Theodore John Cadoux and P. J. Rhodes
D. M. Halperin
Sexual and amorous relationships between females constitute, as a heuristic category, an illuminating field of research for the construction of sexual categories in antiquity, as well as for the prevailing gender system of the time. In Greece and Rome, sexuality did not have the identity function that we attribute to it today: in these societies “before sexuality,” the category of female homosexuality, like those of heterosexuality or homosexuality in general, did not exist per se. Yet we have access to over forty documents (containing both substantial treatments and brief mentions), along with the terms hetairistria and tribas, associated with this semantic field.
In Archaic Greece, the privileged expression of erotic desire between women can be found without ambiguity in the verses of Alcman and Sappho. In this community context, the force of eros is celebrated, and the joys and pains generated by its power are sung without differentiation based on gender categories. In Classical and Hellenistic Greece, the sources become rarer: female homosexuality disappears from our evidence for the possible configurations of eros, with the notable exception of Plato’s account (Symposium, Laws). Throughout the 3rd and 2nd centuries
In antiquity, there is no perceived equivalence between male homoerotic love and female homoerotic love, just as the image of the tribas is not identical or strictly parallel to the figure of the Greek kinaidos or the Roman mollis. While the latter two may in certain circumstances embody a deviant masculinity that defines, through opposition, the masculine ideal, the tribas does not occupy any similar position in contrast to a figure embodying positive and privileged femininity: in this respect, the ancient gender system is not symmetrical.
G. J. Toomer
Woman learned in mathematics, astronomy, and philosophy (d. 415
Hypsicratia, mistress of *Mithradates VI Eupator, who admiringly called her by the male form of the name, Hypsicrates (Plut. Pomp. 32. 8). Her commemorative funerary statue has been found at Phanagoreia on the Cimmerian *Bosporus (2); it calls her Hypsikrates, but makes clear she was female. The inscription perhaps (Bowersock) formed part of the restoration of Mithradates’ prestige in the time of his grand-daughter Dynamis.