe to hear,
I have but two petitions to prefer;
Short pains for thee, for me a son and heir.
Girls cost as many throes in bringing forth;
Beside, when born, the titts are little worth;
Weak puling things, unable to sustain
Their share of labour, and their bread to gain.
If, therefore, thou a creature shalt produce,
Of so great charges, and so little use
(Bear witness, Heav'n, with what reluctancy),
Her hapless innocence I doom to die.
He said, and common tears the common grief display,
Of him who bad, and her who must obey.

Yet Telethusa still persists, to find
Fit arguments to move a father's mind;
T' extend his wishes to a larger scope,
And in one vessel not confine his hope.
Lygdus continues hard: her time drew near,
And she her heavy load could scarcely bear;
When slumbring, in the latter shades of night,
Before th' approaches of returning light,
She saw, or thought she saw, before her bed,
A glorious train, and Isis at their head:
Her moony horns were on her forehead plac'd,
And yellow shelves her shining temples grac'd:
A mitre, for a crown, she wore on high;
The dog, and dappl'd bull were waiting by;
Osyris, sought along the banks of Nile;
The silent God: the sacred crocodile;
And, last, a long procession moving on,
With timbrels, that assist the lab'ring moon.
Her slumbers seem'd dispell'd, and, broad awake,
She heard a voice, that thus distinctly spake.
My votary, thy babe from death defend,
Nor fear to save whate'er the Gods will send.
Delude with art thy husband's dire decree:
When danger calls, repose thy trust on me:
And know thou hast not serv'd a thankless deity.
This promise made, with night the Goddess fled;
With joy the woman wakes, and leaves her bed;
Devoutly lifts her spotless hands on high,
And prays the Pow'rs their gift to ratifie.

Now grinding pains proceed to bearing throes,
'Till its own weight the burden did disclose.
'Twas of the beauteous kind, and brought to light
With secrecy, to shun the father's sight.
Th' indulgent mother did her care employ,
And past it on her husband for a boy.
The nurse was conscious of the fact alone;
The father paid his vows as for a son;
And call'd him Iphis, by a common name,
Which either sex with equal right may claim.
Iphis his grandsire was; the wife was pleas'd,
Of half the fraud by Fortune's favour eas'd:
The doubtful name was us'd without deceit,
And truth was cover'd with a pious cheat.
The habit show'd a boy, the beauteous face
With manly fierceness mingled female grace.

Now thirteen years of age were swiftly run,
When the fond father thought the time drew on
Of settling in the world his only son.
Ianthe was his choice; so wondrous fair,
Her form alone with Iphis cou'd compare;
A neighbour's daughter of his own degree,
And not more bless'd with Fortune's goods than he.

They soon espous'd; for they with ease were join'd,
Who were before contracted in the mind.
Their age the same, their inclinations too;
And bred together, in one school they grew.
Thus, fatally dispos'd to mutual fires,
They felt, before they knew, the same desires.
Equal their flame, unequal was their care;
One lov'd with hope, one languish'd in despair.
The maid accus'd the lingring day alone:
For whom she thought a man, she thought her own.
But Iphis bends beneath a greater grief;
As fiercely burns, but hopes for no relief.
Ev'n her despair adds fuel to her fire;
A maid with madness does a maid desire.
And, scarce refraining tears, Alas, said she,
What issue of my love remains for me!
How wild a passion works within my breast,
With what prodigious flames am I possest!
Could I the care of Providence deserve,
Heav'n must destroy me, if it would preserve.
And that's my fate, or sure it would have sent
Some usual evil for my punishment:
Not this unkindly curse; to rage, and burn,
Where Nature shews no prospect of return.
Nor cows for cows consume with fruitless fire;
Nor mares, when hot, their fellow-mares desire:
The father of the fold supplies his ewes;
The stag through secret woods his hind pursues;
And birds for mates the males of their own species chuse.
Her females Nature guards from female flame,
And joins two sexes to preserve the game:
Wou'd I were nothing, or not what I am!
Crete, fam'd for monsters, wanted of her store,
'Till my new love produc'd one monster more.
The daughter of the sun a bull desir'd,
And yet ev'n then a male a female fir'd:
Her passion was extravagantly new,
But mine is much the madder of the two.
To things impossible she was not bent,
But found the means to compass her intent.
To cheat his eyes she took a different shape;
Yet still she gain'd a lover, and a leap.
Shou'd all the wit of all the world conspire,
Shou'd Daedalus assist my wild desire,
What art can make me able to enjoy,
Or what can change Ianthe to a boy?
Extinguish then thy passion, hopeless maid,
And recollect thy reason for thy aid.
Know what thou art, and love as maidens ought,
And drive these golden wishes from thy thought.
Thou canst not hope thy fond desires to gain;
Where hope is wanting, wishes are in vain.

And yet no guards against our joys conspire;
No jealous husband hinders our desire;
My parents are propitious to my wish,
And she herself consenting to the bliss.
All things concur to prosper our design;
All things to prosper any love but mine.
And yet I never can enjoy the fair;
'Tis past the pow'r of Heav'n to grant my pray'r.
Heav'n has been kind, as far as Heav'n can be;
Our parents with our own desires agree;
But Nature, stronger than the Gods above,
Refuses her assistance to my love;
She sets the bar that causes all my pain;
One gift refus'd, makes all their bounty vain.
And now the happy day is just at hand,
To bind our hearts in Hymen's holy band:
Our hearts, but not our bodies: thus accurs'd,
In midst of water I complain of thirst.
Why com'st thou, Juno, to these barren rites,
To bless a bed defrauded of delights?
But why shou'd Hymen lift his torch on high,
To see two brides in cold embraces lye?

Thus love-sick Iphis her vain passion mourns;
With equal ardour fair Ianthe burns,
Invoking Hymen's name, and Juno's pow'r,
To speed the work, and haste the happy hour.

She hopes, while Telethusa fears the day,
And strives to interpose some new delay:
Now feigns a sickness, now is in a fright
For this bad omen, or that boding sight.
But having done whate'er she could devise,
And empty'd all her magazine of lies,
The time approach'd; the next ensuing day
The fatal secret must to light betray.
Then Telethusa had recourse to pray'r,
She, and her daughter with dishevel'd hair;
Trembling with fear, great Isis they ador'd,
Embrac'd her altar, and her aid implor'd.

Fair queen, who dost on fruitful Egypt smile,
Who sway'st the sceptre of the Pharian isle,
And sev'n-fold falls of disemboguing Nile,
Relieve, in this our last distress, she said,
A suppliant mother, and a mournful maid.
Thou, Goddess, thou wert present to my sight;
Reveal'd I saw thee by thy own fair light:
I saw thee in my dream, as now I see,
With all thy marks of awful majesty:
The glorious train that compass'd thee around;
And heard the hollow timbrels holy sound.
Thy words I noted, which I still retain;
Let not thy sacred oracles be vain.
That Iphis lives, that I myself am free
From shame, and punishment, I owe to thee.
On thy protection all our hopes depend.
Thy counsel sav'd us, let thy pow'r defend.

Her tears pursu'd her words; and while she spoke,
The Goddess nodded, and her altar shook:
The temple doors, as with a blast of wind,
Were heard to clap; the lunar horns that bind
The brows of Isis cast a blaze around;
The trembling timbrel made a murm'ring sound.

Some hopes these happy omens did impart;
Forth went the mother with a beating heart:
Not much in fear, nor fully satisfy'd;
But Iphis follow'd with a larger stride:
The whiteness of her skin forsook her face;
Her looks embolden'd with an awful grace;
Her features, and her strength together grew,
And her long hair to curling locks withdrew.
Her sparkling eyes with manly vigour shone,
Big was her voice, audacious was her tone.
The latent parts, at length reveal'd, began
To shoot, and spread, and burnish into man.
The maid becomes a youth; no more delay
Your vows, but look, and confidently pay.
Their gifts the parents to the temple bear:
The votive tables this inscription wear;
Iphis the man, has to the Goddess paid
The vows, that Iphis offer'd when a maid.

Now when the star of day had shewn his face,
Venus and Juno with their presence grace
The nuptial rites, and Hymen from above
Descending to compleat their happy love;
The Gods of marriage lend their mutual aid;
And the warm youth enjoys the lovely maid.

(Translated by Sir Samuel Garth, John Dryden, et al)
By Mr. DRYDEN.

Fama noui centum Cretaeas forsitan urbes
Inplesset monstri, si non miracula nuper
Iphide mutata Crete propiora tulisset.
Proxima Gnosiaco nam quondam Phaestia regno
Progenuit tellus ignotum nomine Ligdum,
Ingenua de plebe uirum; nec census in illo
Nobilitate sua maior, sed uita fidesque
Inculpata fuit. grauidae qui coniugis aures
Vocibus his monuit, cum iam prope partus adesset:
"Quae uoueam, duo sunt: minimo ut releuere dolore,
Vtque marem parias. onerosior altera sors est,
Et uires fortuna negat: quod abominor, ergo,
Edita forte tuo fuerit si femina partu,
(Inuitus mando: pietas, ignosce) necetur."
Dixerat, et lacrimis uultum lauere profusis
Tam qui mandabat, quam cui mandata dabantur;
Sed tamen usque suum uanis Telethusa maritum
Sollicitat precibus, ne spem sibi ponat in arto;
Certa sua est Ligdo sententia. iamque ferendo
Vix erat illa grauem maturo pondere uentrem,
Cum medio noctis spatio sub imagine somni
Inachis ante torum pompa comitata sacrorum
Aut stetit aut uisa est: inerant lunaria fronti
Cornua cum spicis nitido flauentibus auro
Et regale decus; cum qua latrator Anubis
Sanctaque Bubastis uariusque coloribus Apis,
Quique premit uocem digitoque silentia suadet;
Sistraque erant, numquamque satis quaesitus Osiris
Plenaque somniferis serpens peregrina uenenis.
Tum uelut excussam somno et manifesta uidentem
Sic adfata dea est: "pars o Telethusa mearum,
Pone graues curas mandataque falle mariti;
Nec dubita, cum te partu Lucina leuarit,
Tollere, quidquid erit. dea sum auxiliaris opemque
Exorata fero, nec te coluisse quereris
Ingratum numen." monuit thalamoque recessit.
Laeta toro surgit purasque ad sidera supplex
Cressa manus tollens, rata sint sua uisa, precatur.
Vt dolor increuit seque ipsum pondus in auras
Expulit et nata est ignaro femina patre,
Iussit ali mater puerum mentita; fidemque
Res habuit, neque erat ficti nisi conscia nutrix.
Vota pater soluit nomenque inponit auitum:
Iphis auus fuerat, gauisa est nomine mater,
Quod commune foret nec quemquam falleret illo.
Inde incepta pia mendacia fraude latebant:
Cultus erat pueri, facies, quam siue puellae
Siue dares puero, fieret formosus uterque.
Tertius interea decimo successerat annus,
Cum pater, Iphi, tibi flauam despondit Ianthen,
Inter Phaestiadas quae laudatissima formae
Dote fuit uirgo, Dictaeo nata Teleste.
Par aetas, par forma fuit, primasque magistris
Accepere artes, elementa aetatis, ab isdem;
Hinc amor ambarum tetigit rude pectus et aequum
Vulnus utrique dedit, sed erat fiducia dispar:
Coniugium pactaeque exspectat tempora taedae,
Quamque uirum putat esse, uirum fore credit Ianthe;
Iphis amat, qua posse frui desperat, et auget
Hoc ipsum flammas ardetque in uirgine uirgo,
Vixque tenens lacrimas "quis me manet exitus" inquit,
"Cognita quam nulli, quam prodigiosa nouaeque
Cura tenet Veneris? si di mihi parcere uellent,
Parcere debuerant; si non, et perdere uellent,
Naturale malum saltem et de more dedissent!
Nec uaccam uaccae, nec equas amor urit equarum;
Vrit oues aries, sequitur sua femina ceruum;
Sic et aues coeunt, interque animalia cuncta
Femina femineo correpta cupidine nulla est.
Vellem nulla forem! ne non tamen omnia Crete
Monstra ferat, taurum dilexit filia Solis,
Femina nempe marem: meus est furiosior illo,
Si uerum profitemur, amor; tamen illa secuta est
Spem Veneris, tamen illa dolis et imagine uaccae
Passa bouem est, et erat, qui deciperetur, adulter.
Huc licet e toto sollertia confluat orbe,
Ipse licet reuolet ceratis Daedalus alis,
Quid faciet? num me puerum de uirgine doctis
Artibus efficiet? num te mutabit, Ianthe?
Quin animum firmas teque ipsa reconligis, Iphi,
Consiliique inopes et stultos excutis ignes?
Quid sis nata, uide, nisi te quoque decipis ipsam,
Et pete, quod fas est, et ama, quod femina debes.
Spes est, quae capiat, spes est, quae pascit amorem;
Hanc tibi res adimit: non te custodia caro
Arcet ab amplexu nec cauti cura mariti,
Non patris asperitas, non se negat ipsa roganti;
Nec tamen est potiunda tibi, nec, ut omnia fiant,
Esse potes felix, ut dique hominesque laborent.
Nunc quoque uotorum nulla est pars uana meorum,
Dique mihi faciles, quidquid ualuere, dederunt,
Quodque ego, uult genitor, uult ipsa socerque futurus;
At non uult natura, potentior omnibus istis,
Quae mihi sola nocet. uenit ecce optabile tempus,
Luxque iugalis adest, et iam mea fiet Ianthe -
Nec mihi continget: mediis sitiemus in undis.
Pronuba quid Iuno, quid ad haec, Hymenaee, uenitis
Sacra, quibus qui ducat abest, ubi nubimus ambae?"
Pressit ab his uocem, nec lenius altera uirgo
Aestuat, utque celer uenias, Hymenaee, precatur.
Quod petit haec, Telethusa timens modo tempora differt,
Nunc ficto languore moram trahit, omina saepe
Visaque causatur; sed iam consumpserat omnem
Materiam ficti, dilataque tempora taedae
Institerant, unusque dies restabat: at illa
Crinalem capiti uittam nataeque sibique
Detrahit et passis aram complexa capillis
"Isi, Paraetonium Mareoticaque arua Pharonque
Quae colis et septem digestum in cornua Nilum,
Fer, precor", inquit "opem nostroque medere timori!
Te, dea, te quondam tuaque haec insignia uidi
Cunctaque cognoui, sonitum comitesque facesque...
Sistrorum memorique animo tua iussa notaui.
Quod uidet haec lucem, quod non ego punior, ecce
Consilium munusque tuum est: miserere duarum
Auxilioque iuua." lacrimae sunt uerba secutae.
Visa dea est mouisse suas (et mouerat) aras,
Et templi tremuere fores imitataque lunam
Cornua fulserunt crepuitque sonabile sistrum.
Non secura quidem, fausto tamen omine laeta
Mater abit templo, sequitur comes Iphis euntem,
Quam solita est, maiore gradu; nec candor in ore
Permanet, et uires augentur, et acrior ipse est
Vultus et incomptis breuior mensura capillis,
Plusque uigoris adest, habuit quam femina. nam quae
Femina nuper eras, puer es. date munera templis,
Nec timida gaudete fide! dant munera templis,
Addunt et titulum, titulus breue carmen habebat:
"Dona puer solvit quae fémina voverat Iphis."
Postera lux radiis latum patefecerat orbem,
Cum Venus et Iuno sociusque Hymenaeus ad ignes
Conueniunt, potiturque sua puer Iphis Ianthe.

   
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