Sotadic zone  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

The existence of a Sotadic zone was a hypothesis of Richard Francis Burton; it asserted that there existed a geographic zone in which pederasty was particularly prevalent and tolerated, and claimed that within this zone a homosexual orientation was much more common than outside it.

Burton first proposed this hypothesis in an appendix to his translation of The Arabian Nights in 1885. The name Sotadic derives from Sotades, a Greek Hellenistic poet whose homoerotic verses are preserved in the Greek Anthology. According to Burton's description, the Sotadic zone is:

  1. bounded westwards by the northern shores of the Mediterranean (N. Lat. 43 °) and by the southern (N. Lat. 30°). Thus the depth would be 780 to 800 miles including meridional France, the Iberian peninsula, Italy and Greece, with the coast-regions of Africa from Morocco to Egypt;
  2. Running eastward the Sotadic Zone narrows, embracing Asia Minor, Mesopotamia and Chaldaea, Afghanistan, Sind, the Punjab and Kashmir.
  3. In Indo-China the belt begins to broaden, enfolding China, Japan and Turkistan.
  4. It then embraces the South Sea Islands and the New World where, at the time of its discovery, Sotadic love was, with some exceptions, an established racial institution.
  5. Within the Sotadic Zone the Vice is popular and endemic, held at the worst to be a mere peccadillo, whilst the races to the North and South of the limits here defined practise it only sporadically amid the opprobrium of their fellows who, as a rule, are physically incapable of performing the operation and look upon it with the liveliest disgust.

Burton wrote when anthropology was in its infancy. Few subsequent researchers have produced similar results. Conveniently, Burton's Sotadic zone compasses many of the areas of the globe that were then part of the British Empire, where its citizens would be likely to travel, and while away from home might seek an exotic experience.

On the other hand, while being constrained by the temper of his times to refer to pederasty as the Vice, Burton's Sotadic zone was one of the first attempts to frame a hypothesis that made homosexuality seem a natural phenomenon rather than an "unnatural vice." Burton's essay on the subject brought his classical and Middle Eastern learning to bear on the subject and establish the historical prevalence and persistence of pederasty.

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Sotadic zone" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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