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Published 21 September 2023

Between Byzantine Men

Desire, Homosociality, and Brotherhood in the Medieval Empire

Mark Masterson

The presence and importance of same-sex desire between men in the Byzantine Empire has been understudied. While John Boswell and others tried to open a conversation about desire between Byzantine men decades ago, the field reverted to emphasis on prohibition and an inability to read the evidence of same-sex desire between men in the sources. Between Byzantine Men: Desire, Homosociality, and Brotherhood in the Medieval Empire challenges and transforms this situation by placing at centre stage Byzantine men's desiring relations with one another.

This book foregrounds desire between men in and around the imperial court of the 900s. Analysis of Greek sources (many untranslated until now) and of material culture reveals a situation both more liberal than the medieval West and important for its rite of brother-making (adelphopoiesis), which was a precursor to today’s same-sex marriage. This book transforms our understanding of Byzantine elite men's culture and is an important addition to the history of sex and desire between men.

Between Byzantine Men will appeal to scholars and general readers who are interested in Byzantine History, Society, and Culture, the History of Masculinity, and the History of Sexuality.


Madrid Skylitzes, by John Skylitzes, fol. 85va "Victory of Basileios I over a Bulgarian in wrestling match" (Source Wikimedia Commons)

Mark Masterson is Associate Professor of Classics at Te Herenga Waka Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand. He is the author of Man to Man: Desire, Homosociality and Authority in Late-Roman Manhood (2014), as well as a number of articles and book chapters on sexuality and masculinity. He is also one of editors of the collection, Sex in Antiquity: Exploring Gender and Sexuality in the Ancient World (2015).

Additional information: Published by Routledge