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Roman Emperor/Empress Heliogabalus, Gay Marriage Martyr
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In an era when Progressives have lost interest in the working class in favor of ever more exquisitely tiny minorities, we’re starting to see a revival of interest in the fabulous transgender Roman emperor Heliogabalus (a.k.a., Elagabalus), c. 203 A.D. to 222. Who better to represent the trend on the left away from concern for dreary coal miners than a Roman Emperor as a Victim of Society?

Heliogabalus smothering banquet guests under flower petals

Elagabalus has long appealed to decadents, such as late 19th Century French writer J.K. Huysmans, as the ultimate in decadence, self-absorption, and shock value. Currently, Marilyn Manson is promoting his new album “The Pale Emperor” in interviews with references to a book about Heliogabalus given to him by Johnny Depp.

But it will be interesting to see if the recent uptick of interest in the Emperor/Empress can succeed in eventually recasting even him/her as a virtuous victim?

A teenage boy placed on the throne by his rich Syrian grandmother, he quickly made himself unpopular via his whims. His grandmother then forced him to adopt his more normal cousin as his heir, and when he tried to get rid of his cousin and ordered the execution of anyone who cheered his cousin, his Praetorian guard murdered him and put his cousin on the throne.

All the accounts of Elagabalus that have come down to us were written by historians who opposed him politically, so their lurid content may be exaggerated. Edward Gibbon noted in The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire:

Even the credulous compiler of his Life, in the Augustan History (p. 111), is inclined to suspect that his vices may have been exaggerated.

Still, Gibbon summed up:

The master of the Roman world affected to copy the dress and manners of the female sex, preferred the distaff to the sceptre, and dishonoured the principal dignities of the empire by distributing them among his numerous lovers; one of whom was publicly invested with the title and authority of the emperor’s, or, as he more properly styled himself, of the empress’s husband. It may seem probable, the vices and follies of Elagabalus have been adorned by fancy, and blackened by prejudice. Yet, confining ourselves to the public scenes displayed before the Roman people, and attested by grave and contemporary historians, their inexpressible infamy surpasses that of any other age or country.

And this has remained the standard view. For example, Camille Paglia was unimpressed by the first Presidential debate in October 2000, writing (sounding a little like Ignatius J. Reilly):

“The past week has given us one tasteless display after another. Al Gore, as berouged and epicene as the decadent emperor Heliogabalus, seductively swished his lips and hips at the TV audience in his first debate with the mumbling, blinking, sniffling George W. Bush.”

Wikipedia writes:

Elagabalus’ sexual orientation and gender identity are the subject of much debate. Elagabalus married and divorced five women … According to Cassius Dio, his most stable relationship seems to have been with his chariot driver, a blond slave from Caria named Hierocles, whom he referred to as his husband.

The Augustan History claims that he also married a man named Zoticus, an athlete from Smyrna, in a public ceremony at Rome. Cassius Dio reported that Elagabalus would paint his eyes, epilate his hair and wear wigs before prostituting himself in taverns, brothels, and even in the imperial palace …

Herodian commented that Elagabalus enhanced his natural good looks by the regular application of cosmetics. He was described as having been “delighted to be called the mistress, the wife, the queen of Hierocles” and was reported to have offered vast sums of money to any physician who could equip him with female genitalia. Elagabalus has been characterized by some modern writers as transgender, perhaps transsexual.

Fall from power

By 221 Elagabalus’ eccentricities, particularly his relationship with Hierocles, increasingly provoked the soldiers of the Praetorian Guard.

So the Emperor/Empress was a victim of homophobic prejudice by the Brendan Eichs of the third century.

He (or as some more contemporary commentators insist upon calling him, she) was also a victim of race and ethnic prejudice. As the first Roman emperor born in Asia, Elagabalus more than fulfilled ancient Roman stereotypes of the effeminacy of the East.

 
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  1. Bruce Jenner, American Caesar #spenglerwasright

  2. Well, he was descended from Septimius Severus, so perhaps it was a Punic payback* for the destruction of Carthage:

    Born on 11 April 145 at Leptis Magna (in present-day Libya) as the son of Publius Septimius Geta and Fulvia Pia,[2] Septimius Severus came from a wealthy and distinguished family of equestrian rank. He had Italian Roman ancestry on his mother’s side and descended from Punic – and perhaps also Libyan – forebears on his father’s side.

    “The Augustan History claims that he also married a man named Zoticus, an athlete from Smyrna, in a public ceremony at Rome.”

    I’ve actually read articles that have used this “marriage” as evidence that same-sex unions were practiced in Rome .Apparently, lots of people nowadays just don’t understand that the Roman world viewed this as the act of a madman….

    * Cf Dido’s famous words, “Exoriare aliquis nostris ex ossibus ultor”: “May you arise from my bones, you unknown avenger.”

    • Replies: @syonredux

    Well, he was descended from Septimius Severus, so perhaps it was a Punic payback* for the destruction of Carthage:

    * Cf Dido’s famous words, “Exoriare aliquis nostris ex ossibus ultor”: “May you arise from my bones, you unknown avenger.”
     
    Just to avoid any irate responses, I know perfectly well that Virgil is referring to Hannibal. I'm just having a little fun.
  3. @syonredux
    Well, he was descended from Septimius Severus, so perhaps it was a Punic payback* for the destruction of Carthage:

    Born on 11 April 145 at Leptis Magna (in present-day Libya) as the son of Publius Septimius Geta and Fulvia Pia,[2] Septimius Severus came from a wealthy and distinguished family of equestrian rank. He had Italian Roman ancestry on his mother's side and descended from Punic - and perhaps also Libyan - forebears on his father's side.
     
    "The Augustan History claims that he also married a man named Zoticus, an athlete from Smyrna, in a public ceremony at Rome."

    I've actually read articles that have used this "marriage" as evidence that same-sex unions were practiced in Rome .Apparently, lots of people nowadays just don't understand that the Roman world viewed this as the act of a madman....


    * Cf Dido's famous words, "Exoriare aliquis nostris ex ossibus ultor": "May you arise from my bones, you unknown avenger."

    Well, he was descended from Septimius Severus, so perhaps it was a Punic payback* for the destruction of Carthage:

    * Cf Dido’s famous words, “Exoriare aliquis nostris ex ossibus ultor”: “May you arise from my bones, you unknown avenger.”

    Just to avoid any irate responses, I know perfectly well that Virgil is referring to Hannibal. I’m just having a little fun.

  4. Most of the rumor’s of Cleopatra’s promiscuity were probably also propaganda started by rivals, possibly even by King Herod of Judea. They were in direct competition for Roman favor as client rulers.

    There’s no way she could’ve actually pleasured 50 Roman centurions in one night and lived to tell about it in those days.

    BTW, Cleopatra was NOT black, lol.

  5. Heliogabalus also tried to import to Rome the worship of a black meteorite that was seen as a divine messenger among Syrian Arabs.

    This is remarkably similar to the black stone that is at the center of the Kabbah in Mecca and is a focus of Muslim pilgrimages. Like Mohammed, Heliogabulus built a shrine for the meteorite in the center of his capital. He also had himself circumcised to serve as the chief priest of its cult.

    The similarities to Islam are pretty obvious and have been noted by classicists, but of course scholars of Islam aren’t really advertising the connections with a cross-dressing Roman emperor, even though the two both emerged from a common milieu of Late Antique Arab pagan culture.

    Picture of a coin of Heliogabulus showing the meteorite inside a shrine built for it:

    • Replies: @syonredux
    Heliogabulus' successor, Alexander Severus, had statues venerating both Abraham and Jesus alongside Pagan figures like Orpheus. Syncretism in action
    , @Randy M
    Is it just me, or does Helio-g bear a resemblance to Wil Wheaton?
  6. Comparison is apt since American Empire is going the way of Roman Empire where barbarians will take over and carve up their own territories over decaying empire.

    I guess this will mean Obama is the American President equivalent of Emperor Commodus.

  7. @el supremo
    Heliogabalus also tried to import to Rome the worship of a black meteorite that was seen as a divine messenger among Syrian Arabs.

    This is remarkably similar to the black stone that is at the center of the Kabbah in Mecca and is a focus of Muslim pilgrimages. Like Mohammed, Heliogabulus built a shrine for the meteorite in the center of his capital. He also had himself circumcised to serve as the chief priest of its cult.

    The similarities to Islam are pretty obvious and have been noted by classicists, but of course scholars of Islam aren't really advertising the connections with a cross-dressing Roman emperor, even though the two both emerged from a common milieu of Late Antique Arab pagan culture.

    Picture of a coin of Heliogabulus showing the meteorite inside a shrine built for it:
    http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/9/93/Bronze-Uranius_Antoninus-Elagabal_stone-SGI_4414.jpg

    Heliogabulus’ successor, Alexander Severus, had statues venerating both Abraham and Jesus alongside Pagan figures like Orpheus. Syncretism in action

  8. WhatEvvs [AKA "Bemused"] says:

    “and attested by grave and contemporary historians, their inexpressible infamy surpasses that of any other age or country.”

    Records are made to be broken. Just you wait, Henry Higgins…..

    About Johnny Depp, it will surprise no one here that this Hollywood denizen is pretty louche. He co-owned The Viper Club. Co-owned with….?

    http://americanmafia.com/Feature_Articles_285.html

    • Replies: @dsgntd_plyr
    Depp's new wife, the actress Amber Heard, is bisexual.
  9. So he was a victim of the prejudice of homophobic prejudice by the Brendan Eichs of the third century.

    Even the emperor of Rome, who could have people executed on a whim, wasn’t strong enough to stand up to prejudice. Damn you, cisgendered patriarchy!!!!!!!!!!

  10. Constantine himself always carried images of both Jesus and Roman deities. He only became baptized on his deathbed.

  11. Currently, Marilyn Manson

    I thought he had permanently transitioned to become Lady Gaga. Glad to hear he/she is back.

    BTW, OT (but maybe not so much), when are you going to write about the Grammy antics of Mr. Kim Kardashian?

    http://hollywoodlife.com/2015/02/09/kanye-west-disses-beck-grammys-beyonce-album-of-the-year/

    That brief moment when Kanye was about to bullrush Beck on stage encapsulates SO MANY iSteve motifs-

    * bad black behavior
    * bad black behavior repeated because whites are too cowardly to call them out for it
    * sheer panic on Beck’s face despite his decades of SWPL cred (he’s one of the few white people who could make hipster-style “ironically racist” jokes and be credited for: a) making fun of SWPL’s, b) making fun of political correctness, c) speaking a kernel of hate-thought truth, all at once)
    * Beck’s ripeness for criticism as a privileged cishet because of that panic (if he had been concealed-carrying, 50% he’d have drawn and fired faster than any Missouri police officer)
    * Beck’s looking like a late middle-aged lesbian
    * Beck’s wussified calling of Kanye back on stage
    * wussified white millennial press acting like it was all a joke, or even giving Kanye props for his outrageously classless behavior, despite comments after the show making it clear he was dead serious
    * look of, not horror, but brotherly admiration on Jay-Z’s face
    * look of, not embarrassment, but wet-eyed arousal when Kanye originally pulled the stunt years ago at the VMA’s on Beyonce’s face
    * and, lastly, the great white father, that once-grave authority figure who could put a stop to all this chaos with a few well-chosen terse words of displeasure (i..e Kanye’s father-in-law) is in the process of- deciding whether to chop off his manhood. Too flippin’ purrfect!

    • Replies: @Anonymous
    The Grammys really aren't relevant anymore. They haven't been since the traditional music industry started declining in the 90s with the internet.

    The Oscars still are though.
  12. Any bigot who derides Empress Heliogabalus is on the wrong side of history!

  13. Steve, are you going to be reviewing 50 Shades of Gray?

  14. @Abe

    Currently, Marilyn Manson
     
    I thought he had permanently transitioned to become Lady Gaga. Glad to hear he/she is back.

    BTW, OT (but maybe not so much), when are you going to write about the Grammy antics of Mr. Kim Kardashian?

    http://hollywoodlife.com/2015/02/09/kanye-west-disses-beck-grammys-beyonce-album-of-the-year/

    That brief moment when Kanye was about to bullrush Beck on stage encapsulates SO MANY iSteve motifs-

    * bad black behavior
    * bad black behavior repeated because whites are too cowardly to call them out for it
    * sheer panic on Beck's face despite his decades of SWPL cred (he's one of the few white people who could make hipster-style "ironically racist" jokes and be credited for: a) making fun of SWPL's, b) making fun of political correctness, c) speaking a kernel of hate-thought truth, all at once)
    * Beck's ripeness for criticism as a privileged cishet because of that panic (if he had been concealed-carrying, 50% he'd have drawn and fired faster than any Missouri police officer)
    * Beck's looking like a late middle-aged lesbian
    * Beck's wussified calling of Kanye back on stage
    * wussified white millennial press acting like it was all a joke, or even giving Kanye props for his outrageously classless behavior, despite comments after the show making it clear he was dead serious
    * look of, not horror, but brotherly admiration on Jay-Z's face
    * look of, not embarrassment, but wet-eyed arousal when Kanye originally pulled the stunt years ago at the VMA's on Beyonce's face
    * and, lastly, the great white father, that once-grave authority figure who could put a stop to all this chaos with a few well-chosen terse words of displeasure (i..e Kanye's father-in-law) is in the process of- deciding whether to chop off his manhood. Too flippin' purrfect!

    The Grammys really aren’t relevant anymore. They haven’t been since the traditional music industry started declining in the 90s with the internet.

    The Oscars still are though.

  15. Picture of a coin of Heliogabulus showing the meteorite inside a shrine built for it:

    He’s lookin’ pretty gay on that coin, I gotta tell ya.

    Speaking of gay and the Middle East and you know, stuff like this. I started re-watching “Laurence of Arabia” for the first time in maybe 30+ years, and man oh man did O’Toole play Larry as a big poofter. He’s downright mincing.

    I suppose we’re going to get a Heliogabulus bio-pic or HBO series any day now. Maybe they can get Neil Patrick Harris to play him. Umm, her.

    • Replies: @shk12344
    Problem is tranny Emperor offended non-Christian Romans and was killed by non-Christians. So Left can't use it to attack Christianity and Christians unless somehow they manage to pass off Pagan Romans as Christians.
    , @Twinkie

    Speaking of gay and the Middle East
     
    During the early phase of the first Arab-Israeli war (the Israeli war for independence), just about the most effective organized military force, at least on the Arab side, was the Arab Legion led by Glubb Pasha (Sir John Glubb), which eventually became the Jordanian army years later. These Arab Legionaries were known for their good combat ability, unit cohesion, and morale. Apparently though, they did almost mutiny once - when their "boys" were removed by the British officers who found their presence scandalous. The boys were returned to the soldiers to restore their morale.

    That's Arabs for you. Quite Greek of them. Something queer in the water in the Mediterranean basin or what? (Apparently the same kind of water flows in Thailand, too.)

    By the way, the aggressive presence of homosexuals in the United States and its mass media was something that baffled my East Asian mother constantly. She'd say "I am a Christian, so it's not that I want to hurt these degenerate people. I feel very sorry for them that they are mentally disturbed. But why in America don't they have the decency to keep their problems in private or seek help? They are always on American TV, on parades, and movies, being very crazy and aggressive. Do they want normal people to become enraged and hurt them?"
    , @Anonymous

    ... play Larry as a big poofter
     
    In fairness, Larry was a big poofter.
  16. Emperor Victim. Now, I’ve seen and heard it all.

    • Replies: @Twinkie

    Emperor Victim. Now, I’ve seen and heard it all.
     
    To be fair, puppet emperors were usually prisoners and frequently murdered. They may have enjoyed luxuries, but most died tragically.

    Ever see "The Last Emperor"?
  17. @peterike

    Picture of a coin of Heliogabulus showing the meteorite inside a shrine built for it:

     

    He's lookin' pretty gay on that coin, I gotta tell ya.

    Speaking of gay and the Middle East and you know, stuff like this. I started re-watching "Laurence of Arabia" for the first time in maybe 30+ years, and man oh man did O'Toole play Larry as a big poofter. He's downright mincing.

    I suppose we're going to get a Heliogabulus bio-pic or HBO series any day now. Maybe they can get Neil Patrick Harris to play him. Umm, her.

    Problem is tranny Emperor offended non-Christian Romans and was killed by non-Christians. So Left can’t use it to attack Christianity and Christians unless somehow they manage to pass off Pagan Romans as Christians.

  18. Elagabalus is the subject of one of the best historical novels ever written – Alfred Duggan’s *Family Favourites* – very thoroughly researched, and darkly hilarious from beginning to end.

    Unfortunately, Duggan is mostly forgotten, these days, but there are appreciative overviews out there by Evelyn Waugh & John Derbyshire that might convince you to take a look.

    • Replies: @dearieme
    I've not heard of Duggan since I was a boy. But I confirm that he was very good (to my then tastes, anyway).
    , @Gallo-Roman
    I second the recommendation of Duggan. Inexpensive used copies of his novels are usually available on Amazon. Bonus - as with the Flashman series, my kids ate Duggan's novels up without prodding, so a lot of accurate and pretty detailed historical fact made its way into their noggins while their guard was down.
  19. guess that’s supposed to be hierocles over there on the right (in the painting) – the guy with the beard. elagabalus’ charioteer-husband.

  20. Strangely enough, a few rare species of meteorite contain complex organic compounds – including amino acids.
    Also strange is that they are reported to have a distinct odor of organic chemicals about them.

  21. Just finished reading Gibbon’s “Decline and Fall” this past weekend. The bit with Heliogabalus was a particularly memorable part.

    If America is really destined to follow the fate of the Roman Empire, though, three things stick out:

    1. We are, in fact, pretty much doomed. Our best years are behind us.

    2. Even so — the decline and fall took a long, long, looooooong time, and there were many ups and downs during that period. Even allowing for the faster pace of events in our current era, odds are that those of us alive today are unlikely to see the worst of it, and we might be lucky enough to live through a temporary, sort-of-golden age before everything turns to crap.

    3. The passage of time will destroy all silliness and allow future generations to evaluate us with clear eyes. If you think we are living through Heinlein’s Crazy Years, don’t worry: Posterity will more than likely agree with you.

  22. [Heliogabulus’ successor, Alexander Severus, had statues venerating both Abraham and Jesus alongside Pagan figures like Orpheus.]

    The only source for this is Alexander Severus’ life in the “Historia Augusta”, a literary mystification composed late in the fourth century. It is very unlikely to be anything other than a free invention.
    The author of the HA had a hard task indeed imagining more lurid items about Elagabalus than that emperor’s contemporaries Dio and Herodian had recorded. He succeeded in it, though.

    • Replies: @syonredux

    [Heliogabulus’ successor, Alexander Severus, had statues venerating both Abraham and Jesus alongside Pagan figures like Orpheus.]

    The only source for this is Alexander Severus’ life in the “Historia Augusta”, a literary mystification composed late in the fourth century. It is very unlikely to be anything other than a free invention.
     
    On the other hand, there is nothing impossible about it. Weirder personal mythologies have certainly been devised....
  23. Back in those days the Praetorian Guard knew their fortunes were based in Rome and would see to the quick secession of a worthy Caesar past a nut. Today, we have feckless fools less like James West and more like Kanye West, picking up whores and stiffing them in more ways than one.
    Sad, really. Even in decadence the Potomac cannot live up to Rome. We should take Washington’s name off of it, its embarrassing…

    • Replies: @Dutch Boy
    Worthy Caesar he might have been but it did not prevent his Rhine legions from bumping Severus Alexander off and replacing him with their general Maximinus Thrax.
  24. @peterike

    Picture of a coin of Heliogabulus showing the meteorite inside a shrine built for it:

     

    He's lookin' pretty gay on that coin, I gotta tell ya.

    Speaking of gay and the Middle East and you know, stuff like this. I started re-watching "Laurence of Arabia" for the first time in maybe 30+ years, and man oh man did O'Toole play Larry as a big poofter. He's downright mincing.

    I suppose we're going to get a Heliogabulus bio-pic or HBO series any day now. Maybe they can get Neil Patrick Harris to play him. Umm, her.

    Speaking of gay and the Middle East

    During the early phase of the first Arab-Israeli war (the Israeli war for independence), just about the most effective organized military force, at least on the Arab side, was the Arab Legion led by Glubb Pasha (Sir John Glubb), which eventually became the Jordanian army years later. These Arab Legionaries were known for their good combat ability, unit cohesion, and morale. Apparently though, they did almost mutiny once – when their “boys” were removed by the British officers who found their presence scandalous. The boys were returned to the soldiers to restore their morale.

    That’s Arabs for you. Quite Greek of them. Something queer in the water in the Mediterranean basin or what? (Apparently the same kind of water flows in Thailand, too.)

    By the way, the aggressive presence of homosexuals in the United States and its mass media was something that baffled my East Asian mother constantly. She’d say “I am a Christian, so it’s not that I want to hurt these degenerate people. I feel very sorry for them that they are mentally disturbed. But why in America don’t they have the decency to keep their problems in private or seek help? They are always on American TV, on parades, and movies, being very crazy and aggressive. Do they want normal people to become enraged and hurt them?”

    • Replies: @AshTon
    Something in the water? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sotadic_zone
    , @Anon

    By the way, the aggressive presence of homosexuals in the United States and its mass media was something that baffled my East Asian mother constantly. She’d say “I am a Christian, so it’s not that I want to hurt these degenerate people. I feel very sorry for them that they are mentally disturbed. But why in America don’t they have the decency to keep their problems in private or seek help? They are always on American TV, on parades, and movies, being very crazy and aggressive. Do they want normal people to become enraged and hurt them?”
     
    I can't say I've ever heard a rational argument against equal marriage rights for gays.

    Christians disagree on the subject, and there are a lot of secularists in the country, so citing one section of society's interpretation of the Bible in order to restrict freedoms of another group doesn't seem reasonable.

    Homosexuality is natural biological variation that occurs in nature, and doesn't infringe on the rights of anybody else.

    In exchange for having on our side people like Peter Thiel (the only American anti-immigration billionaire), Tim Cook, and Alan Turing, it seems reasonable to not try to stigmatize their natural state. I find the whole endeavor to be beneath heroic people.

    (I'm straight, but I've attended the weddings of gay relatives and colleagues. Their weddings were nice.)
  25. @Priss Factor
    Emperor Victim. Now, I've seen and heard it all.

    Emperor Victim. Now, I’ve seen and heard it all.

    To be fair, puppet emperors were usually prisoners and frequently murdered. They may have enjoyed luxuries, but most died tragically.

    Ever see “The Last Emperor”?

  26. Say Obama started “transitioning” to a woman right now.. Will he be able to run for a third term as a woman? I mean, he’d be a different person. America needs a transgendered president to end cis-privilege! As for Michelle, she could make the trip in the other direction, become a “man” and thus keep her status a first ..lady- boy?

  27. @peterike

    Picture of a coin of Heliogabulus showing the meteorite inside a shrine built for it:

     

    He's lookin' pretty gay on that coin, I gotta tell ya.

    Speaking of gay and the Middle East and you know, stuff like this. I started re-watching "Laurence of Arabia" for the first time in maybe 30+ years, and man oh man did O'Toole play Larry as a big poofter. He's downright mincing.

    I suppose we're going to get a Heliogabulus bio-pic or HBO series any day now. Maybe they can get Neil Patrick Harris to play him. Umm, her.

    … play Larry as a big poofter

    In fairness, Larry was a big poofter.

  28. @vinteuil
    Elagabalus is the subject of one of the best historical novels ever written - Alfred Duggan's *Family Favourites* - very thoroughly researched, and darkly hilarious from beginning to end.

    Unfortunately, Duggan is mostly forgotten, these days, but there are appreciative overviews out there by Evelyn Waugh & John Derbyshire that might convince you to take a look.

    I’ve not heard of Duggan since I was a boy. But I confirm that he was very good (to my then tastes, anyway).

  29. @vinteuil
    Elagabalus is the subject of one of the best historical novels ever written - Alfred Duggan's *Family Favourites* - very thoroughly researched, and darkly hilarious from beginning to end.

    Unfortunately, Duggan is mostly forgotten, these days, but there are appreciative overviews out there by Evelyn Waugh & John Derbyshire that might convince you to take a look.

    I second the recommendation of Duggan. Inexpensive used copies of his novels are usually available on Amazon. Bonus – as with the Flashman series, my kids ate Duggan’s novels up without prodding, so a lot of accurate and pretty detailed historical fact made its way into their noggins while their guard was down.

  30. Weird, I was just thinking about Heliogabalus yesterday in connection with mourning my horrible memory, because he was the only part of Decline and Fall that I remember.

  31. @Mr. Blank,

    I’m hoping & praying that the decline takes at least 100 years too but you simply cannot predict the future. Do not discount the possibility of an epidemic. Last year a live vial of smallpox was found in an unused closet at a CDC facility.

  32. Love the quote from Camille Paglia. I wonder if the creators of Glee had her in mind with Sue Sylvester?

  33. The portrayal of Lawrence in “Lawrence of Arabia” is just all wrong. Read his own book “Seven Pillars of Wisdom” for insight into the actual Lawrence. This book is very worthwhile reading, BTW. I put it off for a long time because, from the title, I thought it was going to be Zen-like. But it isn’t, at all.

    • Replies: @Twinkie

    Read his own book “Seven Pillars of Wisdom” for insight into the actual Lawrence.
     
    It's a wonderful piece of literature, but it's also a work of fiction. Lawrence was acutely aware of self-image and was a notorious self-publicist (as was Julius Caesar, of course).

    He was still a man of genius, but you shouldn't take "Seven Pillars of Wisdom" as literal history.
  34. > In an era when Progressives have lost interest in the working class in favor of ever more exquisitely tiny minorities…

    Great opening line, a fine blend of observation and dark humor.

    As another commenter noted a while back, why not compile a “Best of Steve” collection of essays? Who knows, you might find an audience, even a paying audience.

  35. Next on deck–Emperor Trajan as vibrant Hispanic.

  36. @el supremo
    Heliogabalus also tried to import to Rome the worship of a black meteorite that was seen as a divine messenger among Syrian Arabs.

    This is remarkably similar to the black stone that is at the center of the Kabbah in Mecca and is a focus of Muslim pilgrimages. Like Mohammed, Heliogabulus built a shrine for the meteorite in the center of his capital. He also had himself circumcised to serve as the chief priest of its cult.

    The similarities to Islam are pretty obvious and have been noted by classicists, but of course scholars of Islam aren't really advertising the connections with a cross-dressing Roman emperor, even though the two both emerged from a common milieu of Late Antique Arab pagan culture.

    Picture of a coin of Heliogabulus showing the meteorite inside a shrine built for it:
    http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/9/93/Bronze-Uranius_Antoninus-Elagabal_stone-SGI_4414.jpg

    Is it just me, or does Helio-g bear a resemblance to Wil Wheaton?

  37. “Apparently though, they did almost mutiny once – when their “boys” were removed by the British officers who found their presence scandalous. The boys were returned to the soldiers to restore their morale.”

    I’ve never heard of that happening in the Arab Legion but the Brit historian Byron Farwell stated a similiar mutiny occurred in a group of Arabs the British recruited for the fighting in Kenya and Tanzania during WW1. Arabs/Muslims seem to be amongst the world’s most homophobic yet homosexual people.

    • Replies: @Twinkie

    Arabs/Muslims seem to be amongst the world’s most homophobic yet homosexual people.
     
    I don't think they "fear" homosexuals. They publicly hate homosexuality. Meanwhile their homosexuality seems to be more of the pederasty variety than one between equals.
  38. So now you believe?

    I wrote you maybe ten years ago as a comment to your article on famous tall people. You claimed that Michael Crichton was the tallest famous non-basketball player. I responded back that Maximus Thrax had been much taller. He was the Roman Emperor who had been eight and a half feet tall. At least that’s what was written in the Augustan History.

    You didn’t believe it then but you seem to believe it now?

    Heliogabalus was on my mind recently. He appears in the Major General’s song in ‘Pirates of Penzance’. I watched the slightly modernized Kevin Kline version again the other night. Like the Major General I couldn’t tell a ravelin from a javelin. Thank God for Wikipedia. But I was well acquainted with Heliogabalus. So many Romans were so boring. Republican Rome was like the Puritans at Plymouth or the Wahhabis at Riyadh.

    • Replies: @Pat Boyle
    Sorry I didn't quite beat the timer for my edit.

    Another thing about Heliogabalus and his homosexuality is that so many moderns confound the Greeks with the Romans. The Greeks had the 'The Sacred Band of Thebes' - all gay lovers. While the Romans had the Lex Scantinia - the law against homosexuality - a capital crime.

    Romans had outlawed homosexuality for centuries and they had killed all known gays also for centuries. Caesar had fought against being columned as a homosexual throughout his whole early political career. There was some distinction for the role one played - pitcher versus catcher.

    On the other hand it's hard to see how the public couldn't know that Hadrian was gay. He was I think a sodomite not a catamite. Maybe that was it.
  39. @WhatEvvs

    "and attested by grave and contemporary historians, their inexpressible infamy surpasses that of any other age or country."
     
    Records are made to be broken. Just you wait, Henry Higgins.....

    About Johnny Depp, it will surprise no one here that this Hollywood denizen is pretty louche. He co-owned The Viper Club. Co-owned with....?

    http://americanmafia.com/Feature_Articles_285.html

    Depp’s new wife, the actress Amber Heard, is bisexual.

    • Replies: @WhatEvvs
    Only her? I think they both play both sides of the bed.
  40. @Pat Boyle
    So now you believe?

    I wrote you maybe ten years ago as a comment to your article on famous tall people. You claimed that Michael Crichton was the tallest famous non-basketball player. I responded back that Maximus Thrax had been much taller. He was the Roman Emperor who had been eight and a half feet tall. At least that's what was written in the Augustan History.

    You didn't believe it then but you seem to believe it now?

    Heliogabalus was on my mind recently. He appears in the Major General's song in 'Pirates of Penzance'. I watched the slightly modernized Kevin Kline version again the other night. Like the Major General I couldn't tell a ravelin from a javelin. Thank God for Wikipedia. But I was well acquainted with Heliogabalus. So many Romans were so boring. Republican Rome was like the Puritans at Plymouth or the Wahhabis at Riyadh.

    Sorry I didn’t quite beat the timer for my edit.

    Another thing about Heliogabalus and his homosexuality is that so many moderns confound the Greeks with the Romans. The Greeks had the ‘The Sacred Band of Thebes’ – all gay lovers. While the Romans had the Lex Scantinia – the law against homosexuality – a capital crime.

    Romans had outlawed homosexuality for centuries and they had killed all known gays also for centuries. Caesar had fought against being columned as a homosexual throughout his whole early political career. There was some distinction for the role one played – pitcher versus catcher.

    On the other hand it’s hard to see how the public couldn’t know that Hadrian was gay. He was I think a sodomite not a catamite. Maybe that was it.

  41. @Twinkie

    Speaking of gay and the Middle East
     
    During the early phase of the first Arab-Israeli war (the Israeli war for independence), just about the most effective organized military force, at least on the Arab side, was the Arab Legion led by Glubb Pasha (Sir John Glubb), which eventually became the Jordanian army years later. These Arab Legionaries were known for their good combat ability, unit cohesion, and morale. Apparently though, they did almost mutiny once - when their "boys" were removed by the British officers who found their presence scandalous. The boys were returned to the soldiers to restore their morale.

    That's Arabs for you. Quite Greek of them. Something queer in the water in the Mediterranean basin or what? (Apparently the same kind of water flows in Thailand, too.)

    By the way, the aggressive presence of homosexuals in the United States and its mass media was something that baffled my East Asian mother constantly. She'd say "I am a Christian, so it's not that I want to hurt these degenerate people. I feel very sorry for them that they are mentally disturbed. But why in America don't they have the decency to keep their problems in private or seek help? They are always on American TV, on parades, and movies, being very crazy and aggressive. Do they want normal people to become enraged and hurt them?"
    • Replies: @Crawfurdmuir
    Burton's idea of the sotadic zone seems somewhat confirmed by the "glamour shots" of Taliban members on view here:

    http://www.trolleybooks.com/bookSingle.php?bookId=24

    From the blurb on the abovenoted page -

    "Days after the Taliban had fled the city of Kandahar, the Magnum photographer Thomas Dworzak discovered portraits of men in high-heeled sandals with make-up - a tradition of the native Pashtuns long noted for their flamboyancy - hanging up alongside photographs of Hollywood movie stars. With sultry poses in front of often garish backdrops, this is an illicit side of the Taliban, not expected to be exposed."

    A New Yorker article illustrated by some of these photographs - unfortunately behind their paywall - reported that there was a regular practice among Pashtuns of men "courting" adolescent boys with gifts of various sorts. Among the popular gifts mentioned were homing pigeons. I was immediately reminded of Eumolpus's tale in the Satiricon of Petronius -

    http://tort-miller.blogspot.com/2012/11/eumolpus-tale-from-petronius-satyricon.html

    Apparently the style of homosexuality prevalent in ancient Greece, and later in the Hellenized Roman empire, still persists in the city founded by Alexander the Great.

    , @Twinkie
    Sir Richard Burton's version of that zone is inaccurate. He leaves some out and mistakenly includes others.

    By the way, our conception of ancient pederasty is, I think, distorted by the modern practices of homosexuals.

    Apparently, the ancient Greek pederasty was more of a pupil-tutor relationship, in which there was much non-sexual mentoring. What sex seemed to have existed was mostly physical affection, touching, and NON-penetrative, because being penetrated was unmanly, and the point was to make a man out of the pupil, not degenerate him into a female substitute (a role apparently reserved to inferiors such debtors and slaves).

    The details escape me now but I do recall reading one of the ancient writers rating the "smooth thighs of a boy" being superior to the "rancid hole" of a woman or some words to that effect. Eeek. Reading stuff like that occasionally was the price to be paid for studying ancient authors.

    In any case, modern Western homosexual practices and their aggressive demands for "marriage equality" seem new and not at all rooted in history.
  42. @Dr. Doom
    Back in those days the Praetorian Guard knew their fortunes were based in Rome and would see to the quick secession of a worthy Caesar past a nut. Today, we have feckless fools less like James West and more like Kanye West, picking up whores and stiffing them in more ways than one.
    Sad, really. Even in decadence the Potomac cannot live up to Rome. We should take Washington's name off of it, its embarrassing...

    Worthy Caesar he might have been but it did not prevent his Rhine legions from bumping Severus Alexander off and replacing him with their general Maximinus Thrax.

  43. The similarities between Roman civilization and the modern West are more and more striking as our downward spiral accelerates.

    I bet that the ethnically Roman upper class in the late Empire were just like our contemporary WASP corporate types: detached from any organic community, drunk with the false sense of power and invulnerability that comes from having aliens superficially imitate your culture, cluelessly projecting their own self-annihilating liberal values on other, more tribal people and so on.

  44. @AshTon
    Something in the water? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sotadic_zone

    Burton’s idea of the sotadic zone seems somewhat confirmed by the “glamour shots” of Taliban members on view here:

    http://www.trolleybooks.com/bookSingle.php?bookId=24

    From the blurb on the abovenoted page –

    “Days after the Taliban had fled the city of Kandahar, the Magnum photographer Thomas Dworzak discovered portraits of men in high-heeled sandals with make-up – a tradition of the native Pashtuns long noted for their flamboyancy – hanging up alongside photographs of Hollywood movie stars. With sultry poses in front of often garish backdrops, this is an illicit side of the Taliban, not expected to be exposed.”

    A New Yorker article illustrated by some of these photographs – unfortunately behind their paywall – reported that there was a regular practice among Pashtuns of men “courting” adolescent boys with gifts of various sorts. Among the popular gifts mentioned were homing pigeons. I was immediately reminded of Eumolpus’s tale in the Satiricon of Petronius –

    http://tort-miller.blogspot.com/2012/11/eumolpus-tale-from-petronius-satyricon.html

    Apparently the style of homosexuality prevalent in ancient Greece, and later in the Hellenized Roman empire, still persists in the city founded by Alexander the Great.

    • Replies: @syonredux
    Homosexuality in Saudi Arabia:

    This legal and public condemnation notwithstanding, the kingdom leaves considerable space for homosexual behavior. As long as gays and lesbians maintain a public front of obeisance to Wahhabist norms, they are left to do what they want in private. Vibrant communities of men who enjoy sex with other men can be found in cosmopolitan cities like Jeddah and Riyadh. They meet in schools, in cafés, in the streets, and on the Internet. “You can be cruised anywhere in Saudi Arabia, any time of the day,” said Radwan, a 42-year-old gay Saudi American who grew up in various Western cities and now lives in Jeddah. “They’re quite shameless about it.” Talal, a Syrian who moved to Riyadh in 2000, calls the Saudi capital a “gay heaven.”

    This is surprising enough. But what seems more startling, at least from a Western perspective, is that some of the men having sex with other men don’t consider themselves gay. For many Saudis, the fact that a man has sex with another man has little to do with “gayness.” The act may fulfill a desire or a need, but it doesn’t constitute an identity. Nor does it strip a man of his masculinity, as long as he is in the “top,” or active, role.
     

    This analogy came up again and again during my conversations. As Radwan, the Saudi American, put it, “Some Saudi [men] can’t have sex with women, so they have sex with guys. When the sexes are so strictly segregated”—men are allowed little contact with women outside their families, in order to protect women’s purity—“how do they have a chance to have sex with a woman and not get into trouble?” Tariq, a 24-year-old in the travel industry, explains that many “tops” are simply hard up for sex, looking to break their abstinence in whatever way they can. Francis, a 34-year-old beauty queen from the Philippines (in 2003 he won a gay beauty pageant held in a private house in Jeddah by a group of Filipinos), reported that he’s had sex with Saudi men whose wives were pregnant or menstruating; when those circumstances changed, most of the men stopped calling. “If they can’t use their wives,” Francis said, “they have this option with gays.”
     

    Gay courting in the kingdom is often overt—in fact, the preferred mode is cruising. “When I was new here, I was worried when six or seven cars would follow me as I walked down the street,” Jamie, a 31-year-old Filipino florist living in Jeddah, told me. “Especially if you’re pretty like me, they won’t stop chasing you.” John Bradley, the author of Saudi Arabia Exposed: Inside a Kingdom in Crisis (2005), says that most male Western expatriates here, gay or not, have been propositioned by Saudi men driving by “at any time of the day or night, quite openly and usually very, very persistently.”
     

    For Talal, Riyadh became an escape. When he was 17 and living in Da­mas­cus, his father walked in on him having sex with a male friend. He hit Talal and grounded him for two months, letting him out of the house only after he swore he was no longer attracted to men. Talal’s pale face flushed crimson as he recalled his shame at disappointing his family. Eager to escape the weight of their expectations, he took a job in Riyadh. When he announced that he would be moving, his father responded, “You know all Saudis like boys, and you are white. Take care.” Talal was pleased to find a measure of truth in his father’s warning—his fair skin made him a hit among the locals.
     
    http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2007/05/the-kingdom-in-the-closet/305774/
  45. @CCR
    The portrayal of Lawrence in "Lawrence of Arabia" is just all wrong. Read his own book "Seven Pillars of Wisdom" for insight into the actual Lawrence. This book is very worthwhile reading, BTW. I put it off for a long time because, from the title, I thought it was going to be Zen-like. But it isn't, at all.

    Read his own book “Seven Pillars of Wisdom” for insight into the actual Lawrence.

    It’s a wonderful piece of literature, but it’s also a work of fiction. Lawrence was acutely aware of self-image and was a notorious self-publicist (as was Julius Caesar, of course).

    He was still a man of genius, but you shouldn’t take “Seven Pillars of Wisdom” as literal history.

  46. @Corn
    "Apparently though, they did almost mutiny once – when their “boys” were removed by the British officers who found their presence scandalous. The boys were returned to the soldiers to restore their morale."

    I've never heard of that happening in the Arab Legion but the Brit historian Byron Farwell stated a similiar mutiny occurred in a group of Arabs the British recruited for the fighting in Kenya and Tanzania during WW1. Arabs/Muslims seem to be amongst the world's most homophobic yet homosexual people.

    Arabs/Muslims seem to be amongst the world’s most homophobic yet homosexual people.

    I don’t think they “fear” homosexuals. They publicly hate homosexuality. Meanwhile their homosexuality seems to be more of the pederasty variety than one between equals.

  47. @AshTon
    Something in the water? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sotadic_zone

    Sir Richard Burton’s version of that zone is inaccurate. He leaves some out and mistakenly includes others.

    By the way, our conception of ancient pederasty is, I think, distorted by the modern practices of homosexuals.

    Apparently, the ancient Greek pederasty was more of a pupil-tutor relationship, in which there was much non-sexual mentoring. What sex seemed to have existed was mostly physical affection, touching, and NON-penetrative, because being penetrated was unmanly, and the point was to make a man out of the pupil, not degenerate him into a female substitute (a role apparently reserved to inferiors such debtors and slaves).

    The details escape me now but I do recall reading one of the ancient writers rating the “smooth thighs of a boy” being superior to the “rancid hole” of a woman or some words to that effect. Eeek. Reading stuff like that occasionally was the price to be paid for studying ancient authors.

    In any case, modern Western homosexual practices and their aggressive demands for “marriage equality” seem new and not at all rooted in history.

    • Replies: @Crawfurdmuir
    "Apparently, the ancient Greek pederasty was more of a pupil-tutor relationship, in which there was much non-sexual mentoring. What sex seemed to have existed was mostly physical affection, touching, and NON-penetrative, because being penetrated was unmanly, and the point was to make a man out of the pupil, not degenerate him into a female substitute (a role apparently reserved to inferiors such debtors and slaves)."

    This may have been true during the archaic period, but had already deteriorated by the time of Plato. Agathon, the tragedian, is portrayed in the Symposium as a recognizably effete homosexual, and is depicted in Aristophanes' Thesmophoriazusae as dressed in women's clothes. And by the first century A.D., the manners and mores of the Hellenized Roman empire as delineated by Petronius are even more blatant: the boy Giton is clearly a catamite, over whom the protagonists Encolpius and Ascyltus squabble.

    The twelfth volume of the Palatine Anthology is characterised by sniggering prurience. Typical is epigram no. 6, by the second century A.D. poet Strato, which is a play on the numerical values assigned to the letters of the Greek alphabet. It points out that the sum of the letters in πρωκτὸς (rectum) is the same as that of χρυσὸς (gold, or money).

  48. @5371
    [Heliogabulus’ successor, Alexander Severus, had statues venerating both Abraham and Jesus alongside Pagan figures like Orpheus.]

    The only source for this is Alexander Severus' life in the "Historia Augusta", a literary mystification composed late in the fourth century. It is very unlikely to be anything other than a free invention.
    The author of the HA had a hard task indeed imagining more lurid items about Elagabalus than that emperor's contemporaries Dio and Herodian had recorded. He succeeded in it, though.

    [Heliogabulus’ successor, Alexander Severus, had statues venerating both Abraham and Jesus alongside Pagan figures like Orpheus.]

    The only source for this is Alexander Severus’ life in the “Historia Augusta”, a literary mystification composed late in the fourth century. It is very unlikely to be anything other than a free invention.

    On the other hand, there is nothing impossible about it. Weirder personal mythologies have certainly been devised….

  49. @Crawfurdmuir
    Burton's idea of the sotadic zone seems somewhat confirmed by the "glamour shots" of Taliban members on view here:

    http://www.trolleybooks.com/bookSingle.php?bookId=24

    From the blurb on the abovenoted page -

    "Days after the Taliban had fled the city of Kandahar, the Magnum photographer Thomas Dworzak discovered portraits of men in high-heeled sandals with make-up - a tradition of the native Pashtuns long noted for their flamboyancy - hanging up alongside photographs of Hollywood movie stars. With sultry poses in front of often garish backdrops, this is an illicit side of the Taliban, not expected to be exposed."

    A New Yorker article illustrated by some of these photographs - unfortunately behind their paywall - reported that there was a regular practice among Pashtuns of men "courting" adolescent boys with gifts of various sorts. Among the popular gifts mentioned were homing pigeons. I was immediately reminded of Eumolpus's tale in the Satiricon of Petronius -

    http://tort-miller.blogspot.com/2012/11/eumolpus-tale-from-petronius-satyricon.html

    Apparently the style of homosexuality prevalent in ancient Greece, and later in the Hellenized Roman empire, still persists in the city founded by Alexander the Great.

    Homosexuality in Saudi Arabia:

    This legal and public condemnation notwithstanding, the kingdom leaves considerable space for homosexual behavior. As long as gays and lesbians maintain a public front of obeisance to Wahhabist norms, they are left to do what they want in private. Vibrant communities of men who enjoy sex with other men can be found in cosmopolitan cities like Jeddah and Riyadh. They meet in schools, in cafés, in the streets, and on the Internet. “You can be cruised anywhere in Saudi Arabia, any time of the day,” said Radwan, a 42-year-old gay Saudi American who grew up in various Western cities and now lives in Jeddah. “They’re quite shameless about it.” Talal, a Syrian who moved to Riyadh in 2000, calls the Saudi capital a “gay heaven.”

    This is surprising enough. But what seems more startling, at least from a Western perspective, is that some of the men having sex with other men don’t consider themselves gay. For many Saudis, the fact that a man has sex with another man has little to do with “gayness.” The act may fulfill a desire or a need, but it doesn’t constitute an identity. Nor does it strip a man of his masculinity, as long as he is in the “top,” or active, role.

    This analogy came up again and again during my conversations. As Radwan, the Saudi American, put it, “Some Saudi [men] can’t have sex with women, so they have sex with guys. When the sexes are so strictly segregated”—men are allowed little contact with women outside their families, in order to protect women’s purity—“how do they have a chance to have sex with a woman and not get into trouble?” Tariq, a 24-year-old in the travel industry, explains that many “tops” are simply hard up for sex, looking to break their abstinence in whatever way they can. Francis, a 34-year-old beauty queen from the Philippines (in 2003 he won a gay beauty pageant held in a private house in Jeddah by a group of Filipinos), reported that he’s had sex with Saudi men whose wives were pregnant or menstruating; when those circumstances changed, most of the men stopped calling. “If they can’t use their wives,” Francis said, “they have this option with gays.”

    Gay courting in the kingdom is often overt—in fact, the preferred mode is cruising. “When I was new here, I was worried when six or seven cars would follow me as I walked down the street,” Jamie, a 31-year-old Filipino florist living in Jeddah, told me. “Especially if you’re pretty like me, they won’t stop chasing you.” John Bradley, the author of Saudi Arabia Exposed: Inside a Kingdom in Crisis (2005), says that most male Western expatriates here, gay or not, have been propositioned by Saudi men driving by “at any time of the day or night, quite openly and usually very, very persistently.”

    For Talal, Riyadh became an escape. When he was 17 and living in Da­mas­cus, his father walked in on him having sex with a male friend. He hit Talal and grounded him for two months, letting him out of the house only after he swore he was no longer attracted to men. Talal’s pale face flushed crimson as he recalled his shame at disappointing his family. Eager to escape the weight of their expectations, he took a job in Riyadh. When he announced that he would be moving, his father responded, “You know all Saudis like boys, and you are white. Take care.” Talal was pleased to find a measure of truth in his father’s warning—his fair skin made him a hit among the locals.

    http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2007/05/the-kingdom-in-the-closet/305774/

    • Replies: @Anowow
    I worked in the magic kingdom for a bit.

    And the above article mirrors my experiences. The prefered method to get guys is for the cruiser to honk the horn. You can be standing on a street, waiting to cross and get honked at, multiple times. I had a coworker in his sixties who was propositioned by a taxi driver who offered him a rose. They are shameless about it.

    I will also add, that there were a lot of men and boys there who were effiminate, not so much in their manner as in their physical appearance, lots of males with female hips and build to the point of real ambiguity, if they lived in less gender-segregated societies. Think of "Pat" from Saturday Night Live.

    And that's just the tip. Saudi Arabia aids the argument that harsh punishment is not a deterrant for crime. (Not that I'm against harsh punishments. Punishment for punishment's sake is ok in my book)

    In any case, our degenerate leaders are getting what they wanted. A permissive moral climate, a growing underclass filled with girls (and boys) ripe for exploitation. And they get to lecture us the entire time! It would be bad enough if the current zeitgeist was only decadent, but it manages to be simultaneously self-righteous, priggish and sexually and economically immoral. It's like a strange fusion of Puritan church or Quaker meeting house, Turkish bath house and Gordon Gecko's office.
  50. @dsgntd_plyr
    Depp's new wife, the actress Amber Heard, is bisexual.

    Only her? I think they both play both sides of the bed.

  51. In modern times Heliogabalus
    Is considered to be chic and fabalus.
    A he or a she?
    Now it’s both you can be!
    And thus do the Progs psychobabble us.

  52. @syonredux
    Homosexuality in Saudi Arabia:

    This legal and public condemnation notwithstanding, the kingdom leaves considerable space for homosexual behavior. As long as gays and lesbians maintain a public front of obeisance to Wahhabist norms, they are left to do what they want in private. Vibrant communities of men who enjoy sex with other men can be found in cosmopolitan cities like Jeddah and Riyadh. They meet in schools, in cafés, in the streets, and on the Internet. “You can be cruised anywhere in Saudi Arabia, any time of the day,” said Radwan, a 42-year-old gay Saudi American who grew up in various Western cities and now lives in Jeddah. “They’re quite shameless about it.” Talal, a Syrian who moved to Riyadh in 2000, calls the Saudi capital a “gay heaven.”

    This is surprising enough. But what seems more startling, at least from a Western perspective, is that some of the men having sex with other men don’t consider themselves gay. For many Saudis, the fact that a man has sex with another man has little to do with “gayness.” The act may fulfill a desire or a need, but it doesn’t constitute an identity. Nor does it strip a man of his masculinity, as long as he is in the “top,” or active, role.
     

    This analogy came up again and again during my conversations. As Radwan, the Saudi American, put it, “Some Saudi [men] can’t have sex with women, so they have sex with guys. When the sexes are so strictly segregated”—men are allowed little contact with women outside their families, in order to protect women’s purity—“how do they have a chance to have sex with a woman and not get into trouble?” Tariq, a 24-year-old in the travel industry, explains that many “tops” are simply hard up for sex, looking to break their abstinence in whatever way they can. Francis, a 34-year-old beauty queen from the Philippines (in 2003 he won a gay beauty pageant held in a private house in Jeddah by a group of Filipinos), reported that he’s had sex with Saudi men whose wives were pregnant or menstruating; when those circumstances changed, most of the men stopped calling. “If they can’t use their wives,” Francis said, “they have this option with gays.”
     

    Gay courting in the kingdom is often overt—in fact, the preferred mode is cruising. “When I was new here, I was worried when six or seven cars would follow me as I walked down the street,” Jamie, a 31-year-old Filipino florist living in Jeddah, told me. “Especially if you’re pretty like me, they won’t stop chasing you.” John Bradley, the author of Saudi Arabia Exposed: Inside a Kingdom in Crisis (2005), says that most male Western expatriates here, gay or not, have been propositioned by Saudi men driving by “at any time of the day or night, quite openly and usually very, very persistently.”
     

    For Talal, Riyadh became an escape. When he was 17 and living in Da­mas­cus, his father walked in on him having sex with a male friend. He hit Talal and grounded him for two months, letting him out of the house only after he swore he was no longer attracted to men. Talal’s pale face flushed crimson as he recalled his shame at disappointing his family. Eager to escape the weight of their expectations, he took a job in Riyadh. When he announced that he would be moving, his father responded, “You know all Saudis like boys, and you are white. Take care.” Talal was pleased to find a measure of truth in his father’s warning—his fair skin made him a hit among the locals.
     
    http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2007/05/the-kingdom-in-the-closet/305774/

    I worked in the magic kingdom for a bit.

    And the above article mirrors my experiences. The prefered method to get guys is for the cruiser to honk the horn. You can be standing on a street, waiting to cross and get honked at, multiple times. I had a coworker in his sixties who was propositioned by a taxi driver who offered him a rose. They are shameless about it.

    I will also add, that there were a lot of men and boys there who were effiminate, not so much in their manner as in their physical appearance, lots of males with female hips and build to the point of real ambiguity, if they lived in less gender-segregated societies. Think of “Pat” from Saturday Night Live.

    And that’s just the tip. Saudi Arabia aids the argument that harsh punishment is not a deterrant for crime. (Not that I’m against harsh punishments. Punishment for punishment’s sake is ok in my book)

    In any case, our degenerate leaders are getting what they wanted. A permissive moral climate, a growing underclass filled with girls (and boys) ripe for exploitation. And they get to lecture us the entire time! It would be bad enough if the current zeitgeist was only decadent, but it manages to be simultaneously self-righteous, priggish and sexually and economically immoral. It’s like a strange fusion of Puritan church or Quaker meeting house, Turkish bath house and Gordon Gecko’s office.

    • Replies: @New Reader

    A permissive moral climate, a growing underclass filled with girls (and boys) ripe for exploitation. And they get to lecture us the entire time! It would be bad enough if the current zeitgeist was only decadent, but it manages to be simultaneously self-righteous, priggish and sexually and economically immoral. It’s like a strange fusion of Puritan church or Quaker meeting house, Turkish bath house and Gordon Gecko’s office.
     
    That's one of the more insightful things I've read this week!
  53. I needed to clarify one point. The “pats” I was referring to were Arab, mostly Saudi, but also some Egyptians. Their sexual ambiguity was of a very different nature than the flaming Flippinos. Think more momma’s boys in the case of the former.

  54. Anon • Disclaimer says:
    @Twinkie

    Speaking of gay and the Middle East
     
    During the early phase of the first Arab-Israeli war (the Israeli war for independence), just about the most effective organized military force, at least on the Arab side, was the Arab Legion led by Glubb Pasha (Sir John Glubb), which eventually became the Jordanian army years later. These Arab Legionaries were known for their good combat ability, unit cohesion, and morale. Apparently though, they did almost mutiny once - when their "boys" were removed by the British officers who found their presence scandalous. The boys were returned to the soldiers to restore their morale.

    That's Arabs for you. Quite Greek of them. Something queer in the water in the Mediterranean basin or what? (Apparently the same kind of water flows in Thailand, too.)

    By the way, the aggressive presence of homosexuals in the United States and its mass media was something that baffled my East Asian mother constantly. She'd say "I am a Christian, so it's not that I want to hurt these degenerate people. I feel very sorry for them that they are mentally disturbed. But why in America don't they have the decency to keep their problems in private or seek help? They are always on American TV, on parades, and movies, being very crazy and aggressive. Do they want normal people to become enraged and hurt them?"

    By the way, the aggressive presence of homosexuals in the United States and its mass media was something that baffled my East Asian mother constantly. She’d say “I am a Christian, so it’s not that I want to hurt these degenerate people. I feel very sorry for them that they are mentally disturbed. But why in America don’t they have the decency to keep their problems in private or seek help? They are always on American TV, on parades, and movies, being very crazy and aggressive. Do they want normal people to become enraged and hurt them?”

    I can’t say I’ve ever heard a rational argument against equal marriage rights for gays.

    Christians disagree on the subject, and there are a lot of secularists in the country, so citing one section of society’s interpretation of the Bible in order to restrict freedoms of another group doesn’t seem reasonable.

    Homosexuality is natural biological variation that occurs in nature, and doesn’t infringe on the rights of anybody else.

    In exchange for having on our side people like Peter Thiel (the only American anti-immigration billionaire), Tim Cook, and Alan Turing, it seems reasonable to not try to stigmatize their natural state. I find the whole endeavor to be beneath heroic people.

    (I’m straight, but I’ve attended the weddings of gay relatives and colleagues. Their weddings were nice.)

  55. “Elagabalus married and divorced five women … According to Cassius Dio, his most stable relationship seems to have been with his chariot driver, a blond slave from Caria named Hierocles, whom he referred to as his husband.”

    One of the smart things the modern gay movement has done is to assure women that the gay identity is a fixed and impermeable barrier that is proven by science never to be crossed. Thus gay men are not actually their rivals for men in the way that other women are and are at the same time not looking to score with a woman the way many women can assume most men are. The fact that gay men tend to have contempt for females is a fact not often known and never stated.

    Since women make so much of culture and manners, the fact that gay men are seen as potential no-pressure friends to them and not potential parasites who will take their men with the promise of a partying responsibility-free lifestyle, there has been been a tremendous change in the way the gay lifestyle is viewed. Now living that way is considered a cute compulsion and not a danger to families.

    In fact I have known quite a few men who have left their wives and children after years of marriage to adopt a responsibility-free partying gay lifestyle. Its a common story. The modern response of course is to blame the wife and children for holding the guy back from the ‘real me’ gay partier who now coincidentally gets to drop all the things he has to do to focus on what he wants to do. Since this is completely justified by the idea that there is a bright line between hetero and homo, it passes as wisdom.

  56. @Anowow
    I worked in the magic kingdom for a bit.

    And the above article mirrors my experiences. The prefered method to get guys is for the cruiser to honk the horn. You can be standing on a street, waiting to cross and get honked at, multiple times. I had a coworker in his sixties who was propositioned by a taxi driver who offered him a rose. They are shameless about it.

    I will also add, that there were a lot of men and boys there who were effiminate, not so much in their manner as in their physical appearance, lots of males with female hips and build to the point of real ambiguity, if they lived in less gender-segregated societies. Think of "Pat" from Saturday Night Live.

    And that's just the tip. Saudi Arabia aids the argument that harsh punishment is not a deterrant for crime. (Not that I'm against harsh punishments. Punishment for punishment's sake is ok in my book)

    In any case, our degenerate leaders are getting what they wanted. A permissive moral climate, a growing underclass filled with girls (and boys) ripe for exploitation. And they get to lecture us the entire time! It would be bad enough if the current zeitgeist was only decadent, but it manages to be simultaneously self-righteous, priggish and sexually and economically immoral. It's like a strange fusion of Puritan church or Quaker meeting house, Turkish bath house and Gordon Gecko's office.

    A permissive moral climate, a growing underclass filled with girls (and boys) ripe for exploitation. And they get to lecture us the entire time! It would be bad enough if the current zeitgeist was only decadent, but it manages to be simultaneously self-righteous, priggish and sexually and economically immoral. It’s like a strange fusion of Puritan church or Quaker meeting house, Turkish bath house and Gordon Gecko’s office.

    That’s one of the more insightful things I’ve read this week!

  57. @Twinkie
    Sir Richard Burton's version of that zone is inaccurate. He leaves some out and mistakenly includes others.

    By the way, our conception of ancient pederasty is, I think, distorted by the modern practices of homosexuals.

    Apparently, the ancient Greek pederasty was more of a pupil-tutor relationship, in which there was much non-sexual mentoring. What sex seemed to have existed was mostly physical affection, touching, and NON-penetrative, because being penetrated was unmanly, and the point was to make a man out of the pupil, not degenerate him into a female substitute (a role apparently reserved to inferiors such debtors and slaves).

    The details escape me now but I do recall reading one of the ancient writers rating the "smooth thighs of a boy" being superior to the "rancid hole" of a woman or some words to that effect. Eeek. Reading stuff like that occasionally was the price to be paid for studying ancient authors.

    In any case, modern Western homosexual practices and their aggressive demands for "marriage equality" seem new and not at all rooted in history.

    “Apparently, the ancient Greek pederasty was more of a pupil-tutor relationship, in which there was much non-sexual mentoring. What sex seemed to have existed was mostly physical affection, touching, and NON-penetrative, because being penetrated was unmanly, and the point was to make a man out of the pupil, not degenerate him into a female substitute (a role apparently reserved to inferiors such debtors and slaves).”

    This may have been true during the archaic period, but had already deteriorated by the time of Plato. Agathon, the tragedian, is portrayed in the Symposium as a recognizably effete homosexual, and is depicted in Aristophanes’ Thesmophoriazusae as dressed in women’s clothes. And by the first century A.D., the manners and mores of the Hellenized Roman empire as delineated by Petronius are even more blatant: the boy Giton is clearly a catamite, over whom the protagonists Encolpius and Ascyltus squabble.

    The twelfth volume of the Palatine Anthology is characterised by sniggering prurience. Typical is epigram no. 6, by the second century A.D. poet Strato, which is a play on the numerical values assigned to the letters of the Greek alphabet. It points out that the sum of the letters in πρωκτὸς (rectum) is the same as that of χρυσὸς (gold, or money).

    • Replies: @Twinkie

    Agathon, the tragedian, is portrayed in the Symposium as a recognizably effete homosexual, and is depicted in Aristophanes’ Thesmophoriazusae as dressed in women’s clothes. And by the first century A.D., the manners and mores of the Hellenized Roman empire as delineated by Petronius are even more blatant: the boy Giton is clearly a catamite, over whom the protagonists Encolpius and Ascyltus squabble.
     
    Points well taken. But do you feel those depictions represent how homosexuality was practiced as a whole in the time? Or were they archetypes that served certain rhetorical purposes?
  58. @Crawfurdmuir
    "Apparently, the ancient Greek pederasty was more of a pupil-tutor relationship, in which there was much non-sexual mentoring. What sex seemed to have existed was mostly physical affection, touching, and NON-penetrative, because being penetrated was unmanly, and the point was to make a man out of the pupil, not degenerate him into a female substitute (a role apparently reserved to inferiors such debtors and slaves)."

    This may have been true during the archaic period, but had already deteriorated by the time of Plato. Agathon, the tragedian, is portrayed in the Symposium as a recognizably effete homosexual, and is depicted in Aristophanes' Thesmophoriazusae as dressed in women's clothes. And by the first century A.D., the manners and mores of the Hellenized Roman empire as delineated by Petronius are even more blatant: the boy Giton is clearly a catamite, over whom the protagonists Encolpius and Ascyltus squabble.

    The twelfth volume of the Palatine Anthology is characterised by sniggering prurience. Typical is epigram no. 6, by the second century A.D. poet Strato, which is a play on the numerical values assigned to the letters of the Greek alphabet. It points out that the sum of the letters in πρωκτὸς (rectum) is the same as that of χρυσὸς (gold, or money).

    Agathon, the tragedian, is portrayed in the Symposium as a recognizably effete homosexual, and is depicted in Aristophanes’ Thesmophoriazusae as dressed in women’s clothes. And by the first century A.D., the manners and mores of the Hellenized Roman empire as delineated by Petronius are even more blatant: the boy Giton is clearly a catamite, over whom the protagonists Encolpius and Ascyltus squabble.

    Points well taken. But do you feel those depictions represent how homosexuality was practiced as a whole in the time? Or were they archetypes that served certain rhetorical purposes?

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