Sexuality in ancient Egypt was open, untainted by guilt. Sex was an important part of life – from birth to death and rebirth. Singles and married couples made love. The gods themselves were earthy enough to copulate. The Egyptians even believed in sex in the afterlife. Sex was not taboo. Even the Egyptian religion was filled with tales of adultery, incest, homosexuality and masturbation… with hints of necrophillia! Masculinity and femininity itself were strongly linked with the ability to conceive and bear children.
..Revel in pleasure while your life endures
And deck your head with myrrh. Be richly clad
In white and perfumed linen; like the gods
Anointed be; and never weary grow
In eager quest of what your heart desires –
Do as it prompts you...
Homosexuality and Lesbianism
There is little evidence for lesbianism in ancient Egypt. There are two possible mentions, one being The Book of the Dead in Papyrus Nestanebtasheru (c. 970 BC) which mentions that she had never had sexual relations with the wife of a male – however, this may be because the text was mistakingly copied from the male version of the Book of the Dead instead of the correct female version. The other is related to a book of dreams, the Papyrus Carlsberg XIII (c. 2nd Century AD), which shows that lesbianism was at least recognised late in Egypt’s history:
If a married woman has intercourse with her, she will have an ill fate, and one of her children will [lacuna] … If a female has intercourse with her, she will lie.
— Manniche, L. 1987, Sexual Life in Ancient Egypt, pp. 102-103
There is, however, much more evidence for homosexuality, other than that occurring during the battle of Horus and Set:
Ancient Egyptian culture is shrouded in mystery due to its age and the paucity of sources which detail the average Egyptians’ life, and what does exist focuses more on the elite than the layman. This study delves into a highly intimate and secretive aspect of Egyptian life: same-sex desire. Through an examination of primary source documents and artifacts from Egypt, and existing Egyptological research, this study will catalogue homosexuality amongst males in Ancient Egypt in an effort to better understand the origins of documented queer history. The results of this study indicate that while same-sex desire amongst males was officially condemned, in practice the attitude seemed to be more accepting. Understanding that modern hetero-normative relationships do not monopolize history, and that in many cultures the family unit was not bound by modern day constructs is crucial for queer youth and other members of the queer community and better contextualizes our understanding of history.
Depictions of possible homosexuality
Nyankh-khnum and Khnum-hotep
The best known case of possible homosexuality in Ancient Egypt is that of the two high officials Nyankh-Khnum and Khnum-hotep. Both men lived and served under pharaoh Niuserre during the 5th Dynasty (c. 2494–2345 BC). Nyankh-Khnum and Khnum-hotep each had families of their own with children and wives, but when they died their families apparently decided to bury them together in one and the same mastaba tomb. In this mastaba, several paintings depict both men embracing each other and touching their faces nose-on-nose. These depictions leave plenty of room for speculation, because in Ancient Egypt the nose-on-nose touching normally represented a kiss.
Egyptologists and historians disagree about how to interprete the paintings of Nyankh-khnum and Khnum-hotep. Some scholars believe that the paintings reflect an example of homosexuality between two married men and prove that the Ancient Egyptians accepted same-sex relationships.
Other scholars disagree and interprete the scenes as an evidence that Nyankh-khnum and Khnum-hotep were twins, even possibly siamese twins. No matter what interpretation is correct, the paintings show at the very least that Nyankh-khnum and Khnum-hotep must have been very close to each other in life as in death.
King Pepi II and his general officer Sasenet
A well known story, dating back to the Middle Kingdom and handed down on three time apart from one another documents, tells about an anonymous citizen, who comes to the audience hall of king Pepi II (here named by his birth name, Neferkarê). The citizen wants to lament about an unnamed circumstance, but the king does not want to listen to the laments, so he orderes his royal musicians to drown the strangers speech with noise. Disappointed, the stranger leaves the palace. When this happens several times, he orders his friend, the high official Tjeti, to follow the king. The king in turn is frequently leaving the palace during the night. Tjeti finds out that king Pepi II keeps visiting his loyal general officer Sasenet for several hours, then returning back home.
The chapter in which king Pepi II visits his loyal general officer is subject of passionate discussions. Espacially one certain phrase stays in the centre of investigations: the text says, that “his majesty went into Sasenet’s house and did to him what his majesty desired.”. The phrase “doing what ones desires” is commonly an flowery paraphrase to describe sex. For this reason, some scholars are convinced, that the papyrus reveals king Pepi’s homosexual interests and his same-sex relationship to his general officer.
But other scholars are instead convinced, that the precarious passage is merely an allegoric pun to religious texts, in which the sun god Râ visits the underworld god Osiris during the middle four hours of the night. Thus, king Pepi II would be taking the role of Râ and Sasenet would take the role of Osiris. The phrases about “doing what ones desires” would therefor be overrated and misinterpreted.
Horus and Seth
A further famous story about same-sex interactions can be found in Papyrus Illahun, dating back to the Middle Kingdom. It contains the nearly completly preserved story of the Osiris myth and the legendary fight for the throne of Egypt between Horus and Seth. The chapter in question reports that Seth was unutterably jealous about his young nephew Horus, because Horus was very young and popular. He got literally pampered by the other gods. Seth instead had very few companions and he was comparatively unpopular because of his choleric and vindictive behaviour. As a result, Seth tried to either chase away or even kill Horus, no matter what the cost. When Seth constantly fails, he plans to humiliate his rival so badly, that Horus would be banned from Egypt for ever. Seth invites Horus to some kind of slumber party and convinces the teenage Horus to drink more booze than Horus could normally cope with. When Horus is boozed, Seth seduces him to sleep over the night in one bed together. When lying together in one bed, Seth grabs Horus and rapes him. But Horus has tricked Seth, his drunkenness was staged. He catches Seth’s semen with his hands and hides it. At the next morning, Horus runs to his Mother, Isis, to tell her what happened. Isis is first speechless with rage and disbelieve. Then she decides to return the like on Seth: she cuts off Horus’ hand and lubricates Seth’s semen on Seth’s own favorite food (Egyptian lettuce). Totally clueless, Seth eats the manipulated lettuce, then he goes to the divine court to inform on Horus. At first, the divine judges swear at Horus, but when Thot, the scribe of the court, calls for Seth’s semen to come out of the body of Horus, the semen instead comes out of the body of Seth. Seth blushes in embarrassment and shock, then flees. Horus is acquitted.
The famous rape of Horus by his jealous uncle is also subject of passionate discussions. While most scholars agree that the papyrus clearly describes rape, it must remain open, if it actually describes an homosexually driven deed. Background of the dispute are Seth’s motives: he does not love Horus, in contrast, he hates his nephew and the rape was clearly performed to humiliate Horus. The only common ground between the rape and homosexuality is that the act was of same-sex nature.
But some scholars are not so sure and point out, that Seth was often credited with questionable sexual interests. For example, Seth once tried to seduce his own sister Isis. In another story, taking place before the great fight for the throne, Seth makes clear overtures to Horus. Basically, Seth was often mentioned in sexual contexts that could be interpreted as “unnatural” or even “perverted”.
Ancient Egyptian views
It remains unclear, what exact view the Ancient Egyptians fostered about homosexuality. Any document and literature that actually contains sexual orientated stories, never name the nature of the sexual deeds, but instead uses stilted and flowery paraphrases. While the stories about Seth and his sexual behaviour may reveal rather negative thoughts and views, the tomb inscription of Nyankh-khnum and Khnum-hotep may instead proof, that homosexuality was likewise accepted. Ancient Egyptian documents never clearly say that same-sex relationships were seen as reprehensible or despicable. And no Ancient Egyptian document mentions that homosexual acts were set under penalty. Thus, an straight evaluation remains problematic
Further Information about Sexuality in Ancient Egypt
- Homosexuality in Ancient Egypt – Wikipedia
- Eros in Egypt – David O’Connor
- Family and Sexual Mores in Ancient Egypt – Daniel Kolos
- Drink, drugs and sex – André Dollinger
- Adult Life in Ancient Egypt – Digital Egypt
Many today feel that homosexuality was something that never existed in Africa until the Europeans came and began to colonize and spread their sexual evils amongst other things to the continent’s people. But as with most things we hear concerning this in the black church or in the barbershops or beauty salons; this is an absolute myth and lie that has been told to further demonize society’s current view of homosexuality and bi-sexuality.So often we overlook ancient and recent history and pretend things didn’t even exist because they don’t fit our present view of what we deem is morally correct or acceptable. For example there are cave paintings that were created by the San Bushman in Africa 2000 years ago that show men having sex (seems I am not the only one who loves porn).
While searching the internet for information related to this topic, I came across articles concerning the Zande (Azande) warrior tribe in Sudan and Congo. These warriors were featured on a show on Spike-TV in 2010 “Deadliest Warrior: Aztec Jaguar vs Zande Warrior”. It showcased their ferocity, weaponry and fighting skills (clip is below). Of course what they may not have known is that in the not so distant past, these warriors not only practiced homosexuality and bi-sexuality but actually married boys or young men.
Warriors would select a boy between the ages of 12-20 years of age and go to his parents and request the boys hand in marriage. The warrior would have to pay a bride price for the boy which would be in the form of spears (which are still valuable today) and other goods. Once married the warrior referred to the boy’s parents as gbiore and negbiore…”father-in-law and mother-in-law”. He and the boy addressed one another as badiare “my love or my lover”. The boy took on house hold responsibilities that included fetching water, building a fire and holding the warrior shield when traveling. The two slept together at night and the warrior would satisfy his sexual desires between the boy’s thighs. It was the duty of the warrior husband to give his boy-wife a spear and shield when he became of age. He was then trained to become a warrior and joined the warrior company. Once a warrior, he then took on a boy-wife of his own. This was all documented and later published by English anthropologist E.E. Evans-Pritchard in early 20th century.
This practice was not limited to just the warriors of the Zande people. If a boy appealed to a Zande prince, the prince would take on the boy as a page or servant. The prince would also offer the boy’s family compensation. When or if the prince died the page/s would also be killed to join him in death because they consumed the “prince’s oil” (wow; read between the lines on that one).
There were some men who had female wives but also married boys. When war broke out, they took their boys with them where they would perform duties at base camp. If another man had relations with the boy, the husband could sue the other man for adultery.
This is just one of many examples that I have come across during my research. It is widely believed with the evidence of the current fossil record that the roots of all homosapien life began in Africa. Homosexuality and Bisexuality are apart of the over all natural dynamics of human sexuality and has existed for thousands of years…IN AFRICA!
Zambian police have arrested a gay couple after the family of one of the men reported the relationship to authorities.
The arrest is the first of its kind under tough new anti-gay laws.
James Mwape (20) and Philip Mubiana (21) from the northern town of Kapiri Mposhi, are said to have been living together for some time.
“The two have been charged with the offence of sodomy or having sex against the order of nature contrary to the laws of Zambia,” said central province police chief Standwell Lungu.
The two men will appear in court on Wednesday.
Police allege that Mubiana played a female role in the relationship, and had at times attempted to dress like a woman, prompting his relatives to report the two to the police.
“The relatives are the ones that reported the matter to the police,” said Lungu.
Human rights activist Josab Changa said the authorities should stop arresting people practising same-sex marriages.
“Arresting them is an infringement on their human rights. Human rights should be respected irrespective of the perceived evil that somebody may do,” said Changa.
Last month, another rights activist, Paul Kasonkomona, was arrested for appearing on live television calling for the decriminalisation of homosexuality in this deeply conservative southern African state.
Homosexuality is also illegal in many other African countries.
Islamic people were always protective of their realign as if they cane hide the history from reviling itself it like trying to hide the sun so this my humble opinion on this subject.
LGBT topics and Islam are influenced by both the cultural-legal history of the nations with a large Muslim population, along with how specific passages in the Qur’anand statements attributed to the prophet Muhammad are interpreted. The mainstream interpretation of Qur’anic verses and hadith condemn homosexuality and cross-dressing. In this, Islam resembles socially conservative interpretations of other Abrahamic religions such as Judaism and Christianity.
Though often ignored or suppressed by European explorers and colonialists, homosexual expression in native Africa was also, The first recorded homosexual couple in history is commonly regarded as Khnumhotep and Niankhkhnum, an Egyptian male couple, who lived around the 2400 BCE. Khnumhotep and Niankhkhnum were ancient Egyptian royal servants and are believed by some to be the first recorded same-sex couple in history. The proposed homosexual nature of Khnumhotep and Niankhkhnum has been commented on the popular press, and the idea seems to (partially) stem from the depictions of the two men standing nose to nose and embracing. Niankhkhnum’s wife, depicted in a banquet scene, was almost completely erased in ancient times, and in other pictures Khnumhotep occupies the position usually designated for a wife. Their official titles were “Overseers of the Manicurists of the Palace of the King”.
Critics argue that both men appear with their respective wives and children, suggesting the men were brothers, rather than lovers
The pair are portrayed in a nose-kissing position, the most intimate pose in Egyptian art, surrounded by what appear to be their heirs and wives. This is not however uncontested as many archeologists including David O’Connor believe these to two to be blood relatives most likely twins.
Islamic view of Lot
Lot (Arabic: لوط, Lut) is an apostle and prophet of God in the Quran. He also appears in the Bible, but the Biblical stories of Lot are not entirely accepted within Islam. According to Islamic tradition, Lot lived in Ur and was the son of Haran and nephew of Abraham. He migrated with Abraham to Canaan inPalestine. He was commissioned as a prophet to the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. His story is used as a reference by Muslims to demonstrate Islam’s disapproval of sodomy. He was commanded by God to go to the land of Sodom and Gomorrah to preach to his people on monotheism and to stop them from their lustful and violent acts. According to both the Qur’an and the Hebrew Bible, Lot’s messages were ignored by the inhabitants and Sodom and Gomorrah were subsequently destroyed. One major difference between the story of Lot in the Qur’an and the story of Lot in the Bible is that the Biblical version includes the story of Lot being induced to incestuous relations with his own daughters. The Qur’an says that Lot is a prophet, and holds that all profits were examples of moral and spiritual rectitude. Though it is not altogether clear in the Bible story that Lot consented to his action, in Islam these stories of incest are considered to be false
The people of Sodom and Gomorrah, the twin cities which Lot was sent to with God’s message, transgressed consciously against the bounds of God. Their avarice led to inhospitality and robbery, which in turn led to the humiliation of strangers by mistreatment and rape. It was their abominable sin of homosexuality which was seen as symptomatic of their attitudes,and upon Lot’s exhorting them to abandon their transgression against God, they ridiculed him, threatening with dire consequences;Lot only prayed to God to be saved from doing as they did.
Then three angels in the disguise of handsome young boys came to Lot, who became distressed knowing the character of the people, and feeling himself powerless to protect the visitors; he said: “This is a distressful day.”When the people – overjoyed at the news of new young boys in the village – came to snatch them away from Lot, he tried to convince them to refrain from practising their lusts on the visitors, and offered his own daughters to them (to marry, according to the translation of Abdullah Yousuf Ali) in return for the boys’ free release, but they were unrelenting and replied “we have no need of your daughters: indeed you know quite well what we want!” The Qur’an remarks “… they moved blindly in the frenzy of approaching death”.
Lot was powerless to protect the boys, but they revealed to him that they were indeed angels sent by God to punish the people for their transgressions. They advised Lot to leave the place during the night and not look back, informing him that his wife would be left behind on account of her sinful nature and that they “…were about to bring down upon the folk of this township a fury from the sky because they are evil-doers”. Keeping his faith in God, Lot left his home and the cities during the night with his family and others who believed in him, and only his wife stayed behind. When morning came, God turned the cities upside down, and rained down on them brimstone hard as baked clay, spread, layer on layer’ putting an end to the lives of the people of Sodom and Gomorrah once and for all.
From Andalusia under the Moors to North Africa and the Middle East, Arab cultures have made space for male love, even though that space has often been hidden by a curtain of silence. Women are closely guarded in Arab society and thus unavailable for illicit relationships. Youths and men therefore have traditionally turned to each other for love and sexual relief. This love manifested in many ways. At one extreme it was a chaste religious practice where Sufi holy men gazed upon the beauty of a boy to come closer to God. At the other extreme, libertine poets like Abu Nuwas celebrated their gay conquests over unwilling or drunk boys.
Abu Nuwas, the first and foremost Islamic gay poet
Abu Nuwas, “Father of Curls,” so named for his long flowing hair that hung down to his shoulders, was the greatest Arab poet of his time, or as some claim, the greatest Arab poet of all time. His full name was Abu Nuwas al-Hasan ibn Hani al-Hakami. Abu Nuwas’s mother, Golban (Rose) by name, was a Persian weaver, and his father, whom he never knew, a soldier from Damascus. The mother sold the young Abu Nuwas (b. 756) to Sa’ad al-Yashira, a Yemeni druggist, who took him from Ahvaz, the town of his birth (presently in south-western Iran) to his home in Basrah (presently in south-eastern Iraq), in those days a great seaport, and abode of the mythical Sinbad the Sailor.
Lost in the strains of wafting music.
My eyes are fixed upon his delightful body
And I do not wonder at his beauty.
His waist is a sapling, his face a moon,
And loveliness rolls off his rosy cheek
I die of love for you, but keep this secret:
The tie that binds us is an unbreakable rope.
How much time did your creation take, O angel?
So what! All I want is to sing your praises.(Love in Bloom; after Monteil, p. 95)
to the provocative,
And for old wine set clear water out of mind.
Far from the straight road, I took without conceit
The winding way of sin, because [this horse]
Has cut the reins without remorse,
And carried away the bridle and the bit.
(A Boy Is Worth More Than a Girl;
after Monteil, p. 91)
During the Middle Period, upper class men often had young males who played the passive role in the relationship, supporting this notion of the inherent subordination of the woman’s traditional role , Particularly in Morocco, it was seen as equal to have a young male sex partner as it was to have a young girl; male prostitution was also common. Even in contemporary Morocco, homosexuality between a man and a youth carries little social stigma; it is viewed as both natural and an expression of dominance and power.
Whatever the legal strictures on sexual activity, the positive expression of male homeoerotic sentiment in literature was accepted, and assiduously cultivated, from the late eighth century until modern times. First in Arabic, but later also in Persian, Turkish and Urdu, love poetry by men about boys more than competed with that about women, it overwhelmed it. Anecdotal literature reinforces this impression of general societal acceptance of the public celebration of male-male love (which hostile Western caricatures of Islamic societies in medieval and early modern times simply exaggerate). …
In a tradition from the Arabian Nights, a collection of myths and folk tales, Muhammad was said to have warned his followers against staring at youth because of their beauty: “Be careful, do not gaze at beardless youth, for they have eyes more tempting than the houris.”
Today, governments in the Middle East often ignore, deny the existence of, or criminalize homosexuality. Homosexuality is illegal in almost all Muslim countries. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, during his 2007 speech at Columbia University, asserted that there were no gay people in Iran. Gay people do live in Iran, but most keep their sexuality a secret for fear of government sanction or rejection by their families.
“These relationships were not only about sex, but also about cultivating affection between the partners, placing certain responsibilities on the man with regard to the future of the boy. Sisterhood sigehs involving lesbian practices were also common in Iran. A long courtship was important in these relations. The couple traded gifts, traveled together to shrines, and occasionally spent the night together. Sigeh sisters might exchange vows on the last few days of the year, a time when the world ‘turned upside down,’ and women were granted certain powers over men.”
Examples of the codes governing same-sex relations were to be found in the “Mirror for Princes genre of literature (andarz nameh) [which] refers to both homosexual and heterosexual relations. Often written by fathers for sons, or viziers for sultans, these books contained separate chapter headings on the treatment of male companions and of wives.”
One such was the Qabus Nameh (1082-1083), in which a father advises a son: “As between women and youths, do not confine your inclinations to either sex; thus you may find enjoyment from both kinds without either of the two becoming inimical to you… During the summer let your desires incline toward youths, and during the winter towards women.”
Afary dissects how “classical Persian literature (twelfth to fifteenth centuries)…overflowed with same-sex themes (such as passionate homoerotic allusions, symbolism, and even explicit references to beautiful young boys.)” This was true not only of the Sufi masters of this classical period but of “the poems of the great twentieth-century poet Iraj Mirza (1874-1926)… Classical poets also celebrated homosexual relationships between kings and their pages.”