Thursday, 25 August 2011

The Gayest Games in Ancient Greece - Day 9

This week I’ve been describing the events of the Greater Panathenaean Games, the 4-yearly festival held in honour of the patron goddess of Athens, Athena. The exact timetable of events I’ve taken you through varied over the centuries. Sometimes the games lasted shorter. If you’ve been following you’ll agree with me that there was so much male-male love going on that they can be called the Gayest Games in Ancient Greece. Very few other Greek sport festivals owed so much to the influence of specific same sex relationships and the convention for erotic attachments between athletes.

The Gayest Games ended with a day of prize giving and celebration. The religious aspect was over and everyone could enjoy themselves. No doubt this would have included men and their boyfriends kissing and cuddling (they didn’t do that in public with their wives – that would be unnatural). And this reminds me of another contests the Ancient Greeks had in honour of an Athenian soldier called Diocles.

Diocles was a soldier from Athens. He may have even competed in the Greater Panathenaean Games. In the gyms of the city of Megara he fell in love with a young athlete and they became partners.

During a battle Diocles saw his young boyfriend was in danger and used his own shield to protect him. But that left him unprotected and Diocles was killed. The Megarans took this as a noble act and began a cult in his honour. Every year at the beginning of spring young athletes would gather at his tomb and compete in many games and contests.

One contest would have been perfect for me to judge. It was a kissing contest! Each young athlete would kiss a male judge (whether it was just a peck of the cheek or full sloppy kiss no-one knows) and the one who gave the “sweetest” kiss, as it is recorded, won a prize. I expect you can imagine what the prize for a decent kiss might be, but the judge only awarded a garland of flowers.

Perhaps I should start up a petition to introduce this kissing contest to the London Olympics. I’ll even volunteer to be the judge.

If you’d like to know more about the Greater Panathenaean Games – the Gayest Games in Ancient Greece – go to www.athens-greece.us/panathenaea.

I’ll have a break for a few days and be back after the Bank Holiday.

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