Pederasty (from Greek paiderastia, love of boys) is used for
- the ancient Greek aristocratic custom of loving mentoring relationships between men and teen-age boys, sexualized or chaste;
- similar customs in other places and times by way of generalisation ;
- male Homosexuality in general (and occasionally anal intercourse with either sex). This usage dominates in the 15.–20. centuries. It replaced the older term Sodomy to avoid its religious connotations.
The original form of pederasty was a culturally sanctioned relationship in Ancient Greece in which a mentor and a pupil would be bonded into a relationship of mutual love in which the erotic attraction of the boy was an important factor. The custom was commonplace in most Greek cities of the time, when intergenerational man/boy relationships were employed to benefit the community. The relationships were valued for giving rise to strong friendships which were thought valuable to democracies in particular. They were also highly valued for the educational benefits to the youth, and also for their positive effect on the problem of overpopulation, which was keenly felt in many cities at that time. The custom was reflected in several popular myths and legends, most notably that of Zeus and Ganymede.
The theory and practice of pederasty was carried on even into Roman times until Christianity prevailed and even then was common place for centuries in varying forms.
An important note is that one did not need to have been primarily pedophilic in orientation to practice pederasty. Since man/boy relationships were a cultural mainstay, they were practiced by the majority of upper class adult males.
Another important thing to regard is the labels of homosexual vs. heterosexual did not apply to practices in pre-modern times. Some cultures today still shed different light as to their opinions regarding male/male sexual relations. In particular, one article cites the sexual relations of adolescent boys in Swaziland. The practice is seen as "becoming a man". In recent years, western labels and ideals have been bleeding into the culture, causing conflict and resulting in declined male/male sexual practice.
- Some boys passed into manhood and got married but now and then they still need some man's wood to remain pure men," say's Mr Bhokondvo Nkosi, a Maths teacher of Emagogeni high school. "The difference before the western influence is that it was ok to practice this type's of sexuality and now most African parents are considering it as "homosexuality" as it is labelled and therefore it is regarded as a silly influence from the civilised countries and as a western disease." (From the article amantanyula by Ishi)
It's only fair to guess that similar regards toward man/boy relationships could be applied to this type of cultural ideal. Not until the Victorian era did the label of becoming purely "homosexual" or "heterosexual" come into foundation.