The Untold Story Of The Male Prostitutes Of Ancient Greece

The Untold Story Of The Male Prostitutes Of Ancient Greece

By: Alejandro I. López -

The world's history was built amidst a misogynist society, so it's no wonder that women were relegated to a secondary and inferior role, contrary to all those great men from the past that forged rational thinking, arts, and sciences. From St. Augustine to Schopenhauer and Darwin, history has focused its narrative on male achievements. Everything related to women encouraged foolish hullabaloos: the punishments of the inquisition during the Dark Ages or the emergence of female hysteria to explain and prove women's chaotic tendencies.

Male prostitution rome greece

The conception of women as the embodiment of evil resulted in the omission of specific historical passages where the male gender does not appear exactly as powerful or as superior. One of these passages is the story of male prostitutes in ancient Greece and Rome:

Men and Prostitution

Male prostitution rome greece 2

In ancient Greece, sexual orientation had a minor role in the construction of gender. No one was defined by their sexual preferences, and social norms saw sex as a natural practice that had nothing to do with belonging to a polis or acceptance from the others.

Male prostitution was as common as female prostitution. However, masculinity expressed a "superiority principle" during sex. The "active-passive" binomial in sex acquired a transcending significance, since a person's role during the sexual act became an authentic way to express their social status: the men and women who were penetrated had a submissive role, and thus were inferior, while the "penetrator"was usually a high ranking individual with a social or military title.

Male prostitution rome
Unlike female prostitutes, men could offer their bodies to women, even though they were meant for the enjoyment and pleasure of other individuals of the same sex. This kind of job may have been legal in Greek polis that were dedicated to trade. There were two different ways of practicing male prostitution that were degrading in different levels.

Tramps with no rights or escorts

Male prostitution rome pornoi

Tramos or pórnoi were considered inferior or unwanted, as they sold their bodies just to earn enough to survive, but none of them were citizens. Since they were prisoners of war, they were considered even more inferior than the lower stratum of Hellenic society. Their passive role was strictly necessary for those who required their services. Roman society adopted the same principle, which was enforced by several laws that made sure that the high-raking person took the active role as penetrator. Otherwise, the pornoi could be prosecuted and receive capital punishment.

The second type of male prostitutes were called hetairikos. Their status was similar to that of a high-ranking female prostitutes, called hetaeras. Their role was similar to that of today's escorts. These men would be temporarily "adopted" by citizens of the same rank. They provided sexual favors to their  "masters," as long as they respected the active-passive principle of their relationship, at least in public.

Male prostitution rome hetairikos


Martínez Fernández, Ángel, "Imágenes de las heteras y la prostitución femenina y masculina"
Arqueología e Historia del Sexo


Would you like to learn more about sexual practices in ancient cultures? Don't forget to check out:

Pompeii: Ancient Rome’s Capital Of Lust And Perversion

The Role Of Sex In The Origin Of The Universe According To Ancient Myths


Translated by Andrea Valle Gracia