Reading Between the Lines

LGBTQ+ Ancient Greek Reading Group

What was it like to be gay in ancient history? How did people in Greco-Roman times understand gender? Did they record any stories of trans people that we would recognise as such today? Are there positive examples of LGBTQ+ people in the Bible? Are there stories of gay relationships that really were equal and loving, and not obviously problematic? Or do we just have to throw up our hands and say ‘It’s all queer to me’?

If you would like to know the answers to any of those questions, or if you would just like to practice your Ancient Greek, then join us for Reading Between the Lines: an LGBTQ+ Ancient Greek Reading Group. We’ll be reading texts ranging from Homer in the 8th century BCE to the Life of St. Apolinaria, a trans saint who lived in the 5th century CE. We’ll cover L, G, B, T and Q stories in as equal measure as possible, whether written in Archaic or Classical Greek, or later Koine Greek (both biblical and secular). Everyone is welcome, regardless of how much you know of which dialect of Ancient Greek: if all you are able to do is look up a few words, the group and leader will do the rest. You are also welcome if all you want to do is listen and watch others translate. Beginners and experts alike will find that they learn something and get some valuable practice reading. Also, you do not have to be LGBTQ+ to attend!

The texts we will cover in the first year are:

1. Hadrian and AntinousCassius Dio, Historiae Romanae 69.11
2. Ruth and NaomiSeptuaginta, Routh 1.3-18
3. St. ApolinariaSelections from The Life of Saint Apolinaria
4. Achilles and PatroclusHomer, The Iliad 23.316-342
5. Gender in Plato’s SymposiumPlato, Symposium 189d-e and 191d-192c
6. David and JonathanSelections from Septuaginta, 1 Reigns 16.11 – 2 Reigns 1.26
7. SapphoSappho, Fragments 31, 34, 47 and 57
8. The Centurion and his ΠΑΙΣThe New Testament, Luke 7.1-10, Matthew 8.5-13
9. Emperor ElagabalusSelections from Cassius Dio, Historiae Romanae 80.13-16
10. St. Paul’s Unnatural EthicsThe New Testament, Romans 1.16-2.4
11. Alexander and HephaistionPlutarch, Alexander 47.5-7, 72.1-4
12. Perpetua and FelicitasSelections from The Passion of Saints Perpetua and Felicity

When? We meet on Zoom on the second Wednesday of every month at 7:30pm UK time, and on the last Tuesday of every month at 10:30pm UK time (usually 5:30pm on the East Coast of the US), for 90 minutes. A new group will start in April 2023, meeting on the second Monday of every month at 8:30pm UK time. This time might be subject to change depending on the availability of those interested.

How? I will be providing people with a handbook that contains all of the texts we will be reading, short introductions to each one, queer art by queer artists for every text, and all the tools I can find to help you translate the different types of Greek we will be reading. Anyone who would like a small section to translate will let me know ahead of time, and I will assign a few sentences. That person will then lead the group through what they have managed to do; and if that was only looking up a few words but not knowing how to string them together, then the rest of the group, perhaps nudged in the right direction by the leader, will help to make a translation out of it. It is a team effort, so that you are welcome to attempt to translate even if you are a beginner and might not get very far. When we do Sappho and Plato chances are that most people will struggle anyway!

Who? Anyone who knows any amount of any Ancient Greek (whether Classical or Koine). You do not have to be LGBTQ+, and you do not have to be a Greek expert. You are not obliged to translate anything in front of the group, and the reading group leader will help you through anything you are not able to translate.

For how much? The cost is £18 per session if you are in the UK, or $22 if you are paying with US dollars. For other prices please get in touch.

To join, contact me by emailing, and I will send you a Zoom link.

Picture credits: The Roses of Heliogabalus by Lawrence Alma-Tadema, 1888. Public domain via Wikimedia Commons. Antinous Boy by Jordan Pedde. Used with permission. Perpetua and Felicitas by Katy Miles-Wallace. Used with permission.