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Same-Sex Desire among Elite Men during the Time of the Macedonians

Mark Masterson, Victoria University of Wellington, Summer Fellow 2015–2016

While at Dumbarton Oaks, I worked on a book project concerned with same-sex desire between men in the Macedonian period (late 800s to 1000s). The project has moved forward gratifyingly, as I now have a solid three-chapter structure consisting of (1) what the tenth-century portrait (synthesized from various histories) of the ninth-century founder of the dynasty, Basil I, can tell us about the relation between authority and same-sex desire in the tenth century; (2) what the role of same-sex desire was in the epistolary networks around emperors Basil II, John I Tzimiskes, and Nikephoros II Phokas; and (3) what sexual dynamics were perceptible in the portraits of two warrior-emperors, Basil II and Nikephoros II Phokas. Looking forward to my conclusions, I will be asserting that same-sex desire was very much present at this time on the basis of its presence in a variety of genres (historiography, epistolography, hagiography, etc.); this leads to a further conclusion that same-sex desire cannot be left out when elite male culture in the Macedonian period is being considered.