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According to Reeser's book Setting Plato Straight, it was the Renaissance that shifted the idea of love in Plato's sense to what we now refer to as "Platonic love"—as asexual and heterosexual.In 1469, In his commentary on Plato, Ficino interprets amor platonicus ("Platonic love") and amor socraticus ("Socratic love") allegorically as idealized male love, in keeping with the Church doctrine of his time.Fears that Greek models might "corrupt" traditional Roman social codes (the mos maiorum) seem to have prompted a vaguely documented law (Lex Scantinia) that attempted to regulate aspects of homosexual relationships between freeborn males and to protect Roman youth from older men emulating Greek customs of pederasty.The consul Quintus Lutatius Catulus was among a circle of poets who made short, light Hellenistic poems fashionable in the late Republic.The most common male-male relationship was paiderasteia, a socially-acknowledged institution in which a mature male (erastēs, the active lover) bonded with or mentored a teen-aged youth Greek art and literature portray these relationships as sometimes erotic or sexual, or sometimes idealized, educational, non-consummated, or non-sexual.A distinctive feature of Greek male-male eros was its occurrence within a military setting, as with the Theban Band, The death of Hyacinthus is also frequently referenced as a pederastic myth.Greek love is a term originally used by classicists to describe the primarily homoerotic, customs, practices and attitudes of the ancient Greeks.It was frequently used as a euphemism for homosexuality and pederasty.
Vase paintings from the 500s and 400s BCE depict courtship and sex between males.
For Ficino, "Platonic love" was a bond between two men that fosters a shared emotional and intellectual life, as distinguished from the "Greek love" practiced historically as the erastes/eromenos relationship.
Ficino thus points toward the modern usage of "Platonic love" to mean love without sexuality.
In his classic study Greek Homosexuality, Kenneth Dover points out that the English nouns "a homosexual" and "a heterosexual" have no equivalent in the ancient Greek language.
There was no concept in ancient Greece equivalent to the modern conception of "sexual preference"; it was assumed that a person would have both hetero- and homosexual responses at different times.