This is part 1 of 2. Part 2 is here.
Οὐκ ἄτοπον δ’ ἂν ἴσως εἴη πρὸς τούτοις καὶ εἰδικώτερον ἐπιστῆσαι διὰ βραχέων ταῖς ὑπολήψεσι ταῖς περὶ αἰσχρῶν καὶ οὐκ αἰσχρῶν, ἀθέσμων τε καὶ οὐ τοιούτων καὶ νόμων καὶ ἐθῶν καὶ τῆς εἰς θεοὺς εὐσεβείας καὶ τῆς περὶ τοὺς κατοιχομένους ὁσιότητος καὶ τῶν ἐοικότων· καὶ γὰρ οὕτω περὶ τῶν πρακτέων ἢ μὴ πολλὴν εὑρήσομεν ἀνωμαλίαν. οἷον γοῦν παρ’ ἡμῖν μὲν αἰσχρόν, μᾶλλον δὲ καὶ παράνομον νενόμισται τὸ τῆς ἀρρενομιξίας, παρὰ Γερμανοῖς δέ, ὡς φασίν, οὐκ αἰσχρόν, ἀλλ’ ὡς ἕν τι τῶν συνήθων. λέγεται δὲ καὶ παρὰ Θηβαίοις τὸ παλαιὸν οὐκ αἰσχρὸν τοῦτο εἶναι δόξαι, καὶ τὸν Μηριόνην τὸν Κρῆτα οὕτω κεκλῆσθαί φασι δι’ ἔμφασιν τοῦ Κρητῶν ἔθους, καὶ τὴν Ἀχιλλέως πρὸς Πάτροκλον διάπυρον φιλίαν εἰς τοῦτο ἀνάγουσί τινες. καὶ τί θαυμαστόν, ὅπου γε καὶ οἱ ἀπὸ τῆς κυνικῆς φιλοσοφίας καὶ οἱ περὶ τὸν Κιτιέα Ζήνωνα καὶ Κλεάνθην καὶ Χρύσιππον ἀδιάφορον τοῦτο εἶναί φασιν; καὶ τὸ δημοσίᾳ γυναικὶ μίγνυσθαι, καίτοι παρ’ ἡμῖν αἰσχρὸν εἶναι δοκοῦν, παρά τισι τῶν Ἰνδῶν οὐκ αἰσχρὸν εἶναι νομίζεται· μίγνυνται γοῦν ἀδιαφόρως δημοσίᾳ, καθάπερ καὶ περὶ τοῦ φιλοσόφου Κράτητος ἀκηκόαμεν. ἀλλὰ καὶ τὸ τὰς γυναῖκας ἑταιρεῖν παρ’ ἡμῖν μὲν αἰσχρόν ἐστι καὶ ἐπονείδιστον, παρὰ δὲ πολλοῖς τῶν Αἰγυπτίων εὐκλεές· φασὶ γοῦν, ὅτι αἱ πλείστοις συνιοῦσαι καὶ κόσμον ἔχουσι περισφύριον, σύνθημα τοῦ παρ’ αὐταῖς σεμνολογήματος. παρ’ ἐνίοις δὲ αὐτῶν αἱ κόραι πρὸ τῶν γάμων τὴν προῖκα ἐξ ἑταιρήσεως συνάγουσαι γαμοῦνται. καὶ τοὺς Στωικοὺς δὲ ὁρῶμεν οὐκ ἄτοπον εἶναι λέγοντας τὸ ἑταίρᾳ συνοικεῖν ἢ τὸ ἐξ ἑταίρας ἐργασίας διαζῆν. ἀλλὰ καὶ τὸ ἐστίχθαι παρ’ ἡμῖν μὲν αἰσχρὸν καὶ ἄτιμον εἶναι δοκεῖ, πολλοὶ δὲ Αἰγυπτίων καὶ Σαρματῶν στίζουσι τὰ γεννώμενα. τό τε ἐλλόβια ἔχειν τοὺς ἄρρενας παρ’ ἡμῖν μὲν αἰσχρόν ἐστι, παρ’ ἐνίοις δὲ τῶν βαρβάρων, ὥσπερ καὶ Σύροις, εὐγενείας ἐστὶ σύνθημα. τινὲς δὲ ἐπιτείνοντες τὸ σύνθημα τῆς εὐγενείας, καὶ τὰς ῥῖνας τῶν παίδων τιτρώσκοντες κρίκους ἀπ’ αὐτῶν ἀργυρέους ἢ χρυσοῦς ἀπαρτῶσιν, ὃ παρ’ ἡμῖν οὐκ ἂν ποιήσειέ τις, ὥσπερ οὐδὲ ἀνθοβαφῆ καὶ ποδήρη τις ἄρρην ἐνταῦθα ἂν ἀμφιέσαιτο ἐσθῆτα, καίτοι παρὰ Πέρσαις εὐπρεπεστάτου τοῦ παρ’ ἡμῖν αἰσχροῦ τούτου δοκοῦντος εἶναι. καὶ παρὰ Διονυσίῳ δὲ τῷ τῆς Σικελίας τυράννῳ τοιαύτης ἐσθῆτος Πλάτωνι καὶ Ἀριστίππῳ τοῖς φιλοσόφοις προσενεχθείσης ὁ μὲν Πλάτων ἀπεπέμψατο, εἰπὼν
“οὐκ ἂν δυναίμην θῆλυν ἐνδῦναι στολήν
ἄρρην πεφυκώς,” [Euripides, Bacch. 836-837]
ὁ δὲ Ἀρίστιππος προσήκατο, φήσας
“καὶ γὰρ ἐν βακχεύμασιν
οὖσ’ ἥ γε σώφρων οὐ διαφθαρήσεται.” [Euripides, Bacch. 317-318]
οὕτω καὶ τῶν σοφῶν ᾧ μὲν οὐκ αἰσχρόν, ᾧ δὲ αἰσχρὸν ἐδόκει τοῦτο εἶναι.
(Sextus Empiricus, Purrh. Hup. 3.198-204)
And perhaps it may not be amiss, in addition to what has been said, to dwell more in detail, though briefly, on the notions concerning things shameful and not shameful, unholy and not so, laws and customs, piety towards the gods, reverence for the departed, and the like. For thus we shall discover a great variety of belief concerning what ought or ought to be done. For example, amongst us sodomy is regarded as shameful or rather illegal, but by the Germani, they say, it is not looked on as shameful but as a customary thing. It is said, too, that in Thebes long ago this practice was not held to be shameful, and they say that Meriones the Cretan was so called by way of indicating the Cretans’ customed and some refer to this the burning love of Achilles for Patroclus. And what wonder, when both the adherents of the Cynic philosophy and the followers of Zeno of Citium, Cleanthes and Chrysippus, declare that this practice is indifferent? Having intercourse with a woman, too, in public, although deemed by us to be shameful, is not thought to be shameful by some of the Indians; at any rate they couple publicly with indifference, like the philosopher Crates, as the story goes. Moreover, prostitution is with us a shameful and disgraceful thing, but with many of the Egyptians it is highly esteemed; at least, they say that those women who have the greatest number of lovers wear an ornamental ankle-ring as a token of their proud position. And with some of them the girls marry after collecting a dowry before marriage by means of prostitution. We see the Stoics also declaring that it is not amiss to keep company with a prostitute or to live on the profits of prostitution. Moreover, with us tattooing is held to be shameful and degrading, but many of the Egyptians and Sarmatians tattoo their offspring. Also, it is a shameful thing with us for men to wear earrings, but amongst some of the barbarians, like the Syrians, it is a token of nobility. And some, by way of marking their nobility still further, pierce the nostrils also of their children and suspend from them rings of silver or gold—a thing which nobody with us would do, just as no man here would dress himself in a flowered robe reaching to the feet, although this dress, which with us is thought shameful, is held to be highly respectable by the Persians. And when, at the Court of Dionysius the tyrant of Sicily, a dress of this description was offered to the philosophers Plato and Aristippus, Plato sent it away with the words—
“A man am I, and never could I don
A woman’s garb;”
but Aristippus accepted it, saying—
“For e’en midst revel-routs
She that is chaste will keep her purity.”
Thus, even in the case of these sages, while the one of them deemed this practice shameful, the other did not. (tr. Robert Gregg Bury)