In what ways are love and lust as understood in the archaic world of Sappho different from those in contemporary western society?

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thanatassa | College Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

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Archaic Greek society was primarily homosocial. in other words, men associated primarily with men and women with other women. Much of this was due to traditions of marriage quite different than found in the modern western world. Men would normally marry when they assumed responsibility for family estates -- normally in their thirties. Due to a high rate of child mortality, women normally married in early puberty in order to maximize child-bearing potential. Women generally were involved in weaving and food preparation, and men in agricultural management, politics and military pursuits. Most Greek activities, and even religious rituals were segregated by gender. This led to a society in which love was primarily homosexual. Although men might have sexual relationships with female prostitutes and with their wives, the deeper emotional sympathies were most often directed towards other men. In Sappho, we see also that women, who primarily socialized with othder women, might also develop close emotional bonds with women.

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