People have worshiped queer gods and deities for millennia. Mortals throughout history looked to the gods for guidance, love, and acceptance regardless of sexuality. In this dive through history, we explore 52 immortals who enjoyed same-sex relationships.
A gay cupbearer on Mount Olympus? Male lovers in the Trojan War? While tolerance is often presented as a sign of civilization’s advancement, a reading of Greek mythology reveals greater acceptance of homosexuality in ancient Athens than can be boasted within today’s world religions. These LGBT Greek gods and demigods prove gay culture is no modern invention.
The Greek hero Achilles was invulnerable excepting his famous weak heel, but a male shieldbearer broke through the warrior’s romantic defenses. While Homer never explicitly states a gay relationship between Achilles and sidekick Patroclus, many scholars read a romantic connection between the two, as only Patroclus ever drew out a compassionate side to the famously arrogant warrior. Patroclus’s death at the hands of Trojan Prince Hector sent Achilles into a rage in which he killed Hector and dragged his body around Troy. Other myths also disclose Achilles was struck by the beauty of Troilus, a Trojan prince. Above: Jean-Baptiste Regnault, Education of Achilles (1780-1790)
While a famous philanderer who sired countless demigods by every peasant girl in need of an explanation to her parents, Zeus famously selected the young mortal Ganymede to serve as his cupbearer on Mount Olympus. The relationship provided the foundation of the custom of paiderastia, the practice of Greek men at the time maintaining erotic relationships with adolescent boys on the side. Above: Zeus and Ganymede, artist and date unknown.
A figure mostly known for his obsessive vanity, this son of a nymph and a river god would spend his last days gazing at his own reflection, but the first man he showed affection for was not himself. A myth traced in origin to the Boeotia region mentions a relationship between Narcissus and the smitten Ameinias, whom Narcissus would eventually grow tired of before sending him a sword as a kiss-off. Ameinias, desperately depressed over the rejection, killed himself. Above: Jean-George Vibert, Narcissus
The sun god, one of the most important in all literature, was also quite the libertine. Besides dalliances with numerous nymphs, Apollo was also lover to Macedonian Prince Hyakinthos, who died catching a thrown discus, then turned by the god into the hyacinth flower. The Pseudo-Apollodorus also said Apollo had been with Thracian singer Thamyris in the first man-on-man relationship in history. And for those who think same-sex nuptials are a 21st-century invention, Apollo also was in a relationship with Hymen, the god of marriage. Above: Alexander Kiselev, Apollo and Hyacinth (1884)
Euripedes wrote that this divine Peloponnesian hero was on the way to compete in the Nemean Games when his Theban tutor Laius ran off with him and raped him. The incident drew a curse upon the city of Thebes. Above: Chrysippus, kidnapped by Laius, looks for his father Pelops running behind the chariot; Volute Krater image (320 B.C.)
The wing-heeled messenger of the gods was said in multiple myths to have male lovers. In a variation of the Hyacinth myth, it was Hermes’ lover Crocus who was killed by a discus thrown by a god before being turned into a flower. Some myths suggest a romantic relationship between Hermes and the hero Perseus. And while some stories list Daphnis, the inventor of pastoral poetry, as the son of Hermes, other sources claim him to be the god of speed’s favorite lover. Above: Logios Hermes (Hermes Orator); marble, Roman copy from the late first century B.C.-early second century A.D. after a Greek original of the fifth century B.C.
Of course, many mythological texts and artworks connect Daphnis to the satyr Pan, god of music. Pan frequently was depicted in sculpture chasing both women and men around with his always-erect penis and oversized scrotum. Half man. Half goat. Bisexual. Size queen. Above: Rossi Domenico, Pan and Apollo (circa 1704), engraving