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Sex In Ancient Greece: All The Juicy Details On What It Was Like

Updated December 12, 2019 73.6k views13 items

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  • Ancient Greeks Weren't Interested In Shame

    Christianity and Catholicism typically paint carnal pleasure as a sinful act unless performed by a husband or wife - but because the ancient Greeks predate the spread of these religions, they attached little to "no religious significance to sex " whatsoever, leading to their more accepting attitudes of different interests.

    Nudity wasn't shameful, hence prevalent unclothed statues in ancient Greek art. Public plays and artwork could also depict eyebrow-raising acts worthy of inspiring a giant "adults only" warning. Ancient Greece allowed relations between people of the same gender, as well as relations deemed criminal by modern standards, such as pederasty .

  • They Included Male Genitalia On Celebratory And Directional Statues

    To the ancient Greeks, depicting male genitalia in art was not an indecent act. The herm - a statue of the god Hermes, AKA the messenger god and guardian of fertility - was one such portrayal. The god's bust sits atop an unadorned pillar, save for a realistically rendered phallus at the appropriate level.

    Herms sat outside people's houses, near temples, at crossroads; people even used them as signposts. In 415 BCE - during the Peloponnesian War -  a vandal chopped of the genitals of the herms of Athens. Some accused an Athenian statesman, Alcibiades, of the vandalism. He denied the charges, and his enemies sentenced him to execution in absentia.

  • Ancient Greeks Felt Intrigued By Cures For Impotence

    The Greeks valued intimate relations as part of their culture, which meant not having it was a problem. Thus, they devised all kinds of cures for impotence. Treatments involving snakes were popular because they believed snakes could self-heal

    Likewise, since lizards had associations with prowess in the bedroom, consuming a lizard allegedly improved the libido. Another cure entailed rubbing male genitalia with a mixture of pepper and honey. Some ancient Greeks hypothesized anxiety about carnality in childhood caused impotence.

    As with many things in ancient Greece, there's little written about women's intimate problems or medicinal solutions.

  • Sex Work Was Legal And Sometimes State-Run

    Sex work was a legal occupation for both men and women in ancient Greece. Athenian women were largely homemakers, and they required an escort to venture out to the city. Some women, like ladies of the night, concubines, and courtesans, had a little more freedom due to their status in Greek society. 

    There were also state-run bordellos in ancient Greece. These parlors typically offered slaves for carnal pleasures, but some women became pornai, or streetwalkers. Concubines were a somewhat higher class, as they usually had a contract with one man rather than to a bordello. Courtesans were the highest class; they had an education and could entertain men with both their wit and body.

    Intended for older male clients, male sex slaves couldn't work in public service later in life; the common conception was that people who sold their bodies could easily succumb to political bribes.