Bill Poser at Language Log points out a blog that argues that "Legal Latin" - i.e., Latin as used in the legal profession - is unconstitutional, as a violation of the Establishment clause: It is the "foreign language of a church." That's pretty hilarious in and of itself, but I would probably not have written this post except for the by-way indicated by one of the commenters: In Ex Parte Lockett (1919), a sodomy law in California was found unconstitutional because of the Latin terminology it used. In this case the Latin was not unconstitutional per se, but because the use of Latin technical terms rendered it unclear to the public which acts were being prohibited by the law. Apparently Justice Henry Melvin in a related prior opinion included discussion of passages from Martial in an attempt to cast doubt on the precision of the terms and thus the law itself...
Michael Doliner at Swans Commentary, commentarying on Jean Genet after musing on torture, writes:
Genet experiences love of the classic type, not love that ends in little houses, picket fences and happily ever after, but love that is a calamity. It is love as the Greeks knew it, where the lover becomes the slave of the beloved. Eros, as Socrates, recounting Diotima's teachings, describes him, is the child of Need and Resource. He lacks all beauty, for that is what he needs. When Eros's arrow strikes, Genet is smitten by beauty, and at the same time stricken by his own poverty. It is the beautiful, which Genet convinces us is found only in the gutter, that masters him. After Socrates' speech in the Symposium we get to witness it first hand as Alcibiades, acknowledged by all as the most beautiful man in Athens, barges in and recounts his utterly abject unrequited love of Socrates, a squat, snub-nosed unprepossessing satyr who is beautiful inside. Genet's love for Stilitano, who is a cripple, has something of this.
As a protest against factional political conflict, Kenyan women (including wives at the top ranks of politics) are calling for a sex-strike...Here's Lola Adesioye, writing in the Guardian:
With the support of both the prime minister's and president's wives – and to the consternation of many Kenyans – they have called for a week-long sex strike.
It would be easy to dismiss the strike – in which sex workers have also
been encouraged to participate – as a headline-grabbing stunt. After
all, the concept of women saying no to sex is not a huge deal to those
of us who have been raised to believe in a woman's right to choose.
However, this boycott is significant as it says a great deal about
women's progress, the way in which women are reconsidering their role
in Kenyan society and how they are reclaiming power where they can.
Reactions have been telling. A male Kenyan legislator has called the sex strike a "shame", going on to say that it is "un-African" and "rubbish". Another group has been quoted as saying "[women] are trying to use sex as a tool to molest men in the society."
Will this strike achieve its aims? That's debatable. However, even if the government doesn't end its feuding, this modern-day version of Lysistrata has already had a useful effect. It has put the spotlight on women's roles, power and rights and is showing how national politics affects the individual.
Thanks to Classics-L, which see for more discussion...
Alex Larman at the Guardian's blog comments on Radio 4's recent bio of A. E. Housman:
Housman's reputation burgeoned in the 20th century, partly because
of the support of writers such as Kingsley Amis and Betjeman, and
partly because in the poetry of Larkin (who described him as "the poet
of unhappiness"), there were clear echoes of Housman's wry, wistful
reflections on a bygone England that probably never had existed in the
first place. Seventy years after his death, Tom Stoppard's masterly and
underrated play The Invention Of Love sought to compare the repressed existence of Housman with the fin-de-siècle of Wilde and the Aesthetic movement, giving Housman a
sympathetic hearing as a passionate, brilliant man unable to break out
against the strictures of society.
This century, Housman's reputation seems to have plummeted. There
has been no major biography of him, perhaps on account of the dullness
of his life, nor any serious reevaluation of the poetry. He was
unfortunate in that he was neither a flashy aesthete nor a daring
modernist, producing old-fashioned verse that used simple forms and
unflashy language to evoke time, place and mood with consummate skill.
Perhaps surprisingly, it was Alan Hollinghurst who has been his most public advocate of late, writing a well-considered and moving foreword to a recent collection,
which made a cogent argument for why Housman should be considered first
and foremost a queer writer. In his work, with its subtle themes of
disguise, ever-shifting personae and, of course, "the love that dare not speak its name",
Housman now seems to be closer to his decadent and modernist peers than
before. Perhaps Stoppard's comparisons with that great dissembler Wilde
are more apt than ever.
Very strange: "This century, Housman's reputation seems to have plummeted" --- ?
Ah, here's a news story that cries out to be quoted in full...Frankly, I'm amazed this hasn't happened before now!
ATHENS, Greece (AP) — A Greek court has been asked to draw the line
between the natives of the Aegean Sea island of Lesbos and the world's
Three islanders from Lesbos — home of the ancient poet
Sappho, who praised love between women — have taken a gay rights group
to court for using the word lesbian in its name.
One of the
plaintiffs said Wednesday that the name of the association, Homosexual
and Lesbian Community of Greece, "insults the identity" of the people
of Lesbos, who are also known as Lesbians.
"My sister can't say
she is a Lesbian," said Dimitris Lambrou. "Our geographical designation
has been usurped by certain ladies who have no connection whatsoever
with Lesbos," he said.
The three plaintiffs are seeking to have
the group barred from using "lesbian" in its name and filed a lawsuit
on April 10. The other two plaintiffs are women.
Mytilene, after its capital, Lesbos is famed as the birthplace of
Sappho. The island is a favored holiday destination for gay women,
particularly the lyric poet's reputed home town of Eressos.
is not an aggressive act against gay women," Lambrou said. "Let them
visit Lesbos and get married and whatever they like. We just want (the
group) to remove the word lesbian from their title."
He said the
plaintiffs targeted the group because it is the only officially
registered gay group in Greece to use the word lesbian in its name. The
case will be heard in an Athens court on June 10.
from the late 7th to the early 6th century B.C. and is considered one
of the greatest poets of antiquity. Many of her poems, written in the
first person and intended to be accompanied by music, contain
passionate references to love for other women.
Lambrou said the
word lesbian has only been linked with gay women in the past few
decades. "But we have been Lesbians for thousands of years," said
Lambrou, who publishes a small magazine on ancient Greek religion and
technology that frequently criticizes the Christian Church.
little is known of Sappho's life. According to some ancient accounts,
she was an aristocrat who married a rich merchant and had a daughter
with him. One tradition says that she killed herself by jumping off a
cliff over an unhappy love affair.
Lambrou says Sappho was not
gay. "But even if we assume she was, how can 250,000 people of Lesbian
descent — including women — be considered homosexual?"
The Homosexual and Lesbian Community of Greece could not be reached for comment.
Lambrou also presented an essay on the subject, "The Misfortune of Being Lesbian" (in Greek: Η δυστυχία του να είσαι Λέσβιος, -ια) at the website of his magazine, Davlos, so feel free to go out and work on your modern Greek language skills...
I should just add, since as a footnote to his essay Lambrou appeals to Oxford lexicography and the change in definitions (of both Lesbian and, of course, gay) wreaked by people other than himself between the 1911 and 1999 editions (of the Compact Dictionary), that the big OED has citations for the female homosexual meaning of "Lesbian" dating back to 1870, when A. J. Munby wrote, "Swinburne..expressed a horror of sodomy..and an actual admiration of
Lesbianism, being unable..to see that that is equally loathsome." And finally, if antiquity of usage is the issue, I wonder whether Lambrou is more comfortable with a different "Lesbian" association in ancient Greek - e.g. the verb λεσβιάζω...
Ok, really finally: I think I have a compromise suggestion. Since LesVos is the modern Greek pronunciation of the place name, let's just all say that LesVian will be toponymic designation, and LesBian (to be spelled Λέσμπιος, etc., in Greek) will be the sexual orientation.
Robert Frakes (at HNN) writes about the gay marriage debate, attempting to shed light from Greco-Roman antiquity; specifically, he points out the 4th-cen. A.D. legislation (presumably inspired by Christian scriptures) against homosexual acts other than rape of free-born males:
While the first three centuries of the empire
saw no legislation as far as we can tell regarding homosexuality, aside
from the continuation of the Lex Scantinia as marked by its
citation by the Roman jurists, in the fourth century there would be
dramatic new laws condemning male homosexuality. Most scholars
interpret a convoluted law from the year 342 AD surviving in both the Theodosian Code and the Code of Justinian
as a decree from the emperors Constantius II and Constans that marriage
based on unnatural sex should be punished meticulously. Although
Constans himself was later denounced as having male lovers, this trend
of the emperors in condemning male homosexuality in laws would
continue. In a law of 390, surviving in the Theodosian Code and the Lex Dei
(‘Law of God’), the emperors Valentinian, Theodosius, and Arcadius
ordained that any man taking the role of a woman in sex would be
publicly burned to death.
And finally, in the Valentine's Day vein, Irene Virag (Newsday.com) cites (inter alia) some lines of "Sappho":
Actually, the royal treatment may have begun more than 2,500 years ago,
when the Greek poetess Sappho put her feelings right out there: "Would
Jove appoint some flower to reign/In matchless beauty on the plain/The
Rose (mankind will all agree)/The Rose the queen of flowers should be."
Yes, well...So where did those verses come from (asked the humanities.classics usenet group)? NOT from Sappho, in fact...and they're only verses in the English...They're the 18th-cen. poet Francis Fawkes' version (online in imperfectly legible form here) of a prose passage of Achilles Tatius' romance Cleitophon and Leucippe (II.1). Fawkes notes (not online) that these words are "generally ascribed to Sappho," which may have been true formerly, but is not true any more...Dona Martin, in Rose Lore (Sept. 2004), cites versions by Elizabeth Barrett Browning and J. A. Symonds, noting the provenance (Achilles Tatius), then goes off to the Anacreontea to follow up the trail of the "Queen of Flowers"...Here, finally, is Gaselee's (Loeb) translation of the passage in question:
If Zeus had wished to give the flowers a king, that king
would have been the rose; for it is the ornament of the world, the glory of the
plants, the eye of all flowers, the meadows' blush, beauty itself glowing; it
has the breath of Love, it is the go-between of Aphrodite; its foliage is of
sweet-smelling leaves, it glories in its rustling petals which seem to smile at
the approach of the Zephyr. [my emphasis]
Granted, in Achilles Tatius this is supposed to indicate what Leucippe sang, but it is not verse as written. Oh, and one of these days I should figure out how to put Greek text on this site...since as far as I can tell, A.T. is not online anywhere...
So, where does the heart symbol come from anyhow? John Riddle, a medical historian, is cited in The Age (Australia) for the idea that it derives from the heart-shaped seed pods of the silphium plant, which was used in ancient times as a contraceptive, and was thus an effective symbol for love...
Classical literature is rife with references to silphium. The
Roman bard Catullus alludes to its sexual properties in one of his
love poems. When asked how many kisses it will take to satisfy him,
he says: "As many as the grains of the sand in the desert near
Cyrene where silphium is gathered."
An article in the Washington Blade highlights "Coach Sappho"--a (gay and lesbian) relationship "coaching" service whose website notes:
Despite the fact that most of her works have been "fragmented,
distorted or lost" Sappho has continued to be revered up until today by
many academics and famous writers. Indeed, Erica Jong, the famous
author of Fear of Flying, has written a fascinating and often dramatic
fictional account of Sappho's life entitled Sappho's Leap.
Sandra Dick (Edinburgh Evening News) has been messing around with a "dating" website called illicitencounters.com...No, she's not looking for anything illicit herself; it's all for research...As the poor schmucks who contact her should realize from her handle:
I log on using my chosen name Hera - the Greek goddess who was the
protector of marriage. There, I chuckle, that should get those naughty