|c. 12,000 B. C.
Near the end of the Upper Paleolithic Era, human beings have left artifacts and works of art suggesting an appreciation of homo eroticism. Examples include a few cave paintings and hundreds of phallic "batons" among which is a graphically carved double dildo from Gorge d'Enfer (in present-day France) that seems to have been crafted for two women to use together.
c. 5000 B.C.
Examples Of homo eroticism in European Mesolithic art include a rock engraving found in Addaura, Sicily, in which men and women dance around two cavorting male figures, both of whom have erections.
c. 2600 B.C.
Fifth Dynasty Egypt: The tomb of two men who worked as manicurists and hairdressers for King Niuserre features a bas-relief of the two men embracing, a rare pose in Egyptian art even in depiction's of male-female couples.
c. 2500 B.C.
Sumer, in the Middle East: An unknown poet begins composing the Epic of Gilgamesh. The world's oldest surviving epic includes literature's first homoerotic love story, the death-defying friendship of the sexually insatiable Gilgamesh and the wild man Enkidu.
c. 2200 B.C.
Sixth Dynasty Egypt: A chronicler suggests that King Neferkare and General Sisene, a high-ranking official, have had a secret affair.
Egypt: A book about women's dreams includes references to two women having sex with each other.
c. 1750 B.C.
Babylonia: The Code of Hammurabi mentions girsequ male palace servants who provide sexual services for men in the ruling class.
Greece: The Middle East, and South Asia, chroniclers and geographers leave accounts of battles with nations of Amazons, women warriors who live in matriarchal societies.
c. 700 B.C.
China: The Shi Jing ("Classic of Songs/Poetry"), the oldest surviving Chinese anthology, contains verse expressing admiration and affection for strong, handsome men. This and other sources suggest that Chinese traditions of homo eroticism go back at least as far as the Zhou (Chou) Dynasty (1 122-256 B.C.)
Greece: The poet Alcman writes a hymn for a chorus of virgins in celebration of the marriage of two young women, Agido and Hagesichora. United in love, the couple become part of a community of young women called a thiasos and vow to remain impervious to the charms of the other desirable young women who surround them.
Sparta: Greece men and women lead largely separate lives. Ruling-class women as well as men are expected to have romantic mentoring relationships with younger members of their own sex.
c. 600 B.C.
Greece: Men leave inscriptions on a rock wall on the island of Thera recording the sex they have there with boys (paides), perhaps as part of an initiation ritual. One example: "Here Krimon and his boy, Bathykles' brother, had anal intercourse."
Greece: Island of Lesbos: Sappho composes the most praised love poetry of the ancient world. The head of a thiasos-a community of women in which girls study music, dance, and other arts-Sappho immortalizes the desire and passion she and other women in the thiasos feel for one another.
594 B. C.
Athens, Greece: A law code attributed to Solon includes strict regulations meant to protect freeborn boys from the sexual advances of inappropriate-as opposed to appropriately aristocratic-male adults.
c. 570 B.C.
Greece: Homo eroticism becomes one of the most popular themes for decorating vases and other pieces of pottery. Ranging from tender to grotesque, the painted scenes feature men, youths, boys, lusty satyrs, and an occasional god. One (or possibly two) shows seductive behavior between women.
c. 520 B.C.
Greece: A poem by the lyric poet Anacreon is the earliest recorded instance of a writer using "Lesbos" in a sense that may suggest sexual orientation: Anacreon addresses a "girl from Lesbos" who rejects the white-haired poet and "gapes at another girl" instead.
Athens, Greece: Hipparchus, the ruling tyrant's brother, becomes jealous and insulting when a handsome young man named Harmodius rejects his advances. Harmodius and his lover Aristogiton kill him in revenge but fall in their attempt to assassinate his brother. Arrested and executed, the couple is immortalized by later generations of Greeks as heroes in the struggle for democracy and emblems of the positive potential power of love relationships between men.
c. 500 B.C.
China: Duke Ling of Wei lavishes attention on a male courtier named Mizi Xia, then spurns him when his looks fade. Mizi Xia remains loyal, however, and his name becomes part of the Chinese language: for more than 2,000 years a "mizi xia" will suggest a man who loves men.
c. 450 B.C.
Palestine: The Holiness Code of Leviticus becomes part of the laws of Judaism. Leviticus 20:13 reads: "If a man also lie with mankind as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death." Bible scholars and jurists will dispute the exact meaning of these 9 words over the next 2,500 years; most, however, interpret the passage to mandate the death penalty for male-male sex acts.
c. 400 B.C.
Greece: On the island of Telos, a poet named Erinna writes a long poem lamenting the loss of her beloved Baucis to marriage and death. Erinna, who later dies at the age of 19, is one of several Greek women poets whose work, now mostly lost but widely acclaimed in ancient times, is thought to have included elements of homo eroticism.
Athens, Greece: Plato's Symposium includes a speech by a man named Aristophanes, who suggests what is probably the world's first recorded theory of sexual orientation: All human beings were originally similar to Siamese twins. After the gods split them apart, each yearned for his or her "lost half." Those who had been male/female thus sought the opposite sex; those who had been male/male or female/female desired the same sex.
Athens, Greece: a prominent citizen named Timarchus is successfully prosecuted and barred from politics, largely for having prostituted himself to men in his youth. The verdict is evidence of the Athenian bias against male citizens-as opposed to women, foreigners, and slaves-who allow themselves to be penetrated during sex.
Greece: The military heroism and fighting spirit of the Sacred Band of Thebes, a corps of 150 male couples, impresses Philip of Macedon, the leader of the army that slaughters all 300 of the lovers.
c. 200 B.C.
Peru: the Moche people achieve a standard of perfection in ceramic sculpture seldom equaled since. Many of their imaginative, often humorous creations are erotic, with depictions of female-female sexual activity alongside male-male and male-female figures. Same-sex eroticism remains common among many peoples in the region until the Inca era. In India, the epic Ramayana includes a brief but evocative scene of female-female eroticism.
c. 185 B.C.
India: Brahman philosophers compile the highly influential Laws of Manu. Believing that all erotic thought and behavior weakens the mind and character, they prescribe ritual bathing to wash away the "pollution" of same-sex acts.
c. 55 B.C.
Rome: Catullus writes poetry, much of which is inspired by his lively and varied sex life, that will be praised and imitated for generations to come. Besides describing an Ill-fated affair with a woman he calls Lesbia, Catullus addresses eight poems to his young male lover Juventius.
c. 40 B.C.
The Greek geographer and historian Strabo writes of communities of Celtic women living in Gaul (in present-day France) and the sacred sexual rituals they perform with one another.
c. 30 B.C.
Rome: the poets Virgil and Horace celebrate the amorous attractions of both young men and women. Virgil's second Eclogue, a monologue relating the shepherd Corydon's unrequited love for a slave boy called Alexis, becomes the most famous Roman homoerotic poem.