The term homosexuality was primarily used by a German psychologist called Karoly Maria Benkert in the 19th century. Of course homosexuality was not ‘invented’ then but existed throughout history. In the ancient times, in Greece, people were not defined by their sexual orientation. Everything was done more freely and it was believed that someone can respond erotically to beauty in either sex.
Of course it was different for women. In ancient “democratic” Athens, women were not respected in the society and that is why her presence is not very distinctive. She couldn’t take part in the government of the city-country or protest against her husband’s will. She was considered in a slightly better position than a slave. Men moved much more freely and they could develop their relationships freely.
To give you the example of Alcibiades who was a famous Athenian general and politician of the 5th century B.C. It is said that “in his adolescence he drew away the husbands from their wives and as a young man the wives from their husbands.”
The status of a man was what defined these relationships. Given that only free men had full status, women and male slaves were not unaccepted or difficult sexual partners. The central distinction in ancient Greek sexual relations was between taking an active role, versus a passive or penetrated one. The passive role was mostly acceptable only for what it was considered inferiors, such as women, slaves, or male youths who were not yet citizens. That is why the cultural ideal of a same-sex relationship was between an older man, probably in his 20's or 30's (that was considered old then), known as the erastes (εραστές), and a boy whose beard had not yet begun to grow, the eromenos (ερωμένος). That is why each relationship was to be temporary and should end upon the boy reaching adulthood. However, while the passive role was thus seen as problematic, to be attracted to men was often taken as a sign of masculinity. The erastes had to show that they had nobler interests in the boy, rather than a purely sexual concern. The boy was not to submit too easily, and if pursued by more than one man, was to show discretion and pick the nobler one.
I would like to specially comment on Plato’s Symposium (Συμπόσιον) written in 385–380 BC which exploits the purpose of life and nature of love. It describes a drinking party, attended by seven important and powerful men like Socrates or Aristophanes who were all supposed to have a monologue praising Love based on their own life experience. This document illustrates the widespread nature of homosexuality in ancient Greek society. Not only was it considered admirable, but the Symposium presents an argument that claims homosexuality to be superior to heterosexuality.
A symposium scene (475 BC.)
Even in Greek mythology homosexuality is present. The love story between the greater of the gods Zeus and a blonde boy called Ganymede (Γανυμήδης), a young Trojan prince, was well known. Zeus fell in love with him so badly that he turned himself into an eagle that abducted Ganymede from his home town during an unprecedented storm. He flew him into Olympus, the gods’ residence, and he granted him immortality and eternal youth so that his beauty might not fade. He also made the former now price the cupbearer of the gods, making him a part of all of gods’ feasts.
Ganymede's abduction (450 BC.)
Zeus’ wife, Hera, couldn’t accept her husband’s new lover and thirsted for revenge made Greece attack the Trojans. As Ganymede looked on in horror, the Greeks slaughtered Ganymede’s kin and the whole Trojan race. All Zeus could do, was draw a veil of cloud over the butchery to shield the boy from the horrific sight. He wanted to protect the boy so he placed him beyond her reach. He set his darling among the stars as the Aquarius, the water bearer.