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Homosexuality Not Unusual In Military History From Caesar’s Day

February 1, 1993 GMT

NEW YORK (AP) _ Little has changed in the U.S. military’s attitude toward homosexuals since the American Revolution.

As early as 1778, George Washington ordered that soldiers convicted of sodomy be ″drummed out″ of the Continental Army, paraded past a gantlet of fifers and drummers in disgrace as they left the ranks.

By contrast, some of the most militaristic societies - from ancient Greece and Rome to feudal Japan and modern Prussia - have tolerated a gay presence in the military.

The campaigns of Alexander the Great, Julius Caesar and Frederick the Great might be closely studied in U.S. military war colleges. But historic evidence suggests that each of these legendary conquerors would have been unfit for duty in the U.S. armed forces because they enjoyed homosexual or bisexual relations.

Gay historian Martin Duberman says the legacy of gay warriors shows just how misinformed some of the stereotypes about effeminate homosexuals are.

″The stereotypes are so bizarre because it’s a function of ignorance,″ said Duberman, director of the Center for Lesbian and Gay Studies at the City University of New York.

″In the ancient world, homosexuality was associated with bravery and valor. ... and bisexuality was commonplace. Adult male citizens not only had wives and frequented brothels, but it was considered very normal to have teen- age male lovers.″

Some Greek city-states encouraged soldiers to go into battle with male lovers because it was felt they would fight harder to protect and avoid disgracing one another, Duberman said.

In 338 B.C., a band of male lovers from Thebes fought to the death against Philip of Macedonia in the battle of Chaeronea, he said.

Philip’s son, Alexander the Great, led his armies all the way east to northern India in the greatest conquest of ancient times. Although historical accounts are sketchy, Alexander was not only married but also had a passion for boys and a relationship with a eunuch, according to an entry in the ″Encyclopedia of Homosexuality.″

Julius Caesar had assorted wives, mistresses and male lovers, prompting the poet Catullus to refer to Caesar as ″the husband to every woman and wife to every man″ in Rome.

Caesar carried on a scandalous relationship with King Nicomedes of Bithynia, now in present-day Turkey. After conquering Gaul, Caesar’s victorious legions chanted, ″Caesar got on top of the Gauls, Nicomedes got on top of Caesar,″ the Roman historian Suetonius wrote.

The emperor Hadrian, who built a wall across Britain to prevent attacks by barbarians, had great love for the youth Antinous and was so grief-stricken by the youth’s death that he had monuments put up to commemorate the lost love.

Homosexual relations were also found among samurai warriors in some provinces of feudal Japan. Literary works from the Tokugawa Era, from 1603 to 1867, describe the adventures and self-sacrifice of pairs of male samurai lovers, according to the ″Encyclopedia of Homosexuality.″

The tradition continues up through the gay Japanese author Yukio Mishima, whose militarist views led him to commit ritual suicide in 1970 after haranguing Japan’s army for its weakness.

There is little dispute that Frederick the Great, who made Prussia a military power, was homosexual. Even the tamest histories concede that women did not play any role in his life - he lived apart from his wife and died childless in 1786.

Frederick was despised by his father, who had the 18-year-old crown prince court-martialed for desertion when he tried to leave for England with a young lieutenant. His father had the officer executed to teach Frederick a lesson, but that did not dissuade the prince from remaining homosexual.

On the more notorious side, there were many homosexuals in the Nazi SA brownshirts, including leader Ernst Roehm.

After helping Adolf Hitler come to power, Roehm and his followers were killed in the bloody ″Night of the Long Knives″ on June 30 to July 1, 1934.

Alan Berube, author of the book ″Coming Out Under Fire: The History of Gay Men and Women in World War II,″ says there is little point in compiling lists of great gay soldiers.

″Everybody concedes that gay men and lesbians have always been in the armed forces and that many have served bravely,″ said Berube, contacted by telephone in San Francisco. ″What the controversy is now is whether heterosexual soldiers have to know they are there.″