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Aeschines
(390 - 322 BC) Greece

Aeschines

Athenian statesman and orator

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Aeschines was a leading player in the diplomatic and military manoeuvres which reached their climax in the battle of Chaeronea (338 BC), where Philip of Macedon defeated a Greek alliance led by Athens and Thebes,

Demostenes, the greatest orator of the age, was associated with Aeschines in the search for peace, but a fundamental split soon developed between them. Aeschines came to stand for peaceful cohexistence with Philip, whereas Demostenes, distrusting Philip's intentions, advocated resistence by force.

Aeschines accused Trimarcus, a substaier of Demostenes, of being a hetairos (homosexual prostitute). He was not against love between people of the same sex , in fact he acknowledges that he himself is erotikos (a lover of boys), and he also wrote poems of an amatory nature for boys.

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A prose work containing important information on Athenian law and throws much light on popular attitudes toward male love is Aeschines' speech, Against Timarchus (345 B.C.E.). Demosthenes had accused Aeschines of betraying the city's interests in its negotiations with Philip of Macedon, and a popular demagogue named Timarchus had joined him in the indictment.

Aeschines' defense was to accuse Timarchus of having led the life of a male courtesan: Athens had a law that men who prostituted themselves lost their civic rights and could not bring charges in the courts.

What is striking about Aeschines' speech, however, is the pains he takes to make it clear that he is not opposed to male love affairs generally. He imagines that some Athenian general will appear in Timarchus' defense and attack Aeschines as an opponent of "honorable love" and a threat to traditional Athenian culture.

Wanting to appear on the popular side of a long-standing debate, Aeschines quotes lengthy passages from the Iliad to argue for the view that Achilles and Patroclus were indeed lovers. He names approvingly various young Athenians well known for having attracted lovers through their beauty.

He confesses, moreover, that he too has made a nuisance of himself by pursuing young men in the gymnasia and has written erotic verse. Aeschines' rhetoric throughout his speech demonstrates how strongly Athenian sentiment in the late classical period favored male love, provided it was not tainted by mercenary motives.

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