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Table of Contents > 2.16 Ephorus

2.16: Ephorus of Cyme, Fr. 149 FGrH

Ephorus was a historian of the mid-fourth century BCE. Here he discusses the Cretan practice of ritualized pederastic abduction.

They have a unique custom with regard to love affairs. For they do not win their boy-friends through persuasion, but through abduction. The lover warns the boy's friends and family three or more days in advance that he is going to carry out the abduction. It is most shameful for them to hide the boy or not allow him to travel the appointed road, as this is viewed as a confession that the boy is unworthy of such a lover. When they meet him, if the abductor is a man equal to or surpassing the social standing, and all else, of the boy, they only fight and pursue him a bit, enough to fulfill what is customary, and after that they turn the boy over and enjoy the occasion. But if the abductor is unworthy, they prevent him from taking the boy. The pursuit ends when the boy is brought to the men's building39 of the one who seized him. They think most desirable not the boy distinguished by beauty, but the one distinguished by bravery and good behavior. After giving him presents, he takes the boy away to any place in the countryside he wishes, and those who were present at the abduction accompany them; after feasting and hunting together for two months — for it is not permitted to keep the boy away any longer than that — they come down to the city. The boy is set free upon receiving as gifts military equipment, an ox, a drinking cup40 — these are the traditional gifts — and many other things, at such expense that his friends also contribute because of the magnitude of his expenses. The boy sacrifices this ox to Zeus and holds a feast for those who came down with him; then he gives his opinion of his time with his lover, whether it has happened to please him or not, for the custom gives him this prerogative, in order that, if violence has been used against him in the course of the abduction, he have the power at this point to avenge himself and escape. For those who are good-looking and from illustrious families it is a disgrace not to get a lover, since it is assumed that they suffer this because of their manner of living. The "sidekicks" — this is their name for those who were abducted — receive special honors in the dances and the most honored places at the races, and they are permitted to outfit themselves differently from the others, in the equipment they have received from their lovers. And not only then, but also when they are grown, they wear an outfit distinct from those of other men, from which each of them will be recognized as kleinos ("famous"). For they call the boy-friend a kleinos, and they call the lover a philętor ("lover"). These then are their customs regarding love affairs.
This website makes available to the public the first two chapters of Homosexuality in Greece and Rome: A Sourcebook of Basic Documents, edited by Thomas K. Hubbard and published by University of California Press in April 2003. The index also lists the rest of the sourcebook's contents; the book may be ordered at www.ucpress.edu, list price $34.95 paperback. In addition, a file of close to 200 pertinent artistic images is assembled, including those published in the sourcebook and many others. Acknowledgement is made to University of California Press for permission to reproduce this material, as well as to the various museums that have granted permission to use their photographic images. Comments may be directed to Prof. Hubbard at tkh@mail.utexas.edu.