QOTD (2010-04-21)

Not that I have a one-track mind or anything, but non-western representations of sexual deviance are very interesting. The following is from a translation of the travel narrative of a 10th-century Arab missionary named Ibn Fadlan:

The Turks count the custom of pederasty as a terrible sin. There once came a man of the inhabitants of Khwarazm to stay with the clan of the Kudarkin, the viceroy of the Turkish king. He stayed with his host for a time to buy sheep. The Turk had a beardless on, and the Khwarazmian sought unceasingly to lead him astray until he got him to consent to his will. In the meantime the Turk came in and caught them in flagrante delicto. Then the Turk brought up the matter before the Kudarkin and said to him: “Assemble the Turks.” The Kudarkin assembled them; once they had gathered he said to the Turk: “Does thou wish that I pass a just or unjust sentence?” The Turk said: “According to justice.” He said: “Bring thy son here.” He brought him. He said: “The verdict is he and the merchant should be killed together.” The Turk was appalled because of this and said: “I will not ive up my son.” Thereupon the Kudarkin said: “Then the merchant may ransom himself.” He did it and paid the Turk for what he had done to his son with sheep and presented the Kudarkin with 400 sheep because he had saved him, and left the land of the Turks.

I don’t know whether I’m reading too much into this anecdote, but it seems interesting that Ibn Fadlan starts it by specifying that the Turks regard pederasty as a sin. It seems to suggest that the practice is not regarded as harshly in the Arab world, which is interesting. I mean, decadent Ottoman Empire, yes, but 10th-century Iraq is rather a different world. It would be interesting to know more about Ibn Fadlan’s society and to what exactly he’s comparing the Turkish value system.

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