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The Experience of Homosexuality in the Middle Ages


Preface

The following is a paper written in 1988. I would change some, perhaps many of the conclusions, and certainly the theoretical approach. In particular I would emphasis the position of large aggregates of human beings [i.e. cities and monasteries] as a necessary but not sufficient pre-condition for homosexual sub-cultures.

It should also be noted that this paper stands firmly against the social constructionist model of homosexual cultures. It sees, in Western culture at least, the persistent existence of recognizably homosexual sub-cultures which recur whenever opportunity presents itself. I am now much more open to constructionist arguments, but would insist that the free variation some aspects of constructionism seems to posit, does not exist:- in fact a small number of formulations recur repeatedly.

The bibliography on medieval homosexuality in the ten years since this paper was written has grown enormously. There is an up-to-date online bibliography available. Anyone seriously interested in this topic needs especially to get hold of the following (full citations in the online bibliography):

  • Michael J. Rocke: Forbidden Friendship
  • James Brundage: Law, Sex, and Christian Society in Medieval Europe
  • John Boswell: Same Sex Unions in Pre-Modern Europe
  • Mark Jordan: The Invention of Sodomy
  • Bernardette Brooten: Love Between Women

Let me stress this was a term paper by a graduate student. It may still have some interest, but it does not represent my current ideas, or what I would regard as publishable material.

Paul Halsall
Halsall@murray.fordham.edu


Homosexual sex was widespread in the Middle Ages and there is abundant information on what church writers and secular legislators thought about it. Shoddy or partisan scholarship and a distinctly modern disdain of homosexuals by scholars until recently marked much of the discussion of the history of this medieval homosexuality. Since 1955, and especially since 1975, much work has been done that is of reasonable quality [1]. The concentration has tended to be on the Church's, or society's, attitude to homosexuality. This paper takes a different tack and looks at the personal experience in the Middle Ages of those we would now call homosexuals and the structures in which they were able to experience their sexuality. Their experience fits in with the wider experience of sexuality in Middle Ages and this also will be considered. Naturally, we can say little about what sexuality felt like for individuals, but a possible framework for their experience can be reconstructed from existing sources. This will be, necessarily, a framework for the experience of homosexual males for significant information exists only about men and boys [2].

The main focus of the present paper will be on the experience of homosexuality for individuals and on what can be gleaned about the subcultures or other kinds of social networks homosexuals belonged to in diverse medieval periods. There are theoretical issues to face in this inquiry, about the concept of homosexual and homosexuality, and the overall place of homosexuality in the study of medieval sexuality. Only after looking at these will we move to a consideration of sources and the uses that can be made of them. A examination of the often ignored issue of why people engaged in homosexual activities will help us to focus better on the core of this paper which will be to consider those medieval societies in which we have knowledge of homosexuality and to see if they fit into any typology. The typologies looked at are of the types of homosexuality we can see present and at the social contexts in which this sexuality was expressed.

Use of Terms

Michel Foucault opened up the serious investigation of the history of sexuality [3]. His view was that sexuality is socially constructed in a way similar to grammar, and so to talk about homosexuality in the past would be a solecism; for Foucault the experience of a modern western gay man is incommensurable with same-gender sex in other periods or cultures [4]. This distinctive perspective has become orthodox for many writers [5]. John Boswell led the attack on Foucault's thesis [6], although his own theory that there have always been homosexual subcultures [7] does not seem to be verifiable. Other authors not attached to structuralist theory, such as Guido Ruggiero [8], are now joining Boswell. The core issue is did homosexual behavior exist before the modern period as the affective preference we call homosexuality? The word homosexual is a nineteenth-century invention, and it is often suggested that one alternative, sodomy, had too varied a meaning in the Middle Ages to substitute for it. Self-conception is surely important in defining a person's sexuality, but we need not be too realist about it: a thing does not need a name to exist. Homosexual acts existed and even though the meaning of the word sodomy has been much discussed for the Middle Ages, and it could be applied to acts such as anal intercourse between married people, in the majority of cases it refers to various sexual acts between men [9]. A working definition is that homosexuality, the desire for at least sexual contact with someone of the same gender, is a perquisite of a person practicing homosexual acts on a regular basis, even though as this paper makes clear, the social framework may vary greatly.

Medieval Sexuality

A study of homosexuality fits into the wider history of sexuality in the Middle Ages. Discussions of sex dating from the period are almost all ecclesiastical, while current scholarly interest is with the sexual lives of lay people. This requires an oblique use of sources similar to that needed with the history of homosexuality.

Late antique thought in general had turned against sexuality [10]. The revival of transcendence in philosophy downgraded the body and exalted rationality as a path to divinity. Christian theologians took up the theme with gusto. In the West, St. Jerome and St. Ambrose conceived of sex as a way of tying the spirit to carnality [11]. St. Augustine took up another platonic theme, that passion derogated from reason, and argued that, while procreation was a virtuous end for sex, attempts to gain pleasure were unnatural since rationality was inevitably compromised [12]. His views set the tone for western Christianity. Sex was permissible only within marriage and when it aimed at procreation, and only then if you did not enjoy it too much [13]. This general theme was particularized in discussions of what was allowable between married people [14]. Masturbation was out, as were anal and oral sex; all were pleasurable and did not lead to procreation. Vaginal intercourse also was permitted only in what has become called the "missionary position" and there was an extended discussion of the sinfulness of having the woman on top, of entry from behind and anal sex [15]. Eventually many commentators came to the conclusion that any unusual coital positions were unnatural, although it was never agreed exactly what was permitted and the concept of "natural" proved to be flexible [16].

Clearly the theories of ostensibly celibate authors did not accord with the practice and types of sexual activity practiced by heterosexuals. The discussions of possible sins by theologians indicate that some people were committing those sins; there is some evidence that users of early medieval penitentials inquired into what sins a penitent had committed [17] and so the penitentials do reflect practice as well as churchmen's concerns. After the institution of compulsory confession at the Fourth Lateran Council (1215), the practices of the laity resulted in a new consideration of ethics by theologians; Bishop Grosseteste of Lincoln, for instance, worked on Aristotle's Ethics, and new handbooks for confessors were produced. This evidence shows that heterosexuals in the Middle Ages practised a wide range of sexual activity. As well as procreative sex in the missionary position, heterosexuals seem to have enjoyed sex with the woman on top, in the "doggy position" [18], and oral sex [19]. Heterosexuals also had anal sex [20], and this seems to have been used as a form of contraception along with coitus interruptus. In periods when marriage was delayed we can also be fairly sure that masturbation was an outlet [21]. Other evidence, apart from conventional love literature, makes it clear that people also loved each other on occasion [22]. People do seem to have had psychological defenses against the ecclesiastical onslaughts on their sexuality; there was a popular belief that sex between married people was always without sin [23], and there was a phrase si non caste, tamen cauts [24].

This wider world of medieval sexuality includes homosexuality, and we have been looking at it to establish that homosexuals were not alone in having their sexuality negated by ecclesiastical ideology. Turning now to how historians have approached this aspect of medieval sexuality, we find that three themes predominate; biography, church and society's views of homosexuality, and the persecution suffered by homosexuals.

The least informative in terms of gaining a historical perspective on the subject has been the biographical approach. There are numerous biographies of St. Anselm, St. Aelred, William Rufus, Richard I and various renaissance homosexuals. Little context has been given to their sexual lives, and the goal is often prurient or to "prove" that homosexuals are as good or better than heterosexuals [25].

Another approach has been to look at society's view of homosexuality. This takes into account church views and secular laws. Bailey's work [26] is well known in this area, and the results of this sort of study have been informative. The goal has often been to change contemporary opinion.

The persecution of homosexuals has been the greatest concern of many writers on the subject. Gay writers in particular have seen the origins of modern oppression in Christian Europe [27]. The two major themes have been the growth of intolerance and actual persecution. John Boswell [28] argues strongly that Christianity only became hostile as it absorbed the effects of social changes which had nothing to do with religion. Furthermore, it was only in the thirteenth century that condemnation of homosexual activity became a major theme. Boswell sometimes overstates his case [29], but he is on to something; churchmen become much more consistent after the mid-thirteenth century in their condemnation at the same time that in the secular sphere capital punishments begin to be handed out [30]. Various writers have drawn links between the treatment of Jews, lepers, heretics and homosexuals [31]. Each group tended to be scarred with the stigma of the others. Physical persecution followed the increase in intolerance. The burnings began when the secular lawmakers took up the ecclesiastical themes [32]. Their motives were explicitly religious; fear of the divine vengeance meted out to Sodom was often given as a reason for the new laws. Why these laws and punishments were made only in the thirteenth century is disputed. Gay activist writers tend to see Christian morality entering the laws, but equally important was that it was only in the thirteenth century that secular laws were made in great numbers and law makers looked to Roman Law which since Justinian had explicitly condemned homosexuality.

If physical persecution was a factor in the lives of homosexuals only in the late Middle Ages, it was not the only way they might have felt attacked. They were constantly aware, if they had contact with the church, that their sexual desires were sinful. There has been a tendency to see homosexuals as unique in this respect, but as the discussion of sexuality in general made clear, almost all sexually active people were in a similar position. Heterosexuals were allowed at least some sexual expression and the whole orientation of society towards marriage gave them a way of coping. Homosexuals' social networks will be examined to see if they provided a similar mechanism [33].

Sources

There were earlier studies of the history of homosexuality, but the work of Derrick S. Bailey [34] marked a new departure in the use of sources. Bailey's sources were canon law, secular law such as Justinian's Code and the barbarian codes, and some writings of the church fathers and their medieval successors. Bailey's work was constantly referred to by many of the other writers in following two decades [35]. John Boswell [36] also uses these sources, although with a broader knowledge, but due to his determination not to look only at negative attitudes to homosexuals, he introduced evidence from sources such as troubadour and other poetry and writings of monastic authors such as Aelred of Rievaulx. Boswell also took care to look at the context in which, for instance, canons were issued, and was able to question Bailey's interpretations [37]. In this way and by taking medieval discussions of friendship as relevant to homosexuality, Boswell has widened considerably the evidence available for discussion.

It is important to look at these sources because both Bailey and Boswell are interested in a global understanding of medieval homosexuality; Bailey is mainly interested in the Church's view while Boswell also attempts to comprehend the lifestyle of homosexuals. The problem with both is that their sources are discontinuous [38]. There is much information, but we are talking about a thousand years of history on a diverse continent. Canon law and commentaries, along with theological and spiritual writing do allow a fairly continuous analysis of the views of the clerical elite. The need to jump from Spain to France to Scandinavia [39] does not allow a similar analysis of the actual situation of homosexual people. Law codes, canons and scholarly commentaries are difficult to tie to what was happening in particular places to particular individuals. They necessitate that the authors who use them talk about "medieval culture" and "Christian attitudes" over large areas and long time periods. The hermeneutical difficulties of using such contrasting sources as seventh-century Visigothic codes and twelfth-century monastic writing to say anything consistent about medieval homosexuality are immense.

There has been an increase since 1978 in the number of studies looking at local areas. Ruggiero, Goodich, Gade, Krekic, Roth [40] and others have used local inquisition records, court records and poetry to present the history of homosexuality from such diverse local areas as Norway and Dubrovnik to Venice and Florence. The opportunity is now available to use these local records to come to refine more general conclusions. Many of the sources already used on a global basis can also be used as local evidence, for instance St. Peter Damien's Liber Gomorrhanius [41] might be looked at for the information it gives on central Italy in the eleventh century. The goal in this paper is to direct attention away from the generality and to the variety of homosexual people's lives.

Motivations for Homosexuality

Given the difficulties of homosexual sex in the Middle Ages, it is legitimate to ask why people chose to act in this way. No etiology has ever been established for homosexuality and its expression has varied from culture to culture; in most it has been tolerated or approved, but in others it has been absent [42]. In contrast with some non-European cultures homosexual activity is referred to in such diverse places and times that it always was an option, a conceivable possibility, in the Middle Ages. John Boswell thinks it is basically an urban phenomena, and this is true of anything we can call a subculture, but the evidence of the Irish penitentials, produced in a land without cities, suggests that the urban aspect should not be pushed [43].

It might be thought that homosexual activity, seen as personal motivations and desires, does not fit into any economic pattern. Differing patterns of heterosexual institutions such as marriage can be linked to economic trends. Marriage as a means of property transfer among the twelfth-century French aristocracy was a different institution to that of marriages between peasants, or between town dwellers. Homosexual subcultures, however, emerged fully only in urban areas. We can see the impact of the commercial revolution here. The growth of towns was connected to the rise in trade. Several factors resulted from this. First of all, especially in Italy, the cities were large enough to provide anonymity; social control was shifted to the family and the magistracy and away from the community at large. This "gap" in social control is what allows a subculture to develop. Delayed marriage in late medieval Italian towns also meant that there were sexually mature young people who might experiment given the lack of heterosexual opportunity [44]. Men who were by inclination homosexual were also given longer to discover this before being married. Some reasons for being homosexual, or developing homosexual traits, do seem to have an economic base.

Another explanation for being homosexual has been suggested, again in the Italian context, by Herlihy [45]. He takes up the issue of the age differential, which could be up to fifteen years, between married couples in Florence. This meant that mothers were often as near their children's' age as their husbands. Herlihy thinks this affected infantile development, retarded the age of marriage and produced a "feminized" society [46]. This is a Freudian explanation of homosexuality, and apart from being unprovable does not explain why a "feminized" man should become a distant paterfamilias when he finally married after the age of thirty.

One of the reasons people have sex is usually overlooked. They find it pleasurable [47]. There is no sexual activity that is unique to homosexuals, although some acts may be more frequent. The sources available enable us to say something about the type of sexual activities homosexuals practiced. Early medieval Irishmen seem to have confessed to anal intercourse, interfemoral intercourse [48], and mutual masturbation [49]. Oral sex including the swallowing of semen [50] was also noted. We have no information as to whether kissing was practiced. Flagellation seems to have been a penance rather than a pleasure. St. Peter Damian thought this constellation of activities was prevalent amongst his clerical contemporaries in central Italy [51]. When we hear the voice of homosexual poets from Spain, Arab writers discuss anal sex but, along with their more chaste Jewish counterparts, the emphasis is on kissing [52] and its pleasures. Kissing was about as far as monastic writers in Christian Europe would go [53], although the Templars were accused of analingus [54]. Renaissance Florence saw prosecutions for anal sex [55}, and Ruggiero recounts the trials of a transvestite prostitute and another case in which the relationship of the two charged parties was sadomasochistic [56]. There was then a variety of sexual activity practiced by homosexuals and the repertoire seems more or less complete. It can be noted that discussion of oral sex apart from kissing is relatively rare, and that interfemoral intercourse is discussed as frequently as anal penetration. Medieval writers and trial reports all seem to assume that anal sex was always done from behind. All these activities were condemned by the Church and society throughout the period. For people to break such persistent taboos we must acknowledge just how strong the drive for sexual pleasure is in many individuals - as strong and sometimes stronger than any moral precept.

Types of Homosexual Activity in Medieval Europe

Discussion of medieval homosexual sex has brought us to one of the major themes of the paper - the types of homosexuality we can see in medieval Europe. Randolph Trumbach [57] has suggested one way of understanding the variety. His thesis is that there are homosexually-oriented men in most societies, but equally that there is usually horror at the idea of an adult male playing a passive role in sex, the so-called "women's role". He suggests that two strategies have normally [58] been adopted to cope with the conflict; the first allows men to have sex with adolescent boys, who are allowed to be passive for this period of their lives, or there are fully accepted adult male transvestites. These were strategies to retain the masculinity of one partner. For Trumbach, Christian society is unique in rejecting both active and passive homosexual activity, and because of this there is the phenomenon of homosexual subcultures in West. He thought that because of this there must always have been homosexual subcultures in the West. Trumbach is wrong - there have been long periods in western history without any discernible homosexual subculture [59]. Trumbach was also at fault in not distinguishing between types of sexual activity and types of social networks or subcultures; the two are not necessarily connected. His discussion of types of sexual activity raises the legitimate question of why in some societies we observe homosexual relations between equals, and in others the adult/adolescent pattern [60]. This is not reducible, as Trumbach supposes, to whether or not there was a homosexual subculture. There were societies such as Spanish Jewry which show signs of a conscious subculture but where all the evidence points to adult/adolescent activity, and places where the opposite seems to hold. Trumbach's theory is far too rigid, but has value in raising questions about the variety of forms homosexuality takes. This variety is the subject now under consideration.

This section will look at those societies [61] in which we can see the first type of pattern of sexual activity, that between men and boys, or where one partner played a definitely passive role in sex. There were real variations within this pattern.

Scandinavia has left a little evidence in law and literature about homosexual practice [62]. A single regulation of 1164 survives against all homosexual activity, but does not seem to have been enforced [63]. The literature makes it clear that homosexual acts were acceptable as long as a man played a "male" role. There was a word "argr" or "ragr" used to insult men who had played a receptive role; the indication is that anal sex was the activity imagined [64]. Gade asserts that homosexual relationships existed in Norse society [65], but offers no proof of this from either law or literature. Old Norse society seems to have been one where it was acceptable for most men [66] to express homoerotic desire, especially with slaves, but where no evidence of homosexual social networks survives. The sex in question is usually described as between men; a strong distinction between active and passive roles does not here reflect any emphasis on pederasty.

Medieval Hebrew/Spanish culture has left a more varied record of homosexual activity than Scandinavia [67]. Maimonides took a strict view of homosexual activity and admonished both partners, but seems to have been more lenient when one of the partners was under nine years old [68]. Although this would be a young age to have sex, this Rabbinic view has some links with the Hebrew/Spanish literary culture whose poets wrote many beautiful verses dedicated to the love of boys. The most notable poets of the period wrote on the theme, and there seems to have been no question of them copying ancient Greek forms, although Arabic ghazal poetry was known to them. The allusions in the poetry were distinctly Jewish:-

Like Joseph in his form,
like Adoniah his hair.
Lovely of eyes like David,
he has slain me like Uriah
[69].

The sexual activity referred to by Jewish poets, unlike Muslims, did not go beyond kissing [70] and fondling. There were themes and images that recurred in this genre of poetry from the eleventh to thirteenth century. The poets knew of each other's work, were widely read, and were integrated in society [71]. There was here then, the same active/passive pattern of homosexuality as in Scandinavia, but there the similarity ends. Amongst Spanish Jews homosexuality was a question of sex with boys, but it was also surrounded with a halo of romance. The boys suffered no disgrace, although sex with bearded youths was despised, and there was a literary and social network of those who were attracted to other males.

There are numerous references to homosexual activity in literature in twelfth-century Christian France. Here the evidence of the type of sexual activity is mixed. The poetry of the homosexual bishops Baudri of Bourgueil (1046-1130) and his friend Marbod of Rennes (1035-1123) [72] reflects the situation of Jewish Spain with an emphasis on pederasty and some awareness by the poets of each other's work. The bishops were even less forthright about the sexual activity they envisioned than the Jewish poets. However, pederasty probably was not all that was going on; Ivo of Chartres, at the same period and in the same region, discusses sodomy and fellatio distinctly from pederasty [73], and Peter Damian, who wrote at the same period although in a different place, mentions mutual masturbation, interfemoral sex and "the complete act against nature" [74] without making a special complaint of pederasty or one partner being passive. For the poets however, pederasty, and by implication an active/passive distinction, was the norm but this might have been a literary topos reflecting an awareness of Roman literary themes [75].

Trumbach's first type of homosexuality, where a great distinction is made between active and passive roles is made, does then appear to have occurred in medieval Europe [76]. In the instance where the strategy was most clearly to preserve the masculinity of one participant, Scandinavia, pederasty does not seem to have been an issue. Where we find pederasty as the pattern of active/passive activity our evidence comes from individuals who do not stress their own masculinity. So while passivity/activity is a fair way to typify sexual activity, more than just the desire to preserve masculinity was at issue; in the Jewish case, Mosaic law was slightly less harsh on pederasty and Christian intellectual poets had classical models to consider. Trumbach's theory may be correct for "primary" cultures, ones that do not have to come to terms with previous cultural norms, but in Jewish and Latin Christian societies constant referral to earlier classical formulations requires that anthropological data and theories be used with care.

Homosexual activity where there was not an active-passive pattern would, in Trumbach's theory, be unique to the West and related to the subculture he thought always existed. Here we are talking about the possibility of reversing sexual roles in a given culture, or where no strategy was deliberately adopted or expected by society to preserve masculinity. In every culture there would be some who preferred an active or passive role, but the strategy, if it could be called that, would be the agreed pleasure of the participants. Was this sort of sexual pattern evident in any time or place in the Middle Ages?

Early medieval Irish confessors, as reflected in their penitentials, were not worried by pederasty and made no great distinction between active and passive activity. They do distinguish between men and boys and talk about sexual acts that are mutual [77] and do not fit into the active/passive paradigm. The penitential of Cummean (c. 650) in particular talked about boys having sex together [78] and Columban (c. 600) instructed that a sodomite should never be housed with another person [79] without mentioning the age of either person. Sex between monks was condemned frequently, and here also there was some equality in that sexual activity was between men of similar status. So in early Ireland [80], where there is no evidence of any homosexual subculture, there may well have been the option of sex on an equal basis. In this case Christian condemnation of both parties may ,as Trumbach predicted, have led each partner to act for pleasure rather than to preserve social status. The only problem concerns the degree to which we can trust the penitentials to reflect social reality.

Monastic writing on love and friendship in the twelfth century represents some of the earliest evidence we have of the views of homoerotically inclined men. Unlike Baudri of Bourgueil's musings over pretty boys, writers such as Anselm and Aelred of Rievaulx wrote to other monks. The objects of their affection were younger men but they envisioned lifelong and exclusive relationships, such as the affair Anselm had with the young monk Osbern [81]. It is not clear what part sex played in these relationships; although it is not mentioned overtly by the writers they were attracted to males and all their emotional life centered on men [82]. In this milieu also we can perhaps allow some sort of equality in the activities of homosexuals [83].

Contemporary with these loving monks, there was a very different society of young fighting men, the aristocratic elite of northern France. Duby described the life of aristocratic youth and thought it possible that they had sex together [84]. Possibly the education of knights in all-male groups, for many years with little prospect of early marriage, would have encouraged homosexual activity [85]. Certainly Richard I, who embodied twelfth-century knightly mores, had homosexual relationships [86]. From what we can construe of this aristocratic activity it was mutual and between men of the same age group. We hear nothing of the condemnation of passive activity seen in Norse lands.

There is some evidence from non-elite and non-monastic groups in Southwest France in the late thirteenth century from the inquisition records of Jacques Fournier [87]. One Arnold of Verniole was tried c. 1323 and his homosexuality came up in the records. It is clear that he had no trouble persuading many younger men to sleep with him. In spite of the age difference, both partners played active and passive roles in penetrative sex [88]. Arnold's motive in changing roles around was pleasure. He does not seem to have had a masculinity ax to grind.

The most extensive evidence of sexual activity comes from renaissance Italy. It will be argued later that this is the best example we have of a homosexual subculture in the period before 1500, but for the moment the thing to note is that there is evidence of a wide variety of sexual patterns. Florence in establishing its magistracy to extirpate sodomy in 1432 [89] specifically condemned active and passive partners as if they were both committed by adults, although the prosecutions published by Brucker [90] refer to homosexual rape of boys. The Florentines also established heterosexual brothels in 1415 with the intent of luring young men from sodomy [91]: they seem to have thought the problem was one of unsatisfied sexual urges [2] rather than the possibility that some men might have preferred to be passive. In Venice, Ruggiero, drawing upon trial records, suggests that active/passive role playing was the norm [93] and there were many cases of an older man and an adolescent engaging in classic pederasty. But in this homosexual subculture this was not the only pattern; Ruggiero's own figures [94] show that the number of sodomy cases involving boys remained steady at about 25 per cent for 175 years. There were also cases of whole groups of young noblemen of the same age group being prosecuted [95] and depositions from partners who did take turns in active and passive penetration [96]. In Italy as well then, we find that equality in sexual roles was a conceivable option for homosexuals.

In this long section Trumbach's theory of homosexual activity has been tested in reference to medieval Europe. He erred it seems in thinking that the active-passive model of homosexual sex would not occur in Christian societies, and in tying types of sexual activity to particular types of culture. On the other hand, the Christian condemnation of both partners in penetrative sex may be related to the existence, in a variety of western contexts, of a homosexuality that does not conform to the norm in other cultures of distinct active and passive partners. The wide spectrum of social contexts looked at here has also demonstrated that social context and the types sexual activity are not closely related. The rest of this paper leaves the study of sexual practice and takes up the theme of social contexts.

Homosexual Networks & Homosexual Experience

So far homosexual networks or subcultures have been distinguished from sexual activity. It is worthwhile asking just what we mean by a subculture. Only then can the social experience of homosexuals be analyzed.

By "subculture", sociologists mean a number of different things. A culture is the name given to the whole web of assumptions, history, language, traditions, art, and crafts that a individuals in a society hold in common. Society is composed of many groups, and each group will have its own particular subset of traditions that make it a subculture; consciousness of being a group is usually a factor. The number of groups is enormous, since one individual may belong to more than one group, so there is academic interest only in certain sorts of subcultures; religious, ethnic, women's' and deviant subcultures have all been of interest to scholars, often reflecting their own concerns. In any large subculture there will be sub-sub-cultures. To take the example of the modern gay subculture, within the whole there are the distinct, if sometimes overlapping, subcultures of men interested in leather clothing, and of men interested in opera [97]; they share the general subcultural knowledge of code words, gay meeting places, and gay history, and will probably be aware of and understand "camp" [98], but each subgroup also has its own meeting places, interests and language. Such subcultures did exist in the Middle Ages, amongst, for instance, the Jews, but as a category of thought "subculture" describes a society more complex than that discernible in our sources about homosexuality, with the possible exceptions discussed later. This is not to say that homosexuals lived life in total isolation. A more useful concept is that of a social "network" [99]: a homosexual would not have experienced his sexuality in isolation if he had had a social network of homosexual friends, fellow monks or former sexual partners. It is also easier to discern such networks than the apparatus of a subculture through the sources we have. A generalized homosexual subculture after all would mean only that a series of such smaller networks were interlinked. A final point here, pace Trumbach, is that no continuous homosexual subculture did exist in the Middle Ages. Although we have looked at evidence from a number of periods and regions there is no evidence that any one group of homosexuals knew of any other's existence [100]. In this section we shall look at the this social experience of gay men and at why there were social networks or subculture in some places but not others.

Plainly, some homosexuals had an entirely individualized experience of sexuality with no awareness of others, or at least many others with same feelings and certainly no conception of a different sexuality. There were a number of homosexual monarchs, who, with the exception of Edward II, seem to have escaped any severe punishment; one example would be Richard I of England. Many of these monarchs do not seem to have been tied into any social network. Of the societies already covered Scandinavian homosexuals seem to have been integrated with the general population: there is no evidence that all men had sex with others, but those who did were not regarded badly [101]. The Norse concept of "argr" or being passive in sex does not seem to have been applied to any particular group. Ireland and other regions reflected in the penitentials have left no other evidence that would allow us to see social networks. Possibly there were small groups in some monasteries, and men who played with other as youths might have remained in contact, but this remains speculation. We can be fairly sure that in the many areas and periods for which there is no surviving evidence there were isolated individuals who possibly made local contacts; the sexual habits we can observe in the variety of places we do know about indicates as much. Such individual experience might have been the fate of the majority of homosexuals in the Middle Ages.

There are sundry cases where the sources point to small groups or networks. In some royal courts there was a network of homosexually interested men. At the court of Charlemagne, Alcuin and his circle wrote erotic poems and letters to each other, complete with nicknames with classical references [102]. This is too small to be considered a subculture, but the homosexuals who belonged to it did have social support. The Norman courts, particularly that of William Rufus, also bear witness to homosexual networks: St. Anselm preached a sermon asking the court to stop wearing long hair, and William of Malmesbury, admittedly at a distance of thirty years, reports young men walking naked around the court [103]. A similar phenomenon of social networks can be seen in monastic circles. In the eleventh century St. Peter Damian imagined that whole groups of clerics in his region [104] got together with "eight or even ten equally sordid men" [105] and that homosexual priests absolved each other of their sins [106]. Such social networks, although not necessarily sordid, can be seen in the letters of Aelred of Rievaulx [107]. For many men of a homosexual inclination, once the Cistercians introduced adult recruitment, a monastery must have seemed a good way to escape the pressures of marriage. Our evidence comes from abbots' writing; the experience of lower level monks is not known [108]. Of the non-elite and non-monastic groups examined earlier, the records of Montaillou, and the trial records of Arnold of Verniole [109], indicate no extensive subculture, but Arnold did have a whole circle of homosexually active acquaintances. Although there is no way of quantifying, it is possible that small social networks of friends were the commonest way homosexuals who had any social support experienced their sexuality. The sources just do not support the theory of a continuous or even a commonly recurring subculture, but do show more than isolated individuals.

If social networks are the most we can see in most periods, are we ever justified in seeing more developed homosexual subcultures in the Middle Ages? The Hebrew/Spanish poets bear witness to a tradition lasting many centuries: the first poet to write in the tradition of homoerotic poetry was Yishaq ben Mar-Saul in the eleventh century [110] and his successors continued composition until the thirteenth century [111]. This seems to lend support to the idea that amongst Spanish Jews there was a subculture. The problem is that our evidence is literary, and, while this does show a continuing tradition of code words, images, and sensibility, we do not know if there were meeting places, lasting relationships or any consciousness among non-literary homosexuals that they formed a group [112]. Even with these reservations, we can see some sort of subculture in Spain, based, as noted earlier, on the sexual attraction of adults for adolescents. Boswell is keen to see twelfth-century French culture and literature as evidence of a widespread subculture [113]. He brings into play the writings of Baudri of Bourgueil, Marbod, and variety of other literary works, including one poem which seems to refer to male brothels operating in Paris, Chartres, Sens and Orleans [114]. There was also a verse debate between Helen and Ganymede on the merits of the love of boys and the love of women. Boswell sees such literature as "the product of a society in which gay people were an important segment of the population," and "where defenses of gay love were sufficiently common to have taken on a defiant rather than apologetic tone" [115]. Added to the sources discussed by Boswell, there were reports of homosexuality at Paris University in 1219 [116], and in Paris in general in 1230 [117]. The limited evidence does point to a homosexual subculture amongst clerics, both priestly and scholarly, in northern France from perhaps the late eleventh until sometime in the thirteenth century. The sexuality expressed in the surviving poems is centered on sex with young males but with some indications of more equal relationships between adults. It is not clear if the homosexual networks we can see in English monasteries at the period, or the possible homosexuality amongst aristocratic youth, were linked with the homoerotic traditions of the secular and urban clergy of northern France. Late medieval and renaissance Italy presents a special case. Italian homosexuality in late Middle Ages has been well documented by Ruggiero[118]. The sources are entirely different from the literary evidence used by Boswell, and although we do not hear the voices of homosexuals, Venice's court records describe a varied homosexual subculture in the fifteenth century with distinct meeting places near the Rialto amongst other places [119]. Ruggiero thinks that this subculture only came into being in the fifteenth century [120]. More rudimentary social organization is discernible in Italy before that: Dante is quite aware of sodomites a century earlier [121]. Although only Venice has been investigated in full there were municipal statutes in many other Italian cities of the period [122], and it is possible much more evidence of homosexual subcultures is available in their court records [123]. Homosexual subcultures did exist in the Middle Ages, although there are full records for none of them. The total number was small, and they were limited to certain areas. For most of the period there was only the most limited social organization for homosexuals.

There are no set reasons why a homosexual network or more developed subculture should develop in one area and not in another. Much work has been done on the persecution of homosexuals, and Boswell's thesis is that persecution destroyed the homosexual subculture of the twelfth century. That may have been the case in France, but the most developed subculture we are aware of, that of Venice, grew up in an atmosphere far more dangerous for homosexuals than anything in the thirteenth century. Persecution was not the only relevant fact in the existence of a subculture. Urbanization as such has little to do with the existence of homosexual activity, Scandinavia and early medieval Ireland show that, but a developed social organization seems to be necessary before sub-groups can form their own networks. Not every town had a homosexual network, as far as we can see, but almost all the networking that did occur was related to urban life [124]. Small networks must have grown up accidentally as a group of acquaintances came to recognize their sexuality in each other. Only when and where there was a continuous subculture would there be real opportunities for homosexuals outside these chance networks to find a social context for their sexuality.

Conclusions

This paper has looked at the experience of medieval homosexuals from a distinct perspective. In particular the development of persecution and hatred, the elaboration of a theological and juridical onslaught, has been sidelined. The goal has been to discuss the way in which homosexuals experienced their sexuality. The theoretical problems were discussed along with previous approaches to the issue. Source material instead of being used to make large generalizations has been taken as evidence for localized information. The central part of the paper looked at why people might act homosexually, and at the type of sex they had. The last two sections took up the suggestions of Randolph Trumbach on the type of sexualities and subcultures that might be found. Very clearly there were distinct types of sexual activity in different periods and areas, but these activities do not seem to accord with any particular social organization of homosexuals: there was a pederastic emphasis in the Spain, with a developed subculture, and there were relationships conducted on a more equal basis in areas where there is little evidence of homosexual social organization. What has become clear is that homosexuality existed in immensely varied forms in the Middle Ages. A global approach to the whole period is of some use and interest, but to try to understand the lives of homosexual individuals it is necessary to consider their local circumstances and the structures in which they lived.


Notes

  1. Derrick S. Bailey: Homosexuality and the Western Christian Tradition (London: Longmans, Green, 1955) (repr. Hamden, Ct: Archon/Shoestring Press, 1975), Boswell Christianity and the work of Vern Bullough, James Brundage and Guido Ruggiero are all valuable.
  2. Judith C. Brown: Immodest Acts - The Life of a Lesbian Nun in Renaissance Italy (New York: Oxford UP, 1986), p. 9, can find perhaps twelve references in fifteen hundred years to women's homosexuality. She also argues p. 171,n. 54, that "before the nineteenth century, women who engaged in sexual relations with other women were incapable of perceiving themselves as a distinct social and sexual group, and were not seen as such by others." This may have been true of men at some periods, but not always as this paper makes clear.
  3. Michel Foucault: History of Sexuality, Vol I: An Introduction (New York: Pantheon, 1978).
  4. In similar vein the word heterosexual would be inappropriate to describe the both the experience of sexuality of men and women in, for instance, a society such as ancient Athens, where a women's world was cut off from a man's, and the more integrated world of the United States. Foucault's wider point is that there is no such thing as "humanity" and that each society constructs its own reality.
  5. For instance Barry D. Adam: The Rise of a Gay and Lesbian Movement (Boston: Twayne, 1987), and Alan Bray: Homosexuality in Renaissance England (London: Gay Men's Press, 1982).
  6. Implicitly in Boswell Christianity, and explicitly in his "Towards the Long View: Revolutions, Universals and Sexual Categories" in Salmagundi 58-59 (Fall 1982-Winter 1981), pp. 89-113.
  7. Personal communication.
  8. Guido Ruggiero: The Boundaries of Eros: Sex, Crime and Sexuality in Renaissance Venice (New York: Oxford UP, 1985), p. 114.
  9. This statement is based on my own reading, but see also Brundage Law, Sex p. 213.
  10. Boswell Christianity, p 128.
  11. Joyce E. Salisbury: "The Latin Doctors of the Church on Sexuality" in Journal of Medical History 12:4 (1986), p. 279.
  12. Salisbury, pp. 285-288.
  13. Gratian thought that a couple who married because they were attracted to each other were guilty of fornication. See James Brundage: "Let me count the ways: Canonists and Theologians Contemplate Coital Positions" in Journal of Medieval History 10:2 (1984), p. 84
  14. Brundage "Coital Positions", p. 82.
  15. Brundage "Coital Positions", pp. 82-84.
  16. Brundage "Coital Positions", p. 87.
  17. John T. Noonan: Contraception: A History of its Treatment by Catholic Theologians and Canonists (Cambridge, Mass: Belknap Press, 1966), p 166.
  18. "a canio" or "a tergo". See Brundage "Coital Positions", p. 88.
  19. Gratian discusses this, Brundage "Coital Positions", p. 84.
  20. This was often called "sodomy" in a heterosexual context. See Noonan Contraception, p 226.
  21. J.L. Flandrin: "Marriage tardif et vie sexuelle: Discussions et hypotheses de recherche" in Annales ESC (1972), pp. 131­178, argues on grounds of realism that it is unreasonable to expect that young people sublimated sexual urges for up to fifteen years.
  22. Gene Brucker: Giovanni and Lusanna: Love and Marriage in Renaissance Florence (Berkeley & Los Angeles: Univ. of California Press, 1986). This uses a fifteenth-century law suit to discuss the passions of a Florentine couple. This kind of evidence, which involves marriage law, is just the sort of law case that we do not have for homosexuals, for whom we have only criminal cases.
  23. Brundage "Coital Positions", p. 87.
  24. P.A. Biller: "Birth Control in the Medieval West" in Past and Present 94 (1982), p. 17. "If not chaste, then with care", which has the same thought as the modern "if you can't be good, be careful".
  25. An example of this approach is A.L. Rowse: Homosexuals in History: Ambivalence in Society, Literature and the Arts (New York: Macmillan, 1977).
  26. Bailey Homosexuality
  27. For example, Louis Crompton: "The Myth of Lesbian Impunity: Capital Laws from 1270 to 1791) in Journal of Homosexuality 6:1/2 (1980), pp. 11-26, and Warren Johansson: "Ex parte Themis: The Historic Guilt of the Christian Church" in Homosexuality, Intolerance and Christianity: A Critical Examination (New York: Scholarship Committee, Gay Academic Union, 1981).
  28. Boswell Homosexuality, passim.
  29. Brundage Law, Sex p. 174, for instance, challenges Boswell's view that early penitential literature treated sodomy as a "commonplace". Brundage did a statistical analysis of the assigned penances for various activities and shows (Table 4.3, p. 600) that sex between men was given by far the harshest penances.
  30. Crompton "Lesbian Impunity", p. 17, finds the earliest burning of a male sodomite in Ghent in 1292.
  31. Vern L. Bullough: "Heresy, Witchcraft and Sexuality" in Journal of Homosexuality 1 (1974), pp. 183-201, repr. in Vern L. Bullough: Sex, Society and History (New York: Science History Publications, 1976), and R.I. Moore: The Formation of a Persecuting Society (Oxford: Blackwell, 1987)
  32. Brundage Law, Sex, p. 472.
  33. M.E. McAlpine: "Pardoner's Homosexuality and How it Matters" in PMLA 95 (1980), pp. 15-17, suggests one example of the internalization of Church teaching. He proposes that Chaucer meant his Pardoner, who is called a "mare", slang for homosexual, to be homosexual, and that the Pardoner's need to wear relics around his body was Chaucer's way of expressing the feelings of an outcast that his body was dirty.
  34. Bailey Homosexuality, (1955)
  35. It was so influential that it contributed directly to the support given by the Church of England for the decriminalization of homosexuality in England and Wales in 1967.
  36. Boswell Homosexuality.
  37. For example, Boswell Homosexuality, pp. 174-176.
  38. E. William Monter: "Sodomy and Heresy in Early Modern Switzerland" in Journal of Homosexuality 6:1/2 (1980), p. 42, points this out, and thinks that it makes suspect any talk of subcultures north of the Alps before 1700.
  39. Boswell Homosexuality, Chap. 8, Bailey Homosexuality, Chap. V.
  40. K.E. Gade: "Homosexuality and the Rape of Males in Old Norse Law and Literature" in Scandinavian Studies 58 (1986), pp. 124-141, Michael Goodich: The Unmentionable Vice: Homosexuality in the Late Medieval Period (Santa Barbara, Ca: ABC-Clio, 1979), B. Krekic: "Abominandum-Crimen: Punishment of Homosexuals in Renaissance Dubrovnik" in Viator 18 (1987), pp. 337-345, N. Roth,: "Deal Gently with the Young Man: Love of Boys in Medieval Hebrew Poetry of Spain" in Speculum 57 (1982), pp. 21-50, Guido Ruggiero: "Sexual Criminality in the Early Renaissance: Venice 1338-1358" in Journal of Social History 8:4 (1975), pp. 18-37, and Boundaries.
  41. St. Peter Damian: Liber Gomorrhanius in PL CXLV, cols 159­90 and as Book of Gomorrah: An Eleventh-century Treatise Against Clerical Homosexual Practice trans. Pierre J. Payer (Waterloo, Ont: Wilfred Laurier University Press, 1982)
  42. D.E. Greenberg & M.H. Bystryn: "Christian Intolerance of Homosexuality" in American Journal of Sociology 88 (1982), p. 515.
  43. Ludwig Bieler: The Irish Penitentials (Dublin: Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies, 1963). For some reason Bieler does not translate all the earthier passages. Boswell's emphasis on the urban nature of homosexuality is partly due to his belief that tolerance declined because the late antique and early medieval ruralization of society meant a more rigid and moralistic society.
  44. R.C Trexler: "La Prostitution Florentine au XVe Siecle: Patronage et Clienteles" in Annales ESC 36:6 (1981), p. 984 points out that Florence built municipal brothels specifically to lure young men away from sodomy.
  45. David Herlihy: "Veillir a Florence au Quattrocento" in Annales ESC 24 (1969), pp. 1344-1345.
  46. Herlihy "Veiller", p 1345. He suggests this was the reason Florence had no strong military tradition.
  47. This is of course a judgement in which the strictest patristic moralists, who did not stop to consider economic or psychological reasons, would concur.
  48. John McNeill & Helena Gamer: Medieval Handbooks of Penance: A Translation of the Principal "libri poenitentatles" and Selections from Related Documents (New York: Columbia UP, 1938), p. 103.
  49. McNeill Handbooks, p. 113.
  50. McNeill Handbooks, p. 186. To take semen in os is described as the worst of evils.
  51. Damian Liber Gom. I, (p. 29, Payer translation).
  52. Roth p. 24.
  53. Boswell Homosexuality, p 225. Boswell suggests St. Aelred had gone further as a youth.
  54. Malcolm Barber: The Trial of the Templars (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1978), p. 163. Many of the Templars denied the charge and it is not clear whether they were being accused of a ritual or sexual crime. This is also the only reference I found to kissing of the nipples.
  55. Gene Brucker (ed.): The Society of Renaissance Florence: A Documentary Study (New York: Harper and Row, 1971), p. 205.
  56. Guido Ruggiero: "Sexual Criminality in the Early Renaissance: Venice 1338-1358" in Journal of Social History 8:4 (1975), p. 23.
  57. Randolph Trumbach: "London's Sodomites: Homosexual Behaviour and Western Culture in the Eighteenth Century" in Journal of Social History 11:1 (1977), pp. 1-33. This article discusses homosexuality in a cross-cultural perspective before it gets down to London's subculture.
  58. The "norm" envisioned by Trumbach refers to the majority of cultures studied by anthropologists.
  59. Boswell Homosexuality, p. 169.
  60. For Europe the transvestite pattern has not been an option and will not be discussed here. There have been transvestites but nowhere does this seem to have been a way of socialising homosexual desire.
  61. A definitive study of this question would require an accurate picture of what sort of people were homosexuals in the periods looked at and the relative proportions of each subgroup within that group. Such a sampling frame has not been developed for the present decade, and so all statements based on the limited material available for the Middle Ages are tentative.
  62. Gade "Homosexuality", and Thorkil Vanggaard: Phallos: A Symbol and Its History in the Male World (New York: International Universities Press, 1973), pp. 76-80.
  63. Gade, p. 131.
  64. Gade, p. 134.
  65. Gade, p. 135.
  66. Vanggaard, p. 80, makes this point, saying homosexual practices were acceptable amongst "normal" men.
  67. Roth "Love of Boys" and Fred Rosner: Medicine in the Mishneh Torah of Maimonides (New York: Ktav, 1984), pp. 193-213, discuss respectively the literary and rabbinic/legal evidence.
  68. Roth, p. 23, and Rosner, p. 204, and p. 211. Maimonides wrote in Egypt, but was important for all Sephardic Jews. If the boy was under nine both partners were exempt from punishment, if the boy was under thirteen the boy was exempt and the adult was punished. Males over thirteen are adults in Jewish law.
  69. Yishaq ben Mar-Saul (eleventh century) translated in Roth, p. 31.
  70. Roth, p. 24, although Roth's view that kissing alone is the subject of the verse he translates on p. 45 as "I undressed him, and he undressed me;/ I sucked his lips and he sucked mine." (where the verb used is "suck" with no mention of lips), is debatable.
  71. Roth, p. 51.
  72. Boswell Homosexuality, pp. 244-248 and E.R. Curtius: European Literature and the Latin Middle Ages trans. Willard R. Trask, Bollingen Series 36 (New York, Pantheon, 1953), pp. 115-116.
  73. Brundage Love, Sex, p. 212.
  74. Peter Damian Liber Gom. I. (p. 29, Payer translation).
  75. Baudri de Bourgueil: Les Oeuvres poetiques de Baudri de Bourgueil ed. Phyllis Abrahams (Paris: Librarie Ancienne Honore Champion, 1926) (repr; Geneva: Slatkine Reprints, 1974), p. xviii.
  76. Instances other than those discussed could be cited from records from Charlemagne's court, some monastic writers, and later medieval Italian sources.
  77. chiefly mutual masturbation.
  78. McNeill Penitentials, p. 113.
  79. McNeill Penitentials, p. 252.
  80. And any other area considered by compilers of penitentials.
  81. B. McGuire: "Love, Friendship and Sex in the 11th Century: The Experience of Anselm" in Studia Theologia 28 (1974), pp. 111-155.
  82. McGuire "Anselm", p. 146.
  83. Vern L. Bullough: Sexual Variance in Society and History (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1976), p. 338, suggests homosexuality was a feature of Byzantine monasticism as well as Western.
  84. Georges Duby: "Youth in Aristocratic Society: Northwestern France in the Twelfth Century" in The Chivalrous Society (1977), p. 119, cites Orderic Vitalis' reference to young men returning from training "Quasi de flammis Sodomiae". In his own William Marshall: The Flower of Chivalry trans. R. Howard (New York: Pantheon Books, 1985), p. 14 and p. 53, Duby looks at homosexuality and notes that only men are said to love each other.
  85. Greenberg & Bystryn, p. 532. If true this type of activity would not be due to homosexual preference or attraction but faut de mieux.
  86. Roger of Hoveden: Gesta II.7 - describes the future Richard I and Philip II Augustus going to bed. Ref. in John Gillingham: "Richard I and Berengaria of Navarre" in Bulletin of the Institute of HIstorical Research 53:128 (1980), p. 169. Gillingham thinks Richard was not homosexual, but his evidence is against him, and he demonstrates his anti-homosexual prejudice when he proposes (p.170) that the name of the modern writer N.I. Garde means "in drag".
  87. Emmanuel Le Roy Ladurie: Montaillou: village occitan de 1294 a 1324 (Paris: Gallimard, 1975), trans. by B. Bray (New York: 1978), used these records. The trial of one Arnold of Verniole is translated in full in Michael Goodich: The Unmentionable Vice: Homosexuality in the Late Medieval Period (Santa Barbara, Ca.: ABC-Clio, 1979), pp. 93. ff.
  88. Goodich, p. 96.
  89. Gene Brucker (ed.): The Society of Renaissance Florence: A Documentary Study (New York: Harper and Row, 1971), p. 203.
  90. Brucker Society, pp. 204-206.
  91. Trexler, p. 984.
  92. David Herlihy: "The Tuscan Town in the Quattrocento" in Medievalia et Humanistica 1 (1970), pp. 90-91, has a table showing that in 1427 most men were unmarried by the age of thirty.
  93. Ruggiero Eros, pp. 123-124.
  94. Ruggiero Eros, p. 128, Table 6.
  95. Ruggiero Eros, p. 127.
  96. Ruggiero Eros, p. 116.
  97. These are only two out of many possible modern subgroups within the gay subculture.
  98. "Camp" is the distinctive way of looking at the world adopted by gay men in the West. "Effeminacy" does not quite describe what it involves. It has been characterized as the triumph of style over substance in aesthetic appreciation.
  99. I spent the summer of 1988 working for a modern social research project, interviewing 120 gay men on the effects of the AIDS epidemic on a study directed by John Martin and Laura Dean at the Columbia University School of Public Health. One of the ways of organizing data from interviewees was in terms of their social network. Among heterosexuals this would often reduce to their close family members. Gay men, and, I think it is fair to say, some active homosexuals in earlier periods form support networks through friends and occupation as much as through their family. I am not suggesting modern social structures may be read back into the Middle Ages, but the conceptual framework is useful.
  100. Some educated circles in the West knew of classical antiquity, but not other contempories.
  101. Vanggaard, p. 80.
  102. Boswell Homosexuality, p. 189.
  103. McGuire "Anselm", p. 148.
  104. The area around Gubbio in central Italy.
  105. Peter Damian Liber Gom. II (p. 30 in the Payer translation.) This may be one of the few references we have to group sex in the Middle Ages. Payer dismisses it on the grounds that there are no other references to be found in the period.
  106. Peter Damian Liber Gom. VII (p. 43 in the Payer translation.)
  107. Boswell Homosexuality, pp. 221-226.
  108. The experience of the Templars might be included as an extreme case of monastic homosexual networks, but apart from the uncertainty of whether the charges against them were true, many of the activities charged were meant to have taken place on only one occasion. See Anne Gilmour-Bryson,: The Trial of the Templars in the Papal States and the Abruzzi (Vatican: Biblioteco Apostolica Vaticana, 1982), p. 47.
  109. Goodich, p. 93 ff.
  110. Roth, p. 30.
  111. Boswell Homosexuality, p. 266.
  112. It would also be useful to have some knowledge of the attitude of non-homosexual Jews of the period towards homosexuals.
  113. Boswell Homosexuality, Chapter 9 "The Triumph of Ganymede". On p. 243 he uses the term "gay subculture".
  114. Boswell Homosexuality, p. 262-264. The poem is an attack on sodomitical practices, which it describes in detail.
  115. Boswell Homosexuality, p. 260.
  116. D. Stanley-Jones: "Sexual Inversion and the English Law" in Medical Press and Circular 215 (1946), pp. 391-398, referred to by Bailey Homosexuality, suggests the introduction of Aristotle into the curriculum somehow veiled a battle over homosexuality. I was not able to find a copy of this article.
  117. By Jacques de Vitry, see Arno Karlen: Sexuality and Homosexuality: A New View (New York, W.W. Norton, 1971), p. 85.
  118. Ruggiero Eros, Chapter VI "Sodom and Venice". He is explicit on the nature of the subculture pp. 135-141
  119. Ruggiero Eros, p. 139. Apothecaries, gymnastic schools, dark areas near churches an pastry shops were used as rendezvous points.
  120. Ruggiero Eros, p. 135.
  121. Dante Alighieri: The Divine Comedy, Inferno XV and Purgatorio XXVI. There has been a lot of debate as to whether Inferno XV refers to homosexuality; whatever the case it is clear that Purgatorio does.
  122. Brundage Law, Sex, p. 534, lists sixteen cities, but the list is not complete.
  123. This would not always be the case. B. Krekic: "Abominandum-Crimen: Punishment of Homosexuals in Renaissance Dubrovnik" in Viator 18 (1987), pp. 337-345, has looked at the records of Dubrovnik, a Slavic town largely influenced by Venice. Although he found strict laws against male sodomy, the records leave no indication of homosexual activity (p. 340).
  124. Monasteries are a special case. They have a developed social organization apart from the urban life.

 


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©Paul Halsall, 1988