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Athenian pederasty entailed a formal bond between an adult man and an adolescent boy outside his immediate family, consisting of loving and often sexual relations.As an erotic and educational custom it was initially employed by the upper class as a means of teaching the young and conveying to them important cultural values, such as bravery and restraint.Athenian society generally encouraged the erastes to pursue a boy to love, tolerating up to sleeping on the youth's stoop and otherwise going to great lengths to make himself noticed.At the same time, the boy and his family were expected to put up resistance and not give in too easily, and boys who succumbed too readily were looked down upon.
This ritual has been named by historians the "up and down gesture" and is routinely encountered in depictions on vases.The erotic and sexual aspect of the relationship, usually consisting of embracing, fondling and intercrural sex, ended when the youth reached adulthood, and evolved into a lifelong friendship (philia).A number of laws addressed the issue of relations between men and boys.None but citizens could engage free boys in pederastic relationships.A law stated that “A slave shall not be the lover of a free boy nor follow after him, or else he shall receive fifty blows of the public lash”, and slaves likewise were forbidden from the wrestling schools: “A slave shall not take exercise or anoint himself in the wrestling-schools”. Commercial pederasty involving free boys was also forbidden.
The relative who lent out a ward for illicit intercourse was punished.