Did the Ancient Greeks Kiss as a Show of Affection?
Although ancient Greek culture was in many respects different from society today, in regard to expressing affection, a kiss was still a kiss. In addition to being a common mode of greeting, kissing was a way of showing romantic love and could also express other forms of emotional attachment.
1 Kissing in Literature and Art
Evidence of affectionate kissing can be found in ancient Greek literature and art. In the works of the epic poet Homer as well as Greek dramatists, kissing could express a deep emotional bond of friendship as well as parents' love for their children. Moreover, affectionate kissing was also depicted in images painted on ancient Greek art. For instance, kissing between male lovers was a common trope in images painted on ancient Greek pottery. Affectionate kissing also appeared in mythological scenes, such as the images depicting satyrs and nymphs.
2 Affectionate Kissing and Gender Politics
While it was socially acceptable for adult males to kiss boys in public, heterosexual kisses were more problematic, especially if the woman was the aggressor. For instance, the satirical playwright Aristophanes cites a wife's aggressive tongue kisses as evidence of her loucheness. Similarly, the fifth-century Athenian general and orator Pericles and his companion Aspasia were ridiculed for their affectionately kisses every day as he went to and from the public square, an indication that the general was being held in the thrall of a woman of questionable character.
- 1 Leeds International Classical Studies; "Give Me a Thousand Kisses": The Kiss, Identity and Power in Greek and Roman Antiquity; Richard Hawley
- 2 Images of Ancient Greek Pederasty: Boys Were Their Gods; Andrew Lear and Eva Cantarella
- 3 The Origins of Theater in Ancient Greece and Beyond: From Ritual to Drama; Eric Csapo and Margaret C. Miller, eds.
- 4 University of Chicago - Encyclopedia Romana: Aspasia of Miletus