Europe and homosexuality
Datum: 08.09.2003
Splošne informacije - General Info

Generally (with some exceptions), at the beginning of the Christian era, homosexuality was nowhere in Europe either penalized or bared by the law. It was openly practiced, and even glorified by the Greeks and Romans, as it was by most peoples of the Mediterranean. It was reputed to have been wide spread, and respected among the Celts, as well as among the nomadic people of the Russian steppes and Asia Minor. There were no Nordic or Germanic laws against it, and it is not until the 7th Century, that the first European secular law criminalizes sodomy. In Northern and Eastern Europe sodomy did not enter the criminal codes until the 13th to 17th centuries (most of them in 16th and 17th century).

There are many reasons why this picture has changed. At first, the need for offspring always push heterosexuality in the foreground, so homosexual lifestyle was many times suspicious in some circles.

Secondly, because of despotic, patriarchal and hierarchical structure of human society, there were tendencies for making divisions, marginalisation and competition to assure one's own identity.

All these weaken the position of homosexual practices and lifestyles, but it is still not enough for open discrimination. China, for example, was centralized state, but only in the 18th century at the time of Manchu Qing dynasty homosexuality between consenting males was suddenly outlawed. Russia is another example. Before 18th century homosexuality was not persecuted. Peter the Great, bisexual himself, in 1706 condemned sodomy in the army. In 1832 the legal code of Nicholas I, patterned after German influence, prohibited "muzhelozhstvo", or anal intercourse, the only form of homosexual sexuality covered by Russian law. Punishment was exile to Siberia for few years. At the time of revolution no code discriminate homosexuality. It was stalinistic totalitarism who started to prosecute homosexuals.

We need another reasons for degradation of homosexuality and one is found in stoicism. In Roman Empire there was strong criticism of moral decline and in 249 A.D. the Roman Emperor Philip outlaws the "exoliti" (male prostitutes) in the West, although they still flourish another hundred years in the Eastern Empire. In the year 300 the jurist Paulus writes, that a male who voluntarily is passive to another male should lose half of his estate, and reiterates an earlier edict barring such men from the legal profession.

Fourth and very important reason lies in judeo-christian anti-sex religion. The history of homosexuality in Western Culture, in the first millennium of the Christian era, is largely the story of Christianity taking a tale of confusing and alternated moral import, the story of Sodom and Gomorrah, which only according to some contemporary jewish sources from this time is a story, which condemn male homosexuality. In 390 the Emperor Theodosius imposed the death penalty for forcing or selling males into prostitution. Later Justinian placed homosexual acts under the same category as adultery, and in his Code homosexuality is criminalized for the first time under Roman law "because of such crimes there are famines, earthquakes, and pestilences..." in the middle of 7th century Visigoths penalized sodomy, stipulating castration as the penalty. This is the first (western) European secular law to criminalize sodomy. But at the end of the same century the visigoth Church was describing sodomy as being "prevalent" in Spain. Pope Gregory III (8th century)specifies a penance of 160 days for lesbian activity, and as little as one year for homosexual acts between males, but in spite of this pope John XII (938-964) was holding homosexual orgies in the papal palace. In 12th century Christian religion got more power and situation became worse.

In 1179, the Church enacted excommunication for the sodomite layman. In 1212 in Paris the penalty for sodomy is fixed at death. This is the first secular law to criminalize sodomy since the Spanish Visigoth law of 654. It is also the first to prescribe the death penalty. Church rivalry with heresies was reason for the political background in which heresy and homosexuality were so closely aligned as to be virtually identical, and soon after that the great Church Father St Thomas Aquinas (1225-74) formulated his Christian sexual ethics: "right reason declares the appointed end of sexual acts is procreation," and declared that homosexuality was one of the gravest of the "peccata contra naturam" or "sins against nature". Persecution became more severe and death punishment was more often. The first record of burning at the stake for sodomy in Italy dates from this time, but more often were milder punishments. In 1451- Pope Nicholas V authourizes the papal inquisition to persecute male sodomy. Interesting event took place in Florence on August 31, 1512, when a group of 30 young aristocrats staged history's first gay rights demonstration by charging into City Hall, forcing a senior justice official to resign and demanding that the council revoke the sentences of all those who had been exiled or deprived of office for sodomy. After 70 years of sharp persecution it improved the position of sodomits. In 1432 Florence was the first European city to develop a committee to persecute crimes of sodomy. The "Uffizialidi Notte" (Officers of the night) prosecutes over 10,000 men and boys over the next 70 years and this number represent at least 10% of male population during this period. Only 2,000 are believed to have been convicted, as most avoid punishment by paying fines.

In those days homosexuals were commonly put on fire. When torture was in use, two "methods" were most popular. The first method was the usage of the POPE'S PEAR. The vaginal pear was used on woman who had sex with the Devil or his familiars and the rectal pear was used on passive male homosexuals. Inserted into the anus or vagina of the victim, the pear was expanded by use of the screw until the insides are ripped, stretched and mutilated, almost always causing death.

The second method was the usage of THE JUDA'S CRADLE. The victim is raised up by the rope or chain and then lowered until the vagina, anus or the coccyx rests on the top point of the pyramid. The torturer could vary the pressure by hanging weights from the victim or rocking or raising and dropping the victim from various heights.

Christian Europeans subdued American Indians. Justifying Spanish atrocities, Cortes often reminds his troops that they were engaged in a holy war against Aztec abominations of human sacrifice, idolatry, cannibalism and sodomy. Upon meeting Moctezuma in the year1520, Cortes was pleased to note that Aztec ruler was not a sodomite, as he had seemed to think all Mexican men were.

Fifth reason is political disqualification. In 1308 Philip IV of France with pope consent confiscated the Knights Templar's wealth under the pretext of charging them for heresy and sodomy. Their leaders are burned at the stake in 1314. And in 1327 English king Edward II. was murdered. Notoriously attracted to male favourites during his reign, he is held in the Tower, tortured and eventually murdered by his wife Isabella, whose henchmen shove a molten poker up the King's rectum.

Sixth reason is ascention of capitalistic production and burgeous thought in 15th and 16th century. Capitalistic production at that time was benevolent to patriarch, heterosexual and centralised society. Situation was dangerous because the Church was still in full power. At around 1700 A.D. and later the homophobia reached its peak. In Paris, for example, the police maintain a list of known pederasts, reputed to contain 20,000 names in the year 1725 (this is at least 8% of male population). In 1764 lawyer Cesare Beccaria called for the abolition of the death penalty for sodomy. His book has an important influence on European legal reform. After the victory of liberalism, sodomits were imprisoned and often hospitalized as mentally or morally handicapped people. This was the way how to "clean" the society in "empirical" and "human" way. There was no death penalty, but on the other side, such treatment maintained and prolonged homophobic attitudes and this sometimes leads to larger discrimination, as in the case of Nazism. Beside this there was a whole new region (Russian empire), which criminalized homosexuality on the liberal-positivistic basis of "science".

According to these causes Europe had been made one of the biggest anti-homosexual kettle and one of the biggest exporter of such spiritual climate in the world. Slovenian population was part of this Europe, too. Slovenia belonged to Holy Roman Empire and in about 1000 A.D., for example, Bishop of Worms classified homosexuality as a variety of fornication less serious than heterosexual adultery. He assigned penance for homosexual acts only to married men. Some German and Italian parts of Empire have some heretic societies in the 13th century, which believed that when members were fully initiated as "men of freedom", they would be incapable of sin. They fully accepted homosexuality in those having the desire. In medieval Austrian kingdom there was a trial of heretics in the year 1336, and they were also accused of sodomy- but not of sodomy alone, this was the process against witchcraft. But in 16th century things got worse and in 1532 the Constitution of Charles V, Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire, states that "if anyone commits impurity with a beast, or a man with a man, or a woman with a woman, they have forfeited their lives and shall, after the common custom, be sentenced to death by burning." In the zealotic Counter-reformation sodomits in Austrian lands have been sentenced to death at stake.

It was emperor Joseph II, who in 1787 eliminated torture, and reduced the penalty for homosexuality from death at the stake to life imprisonment. In the middle of 19th century penal code revision criminalized lesbianism, while the penalties for male homosexuals have been reduced. In the last part of communist Yugoslav regime, in the year 1976 Slovenian republic decriminalized homosexuality, but the consequences of homophobia are still present. In the year 1987 one of the most prominent Slovenian psychologists and thinkers Anton Trstenjak still wrote about homosexuals as social psychopaths...

But changes are on their way.

Links and sources:

URL članka je: