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The Dangerous Lives of Public Performers

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The Dangerous Lives of Public Performers Dancing, Sex, and Entertainment in the Islamic World Anthony Shay

ISBN 978-1-349-49268-8

ISBN 978-1-137-43238-4 (eBook)

DOI 10.1057/9781137432384

the dangerous lives of public performers Copyright © Anthony Shay, 2014. Softcover reprint of the hardcover 1st edition 2014 978-1-137-43360-2 All rights reserved. First published in 2014 by PALGRAVE MACMILLAN® in the United States—a division of St. Martin’s Press LLC, 175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010. Where this book is distributed in the UK, Europe, and the rest of the world, this is by Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited, registered in England, company number 785998, of Houndmills, Basingstoke, Hampshire RG21 6XS. Palgrave Macmillan is the global academic imprint of the above companies and has companies and representatives throughout the world. Palgrave® and Macmillan® are registered trademarks in the United States, the United Kingdom, Europe and other countries. ISBN: 978-1-137-43360-2 Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Shay, Anthony, 1936The dangerous lives of public performers : dancing, sex, and entertainment in the Islamic world / Anthony Shay. pages cm Includes bibliographical references and index. ISBN 978-1-137-43360-2 (hardback) 1. Entertainers—Islamic countries—History. 2. Performing arts— Islamic countries—History. I. Title. PN2960.I75S53 2014 791.0917’67—dc23 2014001941 A catalogue record of the book is available from the British Library. Design by Amnet. First edition: July 2014 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1

This book is dedicated to my dear and wise friend and colleague: Jonathan M. Hall

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List of Illustrations




Introduction: Life as a Public Entertainer


1 The Public Entertainer


2 The Contours of Masculinity and Public Entertainers in Ancient Greece


3 The Contours of Masculinity and the Public Entertainer in Rome, Hellenistic Greece, and Byzantium


4 Medieval Islam: The Caliphate in Damascus, Baghdad, CĂłrdoba, Cairo, and Beyond


5 After the Caliphate: Early Modern Ottoman Turkey, Safavid Iran, Mughal India—The Heyday of Islamic Gunpowder Empires


6 The Long Nineteenth Century: The Qajars, the Ottomans, Egypt, and Colonialism


7 The Twentieth and the Twenty-First Centuries: Modernity and Nationalism






Videos and Films




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List of Illustrations



Indian Jugglers. This scene could occur throughout the Middle East, North Africa, Central Asia, and India.


Brillenschlange—Snake charmers. Snake charmers are common throughout the region.


5.1 An assemblage of public entertainers in a festival setting. They are popular everywhere.



Octavien—Çengi, Ottoman dancing girl.



Egyptian dancing girls. Ghawazi dancers were popular into the 1970s.



Jeune danseur—Indian dancing boy.



Egyptian ball. Ghawazi dancers in the streets of Cairo described by many European travelers.


6.2 An Indian nautch dancer.


6.3 Ghawazi dancers of Cairo.



A dancing boy from Bukhara.



In Tashkent with Tamara Khanum.


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I want to thank my colleagues at Pomona College, especially those in the Department of Theatre and Dance, where I have found an intellectual home: Betty Bernhard, Laurie Cameron, Art Horowitz, Meg Jolley, Victoria Koenig, Tom Leabhart, Sherry Linnell, Joyce Lu, Leonard Pronko, John Pennington, Jim Taylor, and the three individuals who make the department run smoothly Cathy Seeman, Mary Rosier, and Myrna Cogley. Jonathan Wright has guided me kindly and patiently through grant applications and given sage advice for my proposals. I thank Pomona College for my sabbatical time, a Wig travel grant, and David and Susan Hirsch, who provided funding through the Hirsch Grant that enabled me to go to Istanbul to the Topkapi, to the British Museum and the Victoria and Albert Museum, where Tim Stanley, chief curator of Middle Eastern art aided me in my research, and to the Bibliothèque Nationale. Also, for patiently preparing the illustrations, I thank Mary McMahon and Jason Smith of Information and Technical Services for their help. Jonathan Hall proved a true friend and sounding board for my wilder intellectual flights. My students are a constant joy and stimulus, and I am blessed and grateful to have them. Andrew Lear gave me generous guidance to navigate through the ancient Greek and Roman sources and reading drafts of those chapters. Philip Nix read several drafts and gave important insights. As always, my spouse, Jamal (Khosrow Jamali), is everything in life one could want in a helpmeet—love, patience, intellectual stimulus, delicious meals, and the kindest heart in the world.


Life as a Public Entertainer


hen I was growing up in Los Angeles in the 1940s and 1950s, the world of film and radio, and later television, was filled with larger-than-life celebrities. They seemed distant, much more so than today, when they can be filmed by paparazzi and put on virtual display in seconds. The movie stars of my childhood were magical, beautiful, rich, and successful. They appeared everywhere in the media, at that time largely print. Their fame and glamour set them apart from mere mortals. They were worshipped, profiled: every moment of their private lives chronicled and dissected in gossip columns by such relentless reporters as Louella Parsons, Hedda Hopper, and Walter Winchell, who reported breathlessly on their love lives, their marriages, affairs, and divorces, where they ate, and which nightclubs they attended. I certainly never entered that magic kingdom except for two brief performances in two very modest films, definitely not among Hollywood’s top 100, in which I can barely recognize myself if I blink during the mass crowd scenes that manage to disguise any celebrity I might have hoped to achieve through my dance performances.1 So, it came as a major culture shock during my late teenage years, and in my first public performance as a dancer, in an Iranian New Year celebration in 1955 in Los Angeles, when one of the audience members felt free to pinch my backside as I made my way through the crowd in my dance costume. He obviously held very different notions about public performers, and their sacrosanct, untouchable bodies, than I did. How was I to know at the age of 18 that in Iran, dance “was seen as the worst possible behavior of an undisciplined body in public, and symbol of all vice” (Stellar 2011, 235)? That moment sowed the first seed of this project as I wondered throughout my career as a public entertainer what kind of



history I embodied with my performances, and became increasingly interested in the lives and performances of public entertainers, and the ways in which they were viewed and treated in various cultures. I must have been among the first generation in America whose parents did not routinely discuss the evils of performing in public, “trodding the wicked stage,” as one common expression characterized it in that period, to discourage their offspring from entering such a déclassé, scandalous, and unstable profession. For me, celebrities were magic, talented, flawless people from another world. For my grandmother, not so much. My mother, growing up in the 1920s and 1930s, certainly heard negative opinions about public performers from her mother, particularly about women, especially actresses and dancers, who were widely regarded as prostitutes, a fact that clearly contributed to the aura of exoticism and spirituality with which Isadora Duncan, Maud Allan, and Ruth St. Denis, who began her career as a skirt dancer, that is, a chorus girl in Broadway musicals, and other serious dancers were viewed (Shay 2008a, 53–72).2 As I increasingly entered the Iranian world, both in Iran and among the Iranian diaspora in the United States, I heard frequently about the scandalous lives of Iranian singers, who, although well known and sometimes rich, definitely occupied a very different social status than my largely upper-class student friends, at least in their eyes (Chehabi 2000). As one Iranian woman commented, “I know here in America entertainers are well thought of. Professional entertainers in my country are applauded but they do not belong to the upper classes” (Najafi 1953, 28–29). As I learned the Persian language, and read through well-worn popular Iranian magazines passed around among the Iranian students with whom I had become friends, I saw that these singers were simultaneously viewed as infamous and scandalous, and that every aspect of their lives and careers was followed with breathless attention. What was it about public performers, bearers of infamy, which demanded such meticulous attention? First and foremost, their scandalous careers served to provide the public with “scare figures,” negative models of behavior, in order to police their own. I use the term “scandalous” following historian Sarah Maza’s formulation: Scandal in its purest form is typical of homogeneous or premodern societies, in which most people adhere to collective norms. When a person transgresses those norms—committing a crime like murder, blasphemy,


or infanticide, or misbehaving in ways that do not break laws but offend prevailing rules of decency—the entire community unites to condemn and punish the wrongdoer. A scandal is an event whereby a group reasserts its norms, united in its desire to see the wrongdoer punished judicially (death, prison banishment) or socially (ostracism, ridicule). Scandal in its present form endures, of course, to this day. (2012, 142)

In this formulation, scandal serves society’s spokespersons in allowing them to raise public indignation against the person behaving scandalously. We can see this in the writings of Greek and Roman moralists like John Chrysostom. The public entertainer was a frequent target of such indignation. For more than 50 years I have given a great deal of thought to this topic, which lay barely dormant, and utilizing my scholarly expertise as well as my own background as a public performer, have compiled the story of the public entertainer that follows. The Public Entertainer in Historical Perspective

This volume addresses a topic that has not been addressed in a single study: the perception and treatment of public performers from ancient Greece, Rome, and Byzantium, continuing into the core Islamic world, right up to our own time. I will argue in this study that contemporary attitudes toward public entertainers are deeply rooted in the ancient world. In many ways I regard the Islamic world as the cultural inheritor of the ancient Mediterranean world. Thus, I will address the role and performances of the public entertainer in four key time periods: the Umayyad and Abbasid caliphates (650–1258); the Early Modern Islamic Safavid (1501–1722), the Mughal (1500–1857), and the Ottoman (1300–1924) Empires; the colonial period; and finally, the modern period following World War I: Iran, Turkey, Egypt, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and India. In order to understand the lives and careers of pubic entertainers, it is necessary to understand their positions in ancient Greece and Rome. Throughout history, professional entertainers endured low, almost criminal, social status, were regarded as sexually available, and if male, bore the stigma of effeminacy over this vast region and time span. In spite of these handicaps, occasionally these entertainers became rich, powerful, and attained virtually star status; some of them toured widely



and participated in booking and guild networks that came into being as early as the third century BCE. Most importantly, placed at the margins of society, they often served as scare figures for the elite classes to use in order to police public morality and rigid standards of masculinity through the negative trope of the public entertainer and his or her tainted profession and public bodies. In this study, I want to recuperate something of the lives, careers, and artistic performances of these individuals, who endured often short, brutish lives that were characterized by public humiliation, and who were forced to produce entertainment, art, and sex with any and all customers, for they were frequently slaves who had been rigorously trained for their profession. If the performer was male, he occupied the most abject of positions in all of the societies that I survey in this study—that of the sexually penetrated male. That is, he took what was considered the female role in sexual intercourse—a feminized role that was, in many ways, much lower than the female courtesan because, while the female played out her gender role, the male betrayed his. From the kordax dancers of ancient Greece, to the pantomimes of ancient Rome, to the slavegirl singers in caliphal Baghdad, to the dancing boys in present-day Afghanistan and the belly dancers in Egypt, these individuals occupied named categories that included their reputation as penetrated individuals, which marginalized them. That both male and female performers were subjected to sexual indignity, and sometimes violence, can be seen on some of the graphic paintings on Greek vases and Roman wall paintings and in the Frontline exposé about the dancing boys of Afghanistan (“Dancing Boys of Afghanistan,” April 20, 2010). Their art was at the core of society and its idealized sexual codes, and they were both desired and reviled. Because of their abject social status, it was possible to have sexual relations with them, but to ignore them as human beings; they were considered on a par with prostitutes. In order to engage in such a complex investigation that attempts to unpack long-held, powerfully negative social attitudes toward professional entertainers, it is important to identify who these individuals were: what they did, how and why they entered such a déclassé occupation, their ethnicity, religion, and conditions of birth. I will address the topic of both male and female professional entertainers; each raises different issues about gender roles and sexuality. However, because many of the times and places included are male-dominated,


deeply misogynist patriarchal societies, I will concentrate on codes of idealized masculinity and contrast them to actual masculine behavior, because the male public entertainer constituted the most visible simulacrum of effeminacy in most of these societies. I will also explore what constitutes masculinity and effeminacy, since this frequently shaped the social and legal position of these highly visible but marginalized figures. Theoretically, female public entertainers constitute a less complicated group for purposes of analysis. Since they assumed the female sexual and gender position, they did not arouse the powerful, dreaded, threatening image of a penetrated, and thus feminized, male figure, as did their male counterparts. Rather, female entertainers were elided into the large class of prostitutes that ranged from the high-end hetairas, a courtesan figure of ancient Greece, or the tawa’if, a similar courtesan individual of Mughal India, to a range of lower-placed street walkers and denizens of brothels. However, the high-end public entertainers’ abilities as dancers or singers, educated, often gifted poets, and conversationalists gave them higher status, and certainly better remuneration, than many in the sex trade. The male public entertainer as a sexually penetrated male, by contrast, constituted one of the most debased figures in most of these societies. Nevertheless, some of them, like the Roman pantomime, rose to the pinnacle of society, while retaining criminal status. This work will also identify and analyze the ever-changing concept of masculinity and discern those qualities of masculinity, cultural, sexual, and historical, that changed and those that remain fixed. I will argue that certain aspects of idealized masculinity, and its dreaded other, effeminacy, have continued into our own time as an historical legacy from the ancient world in many parts of the Middle East and Central Asia, while other aspects have faded. The public entertainer, a highly visible figure in most of these societies, defined masculinity by serving as masculinity’s dreaded other: effeminacy. In order to analyze and describe the phenomenon of the public entertainer and the societal attitudes toward him or her, this study will draw from both original sources and the work of scholars across a broad range of disciplines including history, classics, literature, art history, theatre history, cultural studies, archeology, anthropology, dance, and music studies. The societies that we look at were, and in some cases, still are, based economically on agriculture. This dependency



shapes, in many ways, as we will see in ancient Greece, the culture and the cultural values that individuals hold. Each of the periods and societies that I address in this study yield varying quantities of information regarding the public entertainer. For example, we have little information about the performing arts in Byzantium, as fewer writers in that Christian society wrote about dance and theatre than the enthusiastic pagan writers of Greece and Rome. In fact, many writers in all of these societies, except to occasionally denigrate public entertainers as prostitutes and criminals, avoided writing about them at all because their low status did not lend itself to serious scrutiny, and they regarded the performers and their activities as beneath them, an attitude that continued into the Islamic world. Transgression and the Lower Body

I will look at the abject figure of the public entertainer through the lens of Peter Stallybrass and Allon White’s concept of transgression in their 1986 study The Politics and Poetics of Transgression, in which they posit several important points that are utilized throughout this study. “Again and again we find a striking ambivalence to the representations of the lower strata (of the body, of literature, of society, of place) in which they are both reviled and desired” (1986, 4). And many of the public entertainers from ancient Greece to the present in Iran and Turkey, in skits, dance, comedy, and mime, celebrated the lower body and societal lowlifes, and embody the carnivalesque in their cultural productions. An example is the description given by the Portuguese traveler Tenreiro in Safavid Persia (1501–1722) of a Persian dancer “who at times lay on her stomach with a Persian turban on her ass, which she managed, through specific body movements, to throw up to the height of a man, thereby merrily accompanied by the music makers” (qtd. in Matthee 2000, 141). Indeed, although Stallybrass and White focus on the ways in which high and low elements are contrasted, like the ways in which society regards popular literature as opposed to classical literature, and the carnivalesque elements found in country fairs in contrast to formal balls in the homes of the rich, we will see that the public entertainer fits well into this high-low category vis-à-vis respectable society. Paradoxically, in spite of this low status, these entertainers are often greatly desired, hence their almost universal reputation for sexual availability. Stallybrass and White further point out how “This


curious, almost oxymoronic formulation captures a nexus of power and desire which regularly appears in the ideological construction of the low-Other” (1986, 5). Not only do the elite classes attempt to exclude the public entertainer through crushing legislation, social exclusion, and shaming but, as Stallybrass and White note, “the top includes that low symbolically, as a primary eroticized constituent of its own fantasy life” (ibid.; emphasis in original). I will demonstrate Stallybrass and White’s notion that “What is socially peripheral is often symbolically central. . . . The carnival, the circus, the gypsy, the lumpenproletariat, play a symbolic role in bourgeois culture out of all proportion to their actual social importance” (1986, 20). I will show that in the societies that I investigate, the public entertainer and his and her scandalous performances, sexually ambiguous clothing, and infamous reputation fulfill a similar function of the marginalized low-Other against which polite society and proper masculinity are measured and evaluated. The public entertainer through his or her performances, costuming, and the notoriety of his or her private life was viewed as among the most transgressive element in society. This occurred over the course of thousands of years and across a vast geographical expanse, in a series of societies, which I will show are culturally connected through their ideas about public performers, and their transgressive bodies. Historical and Geographical Connections

My approach treats the complex attitudes of different eras and different societies not as static, fixed conditions of thought, but rather as dynamic and changing. I demonstrate the historical and cultural interconnectedness across this vast time period and geographic expanse. Following classics scholar Amy Richlin, I “call into question current attempts to barricade off periods of history from one another” (1993, xiii), and I would add geographical regions. I illustrate the continuities and discontinuities, and changes of behaviors, attitudes, and practices across this vast time and space toward public entertainers. For example, many scholars ignore, to their peril, the importance of the connections between Byzantium and the caliphate in Baghdad from the period 750– 1258, a relationship that was sometimes more important and culturally and diplomatically closer than that of Byzantium and the West (see, for example, Evans and Ratliff 2012).



Ethnomusicologist Laudan Nooshin remarks of much of the geographical territory that we will explore in this study, “the Middle East, North Africa and Central Asia, a region stretching from Morocco in the west to China in the East. Notwithstanding the divisions of geography and (post-) colonial mappings, this area shares a great deal in historical, religious and cultural terms, providing for interesting comparative perspectives” (2009, 2). Many scholars familiar with this vast region would agree, and I would add the adjacent Mediterranean world, historically, culturally, and geographically as well.3 Most importantly, in 1971 historian Peter Brown attempted to shape a new historical paradigm in his World of Late Antiquity, using the term “Late Antiquity” to indicate a cultural and historical flow between the classical world of the Mediterranean and the Byzantine world and the early Islamic caliphate. However, he was not sufficiently credited by other scholars due to the rigid entrenchment of subdivided departments in Western universities that tell us more about contemporary academic concerns than the historical reality they purport to represent. More recently, historians Leslie Brubaker and Julia M. Smith edited a collection of essays, Gender in the Early Medieval World: East and West, 300–900, organized around gender in the early medieval period, that demonstrates the historical and cultural interconnectedness of early Islam and the classical world. In her introduction, Smith crucially notes the cultural unity of “the late Roman empire and its successor civilisations, Byzantine, Islamic and western European” (2004, 1). In addition to adhering to this idea, I also argue that the presence of public entertainers, and attitudes toward them, that were fixed in the classical period continue to our own day, illustrating the depth and importance of these historical and cultural continuities. Because I will be describing and analyzing a wide spectrum of historical periods and societies, I find it crucial to state that I follow seriously David Lowenthal’s (1985) dictum that The Past Is a Foreign Country, both the title of his book and its theme (which he borrowed from L. P. Hartley’s 1953 book The Go-Between). That is to say that I firmly believe that other people in other times and places were fundamentally different from us in almost every way. While I am attempting to show connections, I will also be showing differences, and Lowenthal’s title reminds us that these societies were “different countries,” sharing both continuities and discontinuities. Hollywood films, romantic historical novelists, and other dream factories have had the egregious effect


of making viewers of historical period films and fiction feel that togawearing Romans and turbaned medieval Muslims are people just like us, but with different clothing. In the West, we have identified with the ancient Greeks and Romans, feeling as if we are their direct descendants, even people we might like to meet over dinner. As classics scholar James Davidson notes, “There are two main dangers in approaching the Greeks. That is to think of them as our cousins and to interpret everything in our own terms. . . . On the other hand, we must resist the temptation to push the Greeks further into outer space than necessary” (1997, xxxvi). Their systems of philosophy, their art, sculpture, and architecture, their theatrical productions, and other areas of cultural expression carry an impact in those fields today. We somehow feel close to the Greeks and Romans, more than, let us say, medieval people. And yet it always comes as a small shock to the modern individual to find that they relied on astrology, augers, and magic to make important decisions, watched enthralled and with relish the most horrific tortures and deaths of people and animals in public arenas, exposed unwanted babies, and held large numbers of people as slaves, sending young boys and girls to brothels and mines. “[O]ur view of ancient Greece through its literature, philosophy and art is a partial one and can easily blind us to the irrational and superstitious in Greek culture and life. . . . Love charms, aphrodisiacs, curses to promote passion or to avenge unrequited lust were the stock-in-trade at markets and fairs. . . . The genitals themselves have magic power especially against the evil eye” (Boardman and La Rocca 1978, 41). Perhaps not so close! Performing Arts

Thus, in analyzing and accounting for attitudes toward performing artists and entertainers in other times and places, I will follow anthropologist Clifford Geertz (1983), who observes, “Art, like many other aspects of life in other times and places, is ‘local knowledge,’” and forms an aesthetic system that is specific to a particular time and place, which suggests that in order to understand the expressive culture and its performers of other times and places, we must acquire, through study and experience, a “period eye,” a term that originates with Michael Baxandall’s (1988) study of fifteenth-century painting. To acquire the period eye is to gain the ability to see behavior and objects, and their absences



and gaps, as the people of that time and place viewed and understood them—the aim of every historian and anthropologist. However, even with a wealth of iconographic sources, archaeological evidence, and writing from the past, our present understanding of the past can never be more than partial. For example, we cannot recover in any way what dances actually looked like in antiquity (Lawler 1964; Narebout 1997). I will attempt to suture historical periods, geographical regions, and ethnic divisions that have been, in Richlin’s term, “barricaded,” artificially created by scholars as a result of the way in which the academy has been shaped and formed over the past century and longer. I will also attempt, through the ubiquitous figure of the professional public entertainer and his or her forms of cultural expression, to reconnect these times and places in ways that have not been previously attempted. For in all of these times and places the public entertainer was a very visible figure, almost always desirable and alluring, as well as frightening and disgusting to many individuals. Even as these figures were highly despised, they were simultaneously desirable, their performances enthralling. Audiences could be brought to rioting over their favorite performers. In places as far apart as Rome and Istanbul, their performances were frequently banned following riots, and the public entertainers sent packing, only to be allowed to return because of public unrest due to their absence. Sexual Availability

This study will especially address the assumed sexual availability of all public performers and claims of effeminacy that created a social status equivalent to prostitute for both male and female performers, as well as the stigma of effeminacy for male performers, who were viewed as taking the passive, feminized penetrated role in male/male sex relations, thus partially, at least, giving up their status as men. As Richlin notes for ancient Rome, “The position of actors and actresses as infamis likewise comes at least in part from their reputation for being free with their sexual favors” (1993, 225). How “free” they were in dispensing sexual favors remains to be explored. I argue that more often they were compelled and coerced by the conditions of their work and their social status to comply to the sexual demands of individuals more highly placed and more powerful—politically, economically, legally, and socially— than they were.


In order to address these issues, I will first undertake a general discussion of the public performer. Then I will address the topic of what constitutes masculinity in the different historical times and cultures covered. I will also address “effeminacy” and homosexuality, and how these cultural constructs were manifest in public performances. The investigation of masculinity, its idealized codes and standards, as well as actual behavior when it is observable, provide a context in which to examine the widely leveled claims of effeminacy. The term “homosexual” or “homosexuality” cannot be equated with the modern use of the term. I do not fully agree with David Halperin (2002) and Michel Foucault (1978) that because the term did not exist before the latter part of the nineteenth century, the self-identified individual who preferred sex with males did not exist in other times and places. Recent scholarship can trace men who preferred sex with males rather than females into ancient times, and writers and poets in many of these societies debated the merits of each, but to reduce these relations to the mere sexual, as historian Louis Crompton reminds us, is to do harm to the human condition (see Crompton 2003; Davidson 2007, Williams 2010, Gerard and Hekma 1989, Rozenthal 1997). On the other hand, these individuals were not modern homosexuals. I use the term “homosexual” as a shorthand term to describe homoerotic, male/male sexual and sometimes affectional relations because the modern reader can readily understand that term. The term “homosexual” is overdetermined, for as sociologist Stephen O. Murray reminds us, “no single type homosexual with a unique set of characteristics exists. . . . Much homosexual behavior occurs outside the often-simplistic roles recognized (with labels)” (2000, 1, 7; emphasis in original). George Chauncey, in his magisterial study Gay New York (1994), demonstrated how gender roles in the homosexual milieu of New York City changed dramatically over a 50-year period (1890–1940). During this period the social actors created new gender roles that were dramatically different from those that preceded, as well as the new gender roles that would be created in the decades that followed, World War II. For example, men who took the penetrative role in sex and acted in a masculine fashion, even if they had sex exclusively with other men, considered themselves as “normal” men, as did everyone else in that milieu. As Chauncey observes, “The most striking difference between the dominant sexual culture of the early twentieth century and that



of our own era is the degree to which the earlier culture permitted men to engage in sexual relations with other men, often on a regular basis, without requiring them to regard themselves—or to be regarded by others—as gay” (1994, 65).4 That is a far cry from attitudes in the twenty-first century in which all men who have sex with other men, no matter how rarely and what position they assume in the sex act, are all considered equally homosexual by many individuals in contemporary American society. Similarly, historian Afsaneh Najmabadi in her brilliant study Women with Mustaches and Men without Beards (2005), analyzes the ways in which gender roles and sexuality were deliberately socially engineered in the modernization process in Iran, a process that took over a century and created new heteronormative roles, a crucial change from what we would today call a bisexual aesthetic for Iranian men. “Our contemporary binary of gender translates any fractures of masculinity into effeminization” (2005, 3). She found that “In the nineteenth century, homoeroticism and same-sex practices came to mark Iran as backward; heteronormalization of eros and sex became a condition of ‘achieving modernity,’ a project that called for heterosocialization of public space and a reconfiguration of family life” (2005, 3). Essentially, if one could act like a Westerner, then one could eventually defeat the Westerners who had humiliated the Iranians in two bruising battles, resulting in the subsequent loss of huge territories to the imperial Russians. These two historical accounts in two very different societies demonstrate the potential malleability and fluidity of both gender and sexual identities and conduct, and how societies organize their erotic dos and don’ts. This is key to understanding how the public entertainer fit into the erotic economies of his or her respective society. I will assert in this work that gender and sexuality are socially constructed and malleable. As John J. Winkler observes, “Anthropologists, historians, and other students of culture (rather than nature) are sharply aware that almost any imaginable configuration of pleasure can be institutionalized as conventional and perceived by its participants as natural” (1990, 171). One might question why sexuality is important in the study of public performers. As Jeffrey Weeks, supporting Winkler’s viewpoint, observes, “All societies find it necessary to organize the erotic possibilities of the body in one way or another. . . . But they do it in a wide variety of ways. The study of sexuality therefore provides a critical insight into the wider organization of culture” (1985, 130–131). And,


the public performers in these societies were highly sexualized persons. They exhibited their bodies in the public arena, laying themselves open to charges of profligate sexuality. This is not to say that sexuality and gender roles are not felt to be “natural” to people; it is clear that most individuals believe that their sexuality and gender are innate, based in biology, embedded in their characters in the same way as their ethnicity.5 And like ethnicity, most individuals think of sexuality, their choices of sex objects, and the sexual activities in which they participate as “fixed.” But, as I point out elsewhere, ethnicity also must be learned. Japanese and French individuals must learn how to be French and Japanese from their parents, teachers, and others in their societies (Shay 2014). So, too, gender is learned, through, as Judith Butler demonstrates, a constant lifelong rehearsal of the male or female role. To question that role is to question one of society’s most basic tenets of what constitutes proper masculinity and femininity. Thus, like the contours of masculinity, the contours of what constitutes homosexuality differ greatly over geographic space and historical time periods, and yet in some ways demonstrate important historical and cultural continuities, such as the deep-seated fear of anal penetration, that I identify in the following chapters. For example, Najmabadi states: “The most derogatory word in the realm of sexuality, kuni literally means anal, but in Persian it exclusively means to be receptive of anal penetration . . . [and] parents warn their young son to stay away from certain activities (such as dance). . . . The gut shame associated with kuni seems to have made it resistant to any measure of selfappropriation and re-signification” (2014, 138). Sociologist Arthur Brittan claims that “Masculinity does not exist in isolation from femininity—it will always be an expression of the current image that men have of themselves in relation to women” (1989, 3). I will argue somewhat differently, asserting that most men in the societies and historical periods in which this study is located accepted that women acted differently, and in a complementary, if negative, way to men. They existed in different domains. Historian Jill Harries states: “What women were was, by definition, what men were not. . . . Modern scholars . . . have been reluctant to give credence to this allocation of roles as an expression of complementarity, rather than of male chauvinist condescension” (1998, 185–186). This is not to say that these societies were not misogynistic. To varying degrees, they frequently



were, although the degree of misogyny in ancient Greece, for example, changed depending on the time period. Rome, too, was a powerfully patriarchal society. In this study I argue that what men fear is not the feminine, but effeminacy, and what men react to more than women, is other men, against whom they measure themselves. As classics scholar Marilyn B. Skinner notes of men in ancient Rome, “The only way to establish one’s own gender securely was to degender another. As a result, very few real men are attested as living in imperial Rome—most of the time there are only two, you and I, and I’m not quite sure of you” (2005, 248). The male public entertainer, because of his high visibility and infamous profession, constitutes the masculine “other,” the individual whose behavior most challenges the masculine ideal because of his perceived effeminacy. Skinner continues: “When imperial authors decry effeminacy—whether they choose to fasten on alleged sexual passivity, on foppish dress and conduct, or on an affected speaking and writing style—they are speaking of violations of the code of social masculinity” (2005, 248). And the main target in ancient Rome that was frequently selected was the pantomime dancer, who performed both male and female roles, using masks and sexually ambiguous clothing. The ambiguity and the pantomime dancer’s mixing of male and female roles frightened many individuals, who, nevertheless, were equally drawn, like moth to flame, to their highly popular appearances. The most visible of these public entertainers held their audiences in thrall. Fan clubs followed them, serving as noisy claques for their every theatrical and choreographic turn. We shall also note that in several of these societies, the frequent allegations of effeminacy often constituted political rather than sexual invective. The authors of these frequent accusations including Aeschines, who claimed that Timarchus (Timarchus was not a performer, but a citizen of Athens) prostituted his body, even as Aeschines admitted to participating in the same kind of male/male sexual relations himself. However, Aeschines claims that, unlike Timarchus, he did this in an honorable fashion, within the codes of noble pederasty. (Pederasty was known as a commonplace social institution during that period.) In making these claims against another member of the Athenian elite, he strategically reduced Timarchus to the status of a professional entertainer, most likely a slave who would have been required to prostitute his body as part of his shady profession. He also accused


Timarchus of prostituting himself, and, even more importantly, squandering his fortune on hetairas. A man successfully accused of hiring his body to another man, or squandering his fortune, could be found unsuitable to hold public office, and thus Aeschines’ charges constituted a political act, not a sexual one, in spite of the fact that he used Timarchus’ alleged sexual behavior to discredit him (see Dover 1989; Winkler 1990). To reconfigure the rallying cry of second-wave feminism: in ancient Greece it was not the personal that was political; it was the sexual. As classics scholar Winkler (1990) explained so well, Timarchus was not, as a modern reader might suppose, accused of being a “homosexual,” but a profligate spending his patrimony on hetairai, flute girls, and other luxuries. The wasting of one’s wealth because of one’s being addicted to luxury, diminishing one’s inheritance, which must be left stronger for one’s heirs, demonstrated that the guilty party held a kind of parallel position to women, who were potentially considered sexually unable to control themselves. Thus, we can see that establishing the boundaries and contours of masculinity and effeminacy becomes crucial to understanding the structures of these specific societies and the social, economic, and political contexts in which the public entertainer and his alleged effeminacy and sexual availability must be viewed. Public performers were regarded as sexually incontinent, exhibiting a dangerous, out-of-control sexuality, one capable of tearing apart the fabric of society, a viewpoint that is still found in many parts of the Middle East today, and that constitutes one of the reasons expressed for women to veil and remain sequestered (Dancing film 3, the section on Morocco; Shay 1999). This means that attitudes toward sex, and those members of society, such as public entertainers, who are viewed as transgressing the societal standards of proper and “natural” sexual and gender roles, particularly male conduct, can enlighten us as to the ways in which societies organize sexual and gender roles, both idealized and actual, “normative” and transgressive. As classics scholar Daniel H. Garrison notes, “[I]t is impossible to separate the achievements of classical civilization from its erotic sensibilities” (2000, ix). Thus, discovering the contours of sexuality and gender in those societies becomes crucial to understanding the role the public entertainer played in the sexual, cultural, and political economies of the period. I do not wish to totally discount the presence of a biological element in the construction of gender and sexuality. I agree with Weeks:



“No theory, however dependent on ‘social construction,’ can ignore the limits set by the possibilities of the body” (1985, 248). That having been said, I wish to reiterate that even accounting for the biological element, gender and sexuality constitute overwhelmingly socially constructed aspects of human behavior in a process that begins relentlessly from birth. In many societies, parents and others teach their children “proper” gender roles and the expected behavior that goes with them through what I call the “pink and blue syndrome.” They dress infants and young children in garments and colors that are culturally appropriate to their gender, hand them toys appropriate to their gender, and guide them into activities appropriate to their gender, all the while hoping that they will become normative individuals who will behave in culturally appropriate ways. In many societies, masculinity is viewed as fragile, and men must continually strive to achieve it (See Gillmore 1987, 1990; Gleason 1995; Gunderson 2000). Performance Genres

Historical and cultural attitudes toward performance, and specific genres of dance, music, and theatre, constitute an important way of approaching culture and the study of gender and sexuality. Within this work, I explore how the performance of dance, music, and theatre largely shapes societal notions of gender. The performance of these arts within specific societies, and adhering to culturally specific genres, conveys what it means to be a man or a woman within a particular time and place. As classics scholars Carol Dougherty and Leslie Kurke point out, such forms as “Attic comedy and tragedy—the most familiar of ancient genres, which significantly engaged the entire polis [citystate] as performers and audience” held enormous sway over the entire population (2003, 11). Thus, Attic comedy provides us with important clues about the construction of gender roles in Athenian society because “The masks of Early Hellenistic comedy reflected life and the appearance of reality as the Greeks perceived it (Green 1994, 103). These theatre masks provide us with visual clues for the ways in which masculinity and effeminacy appeared to contemporary observers. It is during dance, music, and theatre performances that the enactment of masculinity and femininity, and female and male gender roles are carried out in a public way through the vehicle of the body and its movements. Thus, through the lens of performance, one can identify


elements that constitute masculinity, femininity, and effeminacy that cannot be revealed through other sources in the same way. Cultural productions both reflect and challenge gender roles and their idealized enactments, often by satirically contrasting those ideals with the portrayal of actual behavior, so frequently at odds with the ideal. As an example, dance, because it is the most embodied of performance genres performed by individuals who would have been considered sexy and attractive, frequently served as a lightning rod of moralist commentary, and allure for the viewing public, which was exactly what the moralists feared. We must remember that these ideas were not written for our modern eyes. It is crucial that the scholar, to the extent possible, makes clear what genre of dance is most likely to be the subject of the writing because we do not have enough information to recreate exactly what dance looked like at any of these periods. First, we must distinguish between individual and group dances, such as those performed by peasants as part of the agricultural and religious cycle, and those performed for ritual purposes or theatre, which do not attract negative comment. We also hear of people dancing in states of altered consciousness in cultic ritual, and most likely these dances consisted of frenzied movements that one can see in contemporary contexts that involve trance (Bourguignon 1968). “For the Greeks heavenly bodies dance, and so do the gods. . . . When the Greeks project dance onto cosmos, deity and nature, this is a symptom of the social centrality of their dancing” (Zarifi 2007, 227–228). These are the group dances that occurred as part of ritual, pyrrhic dances for the preparation of handling weapons for battle, or celebrating the harvest that filled the lives of the Greeks. When Plato and other philosophers speak of dance, it is group dances to which they refer, except when they disparage dance as vulgar. Those dances do not constitute the topic of this study. The second type of dance is most likely solo improvised dancing. Professional dancers, who wriggled their buttocks and shook their shoulders, depicted on Greek vases carrying clackers or castanets, called krotala, are emblematic of these dancers, who were both male and female. When one hires professional dancers for a Greek symposium or a Roman banquet, their dances will have elements of both the sexual and the spectacular for entertainment and sexual arousal, as Xenophon describes at the end of his Symposium. This explains why Roman and Greek writers talked about the shame of men or women



dancing in this fashion. The dance was sensual, potentially arousing, sometimes lewd, sometimes obscene, sometimes played for laughs. More importantly, from the comments concerning nonprofessional individuals learning and performing dance at symposia and banquets, I suggest, and this is crucial, that there were most likely domestic versions that men performed during the activity of komos, (a state achieved through a combination of wine and erotic arousal) at the end of the symposia, or that women performed at banquets and weddings alongside the professional dancers who performed at these events. Thus, when I write about dance in this study, I am referring to solo improvised dance. When Cicero characterized Gabinius as a “saltatrix” (female dancer), he meant someone who was effeminate and who, shamefully, moved like a sensual, sexually available professional dancer, not someone performing a staid processional movement found in a ritual context (Corbeill 2004, 121). People crave art and entertainment, and in spite of the widespread fear and distaste toward public entertainers that we will encounter in most of the societies under consideration in this study, the figure of the public entertainer looms simultaneously large, alluring and frightening. Geertz notes that “all artistic production is embedded in the cultural system” (1983). The entertainers who produced, and continue to produce music, dance, and theatre reflected those cultural systems and their values, as they do today. But it is important to point out that the public entertainer also, to some degree, possessed agency, and much of his or her artistic production in the societies under consideration was improvised. Improvisation, while created within a specific stylistic and cultural framework, nevertheless offered opportunities for agency and innovation. Many scholars in their historical studies of actors and dancers do not credit them with cultural agency, but rather treat them as so enmeshed in their cultural webs that they mindlessly perform in an automatic fashion, unable to escape the prescribed ideal behavior their culture dictates. Classics scholars Christopher Faraone and James Davidson both stress that the hetairai of ancient Greece, quintessential public women, would “co-opt various ‘arts’—symposiastic, rhetorical, ritual, and so on— that are otherwise associated with men; and that they do so in order to assert their own autonomy and independence in a culture that has no real concept of the autonomous and independent woman” (Faraone 2006, 209). In spite of their low status, these public performers, both


male and female, like the hetairai of ancient Greece, sometimes had control over their own finances and lives in ways that other women and men did not. I argue that these performers, because of their low status, were sometimes well positioned to challenge and undermine societal values since they had little to lose; Saturday Night Live had its origins two millennia ago. Certainly their performances critiqued societal values through satire, particularly the playful improvisation that lampooned their audiences as they attempted to negotiate real and ideal behaviors. In the twentieth century, the Iranian government attempted to monitor the performances of the improvised ru-howzi theatre because of its potential for political and social subversion, demanding scripts and nonexistent licenses, but never succeeding in quelling these unruly performances (Beeman 1982, 106). These public performers have what Butler called Bodies That Matter (1993). Artists facilitate this circulation, and with their agency, they can contest and satirize hegemonic cultural ideals and values in song, dance, and theatre.6 And, as we shall see throughout this study, many genres of public performance—Iranian ru-howzi theatre, Roman pantomime dancing, ancient Greek comic theatre and miming, puppet shows, popular poetry in the medieval Islam—were basically narrative forms, which told stories, and created plots and conceits to which people listened avidly. Thus, an analysis of performances in other times and places, and the way in which they were viewed by members of a particular society, can inform us today of the contours and malleability of gender and sex roles in historical times, and invite us to question our own notions of the “naturalness” of “masculine,” “feminine,” and “effeminate” behavior. Organization of the Book

In chapter 1, I will address the general topic of the professional public entertainer. In the following chapters I will look in-depth at the public entertainers in specific societies and historical periods, who they were, what they did during their performances, and what they wore in each region and time period, in order to identify continuities and discontinuities of the attitudes and behaviors surrounding them. I will address their performances and their appearance, the latter being a particularly misunderstood topic, because many observers, both historical



and contemporary, were not careful in their descriptions of male performers, stating simply and without question that male performers “wore women’s clothes.”7 More often than not, male performers wore ambiguous dance and acting costumes, often very theatrical and striking in appearance, consisting of both male and female elements. The latest example, which can be found on YouTube, are the Afghani bacha, dancing boys, who are clearly male and wear their hair short, but at the same time they often wear female garments. These performers rarely attempted to pass themselves off as females, because their appeal, and their livelihood, lay in the fact that they were male, and as sexually available individuals they were often highly sought after by male patrons who were sexually interested in them as males, just as other men sought out female performers for their sexual allure. This study is meant to recuperate the lives and careers of public entertainers, with whom I feel a kinship. Many of them led hard, even dangerous existences even as their performances provided entertainment and merriment, wonder and magic. They both reflected society’s values, and challenged them. I hope to restore a lost portion of history, one that can illuminate aspects of gender and sexuality, aesthetics, moral values, and the politics of the past, which surround the public entertainer and the societies in which he or she lived.


The Public Entertainer


hat do I mean by public entertainer? Above all, the performer was a professional, meaning he or she was paid for his or her services and was more or less available to be hired by various members of the public. Public entertainers may have been attached to a royal court. They may have performed in public theatres and arenas, or in taverns, coffeehouses, and marketplaces. Wealthy individuals hired them for private showings. Some extremely wealthy patrons, such as the widow Ummidia Quadratilla, who lived in first-century CE Rome, kept a troupe of pantomimes to entertain her at home, and did not mind hiring them out to turn a bit of profit, or lending them for public performances as a civic gesture in order to enhance her social status. Some public entertainers, who performed for money and whose performances included a sensual or sexual component, often drew negative critiques and harsh treatment. There were negative attitudes toward flute girls in ancient Athens, pantomimes and mimes in ancient Rome, singing slave girls in caliphal Baghdad, ghawazi dancers in Egypt, and the nautch dancers in India, against whom the government legislated in 1946, and again in 1956, criminalizing their performances (see Soneji 2012). These public entertainers were disadvantaged by being the object of the desiring gaze of others, a form of penetration, as Shadi Bartsch (2006) suggests. Dancers or singers who performed in ritual or civic acts, as was the case in ancient Greece, did not bear any stigma. Instead, their performances were viewed in a positive light and as an honorable unpaid fulfillment of civic duty (see Lawler 1964; Lonsdale 1993; Naerebout 1997). Those respectable dances and rituals are beyond the scope of this study.



The connections and linkages between public entertainers, ambiguous clothing, and sexual availability constitute an ancient interconnectedness: “the Sumerian word for prostitution, kar kid, appears on the first known written list of human professions, around 2400 BCE, along with priests and, later in the list, male prostitutes and transsexuals who are cited along with entertainers” (Stearns 2009, 24). Thus, prostitution is not the only infamous “oldest profession.” As illustrated by the quote above, public entertainers were linked to both male and female prostitutes and cross-dressers in the earliest written histories of mankind. The documentation in these early periods is sparse, but where it does exist it is possible to see that the historical connections between entertainers, sexual availability, and effeminacy are deeply rooted. Scattered pictorial evidence exists for public entertainers, especially dancers and musicians, but attempting to recreate performances or identify specific performers from ancient Sumeria, Babylonia, Assyria, and even pre-Islamic Persia is fraught with difficulties of documentation. The figurines, wall paintings, metal figures, and ceramics in existence that picture dancers and musicians tell us nothing about their social origins, social status, or aspects of their performance. For example, in looking at silver vessels in the later Sasanian period of Iranian history (224–650 CE), one finds many female figures that appear to be dancing, either in the nude or with diaphanous garments that display their bodies (see Sasanian Silver 1967). One cannot discern, however, whether these figures are intended to represent dancers who would have appeared in court festivities or deities such as Anahita since they are depicted in isolation from any social context (see Grabar 1967; Harper and Meyers 1981; Gunter and Jett 1992). The iconic and historical evidence is much more secure as we move into the richly documented history of ancient Greece and Rome and beyond, which provides us with a much clearer picture of the public entertainers: who they were, what and how they performed, and how the majority of individuals in their respective societies regarded them.1 The first known appearance of professional dancers in ancient Greece is probably datable to the late archaic period, since a critical mass of audience in an urban setting would have been necessary to provide enough work to justify the professional performers who could double as the sex workers whom we find in the symposium setting (see Jones 1991; Murray 1990; Slater 1991).


Nor are these negative assessments merely ancient attitudes, for they appear in the present as well. Lotfollah Mansouri, an extremely gifted and successful opera director, who headed the Canadian National Opera Company and the San Francisco Opera Company for many years and created stagings of operas around the world, related in a public address how he came from Iran to the University of California, Los Angeles to study medicine. One day while passing through Schoenberg Hall and hearing the opera workshop rehearsing, he was utterly captivated by the music and began to seriously study opera. Upon discovering this act of perfidy, his father disowned him, never spoke to him again, and called him raqas.2 The term “raqas,” dancer (fem. raqaseh), constitutes a deadly insult in Persian implying effeminacy, sexual availability, and general untrustworthiness, enough to disinherit a son or daughter (Shay 2008). This attitude is neither unusual nor of recent vintage, but can be considered a hoary legacy that has been handed down from generation to generation through a wide variety of old world societies that are connected culturally and historically (Shay 1999). The natal origins of these performers—right into the twentieth century—could often be found among the most marginalized societal groups. In the ancient world of Greece and Rome, they were usually also stigmatized as foreigners, slaves, orphans, or all three. Later, during the Islamic period, many were also slaves, orphans, or other individuals recruited from religious minorities: Jews, Armenians, Greek or Georgian Christians in Ottoman Turkey, and Georgian Christians in Safavid and Qajar Persia. There were many fewer Muslim public entertainers because the profession was among the most shameful in Muslim societies. In present-day Afghanistan, it is among the poor that boy dancer recruits are found, sometimes sold by their desperate parents to avoid starvation. Belly dancers in Egypt also come from the ranks of the poor and desperate. According to Morroe Berger, “Belly dancing as a career today is similar to what it was a hundred years ago and more: it is still an avenue (narrow and uphill, but open) to fame and material success for girls who would otherwise wind up as the wives of underpaid factory and farm laborers or minor clerks, raising five or six children in poverty, dirt, and ill health” (1966, 47). Many public performers were following the profession of their parents in most of the societies covered in this study, or, as stated above, they came from the margins of society.



Their social standing and their work were often viewed as scandalous, and the performers themselves were thought to be sexually available and/or sexually depraved. Nearly every reference to public performers includes their elision to prostitutes, assigning them the same legal status and strictures. When these performers were hired, owners and patrons generally expected that their services would include the sexual. The elite male Greeks of classical Athens did not only discuss elevated philosophical ideas in their highly popular symposia but also often engaged in semipublic sex with the hired entertainers. This can be seen on the more colorful of their vases, which depict drawings indicating that their evenings often involved komos, a word that translates roughly to a state of wildness achieved through ample wine and arousing entertainment, during which they would dance, brawl, and have sex. Typically, illustrations and graffiti revealed more “on-the-ground” information than the more staid philosophic writings, which celebrated elite masculine behavior. As art historian John R. Clarke points out for both ancient Greek and Roman erotic art: “It is clear that visual art tells us what literature does not. For one thing, the artistic remains are far more democratic and catholic than the texts that have come down to us” (1998, 227), although, as classics scholar Andrew Lear notes, the democratic classes were “not of the social class that attended symposia” (personal communication 10/7/2012), although the entertainers certainly were. It is important to stress that while the images found on vases and pottery are not photographs, they can be informative if the observer understands what she or he is viewing (see Mertens 2010). Scholars frequently differ in their interpretations of what is depicted on Greek vases and pottery. In this study we will search for actual as well as idealized behavior, so the use of visual arts may tell us what written documents do not about how people behaved. Training and Education

Public performers usually received extensive and arduous training because the competition for engagements was often intense and patrons sought the best performers. One can catch a glimpse of traditional training in today’s terms in the Merchant Ivory film The Courtesans of Bombay (1983), in which young sex workers are being taught to dance, sing, and play music to make them both more appealing


and more expensive for their clients. And so it was in ancient Greece. Young, attractive slave boys and girls were taught “anything that would increase their value” (Davidson 2006). These performers had to have training at a very early age, for the shelf life of dancers in particular was often a short one. Classics scholar Ruth Webb notes that in imperial Rome “when we consider that professional dancers could begin their training at a very young age, it is clear how powerful and attractive the dancer’s body could be at the end of the process. Many dancers were born into the profession, others were slaves who were trained by their owners, and in both cases the process could start very early. Paridion (“little Paris”), probably a slave who died in Side at the age of 5, is described on his tombstone as an orchestes (dancer), which suggests that he was already able to perform to some extent” (2008, 54). In Ottoman Turkey, the performance of dancing boys (köçek) “was a refined form of art involving mime, acting, singing and dancing  .  .  .” (Popescu-Judetz 1982, 50).3 Typical for most of the eras and societies under consideration here, the dancing boys’ careers typically end “when they lose their looks and their beards grow” (And 1976, 141). This meant that they underwent training at an early age: “He entered the dancing school run by the köçek ustasi (köçek master), at the age of 7 or 8 years . . . perfecting the skills of dancing and singing, training his voice, and learning to play the finger cymbals. . . . At 13 or 14 years of age he was assigned to perform with a troupe” (Popescu-Judetz ibid). Turkish dance scholar Metin And informs us that “to accustom the dancers to whirl without becoming giddy, their coach would place their pupils in large baskets, hung from the ceiling, and revolved the baskets at great speed” (ibid). “When he grew too old to appear as a female, he abandoned the troupe, or stayed on as a member of the instrumental group” (Popescu-Judetz 1982, 51). While many writers seem to indicate that a public entertainer would retire when he or she lost his or her sex appeal, this was not always the case. The idea of the male dancer ending his career at the first sign of a beard, or a female performer retiring when she was no longer young and sexy needs to be tempered. Throughout the time that I have associated with the Iranian community and traveled within Central Asia and lived in Iran, I noticed that certain individuals, like the famous dancer Tamara Khanum in Uzbekistan (Shirokaya 1972), whom I met when she was in her eighties (1987) and who was greeted everywhere in Tashkent, the Uzbek capital, as a major celebrity and whose house had



already become a museum, sang, danced, acted, and performed into old age. Shahnaz Tehrani, a female motreb (entertainer) currently living in Los Angeles, is still performing after a career in her native Iran, and the male Iranian motreb performers Eskandar Hojjati and Jalal Hemati, and “Arib” in ninth-century Baghdad, also performed into old age. This ability to perform late in life emanated from the charm and charisma that transcended the age and appearance of these performers, although they certainly used every form of artifice available, including makeup and hair dye, to appear as young as possible. Hojjati and Hemati played musical instruments and sang as well as danced. It was the sum total of their skills that defined them as public entertainers. This is a case in which the ideal behavior does not match the actual, and throughout this study we will compare actual with idealized behaviors on several levels. In many of the cases that I will cite, retired performers, or those too old to perform, often become trainers of new performers, as was the case for ‘Arib. They often manage or direct the company in addition to running the training. The individual artist generally had several skills, including dancing, singing, or playing one or more musical instruments, acting, performing acrobatics, and doing magic tricks. In ancient Greece, professional entertainers, while specializing in dance or playing an instrument, were often masters of all trades. According to James Davidson, “We get a closer look at another cithara-boy, terribly handsome, who plays for Socrates and the other guests at Xenophon’s Symposium. And playing the cithara is not all he can do. He can also dance and even performs a little dinner-theater, taking on the role Dionysus making love to Ariadne” (2007, 561). Throughout our study, we will see that public entertainers’ entertaining frequently included sex. While dancing in public as a nonprofessional was an important civic duty in ancient Greece, by contrast, in Rome, Byzantium, and throughout the core Islamic world (the Arab world, Turkey, Iran, Central Asia, Pakistan, and India) dancing in public, and even in private, constituted deeply shameful behavior for males and was unthinkable for respectable females. Classics scholar Amy Richlin notes “This is similar to the bias against dancing so often expressed in Latin literature: not only were nice women not supposed to be able to dance very well, . . . but it was a shocking thing for men to know how to dance at all” (1992, 92), an attitude that can still be found in the Middle East today.4


Those who undertook such a profession as a pantomime dancer in ancient Rome, a köçek (male dancer) in Ottoman Turkey, or a dancer in nineteenth-century Persia became infamous, and frequently sought after. A highly effeminate act for a man was to squander his wealth upon dancers or actors, not because of the sex that was expected, but because of the loss of control that was indicated—financial, political, and sexual. A late nineteenth-/early-twentieth-century Qajar princess, Taj alSaltaneh, gives voice to the majority public opinion concerning the public entertainer, in this case a young dancer. This opinion continues today as evidenced by the Islamic Republic of Iran’s ban on all forms of professional dancing, as well as dancing at private parties: That night ‘Abdi Jan’s troupe had been called so that the harem occupants could watch the show. Of course, you remember ‘Abdi well. Let me, nonetheless, give you a description of his looks. He was a lad of about twelve or thirteen, with large black eyes, languid and incredibly beautiful and attractive. His face was tanned and good looking, his lips crimson, and his hair black and thick. Renowned throughout the town, the boy had a thousand adoring lovers. Being a dancer, however, he was unworthy of being anyone’s beloved. (1993, 163)

Abbas Amanat, the editor of the diaries of the princess, informs us that Taj al-Sultana’s husband spent a fortune on a young male dancer named Tayhu (1993, 54). He was not alone; many elite Iranian men pursued young men in the nineteenth century and beyond. As Middle Eastern studies scholar Janet Afary states, “At the same time, consensual and semi-open pederastic relations between adult men and amrads (adolescent boys) were common in various sectors of society” (2009, 105). Naser al-Din Shah (r. 1848–1896), the ruler of Persia, kept an official young lover, Malijak, and gave him the title “Aziz al-Sultan” (Beloved of the Sultan). (Afary 2009, 105–106; Najmabadi 2005, 250 n.39; Shamisa 2002, 11, 246). A caveat needs to be issued in an historical study of entertainers. A close reading of their performances is in many cases not possible for a number of reasons. (1) Most descriptions of their performances from contemporary sources are either missing or poor. Ancient Roman authors like Lucian or Libanius assumed their readers were familiar with these performances, and did not feel the need to elaborate on performance details; they assumed the reader



had the “period eye.” As classics scholar Edith Hall notes, “One of the several reasons why pantomime has been neglected by scholars and cultural historians . . . is the dispersed and fragmentary state of the evidence” (2008, 4). (2) Others who described the performances were hostile: European travelers to the Middle East seeking to indict Muslims for loose morals; Christian Romans characterizing pantomimes and other entertainers as examples of pagan moral depravity; Church fathers in the Middle Ages; and Islamic leaders in the present and the past, characterizing performers as evil. Adding to the difficulty of teasing out the various categories of performers is that Roman observers themselves were frequently unclear: according to classics scholar John H. Starks, “One of the greatest obstacles to the identification of pantomime actresses or other performers in ancient sources is the variety of titles used to identify them in different languages, sources, time periods, and geographical regions” (2008, 115). There are, however, a number of touching grave stelae from ancient Rome, which clearly indicate the existence of public performers, that their colleagues erected in their honor since generally, as former slaves or orphans, they no longer had families. To account for these cultural continuities, I will look at several issues: the origins of these performers, which is crucial to their identity as sexually available, what constitutes masculinity, and finally effeminacy, masculinity’s crucial other. When I speak of general attitudes toward performers or toward sexuality and gender roles in these historical periods, it is important to emphasize that certain genres of performance, like mime, had continuity, at least into the Middle Ages, and in diverse languages and guises. Some forms of mime continued into the twentieth century, while other genres, such as pantomime dancing, so popular during Imperial Rome, lasted six centuries as the apex of Roman performance genres, and when its specific contexts—cultural, economic, and religious—no longer existed, it, like Rome itself, died out. Also, within each period, individuals perceived a hierarchy of performance genres, even within a single genre like music, that directly related to their performers. One can find evidence of this, for example, in the order in which Abbasid and early modern treatises on performance invariably list poets first, followed by musicians. Dancers are rarely mentioned, especially by name.


Respectable Public Performers

It is important to note that alongside these infamous performers (the Romans used the word infamia to describe their profession, along with other underworld and demimonde professions and categories), there also existed classes of paid performers who held more honorable statuses in their respective societies. In this volume I will describe these artists, contrasting them to public entertainers, and suggest that this respectability separated what we might in a contemporary setting think of when we compare artists with entertainers, in the highbrow/ lowbrow dichotomy used by historian Lawrence W. Levine. (1988) The respectable performers frequently performed separate genres and repertoires of music or dance from public performers, further setting them apart. And these genres were frequently courtly ones. For example, in the Persian courts, court musicians who played serious music and were available only to the shah and a handful of nobles were often residents at the courts. Until the advent of radio and phonograph recordings, few individuals outside of the royal circle ever heard Persian classical music or knew of its existence. By contrast, the motreb, the public entertainer, performed popular songs, sensual dances, and comic, often bawdy, slapstick theatre for weddings and other celebratory events, and members of the public who could afford the price could hire them (Beeman 1981, 1982, 2011; Fatemi 2001, 2007; Shay 1999). Traveling troupes of the poorest public entertainers made the circuit to small towns, tribal areas, and villages, barely scraping out an existence well into the twentieth century (Mortensen 1993). The courts sometimes brought such public performers to perform, and those who witnessed their performances wrote in breathless tones of their shocking displays. The courts, too, sometimes had their raunchy side. Levine notes that discerning what constitutes highbrow and lowbrow  can be an onerous exercise for the historian: “Certainly, the relationship of an audience to the object of its focus—be it a sermon, political speech, newspaper, musical composition, or play—is a complex one and constitutes a problem. But the problem cannot be resolved through the use of such ahistorical devices as then coming to conclusions that have more to do with the culture of the writer than that of the subject” (1988, 35–36). In other words, I think it would be nearly impossible to create a hierarchy of which arts were considered to be



highbrow and which lowbrow in each time and place. It would require documentation that does not exist. We certainly know that Plato resisted the new mousikē vigorously because he said so in no uncertain terms: “The introduction of novel fashions in music is a thing to beware of as endangering the whole fabric of society” (Rep. 4.424b-c translated by Cornford). Since the new music attained great popularity, permitted the vocalists and instrumentalists a greater range of style and virtuosity, and led to the rise of solo actors and musicians, Plato’s statement only tells us that he is conservative in matters of cultural expression, not how most members of his society perceived the hierarchy of cultural and artistic expression. Thus, for example in medieval Islam, male court musicians, who typically wrote treatises on music, composed music and poetry, performed what we might tentatively call classical music genres and mastered the art of adab (courtly behavior) during the Abbasid caliphate (750– 1254), were, for the most part, exempted from the general contempt directed at the public performer, including, for example, the effeminate mukhannathun musicians and dancers (Everett Rowson 1997. See also Owen Wright 1997 on Ziryab, a court musician in Andalusian Spain). Court musicians frequently became boon companions (nadim) of the caliph and shared intimate social evenings with him. Nevertheless, poets were always ranked higher than musicians. This could be seen in the seating arrangements in formal court settings. In two important documents from the Mughal courts, the poets are listed before the musicians, and generally in more detail (see Abu al-Fazl ibn Mubarak and Henry Blochmanm 2011, 279–303; Baburnama 2002, 214–219). The repertoires of the court musicians and the mukhannathun (effeminates) were substantially different, and the music of the latter group was characterized by Abu l-Faraj al-Isfahani, a contemporary observer of the Abbasid musical scene, as “light” (Kilpatrick 2003, 51). Thus, we have a knowledgeable contemporary observer indicating what constituted highbrow and lowbrow in the aesthetic hierarchy of that era. As another example of a respectable performer, Roscius, one of the most famous actors in ancient Rome, was awarded the equestrian rank by Sulla, which meant, however, that in order to remain respectable, he “thereafter had to cease charging for his performances” (Duncan 2006, 173). Exceptionally, Roscius was also a free Roman citizen. This is an exception to the general opprobrium that surrounded the lives of the public performers.


Concerning the periods following the Abbasid caliphate, Amnon Shiloah (1995) and Amir Hosein Pourjavady (2005) provide us with descriptions of the treatises written about music and musicians. These treatises primarily address courtly art music. Folk music and light music are rarely mentioned, further highlighting their lower status. Present-Day Public Entertainers

Current views of performers in the Middle East seemingly have not undergone much change since the first association between prostitution, homosexuality, sexual availability, and effeminacy was first recorded over three millennia ago in ancient Sumeria. Anthropologist Karin van Nieuwkerk observes that contemporary Egyptian Islamists “have strongly condemned vulgarity in films, the obscenity of dancing, the dangerous hold of music on youth, and the laxity of performers’ morality. Performing artists have been attacked, and female performers in particular have been heavily criticized for the exposure of their bodies” (2011, 177). Moralists in ancient Rome and Byzantium, such as Scipio Aemilianus who “condemned the mania of young people for dance” (Beacham 1991, 141), would have nodded sagely and with great satisfaction to know that their thoughts were being echoed two thousand years later. And yet, the world is still turning, and public entertainers are acting, dancing, singing, and creating music to this day. The public entertainer, in whatever genre, and wildly out of proportion to his or her numbers, preoccupied the public mind, as he or she still does today throughout the Middle East, North Africa, and Central Asia, as well as in the ancient Mediterranean world. I argue that the public entertainer constituted the quintessential “Other,” by which normative society could and did define itself. In many ways the public entertainer became the principal scare figure of nonmasculinity. In her study of the pantomime dancers of ancient Rome, classics scholar Ismene Lada-Richards points out that “one of pantomime’s social roles was to ‘serve as a foil, a negative reference point’, in relation to which high-class discourses defined themselves” (2007, 113). In this way, as Lada-Richards tells us, the pantomime was “good to think with,” to create difference, to marginalize the public entertainer, move her and him beyond the borders of the acceptable, use her or him as a vehicle, and hold her or him up as a negative



example that was useful for policing morality and proper masculine behavior (2008, 285–313). This view of public performers’ scandalous performances as lower and “other” to polite society was not limited to ancient Rome. It has been held for over three millennia, throughout this vast region, and constitutes one of the most important continuities between the past and the present. In all of these times and places, public performers occupied the public’s attention well beyond their numbers and social and political influence. And they fulfilled the role of a highly visible moral lesson, a model to be avoided at all costs by decent members of society—a moral lesson to be avidly studied and an image to be secretly cherished. If public entertainers have been “othered” within their respective societies and historical periods, and they were considered indecent and almost criminal, why then were they considered sexually attractive and available? Partly, I suggest that it was their status as the “Other,” following Michael Uebel’s observation that “Otherness causes desire” (2003, 231). Referring again to Peter Stallybrass and Allon White (1986), whose concept of transgression informs this entire study, the lower other constitutes an indispensable part of the upper, which it defines, and few are lower than the public entertainer in many of these societies. We will see again and again in this study the ways in which patrons of these performers sought sexual intimacy with them. One of the aspects of the othering that occurred lay in the fear of the sexual power and aura they cast on their viewers. Moralists of every stripe frequently commented on the allure and sexual ambiguity of these performers and the dangers they posed for members of society because of their sexual allure. Historian C. E. Bosworth tells us that in medieval Baghdad, public entertainers were considered members of the criminal classes, the medieval Arab underworld, the Banu Sasan (1976, 1). These were dangerous people for decent people to know. Perhaps this dangerous quality enhanced their desirability: the quintessential forbidden fruit. While several excellent studies of specific public performers exist: women singers in contemporary Iran (Chehabi 2000; Hemmasi 2011), the ancient Roman pantomime (Lada-Richards 2007; Hall and Wyles 2008; Webb 2008), and effeminate musicians in medieval Islam (Rowson 1997; Moreh 1992), there has been no attempt to “connect the dots” as it were, to show the commonalities of the contexts, social statuses, and especially the ways in which these performers were regarded as “other” across time periods and geographic zones.


Public Entertainers and Sex

Many public performers were male and female slaves, others were born into families of performers who already had low status, and still others were orphans; as slaves and/or prostitutes they were sexually available. In ancient Rome the famous dancing girls of Cadiz (Gades) “were normally slaves . . . troupes of Gaditane dancing girls were owned to be hired out” (Fear 1991, 75). The imprecise descriptions of their dances allow us to hazard the supposition that the famous dancing girls of Gades (Cadiz) performed a dance that was akin to professional belly dancing; they were certainly hired for their dirty dancing. In the ninthcentury caliphal court, “‘Arib herself is quoted as saying that she had sex with eight of the ‘Abbasid caliphs . . . sexual favors were often a professional requirement . . .” (Gordon 2004, 90–91). In the Safavid court (1501–1725), according to Rudi Matthee, “At official banquets where female dancers performed, the host would offer his guests to take advantage of the women so as to slake their sexual thirst. Separate rooms were set aside for this purpose. Upon their return, the guest would return to his seat while the woman resumed her dancing” (2000, 138–139). As stated earlier, public entertainers were regularly claimed to be sexually available or even sexually depraved. Nearly every reference to the public performer includes his or her inclusion in the class of prostitutes. Since many of them had servile origins, they had no choice. When these performers were hired, their owners and their patrons had expectations that their services would include the sexual. Historically, in the medieval Abbasid court of Baghdad and the Andalusian courts of the ‘Umayyads, the singing slave girls “became no less than coveted material possessions, a symbol of prestige and wealth and, thus, the stuff of social standing” (see Wright 1997). English traveler Eugene Schuyler indicates that in mid-nineteenth-century Bukhara (in contemporary Uzbekistan), the possession of a dancing boy, just as contemporary Afghani boys are sought after, “is as much the custom for a Bokhariot gentleman to keep as it was in the Middle Ages for each knight to have his squire. In fact no establishment of a man of rank or position would be complete without one, and men of small means club together to keep one among them” (1876 [1966], 70–71). As a Victorian writer, he makes no mention that sexual favors were part of the performers’ repertoire, or perhaps he was unaware of that arrangement.



The linkages between male dancers and effeminacy extend beyond the worlds I have been describing and can even be found in twentieth-century America: Vernon Castle, who trained fighter pilots, and Rudolf Valentino, that “pink powder puff,” as the Chicago Tribune famously called him, were assumed to be “queer” by most of their contemporaries (Studlar 1993, 39–40). They were, after all, professional dancers. The institution of bacheh-bazi/baccebozlik, in which youths are trained in the arts of singing and dancing and are sexually available for their audiences, is alive and flourishing in current-day Afghanistan, as it was in nineteenth-century Central Asia, Iran, and Turkey. In present-day Pakistan and India, the cross-dressed and sometimes castrated hijras constitute a class of public entertainers, profiled alongside the courtesans of Bombay in a Merchant-Ivory film The Courtesans of Bombay, as they learn their music and dance to perform for their customers, not unlike their nineteenth-century courtesan predecessors, the regal tawa’if of Moghul India, except in somewhat grittier contexts. As anthropologist Gayatri Reddy shows in her study of the hijras, sex work constitutes an important aspect of hijra lives (2005).

Figure 1.1 Indian Jugglers. This scene could occur throughout the Middle East, North Africa, Central Asia, and India. Courtesy of the author.


Continuities from the Ancient World to the Islamic World

It is commonplace in studies of music and dance in the Islamic Middle East to cite Islam, its religious proscriptions, and Islamic clerics as the reasons for the devaluing of public performers (Choudhury 1957). For this reason, this study will chronicle the historical attitudes that predated Islam, and I will argue that in fact the Muslim world inherited these negative attitudes from the antique Mediterranean world and strengthened them, that is to say that these attitudes did not originate in Islam, but earlier. Famous bards, such as Barbad from the late Sasanian period, and Rudaki from the early Islamic period, enjoyed court patronage, for they glorified the ruling classes in their verses, but the performers who performed for the common people were considered potentially dangerous. “The Sasanian churches warned their followers against the seduction of secular minstrelsy” (Boyce 1957, 31), which indicates that two categories of performers existed: artists, who performed in the court and for the aristocracy, and entertainers, who were available to all who could afford their services. Sometimes, as in the Sasanian case, the term gosan seemed to cover both types of performers. Thus, historically in Iran until the present day, public entertainers were viewed with suspicion, and linked to prostitution and effeminacy (see Loeb 1972). Scholars and writers who have written about music and dance in an Islamic context frequently and unproblematically indict Islam for negative attitudes toward music, as if this should be an accepted and unquestioned given. Thus, we find passages like the following, by Turkish dance scholar Metin And: “The austerity and rigidity of Islam did much to discourage music and dance and waged a relentless war against them” (1959, 13). Iranian music scholar Hormoz Farhat stated: “At the outset, Islamic religious leaders had assumed a hostile attitude towards music and regarded it as a corrupting frivolity” (1965, 6). I do not question the truthfulness of these statements, but rather the acceptance that these attitudes are characterized as uniquely Islamic, inferring that prior to Islam things were different, and better.5 The Qu’ran contains no definitive statements concerning music or dance, nor does it overtly place any prohibitions on them. According to music historian M. L. Roy Choudhury, “The Qu’ran has not made it [music] either haram or halal, i.e., neither condemned nor permitted” (1957, 5). Many of these problematic statements that attribute these



negative attitudes to Islam, with an often concomitant expression that prior to Islam music and dance were honored arts, proceeds from the fact that scholarship has become so specialized and compartmentalized that many scholars of the Muslim world do not possess adequate knowledge of previous periods. I will be challenging this kind of overspecialized, overcompartmentalized thinking to demonstrate a more organic flow of attitudes and thought over and through historical periods and geographically and historically adjacent societies. It is sometimes the case that more definitive changes occurred within societies, for example, major differences in attitudes toward performing dance in public between Republican and Imperial Rome, than between Greek attitudes and Roman ones, or between attitudes toward dancers among Christians in the Byzantine Empire, and their later Islamicized descendants in what is now Turkey, and the Arab world of Syria and Iraq. Keeping in mind that I am looking at public entertainers who performed several artistic roles, my focus is on dance, music, and acting, because it is especially in dancing and acting that the body is displayed. However, it is important to keep in mind that these entertainers frequently performed all of these forms of expression in a single performance. For a man or woman to display his or her body for pay, no matter to what degree it was covered, was equated to prostitution. What They Did: Dancer as Musician/Musician as Dancer

Before proceeding to each specific area and time period, using examples of performers from ancient Greece, Rome, the Early Islamic courts of the Umayyads and Abbasids, and sixteenth- to twentieth-century Iran, Central Asia, Egypt, and Turkey, I wish to show that the public entertainer had more similarities than differences, and that the majority of the performers had multiple skills, performing dance, music, acting, mime, magic tricks, and acrobatics, among other forms of expression, at different moments of their professional lives. Additionally, there were many categories of performers, including those viewed as respectable, who did not fall into the category of other, including actors in ancient Greece and male court musicians in medieval Baghdad and Damascus. The intense specialization frequently leads scholars to fail to identify the interconnectedness of expressive forms in other times and places, when, in fact, dancers were musicians, acrobats, and actors, and musicians were dancers, magicians, and actors. In many large areas of the


world and over long periods of time, public professional performers, like those I describe in ancient Greece and Rome, Medieval Islam, Islamic Iran and Turkey 1500–1900, and contemporary Afghanistan, frequently and routinely performed a number of artistic skills during their professional careers. In fact, in most cases, professional entertainers developed multiple skills over their careers. This capacity for multiple artistic roles permitted them to be more flexible and more employable in an arena in which the competition was frequently extremely tough. In the contemporary West, it is common to separate out categories of performers—musician, dancer, and actor—and treat these categories as separate, universal, and unchanging. Performance studies scholar Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett notes: “[T]he European tendency has been to split up the senses and parcel them out, one at a time, to the appropriate art form. One sense, one art form. We listen to music. We look at paintings. Dancers don’t talk. Musicians don’t dance” (1991, 416). And we, as scholars, have divided our disciplines in the same way. We describe and analyze performances in terms of our own disciplines. As dance scholars, for example, we often feel unqualified to write about music or acting. Conversely, in studies of the ancient Roman pantomime many writers describe the performers as actors, and although they fell under that juridical label, in fact, he (pantomimes were almost exclusively male from the descriptions we have in hand) could more accurately fall under the category of dancer. What is clear is that the finest pantomime dancers were serious, highly trained artists who took their work very seriously, and through their artistry, mesmerized their audiences with their skills and became rich and famous. Theatre studies scholar Richard C. Beacham describes the Roman mime: “The variety and versatility of the mime’s subject matter was reflected in the actors who presented it; ranging from the individual itinerant performer presenting a one-man show to large troupes (with up to sixty members) offering a full bill of diverse entertainments. Some artists specialized in afterpieces, others in interludes, and still others in such non-dramatic material as conjuring, juggling, and singing” (1991, 132). Classics scholar R. Elaine Fantham describes their performances as “a narrative entertainment in the media of speech song, and dance” (1989, 154). Above all, unlike the pantomime who worked from scripts for his appearances, the proceedings of the



mimes were largely improvised According to T. D. Barnes, “The pantomime was a solo performer, always a man, who played both male and female roles; he danced, without speaking or singing. . . . In contrast, mimes were performed by several players, female as well as male; the performers spoke and sang, usually without a chorus, but did not dance . . .� (Barnes 1996, 169). Thus, the Romans made a distinction between pantomime, a solo dance form accompanied by an orchestra and chorus, danced in silence, as contrasted to the mime, who is a male or female performer who acted with spoken dialogue, singing, and dancing. Mimes performed lower-brow entertainment, mostly bawdy comedy. The difficult and complex social contexts in which the pantomime dancer, the mime, and other public entertainers performed and the attitudes that most members of their society had toward them carried through the Roman and Byzantine world into the Islamic world, and I suggest that the negative attitudes toward these public performers constitute a cultural and historical continuity among these societies. The descriptions of civic, social, and legal disabilities under which the pantomime dancer worked carried over into the Islamic period, and became even more severe. Because they frequently lacked legal standing, they were particularly vulnerable to torture and death, and many instances of this have been documented. Thus, throughout this study we will look at the transhistorical and transcultural continuities and discontinuities between societies in their attitudes toward public entertainers, masculinity, effeminacy, and sexual availability. Most importantly, I will try to recapture something of their lives and the adverse conditions in which they lived.


The Contours of Masculinity and Public Entertainers in Ancient Greece


It is crucial to remember that ancient Greek society did not exist in isolation; there was cultural interaction with many societies around it, or in classics scholar Carol Dougherty’s phrase, “conflict and collaboration,” between different Greek settlements as well as with Etruscans, Phoenicians, and other groups (2003, 35). “Elements of the indigenous Etruscan world are combined with aspects of Greek myth as well as those of Phoenician origin to produce a compelling testament to the power and status of this princeps . . . In other words, Odysseus serves as a model for the Etruscan princeps” (41). The Greeks borrowed the basic elements of the Phoenician alphabet to create their own, and the Etruscans looked to Greek artistic production to adorn their dwellings and provide funerary equipment. Greek traders were active throughout the ancient world, and thus exposed to an array of customs and practices from other cultures. I think it important to clarify that in spite of the common use of the term “ancient Greece,” we are looking at a wide variety of ethnicities, languages, and time periods, each with their own specificity. “And yet while we depend upon the heuristic potential of Greek culture as a heuristic category, we also acknowledge its limitations . . . Greek culture, like all others, was comprised of many disparate subgroups or subcultures” (Dougherty and Kurke 2003, 1). Alongside ethnic and linguistic groups, social categories of elite aristocrats, farmers, artisans, and slaves assume importance in any study of masculinities of the ancient world.



Greece must surely be viewed within the framework of a scarcity culture, which drove certain aspects of idealized and actual masculine behavior. For example, classics scholar Daniel Garrison observes, the Greek polis “continued to focus on its rustic past and the culture of neediness” (2000, 90) and never achieved the opulence of Rome at its height. He adds, “The Greeks from Hesiod in the seventh century to Thucydides in the fifth dreaded poverty and considered it a disgrace not to do everything possible to escape it” (94). The fact that most Athenian citizens were independent peasants or small farmers frequently lies hidden under the awesome philosophical treatises of Plato and Aristotle, the grandeur of Homer, and the eloquence of Euripides and Aeschylus, in which Greek urban life is emphasized. The economic situation of ancient Greece determined its cultural expression. The vast majority of the inhabitants lived on subsistence agriculture, as documented by the poet Hesiod (c. 700 BCE) in his Works and Days (see Isager and Skydsgaard 1995). Because in reading and writing history we stress the urban portion of the ancient Greeks, we sometimes forget the countryside, and the fact that they practiced a form of simple agriculture, based on grain, livestock, the vine, and olives. From every point of view—geology, soils, climate, availability of water—the Greeks were poorly equipped to exploit more than a basic form of agriculture from their environment. It is little wonder, then, that the Greeks placed such a premium on the virtue of self-control in all of the appetites. The Formation of the City State

It was not until the beginning of the Archaic Age [c. 700 BCE] that “the characteristic community of classical Greece—the polis [city-state]— began to take shape” (Fine 1983, 33–34). Historian Mogens Herman Hansen defines the polis as “a strongly institutionalized and centralized microstate consisting of one city (polis) and its immediate hinterland (chora or ge)” (2013, 259). It was during the sixth and seventh centuries BCE that the most intense periods of colonization took place, probably due to the fact that the Greeks had reached the limit of their particular form of subsistence agriculture at this historic juncture. “There were approximately 1,500 poleis,” of which 600 existed in Greece and some 400 were colonies (259). Only a few, like Athens and


Sparta had populations in excess of 100,000 including free citizens, foreigners, and slaves. Colonists went forth and sent their products back to the main settlements, and traded with the mother city, with whom they kept in contact (see Fine 1983, ch. 4). On the Greek mainland olive oil, wine and the products of workshops, primarily pottery and textiles, as was the case later in the Middle East, became important sources of income to support the cultural development of Classical Athens and other cities. Textiles were such an important export that slave prostitutes were required to weave between customers. (Cohen 2006, 104) For many people today, the history of Western civilization begins in the small city that Athens was. And Athens was small. Fine estimates that Athens in the mid-fifth century BCE “had some 40,000 to 50,000 adult male citizens. The total number of Athenians, then—men, women, and children—came to something like 180,000. Resident aliens and slaves are estimated to have been about equal in number to the Athenians, with the result that there was probably in Attica and Salamis a population in round numbers of about 350,000” (1983, 51). Considering the meager agricultural resources and production abilities, these relatively small numbers of population should not come as a surprise. There is a tendency to conceive of ancient Greece as a static historical unit, when in fact, change and interaction characterized ancient Greece throughout its history. The cultural and social distance between Archaic Greece (700–480 BCE), which was characterized by tiny settlements that “were small nuclei with much land around them left to occupy” (Forrest 1991, 14), and classical Athens (480–323 BCE), with its monumental architecture and sophisticated social, cultural, and artistic forms, was great. Thus, we must consider these economic aspects as a backdrop to any shaping of the contours of masculinity because, in many ways, scarcity controlled or directed masculine values. The ancient Greeks themselves vaunted their poverty as a virtue. Clearly, the ancient Greeks wore their perceived poverty as both a badge of honor and one of shame. Contours of Masculinity

In the case of a society dominated by men who sequester their wives and daughters, denigrate the female role in reproduction, erect monuments to the male genitalia, have sex with the sons of their peers,



sponsor public whorehouses, create a mythology of rape, and engage in rampant saber-rattling, it is not inappropriate to refer to a reign of the phallus. Classical Athens was such a society. The story of phallic rule at the root of western civilization has been suppressed, as a result of the near-monopoly that men have held in the field of Classics, by neglect of rich pictorial evidence, by prudery and censorship, and by a misguided desire to protect an idealized image of Athens (Keuls, 1993, 1). Before addressing Keuls’s analysis of classical Athenian society in some detail, and taking a briefer look at the field of classics, I want to direct the reader’s attention to the fact that Keuls limits her observations to fifth-century Attic society (specifically 480–430 BCE). This is important to keep in mind because attitudes and behaviors of men and masculine ideals changed, sometimes radically, throughout the history of ancient Greece, and yet these ideals always retained a Homeric-heroic core that outlined and underpinned idealized masculine deportment. “To the Ancient Greek, the earliest history of his land was enshrined in the great Homeric epics the Iliad and the Odyssey. . . . They entered into the very fabric of his being, for Homer played a basic role in his education, and, to the artists, poets, and orators by whom every Greek was deeply influenced, the epic tradition was a source of endless inspiration” (Fine 1983, 1). The Homeric epics, I suggest, set the standards for idealized masculinity throughout the Archaic, Classical, and Hellenistic periods for Greek men, for more than a millennium. Homer provided a full service military hero image for Greek men to emulate. In the fifth century, as Athens moved into a more democratic period, elite men increasingly pursued athletics, as the hoplite soldier replaced the aristocratic horseman. “The change in social background of athletes in the fifth century coincides roughly with the general shift in control over collective activities out of the hands of the traditional aristocracy after the archaic age” (Scanlon 2002, 10–11). Another aspect of masculine idealized behavior was to build a strong, highly aestheticized body. In the theatre, Greeks displayed well-trained bodies to represent themselves. Attic pottery depicts many scenes in the gymnasium, a center of masculine culture in Athens, where the men played and exercised in the nude. The male body, and its appearance, constituted an important aspect of masculine sexual allure in the ancient Greek world, and sculpture and painting celebrated its beauty.


Dance and movement and music were part of the athletic workout: “In Greek culture, even in Plato’s Utopias, the training in nobility— in how to be a kalos kagathos, a ‘gentleman’—always included music, dance and poetry’ (Goldhill 1995, 10). We will see this elite attention to music and poetry repeated in the medieval Islamic world, where, as in ancient Athens, it constituted a measure of ideal manly behavior. Dance was another thing all together. As I stated in the introduction, these ancient Greek dances were group dances: “Dances in socially central contexts were generally performed, not by an individual but by a group, the choros. In this respect too—as well as through its ubiquity and social centrality—Greek dancing expressed and confirmed the identity and the cohesion of the community” (Zarifi 2007, 237). By contrast, the Greeks perceived of sensual dances—kordax, sikinnis—that the professional dancers performed as alien and “oriental.” The very word kinaidos produces the idea of the seductive, voluptuous dancer seeking to be penetrated through his suggestive movements. Athletics, a beautiful body, still constituted important aspects of Greek masculine culture in the Hellenistic and Roman periods, because military activity in the Homeric fashion was no longer possible. The ideal of having a healthy, athletic body never faded. Masculinity and Self Mastery

High on the list of masculine ideals was for a man to be in control of his appetites: financial, gastronomic, and sexual. This ideal begins a continuity that has lasted until the present day in the historical periods and geographic areas that this study surveys. Financial support was also crucial, and individuals who spent too much on luxurious goods and services, if they endangered their family’s well-being, were widely censored. Here the family, the oikos, generally meant an extended family that lived together with slaves and retainers. Even fewer modern writers characterizing ancient Greek masculinity mention that the care of one’s aging parents constituted a basic masculine duty, and one of the reasons that nearly everyone had children. In cultures of scarcity, hospitality was a virtue. On a more private level, the elite had special rooms for that core Greek social and political institution, the symposium, for which they provided their guests with food, wine, sometimes sparkling conversation and at other times entertainment, and sex, for which they hired public entertainers of both sexes.



While we in the West, as Keuls reminds us, generally look favorably, if not worshipfully, at Greek culture, Athenian and Spartan competitiveness—political, economic, social—marked many Greek societies, and provides us with a glance at the less attractive aspects of masculine deportment Greek men enacted. “Sparta was a quintessentially agonal society, permeated with ambition, envy, and mistrust” (Cartledge 1992, 86). Competitiveness pervaded every aspect of Greek life. Winning was a sign of masculinity. Regarding her description of men in ancient Athens in the epigraph of this section, there is a great deal of truth in what Keuls writes, but her characterization is in desperate need of nuance. Archeologist Ian Morris to some degree supports Keuls’s assertion of rampant hypermasculine behavior: “I suggest that the ‘mainstream’ material culture of Athens was so pervasive because Athenian male citizen culture as a whole was unusually hegemonic, filling every corner of the conceptual landscape, allowing no space for alternatives” (1998, 196–197). Most importantly, the Athenians wrote a lot, as well as producing a great deal of pottery that depicts explicitly what they did and how they thought, and reflects many of their ideal behaviors. For the past several years many scholars seem to have felt more comfortable giving close readings of ancient Greek literature, plays, epic, oratory, history, and poetry in order to define and shape gender roles and sexuality, often ignoring or scarcely referring to the visual evidence of pottery and statuary. However, archeologist J. R. Green observes that “There are senses in which this sort of material gives a better cross-section of evidence than, say, Aristophanes who tends by and large to take a conservative line and is writing comedy, or Thucydides who also had his own agenda, political and moral” (1994, 62). I regard Greek visual arts as primary texts. An important place to start to create the contours of idealized masculinity is with “the incalculable impact of the Homeric poems” (Griffin 1991, 91), whose epic poetry was pervasive throughout the Greek world, especially in defining aspects of idealized masculine deportment. One of the reasons that Keuls’s and Morris’s remarks concerning the all-encompassing masculine presence in ancient Greece become so pertinent is due to this model—an impossibly heroic model for mere mortals to achieve. Classics scholar Oliver Taplin observes, “The ‘Heroic Code’ consists of precepts such as that you must strive to be first, you must kill and humiliate your enemies, and you must preserve your honor, which is measurable in material goods” (1998, 77).


Courage could also be shown in civil life: “Showing courage in civic life was associated with other masculine qualities, such as discipline and self-control, intelligence, foresight, endurance and hard work. It was also linked to philotimia, the ability to lead and control others, practicing justice, and generally, good moral character” (Roisman 2003, 128). Thus, we can see that idealized codes of masculinity were much more nuanced than many of the studies of Greek masculinity show, and extended well beyond the military ideal. And yet, such physical behavior is also tempered by such qualities as hospitality and generosity: “strangers should be treated properly whatever the circumstances . . . an example of really noble hospitality” (Taplin 1998, 69). One finds an emphasis on the undeniable violence found in the ancient world, but rarer mentions of the equally important quality of hospitality in a world of limited resources, a quality that characterizes the Islamic Middle Eastern world and its masculine values even today. In Hellenistic Greece (330 BCE–33 CE) display oratory, known broadly among scholars as the Second Sophistic, Greek men “were gathering as members of the educated elite, parading and exercising their status as scrutinizing their peers as their reputations were made and broken, and testing the role of traditional Greek manhood within the demanding environment of imperial aristocratic culture” (Whitmarsh 2005, 3). Word-rattling had replaced saber-rattling, just as athletics had replaced military duty. These qualities, heroic and martial in nature, need to be contrasted with two other qualities that the Greeks prized in men: self-control on every level—sexual, financial, appetite for food and wine—and hospitality as demonstrated in that quintessential Greek institution: the symposium—good food, sparkling conversation, good wine, good sex, and dirty dancing. The symposium was “a highly ritualized occasion and an important crucible for the forging of friendships, alliances and community” (Davidson 1997, 43). Thus, we can see that the contours of idealized masculine codes in ancient Greece are more nuanced than Keuls suggests. They include the usual suspects: bravery, valor, athletic and physical strength, military skills. But they also include the cultivated and cultured: having knowledge of poetry, dancing, music, theatre, oratory and rhetorical skills that demonstrated paedia (education); being a good host, a good friend; taking care of one’s parents and one’s patrimony; serving as a model for the younger male in erotic relationships.



Pederasty and Misogyny

In such a social setting, in which women, particularly as bearers of children, rather than love objects, “marriage does not take center stage in the philosophical debate about Eros, and sexual pleasure until we get to Rome . . . writers about Greece of the fifth and fourth centuries have tended to think that sex in marriage is an uninteresting topic, believing that marital sex was generally agreed to be unerotic and primarily reproductive in nature” (Nussbaum and Sihvola 2002, 14). Much of the erotic interest of Athenian men was directed toward youths and hetairai in more respectable settings, and in the brothels and with public performers in less respectable contexts. “Vast evidence exists suggesting that most Athenian men whether or not they could afford the lifestyle of the aristocracy, found boys to be attractive sexual objects” (Ormand 2009, 57; emphasis in original). Also, James Davidson reminds us that “Foucault’s study of Greek sexuality has very little on women at all and gives the impression the Greeks were much more interested in boys. Any examination of comic fragments, vase-paintings and Attic oratory, however, shows this impression is quite false” (1997, xxiii–xxiv). They pursued multiple sexual interests with both women and young men; however, they seemed to have pursued romantic, as opposed to sexual, love with boys in a very public fashion, which may give the impression that they had less sexual interest in women than was the fact. More crucially, John Boardman and Eugenio La Rocca remind us that Eros among the Greeks was not easy to pin down: “In fact their view of love seems bewilderingly diverse, even to change from century to century” (1978, 11). In many ways men and women, at least in the elite classes, barely knew one another: they lived in different social worlds; the marriage typically took place between a man who was 30 and a young teenage bride “ideally first married at fourteen” (Pomeroy 1995, 64); the wedding night was characterized as the man “stabbed to death” the bride (Kaimio 2002, 97). Further, it was widely believed that women, but not boys, could sap one’s physical strength in intercourse, a common belief in many areas of the Middle East (see Alter 1992; personal observation). So, men turned to their eromenoi and the hetairai for sex and witty conversation in the gymnasia and the symposia—all far away from the lives of “decent” women. “There was no pedestal for women in classical Greece. If sexual love had a transcendent moral


function to perform, it must be between males” (Garrison 2000, 156). As Davidson observes, “From the middle of the Archaic period, it was the adolescent male with whom they established the deepest bonds of affection, and it could not hurt that these ties of affection often came with political and social advancement” (2007, 46).

Pederasty, Homosexuality, and Effeminacy: The Kinaidos (Greek)/Cinaedus (Latin)

Let us begin with the most important scare figure in the ancient world: the kinaidos/cinaedus. The kinaedos begins with the figure of the professional male dancer in ancient Greece. The original term seems to have referred to male dancers who performed what the Greeks euphemistically (euphemism is, after all, a word of Greek origin) called “Oriental dance,” that is, dirty dancing—un-Greek, an alien import from the degenerate Orient, in the minds of the ancient Greeks. This dance appeared to be something akin to an athletic version of Egyptian cabaret belly dancing, from the few descriptions we have, all of which included a great deal of grinding and writhing of the buttocks in a suggestive manner. Needless to say, these professional male dancers “were often young, graceful, handsome, and talented, as in the symposium described by Xenophon” (Lawler 1964, 135). But by the time in which the term “cinaedus” was mentioned frequently, it referred not only to male dancers but to any male who acted in a lewd, effeminate (by ancient Athenian standards) manner. What the kinaidos is not, is a modern homosexual. But for those scholars who argue that sexual identities did not exist before the late nineteenth century, the figure of the kinaidos comes very close, and he constitutes an identity that includes a lewd sexuality, a desire to be penetrated by another male, among other negative attributes such as committing adultery, and too much sex with women—definitely not a modern homosexual. Thus, the kinaidos/dancer served as the perfect scare figure for the Greek man, a device to police his behavior under what Winkler aptly terms “anus surveillance” (1990, 186). Several scholars suggest that the kinaidos was not an actual corporeal person (Halperin 1990; Winkler 1990). But Amy Richlin, in a richly documented essay, demonstrates in a forceful way that such individuals did, indeed, live in



Rome, if not Greece, and that they were subjected to terrible ostracism and civic disabilities. As she concludes, “The law treats passive homosexuals, along with others, as real people” (1993, 560). In other words, one does not legislate against nonexistent individuals. I suggest that, while in ancient Greece the kinaedos might not have existed beyond the original dancing figures, in ancient Rome, as Richlin indicates, the cinaedus was an actual person. And there exists the distinct possibility that many men exhibited certain aspects of kinaidos behavior, that they constituted a sort of part-time kinaidoi. Perhaps they once committed adultery, or spent too much on a hetaira. How many men in ancient Athens could have always performed the perfect masculine ideal in that society? Davidson notes: “‘Passive’ sodomy may be symptomatic of the kinaidos’ promiscuity and insatiability, but it is the insatiability and not passivity that defines him” (1997, 179). Thus, the kinaidos parallels women in his uncontrollable sexual appetite. The kinaidos constituted the scare figure that policed masculine behavior, and even defined it; the kinaidos was masculinity’s dreaded effeminate other. Greek ideals of homosexuality were masculine; Greek men admired masculine attributes in their partners. One of the important aspects of Greek pederasty stems from the efforts to distance the eromenos, the younger partner in the pederastic relationship, from being tagged as a kinaidos, or kinaidos-like through his sexual role. While the kinaidos constituted effeminacy writ large, in Greek Eros, men, in theory, sought men who exhibited idealized masculine qualities—a beautiful body, bravery, honor, and embodiment of Homeric ideals. Institutionalized Greek pederasty celebrated masculine codes; ideally the older partner instilled these values in the younger. Institutionalized Greek Pederasty

It is at this point that I address the very complex and knotty (a Gordian knot, according to Davidson’s 2007 introduction) problem of pederasty (Greek paiderastia), especially as a social and educative institution in many city-states in ancient Greece. It has not been well understood by many individuals, and various scholars offer competing ideas as to its origins and practices, which further complicates the issue. It was in the heroic martial and hypermasculine nexus of military training, the gymnasium and nudity, and the symposium that institutionalized pederasty


developed. Above all, the institution of pederasty was perceived of as a hypermasculine activity, romantic, but devoid of effeminacy. Whatever the origins and practices, Greek pederasty as practiced in Athens was a historically unique form of homosexuality, and crucially the practices and codes differed in the various Greek communities. The information for Athens and Sparta is the most complete, but several other societies in the Greek world had more or less instituted it as well. Charles Hupperts has written about Boeotian practices, and he observes the homosexual iconography “reveal marked similarities with Attic and Corinthian pottery ware of the same period” (2005, 173). Not only were there multiple forms of pederasty, but other forms of homosexuality, between age mates, with male prostitutes, also existed; however, pederasty was the public form of ancient Greek romantic love (as opposed to sex) that in some ways parallels the romantic courtly loves portrayed in medieval ballads like “Tristan and Iseult.” The evidence for what appears, in historical terms, as an almost overnight interest in pederastic romance and sex appears in literature. “Although the poetry of the archaic age could deal with many different subjects—warfare, religion, politics, philosophy, among others—love, and most frequently pederastic love, was its dominant concern” (Skinner 2005, 46). And, because in the modern world, poets use their art to address personal experience, individuals, and amatory experiences, there exists a tendency to think that ancient Greeks or early Islamic poets did the same. In fact, in general, when addressing a beloved (the beloveds seem not to have exercised their rights to express themselves), the beloved was a generalized, idealized beloved rather than an actual individual, and the poet was expressing a generalized erotic response to the beloved’s beauty, a poetic convention and a generic beloved. This poetic convention was a feature of Middle Eastern poetry as well. David Halperin makes the crucial point that in Ancient Athens and Sparta “If anything, paederasty and friendship are both traditionally masculinizing, insofar as they express the male subject’s virility and imply a thoroughgoing rejection of everything that is feminine” (2002, 121; emphasis in original). Pederasty was supported by many philosophers of the classical period as an idealized relationship: “Socrates, through Plato, can make homosexual love, a divine madness, the main inspiration for the soul in its flight towards contemplation of the ideal forms” (Boardman and La Rocca 1978, 47). However, philosophical flights could never quite



cover its obvious carnal aspects, celebrated in Greek pottery paintings used in the symposia and odes to “divine thighs” by poems such as those found in Theognis and Anacreon (see Anacreon, qtd. in Dillon and Garland, 2010, 166). Thus, the public face of homosexuality, pederasty, is celebrated in verse and vase paintings. The “behind the bushes” sex, to use Davidson’s term, left far fewer traces, although a good deal of amusing graffiti attest to its presence: “Barbax both dances well and gave,” “Eumelus is the best dancer,” and “Here Crimon penetrated Amotion” (found in Thera in the vicinity of the temple of Apollo as early as seventh century BCE, qtd. in Hubbard 2003, 82). These messages are not unlike those that one can find on the walls of contemporary men’s rooms. And, of course, in “behind the bushes” sex, there lurks the inevitable link with dance and dancers. The Importance of Penetration

I agree with Shadi Bartsch and David Halperin that penetrative sex, and who played the role of the penetrator and who the penetrated, largely defined proper masculinity. In the Middle Eastern societies in which I have spent over 50 years, such roles are crucial in people’s lives, and the fear of being perceived as participating in a sexual passive role constitutes a continuity with the past—the closet is nailed so tightly, it becomes a dungeon. Richlin expresses it best: “Even evidence the Foucaultians themselves present attests to the social misery that must have awaited any adult passive male, and moral condemnations of anal and oral intercourse are two a penny” (1993, 528). It is difficult for a contemporary person in the West who hears homophobic remarks directed at anyone suspected of participating in male/male sex as the passive partner, to understand the deep scorn and derision that people in other societies, like those of the Middle East, direct toward only the passive partner in male/male sex, for which there exists a rich vocabulary. The active partner remains a man in both his own and society’s eyes. A second point that I wish to make regarding homosexuality in ancient Greece is that the form of idealized pederasty practiced by the Athenian elite by no means exhausted the possibility of male/male sexual and romantic relations. “Greek homosexual activity, despite


popular misconceptions, was not restricted to man-boy pairs. Vase painting shows numerous scenes where there is little or no apparent difference in age between the young wooer and his object of courtship. Early poets such as Theognis make it clear that youths were attracted to and slept with other youths of the same age” (Hubbard 2003, 5). Class certainly appears to have played a role in the institution. To pursue young men marked a man as elite: “the association of pederasty with upper-class venues like the symposium and wrestling school, suggests that it was primarily an upper-class phenomenon, at least in Athens; only men with a certain amount of wealth, leisure, and education were in a position to provide boys with the attention and courtship gifts they might expect” (Hubbard 2003, 9). One must not, however, forget the many individuals who attempted to emulate the behavior of the rich and mighty; they are sometimes found peopling the “Against” trials. And yet, almost all men also married and fathered children, if for no other reason than to have children to care for them in their old age, and patronized hetairas and other sex workers, both male and female. It would appear that men enjoyed sex with both males and females, some perhaps enjoying females more, some males. Although it was important that the more sordid sex activities be circumspect, especially among the elite, “Men, too, had an interest in not being seen as whore-clients. . . . Men of decency did not visit brothels” (Davidson 2006, 47), of which Athens had many, which indicates that someone was using them. Thus, we can count sexual attraction to beardless young men as a continuity with the past. We will encounter it again in the court society of the caliphate and Mamluk society in medieval Egypt, early modern Safavid Persia, Ottoman Turkey, and Mughal India, nineteenth-century Central Asia and Qajar Persia, right into the present in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Sex and the Public Entertainer

The public entertainer came from among the most abject individuals in Athenian society: slaves, orphans, or foreigners. Thus, the rules of pederasty did not pertain to them; their fate was often somewhat more sordid. The gentle intercrural sex shown in many of the vessels depicting pederastic relationships, with the lovers facing one another, gazing into



each other’s eyes, was probably reserved specifically for that context. The vessels showing anal sex with boys and women was more likely the lot of the hetairai and young male entertainers. Also, through his rigorous training, the young male public entertainer would have developed a body that, as we know, aroused desire in his viewers, and would have been similar to the symbolic kouros— highly muscular and brimming with eroticism. As a slave, rented out for hire, he would have been far more accessible to his patrons for instant sex than the eromenos, who, if the poetry and vessel paintings, which “show an older man urgently beseeching the favors of a younger,” are to be believed, required careful courting and extensive gift-giving (Skinner 2005, 57). The point that I am making in this study is that scholars either avoid, do not discuss, ignore, or do not fully understand other forms of sexual practices other than pederasty and prostitution.1 Public entertainers did not participate in the “noble” practices of pederasty, which was reserved for free citizens and future citizens, but rather, male and female public performers, whose allure inflamed the passions of many men in ancient Greece, and, who as slaves, were obliged to participate in sex acts with them, faced a more sordid fate. “We can safely assume, I think, that there was plenty of gay sex in antiquity that did not involve all the song and dance associated with Eros. We can even assume that there was plenty of homo-love and homobesottedness that was less formal and conspicuous” (Davidson 2007, 34). This would have been the type of sex that public entertainers experienced as part of their work. How “gay” it was, is open to question. The Performing Arts in Ancient Greece

Storytelling, an early form of drama, constituted one of the earliest forms of entertainment in the ancient world, and continues into the present, where the storyteller performs in coffee and teahouses throughout the Middle East. “Oral performance seems to have formed part of these [feasting] events: a bard surrounded by feasters was depicted on a wall painting adjacent to the throne in the megaron at Pylos. . . . Heroic epic poetry in Greece is the direct successor of such performances” (Bennet 2013, 252), a type of storytelling that continued into the twentieth century in parts of Montenegro, Serbia, and Bosnia (Lord 1970). However, the bards were a combination of poet,


musician, and storyteller. Above all, the bard was considered to be honorable and honored, well paid for his efforts if he was in the top echelon of such performers, or else he performed in the agora or other public spaces for preliterate audiences. Drama, music, and dance held an important place in the life of the ancient Greeks and held deep religious meanings that were combined in public ceremonies. Drama, for example, began as a part of religious ritual, and included music and dance, and held a central part of civic life throughout Greek history, through the Archaic, classic, and Hellenistic periods. “It became an identifier of Greeks as compared with foreigners and a setting in which Greeks emphasized their common identity” (Green 1994, xiii). The playwright/poet frequently created the choreography, prepared the chorus, and acted in the play himself. We encounter inscriptions that “are concerned with the naming of individuals, and they give us victors and dedicators, corroborating evidence from literary sources which suggests that some actors became both extremely famous and extremely rich” (Easterling 2002, 331). It is important to remember that in the fifth century (BCE) “acting was not yet fully professional” (332). Acting, then, was in the embryonic stage of moving from community amateur activity to profession, and as classics scholar Pat Easterling notes, arranging appearances and touring “depended on the build-up of expertise by theatrical families” (ibid.). Classics scholar Charlotte Roueché usefully reminds us that what we call entertainment in modern society as something done in leisure time and that “implies marginal and inessential activities,” lies in contrast to “in the Graeco-Roman world public performances and spectacles [that] were an essential element in the life of a properly constituted community” (2009, 677). Around this structure of festivals featuring public entertainers “who could also provide entertainments on unofficial or private occasions” (678). Thus, we find public entertainers in both public and private contexts. Actors in Greece were important, highly honored figures: they were given safe passage during times of strife, and they carried out diplomatic missions, especially for Phillip the Macedon, and his son Alexander the Great. Actors were free citizens, unlike the foreign or slave origins of some of the other entertainers such as the aulos players or the young male slave kithara player/dancer we encountered in Xenophon’s Symposium.



Musical Theatre and the Music in Theatre

When we hear the word theatre we think in terms of spoken drama or comedy. What is sometimes underestimated in the performance of ancient Greek theatre is that it was, above all, musical theatre. Edith Hall reminds us that from the third century BC., we have “a clear picture of a new kind of traveling professional actor whose special expertise was in singing. He was to remain a feature of cultural life in the Mediterranean region for eight hundred years (2002, 12). Poetry, too, constituted an important form of expression, and as in Sasanian and early Islamic Persia, poetry was often meant to be sung. “Archaic Greece was a song culture. Whether performed publicly in a ritual context where it was complemented by choral dancing, or privately at a gathering of friends by a single artist, music was the chief medium of popular entertainment” (Skinner 2005, 45). There existed until late in the Roman period “famous songs on mythical themes still being sung by expert singers” (Hall 2002, 3). This latter constituted a respectable art form. Learning to play a musical instrument and sing was also an important part of a young man’s education; parents engaged teachers to instruct elite boys in these arts. The ability to compose, or at least appreciate, poetry and symposiastic songs also marked a gentleman, and mastering them enabled his active participation in the symposium. Those who could not play an instrument or sing were considered uncouth and rustic. Thus, it is important to distinguish between the cultural expression of the elite classes and the public entertainers. Professional musicians, often slaves, preferred different instruments, usually larger and with more volume and tonal range, than those used by amateur citizens. Dancing

For young Greek men, learning dance figured as part of their military training and constituted an athletic skill. Dance historian Lillian Lawler notes: “In Athens most of the instruction in the dance seems to have been in the hands of private teachers, although boys received some orchestic [dance orchesis] training in the palaestra, or wrestling school” (1964, 124). Young men throughout the Greek world performed the pyrrhic dance: “The pyrrhic dance formed part of the training of all boys in


Sparta, from the age of five, and it persisted in that city until well into the Christian period. In Athens also boys were trained in the pyrrhic dance as a preparation for military service” (Lawler 1964, 107). Thus, from an early age, citizens actively engaged in drama, music, and dance as an important part of civic life. The dances of the professional dancers, frequently erotic or explicitly sexual, certainly differed from the martial dances of the Athenian citizen, and the ritualistic choral and group dances performed as part of drama and ritual life. All of these arts are beyond the scope of this study, except to note that they constituted the cultural expression of a wholly different group of individuals and separate contexts. The dances of professional dancers who entertained at private parties, the symposia, could be highly skilled and athletic. Let an eyewitness describe it: But now there was brought in a hoop set all around with upright swords; over these the dancer turned somersaults into the hoop and out again to the dismay of the onlookers, who thought she might suffer some mishap. She, however, went through this performance fearlessly and safely. . . . At this point the boy performed a dance, eliciting from Socrates the remark, “Did you notice that, handsome as the boy is, he appears even handsomer in the poses of the dance than when he is at rest?” “It looks to me,” said Charmides, “as if you were puffing the dancingmaster.” “Assuredly,” replied Socrates, “and I remarked something else, too,— that no part of his body was idle during the dance, but neck, legs, and hands were all active together. And that is the way a person must dance who intends to increase the suppleness of his body.” (Xenophon 1923, 549–550).

The young female dancer whom Socrates and Xenophon watched clearly executed an acrobatic routine, while the boy performed an erotic dance that would have most likely resembled a professional cabaret belly dance such as those seen in Cairo today, using all of the body parts. As we approach the cultural expression of the professional entertainer, we need to keep in mind that although boys and girls were schooled in the performance of dance and music, most Athenians “would agree with Aristotle, however, in relegating all professional activity in the fields of music and dance to slave, freedmen, and foreigners” (Lawler 1964, 126). Payment for services and performances separates the citizen from the servile and the alien.



The Public Entertainers of Ancient Greece

“The most famous genre associated with public performance in Greece was epic poetry. Public performance by bards who either composed as they sang or performed epics formed by others may have contributed to the development of other forms of poetic performance, such as symposiastic verse and elaborate hymns to the god” (Potter 2010, 283). “The virtuosic actor-singer—who now took on the title of tragoidos once the preserve of chorus-members—rises to a prominence that will remain his for centuries” (Wilson 2002, 62). The bards would have been free men, and this style of performance, in one of the continuities that I claim for certain genres of performance, could be found in twentiethcentury Iran with performances of shah-nameh khani in coffeehouses, where men would gather night after night to hear the latter-day bard recite the enthralling epic of Persian history in verse. Public entertainers, or perhaps more precisely their owners, ensured that they acquired multiple skills to increase their marketability. Some of these artists, such as actors and aulos players assuredly learned their skills from family members, others from their owners or professional instructors the owners hired for the purpose. Davidson states that there were also “women hired on the streets or from a pornoboskos (whorepasturer) to play the aulos (a wind instrument, usually a double-reed like an oboe or shawm) or harp, or to sing or dance or perform acrobatics, sometimes in little pageants” (2006, 36). The dances that these male and female dancers performed were considered sexy and arousing, or they were played for laughs: “The dancers leap and kick, they slap their own bodies, they whirl and turn dizzily. Also, there were in the kordax of comedy several figures (the apokinos, aposeisis, rhinousthai, kalabis, etc.) the essential characteristic of which was a rotation of the hips and abdomen” (Lawler 1964, 133). And, while I support the notion that virtually all historians of Greek dance observe that “it must be conceded that we will never be able to describe ancient Greek dance as it was performed in the archaic and classical periods. . . . We cannot recreate with assurance a single step of choreography” (Lonsdale 1993, 2); nevertheless, I would wager a good deal that a dance tradition that has the movements described by Lawler, and the wriggling buttocks and rotating abdomen have a good deal in common with contemporary and historical professional belly dancing, including the use of the often depicted clackers (krotala) used to keep the rhythm similar to the


fashion of using finger symbols in Egyptian dancing and castanets in flamenco, and that visually indicated the performance of erotic dancing on archaic and classical Greek vases. Supporting my perception that this dance must have had similarities with belly dancing is a song that is “most likely from a scene of lewd and suggestive dancing” in which Eupolis addresses the dancer who plays the drum and “shakes his butt” while throwing his “legs up high” (Eupolis, The Dippers fr. 88 PCG. See the full poem in Hubbard 2003, 113). As we have seen, professional dance took either a suggestive appearance, as the verse above suggests, or a spectacular one, as the dance scene that Xenophon describes, or a combination of the two. This practice continues into the early twentieth century in the Middle East, Central Asia, and North Africa. Possibly the hetaira (the word literally means “companion”), which is frequently glossed as “courtesan,” was the most glamorous, highestpaid, and well-known performer in classical Athens.2 The term “courtesan” probably fits the description of these fascinating figures most accurately. In their edited volume that addresses courtesans across a variety of cultures and historical periods, music scholars Martha Feldman and Bonnie Gordon make the important point that the term “courtesan” applies to women who are recompensed for their services, which always includes sex, but more importantly they are “intimately bound up with the status of courtesans as bearers of artistic traditions” (2006, 3). James Davidson adds: [F]or Western scholars ancient Greek courtesans come with a whole lot of baggage. The very term ‘courtesan’ is deliberately vague, used for a group of deliberately hard-to-define women of shady reputation who worked or played outside the confines of the brothel (porneion), on the one hand, and of respectability on the other” (2006, 31). The agreements they entered with their clients and patrons were frequently lucrative, and some became extremely rich, which gave them a degree of independence and agency. “I will argue that a consistent and peculiar feature of the courtesans of Athens and perhaps elsewhere in the ancient Greek world is the manner in which they co-opt various ‘arts’—symposiastic, rhetorical, ritual, and so on—that are otherwise associated with men; and that they do so in order to assert their own autonomy and independence in a culture that has no real concept of the autonomous and independent



woman” (Faraone 2006, 209). They attended that all-male bastion of privilege, and entertained with poetry and wit. Some of them could play musical instruments. They are depicted performing these arts on vases, and they are marked as courtesans because decent women would never appear in a symposium. However, Davidson makes the point that regarding the hetairai and other public women, there was only “one division that really mattered: the division between Wives and the Rest.” (1997, 74). And, he adds, “To talk of ‘mistresses’ and ‘courtesans’ may risk glamorizing, romanticizing or exoticizing a life that was in most cases nasty, brutish and short” (77). Less known is the fact that there existed male courtesans as well: “If women are trapped into flirtatiousness, so are young men—to ‘play the meirakon’ means exactly that—‘to be coquettish.’ If women are ‘victims of penetration, so are the young men. Boys and men also took their clothes off in public and performed. Meirakia too could be courtesans, male mistresses, musicians of dodgy reputation” (32). Undoubtedly, this class of male courtesan, as Davidson suggests, had artistic skills as well in order to merit the term. Setting the hetairai apart from prostitutes and other public entertainers was the fact that they were sometimes highly educated women, a rarity in ancient Greece. “The most astounding fact about the Athenian courtesans of the fifth and fourth centuries B.C. is the high level of education that some of them seem to have received” (Faraone 2006, 216). To qualify as a hetaira was to distance oneself from common prostitutes, a project to achieve at all costs. One cannot stress enough the importance of the aulos in almost every area of Attic life: “Athens also needed scores, if not hundreds, of players of the aulos to supply the time for the (lower-class) rowers of triremes, and for the numerous sacrifices that took place across the city and countryside every day” (Wilson 2002, 46). Aulos players appeared at weddings and funerals, and certainly the symposium. The pictorial evidence for the ubiquity of the aulos player is overwhelming. The players of the aulos, auletai, constituted a strange presence in Athens. Unlike many instruments in a wide variety of cultures and historical periods, the aulos is not gendered, by which I mean that both male and female players are attested in both the literature and vase paintings. The reason for this may have been the large number of performance activities. However, male auletai are almost always depicted in the theatrical


scenes, while young, attractive girls (translated by many classics scholars as “flute girls”), as well as male auletai, are more frequently depicted in the symposia scenes. The attitude of Athenians toward aulos players, enforcing the point that I am making throughout this study, was largely negative. “Some of these were certainly slaves. There were many slaves in the city and its elite homes among whose duties was to provide musical services in a range of contexts, though whether any appeared in the theatre we cannot say. The fact that there were so many slave players of the aulos in the city, male and female, seems to have attached an indelible slur on the whole range of players” (Wilson 2002, 46).3 The corollary of the low status were the claims of effeminacy: “Such ‘effeminacy’ and ‘foreignness’ of dress is all of a part with the somewhat ‘alien’ quality of the musical performer, and his music, at the heart of Athenian theatrical performance” (52). We will encounter the linkage between the public entertainer, low status, and effeminacy throughout the study. At the bottom of the talent pool of the period “There were also innumerable sub-theatrical entertainers whose acts involved singing, including jugglers, the hilarodes and Simodes who sang risqué parodies of highbrow musical compositions, and the magodes who banged cymbals and drums while impersonating such figures as a drunk singing a serenade” (Hall 2002, 5). This was a wild and wooly world of public entertainments that Mikhail Bakhtin might have conjured up for us. These performers, like the street musicians and performers whom I saw in Samarqand, gathered wherever opportunity presented itself as people shopped or came together for other occasions. Dancer as Musician, Musician as Dancer

The more skills the performer possessed, the higher the fee that his or her masters could charge. The dancers frequently, as seen in the ancient descriptions provided to us, included what would be described as magic tricks or acrobatics today. And, it must be recalled that the shelf life of dancers, compared to other artists, due to the athletic demands of the art, was relatively short. Many scholars describe the specific three musicians/dancers hired by Kallias (Callias), for the symposium that Xenophon described: “a Syracusan, whose slave—a boy and two girls— entertain the symposiasts by playing the flute [aulos], singing, dancing, and performing acrobatics and mime. Despite their low social status,



such artists are called to the symposion because of their highly esteemed (and highly paid) technai [technical skill and training]” (Fehr 1990). Thus, the public entertainers in the less respectable contexts in ancient Greece constituted a class of individuals who were sought after for their art and their sexual allure. Some of them, the highest class of hetairai, for example, could command considerable amounts of payment, while others, like the flute girls, were required by law to charge a certain fee. Nevertheless, even flute girls could amass enough money to escape the slavery and grittiness that their life offered. The owners of these public entertainers, for they were mostly slaves, ensured that they were well trained in a highly competitive market. A very interesting pair of papyri (P. Berol. 13049 and 13057) from Egypt of 13 B.C. records an agreement in which for the sum of one hundred drachmas a man called Philios hands over a slave called Narcissus for a year to someone called Eros, all very amatory names, for instruction in a range of different auloi, each of them itemized, and for training in a range of standard tunes. There is to be an examination at the end of the period before a small panel of experts to make sure Eros has fulfilled his side of the bargain. (Davidson 2006, 38–39)

And, while Davidson notes that this is “probably what a contract for the training of an aulos girl must have looked like” (ibid.), more importantly, “Investing in the training of slaves, especially of courtesans, male and female, musical or otherwise was one of the few really dynamic areas of the ancient economy” (ibid.). Because there existed a hierarchy of public entertainers, those at the high end of the hierarchy understood that payment of money had the power to elide them with the lower rungs of the ladder. Thus, in the case of the high-end hetairai, we have the exchange of favors and gifts from delighted “intimate friends” in Davidson’s terms (2006, 45). Nevertheless, hetairai were professional entertainers, depicted as entertaining their clients with witty conversation, composing and reciting poetry and songs for the symposium, playing musical instruments, and playing games. At the very low end of the hierarchy, I must mention the akletoi, a group of males we met earlier, who might be characterized as semiprofessional performers. They would appear, unannounced, but most likely prearranged for by the host, near the end of the symposium, at the onset of the kōmos. Komos, the drunken revel that initiated the wilder


portion of the symposia, is variously characterized as “an event during which dancing, and/or reveling, is the main activity (Smith 2010, 2 n.8). Frontisi-Ducroux and Lissarrague characterize it: “Wine, music, song, and dance together constitute the definition of what is traditionally called a kōmos; they point to the countless representations on Greek vases of happy bands of drinkers, sing and dancing, accompanied by musicians, and often staggering from drunkenness” (1990, 220). The akletoi literally embody Stallybrass and White’s notion of “lower body” transgression and celebration, the grotesque and the carnivalesque: they appeared grotesque and drunk (whether feigned or real), performing the kordax, “a supposed lewd and grotesque dance” (Smith 2010, 27). The dancers present themselves as lascivious and shameless, especially by displaying their phalluses with spread-eagled legs. . . . Indecency and low social prestige are apparently connected in pictorial conventions. The same is true of a further feature of the dancers, the sticking-out of the buttocks . . . ancient literature considers dances including a stickingout or wriggling of the buttocks as obscene. Furthermore this position was probably meant to indicate that the dancers had homosexual inclinations. (Fehr 1990, 190)

Whether or not they had homosexual inclinations, I will suggest that the akletoi were a professional or semiprofessional group of men who performed these dances as lowbrow comedians, perhaps for food and drink. Their dances were improvised, deliberately obscene, but played for laughs. They most likely enlivened the festivities by encouraging the symposiasts, who, by the time of the arrival of the akletoi, were inebriated enough to participate in the dancing alongside the akletoi. The many vase paintings of them indicate their grotesque appearances— frequently older or middle-aged men, who most likely played the sex scenes for laughs and imitating, “more or less coarse scenes of homosexual courting” (Fehr 1990, 190); they were not attempting to arouse their audience because they did not embody the Greek ideal of youthful, sexy masculinity that the cithara boys and wine servers possessed, but rather showing a “ridiculous contrast to the socially accepted homosexuality of the male aristocratic world’ (ibid.). They were the last of the public entertainers in an evening, and their performances required no tehnai, just some slapstick for laughs. Thus, the performers are ready in the wings to participate in the symposium, so we turn next to “wine,



the music of the lyre, dancing, the erotic” (Lissarrague 1990, 201), the world of the symposium, that important bastion of elite men. It constituted for those men a world in which they could be at ease with friends and social equals. Contexts for Performance: The Symposium

It is most likely that the symposium began in late Archaic Athens (Murray 1990, 5). These gatherings were what Oswyn Murray terms the “symposion for pleasure” and that most likely evolved from Homeric era banquets and feasts that characterize scenes in the Iliad and the Odyssey. Elite men built their houses with a special room for the symposium, usually marked by the couches upon which the guests reclined (see Slater 1991, Plates, figure 3). “The symposium has private, political, and cultural dimensions; it is the place euphrosyne [collective gratification] of music, poetry, and other forms of entertainment; it is bound up with sexuality, especially homosexuality; it guarantees the social control of the polis by the aristocrats. It is a dominating social form in Greek civilization from Homer onward, and well beyond the Hellenistic period” (Burkert 1991, 7). Thus, the characterization of the symposium falls into the Stallybrass and White (1984) concept of the transgressive lower other in which individuals from the elite engage with those lower others on a variety of levels. In Victor Turner’s terms, the symposium constitutes a liminal and ludic space, a celebration of “the lower strata (of the body, of literature, of society, of place) in which they are both desired and reviled” (Stallybrass and White 1986, 4). It begins with the ritual “of the festival,” as Pellizer noted, and, toward the end of the evening, with the arrival of the akletoi, it descends into the “World Upside Down” (Stallybrass and White, ibid.), in which occurred “the most unregulated and orgiastic erotic homo- and heterosexual practices” (Pellizer 1990, 182). In sum, the symposium was a combination of the high and the low, and, as in devout households in the twenty-first century, the proceedings began with prayers to Dionysus and to his art: drama. Because the symposium is associated with the Athenian aristocrat, Pellizer provides us with a corrective: “The use of the symposion was not limited to aristocratic or tyrannical circles (therefore elites), but must have been practiced also in wider strata of society such as the


mercantile, artisan, or peasant classes, as one can deduce from certain hints in Aristophanes and from the proliferation of sympotic scenes in vase painting” (181). Upward mobility would certainly have tempted individuals in other classes who had the wherewithal to attempt to emulate the activities of the elite just as they do today. However, the symposium of the classical period might not be recognized by an Achilles or a Priam accustomed to royal feasts found in Homer; rather, “The least that one can say is that in these gatherings there could occur (and perhaps fairly frequently) activities which might cause a modest classical scholar to blush” (181). Ceramicists created vessels for the wine service, some of it decorated with Hugh Hefner “X-rated” illustrations to set the mood. “The vases placed under the eyes of the banqueters, actually circulate among them and offer a whole repertoire of decoration which cannot help but affect them” (Lissarrague 1990, 206). Hundreds of these vessels depicting the revels and erotica of the symposium can be viewed in several museums, surprisingly intact after active use in these events. If the vases that depict these activities are any guide, then these symposia appear to be the kinds of sex parties for which the “swinging sixties” were the latest manifestation (see Boardman and La Rocca 1979; Hubbard 2003; Kilmer 1993). “The usual erotic scene in sixth-century Attic vases is located in the andrōn, or men’s section, of the private home, specifically the party room, the scene of symposia catered to by hired boys and women who served wine, sang, danced, played the flute, and were sexually available” (Garrison 2000, 124). The host, in getting ready for his guests, had to make careful preparation: “Getting hold of women was as much a part of preparations for a dinner-party as going shopping for fish, wine and perfume . . . professional musicians in the symposium were just as vulnerable as their female counterparts” (Davidson 1997, 92, 96). In their earliest manifestations, symposium hosts hired in a modest number of entertainers. From these modest beginnings, dinner theatre became both private in Hellenistic Greece and Rome, and also held in public locales in Rome with many performers “The wine was served by a naked boy, carrying jug, sieve and dipper, and he was not always immune from the attentions of the guests” (Boardman and La Rocca 1978, 50). We are at a distance from elite catered parties in the contemporary world, reminding us again that, in Lowenthal’s (1985) terms, The Past Is a Foreign Country.



For all of its high points of philosophical flights, verse making, and sparkling conversations, and its low points of drunkenness, brawls, and sex, the symposium remains one of the most important contexts for male conviviality, public entertainers, and one of the primary contexts for dirty dancing.


The Contours of Masculinity and the Public Entertainer in Rome, Hellenistic Greece, and Byzantium


here is a tendency to conflate the Greek and the Roman worlds. Many individuals look upon Roman culture and society as an unbroken continuation from that of Greece, and, to some degree, a pale imitation of it. However, regarding the place of the public entertainer, the contours of masculinity, effeminacy, and homosexuality, especially the almost total disappearance of what I call “institutionalized” pederasty—ancient Greece and ancient Rome were two very different places, two very different societies, with two very different views of proper public behavior, the arts, and public entertainers. That having been said, from the second century BCE, until Rome in the West ceased to exist, the two societies became deeply intertwined. Many elite Romans sought what they perceived to be the values of a Greek education and Greek values due to the Hellenizing process that began following Rome’s conquest of Greece that ushered in a huge influx of Greek slaves, many with pedagogic skills, and the attraction that Greek art and cultural expression exercised on many individuals among the less conservative of the Roman elite. On the one hand, Greece, due to the geographic and economic conditions that obtained there, never unified. The polis, the Greek citystate, was fiercely independent. In a sense, there was no single ancient Greek culture, but rather a multiplicity—Theban, Spartan, Athenian, and so forth—of cultures and societies.



On the other hand, from the outset the collection of villages around the forum, became a single settlement, Rome. Historian Michael Crawford notes, “in the course of the sixth century,” these villages slowly coalesced into an urban settlement “much later than other parts of the Mediterranean” (1991, 16). Like the Greeks and all other ancient societies, the Romans relied on agriculture. Western Italy—Etruria in the north, Latium in the center, and Campania in the south—had among the best agricultural lands in Italy, with abundant water from several rivers; however, we hear nothing of the difficulties that the Greek farmer faced wresting a living from the poor soils. The Romans frequently romanticized the bucolic life in their literature, while the Greeks sought refuge from the harsh agricultural life in the city. In addition, the Roman elite enjoyed living in elaborate villas in the countryside. Of course, that bucolic nostalgia rather glosses over the lives of what Jerry Toner describes as the “80–85 percent who lived in the country, mostly eking a living from the land, either as small-holders, tenants or laborers, or indirectly as slaves” (2009, 3). Thus, from earliest times we find two different ecosystems within which these societies grew. This created two very different societal attitudes, as historian Jasper Griffin notes: “Early Rome was characterized by a powerful public spirit, and a marked distaste for eccentricity and individualism” (1991, 4). Clearly, Greek individualism, which at least characterized Athens, found no place in Roman society. Still, one must keep in mind that ancient Rome, like classical Athens, in spite of the impressive temples and other architecture that tourists gape at today in awe, was a city in which “the vast and widening gaps in wealth that the acquisition of empire had created meant that social contrasts were stark” (Toner 2009, 4). It was, in fact, a rather ramshackle affair designed to collect taxes with which to pay the army, and keep the emperor in funds. Further supporting the notion that conditions in Rome were harsh, historian Ann Hansen observes, “about half the babies born died before their fifth birthday” (2010, 27). The low, overall life expectancy had an enormous psychological effect on Romans; they placed an enormous reliance on divination and augers to meet the uncertainty that characterized their lives (see Hansen 2010; Frier 2010; Potter 2010c). Historian Henrik Mouritsen notes, “Divination and the taking of auspicial were fully integrated into the life of the Roman republic, which developed what may have been the most extensive as well as complex system for gauging the will of the gods known in any ancient society” (2013, 389).


Two more advanced cultures served as the most prominent influences on early Rome as it emerged: Etruscan and Greek. As Rome inexorably came to dominate the Italian peninsula, a process that continued into the second century when “Italy was a single state ruled by Rome” (Crawford 1991, 39), Etruscan culture and language gradually disappeared. Greek influence had a much more long-lasting and durable hold on Rome. Its cultural artifacts and expression played a great role in both Etruria and early Rome. Historian Elizabeth Rawson states, “Many of her [Rome’s] gods had been identified with Greek ones, her art derived from Greek art; some Romans must have known some Greek, and even perhaps read some Greek books” (1988, 55). The Byzantine Greeks, by contrast, instead of looking to ancient Greece as ancestors, styled themselves as Romans until the end; they felt themselves to be the continuation of the great Roman Empire. It is important to stress the degree to which many Romans succumbed to, indeed embraced, Greek culture. Erich Gruen states, “Few experiences in antiquity had more resonant or enduring effects than the encounter of Rome with the legacy of the Greek East,” (1992, 1). And it was the aristocratic class, those who often in public displayed the most tight-lipped Roman gravitas: “Yet these very same nobiles were the persons most drawn to Greek literary achievements, religion, and visual arts. Hellenic culture challenged and intimidated them—even when it proved irresistible” (ibid.). Although culturally greatly indebted to Greece in matters of art, theatre, poetry, and other aesthetic forms of cultural expression, in politics, social structure, and worldview, the Romans were different. However, no matter how indebted to Greek culture, the Romans kept a sense of superiority toward the Greeks. The latter had been conquered by the Romans, and therefore there was the whiff of the servile about them, emphasized by the great number of Greeks among the slaves that silently moved about the streets of Rome on business for their Roman masters, and “the attitude of many Romans to Greeks and Greek culture was, it is true, ambiguous; they believed in their own superiority in war and statecraft” (Rawson 1991, 61). They had abundant proof of that superiority through their powerful army, and they had further proof witnessing the incredible system of roads upon which they could move their army rapidly to meet anyone unwise enough to challenge Roman rule. Even more than Athens, Rome was a slave society, and we will meet some of them for, alongside their work in the fields and mines, houses,



and brothels, many public entertainers also came from their ranks. Slaves of both sexes could be used sexually by their masters and the slaves, of course, had no rights. As Jasper Griffin notes, “Yet Rome was extraordinary among slave-owning societies in that slaves were constantly freed in great numbers, and the moment they were freed they became citizens. More than half of the thousands of epitaphs extant from imperial Rome are of freedmen and freedwomen” (1991, 6). Some of the freedmen grew very wealthy, although many more made up the masses that lived generally short lives of poverty, and dwelled in the dangerous wooden tenements that periodically caught fire, with which the city was ill prepared to deal. In order to keep public order, the Roman state provided grain, the annona, “either free or at regulated prices,” the bread half of the famous “bread and circuses” equation, to prevent the possibility of riots (Boatwright et al. 2004, 480). I will make the case here, as I will subsequently do for Islam, that the change from a majority pagan society to a Christian one was gradual, and for the study of the public entertainer this is a crucial point. As Averil Cameron notes, “Simply having a Christian emperor on the throne did not bring about mass conversion, and the Christianization of society in general took place only very slowly” (1993, 58). The pagans remained the majority of the population for a long period, and the Church did not exercise authority in the countryside, partly because the clergy were uninterested in the peasantry, and partly due to the fact that Christianity in general was an urban religion.1 Audiences, Christian and pagan, continued to flock to see the public entertainers perform dirty dancing. Thus, I do not divide the later empire into pagan and Christian periods, for negative attitudes toward, held in tension against the allure of, the public entertainer continued unabated throughout the entire period. Contours of Masculinity in Rome

The contours of masculinity must be defined and redefined in the different phases of Roman history during which evolving notions of masculinity evolved. I suggest that this evolution of hegemonic codes of masculinity assuredly was a response to the decreasing number of elite men who participated in military activities as members of the Roman army. Certainly, in the beginnings of Roman history, the image of the military man dominates the contours of masculinity, and a connection


with military prowess, later associated primarily with the emperor, continued to have salience. Erik Gunderson states, “The Latin vir is an adult male . . . the man rules his wife in the household; the soldier is the defender of the safety of the state. In short, the term evokes more than mere gender” (2000, 7). I think it not unexpected that in these early societies most individuals, or at least elite individuals, were expected to take part in defense of the community and warfare. As Rawson notes, “And Roman society was militaristic. Polybius paints the Romans as above all soldiers of great discipline and ferocity” (1991, 56). In early Republican Rome most of the highest offices were military ones, and through the Republican and Imperial periods “The highest ambition was for a triumph, the pompous celebration of a major victory by a grand procession exhibiting the spoils of war” (56). Thus, as in archaic Greece, the early Roman exemplar of manhood and masculinity was largely a military image, with martial courage and valor characterized by an equestrian rider participating in single combat with the enemy. Classics scholar Catherine Edwards states: “Virtus—that quality which marked out the good Roman—consisted of a complex mixture of ancestry, wealth and personal merit” (1993, 185). Personal merit also consisted of refraining from prodigality and self-indulgence, qualities associated with effeminacy. Maud Gleason states, “Drawing on the myths of a frugal Roman past and on the ethical precepts of Greek philosophy (‘Nothing in excess’), some Roman aristocrats elaborated an ethic of self-control that stressed discipline and restraint. In their view, self-mastery, rather than self-indulgence, was the ultimate way to demonstrate one’s entitlement to power over others” (2010, 72). Self-mastery continues to the present as a masculine virtue, linking the ancient world to the Islamic present. In direct contrast to the Greeks, the banquet became the site of profligacy. As classics scholar Anthony Corbeill observes, “Five areas of activity commonly surface in association with the immoderate feast: excessive eating, drunkenness, the telling of jokes, dancing and singing (including poetry recitation), and various forms of sexual intercourse” (1997, 104). The Greek symposium served as the model for the Roman banquet, the convivium, and this aroused the fury of Roman moralists. “The effeminate male actively participates in the banquet’s debauchery” (99), and above all, the unmanly male, the cinaedus participates in that most unmasculine behavior: dance, which Corbeill notes,



“is mentioned in Roman invective only in a banqueting context” (104). Moralizing appeared to be a popular Roman pastime. We are dealing with a very different mindset of tight-lipped Romans, displaying public probity, from the Athenians relaxing in the symposium. Thus, we see the qualities of dignity, gravity, clemency, decorum, honesty, and other traits defining the idealized elite man. The ideal Roman man never let self-control slip through his hands. In order to achieve idealized manhood, masculinity, in a Roman context, one had to be rich. It must have been almost impossible to find such a paragon. As the military model of idealized masculine behavior faded with more and more Romans not participating in warfare, the elite, and those attempting to emulate them turned to other arenas to exhibit masculinity. In addition to legal expertise, long needed for participation in the senate, Roman men turned to rhetoric and oratory. “Oratory, law, and ever more lavish public display and private luxury increasingly became alternatives to a military reputation as a source of prestige and standing” (McDonnell 2006, 259). Oratory, in particular became an emblem of ideal masculinity. This love of oratory constituted an important link between Hellenistic Greece and Rome as an important symbol of idealized masculinity. “Roman art and literature alike present the men of the Republic as tight-lipped, tight-fisted and resolute. Such qualities as parsimonia, severitas, frugalitas, simplicitas,” all of which traits need no translation from the Latin (Griffin 1991, 5). These traits remained as archetypical qualities of the Roman elite throughout the centuries, even if only observed increasingly in the breach. Ideal masculinity consisted of public service to the state (res gestae), “to seriousness of purpose (grativas); to manliness and courage (virtus) at home and abroad; to clemency and protection for weaker dependents (clementia and iustitia); to the fulfilling of obligations to family, Rome, and the gods (pietas)” (Hanson 2010, 29). All of these qualities and behaviors constituted the idealized code of masculine behavior. Eunuchs

We should also look at one last form of masculinity: the eunuch. The eunuch, because of our lack of familiarity, is probably the most alien of characters for the modern reader to absorb. The figure of the eunuch was ubiquitous in the classical world and in late antiquity. And, in the last


part of this study, he will reappear, for in twentieth-century Afghanistan beautiful young male dancers were sometimes castrated to prolong their youthful looks, and in contemporary Pakistan and India, many of the hijras (called khusras in Pakistan), who act as public entertainers, are castrated and in some ways fill a third gender role in those societies. In many ways, the eunuch’s ambiguous gender and sexuality could also be deeply disturbing to individuals in the ancient world. Shaun Tougher states, “Although both the societies of classical Greece and Rome were not at all unfamiliar with the phenomenon of eunuchs, it is quite clear that the period of late antiquity witnessed a dramatic upsurge in the visibility of eunuchs in Roman society, for at this time they appear to have become a vital element of the imperial court” (1997, 169). And, although we think of them, through an orientalist lens, of serving in the women’s quarters as guards, in fact, they increasingly served in powerful political and religious positions in the Byzantine court, but also as entertainers and prostitutes. In Constantinople, we find the figure of the eunuch as entertainer, especially as singers, noted for their high sweet voices. They constitute a form of continuity with Abbasid Baghdad and the later court of the Ottoman Turks. Nevertheless, most people also gendered them as male. Byzantine scholar Kathryn Ringrose notes: “Thus, the sexual definitions of eunuchs in Byzantine culture were neither very consistent nor unambiguous, and most writers who referred to them left eunuchs in a nebulous place outside a conceptual scheme that linked gender and procreation and was male oriented. This did not however, prevent society from constructing eunuchs as a distinct gender” (1994, 93). We will encounter eunuchs throughout this study. They have played important roles in the Islamic world right down to our own time, especially since they can cross the line between the segregated worlds of men and women in ways that few others can. Sexuality

According to many scholars, as in ancient Greece and until today in the Middle East, masculinity was all about penetration. Classics scholar Holt N. Parker states: “Roman sexuality was a structuralist’s dream. The Romans divided sexual categories for people on the axis of ‘active’ and  ‘passive.” Active has, in their scheme, a single precise meaning. The  one  normative action is the penetration of a bodily orifice by a



penis. . . . The Roman sexual schema is rigidly phallocentric” (1997, 48). This act of penetration, the concept of penetration, stems from the notion of the inviolability of the free citizen’s body. The rule that free Romans could not be beaten or tortured was equated with the body’s sexual impenetrability, which was in turn associated with a man’s free status. Slaves could be beaten, and they could be used as passive sexual partners, and thus, any hint of the servile was to be avoided at all costs. Classics scholar Marilyn B. Skinner characterizes male sexuality in Rome in stark tones: In its basic characteristics, the Roman sex/gender system was hardly unusual. Its conceptual blueprint of sexual relations, like that of classical Athens corresponded to social patterns of dominance and submission, reproducing power differentials between partners in configuring gender roles and assigning them by criteria not always coterminous with biological sex. Intercourse was construed solely as bodily penetration of an inferior, a scenario that automatically reduced the penetrated individual—woman, boy, or even adult male—to a “feminized” state. (1997, 3)

One major departure between the Romans and the Greeks was the Roman horror of the Athenian version of institutionalized pederasty, although this changed somewhat with Hellenization as the homoerotic poetry of Catullus shows. In general, the thought of a young, future citizen placed in a position of sexual passivity created anxiety among Romans, and the law of stuprum assigned capital punishment to the man who attempted to have sex with a free Roman boy. Furthermore, it challenged the absolute right of the paterfamilias over his family members. Was this rule broken? If even a fraction of the surviving Roman sexual invective charging enemies with taking the passive role in sex that has come down to us, then the answer would have to be a qualified yes. After all, the Elder Curio famously called Julius Caesar “a man for all women and a woman for all men,” which referred to his alleged relations with Nicomedes of Bithynia when he was 19 years old and resident at that court, as well as his reputation as an adulterer and womanizer. The reputation as a passive partner in homosexual sex dogged him all of his life. As a corrective to the modern reader who, thanks to countless Hollywood films, reads sexual excess in the context of Roman society, Gleason notes, “Upper-class people, on the advice of their doctors, worried


about when to have sex. The pleasures of Aphrodite had an alarming way of leaving the body flaccid, metabolically weakened, and hence vulnerable to the toxic by-products of inefficient digestion. Besides, ejaculation produced a net loss of vital pneuma” (2010, 73). I found this same attitude among Iranian athletes when I lived in that country in the 1950s, a good example of continuity in sexuality and masculinity codes. While institutionalized pederasty as the Greeks practiced it, more or less ceased to exist in ancient Rome, the taste for young, smooth, hairless young boys and men as an aesthetic ideal continued. Alline Roussellle states, “The men of the Roman world had a marked preference for relations with very young boys and girls. . . . In addition to engaging in love relationships with free children, men habitually used slave children for sex, both boys and girls” (1999, 430). In late Rome and Byzantium, some young boy slaves were castrated and turned into eunuchs to indulge this taste. Moreover, Roman art does not depict male/male sex as merely a carnal activity. Art historian John R. Clarke, in analyzing the Warren Cup, housed in the British Museum; Arretine pottery; and a glass cameo that depicts several scenes of male/male sex acts, states: “It is important to note that the artists presented the act of lovemaking between males in a romantic, elevated manner” (1998, 78). Objects depicting romantic sex may well have been commissioned from one of the lovers seeking to give such an elegant gift like these expensive-to-make items as a memento of a romantic relationship. The continuity in this taste for beautiful young men can be seen in Byzantine art in which the models of many saints have the beardless features of the eunuchs that populated the Byzantine court. Art historian Myrto Hatzaki states, “Above all, it was their arresting and remarkable beauty that appeared as the common ground that aligned angels and eunuchs in the Byzantine mind” (2009, 100). Homosexuality, however, was met with savage executions if discovered, and yet male/male sex continued, as historian Kathryn M. Ringrose shows that boys were especially castrated to serve as prostitutes (2003, 2, 80). Cinaedi and Effeminacy

We have already met the cinaedus, that epitome of unmanly men, characterized by a lack of self-control, which they display through the twin traits of desiring to be penetrated by men, and, ironically for the



modern reader, womanizing, especially with other men’s wives. The Romans were even more terrified of the figure of the cinaedus than the Greeks. In Rome there existed two types of cinaedi: those whom one could identify through visual signs of effeminate behavior: voice, movements, clothing, and grooming, and the more dangerous type, those who could “pass” because they could exhibit outwardly masculine behavior. Classics scholar Gleason details the many treatises that were written to aid people in identifying these potentially corrupting individuals: “The physiognomist is telling us how to spot gender indeterminacy. . . . In this capacity they were known as cinaedi (‘pathics’), males who prefer to play the ‘feminine,’ or receptive, role in intercourse with other men” (2010, 76). The fear proceeded from the notion that masculinity was so fragile, so slippery, that one had to be constantly on guard against showing the least sign of effeminate behavior. Masculinity had to be striven for, won again and again. There is some question among scholars, as we have seen, of the carnality, the materiality of the cinaedus: was he just a scare figure, or did he exist in fact? In this section, I am going to suggest that he did exist, if not in Greece, then most assuredly in Rome. The large number of treatises that Roman men wrote describing the ways in which one could identify a cinaedus can amply demonstrate this. Holt Parker states, “I think it extremely likely, therefore, that men avoided scratching their heads so that others would not take them for cinaedi” (1997, 61). For the ancient Roman, a man scratching his head with his middle finger signaled to potential male sex partners that he was available. Clarke believes that he has found images among Roman art to prove that cinaedi were real, and that Roman artists and their viewers knew what their physical characteristics looked like. He located the depictions of two images in Pompeii, one in what was once a pub and the other in a bathhouse, preserved by the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius (79 CE). He concludes that “Visual representations like the ones we’ve looked at can arise only in a culture that knows what visual signs attach to non-stereotypical male sexual behavior” (2005, 296). And as Clarke described, they were depicted as stereotypes, that is, effeminate in the styles of hair, clothing, and style of sitting. Classics scholar Craig A. Williams notes that, in addition to the boys who were hired to be penetrated pueri meritorii, there existed in Rome a type of male prostitute known as an exoletus, older, butch men who


were hired, at least in some cases, to take the role of the penetrator with their customers: “the Roman market also included male prostitutes who were hired to penetrate their male customers, as well as those, who regardless of the sexual role they were paid to play, had passed the bloom of youth. While male prostitutes like these may well have plied their trade in classical Athens, it is significant that their existence is missing from the surviving textual record, whereas the Roman sources mention them quite openly” (2010, 90). This passage makes two points. First, if a cinaedus is importantly, at least partly, defined by being a man who desires to be anally penetrated, then there must have been several men who fit this category of behavior if one could hire a type of prostitute, with a technical term, who would indulge their tastes. These exolleti, whether ex-slaves or prostitutes, would only be popular with the cinaedi, men who wanted to be penetrated. Implicit in Williams’ statement is the notion that men knew how to find partners, even paid ones, to fit their tastes. I do not agree with Rabun Taylor (1997) and James Butrica (2005) that there existed a homosexual subculture in ancient Rome, that is, not in the Western sense in which a group of people can meet in cafés, drinking places, and other meeting places that imply a kind of social organization with a steady clientele such as existed in Western Europe from at least the eighteenth century. However, I do agree with their point that there were probably certain locations that were known in which one could make assignations, or even have sex, such as the public bathhouses.2 If the cinaedus did, in fact, exist, then his very appearance would have announced his availability, and those men who were interested would encounter him. Sex of every kind was so available and affordable, and pagan Romans generally looked upon sex as one of the pleasures of life, that there would be no reason for it to go underground. Thus, we can see that there existed all of the facilities necessary for individuals to meet their sexual desires with relative ease. Homosexual subcultures exist when there is a threat of punishment. The Performing Arts in Rome

I will only briefly address the performing arts of the earlier periods of Roman society, which seemed to resemble a kind of folk art. Music historian Giovanni Comotti observes, “We know that forms of both monadic and choral ritual song developed in Rome and Latium, but of



the early musical forms no direct or indirect evidence has survived. . . . Until the fourth century B.C. Roman theatrical performances displayed characteristics typical of dramatic performances among all primitive peoples: their recurrence was determined by the rhythm of agricultural tasks, motivated by ritual reasons, and founded on improvisation” (1991, 48–49). In other words, and with an uncomfortable use of the term “primitive,” we have no definitive traces of what was undoubtedly a rich folk culture, based on an agricultural lifestyle that would have been originated in the agricultural cycle, containing music to accompany work, music and dances to constitute parts of celebrating harvests or making rain appear, or music and dance to be a feature of weddings and other life-cycle celebrations that can be compared to folk cultures of portions of the Balkans and Italy itself well into the twentieth century. One of the greatest differences between Greek and Roman societies can be seen in the way in which the Greeks considered music and dance to be an integral and essential part of a young gentleman’s (kalos kagathos) education. He was expected to play an instrument to accompany himself while singing poetry. By contrast, the Romans largely disdained music: “For the Roman, music was the substance of entertainment or part of the trappings of ceremonial: and therefore the province of technically proficient slaves” (Bernarr 1989, 22). As to dance, this was the subject of political invective, an activity that only the cinaedi (and one’s political enemies) would stoop to perform. “In the bygone days of the Republic, a Roman aristocrat who considered himself a traditionalist would not allow his sons to learn dancing or play a musical instrument” (Gleason 2010, 77). Sound familiar? Those practices could turn a male into a cinaedus, or could be perceived as servile, or worse, both. Classics scholar John G. Landels, in his important study of music in ancient Greece and Rome, characterizes the attitudes of Roman men toward music: It would be fair to say that the Romans did not attempt to develop a musical identity of their own. . . . When their empire expanded to take in the Greek mainland and the Greek cities of the Eastern Mediterranean (particularly Alexandria), they adopted Greek musical theory and its terminology . . . and they did not generally . . . aspire to become competent amateur musicians themselves, but were content to listen to foreign professionals, mostly Greek. (1999, 172)


Thus, we can conclude that there did not exist anything that we could call specifically “Roman” music. Not only did the Romans not possess any music of their own, but they despised the performers of it, including the Etruscans whom they hired to perform in their rituals. Theatrical and dance genres like mime and pantomime were extremely popular in Rome, especially the latter. These two forms partook of music, dance, and acting. Imperial patronage was very important, and made certain stars extremely wealthy: “An important group were the artists—slaves and freedmen—of the imperial household, whose job it was to give public performances as well as to entertain at state dinners and similar functions of the imperial family” (Csapo and Slater 1994, 241–242). The theatrical forms that were popular in Rome were found in early Byzantium: the street theatre, mimes, pantomimes, and other forms continued to be performed in Constantinople. Eventually, through the efforts of Christian clergy, and the eventual lack of funding from the emperors, theatre died. Walter Puchner indicates that “In the era of  the church fathers the ‘actor’ had already become a sacrilegious ‘hypocrite’ in the light of the divine truth, someone whose aim it was to defile the image of god” (2010, 324). However, theatre scholar Walter Puchner notes that while we can look at early Byzantium as a continuity of Imperial Rome, that later changed: “While the early Byzantine period in many ways continued the life-style of late antiquity, despite the spread of Christianity and the ban on theatrical performances, decisive changes are likely to have occurred in the relatively ‘dark’ centuries shortly before and during the period of Iconoclasm” (2010, 304). And that change was at one point when Justinian cut funding for entertainment, which undercut much of the support for the public entertainer. By the end of the Iconoclastic period, “There was simply no organized theatre in the middle Byzantine period” (323). Puchner contests those scholars who look upon Byzantine culture as a bridge between antiquity and the Renaissance. Thus, a lively scene of public entertainment disappeared from antiquity. and in the West we enter the Middle Ages, while in the East we enter the newly organized Islamic world. However, no matter to what degree public entertainments were curtailed or faded away, some of the Byzantine male public at least still sought sex and dirty dancing. In her penetrating study of the role of the eunuch in Byzantine society, historian Kathryn M. Ringrose notes:



“As we leave the elegant core of the city [Constantinople] and move into its seamier neighborhoods we find eunuch entertainers, actors, and singers. We also find eunuch prostitutes, castrated children destined to serve men’s pleasures for their entire lives and young men who have had themselves castrated as adults in order to enjoy a life of uncomplicated sexual pleasure with both men and women” (2003, 2). Ringrose reminds us that the mysterious, to the modern reader, figure of the eunuch fulfilled many roles that no other individual would perform. In the context of Stallybrass and White’s idea of the lower other, the eunuch, especially as sex worker and public entertainer fulfilled this role as the quintessential despised and desired lower other. The Professional Entertainer in Ancient Rome and Constantinople

Classics scholar David S. Potter identifies four categories of public entertainer: “the gymnastic, scenic, circus, and amphitheatral” (2010, 280). I will look only at his scenic category that was comprised of performers who “were all entertainers whose activities fell within the theater or were translated from the theater to other venues. Also included with this group may be the rather large class of what can be termed ‘subtheatrical’ entertainers: bear trainers, clowns, jugglers, tightrope walkers, singing ropedancers, and the like” (ibid.). These “subtheatrical” entertainers did not excite the public in the same way that actors, dancers, pantomimes, and mimes did, in large part due to the use and display of the body that the latter group performed. Historian Craig Williams states, “Indeed, the gendered prejudice against entertaining the public was so ingrained that even being a gladiator, a profession which clearly in the Roman world was understood as the paragon of a brutish masculinity, could be represented as a disgrace of the worst kind” (2010, 154). Such reactions to the performing body, no matter how masculinized, demonstrate the fragility of the masculine image in Roman society. Lucian observes that watching a pantomime dance was “something unworthy and effeminate . . . watching a girlish fellow play the wanton with dainty clothing and bawdy songs and imitate love-sick minxes,” in short, even watching dance was unmanly (1936, 211). Quite simply, as classics scholar Catherine Edwards tells us, the public entertainer as an infamis occupied a no man’s land: “It seems that those who followed infamous professions were generally not permitted to speak on behalf of others in a court of law. Under most circumstances


they were not permitted to bring accusations against others. They were debarred from standing for elections to magistracies. Their bodies might be beaten, mutilated, or violated with impunity” (1997, 66). No wonder that it was slaves who largely peopled the infamous profession of the public entertainer. Pantomimes, mimes, Gaditanae dancing girls, and other scenic performers were, if young and sexy, in large part desirable as well as scandalous due to the ways in which they used their bodies; they were conceived of as having desirable, smooth bodies. In this the Romans followed the Greek preference for adolescent boys. Williams observes, “we find the same tendency in many Roman texts, along with a related inclination to privilege physical traits specific to male adolescence, most outstandingly the absence of fully developed hair on the face and body” (2010, 78). Women’s bodies, too, were desirable. A. T. Fear tells us, “The dancing involved was of a highly erotic nature and apparently had a devastating effect on its audience” (1991, 76). As with most public entertainers, the Gaditanae, the famous dancing girls of Gades (Cadiz) were hired out for both dancing and for sex. The world of the public entertainer was clamorous. In reading descriptions of the types of entertainers—jugglers, magicians, mobile puppet shows, mimes, bear handlers—I am reminded of certain Middle Eastern and North African cities, illustrating the concept of continuities, like the main square in Marrakesh in which one can experience snake charmers, acrobats, comedians, dancers, and musicians in a festive array to dazzle the eyes and ears and tempt donations from the viewers’ pockets. Here, too, we find the lower other, bodies on display, in keeping with Stallybrass and White’s concept, to contextualize what we experience. We would not, of course, find the high-end performers in the context of a public square, but rather in theatrical settings or in private banquets in the homes of the rich and powerful. The world of the public entertainer, from top to bottom, was generally very itinerant and mobile. Entertainers traveled great distances, and from fairly early on, the more prosperous of them had unionlike organizations that could book them into festival venues in which they could reap fame and fortune. Especially in the eastern part of the empire, the festival circuit, often paid for by the municipality or wealthy citizens, was well developed. We must envision a hierarchy of performers, from the respectable, to the distinctly unrespectable, and between genres, and within each genre



of performance, from the successful, often rich pantomimes to whom the various cities dedicated statues, to those pantomime dancers, who, with two or three musicians, plied their trade at what we would call country fairs and markets and venues in provincial cities. Among the respectable performers, pride of place goes to the orators and poets who recited in public. Oration constituted a major enactment of idealized male behavior. Oration, and its public performance, which could win the more successful of them fame and fortune, with its gestural and movement aspects, use of the voice, and dramatic clothing could potentially move perilously close to the effeminized art of pantomime, thus endangering the masculinity of the orator. Indeed, among themselves, they hurled invective charging their rivals with effeminacy. The orators, as Tim Whitmarsh tells us, “were members of the educated elite, parading and exercising their status, scrutinizing their peers as their reputations were made and broken.” Oratory “was dominated by anxieties over manhood” (2005, 3, 9) (see Corbeill 2004; Gleason 1995; Gunderson 2000). Except for instances of this intertwining, we will not address the orator set up in all of his masculine respectability. We can be sure that those at the upper reaches of the professional performers and entertainers underwent rigorous training. One cannot achieve the skill required of the pantomime dancer without undergoing a ballet-like regime. Singers, too, underwent extensive trainings. Edith Hall states, “The singer trained his voice for years with daily exercises, including singing scales while lying down. Aesopus [of the fables] was performing until well over the age of sixty. . . . Alcohol was avoided” (2002, 23). Nero was notorious for the pains he took in his training: “Nero went to great lengths to improve his ‘slight and husky’ voice; he would develop his breathing by lying with lead sheets on his chest, purge himself with enemas and emetics, and avoid foods liable to cause obstruction” (ibid.). Orators, at the other end of the scale, undertook similar training regimens. Further commenting on Roman reactions to professional entertainers, John Landels notes the Romans: “cherished the thought that foreign musicians were all effeminate, ‘camp,’ and generally disreputable. Juvenal speaks of this (as most other topics) with much bitterness, describing how wealthy Roman ladies were infatuated with ‘pop stars,’ and stole mementos of their performance (a plectrum, for example), and on occasion seduced the singers themselves. The one he particularly


envied was called ‘Mister Sweetsong’ (Hedymeles); Juvenal hits back at him describing him as mollis—‘a bit of a pouf ’” (1999, 199–200). Attitudes toward public performers changed rather dramatically over one or two generations following the establishment of the Augustan emperors of Rome, so much so that even emperors occasionally wanted to join their ranks. In spite of imperial patronage, a prevailing powerfully negative attitude toward public entertainers existed, and continues into our own time, especially in the Middle East. I will even suggest that Nero’s forced death came about, in some important measure due to his public performances, in which the more conservative elements of the political elite regarded his behavior as deeply shameful. Nero’s biographer, Edward Champlin, says that a scant six months prior to his death he was practicing “to dance the role of Vergil’s Turnus,” when “critics would again be incensed by the spectacle of an emperor lowering himself to appear as a player on stage” (2003, 177). The public, and more reluctantly the senatorial class, had grown more or less used to Nero’s public appearances as a cithara player and vocalist, but the spectacle of the emperor dancing in public constituted a back-breaking straw, and I suggest that news of his rehearsal of the pantomime dance art led the powerful conservative elements of society to react violently. Tacitus reports that the praetorian tribune Subrius Flavus participated in an earlier attempted assassination of Nero partly because of “his behavior as an actor” (qtd. in Beacham 1999, 232). The Roman elite certainly forced him to commit suicide. “The praetorian officers stressed Nero’s domestic murders, public performances and attempt to destroy the capital” (Griffin 1987, 167). Women were popular as dancers, particularly as erotic, and sometimes exotic, dancers, among whom were mimes and the famous Gadittanae dancers. As Fear states, “Female dancers, like the famous ‘Dancing Girls of Cadiz [Gades] and the Egyptian ‘castanet-dancers,’ were also hired to perform in more private settings such as banquets or, in Egypt in particular, village festivals” (2002, 285). So popular were the famous Dancing Girls of Cadiz that “Even Pliny teases a friend allegedly for turning down one of his own invitations for a table at which Gaditanae, dancing girls from Cadiz, may be seen” (1.15.3, qtd. in Jones 1991, 193). The Gaditanae, the dancing girls, were slaves who performed a dance form that most likely approached a genre of belly dancing complete with the use of finger cymbals or castanets, a percussion instrument almost always associated with erotic dances in



Greek vase imagery. “The style of the dance itself appears to have been very similar to that of the present day belly dancers of the Middle East; one ‘Gaditana’ is said to ‘so tremulously move her thighs, so alluringly gyrate; another description refers to ‘Gaditanae’ ‘wantonly shaking without ceasing their lascivious loins in trained measure.’ Finally it appears that a trembling descent to the floor, a common feature of belly dancing, normally known as the ‘shimmy’ was also practiced by the ‘Gaditanae’” (1991, 76). The most popular, or at least most frequently mentioned Gaditana was Telethusa, who appears in a number of sources. Fear also notes that Martial described a male dancer, a transvestite, who performed this genre of dance. We should beware of the term “transvestite,” because men who performed what were perceived of as effeminate dances did not hide the fact that they were male, and more often wore items of both men’s and women’s clothing and hairstyles, because they were desirable as males. Pantomimes and Mimes

The figures of the pantomime (Latin pantomimus/Greek orchistis) and the mime (mimi [masc.]; mimae [fem.]) epitomize many of the points that I raise in this study: the low social status, the presumption of sexual availability, the overall desire they generated in their performances, and the presumed effeminacy of the male performers all coalesce in these figures. Generally grouped under the heading of “actor” (histrio), which can be confusing to the modern reader because both the pantomimes and mimes were dancers, more than actors, although the arts of pantomime and mime differed significantly. Pantomimes danced silently to the accompaniment of vocal and instrumental music—the more elaborate performances featured an orchestra of double-reed pipes, string instruments and percussion, with the vocal music sung by a chorus, which described the actions of the dancer. It is most likely, in view of the spectacle that the pantomimes attempted to create, that the possibility of the use of elaborate sets existed, and certainly the Romans had the capacity to create such spectacular effects through the technology of stage machinery that existed at the time. Pantomimes at least until the late empire were almost exclusively men, who acted out Greek myths and tragedies, using some of the same themes that were found in serious theatre productions. During their performances they acted all of the roles in succession, using


what have been described as beautiful masks, long silk robes with gold embroidery (which added to the charges of effeminacy), and a pallium [“a large rectangular mantle, worn by non-Romans, and especially by Greeks” (Sebesta and Bonfante 2001, 245)] that appeared androgynous to enable the dancer to perform both male and female roles. The playing of female roles constituted one of the most shameful aspects of their profession, and was deeply frightening and threatening to Roman men, who regarded such portrayals of women as a betrayal of gender. The association with myth and tragedy positioned the best of them at the apex of Roman entertainment scene, although “The profession of actors was often assimilated to prostitution. . . . This sexual availability was associated with actors of both sexes” (Williams 2010, 43). Legally, no matter how rich and famous they were, they fell under the category of infamis, and were lumped together with prostitutes, pimps, and gladiators—infamous professions not far removed from criminal status. Ismena Lada-Richards describes their performances: At the time of the pantomime’s heyday, however, when competitiveness was one of the foremost markers of the genre and acrobatic numbers were the stock-in-trade of many other entertainers, a dancer’s choices must have been infinitely more self-conscious. It is hard to believe that a pantomime contestant seeking to impress his public with his speedy trajectory across the stage, judiciously interlaced with spins and turns and launches into the air in virtuosic jumps, would not have been looking with the keenest interest at the performances of those from whom such exercises were their livelihood. (Lada-Richards 2008, 32)

Of especial note was the use of the hands use to mime the meanings of the story line. And although one is tempted to imagine that the dancer had a vocabulary that conveyed the story as found in the mudras of bharata natyam performances, classics scholar John Jory points out that none of the evidence “provides indisputable evidence that each individual word of the text was so interpreted” (2008, 163). Even so, Lucian tells that the Cynic philosopher Demetrius commented to a pantomime dancer: “You seem to me to be talking with your very hands” (qtd. in Jory. Ibid.). The pantomimes enthralled and thrilled their audiences, and so we must assume that the very finest of them had star-quality charisma, won through their virtuosic performances. They certainly attracted the attention of the rich and the famous: Sulla had a long-time affair



with the mime Metrobius, and Maecenas, the Emperor Augustus’ closest associate, loved the pantomime Bathyllus for many years. But they also appealed to a wide swath of the ancient theatre audience as well, because their fans came from every class and formed what we would today call a fan club. Ruth Webb notes, “It is clear that audiences were keen observers of the dancers’ technique, quick to evaluate each performance and to pick up the faults” (2008b, 52). Such knowledge presupposes the kind of knowledge of the art that balletomanes, who also come from different classes, use to assess the relative merits of Mikhail Baryshnikov and Rudolf Nureyev. The ancient writers understood their allure, their exciting quality, and how the members of the audience found them enthralling, all of which they found disgusting. Juvenal wrote in one of his satires: Look around the arcades, can you pick out a woman worthy of your devotion? Go through every theatre— will they yield one candidate you could love without a qualm? While that queen of a dancer Bathyllus is miming Leda3 one woman lets go of her bladder, another whinnies: your country girl looks, country girl, country matters. Others in the winter, when the theatres are closed, the scenery packed away, when the lawcourts go droning on will yearningly fondle souvenirs of their favorite actor, their tragedy king—his mask, his thyrsus, his jock strap, That queen who brings down the house as Actaeon’s mother, at the late night show—poor Aelia’s crazy about him. (vii. 60–70)

The actual historical origins of pantomime are unknown, but it most assuredly had roots in forms of tragic drama and, possibly, mime. “The combination of the masks, role transformation, mimetic bravura, emotional impact and fundamentally solo nature of the pantomime dance certainly marks it off from some earlier glamorous danced entertainments” (Hall 2008, 10). What is certain is that, in the minds of the ancients, it sprang forth in 22 or 23 BCE with the performances of two of the most famous and charismatic pantomime dancers, Bathyllus, who hailed from Alexandria and performed the form of pantomime based on Greek myth, which became the form that lasted into the seventh century, and Pylades, who danced a comic form, which did not last. David Potters states, “Pantomimes appear to have burst on the Roman scene


in the reign of Augustus through performances by a Cicilian named Pylades and became wildly popular immediately after that” (2010, 297). But, in fact, as a choreographer, I well know that dance genres do not appear overnight; they require development. Clearly, the two earliest well-known pantomimes did not, in all likelihood, invent a new genre of dance on the spot, but rather, in the style of bricolage, took elements already extant, and spectacularized those elements in a manner that drew public attention, especially from the Emperor Augustus, which launched their careers and the popularity of the form. It is most likely that they combined a number of elements—the music, the choreographic elements and movements, the costumes, masks, libretti in a new and spectacular fashion—in such a way that they appeared to their audiences as an entirely new genre. This spectacularization could have plausibly consisted of the dancers adding athletic and virtuosic elements of movement, enlarging the orchestra, and using sophisticated scripts. Ancient Roman historian Cassius Dio wrote: “Since Pylades was said to have changed the old style of dancing that had had its heyday with our ancestors and to have introduced a new and charming style, he was asked by Augustus what contribution he had made to dance and answered (Il. 10.13): the sound of pipes and flutes and the din of men” (2011, There also exists confusion in the use of the different terms—pantomime, mime, and actor—are frequently conflated by ancient authors, not to mention the modern renderings such as “ballet dancer” (Juvenal 2004, 58 n.13). Also potentially confusing is the fact that, because of the huge successes of the first Bathyllus and Pylades, several pantomimes in later generations took their names. There were also a number of pantomimes called Paris. Another aspect of pantomime that is very important is the use of libretti. Although not one example remains, Ovid wrote to the Emperor Augustus, who had exiled him, that he knew that at least one of his works had been used for a pantomime performance, but specified that he had not expressly written it for that purpose. Juvenal tells us that the famous poet Lucan at least attempted to sell one to the famous pantomime Paris: And yet, though he [Lucan] brings the house down, he’ll starve, unless he can sell his virgin libretto to Paris Paris, Director of Ballet, the jobber of high commands,



who hands out poets their six-month carpet-knighthoods. What nobles cannot bestow, an actor will. Why bother to appear in great patrician’s spacious reception-halls? Prefects and tribunes alike are appointed by ballet-dancers. yet you need not begrudge the living a poet derives from the stage. Today the age of the private patron’s over . . . (2004, 57, lines 85–90)

Here we have it all. Juvenal expresses elite attitudes: the lowering of a high-status artist, a poet, who now participates in the shame of the stage, the shame of associating with actors who are infamis, and the political power that these infamis have gained through sexual affairs with the rich and powerful. Cassius Dio in his history of the reign of Augustus tells us: because he gave leave to a dancer named Pylades who had been banished for sedition to return to Rome—even if some people were angered by the strictness of his other regulations, the majority forgot their grievances. In this context Pylades is said to have given an apt reply, when the emperor reprimanded him for having quarreled with Bathyllus, a fellowartist and a protégé of Maecenas: “If the people spend their time upon us,” he said, “it is you, Caesar, who are the gainer.” (1987, 181)

What this tells us is that Pylades ran afoul of the Emperor Augustus for his competitive stance vis-à-vis Bathyllus, the lover of the Emperor’s close associate Maecenas. Pylades intimates that the competition between him and Bathyllus should be welcome to Augustus because it took people’s minds off of Augustus’ unpopular political decisions. People were happy that Pylades and his popular performances could resume, a popular decision by the emperor, and that, implicitly, these dancers, through their mesmerizing performances and court contacts had influence. When the end of the empire came, with its shrinking population and declining economic situation, the circumstances of performance changed and faded, pantomime disappeared with it. A contributing factor to this disappearance would have been the costs of the elaborate stagings and props, the large chorus and orchestra that would have been required for the most spectacular performances. But more importantly, the classical references within an increasingly Christian environment would have become increasingly irrelevant. “But the fact


that entertainments of this kind were so entrenched by centuries of tradition meant that there was no possibility of suppressing these activities. Moreover, the ceremonies which were essential to the display of imperial power were inextricably intertwined with the world of performance and spectacle” (Roueché 2008, 680). That pantomime lasted in the Greek East, with the Church fathers denouncing it in thunderous tones, “that some form of pantomime dancing seems to have lingered on even to the end of the seventh century” is truly remarkable (LadaRichards 2008, 24). Mime, a form attested much earlier than pantomime, was very different. Cheerfully vulgar, even obscene, the mimes were both men and women who danced, sang, and acted—no pretension to high art here. Potter states, “Performers of mime, a form of comic performance that became extremely important in the course of the first century B.C., were organized in groups of seven, led by a star, usually male, though there were some women who gained great renown in this way . . . a female dancer named Dionysia is said to have made 200,000 HS in one year” (2010, 293). It is most likely that mime was improvised, with the characters taking particular roles: the adulterous wife, the cuckolded husband, the clever servant or slave; the ru-howzi theatre of Iran has a similar improvised mechanism. (Beeman 1981; 1992; Shay 1999). Classics scholar R. Elaine Fantham notes, “It is fair to admit they never achieved the star status of the male dancers in pantomime” (1999, 154). The dancers would often take suggestions from the patron or current events to create their satirical performances.4 Unlike the pantomime, the mime did not use masks. In addition, the mime was much more portable than pantomime, which frequently requires a large orchestra and chorus and formal performance space, whereas mime was adaptable to the street or the Roman dining room. Historically, the most famous mime was the Empress Theodora, Justinian’s consort, famous for her stunning mosaic portrait in Ravenna. Born c. 500 CE, she had the misfortune to have lived exactly at the time of Procopius, who wrote about her in his Secret History (Anekdota) in such terms as to be totally incredible, and yet her shady beginnings were well known, and he seems to have been familiar with the general run of disreputable mime performances, that she grew up and performed in the hippodrome in Constantinople, and in her puberty when “she joined the women on the stage and promptly became a prostitute of the type the ancients called a ‘trouper’. For she was not a flute or



harp player; indeed she could not even dance well . . . “(Procopius 2007, 37). Theodora’s biographer observes: “It is difficult to imagine a tougher environment in which to be born and to grow to maturity than that of the Hippodrome in Constantinople in Theodora’s time” (Bridge 1993, 13). Procopius further informs us that Theodora had a turn for comedy, and had a skill for slapstick, a necessary element in the performance of a mime, and a rare encomium. [S]he would spread herself out and lie on her back on the floor. Certain menials on whom this task had been imposed would sprinkle barley grains over her private parts, and geese trained for the purpose used to pick them off with beaks one by one and swallow them. Theodora, far from blushing when she stood up again, actually seemed proud of this performance. (Procopius 2007, 38)

According to Procopius, Theodora was totally shameless, but it is difficult to imagine someone that wanton moving vertically up to the Byzantine throne without other attractions and personal qualities other than a talent for playing comedy and serving as an erotic goose girl. Justinian had his predecessor Justin bestow patrician status upon Theodora so that he could eventually marry her, and appeared to be inconsolable when she died. Byzantine law became increasingly harsher in attempting to prevent intermarriage between stage performers and aristocrats. The prince and the showgirl, indeed! As historian Leslie Brubaker dryly notes, “The Secret History is a successful piece of fiction, a brilliant parody on the imperial panegyric. It tells us next to nothing about Justinian and Theodora” (2004, 101). It does, however, tell us volumes about attitudes toward the public performer and how useful the public entertainers are to defame as sexually depraved individuals, and establish them as scare figures for the public to take moral lessons from. Procopius’s description aside, William Slater notes that “The many specialists of mime who appeared on the ancient stage are infrequently mentioned in our sources, and, when they do appear, their performances are seldom described in any detail” (2002, 320–321). Also, the term mimus seemed to have been somewhat of a catch-all for participants in street theatre to improvised theatrical presentations with a loose plot, singing, and dancing. Thus, we do not know whether Procopius was describing Theodora’s goose-girl act as something he saw at the hippodrome, with or without the empress, or some other sleazy venue.


We can understand how pantomime ended with the empire in which it was born and the classical context that was important for the understanding of the narrations the pantomimes performed. There is strong evidence that some form of mime, in fact, might have continued into the Middle Ages and beyond. The descriptions of mime in ancient Rome strongly coincide with commedia dell’arte, and medieval historian J. D. A. Ogilvy suggests that he has discovered enough to convince us that small medieval mime troupes continued to ply their trade at country fairs and markets, and in the castles as well. He concludes that “Isidore’s [of Seville, c. 560–636] dictum on the Christian attitude towards spectacles may be better evidence than his verbs that the theater was not quite so dead as he would have his readers think . . . why so emphatic a warning against spectacles if there were no spectacles to attend . . . ?” (1963, 605). However no one has been able to definitively trace any direct connections between the mime of ancient Rome and that of the Middle Ages, even if the actors—histriones—went by the same title. However rich the public performer became, we cannot lose sight of the fact that in the Roman world, and thereafter, society made his or her social status one of the lowest. Thomas McGinn observes, “With a small group of professions, including auctorati bestiarii, gladiatorial trainers, and actors, they suffer virtually every form of legal disability the Romans devised” (1998, 65). The harsh Church strictures leveled against public entertainers also continued contributing to the low status of actors, dancers, and other performers well into the twentieth century, and in many parts of the Islamic world into the twenty-first. Contexts for Performance

In many ways the public and private world in which the public entertainers plied their trades followed the practices of ancient Greece. The Romans held convivia, private banquets, and like the Greek symposium, the host hired entertainers, like the above-mentioned Gaditanae. There were several differences that existed between the Greek and Roman symposium and convivium. In some instances Roman women attended the banquets, and in others, if they can be believed, the moralists claimed that the populares, that is, politicians who appealed to the masses, danced naked and participated in orgies in the convivia. Presumably, dignified Roman matrons did not lend their reputations



to that kind of evening. That kind of scene certainly appealed to the makers of Hollywood spectacle, for the orgy-cum-banquet scene is a stock one, but it may well be invective. Moreover, cinaedi seemed to have infested the convivia because attending one was just the kind of activity that a man who could not control his appetites, which typified the meaning of cinaedus, would attend to indulge his sinful appetites. Catherine Edwards tells us, “Entertainers were part of the expense of the perfect party and were often themselves imported luxuries from exotic regions” (1993, 188). John D’Arms describes how hosts had a small army of slaves to serve their guests and who Make no fewer than thirty-five separate entrances, pouring out snowcooled water, spreading coverlets, sprinkling the room with saffron and vermilion-colored sawdust, carrying round bread, or towels or hot water; anointing the diners’ feet with ointment and winding garlands around their ankles; singing, or clapping, or dancing in a troupe as they moved fantastic foods theatrically in and out of the room. (D’Arms 1991, 173)

And, like the Greeks, there were naked wine bearers, and later, albeit clothed, in the Islamic courts: “They were routinely expected to be young, smooth-shaven (but long-haired), and sexually attractive” (173). As a form of continuity, the handsome wine bearer decorates Islamic courts and classical poetry into the nineteenth century. Another difference in the Greek and Roman events was scale. In their public and private events the hosts attempted to dazzle their guests or the public with spectacle. So, in place of the modest three entertainers in Xenophon’s symposium, we have in Augustus’ palace, according to Christopher Jones, “an almost limitless range of self-display, we should expect a variety of dinner entertainments” (1991, 193). And the performers numbered in the hundreds, and some were permanently attached to the imperial palace. In addition to these private displays, the emperors were expected to provide entertainment for the public. These performances included pantomimes and other public entertainers. Other public contexts such as public theatres featured pantomimes and mimes, performances that were offered by local notables or aspiring politicians, as well as the emperor. “On the public level, to offer the public both food and spectacle was to make one’s generosity as conspicuous as it could be” (Jones 1991, 197). These shows could be quite


elaborate and audiences came to expect a full orchestra, chorus, the solo pantomime dancer, and elaborate sets. Continuity from the classical period manifests itself in both Byzantine material culture and visual art, even as public entertainers, such as the pantomime, begin to fade, in spite of the intense efforts of the Christian Church, people clung to old and comforting images and habits of mind, and carried these over into the medieval Islamic period.


Medieval Islam: The Caliphate in Damascus, Baghdad, Córdoba, Cairo, and Beyond


ince this is a study that focuses on the public entertainer, it is beyond the scope of this volume to provide an exhaustive historical, political, sociological, and religious background of medieval Islam. I will provide, however, a general context that will illuminate the conditions in which public performers carried out their professions.1 The various sultanates and kingdoms that achieved a degree of political and economic independence followed fashions in Baghdad and other urban centers, establishing smaller versions of the courts of the Abbasids, and the poets, musicians, dancers, and other public entertainers would have attempted to emulate the public entertainers’ performances in their local courts. Important public entertainers, such as poets and musicians who were stars, were mobile and traveled frequently. In addition to their artistry, they often became boon companions (nadim) to a ruler because of their wit, style, and familiarity with adab (courtly and elite literary) culture, which often made them rich, powerful, and famous. For example, in Córdoba we encounter the famous musician Ziryab; he became a towering figure in the caliphal court there. He was famous not only for his original musical compositions and innovations, but he also set styles in cuisine, clothing, perfume, and other aspects of the elite lifestyles of his time. It is important to begin by looking at certain methods of scholarship that have yielded shortcomings, and even misdirection, in understanding that context. First, as Eva C. Keuls so eloquently noted about classics scholars attempting to “rescue” classical Greece for Western civilization



by trying to hide the role that pederasty, and sex in general, played in that society, so too did orientalists. That is, scholars who study Middle Eastern languages, literatures, religions, and societies, attempted to expunge the utter glee with which medieval literati in the Islamic world, particularly in Arabic and Persian, celebrated the love of young ephebes. “For scholars intent on transforming the discipline of Middle Eastern studies beyond its Orientalist origins, there nonetheless has remained an antipathy toward investigations of sexuality, which enforces, in particular, a deliberate forgetting of the homoerotic past” (Traub 2008, 10). This was accomplished, in part, either by silence, or by attempting to mistranslate the large body of homoerotic poetry, turning it into heteronormative love poetry so that Gertrude Bell, A. J. Arberry, and other orientalists translated “the young Turk from Shiraz” (Agar an Tork-e Shirazi) of the famous ghazal (lyric poem) by the Persian poet Hafez, as the “Turkish maiden from Shiraz” (Bell 1995, 71) or simply “sweet maid” (Arberry 1993, 85). In this way these proponents of keeping Persian and Arabic literature clean, safe, and heteronormative deliberately mistranslated Hafez and other poets, misguiding generations of readers. Persian literature scholar Annemarie Schimmel more forthrightly translated the first two lines of the famous poem “If that Turk of Shiraz would take my heart in his hand” (1992b, 142), and tartly remonstrated, “we certainly do not find the ‘charming maid of Shiraz’” (282). Essentializing and Turning Off the Lights

I would caution the reader against essentializing both Islam and Muslims. By that I mean that there is a spectrum across which individual Muslims can be found. Some are fervent, even zealous observers of religious tenets and practices, while others observe some of the tenets of the faith while ignoring others, and others are atheists. The spread of Islam was neither unified nor sudden; many setbacks occurred along the way for the Arab invaders, including numerous documented rebellions. To many outsiders, Islam can appear as a monolithic entity. Historian Douglas E. Streusand cautions: “Like Western civilization, Islamic civilization is, and has been, a composite of different elements in tension” (2011, x). From the outset, Islam was a House Divided. In fact, this division was apparent from the death of the Prophet Muhammad in 632 CE. In addition to the differences between the


Sunnis and Shi’as, which still exist today, as time passed various movements and cults arose, including an array of sects, and political and ascetic movements whose passionate zeal presented multiple dangers to the central caliphal government. These passionately held beliefs produced violence, rebellion, and political chaos in Baghdad and throughout the caliphal lands. Richard Bulliet states, there were “[S]cores of claims by would-be prophets, invitations into secret conspiracies, and calls to pious rebellion. With thousands of people asking questions about Islam, the marketplace of answers was wild and colorful” (1994, 106). Little wonder, then, that Baghdad and other urban centers were hotbeds of revolt and sedition. Lights Out

Another scholarly shortcoming that exists is a tendency for individuals, both in the Islamic world and in the West, to perceive that the abrupt end to the pre-Islamic Sasanian Empire (224–642 CE), and the capture of Byzantine Syria and Egypt, represented a sudden break with the past out of which the advent of Islam suddenly appeared. It was if someone turned off the lights after the Battle of Nahavand in 642 and the takeover of Syria and Egypt in the same year, and the next day dawned Islamic: everyone wore Islamic clothing, women went out in public only if they were heavily veiled, Muslims entered Islamic-styled mosques, and lived an Islamic life style. Such perceptions are sharpened by the academic division between pre-Islamic and post-Islamic history, literature, and art that clearly divides pre-Islamic from Islamic periods and topics, as though a sharp cultural break between the periods existed. All of this tells us more about contemporary disciplinary concerns in the academy than the ways in which people in historical time periods viewed the world and societies in which they lived. In this study, I will do the opposite, emphasizing the gradual changes that occurred and the many continuities that we can still find today, especially regarding attitudes toward public entertainers, gender roles, and sexuality. We will see many continuities right into the twenty-first century, including the public attitudes toward them, their low social status, the notion that they were sexually available, and if male, that they were effeminate. The conversion process was slower than many assume. Catherine Stone writes: “Samarqand was conquered by the Muslim armies in



711–712 and the city’s first mosque was built. At this time the population was apparently in the process of converting from Buddhism to Nestorian Christianity, while still including substantial Zoroastrian and Jewish minorities. The process of Islamization was not completed until about A.D. 1500” (2009, xix). The process by which a critical mass of the population of Iran, Iraq, Egypt, or Syria became Muslims, and art and architecture became what we can term Islamic, constituted a process that took several centuries (Bulliet 1994; Grabar 1987; Morony 2005). As historian Michael G. Morony points out: “[M]uch of the civilization of Late Antiquity either survived fairly intact or found an Islamic form” (2005, 3). Above all, the process was gradual. “The assumption of a continuity of styles, tastes, and practices related to the material lives of the inhabitants of the Islamic domains, whether governed by age-old custom carried over from Late Antiquity or dictated by recently adopted religious norms, may be justified on the grounds of the basically conservative nature of all pre-modern societies,” according to David Waines (2002, xv). In many ways, the contemporary populations of many areas of Afghanistan and Pakistan continue to live in a premodern intellectual and social environment. As regards the veil for example, the Qur’an only advises that “the Prophet’s wives go veiled (33.59)” and that Muslim women should cover themselves modestly: “O Prophet! Tell Thy wives and thy daughters and the women of believers to draw their cloaks close round them (when they go abroad). That will be better, so that they may be recognized and not annoyed. Allah is ever Forgiving, Merciful” (33.59).2 Women did not generally veil in the early period as they do today. That seems to have occurred only gradually, and the general use of the veil did not appear until Abbasid times (Glassé 1995, 468), a century after the advent of Islam. The principal female public entertainers of the Umayyad and Abbasid periods went unveiled, according to ethnomusicologist Habib Hassan Touma, who states about the qaynah, the singing slave girl, “Her naked breasts were open to the glances of guests, and she was also receptive to the more direct advances of her customers” (1996, 2). Although Touma writes that these women were “receptive,” meaning they were eager and willing to engage in sex, I suggest that since they were slaves, coercion was often involved. Here we can see a direct continuity with the hetaira of ancient Greece—she entertained, held witty conversation, and was sexually available. Moreover, the qiyan, as slaves, would not have worn


veils in order to indicate their servile status, nor had they any choice with whom they had sex. The number of qiyan houses in Baghdad indicates that this was a form of prostitution with entertainment. In its beginnings, Islam was perceived of as an Arab religion. Its linguistic vehicle was Arabic, the language with which God revealed the Qur’an to the Prophet Muhammad, which further emphasized the notion of Islam as an exclusively Arab domain and Arabic as a sacred language. Non-Arabs were not often encouraged to join the new faith in the earliest period, and when they did, they did so as mawali (clients), under the auspices of an Arab tribe. Needless to say, this state of affairs proved difficult to sustain, and quickly gave rise to unhappiness among the mawali, who keenly felt a kind of second-class status in relation to the Arabs. While undoubtedly many non-Arabs became Muslim because they found the tenets of the Islamic faith congenial, others converted for more practical reasons. Michael Morony says, “Members of the former Sasanian ruling elite tended to convert to Islam in order to avoid paying tribute, to keep their property and position and to join the Muslim army and administration” (2005, 301). Becoming a Muslim gave one access to the new centers of power and opportunities for employment in the new polity. The sense of occupying a second-class position led to a cultural contestation between non-Arabs, the Iranians in particular, who could look back to the glories of the ancient Persian civilization, and the Arabs, who looked to their tribal origins for evidence of their noble status. The tension between the two groups increased during the second and third centuries, after the Arab conquest, which was centered in Baghdad, and this contest, both verbal and literary was called the shu’ubiyyah. The Iranians, unlike the Coptic-speaking Egyptians and the Aramaicspeaking Syrians, who in time eventually became Arabs through the acquisition of Arabic in lieu of their own languages, never gave up Persian, albeit an altered Persian with the infusion of many Arabic words. The reason for this linguistic state of affairs was that Persians served as katibs (pl. kuttab), literate bureaucrats and literati in the Abbasid courts and ministries, as they had done in the Sasanian Empire, a line of work that the Arabs, who looked upon themselves as warriors, largely disdained. In many ways this class of men, with their superior educations, set the tone for the Abbasid court. They wrote belles-lettres poetry and acquired zarf (delicacy of manner, politesse, courtly behavior) and



adab, the formal education of poetry and literature that characterized the literati, which gave them entrée to the court and, if at all possible, to rise to the position of nadim, the caliph’s intimate, or the high political position of minister, which carried the potential for acquiring wealth. After the first century of Islam this group of kuttab formed the apex of male elite identity, gradually replacing the military ideal that had obtained during the conquest period, and many writers wrote treatises on how to become the ideal courtier. As historian Neguin Yavari succinctly expresses it: “The idea that Muslim or even Arab rule sought to suppress and obliterate the Iranian cultural or other legacy needs to be put to rest” (2012, 232). This notion is particularly crucial in the case of the performing arts in which some modern writers claim ancient origins for particular genres of dance, which had been forcibly suppressed by the Arabs.3 Persian continued to serve as the written language of the government for nearly 50 years, but as a matter of practicality as well as religious sentiment, in government offices and bureaus at the end of the seventh century, Arabic replaced it. In many ways Arabic served the same role that Latin did in the medieval West. The intellectual classes throughout the Islamic world operated in Arabic in the chancelleries, court, and literary circles, and it was the language of nearly all writings about religious issues, a practice that continues today. To be anyone in the luxurious environment of the Abbasid court circles, one had to master Arabic, as was the case for the majority of the functionaries and the public entertainers who were Persian or other mawali, and many of them mastered Arabic to perfection in order to sing and used it as a vehicle to Persianize Abbasid society. Arab language scholar Fuad Matthew Caswell agrees that Persianization of the Abbasid court steadily continued until the time of Harun al-Rashid (r. 786–809); his court “was all but Persian in name” (2011, 235). I want to emphasize that the deeply felt struggle was a cultural battle, not a religious one, and certainly not to be confused with the modern, nationalism-driven Iranian-Arab divide. The issue becomes important for this study, because in looking at the musical traditions in the Abbasid court, the ethnic derivations of the music and its performers need to be questioned. In general, Arabs were loath to enter the field as déclassé, and hence, most of its practitioners were non-Arabs who frequently and liberally borrowed from Iranian and other traditions with which many of them were already familiar.


Baghdad, the Navel of the World

The Abbasids looked to the East, to the Sasanian Empire and its culture for aesthetic and political reasons, and built their important palaces in Baghdad and Samarra symbolically close to one of the most important of Sasanian centers, Ctesiphon. During the early Abbasid caliphate, through booty and taxes of the ever-expanding Islamic Empire, huge sums of money became available with which to adorn the city of Baghdad and create an almost unbelievably luxurious lifestyle for the elite, in which public entertainers played a role. The caliphal family itself took first place, as in receiving, so in disbursing wealth as patrons of the arts of luxury and of learning. Ibrahim alMawsili (d. 804), the most celebrated musician, and Abu-Nuwas (d. c. 803), the most celebrated poet of the time, both of whose lives were identified with wine and the gaiety of song, lived from the wealth of the court as was to be expected. A cleverly turned poem could win a bag full of gold, a horse from the caliph’s stables, a beautiful singing slave girl—or all three at once. On every occasion of courtly joy, largesse was scattered among the populace, rich and poor—in the form of coins tossed in abandon in the streets, of food served to all comers, or of robes of honour of luxurious silks or brocades passed out among favoured courtiers. A less spectacular but more dependable way of rewarding talent or expressing favour was to grant an individual the revenue for life from a given village, or to give him lands outright from the government’s holdings. (Hodgson 1974, 294)

This snapshot, eerily similar to scenes in Hollywood blood-and-sand film epics and the Thousand and One Nights, provides us with a look at the feverish life led by those, including public entertainers, who were close to the court in Baghdad. There exist many historical documents that attest to the palaces, mosques, and other public buildings in Baghdad and neighboring Samarra that dotted the landscape of this urban center that grew from the banks of the Tigris River—one that numbered probably between a million and a million and a half people, in which there existed 60,000 bath houses and 300,000 mosques catering to a heterogeneous population (Sabari 1981, 17; Robinson 2001). While the caliphal court was one of splendor and luxury, one should not forget that this massive society constituted a vertical society in terms of power and wealth. The public entertainers were no



strangers to the royal palaces and mansions of the elite in which they performed, in both large public majalis (gatherings pl., majlis sing.), or in small intimate parties. They performed in grand audience halls and breathtakingly beautiful outdoor settings with pavilions, gardens, and running water in the Persian style, as well as more intimate spaces, sometimes gathering together informally to listen to one another and a few special guests (see Sawa 2004). The less elevated performers could be found in the celebrated houses of pleasure that male Baghdadis flocked to searching for evenings of entertainment and lovemaking: The cities had in their suburbs or in the surrounding countryside highly frequented pleasure gardens, with open-air cabarets and cafes set up on the farms attached to Byzantine, Roman, or Persian castles, or even Christian monasteries. . . . The taverns were places where many kinds of pleasure were served up without shame and without exclusion. Singers, dancers, gamblers, but also pleasure-seeking young fellows, homosexuals of both sexes, taught the art of pleasure, without let or hindrance, to a youth whom Islam had protected from any sense of shame or guilt. (Bouhdiba 1975, 131)

And, of course, we know these pleasure houses and locales well through the poetry of Abu Nuwas and others, which corroborates Bouhdiba’s description. The poems of the period celebrate the nights filled with music, wine, dance, and the carnal joys of women and young men amidst gardens and the open air of the countryside. The pursuit of worldly pleasure constituted an important activity in the medieval Islamic world. Nevertheless, as was the case in Rome, no matter how fantastical the lives led by the Baghdad elite, public entertainers, and their tainted profession, were equated, as in the ancient world, with prostitution. And, like Rome, in spite of the Hollywood depictions of the period, Baghdad, too, resembled a developing country, characterized by a great deal of violence, famine, food riots, devastating floods, plagues, numerous fires set during religious and political unrest, a lumpenproletariat ready to join in pitched fights in the streets with rival religious groups, a highly organized underworld of professional criminals, the myriad cutpurses, petty thieves and pickpockets, assorted male and female prostitutes, and numerous beggars (see Bosworth 1976; Sabari 1981).


Contours of Masculinity in Medieval Islam Sexuality

The codes of masculinity and sexuality, to use a more modern term, that developed in medieval Islam, constituted a legacy from the ancient world, and stayed in force from the medieval period well into the nineteenth century. As Afsaneh Najmabadi (2005) and Janet Afary (2009) remind us, changes in sexuality require long periods of time to occur, and I suggest that habits of sexual and other bodily behaviors are among the most deeply ingrained and regarded as “natural” by those who act within those societies, and thus they remain deeply resistant to change. Walter G. Andrews and Mehmet Kalpakli echo my sentiments about societies that have a profound degree of misogyny: “In situations where public life is dominated by men, where warfare is frequent and many men spend most of their time as warriors in the company of other men, and where men are educated and women are not, what people identified as masculine virtues—for example, strength, bravery, physical prowess, male beauty, artistic talent, eloquence—are highly valued, being attracted to young men, loving young men, is an affirmation of those values and virtues” (2005, 12). In many of these societies, among the Mamlukes, the slave soldiers of Egypt, and the Janissary soldiery of the Ottoman Empire, military men are among those who patronized dancing boys, while among the literati, poets wrote love poems to them. Idealized Models of Masculine Sexuality

In the beginnings of Islamic civilization, the Prophet Muhammad, and later the caliphs and other rulers, embodied the ideal virile, sexually potent man. Ruth Roded tells us, “In Ibn Sa’d’s collection of biographies of great Muslim men and women of the early years of Islam, for example, eight traditions address the superior sexual performance of the Prophet. . . . Others relate that the Prophet had the virility of forty men” (2006, 57). Clearly, Islam celebrates lawful sexuality in a manner unfamiliar to Christianity, in which Jesus Christ is carefully desexualized, and which largely renounces carnal knowledge (see Brown 1990). An important physical feature that sets off men from others (women, boys, etc.) is facial hair—a beard and/or a moustache. Erotic portrayals of men and boys fall on either side of that dividing line, and the boys are



clearly indicated in the erotic illustrations as lacking beards (amrad). In novelist and newspaper editor Hassan Daoud’s charming essay “Those Two Heavy Wings of Manhood: On Moustaches,” he writes: “In the popular sayings and folk tales that have come down to us through the ages a man swears to another man on his moustache, a symbol of his honour and nobility . . . a luxurious moustache was a boundless treasure” (2000, 275), which highlights the importance of this hirsute masculine feature into the present. One must, however, keep in mind that anything to do with sex and genitalia in present-day Islamic societies is very private.4 For this reason, in discussing not only the literature and visual sources, I must also rely on my 50 years of living among Muslims of every stripe and observing life and sexuality in various Muslim societies. The first of the continuities that we find flowing from the antique world of the Mediterranean into medieval Islam is the concept of and preoccupation with anal penetration. The impenetrability of the male body and the morbid fear of its penetration constitutes a physical, psychological, and symbolic phobia that reaches down to the present. The fear of even being suspected of being the passive partner in a homosexual act was extreme. Rowson illustrates: “a man’s desire to be penetrated is uniformly considered sick, perverted, and shameful. Al-Jurjani refers in the first line of this chapter to this condition as an illness, and continues to do so throughout. Unlike liwat (anal sex with a man), or indeed any other sexual practice, ‘ubna [passive male homosexuality] was dealt with in the medical literature” (1991, 64). And like modern psychiatrists in the early twentieth century, medieval writers in the Islamic world speculated as to the cause of this serious malady. Thus, throughout the entire time period that this study addresses, one of the continuities from ancient Greece, Rome, and Byzantium is the preoccupation of many older males with younger males, which continued into the Abbasid period, during which poets like the famous Abu Nuwas celebrates the beauty of young men and his sexual congress with them (Abu Nuwas 2005; Kennedy 2005). Other Elements of Masculinity

As with the Roman emperors, the various caliphs and rulers, and especially the Prophet Muhammad through his words and deeds, stood as the embodiment of masculine qualities. Rulers also served as models.


Nidham-i-Aruzi-i-Samarqandi tells us “the most excellent of the kings of the age in nobility, possessed pedigree, doughty deeds, judgment, statesmanship, justice, equity, valour and generosity . . . also in that upright judgment, clear understanding, strong resolve, and firm determination” (1899, 8), and he adds, “the most excellent of the princes of the time (possessed) judgment, statecraft, knowledge, chivalry, swordsmanship, strength of arm, treasure and muniment!” (ibid. 9). Thus, through this advice literature we can draw the idealized contours of masculinity as seen through the eyes of contemporaries. The most celebrated rulers in the Islamic world served as military leaders. Nurhan Atasoy says, “The Ottoman sultan was the supreme hereditary commander of this huge apparatus. Unlike today’s international leaders, this designation was by no means an honorary title. Ottoman sultans personally led the army on virtually every major campaign until the mid-17th century. The sultan’s presence on military maneuvers was considered important for imperial legitimacy as well as for morale” (1992, 101). However, as in ancient Greece and Rome, the formation of a professional army meant that, deprived of military participation, many men sought other ways to express masculinity, and one can find this expression in the adab literature and the world of the courtier. The literary establishment in the Abbasid court quickly formulated the codes for elite male behavior as other than military prowess. The shift from the ideal Arab as a warrior to that of the idealized Arab as a katib, a learned bureaucrat, took place in the early Abbasid period as professional Turkish soldiers came to be regarded as uncouth and wild as gladiators were in Rome. The ideal man, then, can be viewed as a successful career minister or bureaucrat or poet, high in the ranks of the Abbasid establishment. This portrait of idealized masculine deportment did not, however, foreclose physical activity as well as intellectual achievement. Wrestling, polo, archery, and other activities continued to be part of the lives of the elite, as well as the working classes.5 The values of hospitality, the protection of guests and strangers, and loyalty to the tribe thus held perhaps even more resonance within the Abbasid context than it had for the Greeks and Romans. These values can be found in poetry that nostalgically describes desert life and values, which continued well into the Islamic period. The public entertainers whom we encounter frequently extolled these values in their vocal



music. Their poems were filled with manly virtues for the object of their panegyric: bravery, protection of the weak, hospitality, generosity toward the poor, defending one’s neighbor. A second vital element of masculinity is the virtue of self-control, valued in Islam as it was in the antique world. Moderation in pleasure, self-control, as we saw in the advice of Kai Ka’us b. Iskandar to his son, continues to be a cardinal masculine virtue (1951). Walter Andrews and Mehmet Kalpakli said, “It was not assumed that a man would confine his pleasures to a relationship with one woman, and his taking of pleasure was regulated only by the avoidance of excess, immoderation being a sign of lack of control and lack of power. Thus, the masculine norm appears to have been a manly man who is erotically attracted to both boys and women, who to some degree enjoys amorous relations with both genders and leans toward preferring the company of attractive (and) educated males” (2005, 12). Throughout A Mirror for Princes, a manual of advice, Kai Ka’us Ibn Iskandar exhorts his son to exercise self-control in all things: wine, sex, hunting and sports, and eating (1082 [1951]). One of the most important attributes of the elite man was knowledge of poetry and literature, perhaps even more important than in ancient Greece or Rome, if that were possible. In addition, an ideal courtier was a man “possessing an all-round culture which included both the Arabian and Greek sciences, poetic gifts and knowledge of musical theory and practice” (Kilpatrick 2003, 17). Elsewhere, knowledge of fine food and its preparation, the ability to handle birds of prey, the skills of storytelling, and the ability to play chess and backgammon were valued. Above all the courtier must have zarf (elegance, wit, humor, and a regal bearing) to round out the idealized contours of masculine behavior. These were the widely admired and emulated qualities that led to the highest pinnacles of success in the medieval Islamic world. Thus, the manly man could firmly handle a pen rather than a sword, knew and wrote poetry, could perform and compose music, and exhibited other talents, including athletic ones. Homosexuality and Effeminacy Mukhannath and Ma’bun

There were however, shameful categories that existed—named categories such as mukhannath and ma’bun. It must first be pointed out that there exists a difference between an effeminate man, called


mukhannath, and a man who, as an adult, craves anal penetration by another man, called ma’bun. The first category, mukhannath constitutes a gender category, while the latter is a sexual category as well as a pathic condition. The mukhannath adopts aspects of a woman in behavior, clothing, and cosmetics: he might wear his hair longer than other men, use cosmetics, and perhaps wear certain items of women’s clothing. And, again Rowson emphasizes the point that I make regarding the clothes of boy dancers and other effeminate entertainers, that in spite of the wearing of some female garments, “No attempt was made, however, to ‘pass’ as a woman” (1991, 70). Thus the mukhannath made the appearance that was intermediate between man and woman, “the application to this category of person seems to depend on an image rather close to the Western ‘limp wrist’” (70). He frequently forms, in some scholars’ opinions, an intermediate gender category. Above all he was public. The ma’bun, while adopting the position in sex thought to be that of a woman, does not necessarily show effeminacy, and like that brave warrior Baqi the Catamite, found in the Baburnama, whom we will encounter in the next chapter, he may be extremely masculine in behavior and demeanor. He also generally has a wife and offspring. If successful in keeping his sexual desires and activities secret, he could “pass” as a sexually normative man, which for this time and place generally showed sexual interest in both men and youths. “Mukhannaths were always assumed to be sexually passive with other men. They thus shared an important characteristic with passive homosexuals—those suffering from ubna or bigha’ [pathological desire for anal penetration in the eyes of his society]—while remaining distinct from them” (71). Thus, as Rowson sums up, “Men who voluntarily removed themselves from the dominant category, by behaving as women, lost their respectability, but could be tolerated and even valued for their entertainment value. . . . More problematical was the case of men who maintained a public image as men, yet in their private sexual behavior assumed a submissive role” (72). Nevertheless, like Baqi the Catamite, even these men might gain grudging respect for other skills and traits. All of which means we have entered a very different world of gender and sexuality than our own. In many Islamic medieval and early modern societies, into the nineteenth century, and in Afghanistan and Pakistan today, “for men, at least, same-gender attractions were considered to be of a higher moral



and spiritual order,” say Andrews and Kalpakli (2005, 12). The world of love between males was not only a seeking of sex, which it could certainly be, but as with institutionalized pederasty in ancient Greece, it was the world of romantic love until the early twentieth century. This brings us again to the concept of the term homosexuality to characterize male/male relationships in other times and places. Islamic scholar Khaled el-Rouayheb states, “It may seem natural for modern historians to gloss over the distinction between committing sodomy and expressing passionate love for a youth, and to describe both activities as manifestations of ‘homosexuality.’ But this only goes to show that the term is anachronistic and unhelpful in this particular context” (2005, 3). I do agree with el-Rouayheb that “homosexuality” is a somewhat inadequate and anachronistic term for liwat, (sodomy) or the sexual activities and emotional feeling between men in historic periods of the Islamic world. However, the term, because it covers a number of same-sex manifestations, including pederasty, continues to be useful for the reader who understands its limitations, and the fact that homosexual relations are contingent on historical and social contexts and can differ widely. First, both in the ancient Mediterranean world and in the following Islamic period, homosexual did not constitute an identity as it does today in the West. Individuals participated in homosexual acts, but they were not perceived as homosexuals, as such men are in present-day Western society. Second, very few men were exclusively homosexual in their orientation. As Arab intellectual life scholar Joseph A. Massad tells us, “[T]here are no indications in the literature of the period that anyone thought that those men who either wrote love poems to youthful boys or those who had sexual intercourse with men, whether active or passive, were exclusively ‘homosexual’”( 2007, 30). The young men celebrated in medieval Arab and Persian poetry were frequently dancers or wine bearers (saqi). Lest the reader think that this is only a poetic flight of homoerotic fancy, Anthony Sherley, several times in his description of Safavid Persia, mentions them: “The Ganymedes, young boys in wanton habits, poured out wine to such as loved it” (1825, 161). And he describes another gathering of Persian nobles: “Round about, with their backs to the wall, were seated fifty or sixty Begler-begs, Sultans, and Shawns, who sit like so many statues, rather than living men. The Ganymede boys go up and down with flaggons of wine, and fill to those that covet it” (166).


Most men, even those who enjoyed the scorned passive role in sex, generally married and had children. Even such a warrior as Baqi the Catamite, who obviously from his name had a reputation for being passive in sex, was characterized by Sultan Babur as “powerful and manly with the sword” (2002, 284). This concept is very important because it emphasizes the points that both el-Rouayheb and Massad correctly caution: the entire quality of homosexual activity across the Islamic world conforms more to a pederastic model as the ideal—celebrated in literature and art—rather than to a western notion of homosexuality between two equals. But the existence of individuals like Baqi the Catamite show that it was only a model, an ideal, that was sometimes breached and not always practiced. There exist more than a few hints that, like Greek pederasty, in many parts of the Islamic world, there were sometimes elements of mentorship involved in the relationship, that it did not involve only sex. Historian Janet Afary notes of nineteenth- and early-twentieth-century Iran: As in much of the Middle Eastern and Mediterranean world, male homoerotic relations in Iran were bound by rules of courtship such as the bestowal of presents, the teaching of literary texts, bodybuilding and military training, mentorship, and the development of social contacts that would help the junior partner’s career. Sometimes men also exchanged vows, known as brotherhood sighehs (sigheh-ye baradar khandegi) [semi-marriage, temporary contracts] with homosocial or homosexual overtones. These relationships were not only about sex, but also about cultivating affection between the partners, placing certain responsibilities on the man with regard to the future of the boy. (2009, 80)

In these societies, as I suggested for ancient Greece, with huge differences between the man and the wife—in age, in education, in sophistication—men looked to other men for their affectional ties, while women often served as “an object of procreation” (Afary 2009, 3). In this study I look at both idealized codes, and where possible actual behavior that deviates from them. As el-Rouayheb notes, It is also possible that adolescent youths themselves regularly courted younger, prepubescent boys . . . in which the beloved of one man is himself the lover of a woman or boy, are not unknown to the Arabic lore on profane love” (2005, 32). I noted a similar pattern in ancient Athens. Moreover, he adds, “[T]here are also indications that some men had sex with other adult men. Thus the effeminate adult men portrayed in the



bawdy literature do not seem to have had particular difficulties in finding other adult men willing to have sex with them. It is also likely that some pederastic relationships continued long after the ‘passive’ partner could reasonably be passed off as a ‘boy’” (33). Thus, as with the case of Pausanias and Agathon in classical Athens, partners who were deeply in love did not always part company at the first sight of a beard. Naser ad-Din Shah married his boy concubine Malijak to one of his daughters and gave him important offices, and bestowed the official title of “Aziz as-Soltan” (Beloved of the Sultan) on him (Afary 209, 106; Shamisa 2002, 11, 246). Shamisa notes that Malijak remained close to the shahs who followed Naser ad-Din Shah. (ibid.) The love of handsome adolescents was expected from man as a sinprone creature; others, such as the wish to be sexually dominated by another man, were considered pathological. As James T. Monroe states, “In medieval Islamic society, the effeminate publicly avowed his role as a passive sexual partner, in return for which he was granted tolerance as a distinct inferior and was allowed to conduct his affairs outside the pale of social respectability. He was, furthermore, often a member of the entertainment industry” (1997, 122). Historian Afsaneh Najmabadi affirms this link with the male dancer that was also the case in Iran as late as 1979 (2013, 382). Once again, we encounter the stigmatized public entertainer as a passive homosexual, and possibly in some cases that identity as a sexually passive male drove him into the entertainment world in which he could find a place, although an abject one. It was considered natural for men to be as sexually attracted to youths as to women, and as with the ancient Greeks and Romans, a great deal of literature, such as that of Abu Nuwas, compared the preferable qualities of young men over women, and vice versa (Rosenthal 1997, 24–54). In 1082, Kai Ka’us Ibn Iskandar, a prince of Gorgan, a region in northeast Iran, advised his son under the section of the Qabus-nameh (A mirror for princes) entitled “On Taking One’s Pleasure”: “As between women and youths, do not confine your inclinations to either sex; thus you may find enjoyment from both kinds without either of the two becoming inimical to you” (1082 [1951], 77). “Abu Nuwas did express preference for men unambiguously in a number of poems. . . . Young adolescent boys became his sexual preference,” according to Kennedy (2005, 16). Although I will caution the reader that, although Hugh Kennedy writes with great certitude, we cannot possibly know the actual sexual behavior


of any individual from that period—only rumors, hints in poetry, and the inevitable invective. Writing poetry about handsome and beautiful young men constituted a stylized poetic trope, which does not mean that it was not felt. Abu Nuwas writes: O, I’ll take the lads, and leave the lasses to you! For you, sparkling water! For me, wine will do. (2005, 7)

Nevertheless, like many men of his time period, and similar to the patterns of sexual activity found among Greek and Roman men, Abu Nuwas was also romantically and erotically connected to women, as I think most men in Islamic societies were. Poetry and literature that demonstrate this kind of sexuality must of course reflect the idealized desire of some individuals in medieval Abbasid society as it did in Greek society, without revealing the actual proclivities of an author, especially when being enamored of young men was fashionable, at least in literature. Other types of named forms of homosexual sexual relations also occurred. Mubadala refers to two boys, or two men, in which neither one plays the dominant role, but rather they exchange roles, first one penetrates and then the other. Thus, both enact both the active and passive roles: “in practice, one might expect that the parties would have an equal interest in keeping the matter strictly private,” observes Rowson (1991, 67). And, indeed, Rowson’s observation is correct. The exchange of roles provides a kind of social insurance that neither one of the men or boys will divulge what occurred between them. A second practice was called dabib: “which literally means ‘creeping,’ and refers to the practice of initiating anal intercourse with a sleeping boy” (ibid.). Sometimes, the man would ply the boy with wine or hashish to gain physical access to him. A third practice, nazar (gaze), was widely celebrated, discussed, and debated in literature, both prose and poetry. “Among the various meditative practices developed by circles of Islamic mystics, the Sufis, was that of nazar, the contemplation of a beautiful pubescent boy, who was considered a ‘witness’ (shahid) to the beauty of God and the glory of His creation,” writes Rowson (1991, 62). The orthodox ulama frequently railed against this practice as immoral. But the fact that nazar [viewing a beautiful young man] was practiced cannot be doubted. Sufi and literature scholar Annemarie Schimmel tells us, “Persian and Turkish



poetry cannot be understood without this symbolism which led the mystics to see in the youth, preferably fourteen years old, a shahid, a witness of God’s eternal beauty, and which induced them to call him often an idol, sanam or but” (1979, 131). Added to nazar, the practice of music and dance in the Sufi ceremonies was viewed with suspicion on a number of levels by orthodox Islam. The orthodox Muslims and even more conservative sufis were particularly scandalized at the idea of eroticism within a religious context. As Schimmel states: Taken from this viewpoint of the numerous warnings of the sterner Sufi, let alone the orthodox, against the practices of sama’ [mystical worship with music and movement] can be understood even better. It was not only the aversion of the sober to music and dance, but rather the perfectly correct feeling that in music and dance powers are at work which belong to that dangerous, uncontrollable zone of eros which the pious had to avoid or, at best, to strictly regulate. Indeed, the tearing of the garments of the dancers is one of the most objectionable aspects of Sufism and sufi dance. Further, many a sufi deem the presence of a beautiful boy necessary for a perfect performance of sama. (139)

Not only was nazar a well-known practice, but many individuals lampooned it as an act of hypocrisy. Hence the Mamluk poet Abu l’Gath Ibn Sayyid an-Nas (1273–1334 CE) could still comment wryly: “The characteristics of a Sufi in our time comprise six only, no more: copulating with pretty boys, drinking wine, eating hashish, dancing, singing and pimping” (Bosworth 1976, 39; 115). In this passage we again find the link between entertainment and illicit sexuality. “Wine poetry twists and melts into the erotic, and nowhere more so than in the person of the boy who is serving the wine,” says Kennedy (2004, 123). Thus, the saqi, the wine bearer who poured the wine for the guests, filled that position of desire, at least in literature. Abu Nuwas and others celebrate the saqi in verse as the beautiful and alluring young sex object, and he is also depicted as such in the visual sources such as Persian miniatures, which frequently depict these young men (Surieu 1967, 36, 136; Bahari 1996, 64, 84, 103, 110, 178; Gray 1961, 136; Loukonine and Ivanov 2002, Cat. No. 212; Sims 2002, vi, 55, 120, 125, 197; Welch 1976 fig. 1, 20, 23). Thus, we can find much continuity through the periods that we have so far considered. Rowson says, “Perhaps the most important historical question is that of continuity with earlier societies. Certainly much


of what has been described here [concerning homosexuality in Islam from the ninth century to the present] is similar to what we know of Mediterranean societies in antiquity. The general importance of male dominance, the centrality of penetration to conception of sex, the radical disjunction of active and passive roles in male homosexuality” (1991, 73). All of these concepts that Rowson delineated above continue to dominate discussions and studies of sexuality in the Middle East, as they have historically. As in Greece and Rome, sexual invective could be used as a weapon: the singing slave girl, ‘Inan, accused Abu Nuwas of being a “mukhannath,” an effeminate, in an exchange of invective poetry between the two that became highly publicized. They had been lovers, but after their falling-out, she wrote, for all of Baghdad to see, that Abu Nuwas was a catamite, who although he said he pursued young boys, it was Abu Nuwas’ face that was on the mat, indicating that Abu Nuwas was the shameful penetrated partner. Abu-Nuwas’s revenge came in a poem in which he describes ‘Inan’s vagina as a public concourse, and says that only the son of a whore would deign to own her. La vie artistique was filled with snares in Baghdad. The Performing Arts Music, Dance, Theatre, and Islam

The original four caliphs (known as the Rashidun, 632–661) who ruled after Muhammad’s death in 632, and who largely exhibited austere and puritanical reactions to public performances and public performers, were followed in turn by the luxury-loving and culturally sophisticated Umayyad and Abbasid caliphs, who, for the most part, embraced the performing arts and served as patrons for a wide array of performing artists from the classical musician Ishaq al-Mawsili to the official court farter (Choudhoury 1957; Shiloah 1995). Similarly dance was frowned on because, as Schimmel tells us, “it could make the individual stray away from the divinely ordered way, the shari’a” (1995, 415). However, it must be remembered that there is no reference to a prohibition on music or dance in the Quran, and the religious authorities relied on questionable hadith (actions and words attributed to the Prophet Muhammad) for their pronouncements. As a direct link to practices in the Roman Empire, dancers evoked especial



repugnance because “one saw demonic influences, hence musicians and dancers should not serve as witnesses at court” (415).6 In the Islamic world, in general, and at all of the Caliphal courts, poetry and music, especially vocal music, held pride of place among the performing arts. Dance is rarely mentioned, but the costumed dancers depicted pouring wine in the wall painting in one of the Caliphal palaces in Samarra attest to its presence (see Papadopoulo 1979, 458). Ethnomusicologist and historian George Sawa notes its absence in the Kitab al-Aghani (The book of songs), a massive compendium about many aspects of music and its performance written by Abu l-Faraj Isfahani (d. 967)7 in the middle of the tenth century. “Because of the nature of Kitab al-Aghani, a source dealing primarily with songs, the most obvious of physical responses to music—i.e. dance—was ignored” (2004, 136). I would suggest that this absence, frequent in Islamic musical literature, results from the low status of dance and dancers and their connection with sex and prostitution. Many highly elevated court writers and chroniclers have avoided the topic of dance throughout much of the history of the Islamic world, as Turkish dance scholar Metin And (1959, 24) reminds us. An interesting point regarding this period, especially as it is reflected in the Kitab al-Aghani, is that in profiling the poets and musicians, Abu l-Faraj treats the men and women in an equal way for the most part. He coolly assesses and evaluates their artistry, talent, and creativity without any display of misogyny. According to ethnomusicologist Hilary Kilpatrick, women make up nearly 20 percent of the profiles that he created of performing artists and poets in his monumental work (2003, 49). Poetry

It is impossible to stress enough the value placed on poetry in the Arab, Persian, and Turkish cultures of the Middle East, even today. No event begins without a poetry recital, even a brief one. There was a difference between the two forms—music and poetry. Poetry was the more honored of the two. For the purposes of this book I will place them under the rubric of public entertainers. Many poets wrote panegyric poetry for the caliph and the high officials who employed them for this purpose. The main poetic genre of the period, and beyond, was the qasidah, which Arab literature scholar M. M. Badawi (1990, 146) calls “a formal


ode,” a longish poem with a dozen to one hundred lines, which in the pre-Islamic period had three parts: the first is the love eulogy evoking the beautiful female love interest and the deserted campsite; the second part is usually the journey in which the poet evokes his camel or horse; and finally there is the main section in which the poet describes his own virtues or, more importantly, those of his tribe. Probably pride of place, among many poets in that pre-Islamic period, goes to Imru’ alQays. Important poets had rawi, reciters who memorized the poems they orally composed since they were not written down in that period. In the Abbasid period, although this pre-Islamic nomad style of poetry was still enjoyed and even today some of the most celebrated, such as the compendium of the Mu’alliqat, are still popular, we find the development of an almost opposite hedonistic form of expression known as mujun (frivolous, libertine, bawdy). While the new urban poets still used the qasidah form, it now featured sophisticated content, some of which was specifically homoerotic and dedicated to wine; other poets lampooned the nomadic themes. The love poem, the first part of the qasidah, became an independent form, the ghazal, during the Abbasid period; both forms are still in use today. The preIslamic poets were Arabs. Those of the post-Islamic period were frequently non-Arabs, who disdained the rustic style of the pre-Islamic poetry, which they frequently characterized as unsophisticated “camel poetry.” The Abbasid poet Bashshar b. Burd, an ethnic Persian who was extremely conscious of his connections with the Sasanian dynasty, produced a satirical response to the Jahiliyah (pre-Islamic period) poetry: that he never dug in the stony ground for vermin nor picked thorny plants to eat (translated by A. F. L Beeston, qtd. in Kennedy 2004, 119). Abu Nuwas chimed in that the days for the nomadic life, with its “rancid milk” and scabby camels were long gone (2005, 9). This early poetry, recited around Arab encampments, had a corresponding musical form. Music

There were at least two genres of music, and later I will suggest a possible third genre. The earliest genre was most likely based on early Arab music, since we know that poetry was sung during the pre-Islamic period by the bards who composed the poems. It most likely had a folklike quality to it. I suggest that that genre remained regionally specific



and served as a basis for the second, more urbanized genre. Shiloah states that “Much of the urbanized elite tended to consider pre-Islamic music as inferior and ‘primitive’” (1995, 2). In much the same way that they disparaged pre-Islamic poetry, musicians of Iranian origin who were prominent in the Abbasid court probably preferred and contributed to the second genre, which Shiloah entitles the Great Musical Tradition, a practice that I will follow. This second genre developed in Damascus and Baghdad and other early Islamic towns and was centered around the use of the Arabic language, the structure of which determined the rhythmic patterns and meters of the songs and its modal structure, for vocal music, and its poetic content was the principal form of musical expression. Instrumental music was primarily used to introduce the song, close the song, or play between the verses to give the vocalist a rest. Many singers accompanied themselves on the ‘ud (lute), an instrument that was popular then as now. Less often, they played the tanbur, another stringed instrument. Many of the musical instruments that were common during the caliphate, such as the ney (end-blown flute), remain popular today. Sawa notes that “The most striking absence in a larger ensemble was that of percussion instruments” (2004, 152). I suggest that this genre continually expanded and grew and extended well into the eighteenth century: The process leading to the transformation of the conquerors’ pre-Islamic, predominantly tribal music into sophisticated urbanized art music was particularly fascinating. It was distinguished by the consummate skill with which the new rulers succeeded in fusing dissimilar elements gleaned from old, prosperous civilizations; they managed to confer remarkable unity on the heterogeneous components. The merging of those diverse forms into a unique common style marked the advent of the Great Musical Tradition that gained favour throughout an extensive geographical area. Its immediate acceptance in the major centres of the Islamicized lands was undoubtedly decisive for its survival and perpetuation. (Shiloah 1995, xvi)

This Great Musical Tradition “was the source of the basic modal concept and much of the terminology, including names of instruments—rabab, dutar, setar, chartar, naghara, daira—and of the musical modes—rast, dugah, bayat and hidjaz,” according to Amnon Shiloah (1995, 102). For many centuries this genre of music evolved and crystalized throughout


the Islamic world. Inevitably, the musical form devolved into the local styles of Arab, Persian, Turkish, Kashmiri, and Central Asian musical styles that we know today. However, throughout the period of the caliphate and into the cultures that I discuss in the next chapter, musicians moved among the different courts and performed. That would only have been possible if there existed a common understanding of the music that was played. I would suspect that the first element of change would be the language used in the music. It is the ancestor of the classical art music of the Arab world, Pakistan, Iran, and Turkey today. The second, later, genre, developed during the beginning of the Islamic period due to the sudden cultural contact that Arabs had with neighboring peoples as they conquered a large swath of territory from the Atlantic to Central Asia within a century of Muhammad’s death. The ethnic blending that occurred during these centuries brought the music of Arabia into close contact with the musical traditions of Syria, Mesopotamia, Byzantium, and Persia. This contact resulted in the cultivation of new Arab music . . . this music featured new performance techniques, new aspects of intonation, and new musical instruments. Proponents of the new trend included Persians and others from nonArab backgrounds. (Racy 1992, 151)

Shiloah describes the deliberate seeking of congenial musical elements with which the early urban musicians set about developing this latter musical genre: “Often honored as father of the new music under Islam, ibn Misdjah [Misjah] traveled to Syria and Persia learning the theory and practice of Persian and Byzantine music; he incorporated much of this acquired knowledge into the Arabian song. Although he adopted new elements such as foreign musical modes, he rejected traits that were not suitable for Arabian music” (Shiloah 1995, 21). The Kitab al-Aghani also mentions Ibn Misjah as “integrating into Arabic music elements of the Greek and Persian traditions” (2003, 50). This latter genre of music is characterized by a modal system of an octave in which the microtones are placed in such a way as to give each of these modes a unique configuration of tones. This allows the singer and composer to produce a wide variety of melodic lines in which the placement of the microtones gives each mode, or maqam (pl. maqamat), its special character. During the period in which al-Isfahani was writing his treatise there appear to have been fewer modes than today. Hilary Kilpatrick observes, “at the end of the ninth century ‘Ubaydallah



ibn ‘Abdullah ibn Tahir outdid Ishaq [al-Mawsili] by including in one composition all the ten melodic modes (angham) (IX,48)” (2003, 48). Polyphony was never developed to any large degree in the Middle East. However, as today, solo singing sometimes alternated with a choral response. The chorus did not use harmony. And as Sawa reminds us, “Equally inexplicably no players of percussion instruments accompanied the songs” (2004, 202). There also seemed to exist a third musical genre, a “light” form of music that probably had as its major purpose the aim to entertain, and I suggest that that genre of music was developed by the mukhannathun (effeminates) to create an entertaining genre that Abu l-Faraj credits Tuways, one of the earliest known effeminates, for creating. Although characterized as “light,” it was sufficiently serious for Abu l-Faraj to give it consideration. Tuways and other mukhannathun are described as accompanying themselves on the duff (frame drum), an instrument that seems to have been associated with them. This kind of entertaining light form of music would certainly have created a special niche for them in the competitive environment of professional musicians. These treatises, such as Abu Faraj al-Isfahani’s massive Kitab alAghani (the Book of Songs) and Abu Nasr al-Farabi’s (d. 950) Musiqa al-Kabir (The great treatise on music), describe rhythms, meters, performance contexts, the lives and talents of various performers, and so forth (see Kilpatrick 2003, Racy 1992, Sawa 2004; Shiloah 1995; Touma 1996). According to Touma, however, “not one single melody or rhythmic pattern has been handed down, so that we aren’t able to form an exact idea of what the singing style of the time was like” (1996, 7). Moreover, because music is a dynamic art, what theoretically would have been handed down, would most likely have been greatly altered, as it often was, according to Abu l-Faraj al-Isfahani, in its own time due to either error or deliberate changes and innovations. For example, attempts to characterize the music of a maqam (mode) such as rast or bayyat from present-day practice, would be uncertain because of the dynamism of music; a melodic line from the ninth century, if it bore that name, might be entirely different from its historical form, as differences exist between geographic regions in the contemporary Middle East and Central Asia. And, most importantly, musicians, like artists in many fields, would have attempted to exhibit uniqueness in


composition and performance, to attempt to bring freshness to their art, and that would have been accomplished by embracing musical innovation and change. Above all, the finest performances of music in the Middle East produce tarab or hal, an emotional experience that can bring a sense of transcendence and altered states of consciousness. “Furthermore, the music elicits a distinct variety of vocal exclamations, typically voiced by the listening connoisseurs, gestures that remind us of the performances that were held at the opulent courts of Baghdad during the Abbasid era,” according to Jihad Racy (2003, 5). Abu l-Faraj al Isfahani 7 describes extravagant responses to tarab, from rending garments, to one instance in which the Caliph Harun al-Rashid stood and danced in ecstasy. I have personally experienced many of these reactions, except the rending of garments, in the many Persian classical music performances that I attended and participated in over the past 50 years, some of which were public concerts, and others intimate gatherings that involved musicians and a few guest listeners, during which a performer could bring tears and profound joy to his or her listeners and to one another with a particularly moving performance. The style  and performance of this classical musical form is perceived as unique, and, in general, the singer attempts to make each performance different, rather than an exact rendition, as found in most Western classical music. The problem with relying on an admittedly rich source of historical anecdotes for an analysis of public performance such as the Kitab al-Aghani, is that Abu l-Faraj clearly restricts his anecdotal history to poetry and music. He ignores the lower forms of entertainment, even those that he must have witnessed because they occurred in his lifetime at the majalis (sing. majlis, social gathering) that he attended. “Jesters, boon companions [nadim], slapstick comedians, singers, musicians and other entertainers at court all received wages (arzaq) as well as money thrown to them when they performed (nuqut) . . . when the caliph al-Mutawakkil was assassinated in 247/861, his expenses were audited and found to include payments to ‘slapstick clowns (safa’ina), jesters (mudhikun), ram and cock holders (kabbashun wa-dayyakun), trainers of fighting dogs (ashab kilab al-hirash) and fart-makers (darratun) coming to five hundred thousand dirhams” (Moreh 1992, 66). We even know the name of the fart maker, Ibn al-Junayd, at the court



of al-Mu’tasim, but, not unsurprisingly, we find no reference to this entertainer in the Kitab al-Aghani, which underscores my claims that there must have existed a great difference between highbrow and lowbrow genres as perceived by contemporary audiences, with singers of Tuways’s ability and talent included in the highbrow group, which is the group that Abu l-Faraj described in a wealth of detail. And, it is perhaps difficult for a modern individual to envision an evening spent in the company of classical musicians and fart makers at the same party, reminding us that the past is, indeed, another country. Theatre

We can identify three forms of drama with certainty: storytelling, skits played by live actors as part of general performances of music and dance, and shadow theatre, most likely an import from Southeast Asia, of which the latter was probably the most extensively developed of the three genres (And 1979). Moreh notes that “From the sixth century onwards, however, there is no further evidence for live theatre as a high art, only for games, mimes and other lowbrow performances” (1992, 9), which reduced theatre to “lowbrow performances.” We can assume that shadow theatre was the more extensive form based on the fact that the poet Muhammad Ibn-Daniyal (d. 1310/11), a physician and poet who lived in thirteenth-century Mamluk Cairo, wrote three shadow texts, which are still extant. Turkish theatre historian Metin And tells us that “The third play, Al-Mutayyam (The love stricken) . . . parades various characters, while the central character, al-Mutayyam, struggles to win the girl he loves” (1979, 28). And has misrepresented the contents of Ibn-Daniyal’s play. Rowson is more forthright when he informs us that “The play as a whole is about homosexuality” (1997, 174). Al-Mutayyam’s prey is not “the girl he loves,” but rather is the copiously endowed young man, al-Yutayyim, about whom al-Mutayyam rhapsodizes in graphic terms. The most important aspect of the play is that the parade of characters each displays a named category of sex act, for which Rowson provides us with scholarly meticulous detail. “Instead of al-Yutayyim, however, he attracts a parade of characters representing, in the main, different sorts of male-male sexual practices and underscoring the implied message that love is only sex misspelled. For us, this procession serves as a convenient review of the way Ibn Daniyal’s society categorized such activities” (1997, 180).


Moreover, concerning issues of sexuality, especially homosexuality, Rowson’s corrective analysis, recuperating the actual characters of IbnDaniyal’s play, warns us about the dangers of scholarly discourse on sexuality and how necessary it is to uncover the actual facts from the bowdlerized writings of cautious and timorous scholars attempting to clean up history. Storytelling, al-hakawati or rawi, as a theatre art, was well attested, and certainly Scheherazade, the storyteller of The Thousand and One Nights, while the most famous storyteller, was a representation of an ancient art that continues to the present. In the Arab world, with “its rich oral traditions, traditions that began with the emergence of the public poet, the wandering storyteller, and the singer of epic tales and the bringer of news. . . . Certainly it was in these figures one could look for the roots of what we call acting, characterization, public entertainment,” says Don Rubin (1999, 10). Much as in the ancient Mediterranean world, the storyteller and narrator, and the epic poetry singer who constituted the beginnings of drama, could be found both in the courts and in the marketplace. Moreh includes kurraj, a kind of hobby-horse dancing, as theatre. Our mukhannathun, among their other talents, apparently performed this genre. Contexts for Performance

The most common performance contexts were called majlis (pl. majalis), which means gatherings with implications of sitting (see Sawa 2004 for a detailed description of the various forms of majlis). These could be as formal as a summons to perform in a public setting for the caliph and his entourage. In such a formal setting, it was not uncommon to follow the Sasanian royal custom for a curtain (sitara) to be pulled between the caliph and the performers. Intimate majalis also took place among the caliph and his intimates at night in the palace, or by day in the garden. The elite classes followed suit, and held majalis in their homes to which they invited musicians, or hired singing slave girls, sometimes outdoing the caliph in their payment. Informal majalis also occurred. Anyone with the means to afford it could patronize the singing slave girl houses and inns that dotted the urban landscape. The singing slave girl owners who ran these establishments evidently flew flags over them announcing they were open for business. “In addition to the inns and



the houses of qiyan there were the monasteries, where drinking and homosexual pleasures could be enjoyed at a more leisurely pace and in pleasant rural surroundings” (Caswell 2011, 31). Baghdad and other cities provided a free-wheeling environment to indulge in every kind of pleasure. These pleasures could also be found in the court, in which singing slave girls provided entertainment and sex, and young male slaves (ghulam, khadim) “Both functioned as cupbearers (saqi), waiters, servants transmitting the patron’s orders to the musicians from behind the curtain, and male lovers” (Sawa 2004, 121). In other words, the same individuals could be found in the courts and in the private sector, with the court having the most beautiful and talented individuals to provide sex and entertainment. The context of the gathering, the degree of formality, and the cause of celebration all dictated the repertoire to be performed. If the caliph summoned a particular musician, he had to be ready to appear on a moment’s notice or risk royal displeasure. And last, we must not forget that the marketplaces and streets were filled with the lower grades of street performers of all types, as they are today.

Figure 4.1 Brillenschlange—Snake charmers. Snake charmers are common throughout the region. Courtesy of the author.


Public Entertainers The Qiyan, the Singing Slave Girls

Baghdad, Cairo, and Córdoba were all caliphal centers at some point in their histories in which the phenomenon of the qaynah (sing; qiyan pl.) to a large degree dominated the musical and sex scene. They were a special class of slave that fetched fantastical prices, even as the slave markets of Baghdad and other cities were glutted with vast numbers of slaves that constituted part of the booty from the Arab conquest. These specially trained women might cost in excess of 100,000 dirhams. A. F. L. Beeson tells us that “Their training was long and expensive, so that they represented a considerable capital investment on the part of the merchant who dealt in them, the muqayin, and who was responsible for training them” (qtd. in Al-Jahiz 1980, 2). According to Julia Bray, “As an artist, the female entertainer is a mouthpiece of Arabic culture, for she sings and even composes Arabic poetry; but she is a non-Arab. Her lack of memory of her own cultural past and the fact that she is a standardized commercial article sexually available and unmarriageable, obviously make her a symbol of her customers’ supremacy” (Bray 2004, 138). It should be mentioned that, like ancient Rome, slaves in the Abbasid period could purchase their freedom or receive manumission as ‘Arib (below) did. They were also taught courtly manners, good, lively, and witty conversation, as well as how to play chess and backgammon, tell stories, and perform shadow plays—anything and everything that would please and fetch a high price. The bottom line, however, is that in the end, the qiyan were slaves, sex slaves valued for their physical appearance, sexual skills, and their talent. In essence, they were essentially orphans, at the mercy of masters and clients, and all that that entailed. Al-Jahiz also knows that these women constitute a kind of valuable collectible. “Passion for singing-girls is dangerous, in view of their manifold excellencies and the satisfaction one’s soul finds in them. They provide a man with a combination of pleasures such as nothing else on the face of the earth does” (Caswell 2011, 30–31). Later he informs the reader that “An accomplished singing-girl has a repertoire of upwards of four thousand songs” (1980, 35). His valorization of them as a commodity is similar to the ways in which Cadillacs and other luxury cars are marketed today, and indeed they held the place of a valuable luxury item in Abbasid society.



In Spain, as Shiloah reports, Seville was the center “in which gifted singing-girls were trained and given a comprehensive general education. . . . When put up for sale, the qualifications expected of a singinggirl included elegant handwriting, excellent memory, mastery of the Arabic language, expert performance on various instruments, proficiency as a dancer and in shadow play” (1995, 74). Owen Wright notes that in Seville the training of the singing-girls was in the hands of elderly female singers who had established a monopoly, transmitting their arts to slave-girls who would then be sold at a price, we are assured, determined solely by their musical accomplishments. Their value (from 1000 Maghribi dinars upwards) was underwritten by an accompanying catalogue of the repertoire they had mastered, thus demonstrating that skill in improvisation had at least to be matched, if not exceeded, by the ability to memorize a vast number of compositions. (1992, 562)

This constitutes several continuities with the ancient Mediterranean world: slaves as entertainers who were required to have sex with clients, and the idea that training slaves to be entertainers constituted a dynamic element in the economy. Ibrahim al-Mawsili and his son, Ishaq, court musicians whom we shall encounter below, made a fortune in training slave girls, as did ‘Arib, perhaps the most famous of the qiyan. I will profile her in the next section as a qaynah who made good. The Mukhannathun (Effeminates)

I wish to discuss the entire class of the mukhannathun, for which I turn largely to the painstaking research of Middle East historian Everett K. Rowson.8 Among the mukhannathun there existed and performed individuals like Tuways, who was described as a fine composer and singer of light music in ramal and hazaj rhythms, which Abu l-Faraj credits him as creating (Kilpatrick 2003, 51). I suggest that the mukhannathun created this third genre of music, which Abu l-Faraj characterized as “light,” in order to carve a special and unique niche for themselves as performers in courtly circles. It would probably stand in parallel to the difference between court music and “light” (motrebi) music (at least from the Savafid [1501–1722] period into the twentieth century) in Iran, the former using serious qasidah poetry, the latter earthy, even obscene verses played for fun


and often accompanied by dance. (Fatemi 2001). They also danced, and sang, and like the “slave girls who, along with them, dominated musical circles” enjoyed huge popularity (Rowson 1997, 61). Arabic language and literature scholar Shmuel Moreh makes an excellent point that the term “mukhannath” was used synonymously with the term “actor” (1992, 75). I suggest that, in fact, it includes any male public entertainer because of the continuity with the antique past of the association between male bodily display for the public, a disgraceful act, an effeminate act, and sexual availability, despite what his actual sexuality might have been. Thus, mukhannath, which carries with it the strong implication of effeminacy and passive homosexuality, was applied to a wide class of public entertainers that ranged from singer to buffoons, actors to mimes. Rowson demonstrates how the term mukhannath, while not necessarily connected with homosexuality in the earliest period, certainly was by the tenth century (1997, 62; 66). Even today in Oman, a third gender, the khanith, which also means “effeminate” or “feminine,” entertains and fulfills the duties of a male prostitute and entertainer. Unni Wikan tells us that “At weddings women sing, while the men are musicians; transsexuals are praised as the best singers” (1992, 308). The modern khanith has found a niche, not a respectable one, but nevertheless safe. In addition, Wikan notes that they serve as prostitutes. The lives of the historical mukhannithun were fraught with danger, as pious Muslims railed against them, and in the early eighth century the Caliph Sulayman ordered the mukhannithun castrated because one of his women, hearing them sing, neglected her duties.9 Like ancient Roman society, which reacted to sexual ambiguity in performance with great anxiety, I suggest that such anxiety continued into the present. Poets

For free men of modest or poor means, poetry and music could provide a means to ascend to the very top of Caliphal society. The rich Arabic language poetic tradition was still valued well into the Islamic period. Boys of talent and promise in creating poems or music flocked to Baghdad, Basra, Kufa, Fustat (later to be called Cairo), Medina, and Córdoba seeking the opportunity to present their verses and panegyrics to the high and mighty. Abu l-Faraj was not only a historian but a thoroughly grounded musician, and a katib, one of the state bureaucrats. His compendium



addressed both poets and musicians. His work, according to Kilpatrick, is based around a series of highly regarded songs, for which he provides the poem and its meter, the modal setting, when known, and the names of the poet, composer, and singer about whom he provides an anecdotal profile. His method of verifying the reports, the isnad, a series of oral or written sources that are passed down, is a method that is also used to determine the accuracy and authenticity of the hadith, the sayings and deeds of the Prophet, a common scholarly method used during medieval Islam. He apparently exhaustively interviewed everyone possible who might verify his information. In his own life he had as his patron Abu Muhammad al-Hasan ibn Muhammad al-Muhallabi, for whom Abu l-Faraj wrote the Kitab alAghani. After reaching the very center of Abbasid politics, and having a long and distinguished career, however, al-Muhallabi came to a bad end. He found a kindred soul in al-Muhallabi, who was “appreciative of singing and singing girls, and music was an indispensable part of the informal gatherings at which he and his closest companions indulged in witty conversation, poetry and fine wines, abandoning their usual decorum” (Kilpatrick 2003, 19). Abu I-Faraj also wrote a number of other books and “built up a reputation for an amazing knowledge of historical, literary, and musical reports and poetry” (ibid.). Abu l-Faraj apparently had a rather unkempt appearance and atrocious table manners, in an era when these attributes were important, and pious figures criticized his attraction to boys, debauchery, and wine, although he was highly regarded as a scholar. “Despite his neglected appearance and personal uncleanliness, Abu l-Faraj fitted into this circle well, and al-Muhallabi, although he was famous for his fastidiousness, bore with his uncouth manners. Qualities such as wit, a sharp tongue and skill in satire, and gifts as a raconteur, combined with vast culture and multifarious learning evidently made up for Abu l-Faraj’s eccentricities” (2003, 18) Perhaps, al-Muhallabi sat upwind of him in the literary circle. Abu Nuwas

My favorite poet of the Abbasid period is Abu Nuwas (born Hani’ al-Hakami c. 747–814), one of history’s most engaging “bad boys,” and a brilliant writer, who often engagingly dipped into the obscene, the bawdy, and the lascivious, with which he interspersed dollops of


theology and philosophy to demonstrate his enormous learning, and unhesitatingly, even brazenly for his time and place, depicted himself in his poetry as a libertine. He was also a not-so-cryptic heretic, or at the very least, an atheist, if one can trust his writing. He essentially noted that there was no God, that religion was “a waste of time,” and that, like Omar Khayyam after him, all that awaited mankind after death was a grave. He was frequently charged with heresy and irreligion; however, he always charmed his way out of those criticisms because he couched them in such charming verse, which he frequently laced with Qur’anic and other religious writings to demonstrate his knowledge of Islam and to confound his critics. He was born in Ahvaz, Iran, but went to Kufa and studied with the poet Abu Usama Waliba b. al-Habab, his cousin who, as many writers have noted, may have been his first lover. (Abu Nuwas 2005; Kennedy 2004; Wilfong 2006). “Apparently their affair only ended when Waliba realized that Abu Nuwas really was shameless and was perfectly capable of describing everything they did together in his poetry” (Abu Nuwas 2005, viii; emphasis in original). It is in Kufa, where Abu Nuwas studied with his literary cousin, that “we find the first articulation of what was quickly to become the important literary genre of mujun, or ‘libertinism,’ antinomian poetry (and prose) that thumbed its nose at Islam and preached a message of pure hedonism” (Rowson 2006, 45).10 Translator Jaafar Abu Tarab notes, “Abu Nuwas apparently shared one important trait with the Greek dramatist Sophocles: both of these writers were renowned for their beauty as young men, and both of them retained much of that beauty into old age” (ibid. vii). He clearly traded on his attractiveness in his pursuit of his “gazelles.” Famously, he was depicted as the nadim (boon companion) of the caliph Harun al-Rashid in the Thousand and One Nights, albeit in somewhat sanitized form. His Diwan (Collected works) remains popular to this day. As Arabic literature scholar Terry Wilfong notes, Abu Nuwas, in the Golden Age of Abbasid culture (750–950), “used and built on traditional poetic forms to create an extraordinarily elegant, allusive and vivid body of poetry” (2006, 3). And although he wrote in celebration of wine and beautiful youths (writing about respectable women by name would have been even more scandalous), which may be the reason that “over a hundred poems of his are addressed to women” (Abu-Nuwas 2005, xi), he raised the ire of the devout. He describes his



many adventures attempting to capture beautiful young gazelles (the young men he attempted to ensnare), sometimes successfully using his “weapon” to skewer the victim, often a young Christian boy, but just as often he ruefully describes the “ones who escape his carefully laid trap,” but always with humor and wit. In one poem he rhapsodically describes the joys of watching sexy young men disrobing in the bathhouse (see Abu Nuwas 2005, 1). In addition to standard panegyrics that he composed for the caliph, especially Al-Amin, Harun al-Rashid’s son, who ruled briefly (809– 813), and whose favorite poet he was, they shared similar tastes in wine and boys. Abu Nuwas wrote a great deal of witty invective in the same way that current celebrities, who have nothing but celebrity to recommend them, self-advertise, because it kept him in the public eye. He seemed to be both a womanizer and a lover of handsome young men, both of whom he celebrated in his poetry. Has he truly revealed himself to us? We can never know with certainty. Musicians

Music was a lesser art than poetry, and this hierarchy can be shown in the biography of Ishaq al-Mawsili. As Rowson tells us, “In recognition of his erudition, he was permitted by the Caliph al-Ma’mun to attend court sessions in the company of belletrists and even legal scholars, rather than musicians” (2012 “Eshaq Mawseli.” Encyclopedia Iranica. Nevertheless, musicians were highly prized, some of them, including several qiyan, the singing slave girls, becoming very wealthy and influential with the caliphs and their ministers. I will briefly profile four entertainers: Ishaq al-Mawsili, Ziryab, ‘Arib, and Tuways, because they represent three classes of musicians and very different backgrounds. We do not possess the names of any dancers; however, Tuways and other mukhannathun (effeminates) who performed his genre of light music most likely also danced. Ishaq al-Mawsili

Ishaq al-Mawsili (d. 850) has pride of place in Abu l-Faraj’s compendium and “wins the prize for ubiquity” (Kilpatrick 2003, 241). First, Abu l-Faraj, a knowledgeable musician, recognizes al-Mawsili’s conservative approach to music as more valid than that of his archenemy, the


prince-musician Ibrahim al-Mahdi, who briefly occupied the caliphal throne. Like Abu Nuwas, Ishaq also appears in the Thousand and One Nights. “One of Harun’s favorite nadim[s] was Ishak [sic], son of Ibrahim al-Mausili, also a nadim and renowned musician. In addition to his artistic talents, Ishak was famous for his knowledge of history, grammar and poetry. Harun is reputed to have said to him one day, ‘Had you not been a singer, I should have made you a judge’” (Clot 1989, 52). Based on the many anecdotes found not only in Abu l-Faraj’s writings but other sources as well, court musicians like Ibrahim al-Mahdi and Ishaq composed and performed serious classical music that seems to have differed from that played by the mukhannathun, who also played in courtly circles. According to Kennedy, “Singers often had a doubtful reputation and were thought to be a bad influence on the young. The caliph Mahdi, who loved music himself, gave strict instructions that singers should be kept away from his impressionable young sons, Hadi and Harun. . . . In Harun’s reign, the young princes of the Abbasid houses greeted the arrival of famous singers with all the enthusiasm of besotted fans” (2004, 126). One is strongly reminded of the injunctions of the Roman matron Ummidia Quadratilla, cited earlier, to keep the cinaedi pantomimes away from her grandson. Ishaq also served as a chief informant, as did Hammad, his son, for Abu l-Faraj, for “he is not only a composer but a transmitter of the compositions of others” (Kilpatrick 2003, 242). He was not only one of the greatest musicians in the Abbasid court, but like all famous musicians of the period, male or female, he had a prodigious memory and could sing thousands of songs, and was famous for his accurate renditions of even the oldest. He also composed and knew poetry—the consummate courtier. He trained many singers, both slave girls and men. Between his performances at court and for the rich, and his training and sales of slave girls, he grew to be one of the wealthiest men of the period. He came from a musical family. His father, Ibrahim al-Mawsili, was a celebrated singer, and his uncle Zalzal was a famous ‘ud player. He trained with family members, and seems to have technically surpassed them. Although his father, Ibrahim, was noted for his beautiful voice, Ishaq seemed to have been a musician of marvelous technique and invention in composition and the best all-around performer and composer. In the Kitab al-Aghani the anecdotes show both his human side and his musical side.




Ziryab (759?–857), whose real name was Abu l-Hasan ‘Ali b. Nafi, was a student of Ishaq al-Mawsili. Ziryab is the stuff from which dreams, art films, and novels are created. His ethnicity is unknown; he has been variously claimed as black, Iranian, Kurdish, and Arab. He was a real person, trained in Baghdad, but for reasons unknown left there and made his way first to Syria, then Tunisia, then to the court of the last branch of the Umayyad dynasty, Abd al-Rahman II of Córdoba, Spain. Several Arab historians from at least the tenth century, such as Ahmad al-Tifashi (1184–1253) and al-Maqarri (1591–1632), have profiled him. If even a portion of what has been attributed to him is real, then he was, indeed, a legend. One of the legends about him is that his teacher, al-Mawsili, threatened to have him murdered because he outshone him in front of Harun al-Rashid, and for this reason he had to flee to the court of the Umayyad caliphs of Córdoba. In his well-known Spanish-language novel, author Jesús Greus (1987) tells this tale, which he claims he found in contemporary Arab-Andalus sources. The tale, however, seems most unlikely since he left Baghdad nearly a decade after the death of Harun al-Rashid (809). He seems to have been welcome in the various courts he visited en route in North Africa. The truth may be far more prosaic; he may well have felt he could make a better living outside of the heavily competitive musical scene in Baghdad (Wright 1994). If this speculation is true, he made a spectacular career for himself in other courts, especially Andalusia, where he lived for some 30 years. First, in the field of music, he and his son and daughter after him established a school of music that today in North Africa is still attributed to him. However, music historian Owen Wright exhibits profound caution when approaching the question of Ziryab’s contributions: “a number of the innovations ascribed to Ziryab thus appear to be either exaggerated or fanciful” (1994, 559). However, he clearly contributed many important cultural and musical elements to Cordoban society, or he else would not be such a seminal figure. To Ziryab is attributed the establishment of the nawbah structure, that is, a suite of different meters and pieces of vocal and instrumental music in a single modular scale, which is still in use in certain North African forms of Andalusian music. “But whatever the range of modes employed in Muslim Spain in the 7th/13th century, it is certain that the modern Maqribi system is


considerably different” (Wright 561) Thus, as Wright cautions, we cannot assume an unchanging musical legacy introduced by Ziryab from his time to ours. Wright notes that “He is said to have made changes to the ‘ud (lute) by adding a fifth string dyed red, and dyed the others to match the humors. He and his progeny trained many singing slave girls. However, Wright notes that Ziryab’s very real presence was valid: “Finally, implicit in his fame as a teacher renowned for developing new methods of voice training is the notion of encouraging access, thereby promoting the diffusion of the tradition beyond the immediate confines of the performer’s own family circle” (559). Thus, Ziryab’s presence at the court, if it did not revolutionize the music scene, certainly elevated it, and above all he stood as a symbol. But, there is more. Unlike Abu Nuwas, our quintessential bad boy, Ziryab was an almost unbelievably good boy. In addition to his musical skills, he is said to have established fashions in all areas of the bon vivant lifestyle: clothing and cosmetics, in which he invented a new form of deodorant and toothpaste and created perfumes. He is famous for having revolutionized Andalusian cuisine by introducing asparagus and other fruits and vegetables and new dishes. “The innovations he is credited with introducing as an arbiter of taste, whether vestimentary or gastronomic, run parallel to his technical improvements to the lute, reflecting as they do the increasing material prosperity and sophistication of Cordoban life during the reign of ‘Abd al-Rahman II,” says Wright (1992, 559). This is not so surprising when one remembers that one of the hallmarks of the adab culture was a knowledge of these refinements, and coming from Baghdad and the Abbasid court, people in a cultural outpost like Córdoba might well have been eager to adopt new fashions. Most of the information that we possess about him can be found largely in Arabic and Spanish, including cookbooks with recipes attributed to him. If half of the information concerning his legendary existence is true, this explains his present status as a culture hero, both among North Africans and the Spanish. What cannot be doubted is that he made a considerable impact, both musically and in cultural affairs, in al-Andalus—one that is celebrated to this day. ‘Arib al-Ma’muniya

The third famous musician is ‘Arib al-Ma’muniya. She was born c. 797– 798 and died in 890–891, and was said to have died at the age of 96, an



incredible life span for that period. Although she claimed to have been the daughter of Ja’far ibn Yahya, a member of the powerful Persian Barmakid family, whom the caliph Harun al-Rashid destroyed, reserving a particularly gruesome death for Ja’far, a former vazir and intimate, ‘Arib was born a slave. Historian Matthew S. Gordon indicates that she was first sold right after the violent fall of that powerful family from power (2004, 88). “In this Near Eastern urban environment, she also would be relatively free to venture—to display herself, so to speak—in the public sphere” (ibid.). Slave girls in those days did not veil. She was legendary in her musical and poetic prowess, and like most highly trained slave singers, she acquired a phenomenal number of songs in her repertoire, in addition to being an outstanding ‘ud player, composer, and a poet of serious verse (the qasidah genre). Finally, after she changed hands several times, al-Ma’mun, the caliph, purchased her for a staggering sum of money. In fact, she seems to have passed through several hands, each time commanding an enormous price. As part of al-Ma’mun’s estate, she passed into the hands of his successor al-Mu’tasim, and it is he who freed her. She was closely allied to Ishaq al-Mawsili, and composed songs with him, as well as sharing his interest in the older style of performance. Abu l-Faraj commented on her in detail, perhaps in partisanship with her interest in the older style of music, and it pays to read his assessment: ‘Arib was a fine musician and a good poet. She had a pleasing hand and literary style. In addition she was extremely beautiful, accomplished and refined, and endowed with an attractive figure. She was an excellent lutenist [‘ud player], a very skilled composer, and an expert on tunes and melodic modes. She also had a vast knowledge of poetry and the different branches of culture. None of her fellow musicians came close to her, and no woman like her was ever seen, except for the Hijazi [Mecca and Medina in Arabia] singers of old, Jamila, ‘Azza alMayla’, Sallama al-Zarqa’ and others of their kind—and there were few enough of them. But they lacked some of the qualities of hers which we have described, such as are proper to the caliphs’ slave girls and those who have grown up in the royal palaces, nurtured in refined surroundings worlds apart from the Hijaz where the early singers were reared among the common people, uncouth Arabs and oafs. Authorities have acknowledged her gifts whose testimony is enough. (XXI, 54; qtd. in Kilpatrick 2003, 53)


The singing girls (ghaynat) referred to in the quote above also displayed multiple talents (see Wright 1997). ‘Arib was perhaps the most famous of these singers, thanks to the many citations of the chronicler of the period, Abu al-Faraj: “‘Arib was a singer of great skill and a poetess of rarified taste (sha’ira saliha al-sh’ir). She was a fine calligrapher, an engaging conversationalist and [a woman] of supreme comeliness, beauty and grace; she cut a striking figure and played the oud with brilliance” (qtd. in Gordon 2004, 91). In the case of ‘Arib, we are told that “Al-Marakibi, who is referred to as ‘her master’ (mawlaha), provided ‘Arib with at least an initial education, this during a sojourn in Basra. The text specifies language arts, poetry and singing” (Gordon 2004, 88). ‘Arib gained her freedom and grew extremely rich, and did a lively trade in training other slave girl singers. By her own testimony she indicates that “she had sex with eight of the caliphs . . . but that only one of the caliphs, al-Mu’tazz gave her any real pleasure” (90–91). Middle East historian Matthew Gordon notes that we must assume that “liaisons between ‘Arib and the influential male patrons took place on a frequent basis. Success in her line of work, after all, demanded that she make herself available, at the very least, to their gaze” (ibid). And we must remember that however much material success these performers gained through their talents, in the end, whether in the ancient Mediterranean world, in the medieval caliphates, in the Ottoman and Safavid societies, in the Qajar period or in nineteenth- and twentieth-century Central Asia and Afghanistan—all of the societies that this study addresses— these public entertainers, male or female, were objects of desire to be used at will. Tuways

As Rowson explains, Tuways had a number of characteristics for which he stood out. First, he was a famous jinx: “He was born the day the Prophet died [632], weaned the day Abu Bakr [successor to the Prophet Muhammad] died, circumcised on the day ‘Umar [successor to Abu Bakr] was killed, married the day ‘Uthman [successor to ‘Umar] was killed, and blessed with his first child the day ‘Ali was killed” (Rowson 1997b, 69). Like most public entertainers, he was a mawla, that is, a non-Arab, newly converted Muslim, probably Iranian. He was, unusually, reported to have danced for a group of guests. This demonstrates my point that, although serious art musicians would not have danced,



the mukhannathun, playing a “light� genre of music and using percussion instruments, may well have done so. He was apparently wall-eyed, tall, and ungainly, but possessed of such charm and wit that he had many clients who adored him in spite of the shame of his effeminacy, or his profession. Upon hearing of the order to castrate the mukhannathun, he fortunately was able to flee Mecca, and retired and died in obscurity. Rowson details the many variations of conflicting anecdotes told about Tuways and the other mukhannathun, many of them rather historically impossible, but when put together they tease out a plausible depiction of these men. After the savage reprisal in which they were castrated, we hear little of them until the late Abbasid period, in which they play a greatly diminished role. In this chapter I have introduced a number of performance genres and performers. I have attempted to demonstrate that the same genres, such as music, poetry, dance, and storytelling, serve as continuities with the past. The most important point is that the performers held abject, often servile status, and in the chapters that follow, they occupy the lowest positions in society and serve as scare figures to enforce codes of moral and masculine behavior. For the public entertainers, we must remember the less famous and those who plied their trade in the streets and marketplaces of these cities, and their less fashionable audiences: jugglers, snake charmers, street musicians, shadow puppeteers, magicians, storytellers, and many others who were present and made colorful the streets and alleys of these once fabled, and in some cases, still fabled cities. These personalities we cannot recuperate with any degree of accuracy.


After the Caliphate: Early Modern Ottoman Turkey, Safavid Iran, Mughal India— The Heyday of Islamic Gunpowder Empires


n February 10, 1258, the Mongols, under Hülegü Khan, a grandson of Genghis Khan, appeared at the gates of Baghdad. They massacred most of the inhabitants, who numbered about half a million souls at that time, in a slaughter that lasted days, including al-Mu’tasim, the last Abbasid caliph, sacked the city, and razed it to the ground, and, perhaps most importantly for its future, destroyed the canals and irrigation works that had supported the huge population. This doomed the city to economic stagnation so that by the early twentieth century the population of the city under Ottoman rule had regrown to just over 100,000, one-tenth of the population that existed during the height of Abbasid power, which was estimated between 1 and 2 million. Abbasid rule reached its political apogee under Harun al-Rashid (d. 809), and began to slowly decline thereafter because civil strife at the center permitted quiet rebellion at the margins. The fragmentation began with the violent and bloody civil war in the second decade of the ninth century that resulted from the struggle for the caliphal throne by al-Rashid’s sons, al-Amin (r. 809–813) and al-Ma’mun (r. 813–833). This struggle permitted the rise of small sultanates and petty kingdoms at the peripheries of the empire—in Egypt the Tulunids, Fatimids, and Mamlukes, in Iran the Taherids, Saffarids, and Samanids, and eventually



the Ghaznavids, Seljuqs (to mention only the most important ones). Each dynasty was seemingly able to carve ever-larger territories than the preceding one, and also wax more politically independent. However, Baghdad never lost its prestige as the spiritual and cultural center of the entire Islamic world, which “despite its appalling political and economic problems, never ceased to be the centre of religious learning” (Kennedy 1990, 8), which promoted within that world a sense of some kind of unity among Muslims. Thus, the caliphs provided the Islamic world with the illusion that the Islamic world was a united one under the leadership of the caliph. This illusion died with the death of the last caliph at the hands of the Mongols. The destruction of the caliphate also helped produce increasing religious heterodoxy because of the psychological, religious, political, and economic uncertainty and turmoil the Mongols and later the Timurids caused. The barbarians were well and truly at the gates. Also important, because of the spiritual and cultural prestige of cosmopolitan Baghdad, the peripheral sultanates and petty kingdoms continued to follow the cultural styles set in Baghdad, and this fact is important to the role of the public entertainer, as well as issues of masculinity and sexuality, which formed a cultural and social continuity with the medieval period. Thus, music and poetry continue to the present as the most important performing arts in the Middle East and Central Asia. Dancing, too, was a popular form of entertainment, but never a respectable one. Storytelling, as a theatrical form, was always popular in the marketplace, coffeehouse, and palace. Michele Membré, a Venetian, who traveled to the Safavid court in the period 1539–1542, tells us that “In their squares there are many Persian mountebanks sitting on carpets on the ground; and they have certain long cards with figures; and the said mountebanks hold a little stick and point to one figure after another, and preach and tell stories over each figure. So everybody gives them some money” (1999, 52). A century later Jean Chardin says admiringly of the shadow plays “they have of those who Dance upon the Ropes, Poppet-Shows, and doing Feast of Activity as adroit and nimble as in any Country whatever” (1988, 201). Three centuries hence, John Cam Hobhouse notes, “The Meddahs, or reciters of stories, who frequent these coffee-houses . . . The stories of the Meddahs are partly dramatic and partly descriptive” (1858, vol. 2, 315). Khosrow Jamali tells me that his father frequented the coffeehouse near their home in Tehran to listen to


storytellers recite the Shahnameh, the epic history of Persia, night after night. It requires three years to complete, even though his father knew it by heart, but listening to the beguiling acting the storyteller used as he recited the Shahnameh enriched the experience (personal interview December 27, 2012). Shahrzad (Scheherazade) was not the only storyteller in Middle Eastern history, merely the most famous one. These storytellers and their tales constitute a continuity with the bards of the ancient Mediterranean reciting the Iliad and the Aenaid, which continued well into the twentieth century in the Middle East and parts of the Balkans. This observation was not lost on travelers in early modern Iran, Chevalier Jean Chardin adds, “the King’s Musicians are not only the most Skilful, either as to Singing and touching of Instruments, but are commonly the Ablest, and most ingenious Poets in the Kingdom; they sing their own Works, as it is related of Homer, and other Greek Poets, who liv’d in his time” (1988, 10). Thus, we see the continuity of all of these forms of cultural expression continuing into the early modern period, a legacy of the ancient Mediterranean and the Abbasid periods. Widespread Mongol and Timurid Destruction

In the wake of this widespread destruction, the perception held by the populace was that the cataclysm constituted the end of the world, visited upon them by a wrathful god. “This was an apocalyptic time when people truly believed in the world’s impending end and in the imminence of the Messiah, with his message of justice” (Babayan 2012, 287). Sufi groups become central to urban religious life and provided many essentials of life to the population as well as spiritual comfort through their mysticism and the idea of a personal deity. During this period, although Arabic continued in use for religious and other scholarly expression, Persian became the vehicle for expression in literature and the court language of both the Safavids and Mughals, as well as the literary model for Ottoman Turkish literature and expression, in spite of the fact that the ruling elite of these three courts were Turks of various tribal backgrounds and affiliations. This use of Persian, and its prestige as a literary language, also tied the courts together culturally. In the Safavid and Mughal courts, Persians were assigned to run the administrative aspects of the governmental machinery, while the Turco-Mongols served as the military machine.



One of the major economic and social changes that occurred as a result of these invasions was the massive increase of nomadic tribesmen who now inhabited the area and the concomitant destruction of arable agricultural land: “Moreover, from the eleventh century, the importance of nomadic groups had increased, a fact accelerated by the Mongol invasion and rule in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries” (Anooshahr 2012, 272). Thus, by the beginning of the nineteenth century, “approximately half of Iran’s population was nomadic” (Khazeni 2009, 4), and these nomads, as Arash Khazeni’s brilliant study demonstrates, were largely outside of the direct control of the state. When one reads the remarkable literary masterpiece The Baburnama (2002), penned by Sultan Babur (1483–1530), the founder of the Mughal dynasty, one can get a sense of the uncertainty of life in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, and the characters of the elites, who subjected the population to plunder and massacre. Casual murder, deceit, betrayal, and violence became part of everyday life. When Babur seized Kabul, which became one of his capital cities, “The next morning the mirzas [princes] and begs [nobles] went to the gates, but seeing the chaos and riotousness of the populace, they sent someone to say to me to say, ‘Unless you come yourself no one will be able to control these people.’ In the end I rode there and had four or five people shot and one or two dismembered. The riot ceased” (Baburnama 2002, 151). Babur’s recitation of the many battles in which he participated, the wounds he endured, the number of individuals who betrayed him, and his casual mention of creating pyramids of skulls of his enemies allow the modern reader to realize how violent and precarious life was. The rampaging troops damaging or seizing crops and herds from peasants, and the possibility of massacre for the urban populations made the mystical Sufi path inviting for many seeking to make sense of the casual and intense violence visited upon them. Masculinity, Homosexuality, and Effeminacy

Briefly, the contours of masculinity and effeminacy remain much as I described in the preceding chapter for the medieval caliphate. The same social, economic, and religious contexts in which concepts of masculinity, inherited from the ancient Mediterranean world, were incorporated into the early modern Mughal, Safavid, and Ottoman empires, little changed. Masculine codes not only included physical prowess but also


stressed possessing literary and poetic talents and ability, being a good and generous host, having an appreciation of fine food and drink, carrying on witty conversation, possessing knowledge of music. All these elements had importance in elite men’s codes. For men of all classes, self-control in one’s carnal appetites, be it food, drink, or sex remained an important, even crucial, element of masculine deportment, for women, as in ancient Athens, were thought to lack it. This perceived lack provided the reason for male dominance. Homosexuality

It is useful to reiterate that Islam does not tolerate or condone sodomy (liwat/lavat), as Christians often claimed. It is a sin that is frequently, but not always, equated with fornication (zina). There was also the thorny issue of the homoerotic practice of nazar or shahed-bazi, in which Sufis frequently brought into their midst a beautiful young man to gaze upon as proof of God’s creation of beauty, a practice depicted in countless miniature paintings. This practice greatly alarmed shari’a-minded men who wrote extensively against it, and they widely suspected that the ethereal descended into the carnal (Shamisa 2002). It is often wrongly supposed that men’s interest in sexual relations with youths came from the fact of the strict separation between men and (respectable) women and the unavailability of women with whom one could have sexual relations. However, this is not true because women in the form of prostitutes, slaves, and, in the Shi’i world of Iran, temporary wives (sigheh), were widely available. All the available evidence demonstrates that, in general, men enjoyed physical sexual relations with both male and female partners, many of them of both sexes unnervingly young by modern standards. Another reason for the deep-seated misogyny found in some Islamic societies stems from the polluting status of women’s bodies: “A significant number of Shi’i purification rituals focused on regulating women’s bodies and bodily fluids. Sex was ritually unclean, and every act of intercourse required subsequent ablution before prayer for men. A woman’s body was almost always associated with impurity because of her sexual and menstrual secretions” (Afary 2009, 26). This meant that certain classes of men avoided sex with women altogether, turning to young men instead. Courting youths was often intense. Similar to the institutionalized pederasty of ancient Athens, the younger partner



received a degree of mentorship, and preference in finding a position. In the Ottoman Empire: What we see here is the case of a man who in his youth is a noted beloved with a host of admirers . . . He also has a very successful career as a military man, moving from a position likely as an irregular retainer to some powerful man to finally receiving an appointment to the feudal cavalry. It is intimated that his intercourse (perhaps in both senses of the term) with the artistic and intellectual crowd was the key to his success rather than a hindrance of any kind. (Andrews and Kalpaki 2005, 51)

Similar practices also obtained in Iran: As in much of the Middle Eastern and Mediterranean world, male homoerotic relations in Iran were bound by rules of courtship such as the bestowal of presents, the teaching of literary texts, bodybuilding and military training, mentorship, and the development of social contacts that would help the junior partner’s career. (Afary 2009, 80)

Typically, but certainly not always, homosexual relations were between men of different class, age, and social status. “As in many other premodern cultures, Iranians expected male homosexual relations to be asymmetrical, involving people of different ages, classes, or social standings, although other types of same-sex relations were also practiced” (79). Most importantly, I stress that these were masculinizing practices— practices designed to nurture and instill idealized masculine behavior and masculine traits. Male Public Entertainers and Effeminacy

However, the public entertainer was never free of the taint of effeminacy: “At the same time, there were also groups of entertainers (dancers, musicians, actors) composed of adult cross-dressers and passive homosexuals (mukhannath), who performed for the public in general and the mighty and wealthy in particular” (Floor 2008, 329). I would take exception to descriptions of cross-dressing, because they frequently indicate that the observer did not look carefully. Edward William Lane, a meticulous observer of Egyptian life in the mid-nineteenth


century, notes with care, “as if to prevent their being thought to be really females, their dress is suited to their unnatural profession; being partly male, and partly female” (1860 [2003], 381–382). Unni Wikan makes the same point of the mukhannath entertainer/male prostitutes of Oman in the late twentieth century: “His clothes are intermediate between male and female” (1992, 341). I will continue to emphasize this point throughout the study, because careful observers always make the point, while those who pretend disgust and that they closed their eyes to keep away from the sight of these performers write that they wore women’s clothes, while at the same time noting that men in these societies are filled with desire for these youths. It is crucial to the performer to be seen as male, for the patrons pay for the performances and services of males. Some scholars of gender and sexuality in the Middle East suggest that men who had compulsions to act the passive sexual role and showed openly effeminate behavior may have sought the role of public entertainer as one in which they would be accepted. “Many became court jesters, entertainers, musicians, and actors and formed platonic friendships with women . . . He could be a ma’bun, an adult man who had not become an ‘active’ male and was thus treated with contempt. Finally, he could be a mukhannath, an effeminate man who could become an entertainer” (Afary 2009, 86). Thus, the only role open to the openly passive homosexual was to take the dreaded and shameful role of entertainer as the cost of his sexual outlawry. The Three Gunpowder Empires

In order to put perspective on the importance of the so-called gunpowder empires that were established after the destruction and ravages inflicted by the Mongols and Turks, I turn to the observations of historian Charles H. Parker. “Traditionally, historians have presented the 1400s and 1500s as the ‘age of discovery,’ when Europeans began to explore, encounter, and exploit territories in Asia, Africa, and America” (2010, 1). But, such a view, still very prevalent in academia, is to diminish the cultural and economic influences of the Ottomans, Safavids, and Mughals who founded long-lived dynasties to rival and even outperform, economically and militarily, those of Europe during that period. European travelers described in tones of awe the splendor of these



empires. “The Safavid Empire in Iran, the Mughal Empire in India, and the Ottoman Empire in Anatolia, all created large territorial empires and developed strong state systems that fostered trade, promoted the spread of the Islamic faith, and allowed the diffusion of Asian culture into the wider world” (52). Thus, taking Parker’s more global perspective in which to frame the three empires that I analyze in this chapter will enable me to demonstrate the cultural richness that these empires displayed in the arts, and their stunning architectural legacy, such as the Taj Mahal or the core buildings of Isfahan and Istanbul, in particular, still impresses the viewer. The power, achievements, and lasting impacts of the Ottoman, Safavid, and Mughal empires make the impasse of post-Abbasid politics hard to recall. All three empires won a degree of durable legitimacy no Muslim dynasty had attained since the Abbasids and maintained large and coherent polities for longer than any other Muslim dynasty, including the Umayyads and Abbasids. Their endurance and coherence permitted them to have enduring impacts on society and culture and on political patterns that have lasted until the present. (Streusand 2011, 291)

Streusand’s observation regarding the stability and durability of these empires underpins the reason that I focus on these three empires and the ways in which negative attitudes toward public entertainers continued from the ancient Mediterranean and throughout the Islamic period in the Middle East, North Africa, and Central Asia into the present. This divide between the East and the West, which Edward Said’s Orientalism (1978) highlights, does not do scholarly justice to the ways in which Europe and the Middle East actually interacted; he depicts the East and West as two totally separate worlds. In many ways this division, as I suggested in the introduction to this book, is an artificial scholarly conceit, perhaps a concept that has put down such deep roots that it prevents us from forming new perspectives. This artificial divide between East and West, Islam and Christianity, needs to be bridged, or deliberately blurred. Many individuals moved more comfortably from one religion to the other than modern readers can grasp. Little known is the fact that during the fifteenth to the seventeenth centuries, As Matar forcefully argues in Islam in Britain, the attractions of life within Morocco, the Ottoman Empire and its regencies across North Africa, were so compelling that “thousands of European Christians


converted to Islam in the Renaissance and the eighteenth century, either because their poor social conditions forced them toward such a choice, or because they sought to identify with a powerful empire.” Hence it was that early travellers regularly found fellow countrymen already living in towns and ports from Algiers to Aleppo. (MacLean 2007, 63).

The three empires of the Ottomans (1300–1918), the Safavids (1501– 1722), and the Mughals (1526–1868), which were contemporaneous, became politically and culturally intertwined as well as occasionally competed militarily. These cultural connections had an important impact on the contexts and content of public entertainers and their performances, as well as having an impact on visual artists and artisans. In many ways they were the cultural inheritors of the Abbasid dynasty, as well as the later Ilkhanids and Timurids. Continuities in the importance of poetry and music and continuities of attitudes toward the performers continue to mark the public performer. For example, I suggest that the Great Musical Tradition that Shiloah (1995) describes for the period of the caliphate must have continued largely intact into the early modern period, because as ethnomusicologist Amir Hosein Pourjavady’s study, and other documents suggest, musicians freely circulated among the three empires, from which one may infer that they played a musical repertoire that was common to all three, prior to the localization of that tradition that would have made the styles of playing locally specific and incompatible. I will briefly describe the cultural ties between these empires and then characterize each of the nearly contemporaneous empires to set the stage for performances of public entertainers. Islamic historian Marshall Hodgson famously called the three empires “gunpowder empires” (1974, vol. 3, 17). The introduction of modern arms does, indeed, mark an important change from the medieval era to the early modern period. One element that links these three empires is a claiming of Timurid origins, although only Babur (1483–1530), the founding sultan of the Mughal Empire, could make claims to be a direct descendent, not only of Timur, but of Genghis (Changiz) Khan on his mother’s side (see Schimmel 2004, 13). To these warrior sultans and their still nomadic mentalities, the names of Timur and Genghis Khan carried the same cachet as that of Alexander the Great, so that they sought connections with them, either actual, as in the case of Sultan Babur, or fictive and tenuous as in the case of the Safavids and the Ottomans.



They evoked the image of Timur in their ceremonial life because “The warlord consciously used ritual and culture to make himself appear larger than life, cloaking an aura of power.” His public ceremonies and festivities “are transformed into colorful ballets of formal gestures and subtle movements.” The miniatures of the period “reveal how court ceremonies became theatrical events that were intended to display the grandeur of the dynasty” (Lentz and Lowry 1989, 33–34), and the Safavids, Ottomans, and Mughals followed suit, cloaking themselves in Timur’s powerful mantle. The Tie That Binds: Persian

In addition, like the Timurids, they also had in common either the direct use of the Persian language and literature as their form of courtly expression, or, in the case of Ottoman Turkish and Urdu in India, and Chaghatay Turkish in Central Asia, the writers used Persian classical poetry as a model for the new literatures that sprang up during this period. “[U]ntil approximately the beginning of the seventeenth century, the Safavids through the medium of Persian would establish aesthetic tastes and styles highly emulated at their Ottoman, Uzbek, and Mughal neighbors’ courts” (Babayan 2012, 293). Thus, even though the Safavids possessed the smallest of the three courts and domains, their cultural and artistic influence remained paramount. When Babur founded the empire of Timur’s family in India in 1526, there were no great Persian language poets in the country. In addition to his Turkish verses, Babur composed some moderately good minor Persian verse himself, and the poems of his son Humayun and the writings of his daughter Gulbadan reveal that the Persian tradition was still alive. The situation changed with Humayun’s flight to Iran and his subsequent return to India. . . . Humayun presented an unanticipated opportunity for Persian writers, as he engaged a number of painters and poets during his sojourn in Kandahar and Kabul, setting in train a flow of migrant artists during the course of the following decades. (Schimmel 2004, 242–243)

I cannot stress enough the importance of the role of the Persian language in these courtly settings. Wheeler M. Thackston, Persian language scholar, states: “Indeed, given the extraordinarily unified culture that had been produced by a century of Turco-Persian Timurid rule, the


educated elite from Chinese Turkistan to Constantinople, regardless of ethnicity, communicated on a learned level in one language, Persian, read the same classics of Persian literature, and participated in one Persianate culture” (2002, xliii). Thus, it was not only the use of the language but the shared court and elite culture of the literature and education with which they were all familiar, and essentially the elites of these empires, even when fighting one another, held the same worldview defined by Persian classics like the Shahnameh. The great warrior Babur,1 who embodied idealized masculinity in these societies, demonstrated his skills with both the sword and the pen. Persian poetry maintained its influence and popularity in India well into the nineteenth century when the British Raj ousted it from its preeminent position, replacing it with English as the language of administration. Babur’s memoirs are peppered with poetry, both those of other poets and his own, to emphasize important points that he makes. Because many in the modern West would not even consider such a peculiar notion, for rulers of these empires one of the most valuable forms of booty during their military forays, beginning with Genghis Khan and Timur, was the capture of artists, including musicians. “In addition to his territorial expansions, Selim I [Ottoman sultan] captured the finest art and artisans from the countries he acquired. From Iran came masterpieces of Persian art, accompanied by large numbers of skilled craftsmen for the palace workshops” (Atasoy 1992, 23). The production of books, which were made only for the ruler, and therefore made only for the eyes of the royals, were extremely valuable and constituted one of the most precious spoils of battle, and the capture of the artists—calligraphers, poets, painters, musicians—was something that marauding armies were instructed to attempt to seize. “[T]he 1514 Ottoman victory over the Safavids at Çaldiran and the conquest of Egypt (1516–1517) had the greatest impact on the world of Ottoman art. From both lands of classical Islam, Selim brought back numerous miniature painters, smiths working in gems and precious metals, and calligraphers. Persia, in particular, yielded a treasure trove of literary and scientific manuscripts, both Korans, illuminated albums (entire illustrated works as well as single-page miniatures, and masterpieces of calligraphy going back to the 14th century” (Atasoy 1992, 127). Rulers who were escaping from a defeat sometimes desperately snatched their artists to avoid having them fall into the hands of the enemy, while leaving their wives and households behind.



Court Festivities

Another common element that the courts shared with the Timurids was the display of lavish public ceremonies, processions, and feasting that marked hospitality, generosity, and pomp, and that were intended to make an impression of power on both their own populace as well as foreigners: The court festivities were public celebrations marking every event in the ruler’s and his household’s life: Births, marriages, his ascension to  the throne, his victories. During the Ottoman period the birth of a new prince or princess, or the circumcision of a prince, a court marriage, the succession of a new ruler, the triumph of a warrior, departure to war or a new conquest, the arrival of a welcome foreign ambassador or guest, provided occasions for public festivities, sometimes lasting as long as forty days and forty nights. (And 1994, 157)

It is in these contexts that illustrative sources and native musical treatises, as well as travelers’ descriptions by Europeans from each of these societies provide us with abundant evidence of the presence of musicians, dancers, actors, acrobats, and a variety of other performers, not least among whom we find the wrestlers and other athletes that amused and entertained the guests. The Baburnama is a rich trove of information regarding the nature of the convivial get-togethers featuring wine, poetry, music, and dance that characterized the Mughal court and informal evenings in military camps. The Baburnama describes one sumptuous event, as well as a running account of informal convivial evenings, from the first-person perspective: On Saturday the sixth of the month [December 19] a feast was held attended by the Qïzïlbash, Uzbek, and Hindu ambassadors . . . enraged camels and elephants were made to fight on an island opposite. A few rams also, followed by several wrestling bouts . . . After the food was served I ordered the Hindustani acrobats to come and do tricks, which they did . . . Many dancing girls also came in and danced” (Baburnama 2002, 426–428).

These festivities became important contexts for the public entertainer, from wrestlers and weight lifters to magicians, musicians and dancers, and acrobats. The Ottoman rulers commissioned illustrated books to


depict the most lavish festivals they held (And 1987, 1994; Faroqhi 2000). But always, to elaborate the Stallybrass and White concept of the lower body, the miniatures depict a distinct carnival element in the festivities, and the public entertainers, including clown-like figures, who contribute to the general atmosphere of fun, are prominently featured. The West and East Meet

There is a tendency, both today and historically, to exoticize these empires because of their alien and magical Thousand-and-One-Nights quality, tinged with anti-Islamic emotions that ran strongly in the West, as well as the storybook quality of the brilliance of the capital cities. “If Istanbul of the sixteenth century seems distant from Europe and the life of European society, this is more a product of our own myopia and the blind spots of scholarship than a representation of Ottoman realities. For Ottoman Istanbulites, Europe was always just a boat ride away, and Muslims seem to have caroused with, loved, and had sexual relations with Europeans on a regular basis” (Andrews and Kalpakli 2005, 65). Paintings from Venice regularly show Turkish merchants and other figures as an integral part of the urban landscape. The mercantile relations between Venice and other Italian cities were intense (Carboni 2007). Sex in the City

Andrews and Kalpakli’s study of Ottoman society and culture successfully attempts to demonstrate the similarities in that society with those of early modern Europe. For example, most of the Europeans who traveled to the Middle East, or who wrote about it, charged the Muslims with irregular sexuality, particularly homosexuality, that became a trope in European travel writings about Muslim societies. Andrews and Kalpakli note, “the numbers of prostitutes at every level in major cities are still huge and point to a conclusion that every source seems to bear out: what we call the Age of Beloveds as everywhere in Europe was a time of almost frenzied sexual activity, to a degree that would boggle the minds of most people today” (2005, 117). Certainly, that was true of Istanbul and Isfahan as well; most travelers commented on the high number of prostitutes in Isfahan. They provided the Safavid government with a source of income because they were required to pay taxes (Mathee 2000).



The Safavids

Isfahan, the Safavid capital, is one of the most beautiful cities in the world, especially the core urban area that the Safavid shahs, beginning with Shah Abbas I (the Great, 1587–1629), who began its major construction. Succeeding rulers continued to greatly beautify the city. In her magisterial study of the city’s most important monuments, Sussan Babaie underscores the ways in which the architecture was designed to demonstrate the particular form of spectacle favored by the Safavid shahs: monumental feasting. [T]he convivial gatherings of the Safavid court were motivated by the changing social and political dynamics of the empire and not relics of the past . . . rituals of feasting developed in lockstep with the architectural disposition of the palaces. . . . These spectacles used food to conduct politics through feasting ceremonies where the shah hosted hundreds of people in the company of his court and government officials, all seated according to a prescribed hierarchical order of proximity or distance from the king. The event was enlivened with music and dancing . . . (Babaie 2008, 10)

To this day, the paintings on the walls of the chehel sotun pavilion, with its immense interior spaces and audience halls, show dancers and singers performing before the shah and his guests in the midst of the convivial feasting that several foreign travelers and ambassadors recorded. It is this style of architecture that Babaie shows in detail that was specifically constructed for the convivial gatherings and feasting that marked the identity of the later Safavids, and that set the scene for dirty dancing. The city of exquisite palaces and mosques with domes covered in turquoise tiles is laid out around a massive meidan-e naqsh-e jahan, the great open square where many of the activities of entertainment—processions, wrestling, acrobatics, polo, and other popular activities—took place. The Mughals

The Mughals built many graceful, yet powerful, architectural monuments, such as the Taj Mahal, that dot the landscape of India and continue to awe visitors. These monuments and the beautiful gardens in the Persian style that they created inspire artists, filmmakers, and architects


today. (Pal 1990). All of these documents and illustrations give a powerful impression of the context in which public entertainers performed. It is clear that Persian culture at all levels was highly valued in Mughal India, and still carries a cachet in contemporary India. “Shah Jahan’s most ambitious creation was another new Delhi (now Old Delhi) . . . a whole new city with processional thoroughfares, bazaars, caravanserais, shaded waterways, spacious squares and massive stone walls” (Keay 2000, 335). As with the Safavids in their creation of Isfahan for the display of royal pomp, the Mughals set the scene and context for the display of royal might and power in Delhi, Agra, and Lahore. The public entertainers constituted an important element in the court life, for we see their presence in many of the elegant miniature paintings that chronicle the celebratory events that occurred as a crucial part of the continuous display of the panoply of Mughal power. The Ottomans

Of the three empires, the Ottoman Empire was perhaps the most powerful and certainly the most durable of the three empires, lasting over six centuries (c. 1300–1918). In 1453, the biggest prize of all, the city of Constantinople, after a lengthy siege, fell into the hands of the Ottomans, then led by Mehmet II. It is at this point that the Ottomans became an unstoppable world power, spreading into North Africa, Europe, and the Arab world. The Europeans of the period lived in dread of the Ottomans. “After the loss of Byzantine Constantinople in 1453 to the Ottoman forces of Mehmed II, Muslims generally became know as ‘Turks’ regardless of their racial or ethnic origins, while fears that the invincible Ottoman armies threatened to overwhelm Europe spread like the plague” (MacLean 2007, 1). Sociologist Karen Barkey attributes the longevity of the empire to the adaptability: “the Ottomans were successful at maintaining imperial rule over a vast territory for many centuries. . . . Contrary to the image of wild barbarians who conquered territory and then degenerated into unyielding Asiatic forms of despotism, they showed tremendous adaptability” (2008, 7). Turkish historian Halil Inalcik points out that their political organization before the eighteenth century was superior to that of Europe (1996, 20). Those who take a European perspective frequently forget that the Ottomans constituted a powerful force equal, if not superior, to those of Europe.



Sources for Finding Public Entertainers

During this period, as with the Abbasid caliphate, several writers wrote in some detail about music and musicians, sometimes as often as they wrote about poets, since the two were often the same person. Amir Hosein Pourjavady’s magisterial study (2005) of Safavid musical treatises offers many insights into the musical scene of that empire, in addition to information about the Ottomans and the Mughals as well, since these musicians moved among the courts, sometimes by invitation, sometimes as part of the booty of military campaigns. It must be stressed that we are largely encountering court musicians, rather than public entertainers, in these treatises. Amnon Shiloah’s more general survey of music in the Islamic world (1995) also provides a useful overview. A new element for historical sources appears for the first time during this period: an increasing number of European travelers’ reports give us descriptions of the wide variety of the manners and lives of people in the new Islamic dynasties, the most important of which are the Ottomans (1299–1918), the Safavids (1501–1722), and the Mughals (1526–1757). These sources must be used with caution, because of the intense anti-Muslim stance of many of the European observers. They can provide useful information about public entertainers, especially concerning their social status. However, Turkish dance scholar Metin And notes wryly, Turkish sources offer little information with regard to dancing boys and dancing girls. This is because dancing was regarded by many writers of the past as an improper and wicked sport, especially when indulged in by professional women and boys. On the other hand, foreign travellers have given much attention to this topic in their books and, although they emphasize the slack morality and obscene character of the dancing, they cannot hide from their descriptions the breathless interest that they took in these performances. (And 1959, 24)

Elsewhere (Shay, 1999), I also warned about how to read the descriptions despite the negative attitudes of European travelers, for whom all performances of professional dancing constituted dirty dancing. For example, many of these foreigners could not speak the languages, and many of them witnessed dance performances, which they described in negative terms. Although the performers sometimes intended to demonstrate obscene or lascivious movements, it was often with the intent


of drawing laughter from their viewers, not sexual excitement. Middle Eastern studies scholar Dror Ze’evi notes of the Ottoman performances, “Another thing we should take into account is the comic effect” (2006, 144). In other contexts, however, the intent was sexual. In his description of seventeenth-century Istanbul, Thévenot writes, “They have also a sort of Women, whom they call Tchingueniennes [çengi], who are publick Dancers, that play on Castanets and other Instruments while they dance; and for a few Aspres will hew a thousand obscene postures with their bodies” (2012, 32). Thus, having issued the caveat that most of the Europeans found almost every kind of dance performance to be obscene, I will look at several travelers’ accounts to attempt to describe the performances of dance. The Sherley Brothers, Anthony, Robert, and Thomas, traveled to the Safavid court in the late sixteenth century and wrote a typical description of the male dancers: “so they have very fair houses, where this coffee is sold; thither gentlemen and gallants resort daily, where the owners of these houses do keep young boys; in some houses they have a dozen, some more, some less, they keep them very gallant in apparel; these boy are called Bardashes; which they do use in their beastly manner instead of women” (1825, 38–39). A second major source that is largely new to this period is the wonderful proliferation of Persian, Turkish, and Mughal miniatures, murals, and other forms of figurative art (And 1974; Lentz and Lowry 1989; Sims 2002; Surieu 1967).2 They display many contexts in which dance and music are represented, and provide suggestions of the appearance of the dancers; however, I will issue another caveat that I gave earlier (1999), that these illustrations only demonstrate that dance was a feature of court life, which is underpinned by travelers’ accounts, but in no way are we able to reconstruct an actual dance from these illustrations, as some contemporary choreographers have suggested. The artists frequently did not see many of the activities that they depict. I will suggest that the scenes featuring dancers constitute idealized visions as well. In addition, the dancers are shown in stock poses, and the artists could provide several different poses because they knew that dancers were generally a part of every important celebration. Frequently, the artists who painted them did not even witness the events, such as an enthronement, but nevertheless, their paintings do provide us with valuable information regarding context.



Performing Contexts

The multilevel world of performance ranged from the palace to the marketplaces of the large cities of the Middle East. These were often public affairs. Anthony Sherley describes arriving at a large royal festival in which, “amongst the horse were above forty kettle-drums, and tabrets, nor wanted the whores and boys their places, all which, with antique dances, made the ceremony more notable” (1825, 162). In addition to the court festivities designed as theatre, more intimate forms of conviviality provided the public entertainer with performance venues. The majlis, the private social gathering, continues from the medieval period into the early modern era. Clavijo notes, “Timur was established feasting and drinking wine with his lords and intimate courtiers” (2009, 238). Anthony Sherley, Elizabethan gentleman, wrote of his visit the “Lord Steward,” a court official of Shah Abbas II: “So into the house we came, which was richly hanged in every room with gold carpets, and under foot with rich arras. . . . There were also at that feast ten women very gallantly apparelled, and very beautiful, who did dance according to their country manner, and sing all the time we were feasting” (1825, 62). Thus, we are again presented with evidence that the public entertainers often demonstrated several skills in their performances. One must keep in mind that private drinking parties, like those majalis (sing. majlis) that we witnessed in the Abbasid period, continued into the premodern period as well. “At a drinking party it is normal and necessary to have beautiful boys with good voices” (And 1994, 193). Music and poetry recitation continued to be among the most important forms of artistic expression in these gatherings, as well as more formal court ceremonies. These beautiful young men constituted the object of poetry, as they did during the Abbasid period, and Latin and Greek poetry before. During the Ottoman period, “The dancing boys were so loved and praised by their audiences that many poets sang their praises in verse. They praised their physical beauty as well as their skill in their art. One of the most notable among them was a famous poet, Endernulu Fazil Vehbi. His Defter-i Aşk, meaning ‘Book of Love,’ contains 170 couplets praising the beauty and skill of the celebrated eighteenth century dancing boy, Çingene Ismail” (And 1959, 30). Sultan Babur’s first love at the age of 17 was a young boy, Baburi, and he writes


agonizingly of his infatuation and bashfulness, and that he penned some poetry for him. He writes: “Sometimes I went out alone like a madman to the hills and wilderness, sometimes I roamed through the orchards and lanes of town, neither walking nor sitting within my own volition, restless in going and staying: I have no strength to go, no power to stay. You have snared us in this state, my heart” (Baburnama 2002, 90). To this literature, poets bad and good, common and royal, poor and rich, profane and mystic, contributed, adding to the stunning verses of Abu-Nuwas celebrating these beautiful young men. In addition to the wine taverns that were characteristic of the medieval Islamic world, we find a new institution in which music and dance could be seen and heard: the coffeehouse. Historian Ralph S. Hattox notes, “The patrons of the coffeehouse indulged in a variety of improper pastimes, ranging from gambling to involvement in irregular and criminally unorthodox sexual situations, and as such attracted the attention of those officials who were assigned the custodianship of public morality” (1988, 7). Many of the coffeehouses employed beautiful young men as servers, as dancers and singers, and for other activities, “the gratification of one’s lusts” according to the risala fi ahkam al-qahwa (qtd. in Hattox 1988, 109). The French traveler Jean Chardin, who spent considerable time in Isfahan, described them thus: These Houses were heretofore very infamous Places; they were serv’d and entertain’d by beautiful Georgian Boys, from ten to sixteen Years of Age, dress’d after a Lewd Manner, having their Hair ty’d in Wefts, like the Women; they make ‘em Dance there, and Act and say a thousand immodest Things, to move the Beholders, who caus’d these Boys to be carry’d, every one where he thought Proper; and this fell to the Lot of those who were the most beautiful and engaging; in such sort, that these Coffee-Houses were nothing else in Reality, but Shops for Sodomy . . . (1988, 242)

Many of the foreign travelers mention the presence of young boys working in these establishments, which were a major context for music and dance throughout this time period, and the young male dancers were generally regarded as sexually available (Mathee 2000). In spite of the railings of foreigners and the pious minded, the coffeehouse remains popular to this day in most Middle Eastern and North African



cities as a context for male socializing, although it now lacks many of the sexual “amenities� that coffeehouses offered until well into the nineteenth century. The Performing Arts

Most of the performing arts from the Abbasid period continue into the early modern and even the modern period. Poetry and music remain the most salient forms, but a wide range of cultural expression and entertainment at all levels was available to the public: Near the Beyazit Mosque in Tahtakal there was a piece of open ground where every imaginable type of entertainer could be seen performing, professional mountebanks, story-tellers, mimes, conjurors, rope-dancers, horse-riders and animal-trainers with tame goats, dogs, monkeys and baboons. Comedians wearing the costumes of various countries performed bizarre plays. Male and female dancers danced holding a pair of short sticks in each hand like castanets. There were also singers, wrestlers and fencers. In short, every possible kind of performer made their appearance to earn precarious

Figure 5.1 An assemblage of public entertainers in a festival setting. They are popular everywhere. Courtesy of the author.


livelihoods dependent on audience donations. Around this place were small houses where boys were trained to somersault and walk on their hands, to fence, shoot with a bow, and throw spears or heavy stones, and to perform magic and all kinds of other feats and tricks. (And 1994, 281–282)

This array of performers was available in large urban centers in all three of the empires. There also existed itinerant groups that plied their trade among tribal groups and villagers as well. In addition to this array of performers, many of which I have seen in Tehran, Samarqand, and other locations, strong men, known as pahlavan, lifted heavy objects, and wrestlers and acrobats put their skills on display in the palace and the public square, as one can still see in Marrakesh today. Wrestling is popular throughout the entire region to this day, and Clavijo’s description (2009, 222–223) informs us that the leather knee-length pants that wrestlers wore can still be found in the context of the zurkhaneh (see Baburnama 2002, 456 for an illustration). Music

One musical institution that the three courts shared, and that lasted into the early twentieth century, was the naqarehchaneh, tablekhaneh, or mehter, as it was variously known. This was a courtly musical form, and must be differentiated from art and entertainment music. I mention it in passing because it is frequently described by European travelers, and to some degree had an impact on Western classical music. Historian Wheeler M. Thackston describes it in the context of the Mughal empire: “Naqara refers to the drums traditionally sounded at a ruler’s gate at dawn and dusk; this royal prerogative could be conferred upon a highranking officer” (Baburnama 2002, 487, n.92). One could describe the naqareh ensemble as a military band or the music as ceremonial music, because it functioned to announce the arrival or departure of the ruler or the army. Music, especially vocal music, continues to be an important form of both art and entertainment. Famous singers were honored: “It is related that during Baysunghur’s time Khwaja Yusuf Andigani had no equal in all the world in recitation and singing. Khwaja Yusuf ’s Davidic voice pierced the heart, and his Chosroic melody augmented the agony of



passion” (Baburnama 2002, 468, n.6). This passage, written by Dowlatshah, a contemporary writer of Babur’s time who wrote about the lives of poets, indicates the way in which fine vocalists, especially court musicians and poets, were regarded. Musicians had a hierarchy, with singers at the apex, certain instrumental musicians who played the ‘ud or other popular instruments. In describing the musicians in the Safavid court, certain instruments were omitted: “The ensemble probably included one performer of percussion instruments, however due to their low social ranks, percussionists were hardly mentioned in historical records” (Pourjavady 2005, 32, n.2). Jamal observed that the same holds true today, although certain musicians, like Hosein Tehrani, a master tombak (goblet drum) player, was an exception (personal communication February 2, 2013). One must keep in mind that music and dance slowly became regionally specific, and that as time passed, the forms of modal music solidified into specifically Ottoman, Iranian, and Indian forms. Music constitutes one of the areas in which travelers provide us with the least amount of information: most Europeans simply heard it as a form of cacophony. Thus, for anyone attempting to fill in details as to what kind of instruments were played, that information is perhaps more forthcoming in the miniatures that feature musicians.


According to foreign travelers and as seen in Ottoman, Safavid, and Mughal paintings and murals, dancing, too, becomes an important form of entertainment. Dance historian Metin And informs us of the Ottoman court that “After the feast, the guests were often entertained by musicians and dancers. The guests took no part in the dancing, as dancing was frowned on by their religion, and dancing by men and women together was forbidden” (1994, 219). For this reason, during the Islamic period dancers came from the most abject backgrounds: religious minorities, prostitutes, and slaves. Their managers and owners contributed considerable funding, time, and energy to their training, as they do in Afghanistan today. If, for the Europeans, the music was noisy and unpleasant, the dances were simply obscene. And describes the dances found in Istanbul:


Figure 5.2 Octavien—Çengi, Ottoman dancing girl. Courtesy of the author.

The dancing boys and girls performed for the amusement of onlookers and they came from different “guilds” and companies called kol. Generally in the dancing both the boys and girls marked time with finger snapping or with some instrument such as a short tiny stick, clappers (called çarpara or çalpara), zilli maşa, çegane, (jingling johnnie) or with wooden spoons or small metal finger cymbals. Their dancing consisted of leisurely walks, keeping time with clappers or finger snapping, short mincing steps, half falling back and then recovering themselves, dying eyes, suggestive contortions, a good deal of stomach play, twisting of the body, falling upon the knees with the trunk held back until the head nearly touched the floor, writhing, swaying the body with a side twist. Sometimes they would perform a pantomime of physical love with an expression of restrained passion; retiring as if alarmed or humiliated and sometimes taking bold and daring attitudes. (1994, 51)

In other words, And has described many of the movements of dirty dancing that can be found in contemporary cabaret belly dancing,



because, quite simply, the character of the dance was intended to be sensual and sexy. Not all of these movements occurred in Iranian or Indian dance (Shay 1999), but in general, there were many similarities: both the male and female dancers employed the same movements in a form of unisex choreographic genres. One must also keep in mind that the dancers or any of these performers were capable of multiple talents—music, acrobatics, dance, shadow plays, and so forth. Unlike the other entertainers, most dancers would have appeared to be attractive and sexy to their audiences. “Entertainments during the Age of Beloveds featured dancing girls (çengi) and similarly dressed dancing boys (köçek), about whom when talking about the sorts of available beloveds, Mustafa ‘Ali says: ‘In short, those who have a yen for famous lovely faces and are entirely desirous of summoning into their presence elegantly swaying, tall, and silver-bodied cypresses should not neglect the dancing boys [köçek] of Rumeli’” (Andrews and Kalpaki, (2005, 178).3 The travelers vary in their descriptions of dance. Hobhouse relates that in the first decade of the nineteenth century, “That part of the entertainment which is most to the fancy of the company, and which no Englishman would patiently contemplate for a moment is the exhibition of the Yamakis, or dancing-boys, who are chiefly insular Greeks and Jews, but never Turks. The wretched performers dance to the music of guitars, fiddles, and rebeks; and what with the exclamations of the master of the dancers . . . Rome itself, at the period of the famous edict of the emperor Philip, could not have furnished a spectacle so degrading to human nature as the taverns of Galata” (1858, 262). The dance found in the Mughal courts seems to have been rather more refined since it was performed by courtesans rather than prostitutes, and it eventually attained the status of a classical form in its development into contemporary North Indian kathak dance. In the Mughal courts and elite society, we have the figure of the courtesan, tawaif, by which I mean a woman who, like the hetaira, and qiyan whom we encountered in the Abbasid period, was educated, could hold conversation, composed music and poetry, produced beautiful calligraphy in addition to her artistic performances, and who was, of course, sexually available. In Safavid Iran and Ottoman Turkey, by contrast, the performers of both sexes were not courtesans but prostitutes.


There is no indication of the presence of literacy or refined behavior among the latter. Storytelling and Theatre

Theatrical forms developed in both the Ottoman and Safavid empires, but little is known about their origins: “Unfortunately, we do not know for sure when Ortaoyunu first constituted itself in Turkey in its final form or even how it arose” (And 1999, 51). Little is known about the origins of siyah-bazi, a similar form of theatre that is found in Iran. Both genres have important similarities with commedia dell’arte: stock figures. “In this type of plays where the behaviors are in the foremost position, the persons of the play are not characters, but types” (Nutku 1999, 71). Loose plots can be improvised differently for each performance, and there is time and scope to satirize current events and current personalities. Shadow puppet plays constitute one of the earliest forms of theatre, and as And says of puppets in Turkish life, “There is virtually no kind of puppet show that Turkey has not tried,” which he describes in detail (1999, 39). It is important to keep in mind that shadow plays were taken as seriously as Broadway and London musicals are taken by Western audiences today. Shadow plays, the reader may recall, formed part of the skills of the singing slave girls of Baghdad during the Abbasid period. The French traveler Jean de Thévenot describes what he saw in the second half of the seventeenth century: “Now they are commonly Jews that show Puppet-Shows, and I never saw any but them play. It makes a prettier Show, than our way does; and in the meantime, they sing several pretty Songs in the Turkish and Persian Languages, but on most nasty subjects, begin full of foul obscenities” (2012, 32). The Karagöz puppets, named for the principal character, are very reminiscent of Punch and Judy shows, in which the characters fight and quarrel. The language and genre of these improvised theatrical genres embody Stallybrass and White’s notion of the lower body being celebrated since, as dance historian And notes, the earliest Karagöz figures sported huge phalluses, which they did not hesitate to use. The language is coarse and obscene, the gestures and dances lewd, and the audiences respond uproariously to the pratfalls and bawdiness of



the  performers. All of this was hugely amusing for the native audiences, and disgusting and horrifying for many European observers (Beeman 1981, 2011; And 1979, 1999; Nutku 1999). What is unknown is the possible linkages between Ortaoyunu, siyah-bazi, and commedia dell’arte. It must be stressed, as historian Willem Floor has noted, “The difference between high and low culture was a rather artificial one; all traditional forms of Iranian dramatic art were expressions of popular culture” (2005, 14). There was no special form of drama in the Middle East for the elite; they laughed at and found amusing the same things that made the hoi-polloi laugh. Public Entertainers Dancers

The royal elites, and all classes, in all three of the empires demonstrated a fascination with dancers, both male and female. “In fact, dancers were so much part of public and political life that ‘There are no banquets in Persia without music and courtesans.’ The leading men of the state, from the shah down to the grandees and lesser officials always had some dancing girls, who danced, made music and sang for them and their friends and guests” (Floor 2008, 219). In Safavid Iran, Chevalier Jean Chardin informs us that “Dancers were recruited only from among the ordinary prostitutes who added another attraction to their role of exciting and satisfying passion” (1996, 117). Elsewhere Chardin writes: “Although dancers, singers and female musicians are often mentioned as a separate group, in their behavior, comportment, clothing, and services rendered, they differed little if at all from prostitutes” (Floor 2008, 218). This equation, dancer = prostitute, continues from ancient Greece and remains little changed to the present, whether professional belly dancers in Cairo and other Arab cities, or the baccha, the dancing boys of Afghanistan and Pakistan. In Ottoman Turkey, And states, “These boys . . . included Armenians and Jews, but most of them were Greeks” (1959, 29). Sixteenth-century Ottoman chronicler Evliya Celebi tells us that in Ottoman-ruled Egypt, a major festival, which continued into the nineteenth century and which horrified the British, was held in Tanta.


Figure 5.3 Egyptian dancing girls. Ghawazi dancers were popular into the 1970s. Courtesy of the author.

And there is a bazaar for boys in every coffee house, where pretty boys are on display, with earrings and their doe-like eyes smeared with collyrium. . . . Day and night a thousand boy dancers prance about with coquettish gestures, catching the hearts of lovers in the traps of their flowing locks. Other groups of entertainers—singers, instrumentalists, ghazal-reciters, itinerant musicians, mimics, eulogists, comedians, mimes and buffoons—are everywhere . . . (Dankoff and Kim 2011, 425)



Thus, an eyewitness from four centuries ago provides us with a sense of the world of the public entertainer. As Hobhouse informs us, the boy dancers of Istanbul in 1810, when he visited, were largely native Greeks and Jews, and wildly popular: “and what with the exclamations of the master of the dancers and sometimes the quarrels of the Turks, so much noise and disturbance ensue at mid-day as to bring the patrol to the spot” (1858, vol. 2, 263). And adds, In the taverns the people became so intense in their appreciation of the dances that, not infrequently, they were carried away into and ecstasy of obscene and blasphemous words, yells and shouts, glass breaking, sword and dagger brandishing, and even quarrels among themselves. The popularity of the dancing boys led to so much trouble and quarrelling among the Janissaries that, finally, to preserve order in his army, Sultan Mahmud forbade their appearance. (1959, 30–31)

The pantomime riots of ancient Rome appear again in early nineteenth-century Istanbul. Many of the dancing boys showed up in Egypt in the 1830s, for the word gink [Arabic form of çengi] appears alongside khawal, the term for native Egyptian boy dancers, and found a ready market for their services as Gustave Flaubert noted of Hasan el-Belbeissi. They were perceived as sexually available, as they remain today. Generally, in all of these areas most dancers wore garments, headpieces, hairstyles, and other elements that were deliberately ambiguous, because their male audiences found the ambiguity seductive. Persians and Turks had different viewpoints from those of the censorious Europeans. In describing the delights of the intimate court gatherings Zein al-din Vasefi, a courtier in Herat during end of the Timurid period goes around the room of the majles (convivial gathering) admiring the entertainers, and waxing poetic. Whether he is describing an actual gathering or a typical one is unclear through his description. Among the entertainers: Maqsud Ali Raqas. The name Raqas tells us that Maqsud Ali is a dancer. His is one of the few actual names we can locate, but Vasefi’s treatment of him casts him as the standard youth who inspires poets to rhapsodize rather than as a real individual.


When the breath brings forth the sound of the flute upon my passion that was burning my grieving heart. Maqsud Ali Raqas was a youth who whenever he danced, it was as if he took the sun in the east and the luminous moon hostage. And when he ceases to dance those present in the majles gather around and when that youth danced, he inspired the poets, Moulana Bana’i (whom we will encounter later) to create a qhazal (love poem) and [the prince of poets] Mir Hafez to sing us a panegyric to his qualities. It comes to mind that in answer to that love poem one might immediately compose another before that youth finishes his dance, to reward his excellence: When in the heat of his dance he moved like a graceful cypress, with an enchanting face, At his turning, his robe around blew, and the fire of my passion grew. (Vasefi 1969, 22–23)

Thus, we know nothing of this young dancer other than the fact that he was young and sexy. Vasefi makes him the archetype of a dancer: he is handsome, moves seductively, and sets men’s hearts aflame. But who was the real person Maqsud Ali Raqas? We will probably never know. Ottoman and Safavid miniature paintings depict both male and female dancers about equally (see And 1959; 1987). However, the Mughal paintings that I examined depict few, if any, boy dancers, although they existed. According to Abdul Halim Sharar, an observer of the arts in Lucknow, the site of the last Mughals, “There are two groups of male dancers in Lucknow: the Hindu khathaks and rahas dancers, and the Kashmiri Muslim bhands. The real dancers are the kathaks, and the Kashmiri dancing troupes, in order to give life to their performances have apparently introduced a young boy who wears his hair long like a woman and dances with such animation and vivacity that his activities arouse the spectators” (2001, 142). He continues: The second category of male dancing is that of the bhands. In these performances a handsome adolescent boy with long hair in chignon style, wearing gaudy-coloured male clothes and with bells on his ankles, dances and sings. The accompanying music is rhythmic and gay. In the dance itself musical nimbleness, playfulness and fun are displayed and the singing is suited to the style of the dance. Apart from the instrumental musicians present there are about a dozen bhands who loudly applaud the boy’s dancing and singing. They become excited at the beat of the tals [time



Figure 5.4 Jeune danseur—Indian dancing boy. Courtesy of the author.

beat in a rhythmic cycle] and make amusing and frivolous remarks about the postures, movements and gestures of the dancer. (143)

Nor does the absence of explicit documentation mean that sexual interest in young men did not exist in Mughal India: “Persian poetry— including the verses of Babur and his successors—were full of praise for charming beardless youths, and pederasty was widespread” (Schimmel 2004, 207). Indeed, like Safavid Persia, the Mughals employed another class of male dancers, the rahas dancers, “Sri Krishna’s adventures are reproduced in song, dance and music in religious gatherings. They are like operas and are known as Rahas. . . . At the same time as Wajid Ali


Shah was showing his love for Rahas, Mian Amanat . . . several associations in various parts of the city gave performances of it on the stage, young boys sometimes taking the parts of women” (Sharar 2001, 85). It is probable that “rahas” is a variant of “raqas,” the Arabic and Persian word for male dancer. Anna Morcom tells us about Indian dancing boys, “The least visible group are transgender males known as kothis, zanana/janana or jankha in North India, who undeniably constitute erotic ‘female’ performers . . . and have been—and still are in many ways—interchangeable with dancing girls” (2013, 7). It may be that European observers could not distinguish the difference. While it is probable that important musicians lived at court, because they were often also poets, contrary to Rezvani and others who claim that dancers were honored artists in the past and lived at court, it is more than certain that they did not reside in the palace because the low social position of dancers would not have fit well into the noble circles that lived there. The dancing girls go in troupes, as I have observed. The king’s troupe, for example consists of twenty-four, who are the most famous courtesans in the country. They have a superior, who is ordinarily one who has served her time in the band, but they do not dwell together, being generally dispersed over all the quarters of the town. The function of this superior is to gather them together, to conduct them whither they are summoned. . . . Their pay is eighteen hundred francs a year, with a certain quantity of materials for their clothing. . . . The king often makes valuable presents to them according as their dancing or other charms move him. . . . One thing common to them all is that they are called by a name which marks the price which they charge for a visit, Ten Tomans or Five Tomans or Two Tomans. . . . (Chardin, qtd. in Surieu 1967, 150–151)

This passage suggests that the dancers constituted a crucial element in court festivities, but, like the cinaedi and pantomimes of Rome, they were not permitted near the children. It is interesting that Chardin mentions the number of 24 dancers attached to the court, because nowhere is it stated that these dancers perform as a synchronized group using choreography. The Iranian dance tradition, as with that of the Ottomans, is an improvised dance tradition (Shay 1999). The Mughal bhands, from Sharar’s description, also seemed to dance one at a time.



The court dancers in the Safavid period performed another, rather new, service besides dancing at royal entertainments. They formed a kind of welcome wagon to greet important guests outside the city gates, riding out, unveiled, to greet them (almost always men) and accompanying them to where they would stay, all the while singing. Adam Olearius approaching the city of Qazvin, one of the Safavid provincial capitals, on June 25, 1637, found, When we were about a gun-shot’s distance away from the city, fifteen young women came riding toward us. They were splendidly decorated; dressed in colorful velvet and silk skirts, with golden and silken cloths that flowed down from their heads over their shoulders; around their necks they had pearls and all kinds of jewelry. With uncovered open faces (which is not the custom with honorable women) they looked the Germans straight in the eye and welcomed us with great smiles. They were the most important singers and dancers of the city. (qtd. in Branacaforte 2003, 3)

In fact, the cavalcade was much larger, and Olearius and his party were “accompanied by musicians playing drums, cymbals, and pipes, and acrobats performing cartwheels and somersaults” (ibid, 1). There was another, presumably unusual, duty that the public dancers performed: “Occasionally, entertainers in general, and female dancers in particular, were used to mock vanquished enemies. When ‘Abbas I took Qandahar in 1622, he first had a group of courtesans led by Dallaleh Chizi enter the fort to make it appear that the Moghul had been defeated by a group of soft women” (Floor 2008, 221). We know that male dancers, although not often mentioned by Europeans at the Safavid court, but only in public coffeehouses, also danced in convivial evenings at court as well. “Sam Mirza [a Safavid prince] refers to almost thirty individuals who were somehow recognized as singers, instrumentalists, composers, dancers and storytellers” (Pourjavady 2005, 43). Zayn al-Din Vasefi, who wrote in the Safavid period, and who acted as a courtier, reports: “Six months aft the accession of Shah Esmai’il, one night a group of friends were gathered in my house. Mirza Biram was playing the qanun, Khanazade Bolbol was playing the dayera [frame drum], Siyahcha was singing, Molla Fali, Molla Ahli, Mowlana Amini and Mowlana Mobeli were composing poetry extemporaneously and Taherchka and Mahchubak were dancing”


(qtd. in Pourjavady 2005, 38). Pourjavady has managed to retrieve the name of one more dancer: “Amir Khanzad is better known as ‘tablbaz (drummer) . . . he was given the name of ‘mir-e tablbaz’ by Shah Esma’il. Amir had a happy spirit, sometimes he used to sing and dance in gatherings. Indeed he was a very humble person. He also had a literary acumen and wrote a number of lyrics and mo’amma (riddles).” Amir Khanzad had a brother who also danced: “The skill that I observed in him was dance. He had long hair, and his dancing was decent” (qtd. in Pourjavady 2005, 45). In the Mughal courts, a different kind of figure appears to command the art and entertainment scene: the tawa’if, courtesan. The term “courtesan,” in spite of the imprecise use of the word by some travelers, designates sex workers to be sure, but they are, above all, artists of high quality. In her study of the courtesans of the Mughal period, ethnomusicologist Regula Burckhardt Qureshi writes, “Etymologically, linguistically, and historically, courtesans were clearly a part of the Persianate cultural environment created in northern India by the Muslim ruling class” (2006, 317). Lest this statement suggest to the reader that courtesans existed in the Ottoman and Safavid courts, no evidence exists for such a category of female performers; it is a singularly Mughal development within these Muslim societies. A courtesan is technically a named category, and embodies the most important arts in that society. Like the dancers who are prominently featured in the travelers’ texts and pictorial depictions of royal festivities, the presence of the tawa’if was essential: “What these sources do make clear, however, is that formal performances by female singers and dancers were the standard entertainment for honoring guests, and visitors were obligated to be present and offer appropriate appreciation for what was obviously considered the most prized cultural performance at courts across northern India” (Qureshi 2006, 316). One must not confuse the tawa’if with the devadasi, the so-called temple dancers: “A temple dancer, or religious courtesan, is called a devadasi” (Srinevasan 2006, 162), whereas the tawa’if is a courtesan who was found in royal circles, and later presided over elegant salons in Mughal realms, in other words, in secular contexts. Most importantly, the tawa’if, even though she was sexually available, was not considered a common prostitute. In pre-Islamic times she would have carried the category name of ganika. “The exceptionally civilized public



woman, proficient in arts and endowed with winsome qualities is called a ganika. A vesya, or specifically a woman called a rupqjiva, is a prostitute, ranked below the ganika, whose artistic talents she does not possess” (162). Many of the tawa’if became fabulously wealthy because they were patronized by the very rich. As we saw in Abbasid society, in which the possession of a singing slave girl gave the owner higher social status, patronizing a highly sought-after courtesan in Mughal society also bequeathed a great deal of prestige. The tawa’if, as free women, possessed more agency than the slave girls since they were free. However, as with many of the public entertainers we encounter, they came from “low-status hereditary communities in North India and Pakistan” (334), and when their talents merited, they received “intensive training in classical and light-classical music and dance under highly knowledgeable male teachers” (ibid). These latter figures, although not mentioned in any of the studies that focus on the glamorous courtesans, must have been among the male musicians depicted in the Mughal miniature paintings. One major exception to the notion of elite, warrior-class men dancing seems to be the Turco-Mongols of Central Asia. Sultan Babur mentions dancing by his thuggish colleagues in several passages. “Seyyid Badr. He was strong, extremely graceful and amazingly well mannered. He was a fantastic dancer and performed inimitable dances that must have been his own invention. He was in the mirza’s [prince’s] service for a long time and always invited to drinking parties” (2002, 207). “The people were friendly, and when everyone was feeling good, Mir Badr danced. He danced well, of a type probably of his own devising” (224). Many observers frequently comment on the gymnastic skills of both male and female dancers who performed dangerous athletic feats for which the person who hired them paid extra, which we also encountered in Xenophon’s symposium. The dancers continued to perform these feats into the twentieth century in some places. Musicians

In all of these courts, in which music was a central activity, as in the Abbasid courts, there existed different levels of musicians who played


at court functions, both public and private. First, and foremost, were the amateur royal and noble figures who played, at least in private. For example, one of the noble figures, Darwesh Beg appears in Babur’s memoirs: “He knew something about music and played the saz. He had poetic talent” (2002, 26). It comes as something of a shock to also learn that these men, like the medieval knights of Europe, were also killing machines who could kill without mercy, which Babur also describes. Babur tells about another musician, “another incomparable was Pahlawan [victorious athlete] Muhammad Bu-Sa’id, an outstanding wrestler who also composed poetry and wrote vocal and instrumental music. He has a beautiful naqsh [vocal genre] in the chargah mode. To have such accomplishments and be a wrestler too is a marvel. He was good company” (Baburnama 2002, 219). The various central and provincial courts in the three empires certainly engaged the finest professional musicians, who held a certain degree of esteem for their talents. We saw Khwaja Yusuf, who was famous for his voice and poetry that a rival court attempted to acquire, but Sultan Baysunghur refused to part with him (Baburnama 2002, 468, n.6). Both the Baburnama and the Ain-i Akbari of Abu alFazl ibn Mubarak give lists of prominent musicians with their accomplishments, strengths, which instruments they played, and short biographies. Perhaps the most luminous figure of the fifteenth century at the Timurid court of Herat was the noble Ali Shir Nava’i. He was a poet and musician. He almost single-handedly created a literary language of Chaghatay Turkish, but also composed in Persian. He was a noble, and so wealthy he could donate a great deal of money for public work projects. He never married, an unmanly gesture because one sign of masculinity in the Islamic world was to produce sons. He was also a fashion maven, and Babur tells us, “Many items were designed for Ali-Sher [sic] Beg, and anyone who devised something of any sort and wanted it to sell called it ‘Alisheri.’ Many elegant articles were thus named for him” (2002, 215). Hosein Amir Pourjavady’s study (2005) of an important Safavid musical treatise provides us with the names and short biographies of several musicians of that court. We cannot tell much about the music itself because notation did not exist.



In the case of the Ottoman court we are more fortunate because several European musicians did visit the court and notated the music. Foremost among them was the Moldavian prince Demitrius Cantemir (1673–1723), an accomplished musician who lived at the court for several years as a kind of hostage, before briefly occupying the Moldavian throne, an Ottoman protectorate, and finally, defecting to the tsar (Faroqhi 2000, 81–85). He notated many melodies that are still extant, giving us valuable information about the courtly art musical genre that he could play as well. The court musicians’ lives were not without peril. Babur tells us that one highly regarded musician from Herat, “Banna’i” (“builder,” because his father had been a master architect), could be indiscreet. Banna’i was a great rival of Ali-Sher Beg and suffered much ill treatment in that regard. . . . One day at a chess party Ali-Sher Beg stretched out his leg and touched Banna’i’s backside. “What a sad state this is,” Ali-Sher Beg said in jest, “that in Herat one cannot stretch out a leg without poking a poet in the ass.” “Yes,” Banna’i retorted, “and if you pull your leg back in, you’ll poke another.” In the end he left Herat for Samarkand because of such witticisms. (Baburnama 2002, 214–215)

So, Banna’i had to get out of Dodge because of his wisecracks. Babur relates another case in which a musician was “severely beaten” for saucy behavior (218), which Babur approved of: “Temperamental fellows deserve such punishment” (ibid.). Ethnomusicologist Pourjavady tells us that Herat, which was the capital of a diminished Timurid prince, “became the most important musical center in Iran. The court of the last Timurid ruler, Sultan Hosayn Bayqara (r. 1469–1506), with his chief poet, Amir ‘Alishir Nava’i (1441–1501), was thronged with poets, singers, players and dancers” (2005, 33). Perhaps the most egregious case occurred in Tabriz in the late fourteenth century, showing how dangerous the lives of public entertainers could be: Miranshah [one of Timur’s sons] once fell down from his horse and afterwards he suffered mental problems. When Timur returned to Tabriz, he was told that Miranshah’s problem had been caused by his musicians who kept entertaining him while he was on the horse and finally he lost his balance and fell down. Upon hearing this news, Timur ordered the


hangings of Mowlana Mahammad Qahestani, Qotb al-Din Na’I, Habib ‘Udi and ‘Abd al-Mo’men Guyanda. (Poujavady 2005, 32, n.14)4

There were, of course, street musicians, as these can be found today. Their lives may be grittier, but not as dangerous (see the film Street Musicians of Bombay, which is included in the DVD Courtesans of Bombay).


The Long Nineteenth Century: The Qajars, the Ottomans, Egypt, and Colonialism


n the previous chapter, we saw the appearance of Europeans, many of whom recorded their impressions of what they saw and observed in the regions this study addresses in the Middle East and South Asia. They were often in awe of the opulence and military might of the courts of the Ottomans, the Safavids, and the Mughals, which were richer, larger, and more powerful than most corresponding courts throughout both western and eastern Europe from the fifteenth to the eighteenth century; they were military and economic powers to be reckoned with. All three of the Asian powers were in expansive mode, reaching the walls of Vienna in the west and making military incursions deep into the south of India in the east. The Europeans, who left these impressions in their writings, sometimes acted as ambassadors, engaged in trading, or were simply individuals looking for adventure, but they did not generally take an active role in attempting to shape or change what they saw. For all intents and purposes, they remained passive observers. With Napoleon’s ill-fated invasion of Egypt in 1798, all of that changed. According to Arthur Goldschmidt Jr., “Europe’s power rose so dramatically between the sixteenth and nineteenth centuries that every other part of the world had to adapt or go under” (1999, 143). Goldschmidt’s statement sets the tone of this chapter. Russia’s incursions into Persia and Central Asia, the British takeover of India in 1858, extinguishing the Mughal Dynasty by dethroning and exiling the last ruler, and later invading Egypt, and ultimately conquering and occupying it in 1882, ushered in a new era. These takeovers, however, were



preceded by decades of economic and other incursions, slowly taking over several aspects of the Asian states until they assumed total control. In this chapter we will encounter Europeans in a much-changed role— that of aggressive invader and imperial colonizer.1 The Western powers during this period become economic and military rivals of the Asian states; they are now stronger and more powerfully armed than the eastern targets of their expansion. They possessed superior military forces and arms, and perhaps above all, administrative and organizational skills, which permitted small numbers of military forces and administrators to overcome and rule the Asian states with large populations. The Europeans were fired with a passion for colonizing and empire, making a fortune, fulfilling their manifest destiny in an increasingly racialized atmosphere, and assuming the position of rulers. Some Eastern rulers such as the Ottoman sultan and his representative in Egypt, and later the Qajar shahs, were aware of this power shift and attempted to utilize the Europeans to help them modernize their armies. “Several other Asian states tried to stay independent by grafting onto their traditional societies those Western customs and institutions that they believed to be sources of power,” says Goldschmidt (1999, 143). However, they soon learned that there existed more in that particular Pandora’s box than newly minted Western arms. The Economic Rewards of Colonialism

In the great deal of theorizing about colonialism and empire that has occurred since Edward Said’s Orientalism (1978) was published, it is sometimes passed over that colonialism was first and foremost an economic project, and that was its primary impetus. In some instances, as was the case with Russia in Central Asia, and France in Algeria, Europeans divested the natives of valuable lands, similar to the way in which the white Americans seized the lands of Indians and Mexicans in the United States. The military occupation of India, Egypt, North Africa, India, and Central Asia was brutal and ruthless. I will use as an example the conquering and the occupation of Egypt. After a group of Egyptian officers seized power in Egypt to establish independence, the British, who had been the power behind the throne of the Khedive, retaliated cruelly and decisively: in two days of shelling they razed much of Alexandria to the ground. They met resistance for a few weeks, but armed with newly


invented machine guns, they were able to overcome the “modern” army they had created. The Russian invasion of Islamic territories, first in the Crimea, then the Caucus, and finally Central Asia, all of which took place over a century, and the French invasion of North Africa constitute variations on the theme that Timothy Mitchell described for Egypt. For the purposes of this study, which focuses on masculinity, sexuality, and the public entertainer, the colonial project affected all of them profoundly. Mitchell’s study, which considers the various means of colonizing the mind, gives us a few samples of how brutal the colonizers could be: “the government attempted to crush local armed groups in the countryside and employed all the now-familiar techniques for overcoming peasant resistance to the new power of a modern state: military raids, secret police, informants, massive imprisonment (the country’s jails were filled to four times their capacity), and the systematic use of torture” (1991, 97). The colonial forces feared large, potentially uncontrollable crowds, a fear that they instilled in the elite Egyptian classes, who through being educated in British-established schools began to despise and fear their own lower classes. As literature scholar Robert J. C. Young sums up, “Colonialism was a machine: a machine of war, of bureaucracy and administration, and above all power . . . it was also a machine of fantasy, and of desire. . . . This desiring machine, with its unlimited appetite for territorial expansion, for endless growth and self-reproduction (1995, 98), whetted the appetites of Europeans to possess great wealth and peoples whom they controlled on many levels. Colonialism—The Gift That Keeps on Giving

I want to provide the reader with some of the broad strokes of colonialism, but with specific references to codes of masculinity, homosexuality, and effeminacy, and how colonialism made an impact on the role of the public entertainer. Historian Nicholas B. Dirks reminds us, “Colonialism was neither monolithic nor unchanging through history. Any attempt to make a systematic statement about the colonial project runs the risk of denying the fundamental historicity of colonialism, as well as of conflating cause with effect. It is tempting but wrong to ascribe either intentionality or systematicity to a congeries of activities and a conjunction of outcomes that, though related and at times coordinated,



were usually diffuse, disorganized, and even contradictory” (1992, 7). The reaction to race and miscegenation differed between different European nations, and even in different historical periods within the same group. Thus, in the split between colonizing the mind and the body, I will focus more on the former aspect. The goal of colonial enterprise, aside from the obvious vulgar activity of extracting economic wealth from the conquered and occupied colonies, became wrapped in robes of the White Man’s Burden and the civilizing mission, a burden that justified raw physical force, torture, and murder. Timothy Mitchell in his magisterial volume, Colonizing Egypt, also stresses that an important aspect of colonialism was that Europeans displayed natives, including public entertainers, in huge world fairs and exhibitions that drew millions of viewers, a practice that continued well into the twentieth century (see Rydell 1984). “By the late nineteenth century the Oriental dancing girl was not just an image in a painting or a photograph, but could be seen in the flesh at many of the great exhibitions held in Europe and the United States in this period, where ‘live’ displays of ‘native arts’ became popular features of the entertainments on offer,” writes Sarah Graham-Brown (1988, 179). The directors staged the exhibitions, starting in London in 1850, so that the juxtaposition of the primitive, colonized bodies stood in stark contrast to the West’s progress in manufacturing and invention. Elaborate street scenes, with objects brought from Cairo and other cities, and musicians and dancers became prime objects for display (see also Columbian Gallery 1894). In considering the effects of colonialism, the populations of the Middle East, North Africa, and India did not face the colonial invaders and occupiers with total passivity. There always existed various forms of resistance, sometimes physical, but also in complex and sometimes highly effective acts, both group and individual, to resist the colonial authorities. Sexually Out-of-Control Natives

Above all, the Europeans believed the natives to be sexually out-ofcontrol, an intractable problem for those attempting to utilize the civilizing mission to discipline the natives. And, they wanted clean and healthy native women to sexually service their largely unmarried troops (see Alloula 1986; Dunne 1996; Karayanni 2004; 2005; 2009).


As a result of the civilizing mission, we can find European standards of moral behavior that were practiced in the Victorian period even today among Arabs, Persians, Turks, Pakistanis, and Indians, long after they have been abandoned in the former metropolitan centers. According to Derek Hopwood, “To the West the Muslim harem was originally synonymous with licentiousness. . . . The women of the Middle East fascinated male travelers from their earliest journeys. The mysteries of the veil and harem, neither of which they could penetrate, led to the wildest fantasies” (1988, 135, 147). However, since this same belief in out-ofcontrol sexual behavior jump-started sexual tourism to these regions, as well as a European market in erotica featuring women and young men, this should give the reader pause as to whose sexual behavior was out of control. Most readers are familiar with English and French colonialism in India, Egypt, the Levant, and North Africa that Said so effectively critiqued. However Orientalism (1978) omitted to mention the colonialism that Russia, and later the Soviet Union, practiced in the Caucus and Central Asia. Russia’s expansion into several Islamic areas, Crimea, the Caucus, Astrakhan, and Central Asia, began in the eighteenth century and, according to Svat Soucek, holds “an analogy to the ‘winning of the  West’ by the United States . . . and stood squarely in the psychological context of Europe’s contemporary ‘scramble for the colonies’” (2000, 195). We will also look at the ways in which the intelligentsia of Persia, Egypt, and Ottoman Turkey made efforts to change the ways of their countrymen. This was a result of losing land and military power, which deeply shamed them. Many members of the intelligentsia felt that the only way to recuperate that power and their independence was to model themselves after Europeans, participating in companionate marriages that were alien to them, educating women, and in every way emulating Europeans, even dressing like them, to restore their pride. This affected sex and gender roles throughout this region. Central Asia

“The real conquest of Turkestan only began after 1847” (Hambly 1969, 202). The southern portion, unlike the mass migration of Russian peasants into Kazakhstan, did not see large Russian settlements because it was unsuitable for European agriculture, with one exception: cotton.



Transoxania became “a supplier of raw materials for Russian industry and a consumer of Russian products, after the classical colonial pattern” (Soucek 2000, 203). What Svat Soucek did not point out was that the serious environmental degradation due to depleted soils, and especially the overuse of scarce water supplies, has caused Lake Aral to shrink to almost one-third of its former size. A colonial presence, still in place in the Communist era, could also be seen in the way in which the Russians built the cities like Tashkent, Samarqand, and Bukhara. Timothy Mitchell, in a penetrating analysis of the meaning of the division between the native and colonial areas of town, whether Cairo or Tashkent, states, The native town is described in terms of the fears and prejudices of the colonizers, who represent those whom they exclude as the negatives of their own self-image: the natives crowded together like animals, they are crouching and kneeling like slaves, they are without sexual restraint. . . . The identity of a modern city is created by what it keeps out. . . . In order to determine itself as the place of order, reason, propriety, cleanliness and power, it must represent outside itself what is irrational, disordered, dirty libidinous, barbarian and cowed. (Mitchell 1991, 165)

The colonial encounter has neither been good nor healthy for Central Asia. The Ottoman Empire

The history of the Ottoman Empire’s encounter with the colonial powers differs in several crucial ways from the Qajars and Mughals. Perhaps most importantly, the Ottoman Empire itself was a colonial project, something that many scholars forget. But, unlike France and Great Britain, they did not carry out a civilizing mission that marked, and to some degree cloaked, the naked brutality of European colonialism. They had no desire to change the religious status of their large Christian populations, so long as they proved economically productive. As Christians in a Muslim-majority state, they paid extra taxes and did not serve in the military. The Ottoman state was built on the millet system, which meant that individuals were assigned to a particular millet (people) primarily by their religious affiliation, rather than an ethnic one. The result of this system was that only the elite had an Ottoman identity. The various


Christian groups identified with their millet. This exclusion made it impossible to build an inclusive Ottoman identity in which both Muslims and non-Muslims could participate. Ottoman elite identity was that which was sought after by the ambitious, while the Muslim masses had a “Muslim” identity. Turkish nationalism and ethnic identity was a very late development in Turkish history. Many individuals equate Ottoman with Turk; however, the two terms are not the same. The Ottoman elite was made up of many ethnic groups because the system of devşirme, in which the Ottoman government “harvested” Christian children, essentially slaves, to train for their janissary armies and administrative positions, some even reaching top positions in the government, meant that Slavs, Albanians, Greeks, and others became Ottoman through education and training. Unlike the other Asian states, the Ottoman Empire was also a European power; its territories included much of southeast Europe. Thus, it was necessary for the Europeans to treat the Ottomans as a participant and a partner in their diplomatic ballets, not as a space to be colonized like Egypt or North Africa, at least until the end of World War I. The Mughal Empire

Aurangzeb, the last of the six most powerful Mughal rulers, lived into his nineties. Reportedly, he worried about the succession. He had every right to do so. His successors showed weakness, but more crucially, the empire descended into fratricidal chaos. Khafi Khan, a chronicler of Aurangzeb’s strong reign, commented on one of the new sultans, “It was a time for minstrels and singers and all the tribes of dancers and actors . . . worthy, talented and learned men were driven away, and bold impudent wits and tellers of facetious anecdotes gathered round” (qtd. in Keay 2000, 364). The time of the public entertainers had arrived, which as Khafi Khan indicated, constituted a social and cultural disaster for the Mughals. The cultural centers of Mughal culture shifted to the cities of Lucknow and Jaipur, in which the local rulers, nawabs, following the fashion of the Mughal courts, supported the arts until the end of the nineteenth century. The powerful courtesans, the tawa’if, ruled society until the British Raj destroyed them. There follows a period of both Hindus and Muslims resisting colonial rule in myriad ways from passive resistance to street rioting. The



founding of the Indian National Congress in 1885 brought the Hindu and Muslim communities into conflict. By the time the British knew that it was time to leave in 1947, the Hindus and Muslims could not find a way to work together. The Muslims, beginning in the late 1930s, demanded a separate state. Pakistan declared its independent state on August 14, 1947, and India the next day. Contours of Masculinity, Homosexuality, and Effeminacy and Colonialism

The contours of masculinity, effeminacy, and homosexuality that existed for the past 2,000 years throughout this region continue to characterize it. I am attempting to draw more nuanced contours around idealized masculinity to account for a variety of other traits: appreciating poetry, being an excellent horseman, a pigeon fancier, or a generous host. My goal is to give a more rounded analysis of what constitutes idealized masculine behavior in the ancient Mediterranean and the Islamic Middle East even today. This idealized masculinity was often expressed in language referencing the phallus as a symbol of domination. Anthropologist Ghassan Hage tells us that “In many masculine forms of domination, ‘having what it takes’ to be the legitimate holder of patriarchal power within the family and society is captured with metaphorically phallic language” (2006, 115). However, these ideals of masculine behavior are altered because of colonial contact, which has the effect of feminizing men, in particular. Colonialism is an effeminizing process because the colonized cannot protect themselves and their women. One of the problems with this feminization of men is that it can result in violence against women, as men become more inclined to vent their frustration in this way. This is especially so when men feel that they have been stripped of their masculinity and honor by stronger men, whether Westerners or Israelis. Almost all writers on the topic of masculinity in the Islamic world detect a strong element of misogyny in those cultures. In Pakistan, this impotence “is expressed in a sexual rage against women’s bodies or the despair of a particular sort of depersonalized homosexuality . . . [and] impel the popular Islamist to demonstrate his ‘masculinity’ vis-à-vis women in the most macho ways, verging on the grotesque” (Ahmed 2006, 28–29). And, in fact, this often led to a long and arduous journey


from societies attempting to regain their masculinity, their power, and their self-esteem through emulation of Europeans on every level. Homosexuality and Effeminacy

The contours of homosexuality and effeminacy remain as they have been described in previous chapters, but now there are efforts on a number of fronts to alter men’s behavior (women are not even considered in this equation). However, these attempts at change require long periods of time. Most individuals regard their sexuality and sexual behavior as “natural,” and it is difficult to persuade most people to alter that which seems “natural” to them. The Muslims were aware of European disapproval of their homosexual and homoerotic cultural expressions as seen in dance and theatre, for example. European colonial administrations worked assiduously to co-opt elite classes into their program, and as Bruce William Dunne notes, “Far more effective in undermining the long history of social acceptance of homosexual practices in Egypt was the rise of new professional and middle classes championing the values of their European counterparts. Homosexual practices would be found incompatible with the ‘new’ or reformed Egyptian ‘character’ upon which the modern Egyptian ‘nation’ was to be constructed” (1996, 108). Educational indoctrinating systems, clearly delineated by Timothy Mitchell (1991), were crucial to the changes in domestic reconfiguration. Afsaneh Najmabadi tells us that in Iran, “In the nineteenth century, homoeroticism and same-sex practices came to mark Iran as backward; heteronormalization of Eros and sex became a condition of ‘achieving modernity,’ a project that called for heterosocialization of public space and a reconfiguration of family life” (2005, 3). Thus, as in Egypt (Dunne 1996; Mitchell 1991), in Iran many writers urged heteronormalization even when their own sexual desires differed; it was one of the main paths to modernization, and for the deeply patriotic individual, a means for regaining pride in their ethnic identity and nation. Complicating this picture, and often ignored by many writers, is that many of the Europeans who participated in the colonialist project were themselves homosexuals (in the modern sense), and they could practice this more readily abroad than at home. The dancer now comes to stand in for all that is backward, evil, and immoral in the discourses of the colonial powers, the increasingly



educated and westernized elite, and conservative clergy and their supporters. However, change came very slowly. As Najmabadi notes, “This profound heteronormalization of sensibilities was never fully ‘accomplished’ at the level of either gender or sexuality. . . . It took a century for many of these sensibilities to change” (2005, 55). Changing what was “natural” to what became “unnatural” required a great deal of time. Contexts for Performance

From the Abbasid period to the present day, the majlis (pl. majalis), that is, social gatherings, both public and private, continued to serve as a popular venue for experiencing traditional entertainments. In addition, those who hosted life-cycle events like marriage and circumcision ceremonies, unless rigidly pious, hired musicians and dancers to show appropriate happiness to celebrate these socially significant events. Large public events like the mulid, a type of religious celebration at Tanta, Egypt, and many other locations in that country, drew huge crowds, which worried colonial authorities, and one of the major

Figure 6.1 Egyptian ball. Ghawazi dancers in the streets of Cairo described by many European travelers. Courtesy of the author.


features was the large number of public entertainers who plied their trades there. In addition to the entertainers, many merchants and hawkers set up booths to conduct business. Certain public entertainers appeared in marketplaces and public squares, which one can still see in locations like Marrakesh in Morocco. Coffeehouses and taverns continued to serve as gathering places for public entertainers to amuse audiences. Anthropologist Karin van Nieuwkerk tells us “The nightclubs started to develop in the late nineteenth century. As a result of the Egyptian government’s efforts to institutionalize the entertainment places, in connection with the British presence in Egypt and the expansion of tourism, the existing variety theaters grew into the present nightclub circuit. The Western cabarets left their mark on their Egyptian counterparts” (1998, 26). A similar pattern emerged in Iran at a later date, without government intervention. Toward the end of the period, new venues, generally European-style formal theatres, were built, like the Opera House in Cairo. They featured European rather than native types of performances, and artists had to be brought from Europe in order to perform them. The first cinema opened in Tehran in 1905.

New Performing Arts

Military bands were among the first new genres to be introduced because they were associated with the upgrading and modernizing of the military. That is how European brass instruments were introduced into the region in many cases. In Iran, in the last two decades of the nineteenth century, local elites began to enjoy operettas produced and composed in the neighboring Caucasian areas of Armenia and Azerbaijan, in Armenian and Azerbaijani Turkish, utilizing Armenian actresses and Muslim male performers. Muslim women could not appear, unveiled, on stages during this early period (Meftahi 2014 forthcoming). Without elite support, some of the types of performance slowly faded, and their practitioners, in some cases, as with the elegant courtesans of Lucknow in the weakened Mughal empire, were slowly reduced to the role of prostitutes who sang and danced for a living. They are now called nautch girls rather than tawa’if to indicate this change.



Figure 6.2 An Indian nautch dancer. Courtesy of the author.

In other cases, as in Egypt, enterprising individuals like Badi’a Masabni altered and modernized the traditional dances of the ghawazi and khawals, and created a new European-inspired venue for its performance: the nightclub. She also inaugurated the unique notion of having performances for all-female audiences, which in an Islamic context became a very popular feature for elite Cairenes. Theatre

Many theatre historians concur that drama begins with storytelling, certainly one of the earliest forms of acting. In the Middle East, storytellers, sometimes using a cane, sometimes with an assistant holding paintings, enact the story in a histrionic fashion with changes of voice for the different characters, imitate various dialects, and use rising and falling tones as they narrate the tale. Storytellers held audiences in thrall in coffee- and teahouses, as well as bazaars and marketplaces throughout the region. In this period during the nineteenth century, in Ottoman Turkey and Iran, at least, we find the emergence of an indigenous theatre, in Turkey called ortaoyunu and in Iran ru-howzi. It is bawdy, strikingly similar to commedia dell’arte, improvised, filled with slapstick, and topical. And


notes, “Performance of a topic or an event on the agenda as a social and political satirizing is one of the main characteristics of Ortaoyunu” (1999, 85). It was this function, the satirizing of hypocrisy and the improvisational aspect of the performance, which meant one never knew what was coming next, that worried officialdom who attempted to, but could never, control the proceedings.2 Throughout these descriptions, we can also see that entertainers had multiple skills and talents, one of the major points that I emphasize in this study about the public entertainer. As William Beeman observed of the Iranian ru-howzi theatre performers: “The entertainers who enact the performance are also musicians, and during the other house of the celebration provide music and occasionally, other kinds of entertainment, such as acrobatics, for the enjoyment of the guests” (2011, 136). In Egypt, our indefatigable English observer Edward William Lane describes a similar style of theatre performed by mohabbazin, in which stock characters from Egyptian life perform an improvised farce. And, like many Europeans, he dismisses them as “low and ridiculous farces” (1860 [2003], 388). He nevertheless understood that these farces sometimes carried a deeper meaning: “This farce was played before the Basha [pasha] with the view of opening his eyes to the conduct of those persons to whom was committed the office of collecting the taxes” (390). Thus, theatre became a means by which the players called public attention to abusive behavior by public officials, and, in general, to expose social and religious hypocrisy. Other Entertainments

Lane, who lived in Cairo several times during the first half of the nineteenth century, provides detailed descriptions of the many types of public entertainers whom Egyptians enjoyed. In addition to music and dance, snake charmers, and magicians who performed “Several indecent tricks with the boy [assistant] I must abstain from describing: some of them are abominably disgusting” (385), meaning they had a homoerotic content. He also described jugglers, rope dancers, fortune tellers, strong men, the already-mentioned mohabbazin (farce actors), storytellers, and puppet shows (Karagöz). Lane provides us with a wealth of detail as to how magic tricks are performed, relates musical examples, and tells the plots of stories, farces, and puppet shows. It is not uncommon for writers to mix the terms “entertainment,” “amusement,” and “pastime.”



Public Entertainers

Ethnomusicologist Sasan Fatemi reminds us that even today in Bukhara, the fabled city that lies in today’s Uzbekistan and Dushanbeh, Tajikistan, the female entertainers, called sazanda, continue to be Jews. And while the male entertainers in the past were also Jews, so many of them have left for Israel or the United States, that their places have been taken by Shi’ite Iranians, and Shi’ites, among an overwhelming Sunni majority, constitute another disadvantaged population. Even more abject were the dancing boys, frequently orphans, who, aside from the sexual services they had to provide, which placed them in the category of penetrated males, were rigorously trained from childhood to perform the extremely athletic dances, which included many gymnastic feats. The extreme poverty of the area caused parents either to sell or abandon their boys. Dancing boys, under the onslaught of the European, and eventually the native elite, were met with disapproval as they sought to achieve heteronormativity for their societies. While visible at the beginning of the twentieth century, they faded from view, or were reduced in number, in places like Egypt and Iran, or banned under colonial authorities. In Afghanistan, the dancing boys are largely concealed, but still extant, since those who patronize them understand that Westerners disapprove of the practice. Emelie Mahdavian encountered dancing boys in Tajikistan as well (Personal communication November 15, 2013). Still other groups, like the truly cross-dressed and/or transsexual hijras, buggas, and zenanas of India and Pakistan, remain employed, if despised, and as I stress throughout this study, they are recruited from the most abject members of society. Even though these classes of cross-dressed performers perform what we might call traditional music and dance, in no case were they untouched by Western contact. The public entertainers banded together in groups or guilds in most of the areas, as they had in ancient Rome. In Bukhara, ethnomusicologist Theodore Levin tells us, “popular singers provided entertainment to male company at toys [celebrations], working sometimes with groups of dancing boys (bachas). Both singers and dancing boys belong to a well-organized performers’ guild (ghalibxana). . . . Women had their own performers: dancer-singers called sazanda entertained female guests at toys” (1996, 102).


The emir of Bukhara kept the best musicians and dancers in his own ghalibkhana. Levin says, “According to Rempel’, up to twenty bachas— most of them orphans—and around forty musician (dayradast) were housed in the ghalibxana. These bachas not only performed for the emir and his circle but, with permission from the mirshab, the chief of the night patrol in the emir’s police force, they were loaned out to perform at the toys of well-to-do Bukharans” (1996 298, n.13). Thus, we can see that the guilds were used for many purposes, including booking performances, sometimes housing performers, and providing mutual protection. Very often, like all other guilds, including those of prostitutes, the ruler taxed them. We also see that the very numbers of entertainers indicate the important place they had in society—no real celebration was complete without the presence of entertainers to mark happy and auspicious occasions. Religious minorities in the Middle East and Central Asia suffered certain disadvantages: they could not ride horses, only donkeys; they had to wear specific items of clothing in specific colors to mark their identity; and above all, they were regarded as ritually impure. Houman Sarshar writes, “The religious prohibition and moral condemnation of recreational music had potentially far reaching effects on the heritage of Persian music. . . . For the next three to four centuries [after the Safavid dynasty], therefore, much of the music in Iran was performed, preserved, and developed by dhimmis [non-Muslim ‘peoples of the book’]—Armenians, Zoroastrians and, most of all, Jews. . . . As a result of their marginalization from Muslim society and the multitude of oppressive restrictions that were imposed upon them, many Jews thus became professional musicians” (2002, xxi). We see a similar history in Bukhara and other parts of Central Asia (Levin 1996, 90–92) and in Baghdad (Zubeida, 2002). “Shirazi Jews have long been considered the finest musicians in all of Iran; they are said to have best preserved the classical Persian art music tradition” (Loeb 1972, 5). As a result of being a musician (motreb), however, even among the Jewish community that Loeb interviewed, most believed that, “He is too friendly with the dancers, many of whom are known to be prostitutes. In the past, musicians were suspected of participating in orgies, both heterosexual and homosexual” (1972, 9). As one can see, the role of the public entertainer in the eye of the general public conferred upon the performer the charges of gender and sexual irregularity.



Karim Shireh’i

Karim Shireh’i who was a native of Isfahan was one of the most famous court jesters in Iranian history. His last name shireh’i refers to shireh, “molasses.” “It could have come from the sweetness of his humor and buffoonery” (Martin 2007, 471). Historian Vanessa Martin notes that he was “full of character, brave, straightforward, forthright, and able to stand up to powerful courtiers” (2007, 472). He would have needed those qualities because he made fun of the high and mighty, exposing their abuses and foibles, but Naser ad-Din Shah valued him highly and protected him. From the time that he served as the intimate and jester of Naser adDin Shah from 1881–1893, his cleverness and ability to make people, especially his employer the shah, laugh, became legendary. According to historian Farrokh Gaffary, he was “tall and thin, wore colorful clothes of odd design, and rode a donkey” (“Dalqak.” Encyclopedia Iranica. Updated 2011). He, like all of the public entertainers, could perform a number of skills including acting, juggling, music, and comedy. “Indeed, they [the jesters] learned their trade as part of the world of entertainment of the ordinary people at their social gatherings, festivals, and ceremonies,” says Martin. (2007, 470) He is still known as the author of the Baqal-bazi, a play that the shah requested frequently. He was appointed to the head of the naqqarehkhaneh, the traditional military wind band, and he mediated quarrels among the motrebs, the public entertainers. To this day, his humor and jokes are legendary, and he stands as the ideal figure of the jester. His jokes and skits often exposed problems and abuses against the poor, allowing the Shah to take action, an important role that he played. Music Islam

There has always existed, within an Islamic context, a great deal of philosophical and theological discussion surrounding the legality and desirability of a pious Muslim listening to or playing music. Writing in the 1830s, Lane notes, “they regard the study of this fascinating art (like dancing) as unworthy to employ any portion of the time of a man of sense; and as exercising too powerful an effect upon the passions, and leading a man into gaiety and dissipation and vice” (1860 [2003], 353).


One hears and reads such sentiments over and over, even today (see Choudhury 1957; Marcus 2007, ch. 6; Shiloah 1995, ch. 4). Music historian Ruhollah Khaleqi tells us that this ambiguity caused by clerical pronouncements was the “greatest injury” to Persian music and caused many people to play in secret (1974, 15). Regionalization of the Great Musical Tradition

This is the time period in which local and regional styles develop. The Great Musical Tradition was most probably developed by a large number of individual musicians contributing to the musical discourse of the period, which lasted into the eighteenth century. While it is interesting to propose links to antiquity, it is important to keep in mind the changes that occur. For example, Emperor Babur tell us, “Mulla Yarak played a tune he had composed in the panjgah mode on a mukhammas. . . . Shortly thereafter I wrote an air in the chargah mode” (2002, 303). We cannot tell how close the panjgah and chargah, which Babur pinpoints, are to today’s chahr gah and rast panjgah in Persian art music; they may constitute very different modes. Jean During also tells us that “Biographical records of many musicians show that they circulated between Herat or Samarqand and Cairo, serving a prince for a few years, then trying their luck somewhere else. . . . It was only a result of later divisions that each nation or region developed its own original music, despite many common points that still bind them together” (1991, 36). Thus, we can see that those who participated in the Great Musical Tradition could find places in courts from Istanbul to Delhi and Samarqand to Cairo and Cordoba during the preceding period. Great changes occurred throughout the eighteenth century, a time of political and social upheaval, so that by the first decades of the nineteenth century, Lane encounters a musical form identifiably similar to today’s art music, and using the same instruments encountered today in Egypt in the small basic takht orchestra (see Marcus 2007, ch. 7). Ethnomusicologist Scott L. Marcus pinpoints the change more precisely in the Eastern Arab world: the maqamat system that we know today, “dating from roughly the mid-1700s, includes all of the twelve notes per octave of Western music, but achieves the additional twelve notes per octave by subdividing the Western intervals into quarter steps” (2007, 19). My notion that there was a single, classical music tradition developed in the Abbasid period and that it continued into the early modern



period is supported by ethnomusicologist During, who states, “This fact indicates that in the past, the different traditions of classic Oriental music had a certain unity which is no longer apparent. Formerly, a musician from Tabriz [Iranian Azerbaijan] could try his luck in Bukhara or Baghdad (as did Maraghi or Safioddin), whereas now he would find no employment” (1991, 31–32). This indicates that local Ottoman, Safavid, and Mughal styles had slowly evolved into what became modern Turkish, Arab, and Persian music Musicians can no longer move comfortably between courts; the musical language has become as alien as the spoken languages. The most important point for the reader to take away is that, in spite of claims of antiquity for the classical music systems of the Middle East, most of what we hear today developed relatively recently, and slowly. Lane gives us his own positive personal reaction: “I must confess that I generally take great delight in the more refined kind of music which I occasionally hear in Egypt; and the more I become habituated to the style, the more I am pleased with it” (1860 [2003], 354). His reaction to the music was not common to most Europeans. He then goes on to provide us with the most detailed and exact description of all of the musical instruments he found in Egypt. What he describes constitutes the classical takht, one or two vocalists and a small basic orchestra— qanun, ney, percussion, ‘oud, and kamancheh—that one can hear today in Cairo, or for that matter, Los Angeles. More typical of European reactions are those of C. J. Wills, a physician who plied his trade in Persia (1866–1888): “a band of musicians, some twenty strong, made night hideous with their strains and singing” (1883, 114). He later relates that, as he approached the room of one of his patients, “Dancing-boys and singers, shrieking the noisy love-song of Persia in chorus, were keeping up the spirits of my patient” (246; emphasis in original). Musicians

Musicians, as all public entertainers, are surrounded by suspicion. Lane states, “The male professional musicians are called ‘Alateeyeh;’ in the singular, ‘Alatee,’ which properly signifies a ‘player upon an instrument;’ but they are generally both instrumental and vocal performers. They are people of very dissolute habits; and are regarded as scarcely less disreputable characters than the public dancers” (Lane 1860 [2003],


354). Many of them were probably dancers when they were young, for it is  frequently remarked that dancers become musicians when their looks fade. ‘Awalim and Ghawazi

Although a great deal of confusion and conflation exists, in nineteenthcentury Egypt vocalists were categorized as ‘almeh (plur. ‘awalim), which some have translated as “learned women,” when, in fact, they were women who had memorized, and perhaps composed, lyrics, and as we have seen with the qiyan of the medieval period, they were much in demand for those talents. In the first decades of the nineteenth century, the meticulous observer Lane writes, “There are also female professional singers, These are called ’awalim’. . . . So powerful is the effect of the singing of a very accomplished ‘Almeh, that her audience in the height of their excitement, often lavish upon her sums which they can ill afford to lose. There are, among the ‘Awalim in Cairo, a few who are not unworthy of the appellation of ‘learned female,’ have some literary accomplishments. There are also many of an inferior class, who sometimes dance in the harem: hence travellers have often misapplied the name of ‘alme,’ meaning ‘’almeh,’ to the common dancing-girls” (1860

Figure 6.3 Ghawazi dancers of Cairo. Courtesy of the author.



[2003], 355–356). Lane also indicates that the ‘awalim generally sang for women only, or for men behind screens. The ghawazi, who also sang, were the “common” dancing girls to whom Lane referred, and they did dance in public and were also prostitutes, which drew sexual tourists like Gustave Flaubert to Egypt to see them dance and experience them sexually (see Flaubert 1996, 115–132; Karayanni 2004, ch. 2). In her outstanding studies of female entertainers, Nieuwkerk shows how the terms “’almeh” and “ghawazi” changed, and became interchangeable and conflated over time to fit into new social situations in which the public entertainers found themselves. “Female performers are no longer a celebrated community of learned women. On the contrary, in presentday Egypt, female performers are generally regarded as ‘fallen women’” (1998, 21). Nieuwkerk characterizes the ‘awalim at the beginning of the nineteenth century: The first stratum consisted of ‘awalim, whose main activities were writing poetry, composing music, improvising, and singing. They also danced, but only for other women. They often played instruments to accompany their songs, and they were greatly esteemed for their mawwal, or improvised songs. . . . They were audible, but not visible, to men. . . . There was also a category of female performers between the ‘awalim and the ghawazi. This group consisted of lower-class singers and dancers, common ‘awalim who performed for the poor in working-class quarters. . . . With the opening of the nineteenth century, this group of common ‘awalim and the number of dancer prostitutes seem to have increased. . . . The word ‘alma (‘alima) lost its original meaning of ‘learned woman.’ At the beginning of the nineteenth century, its meaning changed to ‘singer-dancer.’ By the 1850s, the word denoted a dancer-prostitute. The fading distinction between the ‘awalim and the ghawazi and the growing number of common singer-dancers led to the expulsion of all to the south. The banishment further erased the distinction between performers and prostitutes. (1998, 22–23)

This was the situation when Flaubert encountered the famous ‘almeh, Kuchuk Hanim3 and her professional rival, Azizeh. As in Egypt, in Iran during this period there were female troupes of musicians and dancers who performed for women in the women’s


quarters. As I stressed throughout this study, the public entertainers frequently came from minority groups because such a profession was deemed improper for Muslims. In his meticulous chronicle of music in Iran, Ruhollah Khaleqi, who was a musician and composer who chronicled all of the public entertainers and musicians of the Qajar period, writes that two of the best groups were led by women. They were Ostad (master musician) Mina, an Armenian, and Ostad Zohreh, a Jew, who between them had over fifty female performers who “had all of the instruments for entertainment, tar, sehtar, kamancheh, santur, zarb [goblet drum], singers and dancers” (1974, 17). They were resident in the shah’s harem. We see the ability of dancers to play instruments and sing as part of their repertoire; Flaubert remarks on Kuchuk Hanim playing the darabukeh (goblet drum) to accompany one of the other dancers (1972, 116). In all likelihood, as she aged and her looks faded, she would have joined the ranks of musicians as well as served as a teacher to the younger dancers. Unconsciously, Edward Browne provides us with proof that musicians, particularly vocalists, were more highly regarded than dancers, although frequently entertainers fulfilled both positions, especially if they were young and handsome. “Sometimes dancing boys are present, who excite the admiration and applause of the spectators by their elaborate posturing, which is usually more remarkable for acrobatic skill than for grace, at any rate according to our ideas. . . . Occasionally the singer is a boy; and, if his voice be sweet and his appearance comely, he will be greeted with rapturous applause. At one entertainment to which I had been invited, the guests were so moved by the performance of the boy-singer that they all joined hands and danced around him in a circle” (1893 [1984], 120). In the hierarchy of art, over and over one sees music valued over dance, singing over the playing of an instrument. This may have impelled those with the talent to master all of these skills in order to compete. Dance

Perhaps more than all of the other forms of performance, dance served as a lightning rod, for Europeans to demonstrate either shock and indignant moral repugnance or cultural superiority because the dances were not as fine as European ones. Derek Hopwood tells us that, “Rana



Kabbani claims that the dance became invested with an exhibitionism that fascinated the onlooker: he saw it as a metaphor for the whole East” (1999, 130). However, European travelers, more than native chroniclers, give us some idea of the movements of the dancers, and frequently they provide all three responses—shock, repugnance, and superiority. On a whispered order being given to the servants four Susmani girls and a buffoon now appeared. These commenced a kind of posture dance, the buffoon singing and making remarks, which produced a good deal of laughter from the host and his brother, but were unintelligible to me, and simply disgusting, as Pierson told me, who could understand. The girls were pretty in a way, brunettes with large eyes; their faces were much painted, and they were fine girls, their ages were from twelve to seventeen. Their dance had no variety, they spun round, the hands high in air, while the fingers were snapped with a loud report . . . standing with the feet motionless, the body was contorted and wriggled, each muscle being made to quiver, and the head being bent back till it almost touched the ground; the fingers being snapped in time to the music, or tiny cymbals, some inch in diameter, were clashed between the forefinger and thumb of each hand. . . . The girls now showed some skill as equilibrists, balancing full glasses, lighted candles, etc., and an exhibition of posturing was gone through. They stood on their heads and walked on their hands’ they then danced a scarf-dance. . . . The buffoon re-entered, disguised in a remarkable manner. He seemed a figure some four feet high, with a face huge . . . . This was, in fact, carefully painted on his bare abdomen, the whole surmounted by a gigantic turban . . . but what was our astonishment when we saw the dismally stupid face expand into a grin, which became at length a laughing mask . . . the figure assumed the most ludicrous contortions. . . . It was only afterwards on seeing the man disrobe, that we made out how it was done. . . . The four dancers now became rather too personal in their attentions, and begged for coin. . . . We both pronounced them monotonous and uninteresting. (Wills 1883, 114–115)

I quote this passage at length because it provides us with a great deal of information. First, they found the music “hideous” and “deafening.” The dancing was described as “monotonous” and “uninteresting,” and the buffoon’s dialogue “disgusting.” Second, in describing the movements, he provides valuable corroboration with period paintings, which in the Qajar period feature dancers more frequently than in the


past, and they are shown in the positions that Wills describes. Third, the presence of the buffoon performing a dance in which by moving and contorting his abdominal muscles, he makes the facial features painted on his stomach move, reflects a dance frequently described by folklorists that was performed by women in the harem and male public entertainers in the streets. Browne, a Persophile, who wrote what is probably the earliest and most important history of Persian literature in English, unfortunately responded to dance with a typical European response, but at least he fills in our lacunae of the movements, which enables us to compare the description to what we view today. In 1887–1888, while visiting Persia, he witnessed several performances of dance for which he leaves vivid descriptions. The dancing-boy cannot have been more than ten or eleven years old. When performing, he wore such raiment as is usual with acrobats, with the addition of a small close-fitting cap, from beneath which his black hair streamed in long locks, a tunic reaching half-way to the knees, and a mass of trinkets which jingled at every movement. His evolutions were characterized by agility and suppleness rather than grace, and appeared to me somewhat monotonous, and at times even inelegant . . . he super-added to his ordinary duties the function of cup-bearer, which he performed in a somewhat novel and curious manner. Having filled the wine-glass, he took the edge of the circular foot on which it stands firmly in his teeth, and approaching each guest in turn, leaned slowly down so as to bring the wine within reach of the drinker, continually bending his body more and more forwards as the level of the liquid sank lower. One or two of the guests appeared particularly delighted with this manoeuvre, and strove to imprint on the boy’s cheek as he quickly withdrew the empty glass. (1893 [1984], 320–321)

And although Browne found the dance “monotonous” and “inelegant,” he did not recoil in horror at what were clearly the homoerotic responses of the guests to the boy’s dance, and he described the costume without resorting to the typical, “he wore women’s clothes,” although clearly the boy wore a specifically ambiguous costume. Further, he provides us with the information of the types of gymnastic movements that made the dancers popular with their audiences. It is during this period that we have the first photographs of dancers. They reveal how ambiguous their appearances were, to the point that



some photographs found in Medjid Rezvani (1962) and other sources variously label the same photographs as “dancing boys” or “dancing girls.” However, if they appear with male musicians, they are most likely boy dancers, and vice versa. For example, Sarah Graham-Brown (1988, 178) presents a photograph that most likely depicts male, rather than female, dancers, since Rezvani (1962 Plate XV) uses the same photograph as Graham-Brown and labels it “itinerant (male) dancers (danseurs ambulants).” Photographic evidence also demonstrates that itinerant bands of entertainers plied their trade in the countryside as well, a practice that continued in the second half of the twentieth century (see Mortensen 1993, 365–373). In Egypt, both male and female performers executed a version of belly dancing, and they danced the same style. Graham-Brown states, “Western images of Middle Eastern dance are dominated by the danse du ventre—the ‘belly dance’—which was generally thought of as obscene or shocking” (1988, 178). Lane first saw the ghawazi dance in the 1820s: “Their dancing has little of elegance; its chief peculiarity being a very rapid vibrating of the hips, from side to side. They commence with a degree of decorum; but soon, by more animated looks, by a more rapid collision of their castanets of brass, and by increased energy in every motion, they exhibit a spectacle exactly agreeing with the descriptions which Martial and Junvenal have given of the performances of the female dancers of Gades” (1860 [2003], 377). This description ties in with the descriptions provided by Magda Saleh in her dissertation on Egyptian dances (1979, 150, 154), the films of the contemporary ghawazi seen in Aisha Ali’s film Dances of Egypt, and an early film made in 1898 by Thomas Edison and included in Ibrahim Farah’s film. Flaubert was fascinated with these dancers, and sought private performances so that he could also have sexual intercourse with them. Describing the movements of the dancer, Kuchuk Hanim, he writes, Kuchuk’s dance is brutal. . . . She rises first on one foot, then on the other—marvelous movement: when one foot is on the ground, the other moves up and across the shin bone—the whole thing with a light bound. . . . Another dance: a cup of coffee is placed on the ground; she dances before it, then falls on her knee and continues to move her torso, always clacking the castanets, and describing in the air a gesture with her arms as though she were swimming. That continues, gradually the head is lowered, she reaches the cup, takes the edge of it between her teeth, and then leaps quickly with a single bound. (1972, 115–119)


Thus, many of the same feats, balancing or lifting filled glasses and cups, deep back bends, hand stands, and other athletic tricks seem to appear throughout all of the areas we are describing. In addition, Flaubert tells us that Kuchuk performs “The Bee,” a type of dance in which the dancer pretends that there is a stinging insect in her clothing, and she removes her garments one by one to get rid of it, in a kind of striptease, and further that he is going to request the male dancer, Hasan el-Balbeissi, with whom he was also enamored, to perform it for him as well (1972, 117). In Iran, there is a similar dance called “murcheh dareh” (“There is an ant”), that was performed in the women’s quarters, and most likely in the former red light district as well (Anjavi-Shirazi 1972; Safa-Isfahani 1980;Shay 1995; 1999). Based on this basic movement vocabulary, Badi’a Masabni and others alter the dance to a more theatrical, modern version, called cabaret belly dance. Egyptian dance ethnologist Magda Saleh writes, “Thus it would ensue that the Ghawazi practice a distinctive form of ‘belly dance’ peculiar to themselves” (1976, 133). I suggest, rather, that the dance of the contemporary ghawazi is the traditional dance of the nineteenth century that was common to all performers of that period, and the cabaret style of belly dance, based on many of the movements of the ghawazi tradition, constitutes a new invented tradition. But I must agree with Saleh’s assessment that “The dancing-girls of Egypt have attracted the most attention (admiring, incredulous, or censorious) and there exists far more reference to their art in the literature than all the other dance forms put together” (1976, 123–134). In Iran and the Ottoman Empire, miniature paintings show dancers in animal masks, and sometimes skins, depicted as goats and monkeys cavorting among the boy dancers in Ottoman festivals. While, as historian Richard Ettinghausen notes, early scholars attempted to link these figures to shamanistic rites or Sufis (1984), the fact that they are playing clappers points to professional entertainers who are entertaining the audience. One also sees clown-like figures wearing conical hats. I suggest that some of the boy dancers as they aged and their looks faded, took on these comedic roles to earn their daily bread, for they had the skills to play the clappers. The fact that they are dancing together in the same scenes suggests that they belong to the same entertainers’ troupes that existed in Istanbul, Cairo, and Tehran. One exception to the repugnance that Europeans showed to both the dance tradition and the dancers, whom they often found vulgar



and lascivious, is the exceptional case of the classical dance of Mughal Northern India and its courtesan performers, the tawa’if. Many writers use the term kathak to talk of this dance tradition; however, it seems more likely that that term is more applicable to the twentieth-century revival, based on the nautch tradition. Like the classical music forms of the Middle East for which many individuals claim ancient origins, Indian dance, too, is of much more recent origins: “But the devadasis’ artistic heritage is not particularly ancient. Their traditions—including the repertoire of particular music and dance forms and the performance of dance at specified moments in temple ritual—seem to have been developed and codified in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries” (Orr 2000, 103). Thus, Leslie Orr concludes that “Despite the fact that temple women are so frequently referred to as ‘dancing-girls’—or more respectfully, ‘temple dancers’—in scholarly and popular literature, the inscriptions of medieval India only rarely refer to them in this way” (ibid.). The “secular counterparts of devadasis were nartakis, some of whom got elevated to the rank of Raj-nartakis, court dancers” who both sang and danced (Nevile 1996, 24). “In the course of time, the institution of dancing girls became an accepted part of the Indian tradition. Educated and polished in their manners and art of conversation, they provided an intellectual feast for their patrons” (29). And, of course, they also provided sex because they were courtesans and public entertainers. Because dance in sacred contexts has no place in an Islamic context, and because the Mughal sultans, and later the Oudh rulers as a regional part of the Mughal empire, were connoisseurs of dance, the professional dancers, now tawa’if, or courtesans, in Martha Feldman and Bonnie Gordon’s (2006) terms, found a place in the courts. Pallabi Chakravorty points out that at the time of development of Nach (dance, later Anglicized to nautch), as dance was called in that period, the two most liberal forms of Hinduism and Islam, Bhakti and Sufism, fused: “The syncretic tradition of Sufi-Bhakti philosophy found a sophisticated expression in the dance that emerged in the royal courts. In fact, the Indo-Islamic artistic genre that flourished in the Muslim and Hindu courts of Lucknow and Jaipur, respectively, is the finest example of this Hindu-Muslim cross-fertilization” (2008, 37). This meant that the Krishna-Rama and similar themes continued as part of the dancing in the Mughal professional dances. She concludes, “Muslim royalty did not change the basic aesthetic concepts associated with Hindu ritual


practices of music and dance such as rasa, bhava and darshan (gaze), but secularized them and added technical complexity” (36–37). However, the descriptions of the dance in the eighteenth and the early nineteenth century stress its languorous, slow, and graceful aspects, whereas the twentieth-century version stresses the highly technical, fiery dance that turns and stops suddenly, and brilliant rhythmic footwork, indicating that kathak may be more of an invented tradition than a reconstruction of the past. Dancers Egypt

Dancers were the focal point of many tourists of the period; they had become famous due to the Europeans who wrote about them with a frisson part exoticism, part eroticism. Away from home, several of the European travelers lost their decorum, behaving badly, as the saying goes, and demanding that the dancers perform in the nude. Rumors were rife in Europe, when individuals wrote about witnessing the “Bee.” Marjorie Garber states that “A curious feature of this dance is its aura of taboo: the musicians and other necessary members of the dancer’s entourage are themselves veiled or blindfolded during the performance” (1991, 230). But, perhaps it is not so “curious” when one has lived in an Islamic society in which showing one’s private area, or unwittingly finding that someone has viewed it, is deeply shaming for most individuals. Even between husband and wife, “sight is permitted of the whole of the body except for the partners’ sexual organs” (Bouhdiba 1985, 37). Such feelings of shame are taught to a child every time she or he enters the bath; the parents teach a child how to cover him- or herself from the earliest age. In order to see the female dancers after 1834 when Muhammad ‘Ali banished them to the south, partly to make Cairo appear more proper in European eyes, and partly to satisfy the demands of the ulama, the travelers had to travel up the Nile to satisfy their various appetites for the exotic and the erotic. Nieuwkerk writes, “For several travelers, the main purpose of their journey to the south was to see the celebrated dancers. When they still performed in Cairo, the entertainers were relatively anonymous and scattered. In Upper Egypt, they were brought together and thus became visible and conspicuous. The names of famous performers—Kuchuk Hanim and Safia of Esna, Hosna il-Tawila of Luxor, and ‘Aziza of Aswan, for example—circulated among the travelers”



(1995, 34). Like the Safavids, Muhammad Ali taxed the entertainers, and in sending them out of Cairo, he took a serious loss in revenues. Such are the wages of sin. Writing of the ghawazi, Lane states, “I need scarcely add that these women are the most abandoned of the courtesans of Egypt. Many of them are extremely handsome; and most of them are richly dressed. Upon the whole, I think they are the finest women in Egypt. . . . Women, as well as men, take delight in witnessing their performances; but many persons among the higher classes, and the more religious, disapprove of them” (1860 [2003], 379). According to Nieuwkerk (1995), and as this study stresses, negative social attitudes toward public entertainers remain nearly 200 years after Lane penned his manuscript. Lane also writes of the male dancers, called khawal: They are Muslims, and they are natives of Egypt. As they personate [sic] women, their dances are exactly of the same description as those of the Ghawazee [sic]; and are, in like manner, accompanied by the sounds of castanets: but, as if to prevent their being thought to be really females, their dress is suited to their unnatural profession; being partly male, and partly female . . . There is, in Cairo, another class of male dancers, young men and boys, whose performances, dress, and general appearance are almost exactly similar to those of the Khawals; but who are distinguished by a different appellation, which is ‘Gink;’ a term that is Turkish, and has a vulgar signification which aptly expresses their character. They are generally Jews, Armenians, Greeks, and Turks. (1860 [2003], 381–82)4

Moreover, the Turkish male dancers were banished from Istanbul for causing riots among the janissaries, who were fighting for their favors. I suggest that this class of male dancers to which Lane refers were the banished dancers of Istanbul who were searching for new employment opportunities in Cairo. Today, the term “khawal” refers to a passive homosexual, echoing the use of kinaidos in a similar way in ancient Greece, in which that word, too, once referred to dancers. Kuchuk Hanim (Kuchuk Hanem)

Flaubert writes: Kuchuk Hanem is a tall, splendid creature, lighter in coloring than an Arab; she comes from Damascus; her skin, particularly on her body is


slightly coffee-coloured. When she bends, her flesh ripples into bronze ridges. Her eyes are dark and enormous. Her eyebrows black, her nostrils open and wide’ heavy shoulders, full, apple-shaped breasts. . . . Her black hair, wavy, unruly, pulled straight back on each side from a center parting beginning at the forehead. . . . She has one upper incisor, right, which is beginning to go bad. She asks us if we would like a little entertainment, but Max says that first he would like to entertain himself alone with her, and they go downstairs. After he finishes, I go down and follow his example. (1972, 114–115)

As Joseph Boone observes, “Perhaps nowhere else are the sexual politics of colonial narrative so explicitly thematized as in those voyages to the Near and Middle East recorded or imagined by Western men” (2001, 43). Flaubert tells us, in some detail, what the sexual experience was like. Kuchuk Hanim does not get to tell us anything about her impressions of Flaubert. She remains silent. Azizeh of Aswan

Another famous dancer is the Nubian, Azizeh. Flaubert states that “Her dancing is more expert than Kuchuk’s. . . . She begins. Her neck slides back and forth on her vertebrae, and more often sideways, as though her head were going to fall off; terrifying effect of decapitation. She stands on one foot, lifts the other, the knee making a right angle, then brings it down firmly. This is no longer Egypt; it is negro African, savage—as wild as the other was formal. Another dance: putting the left foot in the place of the right, and then the right in place of the left, alternately and very fast” (1972, 121). Flaubert, like most of the Europeans of the period, and throughout the colonial period, enjoyed the frisson of the “primitive,” the “savage,” and the “wild” that they found in the dances of the ‘almehs and ghawazi of Egypt. In another passage, he writes, an unveiled woman stopped beside me. She kissed my hand respectfully and said:“I am a dancer; my body is suppler than a snake’s.” Her dance is savage, and makes one think involuntarily of the contortion of the negroes of Central Africa. Sometimes she uttered a shrill cry, as though to spur the zeal of her musicians. Between her fingers her noisy castanets tinkled andrang unceasingly. “Cawadja, what do you think of Kuchuk Hanem now?” she cried, as she writhed her hips.



She held out her two long arms, black and glistening, shaking them from shoulder to wrist with an imperceptible quivering, moving them apart with soft and quick motions like those of the wings of a hovering eagle. Sometimes she bent completely over backwards, supporting herself on her hands in the position of the dancing Salomé over the left portal of the Rouen cathedral.” (1972, 154–155)

Thus, Azizeh transported Flaubert and his companions back to the dawn of time—a time of mystery and primitiveness. And, it is the reference to Salome that is key here, for it is her image that evokes the Biblical images that Europeans hoped to find in Egypt and the Middle East. Garber writes, “The story of Salome and her mesmerizing Dance of the Seven Veils has become a standard trope of Orientalism, a piece of domesticated exotica that confirms Western prejudices about the ‘Orient’ and about ‘women’ because it is produced by those prejudices, is in fact an exercise in cultural tautology” (1991, 228). Among all of this prose, one finds the descriptions that one can compare with filmed dances, valuable for historical reconstruction and the information it provides about the degree the degree to which dance has been altered for modern venues that come into being in the end of the period that this chapter covers. Hasan el-Balbeissi

Flaubert also hires the male dancer Hasan el-Belbeissi and a coworker, along with musicians: After our lunch on that same day we had dancers in—the famous Hasan el-Belbeissi and one other, with musicians; the second would have been noticed even without Hasan. They both wore the same costume—baggy trousers and embroidered jacket, their eyes painted with antimony (kohl). The jacket goes down to the abdomen, whereas the trousers, held by an enormous cashmere belt folded over several times, begin approximately at the pubis, so that the stomach, the small of the back and the beginning of the buttocks are naked, seen through a bit of black gauze held in place by the upper and lower garments. The gauze ripples on the hips like a transparent wave with every movement they make. The shilling of the flute and the pulsing of the darabukeh pierce one’s very breast . . . The dancers move forward and back. Expressionlessness under the streaks of rouge and sweat. The effect comes from the gravity of the face contrasted with the lascivious movements of the body; occasionally, one


or the other lies down flat on his back like a woman about to offer herself, and then suddenly leaps up with a bound, like a tree straightening itself after a gust; then bows and curtseys; their red trousers suddenly puff out like oval balloons, then seem to collapse, expelling the air that has been swelling them. Now and again, during the dance, their impresario makes jokes and kisses Hasan on the belly. Hasan never for a moment stops watching himself in the mirror. (1972, 69–70).

As we will see in Central Asia, most boy dancers had older companions who protected them and arranged their performances. These could have been parents; however, more generally they were orphans, and their “protectors” were guarding valuable property that they had paid to have trained. Flaubert’s description shows a similar state in Egypt. Later Flaubert writes: We have not yet seen any dancing girls; they are all in exile in Upper Egypt. . . . But we have seen male dancers. Oh! Oh! Oh!. . . . As dancers, imagine two rascals, quite ugly, but charming in their corruption, in their obscene leerings and the femininity of their movements, dressed as women, their eyes painted with antimony. . . . From time to time, during the dance, the impresario, or pimp, who brought them plays around them kissing them on the belly, the arse, and the small of the back, and making obscene remarks in an effort to put additional spice into a thing that is already quite clear in itself. It is too beautiful to be exciting. I doubt whether we shall find the women as good as the men; the ugliness of the latter adds greatly to the thing as art. . . . I’ll have this marvelous Hasan el-Belbeissi come again. He’ll dance the Bee for me, in particular. Done by such a bardash [berdache] as he, it can scarcely be a thing for babes. (1972, 83–84)

Flaubert was quite taken with el-Balbeissi dance for, after witnessing Kuchuk Hanim and her companions’ dance, he tells us, “All in all, their dancing—except Kuchuk’s step mentioned above—is far less good than that of Hasan el-Belbeissi, the male dancer in Cairo” (115–116). Said (and many others) wrote extensively of Flaubert’s encounters with Kuchuk Hanim, but tellingly omits his even more transgressive encounter with Hasan el-Belbeissi: “Said focuses on Flaubert’s heady account of his affair with the professional female dancer Kuchuk Hanem. . . . Yet Said overlooks the crucial fact that the first exotic dancer to catch Flaubert’s eye is not the female Kuchuk but a famous male dancer and catamite. . . . In this light, Said’s failure to account for homoerotic



elements in orientalist pursuits is a telling omission” (2001, 47–49; emphasis in original). First, it is possible that Said is exhibiting a basic homophobic reaction. Second, he might have feared that to raise the topic of homosexuality in the context of the Middle East might simply confirm the trope of Middle Eastern men as hopelessly addicted to homosexuality, as we have seen in many travel journals. Third, the possibility exists that when Said wrote Orientalism, homosexuality may have been a taboo subject. The boy dancers continued to perform well into the twentieth century. Sociologist Sami Zubeida relates, “At the beginning of the [twentieth] century some of these groups [of musicians] comprised Muslim and Jewish players, both of low status. They would sometimes be accompanied by a dancing female impersonator (sha’ar), wearing a wig, false breasts, much makeup and jewelry. The sha’ar was typically a male prostitute. . . . Female dancers, on the other hand, were uncommon or perhaps non-existent until the beginning of modern forms and venues of entertainment in the early years of the century” (2002, 216). A famous café owner, Sabi’, “soon added dancing boys in women’s dresses to his repertoire. In 1907, the biggest attraction was a Christian boy from Aleppo called Na’im, This boy was renowned for his beauty, charmed and seduced the Baghdadi public. One night, one of Na’im’s drunken admirers, from a prominent Baghdadi family, whose amorous advances had been repulsed, took out a gun and shot the dancer dead, to the sorrow and consternation of the public” (Zubeida 2002, 217). The dangerous lives of public entertainers can end in death. Colonial authorities in Baghdad and Cairo attempted to shut them down, but in the long run, as Najmabadi (2005; 2013) and Mitchell (1991) demonstrate, it is the native elite, adapting the morals and manners of the victorious colonial regimes that reject all that is not approved by the Europeans. Central Asia

One of the best, most detailed, descriptions of the dancing comes to us from Eugene Schuyler, who traveled through what was then called Turkistan in the 1870s. [T]he dancing begins. This is very difficult to describe. With flowing robe of bright-coloured variegated silk, loose trousers, and bare feet, and


two long tresses of hair streaming from under their embroidered skullcap, the batcha begins to throw himself into graceful attitudes, merely keeping time with his feet and hands to the beating of the tambourines and the weird monotonous song of the leader. Soon his movements become wilder, and the spectators all clap their hands in measure; he circles madly about, throwing out his arms, and after turning several somersaults kneels in facing the musicians. After a moment’s pause he begins to sing in reply to the leader, playing his arms in graceful movement over his head. Soon he rises, and, with body trembling all over, slowly waltzes about the edge of the carpet, and with still wilder and wilder motions again kneels and bows to us. A thrill and murmur of delight runs through the audience, an extra robe is thrown over him, and a bowl of tea handed him as he takes his seat. This first dance is called katta uin (the great play), in contradistinction to the special dances . . . the female attire once donned is retained for the remainder of the feast, and the batcha is much besought to sit here and there among the spectators to receive their caresses. Each dance has its special name—Afghani, Shirazi, Kashgari—according to the country where it is a national or of the story it is supposed to represent; but all are much alike, differing in rapidity, or in the amount of posture and gesture. The younger boys usually perform those dances which have more of a gymnastic character, with many somersaults and hand-springs; while the elder and taller ones devote themselves more to posturing, slow movements, and amatory and lascivious gestures. The dance which pleased me most, and which I saw for the first time in Karsh, as the Kabuli, a sort of gymnastic game, where two boys armed each with two wands strike them constantly in alternate cadence, while performing complicated figures, twists, and somersaults. In general but one boy dances at a time, and rarely more than two together, these being usually independent of each other. The dances, so far as I was able to judge, were by no means indecent, though they were often lascivious. One of the most frequent gestures was that of seizing the breast in the hand and the pretending to throw it to the spectators, similar to our way of throwing kisses. In some dances the batcha goes about with a bowl of tea, and choosing one of the spectators, offers the tea to him with entreating gestures, sinks to the floor, singing constantly a stanza of praise and compliment. The favored man hands back the bowl with thanks, but the boy slips from his proffered embrace, or shyly submits to be kissed, and is off to another. If the spectator is generous he will drop some silver coins into the empty bowl, and if he is a great lover of this amusement he will take a golden tilla in his lips, and the batcha will put up his lips to receive it, when a kiss may perhaps be snatched. (Schuyler 1876 [1966], 69–70)



Figure 6.4 A dancing boy from Bukhara. Courtesy of the author.

We have seen a lengthy description of the performances of the bachas of Central Asia. Now I want to concentrate on the ways in which the native audiences responded to them as an institution, calling once again on our observer the American Schuyler, beginning with his predictable expression of distaste. He writes, “In Central Asia Mohammedan prudery prohibits the public dancing of women; but as the desire of being amused and of witnessing a graceful spectacle is the same all the world over, here boys and youths specially trained take the place of the dancing-girls of other countries. The moral tone of the society of Central Asia is scarcely improved by the change� (1876, 70). In other words, he does not entertain the idea that men in this part of the world, as we have seen, prefer to have romances with youths, but rather that the phenomenon is due to a form of situational homoeroticism. He continues: These batchas, or dancing-boys, are a recognized institution throughout the whole of the settled portions of Central Asia, though they are most in vogue in Bukhara, and the neighbouring Samarkand. Batchas are as much respected as the greatest singers and artistes are with us. Every movement they make is followed and applauded, and I have never


seen such breathless interest as they excite, for the whole crowd seems to devour them with their eyes, while their hands beat time to every step. If a batcha condescends to offer a man a bowl of tea, the recipient rises to take it with a profound obeisance, and returns the empty bowl in the same way, addressing him only as ‘Takir,’ ‘your Majesty,’ or ‘kulluk,’ ‘I am your slave.’ Even when a batcha passes through the bazaar all who know him rise to salute him with hands upon their hearts, and the exclamation of ‘Kulluk!’ and should he deign to stop and rest in any shop it is thought to be a great honor. . . . The batchas practice their profession from a very early age until sometimes so late as twenty or twenty-five, or at all events until it is impossible to conceal their beards. . . . Frequently a batacha is set up as a keeper of a tea-house by his admirers, where he will always have a good clientele, and sometimes he is started as a small merchant. Occasionally one succeeds, and becomes a prosperous man, though the remembrance of his past life will frequently place the then odious affix, batcha, to his name. (1876, 70–73)

Schuyler’s description requires some analysis: First, the florid language “I am your slave” and so forth, is also a feature of the language of politesse that is used on an everyday basis, at least in the Persianate world. The second point of interest is that, as in ancient Athens, what strikes the reader is that those who patronize the boy-dancer give him a leg up in life through establishing him in a business. Third, the idea that the notion of his dishonorable profession, even to the use of baccha to his name, means his role as a penetrated male will haunt throughout his life. Schuyler does inform us that “It is not only boys who dance in Central Asia, girls and women do so as well; but their exhibitions are in general confined to the women’s quarters.” (73). Upon seeing such a performance with several female dancers, he concluded, “the dances were very similar to those danced by boys, though less vigorous and less graceful” (74). Another traveler to the area, Henry Lansdell, largely corroborates Schuyler’s observations, noting that, “Their appreciation of the batchas was intense . . . they could hardly have been made more of had they been the first stars of a London season.” He adds, “Whilst the batchas were dancing and putting themselves through various movements intended to be graceful, two men carried candles, dodging about to hold them close to the dancers, that their good looks might be admired, the candle-bearers themselves contorting their faces, and disporting themselves like clowns” (1887, 304).



The host also provided entertainers who performed acrobatics, a Hindu dance, and some “rude” comic acting. For “rude,” read bawdy. Under Soviet rule, the hiring of dancing boys became illegal, but as ethnomusicologist Sasan Fatemi notes, they simply went underground, and a female informant “described to me some scenes of masculine gatherings that were not exempt from obscenity” (2005, 231). Ethnomusicologist Theodore Levin noted that “ziyafat, gap, gurnung, or majlis, as intimate evening gatherings of friends for conversation, food, and music are variously called—had existed all along in the shadow of the official cultural life played out in concert halls and theaters, at public ceremonies and on radio and television” (1996, 35). The gap, or conversation, was one of the most popular masculine activities: “The ambience of the gap may vary from intimate and subdued to the far side of bacchanalian, depending on the inclination of the participants. Even in times of strict Islamic rule, some gaps featured wine and bachas (dancing boys)” (ibid). I saw a dancing boy on a visit to the Uzbek town of Urgench (1987) who was a member of a nongovernmental group of entertainers. One is reminded of scenes from the ancient Athenian symposium. Schuyler, who traveled to Central Asia in 1867, confirms the notions that the dancers practiced multiple skills of dancing, gymnastics, and singing. The importance of this professional dance tradition was that it formed the basis for the elaboration the dances found in the repertoire of the all-female professional dance companies that were founded during the Soviet period, minus the lascivious elements, of course.

Mughal India

In Mughal India, as we saw, the most successful tawa’if had luxurious lifestyles and held salons that included music, poetry, dance, and witty and intellectual conversation. A few of them became wives of the Mughal emperors. Copious paintings, executed by both native and British artists, attest to the popularity of Indian classical dance among both wealthy native aristocracies and merchants, as well as among the British throughout the eighteenth century and the first three decades of the nineteenth century when British rule began in earnest, to the point that Nautch parties became all the rage. “Unaffected by racial prejudice which had


yet to make its ugly appearance and cut off from the home country by months of travel, the men mixed freely with Indians on equal terms,” writes Pran Nevile (1996, 45). In part, the lack of British women in India contributed to the charms of the tawa’if, who provided art and sex. Even though the British describe the dance in terms that stress the refined aspects, there has always been an erotic quality to kathak, as befits a dance performed by courtesans. In India, under pressure from colonialism, traditional dance and its performers also fell from their positions as highly paid courtesans to common prostitutes. A number of factors led to the Anti-Nautch Movement of 1892. First, more and more English women were arriving in India, making the taking of a courtesan companion less necessary, and socially less acceptable. The geographic regions we have looked at in the age of colonialism— Egypt, Qajar Iran, the Ottoman Empire, Egypt, Mughal India, and Central Asia—underwent momentous changes as a result of their interactions with European colonialist powers. Within a few years of the end of World War I, all of these areas would be changed forever. All of these new governments embarked on programs of aggressive modernization and nationalism in order to discard the shame of colonialism, and to seize their rights to self-rule. There was no place for the traditional public entertainer in their modernist planning. “As modernity, nationalism, and colonial and bourgeois morality began to seep definitively across India in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, performing arts changed radically” (Morcom 2013, 11). However, in this they were only partially successful. As Morcom notes, the erotic arts became “illicit” and went underground.


The Twentieth and the Twenty-First Centuries: Modernity and Nationalism


wo of the most powerful forces that shape the background of the context for public entertainers and indeed for Middle Eastern, Central Asian, and Southeast Asian societies in the twentieth and the twenty-first centuries are modernity and nationalism. Nationalism theorists, like Ernest Gellner (1994), link the two, a position that I will challenge in this study. Modernity, which most of the Middle Eastern and South Asian governments sought, meant that they frequently turned their backs on traditional performers, deeming them an unhealthy reminder of a discredited past, often criminalizing their activities and driving their performances underground. In addition, based on Western models or direct adoption of Western performance genres, such as the Western symphony orchestra or the state-sponsored folk dance ensembles that originated in the former Soviet Union, newly independent governments in this wide region supported the creation of new, often hybrid forms of music, dance, and theatre to distance their nations from forms of traditional arts that individuals in those governments found embarrassing. As Morroe Berger observed of the new hybrid genre of dance created by Mahmoud Reda, which the government financially supported to distance it from cabaret belly dance, “This is because the government encourages instead the performance of a sort of folkloric dance that only vaguely resembles the belly dance; it offers no help to the real belly dance, perhaps in the hope that it will be confined to the tourist trade and the benighted masses� (1966, 43). This practice of substituting dance genres that constituted



invented traditions was followed by most of the governments under discussion. So how does nationalism link with modernity? Atsuko Ichijo and Gordana Uzelac state: “Literature on nations and nationalism tends to label modernism as the most dominant approach to the study of these phenomena. . . . In short, modernism claims that nations and nationalism have appeared as consequences of the processes that mark the modern period of social development� (2005, 9). If we can differentiate between premodern ethnic and national sensibilities, and modern nationalism, then I can agree with the above statement, for Iranian identity and national consciousness can be traced back historically, at least among elites, to the Achaemenids, while nationalism scholar Richard Cottam (1979) dates mass modern Iranian nationalism to the last decade of the nineteenth century. The development of nationalism in Turkey came later with the intense support of the government. What we mean by modernity, and for that matter, modern, constitutes a thorny issue in academia. This is an important distinction because even though some states may have some of the trappings of modernity, they cannot be classified as purely modern states. One of the major attempts to achieve modernity was to emulate Western standards of heteronormativity, as Afsaneh Najmabadi (2005) and Bruce William Dunne (1996) have so brilliantly delineated. Elite individuals socially engineered this change with a surprising degree of success, but the process took over 100 years to accomplish. This was largely achieved by the second half of the twentieth century, and required a century to accomplish. Standards of masculinity established in the ancient Mediterranean world and the early Islamic caliphal periods remained firmly in place, with the major difference that now women became the only acceptable objects of sexual interest for the majority of men throughout the area we are addressing in this study. Homosexual activity, but no homosexual identity, was common in much of the Middle East in the 1950s, but today such activity has largely gone deeply underground. In this scheme of heteronormalization, there was no place for the embarrassing male dancer and his effeminate attributes. We have seen through news stories coming out of the Middle East, such as Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s famous denial of the existence of homosexuality in Iran that he made on September 24, 2007, how deeply entrenched homophobia has become a general norm of expression throughout the region as a result of the process of social engineering.



Stuart Hall and Bram Gieben set out four elements that characterize modernity: 1. “The dominance of secular forms of political power and authority and conceptions of sovereignty and legitimacy, operating within defined territorial boundaries.” Thus, modernity takes place in the newly forming modern nation-state. 2. “A monetarized exchange economy, based on the large-scale production and consumption of commodities for the market, extensive ownership of private property and accumulation of accumulation of capital on a systematic, long-term basis.” 3. “The decline of the traditional social order, with its fixed social hierarchies and overlapping allegiances, and the appearance of a social dynamic social and sexual division of labour. In modern capitalist societies, this was characterized by new class formations, and distinctive patriarchal relations between men and women.” 4. “The decline of the religious world view typical of traditional societies and the rise of a secular and materialist culture, exhibiting those individualistic, rationalist, and instrumental impulses” (1992, 6). This latter condition clearly demonstrates that few of the states in the region fulfill this requisite of modernity. Above all it is important that modernity cannot be defined in economic terms alone, but rather modernity is caused by a combination of the articulation of the economic, the social, the cultural, and the political. Moreover, these elements do not move together in any neat fashion, but rather move at different rates in different times and different places, sometimes even coming to a halt. In other words, we find the continuities and discontinuities that I have stressed throughout this study in tracing the ways in which various societies do or do not achieve modernity. Kamran Talattof offers the observation that, due to the failure of a nation like Iran to enter the discourse of gender and sexuality, he is inclined to characterize Iran as “modernoid; a society that resembles a modern one in some areas but lacks other essential modern structures” (2011, 21). I think that Talattof has usefully defined the difference between the modern states, and those that attempt to emulate them. His term “modernoid” says it all.




I will suggest that nationalism varies as to content, and thus, I address nationalisms—different nationalisms can be based on language, religion, and historical symbols, among other elements. Nationalism scholar Liah Greenfeld states, “Nationalism is the most common and salient form of particularism in the modern world. . . . These qualities (social, political, cultural in the narrow sense, or ethnic) therefore acquire a great significance in the formation of every specific nationalism” (1992, 8). She emphasizes both the importance of nationalism and its variety: “It is nationalism which has made our world, politically, what it is—this cannot be put strongly enough. Within the complex of national phenomena itself, national identity preceded the formation of nations” (21). I would suggest, however, that states that were created by colonial powers might have a flag and issue passports, but they cannot qualify as having developed a sense of nationalism or modernity. In Afghanistan, for example, there exists a state—extremely weak to nonexistent—that has equated Afghan identity with Pashtun identity, and as anthropologist Nazif Shahrani points out, the Afghan “educational system had no political ideological orientation, other than Pashtun-based nationalism” (1986, 57). This has caused deep rifts and bitterness in Afghanistan, and much of the weakness of the state can be linked to lack of support among non-Pashtun populations, like the Tajik-Persian speakers who comprise a large part of the minority groups of the north and west.1 In Turkey, burdened with an Ottoman past and identity that could not be carried into the future, the Kemalists had to engineer a new modern Turkish identity, based on language and folklore, whereas the Iranians had a ready-made identity, created by elite literati, but appealing to all of Iranian society, across ethnic and linguistic borders, and they were able to create an Iranian identity and a sense of nationalism much more readily than the Turks (Shay 2002). Contexts for Performances

Much of the social context for the performances of public entertainers in twentieth-century traditional venues such as the celebrations for weddings and circumcisions remained popular, indeed indispensible for hiring public entertainers. Many individuals, including devout Muslims, feel that the presence of musicians and dancers is crucial to


the success of a wedding celebration and point to the Prophet Muhammad’s statement that a wedding should be accompanied by clamor. Public entertainers also frequently plied their trade in the marketplaces and coffee- and teahouses, and private gatherings continued to provide spaces for storytelling, poetry recitals, dancing, and music. The mulid, large quasi-religious festivals, in Egypt remains popular in large and small urban centers and among the poor and working class in Egypt. They are held near the tombs of holy men. “Mulid-goers will tell you that some kind of baraka, or blessing, can be found at the tombs of holy men, and that this baraka is infectious and can transform the lives of anyone who comes near it. Many pious and educated Muslims, on the other hand, see mulids as mass repression releases, solid examples of backwardness, and sacrilegious celebrations” (Sonbol and Atia 1999, 7). Mulids are certainly not part of mainstream Islam, and Coptic Christians have their own mulids, a fact that is little known. Here are the impressions of a mulid-goer: Flutes and drums and horses and processions. Snake charmers and trance sessions that lasted deep into the night. I saw an entire village out of the house, reveling in the streets. Dozens of men sitting, dancing, swaying, or singing. The mizmar, an oboe-like pipe, continuously blaring its provocative notes, accompanied by tabla, rababa, and nayy [sic]. The loudspeakers competing to send these sounds of drum, fiddle, and flute everywhere you turn. Trains of screaming children, hands on each others’ shoulders, jostling their way through the crowd. Everywhere I turned something was being sold—shiny, pointed, silver party hats, olives and every other kind of food, entrance into a magic show featuring talking snakes and Red Sea mermaids, a merry-go-round, and flying swings . . . (Sonbol and Atia 1999, 8)

Replete with huge processions and religious activities like zikr, these carnivals can be found throughout Egypt, and constitute a major form of entertainment and spiritual release, and work for entertainers, throughout the country. Clearly, despite the efforts of the British authorities to close down these huge carnival events under the guise of hygiene, they continue today unabated. Modern nightclubs and cabarets to a large extent displaced traditional coffeehouses for the elite and for young crowds, who sought modern venues for entertainment. They provided upscale entertainment, frequently a mix of local singers and dancers, alongside European entertainment acts.



Lastly, prostitutes in red-light districts often sang and danced as part of their profession. This added value to their work, and they were sometimes a feature of the pricier brothels. One can see this practice and the training of these women in the outstanding Merchant film Courtesans of Bombay. New contexts, which appeared toward the end of the colonial period—opera houses, proscenium arch theatres, symphony orchestra halls with modern acoustics, television and radio studios, movie theatres—appear and spread widely throughout the region marking new contexts for performances. These venues and their performances need not detain us because frequently, as in Iran, with which I am most familiar, these sites were largely restricted to elite Westernized individuals and foreigners, although educated people increasingly seek out these performances. The traditional classes did not generally attend Western-style concerts. The exceptions to these general observations are the radio, and later television, and films, especially films made for domestic consumption, which were very popular among most classes. In many ways film genres like the Iranian FilmFarsi were extensions of past practices with modern technology. Hushang Kavusi, who first coined the term FilmFarsi, states that he had in mind the movies that included nightclub and cabaret fighting and that held no artistic value. . . . FilmFarsi movies might also be compared to Bollywood films, some Elvis-style movies, and American soap operas. I contend that FilmFarsi and other popular art forms that dealt deplorably with sexuality in that decade [1960s–1970s] were not perhaps the best genres and media for the task of conveying messages about modernization . . . (Talattof 2011, 12)

These popular films that appealed to the urban working class, and had analogues in most of the regions that I address in this study, frequently featured public entertainers whose appearances in these films generally marked them in a negative fashion. Performance Genres

Some of these governments support newly imported Western genres such as classical ballet and symphony orchestras, and hybrid forms


that combine Western elements with traditional, that largely coexist in different contexts and venues. Several scholars such as Mary Masayo Doi (2002) for Uzbekistan, Ida Meftahi (2007, 2013) for Iran, and Christopher Stone (2008) for Lebanon have noted the role that the female performer can play in creating modernity and nationalism. As Stone notes this requires that, “women, in many different cultural contexts, are often burdened with largely metaphoric roles in the nationbuilding process. . . . At the same time they must be stripped of their sexuality or, at the very least, have their sexuality be placed in the service of the nation� (12). Since public entertainers, especially dancers, have been traditionally been linked to out-of-control sexuality, for the sake of the modern nation, the males must be erased and the female either transformed or hidden from public view. Even musicians, especially traditional ones, are linked to promiscuity and homosexuality (Loeb 1972). Thus, in Turkey, Iran, Lebanon, and Egypt, among other countries we see the rise of the state-supported folk dance ensemble (Shay 2002). In order to attract proper middle-class performers to these organizations, it was crucial that the governments create an aura of respectability around their performances. These companies featured spectacle, newly minted classical dance genres, and romanticized folk dances, all designed to produce sensations of nostalgia. These efforts were not always successful because Islamist and Muslim zealots saw as sinful any performances by females, no matter to what degree their costumes were not revealing, in front of males who were not related to them. Music

In music one of the sure signs of modernity was to establish symphony orchestras and build modern concert halls in which they could perform. In many instances, they served to mark the nation-state that supported them as modern. When I played in the Tehran Symphony, the state issued the tuxedos we wore, and the attendees at our concerts largely came from highly educated Iranians and foreign residents. Traditional indigenous classical music moved out of the palace and into the mainstream, particularly with the founding of radio and television stations and the production of phonograph records. This extended the listenership to increasing numbers of people, even into the countryside. Increasingly, this new version of traditional music featured large orchestras composed of a combination of traditional instruments



and western instruments. Musicians trained in both native and Western forms, and using the now-standardized classical modes that were discussed earlier, created Western-inspired musical works, as well as wholly traditional compositions, and these, like the symphony orchestra, became a hallmark of modernity (Fatemi 2013). The musicians who played in the radio orchestras of traditional music displayed modernity by being able to read musical notes, an important aspect of modernity that distanced these players from the traditional motreb performers, who were generally unable to read musical notation, and were held in contempt. Unlike the motreb players who played in low-class nightclubs and at weddings, the modern musicians trained in modern music conservatories, played in the radio station and in television programs dressed in tuxedos and evening gowns. However, in Central Asia, the Tajiks and Uzbeks resisted this attempt at the modernization of musical genres by their Soviet Russian colonizers, who wanted the Central Asians to either abandon their traditional music, such as the shashmaqam system that had originated in the fifteenth and the sixteenth centuries, or modernize (“Russify�) it. When the Tajiks and Uzbeks resisted, the Russians lashed out at them. Ethnomusicologist Johanna Spector notes, Such Russian attacks concentrated upon the stubborn preference of Central Asians for traditional music and texts, monophony instead of polyphony and harmony, liking for a throaty manner of singing, and microtonal and heterophonic orchestra music. . . . The critics decried local fascination with the maqam musical culture and its glorification and accused Uzbeks and others of intentionally avoiding the composition of Western types of operas or performance of Western ballets. (1994, 480)

The Russians forcibly required the local musicians to play tempered instruments, adopt large Russian-style orchestras, and learn Western notation in the music conservatories, just as those enrolled in Uzbek dance conservatories had to learn Western ballet. It is important to note that these various musical genres can take on political and social coloration, with class, gender, and ethnic dimensions, as Martin Stokes has demonstrated in his study on arabesk music in Turkey (1993). In Iran, I have identified several types of indigenous forms of popular music—kucheh bazari, songs identified with lowerclass contexts, most often performed by male vocalists in low-class


nightclubs who sing actual Arab, or Arab-inspired, songs with Persian lyrics; motrebi, songs performed by motrebs, that is, public entertainers; kafeh’i, songs that constitute a modern development of motrebi music and whose female performers are widely regarded as prostitutes; tasnif, a type of rhythmic song that can range from the traditional art song to a popular melody sung in the Persian modal system; Westernized pop music with Persian lyrics (pop); and mahalli, actual folk or folkinspired songs that become popular in urban contexts (Shay 2000b). It is important to distinguish between these types of music because they form a high/low hierarchy. Kamran Talattof, in his study of the film actress Shahrzad, states that while a few actresses who had a genuine theatre background were “referred to respectfully as banu (ladies). Singers, especially those in pop and popular music such as Mahvash and Afat, in contrast . . . received derogatory titles such as zanan-e kafeh-i (bar women) or fahesheh and kharab (prostitute and rotten) and were often the subject of disparaging gossip” (2011, 177–178). I well remember this type of gossip adhering to singers. Vocalists, particularly female ones, were still regarded with suspicion, and in order to be defined as artists and escape the onus of the public entertainer, had to carefully craft a public image that was compatible with respectability. Ethnomusicologist Virginia Danielson, in her brilliant study of Umm Kulthum, demonstrates the strategies that the famous Egyptian diva pursued in order to present a respectable face to the world. For example, her father, “al-Shaykh Ibrahim’s anxiety at risking his daughter’s reputation by allowing her to appear before public audiences [was] a problem he addressed in part by requiring that she dress in a boy’s coat and Bedouin head-covering. Al-Shaykh Ibrahim’s misgivings must have been exacerbated by the low esteem with which their compatriots regarded musicians, male or female” (1997,  30). Reputations could be broken by the contexts in which the public entertainer appeared. Dancers held an even lower position, and rarely managed to avoid negative reputations. Islamic societies look upon women vocalists with suspicion as part of a larger social problem with music and dance. Ethnomusicologist Laudan Nooshin observes: Above all, music is often taken to have an excess of emotional power that requires control for the well-being of societies . . . social anxieties over music (and dance) are paralleled with anxieties concerning



gender, particularly in relation to women. Thus, women and music both represent problematic areas and often share a positioning as discursive ‘Other. . . . Thus, control over both music and women become important symbols of social and political control . . . (2009, 3)

The Iranian theocracy does not permit women to sing as soloists because of the fear that their voices will excite men’s sexual emotions, drawing them away from the contemplation of God; men must be protected from women’s wiles. Male musicians, too, are suspect, as they had been in the ancient Mediterranean. Stokes states, “Male musicians are with great frequency portrayed in societies in which gender hierarchies simultaneously constitute the basic symbol and fact of domination as men without social power, passive homosexuals and transsexuals, or at the very least, inappropriate choices for a husband” (1997, 23). Thus, he supports my major theme in this study that public entertainers to this day are considered as socially abject, sexually suspect, effeminate individuals—a legacy that has continued throughout this vast region for at least three millennia. Dunne notes, “Effeminate men who voluntarily and publicly behaved as women (mukhannaths) gave up their claims to membership in the dominant male order. They ‘lost their respectability [as men] but could be tolerated and even valued as entertainers’—poets, musicians, dancers, singers” (1998, 10). The theme of the state supporting the arts to lend respectability is a theme that occurs over and over during this period, because the state needed middle-class artists to support its modernizing project, and the artists represented all of the best in the modern state. Fairouz (also spelled Fayrouz and Fairuz; née Nuhad al-Haddad, 1935)

I have chosen to briefly profile Fairouz [the spelling on her website], because, quite simply, I am a huge fan of her wondrous voice and artistry. I have seen her in live performance. Born in Lebanon into a poor, Syriac Orthodox family, she sang in school recitals. While she was singing in a school recital, the head of the Lebanese Music Conservatory noticed her in 1950, and with some reluctance, her father permitted her to attend. Halim al-Roumi, the head of the Lebanese Radio, and a


well-known musician, heard her there and appointed her to a position in the chorus of the radio. He chose “Fairuz,” as her professional name. Shortly after this, she was introduced to the two Rahbani Brothers, Asi and Mansour, musicians, composers, performers, and arrangers. Asi composed several songs for her, and especially the song “’Itab,” which became an instant hit throughout the Arab world and secured a place for Fairouz in the music field. She worked with the Rahbani Brothers professionally for over a quarter of a century, until 1979. She married Asi in 1955 and had four children, one of whom, Ziad, also a musician, now composes much of her music, and a daughter, Reema, a film director and photographer, with whom she also works. Her first large-scale performance was given at the prestigious Lebanese Nights of the International Festival at Baalbek, in the ruins of the great temple there. She performed there annually until the Civil War (1975–1980), and appeared not only in concert settings but also starred in the many operettas that the Rahbani Brothers composed for many years (see Stone 2008). In many ways, she has become a symbol of Lebanon, but Christopher Stone in his penetrating study, Popular Culture and Nationalism in Lebanon: The Fairouz and Rahbani Nation, argues that that symbol was one that was forged when the Maronite Christian population was in power, and that her performances, created by the Rahbani Brothers, in many ways stoked the political cauldron and religious and ethnic tensions that sparked the disastrous civil war. In contrast to Stone, music writers Sami Asmar and Kathleen Hood (2001) depict her as a unifying presence. Interestingly, Fairouz did not leave Lebanon during that entire period, when many other wealthy people sought sanctuary abroad. “[S]he did not seek shelter outside the country and refused to perform for the interests of the factional warlords. This reflected on her ability to rise above local divisions and showed the power of art in uniting people in conflict” (Asmar and Hood 2001, 306). Her repertoire is wide ranging and includes classical and newly written muwashshahat [music set to poetry said to originate in al-Andalus], Lebanese folk songs and folk-inspired folk songs, many songs composed in Arab maqamat (modes), and Westernized popular songs by the Rahbani Brothers and by other composers such as Sayid Darwish and Abd al-Wahhab, and purely Western songs, including some with jazz elements that her son Ziad composed for her in her later career.



When she appears in concert, always in loose-fitting, long-sleeved evening dresses, she stands nearly motionless and showing little emotion, which I argue became a deliberate means of establishing respectability that must be continuously earned in an environment in which public performers are frequently held in ill repute. Asmar and Hood observe, “Fairuz shied away from public events and maintained a serious demeanor, in part due to her upbringing and also as a deliberate choice to create a certain image for herself. She reacted to criticisms that she lacked expression on stage by saying that she preferred to concentrate more on her singing than moving her body” (2001, 307). Much of the color of the evening is provided by the large Arab orchestra and chorus and a dance unit that performs highly staged versions of the dabka, the Levantine line dance that has become emblematic of Lebanese identity. Her unique voice and vocal technique constitutes one of the most familiar sounds throughout the Middle East. Dance

The public entertainers that we have encountered throughout this study—the actors, dancers, musicians, often all rolled into one—continue into the twentieth and even the twentieth-first centuries. The courtesans, the tawa’if whom we met in the Mughal Empire in the previous chapters, have fallen on hard times in the last decades of the nineteenth century and in postcolonial India, and are now referred to as nautch dancers, “nautch” meaning dance. In much of the scholarly literature the nautch dancers are treated as if they disappeared with the anti-Nautch legislation of 1947 and 1956. However as Davesh Soneji’s exemplary study, Unfinished Gestures: Devadasis, Memory, and Modernity in South India (2012), demonstrates, they are still with us, although they suffer terrible stigma and disadvantage, their public performances criminalized. Belly Dancers

Belly dancers through modernizing their performances and finding new contexts, such as modern nightclubs, tourist boats and hotels, and films, have continued to find performance venues in countries like Egypt, Lebanon, and Turkey. Nevertheless, they find themselves


under continual pressure from Islamists to cease performing (see Shay 2002, ch. 6). Anthropologist Karin van Nieuwkerk notes, “in many Mediterranean countries, a concern with controlling women’s sexual behavior can be discerned in the Islamic world” (2003, 267). Even the traditional belly dancers, the Ghawazi, continued to perform well into the late twentieth century in much the same way that Gustave Flaubert describes their performances that I detailed in the last chapter (see Aisha Ali’s film created in the 1970s). Badī’ah Masabni (1894–1975)

Badī’ah Masābnī was a professional actress, singer, and dancer from the Levant. As with most public entertainers, she came from a poor and abusive childhood in Damascus. Fleeing this past, she settled in Egypt in the 1920s and eventually opened a highly successful nightclub, Casino Badī’ah. The highlight of the variety shows, which featured both Egyptian and European dances, acts, and skits were performances in which she often starred, especially as comedienne. Masabni is associated with the modernizing of belly dance from a static nineteenth-century dance to a new dance genre that became known as cabaret belly dance, with hundreds of thousands of devotees and practitioners around the world. The new dance genre, often called raqs sharqī (oriental dance), which was included in her nightclub revue and later in Egyptian films, often featured a soloist accompanied by a chorus line, incorporated movements from ballet as well as elements from Hollywood films, and involved a new use of space. Traditional belly dance also focused largely on the lower body: “the Egyptian danseuse used to dance only by shimmying the belly and buttocks” (Basila 1960, 297, qtd. in Dougherty 2000, 251). In contrast, Masābnī innovated the use of graceful movements of the hands and arms, and adapted ballet movements such as turns for the belly dance genre. She also greatly expanded the dancer’s use of space, rejecting the static quality of the nineteenth-century practice in which the dancer often stood in one spot. Finally, Masābnī’s choreography often featured a solo dancer with a chorus of dancers behind her—an idea that had been previously foreign in traditional Middle Eastern dance. She is known to have trained her own dancers and created choreographies for the floor shows in her salah [nightclub], and later for the earliest Egyptian films that featured belly dancing.



Masābnī also revolutionized the costume that is familiar to filmgoers and viewers of belly dance performances by dancing in an elaborately decorated brassiere with a long skirt slit up the sides, and a coin girdle. Traditional belly dance, which dates back to at least the mid-nineteenth century, was largely improvised, while many cabaret dancers utilize set choreographies. These innovations became standard in both cabarets in Egypt and abroad, as well as in Egyptian and foreign films. Her tumultuous life was profiled by the media throughout the Arab world, and she seemed to care little for the public scandal she created. In 1926 from her earnings as a dancer and actress, and contributions from male admirers, she opened her famous nightclub. The form of her nightclub, particular to Cairo, was known as salah or salat. The primary attractions of this type of nightclub were the elaborate variety floorshows featuring singing and dancing. Masābnī had the skill and vision to create spectacular productions, often borrowing freely from Hollywood films. She augmented the financial success of her performances by introducing special weekly matinee performances for women-only audiences. In 1935, Masābnī produced a film, Malikat al-masārih (Queen of the theatres). Although this film was not a success, Masābnī generously helped promote dancers and singers who later dominated the Egyptian cinema and recording industry. Two of the most famous dancers she helped were Tahia Carioca and Sāmīah Gamāl. Singers included Farīd al-Atrash and Leila Mourad. She also successfully toured throughout Egypt and the Middle East. Shahrzad (Kobra Sa’idi, 1946)

I turn to Kamran Talattof ’s invaluable biography and analysis of gender and sexuality of Shahrzad, an actress and dancer in Iran’s infamous FilmFarsi industry. Talattof tells the tale of this actress who aspired to be an intellectual, publishing three volumes of poetry, film scripts, and a novel. Shahrzad’s life was as ugly and filled with pain and shame as Tamara Khanum’s was filled with honors and artistic success. She was born in the south of Tehran in very poor circumstances and brutalized by her father, who forced her to dance in his drinking establishment as a prepubescent girl. She carried the effects of his beatings throughout her life, and seemed to have had little parental supervision.


She was married several times, and found no happiness in her marriages. Through her dancing skills, she landed a job at Café Jamshid, as well as acted in plays in the Lalehzar, Tehran’s prerevolutionary theatre district. She was offered roles in films by the many filmmakers who attended the Café Jamshid, and soon performed in over 20 films. Talattof writes that “It is thought that her father may have taken her to the cabaret where she landed her first dancing job, and she herself testifies that she was dancing in the clubs and cabarets at the age of 15. . . . Shahrzad apparently first acted as a stunt dancer or filling a crowd in a tango or similar dancing scene” (2011, 119). Shahrzad’s principal vehicle for performance was FilmFarsi, which were extremely sleazy, poorly made, and generally poorly acted. They depicted nonmodern dancing and singing, and many of the scenes were dances staged in the kafeh, low-class canteen-like nightclub settings, in which the actresses danced and sang (or often lip-synced) in the presence of the luti, roughneck semi-thugs and gangsters. The dancers (raqaseh) were always depicted as oversexed, out-of-control, fallen women who ensnared men with their sexual wiles. In a word, FilmFarsi can be considered sexploitation films. Shahrzad apparently directed a serious film, Maryam and Mani, in 1978, just before the Revolution of 1978/79, and Talattof tells us that it is nowhere to be found, but that he has evidence by those who viewed it that it was a fine product. Her earnings in the film industry enabled her to travel to Europe. She collected books, and read widely even though she did not earn a diploma. After the Revolution, during a demonstration against veiling, Shahrzad was arrested, and according to a fellow prisoner, Maryam A., in the fearsome Evin Prison she was subjected to torture and sexual abuse. Talattof writes, “A guard then tells Maryam not to think of defending Shahrzad. He says, ‘She is a prostitute and has a bad name. We arrested her in the demonstration against veiling. We have several films of her dancing in the cabarets. She has been proved to be ‘Corrupt on Earth,’ but still has a big mouth’” (2011, 78). After her incarceration they placed her in a mental hospital, seized all of her prize possessions, which consisted mostly of her precious books, then threw her on the streets, homeless. Talattof, in his sympathetic biography, sums up: “the literary and cinematic communities have not stopped perceiving Shahrzad as anything



more than the revealing dancer of FilmFarsi ‘gone mad,’ a fact evident in her trouble with the authorities, other artists, postrevolutionary artistic communities, her financial situation, and her homelessness” (2011, 208). I include Shahrzad’s biography because it illuminates the case that I attempt to make throughout this study that public entertainers frequently come from abject backgrounds, and undergo slings and arrows as moralists, like the religious authorities in Iran, who attempt to muster public indignation against the scandalous lives of the public entertainers, holding up those lives to enforce their rigid strictures on proper behavior. Dancing Boys

As I have shown in this study, dancing boys, popular for not only their performances but also for sexual pleasure existed throughout this entire area, and despite efforts by colonial governments, and later newly established independent states for which they were an embarrassment, their existence and popularity remained. Explorer Wilfred Thesiger in his famous study of the Marsh Arabs of Iraq, among whom he dwelled for nearly a decade in the 1950s, describes one: His hair, combed and scented, hung round his shoulders; his breasts were padded and his face was made up. He looked like an affected girl and behaved with the mincing mannerisms of a female prostitute, but he certainly could dance. He used a pair of castanets in each hand, the mark of the professional since no village lad used them. Strangely enough, his gestures were far less erotic than those of the boys I had watched at Awaidiya. Much of his dancing was a gymnastic display of a high order. The comments I overheard, however, left no doubt about his other proclivities. (1964, 125)

All of this description should sound familiar because it echoes the descriptions and appearances of the dancing boys of Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, and Afghanistan to the present day. The dancing boys of Iran have largely disappeared under pressure of colonial attitudes and those of the native elites. Levin notes that most of the Uzbek dancing boys were orphans (1996, 298, n.13). Historian Dan Healy relates the Russian/Soviet response to the dancing boys and their performances.


In Central Asia in the late 1920s, after longer battles to establish Soviet rule, Bolshevik legislators drafting criminal codes departed significantly from the language of modernity in their work. Activists here confronted traditions of entertainment and commercial sexuality. . . . Uzbeks and Turkmen young male prostitutes, bachi [bacheh/baccha], were organized into brothels or dancing troupes by procurers who recruited boys with the collusion of parents and guardians. Bolshevik legislators were determined to eradicate this form of male prostitution as one of the region’s ‘crimes constituting survivals of primitive custom’. . . (2001, 159)

The image of the bacheh is no longer welcome in contemporary Uzbekistan’s nation-building process. Laura Adams describes one attempt to represent them in a theatre piece: Mikhail, a theater director, told me about a stage designer he know who tried to use the “wrong” heritage when he participated in a fashion festival. His work was based on Oriental themes such as the baccha, the dancing boys who were part of the urban culture of sexual relations between men and boys in prerevolutionary Turkistan. “It is after all, an authentic part of local historical culture, and there’s no denying it was exploited in the past with postcards and the like, before the Soviet period. But the government doesn’t want to see bacchas [sic] as part of their heritage,” Mikhail said. (2010, 66)

Hiromi Lorraine Sakata, in describing professional musicians, who are also held in ill repute, describes one named Baidola. “He fell in love with a Kandahari dancing boy whom he proceeded to kidnap and bring to Herat. He finally served a jail sentence for fighting the dancing boy’s Kandahari lover, but he managed to keep the boy with him in Herat” (2002, 89). Ethnomusicologist John Baily notes that during the Taliban period, “The most obvious illicit music was bacheh bazi (lit. ‘boy play’), the performance of a transvestite dancing boy, wearing ankle bells, padded breast and make-up. Dancing-boy parties were prohibited by the authorities in Herat and were likely to be raided by the police, the dancer and his accompanists arrested and fined or sent to prison for a short term” (2009, 146). It should be noted that the practice remains widespread; however pressures from the West and zealous Islamists has made this practice more covert.



In support of my notion that with the appearance of the beard, many boy dancers, unless very charismatic, trained younger boys and/ or became musicians, who were also morally suspect. Bruce Koepke notes that “Often kesbi [professional] performers were bache bazi and upon the onset of adulthood and the development of a beard would become musicians. As elsewhere in neighboring Muslim nations, due to the musicians’ low standing and as a result of the provision of music and dancing services, they were sometimes also unjustly stereotyped as engaging in prostitution and other immoral practices” (2000, 97).2 Koepke noted in the performances that he viewed, the musicians also danced, which indicates that many of them had formerly been dancers. The same dancing boys still exist in Afghanistan, where they are trained to entertain male clients and to be sexually available (Koepke 2000; Sakata 2002). Well into the twentieth century, especially beautiful young dancers were castrated to preserve their looks, although that practice seems to have ceased (see Dupree 1975; Baldauf 1990). Anthropologist Louis Dupree’s 1975 film, Afghan Village, features scenes of this genre, and his outtakes, housed in the Smithsonian Institution, feature a full dance sequence in which the all-male audience raptly looks on. A recent YouTube appearance, among dozens of video clips, entitled “raqs-e bacheh-ye afghani,” showed this dance in recent guise as a teenage boy in tight suede pants gyrated his buttocks and articulated torso movements for an appreciative and rapt audience of men in a Kabul hotel (viewed December 17, 2013). Hijras and Khusras

While relatively little research has been done on the dancing boys of Afghanistan, the hijras of India and the khusras of Pakistan, essentially the same institution, have been widely covered, including in several documentary films (Brown 2005; Nanda 1999; Reddy 2005). Typical of the public entertainers whom we have encountered, they combine sex work with performance. The hijras and the khusras dress in women’s clothing, and unlike other male dancers whom we have encountered who dress in an ambiguous fashion when they perform, the hijras and khursras attempt to emulate women as closely as possible. In addition, they live in groups that are highly organized, and they are under peer group pressure to undergo castration, an expensive, painful, and sometimes fatal operation.


Anthropologist Gayatri Reddy describes them, For the most part, hijras are phenotypic men who wear female clothing and, ideally, renounce sexual desire and practice by undergoing a sacrificial emasculation—that is, an excision of the penis and testicles— dedicating it to the goddess Bedhraj Mata. Subsequently they are believed to be endowed with the power to confer fertility on newlyweds or newborn children. They see this as the “traditional” ritual role, although at least half of the current hijra population (at least in Hyderabad) engages in prostitution, which hierarchically senior “ritual specialists” greatly disparage. (2005, 2)

The importance of Reddy’s study is that, “I maintain throughout this ethnography, hijras are not just a sexual or gendered category, as is commonly contended in the literature . . . their identities are shaped by a range of other axes, though sex/gender is the most important of these axes” (ibid.). Their performances can be seen in a variety of documentaries made about them. They are hired as entertainers, musicians, and dancers, for weddings and other celebrations because of the widespread belief that through their emasculation, they can confer fertility. They often shame those who hire them into paying properly by raising their saris and exposing their lack of genitals. They also use a loud, distinctive clap to draw attention to themselves. Most importantly, they occupy one of the most stigmatized positions in India and Pakistan, but they are nevertheless frequently sought out as sex partners. Other groups of passive homosexuals, as Reddy points out, have organizational cohesion as well, and exhibit a kinship with the hijras, but do not undergo castration, and when not performing wear men’s clothing and often marry and have children. The group that performs dance is called zenanas. New Dance Genres

I mention these modern genres because the respective governments and their overt support of these artistic genres marked the modernity of the state. The artists who participated in them did, in general, not partake of the negative attitudes toward them that traditional performers suffered. Every effort was made to make these activities and their participants respectable, a move away from past practices.



For example, in Iran the state coined the term raqsandeh (dancer of either sex) to avoid the use of raqas (male dancer) or raqaseh (female dancer), because these latter terms came with a great deal of negative cultural baggage. Even so, in the eyes of many traditionalists, the very idea of women dancing on the stage in ballet or some version of folk and historical costumes was suspect. In Uzbekistan in the late 1920s and 1930s, “Dance was so controversial that many of the earliest dancers were orphans” (Doi 2002, 12). One of the first dancers to participate in the first stagings of dance in Soviet Uzbekistan was Noor Khon, who “was stabbed to death in 1928 by her brother for performing with Yakubov’s new dance and music troupe. This tragedy shows how incendiary public dance performances by women were in the opening decades of the Soviet program” (47). Tamara Khanum (Tamara Artyomovna Petrosian, 1906–1991)

Tamara Khanum was born on the cusp of the traditional and new genres of music and dance that came into existence after the Soviet creation of a new Republic of Uzbekistan. The tsarist government sent her father, Artyom Sergeevich Petrosov, who was an Armenian laborer in Baku, to Central Asia in 1905 for participating in workers’ political activities in Baku. Tamara was born in Marghalin, a town in the Ferghana Valley of Uzbekistan. She was apparently soon orphaned, and her entire career was carried out in Tashkent. Like one of her contemporaries, Mukarram Turghunbayeva, the founder of the major government-supported dance ensemble, Bahor, she was trained in acting, singing, and dancing, which indicates that she was trained in the more traditional fashion of the public entertainer. Although she became famous for being the first woman to perform unveiled in Uzbek, there would have been little opportunity for her to perform in public. This was because, while only male public entertainers, among whom we encountered the boy dancers known as bacheh, appeared in public, there may well have been opportunities for women in more private contexts to perform for women. Her training in performance varied greatly from the standard dance training that later was instituted in the Soviet era dance conservatories known as koreografik institut in Tashkent that train professional dancers. Tamara Khanum’s training in dance, singing, and playing musical instruments reflects the style suitable for public entertainers who had to perform several genres.


Figure 7.1 In Tashkent with Tamara Khanum. Courtesy of the author.

Tamara Khanum’s first husband was also her first teacher, and according to her biographer, O. I. Shirokaya, Tamara Khanum joined the first government-supported dance and music ensemble, even before the establishment of the Uzbek Republic in 1924: “The first ensemble, founded back in 1922 by the first folk singer in the Turkestan republic Mukhiddin Kari-Yakubov, included only one woman—Tamara Khanum. The appearance of a woman on an Uzbek stage had, perhaps, been more a political than a cultural event in the history of the Uzbek theatrical art” (1973, 8). In addition, she took lessons from the musician-doirachi [frame drum player] Usta [master] Alim Kamilov. All of her “remarkable masters of art” were males, as we have seen was the case among the tawa’if and nautch dancers of the subcontinent (Shirokaya ibid.) Tamara Khanum was put to use by the Soviet authorities to promote dance and music for women on public stages. Dance historian Mary Grace Swift notes: “Tamara Khanum’s story provides a compelling



drawing card for the Soviet Union. In her, Soviet authorities can point to a Central Asian woman sufficiently liberated under the new regime to become a performing dancer who has earned the highest artistic honors of her country, while being elected to the Supreme Soviet of her native Uzbekistan” (1968, 180). The Soviet Uzbek government established the first national dance company in 1928, under the direction of Mukhiddin Kari-Yakubov, Tamara Khanum’s husband. As a member of that company, KariYakubov, Tamara Khanum, and their company traveled widely throughout the Soviet Union and abroad, where they performed at both the International Olympiad in 1930 and in the All-Union art contest in Moscow the same year. She was awarded the honorary title of People’s Artist of the Uzbek SSR in 1932, and won a gold medal in the prestigious International folk dance festival in London. She was one of the first recipients of the Stalin Prize. In 1956, the Soviet Union awarded her the title of People’s Artist of the USSR, the highest honor a performing artist can achieve. The costumes from her enormous repertoire of dances from all over the world were on display in her home. Shirokaya notes that “towards her fiftieth anniversary, celebrated in 1969, she came up with songs and dances of 86 nationalities of our country and the world” (1973, 10). Tamara Khanum became a symbol of Uzbekistan, much decorated and venerated. I met her in 1986 in Tashkent when she graciously came to the hotel in which dancers from my company and I were staying to see us. The hotel staff behaved as if they were waiting upon royalty. She later invited us to her home, already a museum displaying her awards, programs, costumes, photographs, and other memorabilia. Even in her old age, singing and dancing for us with minimal movements, one could quickly grasp her presence, enormous talent, and charm. One must keep in mind that, without the presence of the Soviet government and its drive to use dance, theatre, and music as a nationbuilding tool, Tamara Khanum, could well have experienced the pain and suffering that is frequently the lot of the public performer, as it was in the case of Shahrzad. The State-Supported Dance Ensemble

Among the most visible of the new genres of dances that many states, following the success of the Moiseyev Dance Company, known as the


State Academic Ensemble of Folk Dances of the Peoples of the USSR in the former Soviet Union, founded and fostered were companies that performed staged versions of folk dances and music with varying degrees of authenticity. I have written about this topic elsewhere (2002, 2014b), but I mention it because Egypt, Turkey, Iran, Lebanon, and other countries created these companies, which carried political and artistic salience. Like the Moiseyev Dance Company, these ensembles built cultural and political capital for their respective governments. The choreographers of these companies often, especially in these latter countries, built their repertoires on sanitized versions of the former male and female professional dancers’ performances. Reda, Mahmoud (b. 1930, Cairo, Egypt—)

Mahmoud Reda, a pioneer in the modern staging of traditional and folk dance in the Arab world, began his movement career in gymnastics and other sports. He was a member of the Egyptian gymnastics team in the Helsinki Olympics. He toured Europe with Astaria, an Argentinian dance company, before returning to Egypt to found his own company, the Reda Troupe. In the choreophobic atmosphere of Egypt in the 1950s in which dance was equated with prostitution, and with a little funding from friends and family, he managed to give a highly successful concert that attracted critical acclaim and eventual government support. In order to succeed with the Egyptian public of the time, he offered dances that sanitized belly dance, eliminating the overtly sexual, sharp vibrations associated with that genre and introducing instead soft undulating movements for the women and highly athletic movements for the men. With this newly invented tradition of Egyptian dance, he added narrative elements in his dances that created a nostalgic world of Egyptian villages in which youths and damsels wore highly stylized costumes that only vaguely resembled actual rural clothing styles. Reda was born in 1930 in Cairo, Egypt, during the British colonial period, which had a profound effect on the development of his choreographic career because his company, the Reda Troupe (firqah Reda), was an expression of the nascent Egyptian nationalism of the period. He became the forerunner of the modern staging of folk dance in the Arab world, and his dance ensemble became the model for companies in other parts of the Arab world at a time when many nations supported large-scale folk dance companies.



Although Reda had no formal dance training as a child, he studied gymnastics. He participated on the Egyptian Olympic gymnastics team in 1952, and one can observe in the two feature films in which he starred that gymnastics inform his movements. He loved dancing, and he and his brother became very proficient in ballroom dancing, although most of his initial exposure to the art form was watching Hollywood films. Reda’s choreographic oeuvre must be understood in light of the relationship that Egypt, under Abdel Gamal Nasser, had with the Soviet Union after 1952. Reda was influenced by the emphasis that the Soviet Union and its satellite states placed on staged folk dance. In particular, the spectacular stagings of Igor Moiseyev had a profound effect on the way in which Reda created his own versions of Egyptian folklore (Shay 2002, 147). He created his first choreography for an Egyptian operetta, Ya ‘ain, ya lail (Oh, Eye, Oh Night 1957), which was so popular that the Egyptian government sent the work to the Moscow Youth Festival of 1957. Reda created an entirely new movement and choreographic vocabulary—an invented tradition that was inspired by the movements of Egyptian folk dance, particularly the two most widespread forms of dance, tahtīb, or stick fighting, and solo improvised dance, a domestic form of belly dance that both rural and urban populations, both men and women, performed during celebratory events. Unlike Moiseyev, who came from an environment in which dance was valorized, state supported, and lavishly financed, Reda came from a choreophobic environment, in which professional dancers, both male and female, where equated with prostitutes. This meant that in 1959, when he began his company, it was difficult to find middle-class dancers to train, and difficult to secure funding. The Egyptian government did not want to fund dance because it was associated with immoral practices. To avoid the negative association that many elite Egyptians held regarding belly dancing, Reda modernized and sanitized it for the stage. In Reda’s version, men are excluded from any hint of pelvic movements associated with domestic belly dancing. Theatre and dance scholar Barbara Sellers-Young observes of Reda’s work, “Men spin, leap, jump, hop, lunge and pose,” often forming a chorus line for the women (forthcoming 2014). The women perform very soft torso and hip movements, in opposition to the traditional belly dance movements, while appearing wholesome.


In spite of negative social attitudes, the Reda Troupe, with its nostalgic view of Egyptian folk life, and Reda’s frequent use of narrative, gave its first performance to great public acclaim in 1959, and by 1961, the company became an arm of the Ministry of Culture. Reda soon received awards and honors throughout the Arab world. The company made two films, Izgia nesfa as-sinna (1961) and Gharam fi al-Karnak (1963), which are still popular. Perhaps Reda’s most lasting legacy is among the global belly dance community. He has been invited to conduct workshops and create choreographies for belly dance groups throughout Asia, North America, and Europe (see the DVD Hommage to Mahmoud Reda, in which a variety of groups from all over Europe perform his works). Thus, in this chapter we have seen both successful and respectable, and reviled and stigmatized public performers and something of their lives. The stigma against public performance is so strong throughout this region that many of the most respectable performers, such as Fairouz and Umm Kulthum, came from very poor backgrounds, and they had to construct respectability into their personal and performance lives. Tamara Khanum was an orphan, while Badi’a Masabni and Shahrzad came from poverty and abusive homes. Badi’a Masabni appeared not to give much consideration to her reputation as long as she made money; her life and loves created a sensation for the press, while Shahrzad, under the loving and compassionate care of the Islamic state, was brutalized, tortured, and reduced to poverty and homelessness in her old age. Conclusions

In this study, I have tried to demonstrate how public performers, epitomized by the life of the Iranian film actress and dancer Shahrzad (Kobra Sa’idi), serve as negative models of gendered behavior, endure often brutish lives and stigma, and provide so-called compassionate religious figures and politicians with a means to whip up public indignation by constructing the public entertainer as the “Other” against whom one can measure proper behavior and morals. Shahrzad’s life is most probably the rule rather than the opposite for public entertainers. Several scholars have shown this abject social status in specific classes of public entertainers who lead similarly stigmatized lives such as those performers found in Louise Brown’s study of prostitute dancers and khusras in



Pakistan (2005), Soneji’s study of nautch dancers in South India (2012), Nieuwkerk’s study of belly dancers in Egypt (1995), and Reddy’s study of the hijras of Hyderabad, India (2005). Because Shahrzad has a presence recorded on film, and a diligent scholar rescued her from obscurity since FilmFarsi attracts few scholars, Talattof through interviews with her as well as research of magazine articles, and Shahrzad’s own writings, has provided us with a life together with her artistic production that would otherwise have slipped into oblivion. Shahrzad had aspirations to be a film director and a serious writer, but her performances as an actress and dancer in FilmFarsi foreclosed those options, and she held a despised position in her society as a dancer/actress who improperly displayed her body in public. Most of these lives are lost to us. Dance scholar Teresa Hubel reminds us of this in her important study. She observes: “And precisely because they so obviously lived and believed on the underside of various structures of power, probably consistently at odds with those structures, we are eager to hear their voices and their view. The problem is that their individual lives and collective ways of living them are impossible to recover in any form” (2005, 121). Thus, as much as I want to locate these individuals, as Hubel reminds us, most of those lives will most likely remain silent forever. In this study I have found some names, and brief, tantalizing hints of their existence in various sources. I have known some of them in my lifetime and experienced some of their delightful performances. This study constitutes a mere beginning of the phenomenon of the pubic entertainer. As I have shown, and as Shahrzad’s life also demonstrates, public entertainers for the past three millennia come from the most abject backgrounds. They are frequently orphans, the very poor, slaves or are living in slave-like conditions, such as the dancing boys of Afghanistan, or are religious and ethnic minorities. In the latter case, the dancing boys and girls of Ottoman Turkey and Iran were frequently Jews, Armenians, Greeks, or Georgians. Today in Turkey, many stigmatized belly dancers come from the Roma minority. These are individuals who display their bodies in public, and thus they are symbolically penetrated. I argue that the perception that displaying the body constitutes one of the triggers for the despising of these individuals across all of these cultures and societies. “As a result of the growing influence of Islamic fundamentalist movements, the symbolic function of the female body has regained vigor in many


Muslim countries. Fundamentalists appear to have an obsession with women” (van Nieuwkerk 2003, 267). This obsession, I argue, is the urge to control their bodies. While many think that modernity has resulted in less pressure on public performers, in fact, social and religious pressure continue to make life for public entertainers difficult. The viewer of public performances of Fairouz and Umm Kulthum will immediately notice that they wear demure clothing that shows no skin beyond the hands, face, and throat as they stand motionless to deliver their songs. The symbolic penetration extends to the sexual, for, except for the “respectable” entertainers—poets, court musicians, and today, government supported symphony orchestra players and conservatory-trained traditional musicians who play on the radio and television—sex is expected of the public entertainer today as it was in the past, or at least the reputation of sexual deviancy, widely proclaimed in the tabloid press. Thus, they form a class of sexual outlaws in the eyes of their fellow citizens. In addition to his or her perceived sexual availability, the professional entertainer, particularly in the case of women, sometimes amassed huge fortunes. The hotel in which I stayed in Cairo was around the corner from the huge tower and office complex owned by Umm Kulthum. Thus, these women were symbolically out of the control of men, able to live on their own terms, another element that excited the negative attention of zealous Muslims. In the twentieth and the twenty-first centuries, modern governments frequently provide a pathway to respectability for members of national dance companies and conservatory musicians. What would Tamara Khanum’s life have been if the Soviet government had not supported the performing arts in the lavish style that they did? She had begun her training in Turkistan prior to the establishment of the Uzbek Republic; she was an orphan; and had the Soviet takeover not occurred, her expectations might have been the same as Shahrzad’s. Because of the age in which she lived, the Uzbek government quickly supported her artistic efforts, making her a symbol of the new and modern Uzbek state. The Pahlavi government had no role in filmmaking other than to attempt to check the more outrageous gestures of depicting sex and nudity of clearly exploitive filmmakers who regularly victimized the female actresses like Shahrzad, vividly shown in Talattof ’s (2011) important study.



Contemporary governments throughout the vast region are familiar with the taint that accompanies the display of the body in public arenas, and made efforts to create a respectable environment for performing artists, because these artists occupied an important place in the states’ modernizing projects, but not for public entertainers whose tainted existences foregrounded the distance between shame and respectability. Some of the observers of contemporary performances are aware that the female dancer, in particular, becomes a symbol of the nation. In order to occupy this symbolic position, governments had to create optimal conditions to attract middle-class and respectable individuals to perform. These efforts were not always successful, for zealous religious figures make every attempt to prevent women from performing in public under any guise. As we have seen, the Iranian government, the Taliban, and Islamist forces have either succeeded in closing down public performances, or stigmatizing and diminishing their frequency. One aspect of the dangerous lives of these public performers, and the cause of anguish among them, is that because they come from abject backgrounds, with little or no education, they frequently fall prey to sexually transmitted diseases. Reddy was horrified to find that several individuals in the hijra community that she studied had succumbed to AIDS when she revisited them after her study was complete (2005, 231). In addition, in colonial settings such as India and Egypt, as I described, they become part of the discourse of sexual disease and hygiene in order for society and government to control their unruly bodies. Thus, in every way the vast majority of public performers, by their very stigmatized existence, serve as a moral lesson and a vehicle to promote proper gender roles, heteronormativity, and rigid standards of behavior. And, yet, through their sacrifices, their talent, and hard work, they make us laugh, thrill us with their skills, and make life a happier place through their music, songs, acting, and dancing.


Introduction 1. Those films were Gambit starring Shirley MacLaine and Michael Caine, directed by Ronald Neame, and What Did You Do In the War, Daddy? starring James Coburn and Dick Shawn, directed by Blake Edwards. 2. Actor Edmund Shaff, who toured in the 1950s with The World of Suzie Wong, said that in Los Vegas, chorus girls were routinely elided with prostitutes, and were offered huge sums to make that assumption come true, and that few could resist. His wife, who had been a chorus dancer, had a similar experience and said that part of the expectations of the job was to have drinks with the customers after the show (Personal interview: August 17, 2012). The term “chorus girl” or “showgirl” can still serve as a euphemism for a prostitute. In the 1990 documentary film Paris Is Burning about transgendered and transvestite individuals in New York who appeared in the film [A Woman Informant, when asked how these people made their living she said with a knowing smile, repeating it several times, “Oh, they’re showgirls. You know [with a knowing smile and wink], chorus girls.” 3. On February 3–4, 2012, I participated in a conference entitled “The Mediterranean and Beyond,” in which papers addressed the interconnectedness of this geographic region, highlighting the need to break down some of the artificial scholarly and historical barriers established by an ever-increasing specialization in academia, because these borders have reality only in academia. 4. This gender change was not specific to New York. I observed it in Los Angeles and San Francisco as well. 5. As David Halperin notes: “To say that homosexuality and heterosexuality are culturally constructed, however, is not to say that they are unreal, that they are mere figments of the imagination of certain sexual actors. (Constructionists sometimes sound as if they are saying something like that, but that is not—or, at least, it ought not to be—the constructionist claim)” (1990, 43; emphasis in original).



6. For example, I asserted in a study on Iranian dance, that because dance came to stand for everything un-Islamic and shameful, one of the first acts of the Islamic Republic of Iran was to ban dance activities. I argue that people in Iran, since the ban, frequently dance as an act of resistance, which means that a once disgraceful act has become an act of daring and bravery, and that these attitudes are socially constructed and malleable (Shay 2008c). 7. Popescu-Judetz, like many other scholars, has mistaken the appearance of the köçek dancers, as “female.” There was never an attempt on the part of these dancers to appear as women because they were attractive to their audiences as young males; rather, they wore colorful rich costumes that were deliberately ambiguous, but they always appeared with some male elements in their dancing costumes, hair arrangements, or headpieces. Metin And notes that these dancing boys were such sex objects that Ottoman poets wrote love poetry to them (ibid). Indeed, the love object in most poetry in the medieval Islamic world was an idealized beautiful young male (Shay 2000, 110–111).

Chapter 1 1. Anthropologist Karin van Nieuwkerk 1995 made a study of attitudes toward belly dancers in Egypt, and found much more sympathy among lower-class individuals toward them than upper-class people, who despised them as prostitutes. 2. In much of the Middle East, ambivalent and negative attitudes toward dancing, which I have termed “choreophobia” (1999), even in private social events, remains strong. A friend, Hedieh Farhadi, who enjoys dancing, said that her uncle advised her that “if she wanted a husband, she had better dance less” (personal communication. February 10, 2013). 3. This does not refer to folk dancing, but rather to urban dancing, especially of a sensual nature. In general, regional folk dancing is regarded in a more positive light by most urban dwellers, as a healthful, innocent pastime. 4. In 1996, the Persian language airways were filled with news that the Pahlavi pretender to the Iranian throne danced at his cousin’s private wedding celebration, an act that scandalized many listeners (Shay 1999, 132). 5. Ethnomusicologist Hormoz Farhat claims that “At the Sassanian [sic] court, musicians had an exalted status” (1965, 3). Iranian dance writer Medjid Rezvani states boldly that “In antiquity, dancers were very honored in Iran” (1962, 148). Historian Mary Boyce offers a corrective to temper Farhat’s and Rezvani’s observations. She notes that the gosan (Parthian and Sasanian era minstrel) is “sometimes an object of emulation, sometimes a despised frequenter of taverns and bawdy houses” (1957, 18).



Chapter 2 1. For pederasty, see Davidson 2007; Garrison 2000; Halperin 1990, 2002a; Lear and Cantarella 2008; Percy 1996; Winkler 1990a, 1990b. For prostitution, see Davidson 2006; Faraone and McClure 2006. See Smith (2010) for a wide range of pottery and vase paintings. 2. One encounters the alternate spellings hetaera and hetaera in different sources. The plural hetaerai/hetairai also exist. 3. It is curious that in the contemporary Balkans, especially in Bulgaria, Macedonia, and Greece, and the Middle Eastern countries of Turkey and Iran, the zurna, a double-reed instrument, often played by two players, one holding a drone note, must have had a similar sound to the aulos, which is described as piercing. The players are frequently Roma (Gypsies), which places them as outsiders and with low social status vis-à-vis the local population of peasants and tribesmen who hire them.

Chapter 3 1. Baltic history scholar William Urban notes that paganism was still widespread into the sixteenth century (1987). 2. A similar situation existed in Tehran in the 1950s. To my knowledge, there did not exist bars and cafés that catered to an exclusively homosexual clientele, which was common in European and US cities at the time, but certain locations such as cinemas and bus lines served as locations where men who were interested could meet other men in anonymity and arrange sexual assignations. 3. Peter Green anachronistically characterizes Bathyllus as “a well-known pantomimus, or ballet dancer” (Juvenal 2004, 58 n.13). 4. My friend Ardavan Mofid, who played the black-face clown in the Iranian siyah-bazi/ru-howzi theatre, told me: “If the government raised the price of  bread ten cents on the day of our performance, than we did bread” (personal interview, April 4, 1994).

Chapter 4 1. There are several volumes for the reader who wishes for a more in-depth study of early and classical age Islamic civilizations. Some, written some years ago, still carry considerable authority in the field. For general surveys, Marshall G. S. Hodgsons’ Venture of Islam (1974 in three volumes) and The Cambridge History of Islam (M. Holt et al., editors, 1970 in two volumes), and The Cambridge History of Iran (various dates) will provide excellent scholarly overviews. Richard Bulliet’s Islam: The View from the








8. 9.


Edge (1994) provides a unique perspective of the conversion process in Persia and Central Asia. Morony (2005) provides a detailed historical study of Iraq, a core area of early Islam in the crucial years before and after the Islamic conquest. The Qur’an states that “believing women that they should lower their gaze and guard their modesty [foruj = literally ‘vulvas’]; . . . that they should draw their veils over their bosoms and not display their beauty except to their husbands” and other named male relatives and servants (Qur’an 24:31, p. 363). In other words, there is no requirement for women to veil in the sense of covering their faces. Islamic scholar Cyril Glassé adds that “While modesty is a religious prescription, the wearing of a veil is not a religious requirement of Islam” (1995, 468). Many individuals (Rezvani 1960; Shiloah 1995) claim that “a welldefined form of sophisticated dance did exist. The latter probably referred to the glorious pre-Islamic Iranian dance with its codified rules and aesthetics” (Shiloah 1995, 137). This a claim for which absolutely no evidence exists. If the public invective of the sort that was passed by the slave singing girl, ‘Inan, and Abu Nuwas, or of the later wonderfully witty and obscene poetry of ‘Obaid-e Zakani are examples, then present-day Middle Easterners differ from them in their readiness to talk or write about sex. Most present-day Middle Easterners, outside of a close circle of same-age, same-sex friends, do not readily discuss sex in an open fashion, as many observers have pointed out (Beeman 1981). In a recent visit to Istanbul (April 20, 2013), I saw a display of men dressed in Ottoman costume displaying many of the sports popular with elite men during this period. The sura that was, and still is, frequently cited to prohibit music, and especially dance is 8.35: “And their worship at the (holy) House is naught but whistling and handclapping. Therefore (it is said unto them): Taste of the doom because ye disbelieve” (Qur’an 8.35, 172). There is frequently confusion regarding a person’s ethnicity, because of the use of Arabic names for everyone. Clues are often provided by terms like “al-Isfahani” to ascertain whether or not the individual is an Arab or a Persian. Since al-Isfahani would seem to indicate a person born in the city of Isfahan in Iran, one might assume Abu l-Faraj al-Isfahani was an Iranian, but in fact, he is an Arab, and a direct descendent of the Umayyad dynasty. The root letters (in Arabic) kh-n-th indicate the connection between the two terms, khanith and mukhannith (singular) mukhannithun (plural). Rowson indicates that they “underwent jibab, the more drastic form of castration in which the penis was truncated” 1997, 85).



10. Hugh Kennedy characterizes Waliba b. al-Habab as “a figure as famous for his bohemian and openly gay lifestyle as he was for his poetry” (2004, 11). I would part company with Kennedy in the use of the anachronistic terms bohemian and especially “gay” lifestyle in a medieval Islamic context. There is no doubt that men like Waliba al-Habab and Abu Nuwas most likely preferred youths to women, at least in their writing, but “gay” is a twentieth-century term.

Chapter 5 1. Babur means beaver, not tiger, as many think, because babr in Persian means tiger (Baburnama 2002, 463, n.1). 2. Although Robert Surieu’s book (1967) characterizes the text as addressing Iranian pictorial and literary erotica, many of the illustrations are Ottoman Turkish, Mughal, and even European. The origins are correctly identified in the list of illustrations at the end of the book, but the unwary reader will not understand this unless he or she looks at the list. 3. “Elegantly swaying, tall, and silver-bodied cypresses” are among the stock phrases in classical Persian, Mughal, and Ottoman Turkish poetry to describe desirable young men. 4. Interestingly, one can tell what kind of musicians some of these unfortunate individuals were from their names: Na’i is a flute player, ‘Udi a lutanist, etc.

Chapter 6 1. Spain, Portugal, and the Netherlands also launched colonialist enterprises in the Americas and Southeast Asia. Portugal and the Netherlands briefly occupied space in the Persian Gulf and India, but had little impact on the regions that I describe and analyze in this study. 2. Iran has two forms of religious theatre, rowzi-khani, a type of storytelling with drama and histrionics often narrated by clergymen, and ta’ziyeh, an elaborate theatrical genre requiring large casts. They both narrate the martyrdom of Husein, the son of ‘Ali and nephew of the Prophet Muhammad. These forms are performed by respectable individuals; like early Greek drama, the ta’ziyeh generally constitutes a community effort with a mix of professional and amateur performers. These genres are both outside of the parameters of this study (see Chelkowski). 3. The interested reader will encounter several spellings of Kuchek Khanom’s (Little Lady) name. I further suggest that this is more of a generic name; I encountered it in reading of a dancer in the Greek-American community in the first decade of the twentieth century.



4. I suggest that the term “gink,” which puzzles some writers, is the EgyptianArabic way of pronouncing the term “çengi,” the term for Turkish male dancers. Since in Egyptian Arabic there is no soft “ch” nor soft “j,” the Egyptians render the sound as “g.”

Chapter 7 1. As I was in the process of writing about ethnicity in Afghanistan, National Public Radio had a feature, narrated by Sean Carberry (May 8, 2013), on this topic concerning the Afghan parliament’s passing a controversial law that states that each citizen will carry identity cards indicating their ethnicity. Minority Tajik and other individuals stated that they welcomed this change because they feel that Pashtuns are overcounted, which provides them with more jobs and other benefits that are denied to others. 2. Koepke is incorrect in labeling the dancers as bacheh bazi. The dancers themselves are called bacheh. Bacheh-bazi refers to pederasty, and a bachehbaz is a pederast.


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Videos and Films

Courtesans of Bombay. Ismail Merchant, director. London: Ivory and Merchant. Dances of Egypt. Aisha Ali, director. Los Angeles: Araf. n.d. “Homage to Mahmoud Reda: A Life for Dancing.” Festival Raks Madrid ’05 (2005) (The Andalusi and Arabic Dance International). “Dancing Boys of Afghanistan.” Aired April 20, 2010 on Frontline. Najibullah Quraishi. “Gharam fi al-Karnak.” [Love in Karnak] (1963) Gamal elleissi Films. (Starring Farida Fahmy and Mahmoud Reda). “Izgia nesfa as-sinna” [Midterm vacation] (1961) Gamal elleissi Films. (Starring Farida Fahmy and Mahmoud Reda). Murcheh Dareh. Tehran: Pars Video. c. 1970. Paris Is Burning. Jennie Livingston, director.


Abbasid dynasty and period, 93–132, 133, 140, 148, 150, 152, 156, 157, 187 Abd al-Rahman II (Umayyad ruler), 128, 129 Abd al-Wahhab, 219 Abu al-Fazl ibn Mubarak, 167 Abu l-Faraj al-Isfahani, 30, 112, 116, 117, 118, 122, 123, 126, 127, 130 Abu l’Gath Ibn Sayyid an-Nas, 110 Abu Muhammad al-Hasan ibn Muhammad al-Muhallabi, 124 Abu Nuwas, 99, 100, 102, 108, 109, 110, 111, 113, 124–126, 127, 151 Abu Tarab, Jafar, 125 Abu Usama Waliba b. al-Habab, 125 Acrobats and acrobatic dancing, 26, 36, 37, 59, 78, 79, 83, 134, 144, 146, 152–153, 155–156, 183, 184, 191, 193, 203, 206 Actors and acting, 1, 2, 10, 26, 28, 30, 31, 36, 53, 78, 82, 83, 87, 89, 123, 138, 144, 177, 181, 183, 186, 217, 221–224, 228, 233, 234 Adab, 30, 93, 98, 129; Literature, 30, 102 Adams, Laura, 225 Adultry, 47, 48, 72 Aeschines, 14–15 Aeschylus, 40 Aesthetics, 20, 42, 99 Afary, Janet, 27, 101, 107 Afat (Iranian vocalist), 217

Afghan Village (film title), 226 Afghanistan, 3, 20, 33–34, 37, 51, 71, 96, 105–106, 131, 154, 158, 184, 212, 224, 225–226, 234, 242 n. 1 Agathon, 108 Age of Beloveds (book title), 145 Agency, 18–19, 57–58 Agriculture, 5–6, 17; Ancient Greece, 41; Ancient Rome, 66; Central Asia, 275 Ahmadinejad, Mahmoud, 210 ‘Ain-I Akbari (book title), 167 Akletoi, 60 Alexander, the Great, 53, 141 Ali, Aisha, 194, 221 Allan, Maud, 2 Amanat, Abbas, 27 Ambiguity and ambiguous, Clothing, 7, 14, 20, 82, 138–139, 151, 160, 161, 193–194, 198, 226; Sexual, 7, 32, 70, 74, 160, 193–194 Al-Amin (caliph), 126, 133 Anacreon, 50 And, Metin, 25, 35, 112, 118, 148, 154, 157, 158, 160, 238 n. 7 Andalusia (al-Andalus), 30, 33, 122, 128–129, 219 Andrews, Walter G., 101, 104, 106, 145 Anti-Nautch Movement, 207, 220 Arabs and Arab world, 26, 36, 94, 97, 113, 158, 175, 222, 231; Medieval underworld, 32



Arberry, A. J., 94 Archeology and archeologists, 5, 44 Architecture, Greece, 41; Islamic, 95, 96, 140, 146; Mughal, 146–147; Persian, 146 ‘Arib al-Ma’muniya, 26, 33, 121, 122, 126, 129 Aristophanes, 44, 63 Aristotle, 40, 55 Armenians, 158, 181, 184, 191, 198, 228–230, 234 Art and artists, 3, 9–10, 36, 37, 42, 65, 67, 143, 149; Byzantine, 73; Courtly, 29, 143; Greek, 4, 8, 17, 24, 44, 54, 67; Highbrow/lowbrow, 28, 29–30, 38, 59, 87, 118, 217; Islamic, 95, 96; Performing, 4, 9–10, 77, Caliphal Baghdad, 111–120, 134 Roman, 4, 24, 70, 73, 74, 75–78; Traditional, 209; Western, 181, 209 Asmar, Sami, 219, 220 Assyria, 22 Atasoy, Nurhan, 102 Atheists and atheism, 94, 125 Athens and Attic, 14, 16, 21, 40–42, 44, 47, 49, 51, 54–55, 58, 62, 65, 72, 107, 137, 206 Athletes and athletics in dance, 47, 73, 85, 144, 146, 152–153, 166, 183, 184, 194–195, 224, 231; Caliphal Baghdad, 103, 104; Egypt, 183; Greece, 42, 43, 45, 54, 59; Iran, 73, 104, 146; Mughal India, 167 ‘Awalim (Egyptian vocalists), 189–191 Audiences, 10, 14, 16, 17, 37 Augustus (Roman emperor), 81, 84, 85, 86, 90 Aulos and aulos players, 21, 53, 56, 58–59, 60, 239 n. 3

Aurangzeb, Sultan, 177 Azerbaijan and Azerbaijanis, 181, 188 ‘Azizeh of Aswan, 190, 197, 199–200 Babaie, Susan, 146 Babur, Sultan, 107, 136, 141, 142, 143, 150–151, 154, 162, 166, 168, 187, 241 n. 1 Baburi, 150–151 Baburnama, The, 105, 136, 144, 167 Babylonia, 22 Bacha (bacheh; boy dancer), 4, 20, 33–34, 158, 202–206, 225; Afghanistan, 4, 33, 158; Central Asia, 33–34, 184, 202–206, 225, 228 Bachehbazi, 34, 225, 242 n. 2 Badawi, M. M., 112–113 Baghdad, 185, 188, 202; caliphal, 4, 7, 21, 26, 32, 33, 36, 71, 93–132, 133, 134 Baily, John, 226 Bakhtin, Mikhail, 59 El-Balbeissi, Hasan, 160, 195, 200–201 Bana’i, Moulana, 161, 168 Banu Sasan, 32 Baqi the Catamite, 105, 107 Bards (see poets) Barkey, Karen, 147 Barnes, T. D., 38 Bartsch, Shadi, 21, 50 Bashshar b. Burd, 113 Bathhouses, 74, 75, 126 Bathyllus, 84, 85, 86 Baxandall, Michael, 9–10 Baysunghur, Sultan, 153, 167 Beacham, Richard C., 37 “Bee, The” (Egyptian striptease dance), 195, 197, 201


Beeman, William, 183 Beeson, A. F., 121 El-Belbeissi, Hasan (see El-Balbeissi, Hasan) Bell, Gertrude, 94 Belly dance and belly dancers, 4, 23, 33, 47, 55, 56–57, 81–82, 155–156, 158, 194, 195; cabaret, 195, 209, 220–222, 231, 233, 238 n. 1 Berger, Morroe, 23, 209 Bhands (male Indian dancers), 161, 163 Bharata natyam, 83 Bisexuality, 104, 106, 137 Bodies, 1, 4, 6, 7, 13, 15–16, 17, 22, 31, 36, 42, 48, 52, 72, 78, 79, 79, 102, 123, 137, 174, 178, 199, 200–201, 234, 236 Bodies That Matter (book title), 19 Bonaparte, Napoleon, 171 Boone, Joseph, 199 Bouhidba, Abdelwahab, 100 Bosworth, C. E., 32 Boy dancers (see dancers, male; bacha) Boyce, Mary, 238 n. 5 Bravery (see courage) Bray, Julia, 121 British (Great Britain and British) Brittan, Arthur, 13 Brown, Louise, 233–234 Brown, Peter, 8 Browne, Edward, 191, 193 Brubaker, Leslie, 8, 88 Bukhara, 33–34, 176, 184–185, 188, 202–206 Bulliet, Richard, 95 Butler, Judith, 13, 19 Butrica, James, 75 Byzantium and Byzantine, 3, 6, 7, 8, 26, 31, 36, 38, 67, 71, 73, 77–78, 88, 95, 100, 102, 114, 148


Cabarets (see nightclubs) Cafes (see Taverns) Cairo, 55, 118, 121, 123, 158, 174, 176, 181, 182, 183, 187, 189–191, 195, 197, 198, 201, 202, 231, 235 Caliphs and Caliphate, 3, 8, 36, 51, 93–132, 134; Abbasid, 3, 4, 30, 33, 36, 93–132, 133, 148, 150; Umayyad, 3, 33, 36, 96, 111 Cameron, Averil, 68 Cantemir, Demitrius, 168 Carberry, Sean, 242 n. 1 Carnival and carnivalesque, 6–7, 61 Cassius Dio, 85, 86 Castle, Vernon, 34 Castration, 73, 123, 226, 227, 240 n. 9 Caswell, Fuad Matthew, 98 Cattalus, 72 Caesar, Julius, 72 Celebi, Evliya, 158 Celebrities, 1, 2, 25 Celebrity (see fame) Central Asia, 5, 26, 31, 33–34, 36, 51, 57, 116, 131, 140, 166, 171, 172, 173, 175–176, 184–185, 207, 209, 216, 225, 228–230 Ceremonies, 142, 146, 149, 150, 153, 180, 186, 212 Champlin, Edward, 81 Chardin, Jean, 134, 135, 158, 163 Chakravorty, Pallabi, 196 Chauncey, George, 11–12 Children, 9, 13, 16, 23, 25, 26, 33–34, 43, 51, 72, 73, 74, 78, 107, 163 China and Chinese, 8, 143 Chorus girls, 2 Choudhury, M. L. Roy, 35–36 Christians and Christianity, 6, 55, 68, 77, 86, 87, 88, 89, 91, 96, 100, 101, 126, 137, 140, 176–177, 202, 213 Chrysostom, John, 3 Cicero, 18



Cinaedus/kinaedos, 43, 47–48, 69, 73–75, 90, 127, 163 Çingine Ismail, 150 Citizens, Greek, 41; Roman, 72 City state (see polis) Civilizing Mission, 174, 175, 176 Clarke, John R., 24, 73, 74 Class, economic and social, 2, 4, 6, 7, 23, 24, 51, 62, 65, 67, 72–73, 79, 80, 81, 86, 88, 98, 99–100, 103, 137, 138, 158, 173, 179, 184, 189, 198, 209, 210, 214, 215, 216–217, 218, 224, 232, 236, 238 n. 1 Classics and classics scholars, 5, 14, 15, 18–19, 24, 28, 31, 37, 42, 44, 53, 69, 74, 78, 93 Clavijo, Ruy Gonzales de, 150, 153 Clothing and costume, 1, 9, 14, 16, 20, 22, 74, 83, 93, 95, 96, 99, 129, 138–139, 151, 153, 164, 175, 186, 193, 195, 198, 200, 202, 203, 217, 220, 222, 224, 225, 226, 230, 238 n. 7 (see also ambiguity, clothing) Coffeehouses, 21, 52, 55, 134, 151, 159, 164, 181, 182, 213 Colonialism, 171–207, 212; France, 172, 175, 176; Great Britain, 172–173, 175, 176, 231; Ottoman Turkish, 176–177; Russia, 171, 172, 175–176 Colonization, Greek, 40–41 Colonizing Egypt (book title), 174 Comedy and comedians, 6, 18, 29, 38, 44, 54, 55, 61, 79, 84, 87, 88, 123, 148, 152, 159, 186, 195, 206, 221 Commedia dell’arte, 89, 157, 158, 182 Comotti, Giovanni, 75–76 Competitiveness, 44 Constantinople (see also Istanbul), 71, 77, 87–88, 143, 147

Continuity and continuities, 7–8, 10, 23, 28, 32, 35–36, 38, 52, 55, 71, 73, 77, 90, 95, 96, 102, 122, 135, 141, 211; Historical, 7, 23, 35–36, 71, 73, 77, 90, 95, 96, 110–111, Social, 134 Convivium (pl. convivia; Roman banquets), 69, 89–91 Corbeil, Anthony, 69 Córdoba, 93, 121, 123, 128–129, 187 Costumes (see Clothing and costume) Cottam, Richard, 210 Courage, 45, 48 Courtesans (see also awalim; ghawazi; hetaera; tawa’if), 4, 5, 57, 60, 156–157, 165, 177, 196, 206–207; Male, 58, 60 Courtesans of Bombay (film), 24–25, 34, 169, 214 Courtiers, 102, 127, 150, 164 (see also nadim) Courts, royal, 29, 93, 99, 148, 163; Caliphal, 93–132 Crawford, Michael, 66 Criminals and criminal status, 3, 5, 6, 32, 83, 100, 209, 225 Crompton, Louis, 11 Damascus, 36, 114, 221 Dance and dancing (see also Belly dance, kordax), 16, 26, 31, 36, 37, 38, 45, 55, 61, 69, 81, 84–85, 87, 88, 98, 110, 134, 144, 146, 154–157, 179, 191–207, 214; Ballet, 214, 216, 221, 228; Caliphal Baghdad, 98, 100, 111, 123, 131–132; Choral, 54, 55; Dabka, 220; Folk, 238 n. 3; Lebanese, 220; State-sponsored ensembles, 209, 215; Bahor, 228; Egypt, 232–233; Greek, 42, 54, 55, 56; Group, 17,


43; Indian, 156; Iranian, 156; Solo, 17–18, 59, 163 Dancers (See also pantomimes) 1, 2, 5, 22, 25, 28, 33, 36–38, 50, 59, 79, 81, 87, 89, 90, 93, 100, 122, 144, 149–152, 179, 189, 191–207, 217; Bukhara, 184–185; Caliphal Baghdad, 112, 126; Çengi, 156; Central Asia, 184–185, 202–206; Dancing girls of Cadiz (Gaditane), 33, 79, 81–82, 89, 194; Devadasi, 165, 196; Egyptian, 183, 189–191, 194–195, 197–201, 220–222; Female, 2, 33, 55, 59, 144, 148– 152, 154–156, 158–156, 174, 179, 192–207, 215, 220–224, 228–230, 232, 234, 236; Ghawazi, 182, 194–195, 197–200; Indian, 24–25; Iranian, 185, 188, 192, 193, 22–22, 2344; Khawal, 182, 198–202; Köçek, 2, 27, 156, 238 n. 7; male, 4, 23, 25, 27, 33–34, 47, 55, 59, 82, 101, 106, 108, 148–152, 154–156, 158–166, 179, 184, 188, 191, 192–207, 210, 218, 224–227, 228, 231–233, 234; Mughal India, 144, 177, 198, 206–207, 220; Ottoman Turkey, 148, 234; nautch, 21, 181, 196, 206, 220, 234; pyrrhic, 17, 54–55; ritual, 17, 18, 21; Roman, 78, 87, 90; 147, Skirt, 2 Dances of Egypt (film title), 194 Dancing Boys of Afghanistan (film), 4 Danielson, Virginia, 217 Daoud, Hassan, 102 Dastgah (see maqam) Davidson, James, 9, 18, 26, 48, 50, 55, 57, 58, 60 Defter-i Aşk (Book title), 150 Delhi, 147, 187 Devadasi (temple dancer, see dancers, devadasi)


Dirks, Nicholas B., 173–174 Doi, Mary Masayo, 215 Dougherty, Carol, 16, 39 Dowlatshah, 154 Drama (see Theatre) Duncan, Isadora, 2 Dunne, Bruce William, 179, 210, 218 Dupree, Louis, 226 During, Jean, 187, 188 Dushanbeh, 184 Easterling, Pat, 53 Economy and economic, 139–140, 171, 172–174, 211; Caliphal Baghdad, 99, 122, 133; Greece, 40, 41; Ottoman Turkish, 176; Rome, 66 Edison, Thomas, 194 Education, 101, 175; Afghanistan, 212; Greece, 42, 44, 48, 54, 58; Caliphal Baghdad, 97, 125; Egypt, 173, 180; Gunpowder Empires, 139, 143, 156; Mughal India, 196; Ottoman Turkey, 177; Persia, 104, 107, 143; Rome, 65 Edwards, Catherine, 69, 78 Effeminacy and effeminate, 3, 5, 11, 12, 14–16, 19, 23, 27, 30, 32, 34, 35, 38, 47, 48, 59, 69, 74, 78, 80, 82, 83, 95, 104–111, 131–132, 136–139, 179–180, 218 Egypt, 3, 4, 21, 23, 31, 34, 36, 51, 57, 81, 95, 96, 133, 138–139, 183, 184, 207, 213, 220, 221–222, 231–233, 238 n. 1; Copts, 97, 213; Fatemids, 133; Mamlukes, 51, 101, 110, 118, 133; Nineteenth century, 171–173, 175, 179, 183, 207; Ottoman, 158–159, 171; Tulunids, 133 Emperor, Roman and the Imperial court, 69, 70, 77, 81, 84, 85, 86, 87, 90, 102



Entertainers, professional, 21–38, 56–62, 78–89, 121–132, 158–169, 184–186, 188–191, 197–207, 218–220, 221–227, 228–233; History of, 3–6; Natal origins of, 4, 23, 28; Present-day, 31–32, 218–220, 231–232; Respectable, 29–31, 56, 123–129, 228–230, 231–232 Eromenos, 46, 48, 52, 58, 60, 64 Erotica and eroticism, 175, 197, 207, 224 Ethnicity, 4, 13, 39, 98, 143, 147, 177, 212, 240 n. 7, 242 n. 1 Etruscans, 39, 66, 77 Ettinghausen, Richard, 195 Eunuchs, 70–71, 73, 78 Euripides, 40 Europe and Europeans (see also West, the and Westerners), 28, 37, 75, 77, 139–140, 145, 147, 148–149, 154–155, 158, 160, 163, 171–207 Exhibitions, World, 174 Exoticism, 2, 58, 81, 90, 145, 197, 200, 201 Fairouz (Lebanese vocalist), 218–220, 233, 235 Fame, 1, 3, 14, 25, 37, 53 Fantham, Elaine R., 37, 87 Al-Farabi, Abu Nasr, 116 Farah, Ibrahim, 194 Faraone, Christopher, 18 Farhat, Hormoz, 35, 238 n. 5 Fatemi, Sasan, 184, 206 Fear, A. T., 79, 81–82 Feldman, Martha, 57, 196 Female dancers (see dancers female) Feminine (see also effeminacy and effeminate) Feminization and feminizing, 178

Festivities and festivals, 142, 144–145, 146, 149, 150, 165, 179, 181, 186, 212, 213, 216, 227, 232; Ottoman, 195 FilmFarsi, 214, 223, 224, 234 Films, 1, 8, 31, 99, 146, 194, 200, 214, 220, 221, 232, 234 Flaubert, Gustave, 160, 190, 194–195, 198–201, 221 Floor, Willem, 158 Flute girls (see aulos players) Foucault, Michel, 11, 50 France and French, 13 Frontisi-Ducroux, Françoise, 61 Gaffary, Farrokh, 186 Ganika (Indian courtesan), 165–166 Garber, Majorie, 197, 200 Gardens, 100, 119 Garrison, Daniel H., 15, 40 Gay New York (book title), 11–12 Gaze, 131 Geertz, Clifford, 9, 18 Gellner, Ernest, 209 Gender and gender roles, 4, 5, 10, 11–14, 16, 19, 28, 41–47, 68–71, 72, 78, 83, 105, 139, 180, 185, 212, 218, 227, 233 Gender in the Early Medieval World: East and West, 300–900 (book title), 8 Generosity, 45 Genitals, 9, 41, 88, 102, 118, 197, 227 Georgians, 23, 151, 234 Geography, 7–8 Ghawazi dancers, 21, 189–191, 221 Ghazal, 113 Ghengis Khan, 133, 141, 143 Gieben, Bram, 211 Gink (dancing boy), 160, 198, 242 n. 4 Gladiators, 78, 83


Gleason, Maud, 69, 72, 73 Go-Between (book title) 8 Goldschmidt, Arthur Jr., 171–172 Gordon, Bonnie, 57, 196 Gordon, Matthew S., 130, 131 Gosan, 35, 238 n. 5 Gossip, 1, 2, 217 Graffiti, 24, 50 Graham-Browne, Sarah, 174, 194 Great Britain and British, 171, 178, 181, 206 Great Musical Tradition, 114, 141, 187–189 Greece and Greeks, ancient, 3, 6, 8, 14, 17, 19, 21, 22, 23, 25, 36, 37, 39–64, 65, 73, 74, 84, 90, 96, 102, 103, 106, 107, 108, 111, 158; Archaic Age, 40, 53; Classical, 40, 41, 53, 93; Hellenistic, 42, 45, 53, 62; In Ottoman Turkey, 156, 158, 160, 177, 198, 234; Society compared to Rome, 65, 66–68 Green, J. R., 44 Greenfeld, Liah, 212 Greus, Jesús, 128 Griffin, Jasper, 68, 78, 80 Gruen, Erich, 67 Guilds, entertainers’, 3–4, 25, 155, 184–185 Gunderson, Erik, 69 Gunpowder Empires, 139–149 Gymnasium, 42, 48 Gypsies (see Roma) Hafez, 9 Hage, Ghassan, 178 Hair, facial, 101–102 Hal, 117 Hall, Stuart, 211 Halperin, David, 11, 49, 50, 237 n. 5 Hall, Edith, 28, 54, 80 Hansen, Ann, 66


Hansen, Mogens Herman, 40 Harems, 175, 189, 191, 193, 205 Harries, Jill, 13 Hartley, L. P., 8 Harun al-Rashid, 98, 117, 125, 127, 130, 133 Hattox, Ralph J., 151 Hatzaki, Myrto Healy, Dan, 224–225 Hemati, Jalal, 26 Herat, 160–161, 168, 187, 225 Hesiod, 40 Hetaira and hetairai (see also courtesans), 5, 15, 18–19, 20, 48, 51, 57–58, 60, 96, 156, 239 n. 2 Heteronormativity, 11, 12, 16, 50, 71, 94, 105, 180, 184, 210 Heterosexuality, 62, 185, 237 n. 5 Hijras, 34, 71, 184, 226–227, 234, 236 Hindus and Hinduism, 177–178, 196–197 History and historical, 7–8, 93, 127; Greece, 39–43; Gunpowder empires, 133–136, 139–143, 146–147; Islamic, 94–100; Nineteenth century, 171–178; Rome, 64–68, 73 Hobhouse, John Cam, 156, 160 Hodgson, Marshall, 141 Hojjati, Eskandar, 26 Hollywood, 2, 8, 90, 99, 100, 221 Homer and Homeric epics, 40, 42, 43, 48, 62, 135 Homophobia, 202, 210 Homosexuality (see also pederasty), 4, 5, 10–13, 14–15, 34, 47–52, 61, 62, 73, 74–75, 94, 100, 104–111, 118–119, 120, 123, 124, 137–138, 150–151, 162, 179–180, 183, 193, 201–202, 210, 215, 218, 224–227, 237 n. 5 Honor, 44, 48, 53, 102, 165, 205



Hood, Kathleen, 219, 220 Hopper, Hedda, 1 Hopwood, Derek, 175, 191–192 Hosayn Bayqara, Sultan, 168 Hospitality, 43–44, 45, 103, 137, 165, 178 Hubel, Teresa, 234 Hülegü Khan, 133 Humayun, Mughal Sultan Hupperts, Charles, 49 Ibn-Daniyal, Muhammad, 118 Ibn Misdjah, 115 Ibrahim al-Mahdi (Abbasid prince), 127 Ibrahim al-Mawsili, 99, 122, 127 Ichijo, Atsuko, 210 Identity, Afghan, 212; ethnic and national, 210; Iranian, 210, 212; Pashtun, 212; Tajik-Persian, 212; Turkish Iliad, 42, 62, 135 Il-Khanids, 141 Imperialism (see colonialism) Improvisation, 18, 19, 61, 87, 122, 163, 182–183 Imru’ al-Qays, 113 Incalik, Halil, 147 India and Indians (see also Mughal Empire), 3, 21, 26, 71, 147, 166, 171, 175, 177–178, 184, 206–207, 220, 234 Indian National Congress, 178 Infamy (infamia) and infamis, 2, 10, 29, 78–79, 83, 86 Instruments and instrumentalists, musical, 26, 30, 53, 55, 81, 82, 85, 86, 87, 91, 114, 115, 116, 127, 130, 135, 149, 150, 153–154, 155, 156, 159, 161, 164, 167–169, 181, 187, 188, 191, 200, 213, 214, 215–216, 241 n. 4

Intelligentsia, Egyptian, 175; Ottoman Turkish, 175; Persian, 175 Interconnectedness, 7–9, 36; Between Greece and Rome, 65, 67–68; Between the Ottoman, Safavid, and Mughal Empires; Geographical, 7–9, 32, 141; Historical, 7–9, 32 Iran (see also Persia), 1, 6, 18, 19, 26, 32, 34, 35, 36, 96, 107, 108, 138, 179, 181, 184, 190–191, 215, 216–217, 222–224, 231; Islamic Republic of, 218, 223, 233, 236, 238 n. 6 Iranian New Year (No ruz), 1 Iranians, 12, 13, 97; Diaspora, 2, 25–26; Students, 2 Iraq and Iraqis, 96, 224 Isfahan, 140, 145, 146, 151 Ishaq al-Mawsili, 111, 116, 122, 126–127, 128, 130 Islam, 19, 35–36, 68, 94–98, 100, 101, 110, 125, 140–141, 196, 204, 213, 217–218; history, 239 n. 4:1 Islam, Medieval, 30, 32, 37, 91, 94–98, 100, 102, 105, 210 Islamic civilization and Islamic world, 3, 8, 35, 71, 89, 90, 93–132, 134, 154, 167, 178, 197, 217, 221 Islamists, 31, 178, 215, 221, 225, 234, 235, 236 Istanbul, 10, 140, 145, 154–55, 187, 195, 198 Al-Jahiz, 121 Jamal (see Jamali, Khosrow) Jamali, Khosrow (Jamal), 134–135, 154 Janissaries (Ottoman soldiers), 160, 198


Jankha (transgendered Indian dancer), 163 Japan and Japanese, 13 Jesus Christ, 101 Jews, 23, 96, 156, 157, 158, 160, 184, 185, 191, 198, 202, 234 Jones, Christopher, 90 Jory, John, 83 Justinian, 77, 87, 88 Juvenal, 80–81, 84, 85–86, 194 Kabbani, Rana, 191–192 Kabul, 136, 142 Kai Ka’us b. Iskandar, 104, 108 Kalpakli, Mehmet, 101, 104, 106, 145 Kar kid (Sumerian prostitute), 22 Karagőz (Turkish shadow puppet theatre), 157–158, 183 Kari-Yakubov, Mukhiddin, 228, 230 Kashmir, 161 Kathak (Indian classical dance genre), 156, 161, 196–197, 207 Katib (plural, kuttab), 97, 98, 103 Kemalists, 212 Kennedy, Hugh, 127 Keuls, Eva, 41–42, 44, 45, 93 Khaleqi, Ruhollah, 187, 191 Khalfi Khan, 177 Khanith (male effeminate in Oman), 123, 240 n. 8 Khawal (see Dancers, khawal) Khazeni, Arash, 136 Khusras, 71, 226–227, 233–234 Khwaja Yusuf Andigani, 153, 167 Kilpatrick, Hilary, 112, 115, 124 Kinaedos (see cinaedus) Kirshenblatt-Gimblett, Barbara, 37 Kitab al-Aghani (book title), 112, 115, 116, 117, 118, 124, 127 Koepke, Bruce, 226 Komos (pleasurable state of drunkenness), 18, 60–61


Kordax (dance) and kordax dancers, 4, 43, 55, 61 Kothis (transgendered Indian dancers), 163 Krotala (castanets, clackers), 17, 56 Kuchuk Hanim, 190, 191, 194–195, 197, 198–199, 201, 241 n. 3 Kurke, Leslie, 16 Lada-Richards, Ismene, 31 Landels, John, 80 Lane, Edward William, 138–139, 183, 186, 187, 188, 189, 194, 198 Language and linguistic, 39, 94, 115, 148, 212; Arabic, 97, 98, 121, 122, 123, 135; Chaghatay Turkish, 142, 167; English, 143; Latin, 98; Persian, 2, 13, 98, 135, 142–143; Ottoman Turkish, 135, 142 Lansdell, Henry, 205 Late Antiquity, 96 Law and legal, 14–15, 48, 78–79, 51, 83, 84, 88, 89, 111–112 Lawler, Lillian, 54 Lear, Andrew, 24 Lebanon, 215, 218, 220, 231 Levin, Theodore, 184, 185, 206, 224 Levine, Lawrence W., 29–30 Libanius, 27 Lissargue, François, 61 Literature, 5, 94, 95, 98, 104, 142, 151; Arabic, 189; medieval, 106, 108; Greek, 9, 24, 40, 42, 43, 44, 61; Medical, 102; Mughal, 135; Ottoman Turkish, 135; Persian, 104, 135, 193; Roman (Latin), 24, 26 Liwat (sodomy),102, 106, 137 Loeb, Laurence D., 185 Los Angeles Lowenthal, David, 8, 63 Lower body, 6, 61, 62, 157



Lucan, 85–86 Lucian, 27, 78, 83 Lucknow, 161, 173, 177, 181, 196 Lumpenproletariat, 7, 100 Ma’bun (see ‘ubna) (passive partner in sodomy) Maecenas, 84, 86 Magic tricks and magicians, 26, 36, 37, 59, 79, 144, 153, 183 Mahdavian, Emelie, 184 Mahvash (Iranian vocalist), 217 Majlis (pl. Majalis) (social gatherings), 100, 117, 119–120, 150, 160–161, 164, 166, 180 Malikjak, 27, 108 Al-Ma’mun (caliph), 126, 130, 133 Mansouri, Lottollah, 23 Maqam (musical mode), 115, 116, 167, 187, 216, 217, 219 Maqsud Ali Raqas, 160–161 Marcus, Scott, 187 Marketplace, 21, 80, 89, 119, 120, 132, 150, 160, 181, 182, 213 Marrakesh, 153, 181 Martial, 82, 194 Martin, Vanessa, 186 Masabni, Badi’ah, 182, 195, 221–222, 233 Masculinity and masculinities, 4, 5, 11–14, 15–16, 38, 39, 74, 80, 134, 143, 210; Caliphal Baghdad, 101–104; Colonialism, 178–179; Greece, 41–47, 61; Mughal India, 136–137, 143, 167; Safavid Persia, 136–137; Ottoman Turkey, 137– 138; Rome, 65, 68–70, 73, 74, 78 Masks, 14, 16, 83, 84, 85, 87, 195 Massad, Joseph A., 106, 107 Matthee, Rudi, 33 Mawali (non-Arab converts to Islam), 97, 98, 131

Maza, Sarah, 2–3 McGinn, Thomas, 89 Media, 1, 2, 4, 29, 214, 215, 216; Print, 1, 2 Mediterranean world, 3, 8, 35, 54, 102, 106, 107, 122, 131, 138, 140, 178, 210, 218 Meftahi, Ida, 215 Mehmet II, 147 Mehter (Ottoman military orquestra), 153 Membré, Michele, 134 Metrobius, 84 Mian Mamanat, 162–163 Middle Ages, 89 Middle East, 5, 8, 26, 31, 50, 57, 71, 81, 94, 107, 116, 131,138, 140, 171–207, 209–236 Military and war, 101, 102, 138, 139, 141, 171, 172–173, 175; Arab, 97, 98, 101; France, 172; Great Britain, 171, 172–173; Greece, 42, 43, 45, 48; Music, 153; Mughal India, 107; Persia, 107, 138, 172; Ottoman Empire, 101, 138, 172; Roman, 67–68, 68–69, 70; Russian, 173; Turkish, 103 Military bands, 181, 186 Millet and millet system, 176–177 Mime and mimes, 28, 36, 37–38, 77, 78, 79, 81, 82, 87–89, 123, 159 Mina (Ostad), 191 Miniature paintings (see painting) Mirror for Princes (book title), 104 Misogyny, 5, 13, 46–47, 101, 137, 178 Mitchell, Timothy, 173, 176, 179, 202 Modern and modernity, 207, 209– 211, 215–216, 218, 220, 221, 225, 227–228, 235; “modernoid,” 211 Mofid, Ardevan, 239 n. 4 Mohabbazin (Egyptian actors), 183


Moiseyev, Igor and the Moiseyev Dance Company, 230, 232 Mongols (see also Mughal), 133, 134, 135–136, 139 Monroe, James T., 108 Moralists and morality, 2, 4, 17, 28, 31–32, 69, 70, 109, 123, 125, 151, 158, 185, 204, 224, 233 Morcom, Anna, 163 Moreh, Shmuel, 118, 119, 123 Morony, Michael G., 96, 97 Morris, Ian, 44 Mosques, 95, 96, 99 Motreb and motrebi (public entertainer), 26, 29, 122, 185, 216, 217 Mouritsen, Henrik, 66 Movies and movie actors, 1 Mu’alliqat (poetry collection), 113 Mughal Empire and the Mughals, 3, 5, 30, 34, 51, 133–169, 171, 176, 177–178, 181 Muhammad (Prophet), 94, 97, 101, 102, 111, 115, 123, 131, 213, 241 n. 2 Muhammad, Ali, ruler of Egypt, 197, 198 Mujun (scurrilous poetry), 113, 125 Mukhannathun (effeminates), 30, 32, 104–105, 116, 119, 122–123, 127, 131–132, 138, 139, 218 Mulid, 159, 180, 213 Murray, Oswyn, 62 Murray, Stephen O., 11 Music, 16, 28, 30, 31, 35–36, 43, 45, 53, 55, 61, 62, 85, 104, 110, 117, 137, 144, 146, 150, 153–154, 156, 186–188, 206, 215–220; Arab, 113–118, 124, 126, 188, 217; Central Asian, 115, 206, 216; In Caliphal Baghdad, 112, 113–118, 126–132; Egypt, takht, 187; Folk,


217; Greek, 30, 54, 56–57, 58–60; In Islam, 110, 112, 186–187; In the Theatre, 54; Lebanese, 219; Mughal India, 153, 156, 161, 188; Notation, 168, 216; Persian, 115, 117, 146, 148, 150, 185, 186, 188, 215–216; Popular, 216–217, Arabesk, 216, Lebanese, 219; Persian, 216–217; Regionalization, 187–188; Roman, 75–77, 85; Turkish, 115, 168, 188, 216; Western, 117, 215–216 Musicians, 21, 22, 25, 28, 29, 30, 37, 53, 54, 63, 79, 93, 143, 148, 166–169, 188–189, 215–220; Afghanistan, 225, 226; Bukhara, 184–185; Egypt, 188–190, 213; In Caliphal Baghdad, 113–118, 120, 121–123, 124, 126–132 (see also Singing slave girls); India, 227; Lebanon, 218–220; Male, 218; Mughal India, 144, 166; Ottoman Turkey, 152, 159; Qajar Iran, 183, 194; Saffavid Persia, 135, 164 Musiqa al-Kabir (book title), 116 Muslims, 9, 23, 28, 94–98, 102, 145, 147, 176, 177–178, 179, 181, 184, 185, 191, 198, 202, 212, 215; Shi’ite, 95, 184; Sunni, 184 Al-Mu’tasim (caliph), 130, 133 Al-Mutayyam (shadow puppet play), 118 Al-Mu’tazz (caliph), 131 Myth, Greek, 39, 54, 82, 84 Nadim, 30, 93, 98, 117, 125, 127 Najmabadi, Afsaneh, 12, 13, 101, 108, 179, 180, 202, 210 Naqareh and Naqarehkhaneh, 153, 186 Naser al-Din Shah, 27, 108, 186 Nasser, Abdel Gamal, 232



Nationalism, 207, 210, 212; Egyptian, 231; Iranian, 210; Lebanese, 219; Turkish, 210 Nature and natural, 101, 108, 179, 180 Nautch (see dancers, nautch) Nava’i, Ali Sher, 167, 168 Nazar (shahed-bazi, gazing at beautiful young men), 109–110, 137 Nero, 80, 81 New York City, 11–12 Nidham-i-Aruzi-i-Samarqandi, 102 Nieuwkerk, Karin van, 31, 181, 190, 197, 198, 221, 238 n. 1 Nightclubs, 1, 181, 213, 216, 220, 221–223 Nomads and nomadic, 136, 141, 153 Nooshin, Laudan, 8, 217–218 North Africa, 57, 140–141, 171, 172, 173, 174, 175, 177 Nudity, 42, 48, 63, 89, 90, 197 Odyssey, 42, 62, 135 Ogilvy, J. D. A., 89 Olearus, Adam, 164 Oman, 123, 139 Opera and opera houses, 181 Orators and oratory, 42, 44, 45, 70, 80 Orchestras, Arab, 187, 220; symphony, 214, 215, 216, 235; traditional, 187, 215–216, 234 (see also Instruments and instrumentalists, musical) Orientalism and orientalists, 71, 94, 200 Orientalism (book title), 140, 172, 175, 202 Orphans, 23, 28, 33, 51, 121, 184, 201, 224, 228, 234, 235 Orr, Leslie, 196

Ortaoyunu (Turkish theatre genre), 157, 158, 183 Ottoman Empire and the Ottomans, 3, 25, 27, 34, 51, 71, 131, 133–169, 171, 176–177, 207, 212 Ovid, 85 Pagans and paganism, 6, 38, 68, 75, 239 n. 1 Paintings, 9–10, 147, 149, 154; Greek (see vases and vase paintings, Greek); Mughal, 147, 149, 161, 166, 206; Ottoman Turkish, 149, 161, 195; Persian, 22, 110, 142, 145, 149, 161, 195; Qajar, 192–193; Roman Wall Paintings, 4, 74 Pakistan, 3, 26, 71, 96, 105–106, 115, 166, 175, 178, 184 Pantomimes, 4, 5, 14, 19, 21, 28, 31, 32, 37–38, 77, 78, 79, 80, 82–89, 90, 91, 160, 163 Paris (famous pantomime artist), 85–86 Parker, Charles, H., 139–140 Parker, Holt N., 71, 74 Parsons, Louella, 1 Parties and entertainments (see Majlis) Pashtuns, 212 Past Is a Foreign Country (book title), 8, 63 Patriarchal and patriarchy, 5, 14, 178 Pausanias, 108 Peasants, 17 Pederasty (see also homosexuality), 14, 27, 46–52, 65, 72, 73, 94, 106, 107, 137, 204–205, 239 n. 1 Pellizer, Ezio, 62 Penetration, sexual, 4, 5, 10, 11–12, 13, 21, 47, 50–51, 71–72, 75, 102, 111, 184, 205, 234; symbolic, 234, 235 (see also liwat)


Performances, 2, 4, 6, 7, 14, 16–17, 29, 36, 77, 80–81, 83–84, 86, 87, 88, 117, 148, 149, 150, 156, 179, 181, 198, 212, 214–215, 227 “Period eye,” 9–10, 28 Persia and Persians, 160, 175; Achaemenids, 210; Ghaznavids, 134; Islamic, 3, 54; Pre-Islamic, 22, 35, 54, 95, 97, 114; Qajar, 23, 27, 34, 51, 131, 172, 176, 174, 181, 207; Safavid, 3, 23, 33, 51, 106, 122, 131, 133–169, 171; Saffarids, 133; Samanids, 133; Seljuqs, 134; Taherids, 133 Persians, 98 Phallus and phallic, 9, 41, 61, 72, 157–158, 178 Phillip, the Macedon, 53 Philosophy and philosophers, 9, 17, 24, 40, 49, 64, 69, 125 Phoenicians, 39 Photographs, 193–194 Plato, 17, 30, 43, 49 Pliny, 81 Poetry, 19, 30, 45, 58, 67, 69, 112–113, 117, 144, 150–151, 161; Arabic, 90, 109, 112–113, 117, 121, pre-Islamic, 112–113, 114; Caliphal Baghdad, 98, 102, 103–104, 109, 112–113; Chaghatay Turkish, 143; Greek, 40, 42, 43, 44, 45, 52, 56, 58, 60, 62, 67, 150; Latin, 151; Medieval Islamic, 238 n. 7; Ottoman Turkish, 101, 109–110, 112, 150; Middle Eastern, 49; Persian, 56, 90, 94, 104, 109–110, 112, 142–143, 156, 162, 222; Turkish, 112 Poets, 5, 11, 30, 42, 49, 50, 52, 53, 56, 85–86, 93, 102, 143, 161, 218, 235; Caliphal Baghdad, 93, 102, 103, 119, 123–126, 130, 148; Central


Asia, 167; Ottoman, 238 n. 7; Persian, 167; Safavid Persia, 135 Polis (see Greece, City state), 21, 62, 65 Politics and politicians, 14, 15, 29, 44, 67, 86, 87, 89, 93, 95, 99, 140, 141, 199, 211, 212, 216, 219, 229, 233 Politics and Poetics of Transgression, The (book title), 6 Polybius, 69 Popescu-Judetz, Eugenia, 238 n. 7 Popular Culture and Nationalism in Lebanon: The Fairouz and Rahbani Nation (Book title), 219 Population, Athens, 4 Potter, David S., 78, 84–85 Pourjavady, Amir Hosein, 31, 141, 148, 154, 165, 167 Poverty (see scarcity culture) Pran, Nevile, 207 Procopius, 87–88 Prostitutes and prostitution, 4, 5, 14–15, 22, 24, 33, 35, 36, 41, 51, 52, 58, 83, 87, 97, 100, 112, 137, 145, 154, 156, 158, 165–166, 181, 185, 207, 214, 217, 223, 225, 226, 231, 232, 238 n. 1, 239 n. 1; Male, 22, 49, 51, 71, 73, 74–75, 78, 123, 202, 224, 225, 226 Puchner, Walter, 77 Puppet and shadow shows, 19, 79, 118, 122, 134, 156, 157–158, 183 (see also storytelling) Pylades, 84, 85, 86 Qabus-nameh (book title) 108 Qajar dynasty (see Persia, Qajars) Qasidah, 112–113, 122 Qiyan (singular gaynah). (See singing slave girls) Quadratilla, Ummidia, 21, 127



Qu’ran, 35–36, 96, 97, 111, 125, 143, 240 n. 2, 240 n. 6 Qureshi, Regula Burckhardt, 165 Race and racism, 174, 199, 206, 206–207 Racy, Jihad, 117 Radio, 1, 29, 214, 215, 216, 235 Rahas (male Indian dancers), 161, 162, 163 Rahbani Brothers (Asi and Mansour), 219 Rahbani, Ziad, 219 Raj (British), 143, 177 Raqas (male dancer; see also raqsandeh), 23, 163, 228 Rawson, Elizabeth, 67, 69 Reda, Mahmoud and the Reda Company, 231–233 Reddy, Gayatri, 34, 227, 236 Religion (see also Christianity, Hindu, Islam, Judaism, Zoroastrianism), 4, 17, 49, 53, 66, 67, 93, 94–98, 100, 134, 135, 154, 176–177, 180–181, 183 Religious minorities, 154, 156, 184, 185, 191, 234 Rezvani, Medjid, 163, 194, 238 n. 5 Richlin, Amy, 7, 10, 26, 47–48, 50 Ringrose, Kathryn, 71, 73, 77–78 Riots, 10, 100, 160 Ritual, 53, 54, 55, 62, 142; Hindu, 196–197; shamanistic, 195 Roded, Ruth, 101 Roles, theatrical, 14, 37, 82, 163 Roma, 7, 234 Rome and Romans, ancient, 3, 4, 8, 9, 10, 14, 21, 22, 25, 26, 27–28, 29, 31, 33, 36, 37–38, 40, 48, 63, 64–91, 100, 102, 103, 108, 111, 123, 156, 163; Christian, 28, 68; Imperial, 111; Republican, 69

Roscius, 30 El-Rouayheb, Khaled, 106, 107–108 Rouché, Charlotte, 53 Rowson, Everett, 30, 102, 105, 109, 110–111, 118–119, 122–123, 126, 132 Rubin, Don, 119 Ru-howzi (Iranian theatrical genre), 19, 87, 157, 158, 183 Russia and Russians (see also Soviet Union), 12, 171, 216 Safavid Empire and the Safavids, 134, 135 Said, Edward, 140, 172, 175, 201, 202 Sakata, Hiromi Lorraine, 225 Saleh, Magda, 194, 195 Sama’, 110 Samarqand, 59, 95–96, 153, 168, 176, 187, 202–207 Saqi (see wine bearers) Sarshar, Houman, 185 Sasanians, 97, 99, 113, 119 Saturday Night Live (television program), 19 Sawa, George, 112, 114 Sayid Darwish, 219 Sazanda (Tajik and Uzbek musicians), 184 Scandal and scandalous, 1, 2, 24, 32, 79, 81, 110, 125, 238 n. 4 Scarcity culture, 40, 43–44 Scare figures, 2, 4, 31, 47, 74, 88 Schimmel, Annemarie, 94, 109–110, 111, Schuyler, Eugene, 33, 202–206 Scipio Aemilianus, 31 Sculpture, Greece, 42, 44 Second Sophistic, 45 Secret History (book title), 87–88 Self-control, 15, 40, 43–45, 48, 69, 70, 104, 110, 137, 174–175


Sellers-Young, Barbara, 232 Sex and sexuality (see also masculinity and masculinities, homosexuality), 4, 12–13, 15–16, 17–18, 20, 23, 28, 32, 33–34, 51–52, 62–64, 71–73, 93–94, 101, 104, 112, 118–119, 122, 131, 133, 137, 144, 149–152, 155–156, 162, 173, 175, 184, 190, 194–195, 196, 199, 210, 214, 215, 218, 223, 224, 235, 236 Sexual availability, 3, 4, 6, 10–11, 32, 33–34, 38, 63, 82, 83, 95, 121, 122, 131, 145, 156, 160, 165, 174–176, 226, 235 Shaff, Edmund, 237 n. 2 Shah Abbas I (the Great), 146, 164 Shah Abbas II, 150 Shah Esma’il, 164, 165 Shah Jahan, 147 Shahnameh (book title), 135, 143 Shah-nameh khani, 56, 135 Shahrani, Nazif, 212 Shahrzad (Kobra Sa’idi, Iranian film actress), 217, 222–224, 230, 233, 234, 235 Shamisa, Sirus, 108 Sharar, Abdul Halim, 161–162, 163 Shari’a, 111, 137 Sherley, Anthony, 106, 149, 150 Shiloah, Amnon, 31, 114, 141, 148 Shiraz, 94, 185 Shireh’i, Karim, 186 Shirokaya, O. I., 229 Shu’ubiyyah, 97 Sigheh (temporary wives), 137 Singers and singing, 5, 26, 30, 37, 38, 54, 56, 61, 69, 80, 81, 82, 87, 100, 110, 214, 215–220, 228; Abbasid, 100, 103–104, 112, 114, 116, 119–123, 124, 126–132; Arab, 159, 189–191; Egyptian, 217; Iranian, 2,


32, 157, 191, 216–217; Mawali, 98; Mughal India, 161, 177; Savavid Persia, 135, 150, 158; Singing slave girls, 4, 21, 26, 96–97, 99, 119–120, 121–122, 123, 124, 129–131, 156, 157, 166, 189; Turkish, 157 Siyah-bazi (see ru-howzi, Iranian black-face theatre), 157 Skinner, Marilyn B., 14 Slater, William, 88 Slaves and slavery, 4, 14, 23, 25, 28, 33, 39, 41, 51, 52, 53, 58, 60, 65, 67, 72, 73, 77, 79, 90, 96, 121–122, 127, 130–131, 154, 166, 234 Smith, Julia M., 8 Socrates, 26, 49, 55 Soneji, Davesh, 220 Sophocles, 125 Soucek, Svat, 175, 176 Southeast Asia (see also India, Pakistan), 209 Soviet Union, 175, 176, 206, 209, 216, 225, 228–231, 235 Spain (see Anadalusia) Sparta, 41, 44, 49, 65 Spectacle, 17, 53, 55, 82, 85, 86, 89, 90, 215, 232 Spector, Johanna, 216 Spirituality, 2 Stallybrass, Peter, 6–7, 32, 61, 62, 78, 79, 145, 157 Stokes, Martin, 216, 218 Stone, Catherine, 95–96 Stone, Christopher, 215, 219 Storytelling and storytellers, 52–53, 56, 134–135, 182–183, 213; Caliphal Baghdad, 119; Greece, 52; Ottoman Turkey, 152; Persia, 134–135, 164 St. Denis, Ruth, 2 Starks, John H., 28 Streusand, Douglas, 94, 140



Sufis and Sufism, 109–110, 135, 136, 137, 195, 196 Sulla, 30 Sultan, Ottoman, 102 Sumeria, 22, 31 Sunnis, 95 Swift, Mary Grace, 229–230 Symposium (see also convivium), 17–18, 22, 43, 45, 48, 50, 51, 54, 58, 59, 60–64, 69, 70, 89, 166, 206 Symposium (book title), 26, 53 Syria, 95, 96, 114, 128 Syrians, Aramaic-speaking, 97 Tabriz, 168, 188 Tacitus, 81 Taj al-Saltaneh, 27 Taj Mahal, 146 Tajik-Persians, 212 Tajiks and Tajikistan, 3, 184, 216, 224 Talattof, Kamran, 211, 217, 222–224, 235 Taliban, 225, 236 Tamara Khanum, 25, 222, 228–230, 233, 235 Taplin, Oliver, 44 Tarab (emotional state of happiness), 117 Tashkent, 176, 228 Taverns, 21, 74, 100, 151, 160, 181, 238 n. 5 Tawa’if (Mughal courtesans) 5, 34, 156–157, 165, 177, 181, 196, 206–207, 220 Taylor, Rabun, 75 Teahouse (see coffeehouse) Tehran, 153, 195, 222, 239 n. 3:2 Tehrani, Hosein, 154 Tehrani, Shahnaz, 26 Television, 214, 215, 216, 235 Tenreiro, Pedro, 6 Thackston, Wheeler M., 142, 153

Theatre (see also actors), 5, 16, 17, 21, 45, 53, 56, 62, 67, 150, 157, 158, 179, 181, 182–183, 214, 222–224, 225; Greek, 9, 42, 45, 53, 55, 67; history, 5; Iranian, 19, 87, 157–158, 182–183; religious, 241 n. 2; Medieval Islam, 118–119; Ottoman Turkey, 157–158, 182–183; Roman, 77–78, 82, 84, 87, 90 Theodora (Empress), 87–88 Theoginis, 50, 51 Thesiger, Wilfred, 224 Thévenot, Jean de, 149, 157 Thousand and One Nights, 99, 119, 125, 127, 145 Thucydides, 40, 44 Timarchus, 14–15 Timur (Tamarlane), 141, 142, 143, 150, 168–169 Timurids, 134, 135–136, 141, 142, 144, 168 Toner, Jerry, 66 Tougher, Shaun, 71 Touma, Habib Hassan, 96, 116 Tourists and tourism, 181, 197, 209, 220; sexual, 175, 190 Training and Education (of public entertainers), 24–26, 55, 60, 80, 121, 127, 131, 154, 166, 201, 204, 218, 228–229 Trance states, 17 Transgender, 163 Transgression and transgressive, 2–3, 6–7, 15–16, 201 Transoxania (see Central Asia) Turkey and Turks (see also Ottoman Empire), 3, 6, 25, 26, 36, 94, 115, 139, 147, 160, 175, 198, 212, 215, 220, 231 Turner, Victor, 6 Tuways, 116, 118, 122, 126, 131–132


‘Ubaydallah ibn Tahir, 115–116 ‘Ubna (passive role in sodomy), 102, 104–105, 139 ‘Ud (musical instrument), 154 Uebel, Michael, 32 Umm Kulthum, 217, 233, 235 Unfinished Gestures: Devadasis, Memory, and Modernity in South India (book title), 220 United States, 2, 175, 184 Urdu, 142 Uzbeks and Uzbekistan, 3, 25, 33, 142, 184, 215, 216, 224, 225, 228–230, 235 (See also Bukhara) Uzelac, Gordana, 210 Valentino, Rudolph, 34 Vasefi-Zein al-din, 160–161, 164 Vases and vase paintings, Greek, 4, 17, 24, 42, 44, 49, 50, 51, 52, 57, 61, 63, 82, 239 n. 1; Sasanian Persian silver, 22 Vehbi, Endernulu Fazil, 150 Veil and veiling, 95, 96, 97, 130, 175, 228, 240 n. 2 Venice, 145 Waines, David, 96 Wajid Ali Shah, 162–163 Webb, Ruth, 25, 84 Weeks, Jeffrey, 12–13, 15–16 West, The and Westerners, 12, 37, 65, 75, 93, 94, 98, 106, 107, 140, 143, 171–207, 209, 214–215, 225 White, Allon, 6–7, 32, 61, 62, 78, 79, 145, 157


Whitmarsh, Tim, 80 Wikan, Unni, 123, 139 Wilfong, Terry, 125 Williams, Craig A., 74, 75, 78, 79 Wills, C. J., 188, 192–193 Winchell, Walter, 1 Wine and wine poetry, 18, 24, 43, 45, 61–2, 63, 104, 106, 109, 110, 124, 125, 144, 150, 193, 206 Wine and cup bearers, 90, 106, 110, 120, 193 Winkler, John, 12–13, 15, 47 Women with Mustaches and Men without Beards (book title), 12 World of Late Antiquity (book title), 8 World War I, 177, 207 Wrestling and wrestlers (see athletics and athletes) Wright, Owen, 30, 122, 128–129 Xenophon, 17, 26, 47, 53, 55, 57, 90, 166 Yavari, Neguin, 98 Young, Robert J. C., 173 Zalzal, 127 Zanana / janana (transgendered Indian dancers), 163, 184 Ze’evi, Dror, 149 Zina (fornication), 137 Ziryab, 30, 93, 126, 128–129 Zohreh (Ostad), 191 Zoroastrians, 96, 185 Zubeida, Sami, 202

Anthony Shay - The Dangerous Lives of Public Performers