Love shook my heart like a wind falling on oaks on a mountain. —Sappho1
Renaissance endeavors to revive classical literature and philosophy also revitalized antique ideals of love and friendship, and these, much to the embarrassment of Christian sexual orthodoxy, encouraged passionately romantic same-sex attachments.2 Some ancient accounts particularly celebrated love between males, even privileging it over heteroerotic love. The Renaissance is definitively characterized in part by a new cultural impetus toward male homoeroticism inspired by the recovery and dissemination of the Platonic dialogues on love, and reflected, for example, in the marvelous representations of masculine physical beauty in the visual arts of the time. Although the central repertoire of texts on same-sex bonding that survived antiquity almost wholly addresses males, testimonies to the power of female same-sex desire, typically adducing Sappho, could suggest, enable, or endorse feminine appropriations of the masculine ideals. Both male and female homophiles thus gained forceful means to rationalize expressions of desires ranging from passionate “Platonic love” involving physical intimacy that excluded genital expression, to the most avid sexual adventuring.