Document Type



Dance (Pomona), Theatre (Pomona)

Publication Date



ambiguity, homoeroticism, gender, youth


The "beloved" forms a central literary concept, highly developed during the medieval Islamic period and still popular in our own times, in the urbanized societies of the Middle East and Central Asia. Encountered throughout the literatures of Persian, Ottoman, and Chaghatay (Uzbek) Turkish, Urdu, and Arabic, among others, this concept manifests itself through highly charged, homoeroticized images and metaphors. The beloved is characterized through such highly eroticized and theatrical tropes of wanton allurement as disheveled locks, torn garments, intoxication symbolized by a wine cup in hand, and appearing at the bedside of the feverish lover. (See, for example, the poems of Hafez, c.1320-1390.) Generally the beloved does not represent an actual personage (except as a historical youth such as Ayyaz, the paramour of Sultan Mahmoud of Ghazna, a symbol of idealized love in Persian literature), but rather an idealized handsome youth inspired by the presence of thousands of Turkish slaves who served as cupbearers (saqi) and pages in royal courts and informal, all-male social gatherings as well as in Mamluk (slave) armies throughout the Middle East. These youth are depicted in the miniature paintings of the period that pictorially embody the literary images found in the poetry they illustrate.


Copyright Garland Science © 2000 From "Beloved" in Gay Histories and Cultures: An Encyclopedia, pp. 110-111, by Anthony Shay. Reproduced by permission of Taylor and Francis Group, LLC, a division of Informa plc.

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© 2000 Garland Science