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Picture taken at the "Casa Blanca" on Mount Ziretto by Wilhelm von Gloeden (c. 1910)

Uranian is a historical term for homosexual men. The word was also used as an adjective in association with male homosexuality or inter-male attraction regardless of sexual orientation.

The term was first published by activist Karl Heinrich Ulrichs in a series of five booklets from 1864 to 1865 collected under the title Forschungen über das Räthsel der mannmännlichen Liebe (The Riddle of Man–Manly Love).[1] The term Uranian was adopted by English-language advocates of homosexual emancipation in the Victorian era, such as Edward Carpenter and John Addington Symonds, who used it to describe a comradely love that would bring about true democracy.[2][3] Oscar Wilde once wrote to his lover Robert Ross in an undated letter that, "To have altered my life would have been to have admitted that Uranian love is ignoble. I hold it to be noble—more noble than other forms."[4]

The term also gained currency among a group that studied classics and dabbled in pederastic poetry from the 1870s to the 1930s. The writings of this group are now known by the phrase Uranian poetry. The art of Henry Scott Tuke and Wilhelm von Gloeden is also sometimes referred to as Uranian.


Aphrodite Urania, the goddess from whose name Ulrichs derived the term Urning for homosexual men

Ulrichs derived Uranian (Urning in German) from a dialogue on eros, in particular male love, metaphorized by the birth of Greek goddess Aphrodite from Plato's work Symposium.[1]

In this dialogue, Pausanias distinguishes between two types of love, symbolized by two different accounts of the birth of Aphrodite, the goddess of love. Urning was derived from Aphrodite Urania, who was created out of the god Uranus' semen, a birth in which "female has no part," therefore representing love between men. Its counterpart, Dionian (Dioning in German), was derived from Aphrodite Dionea, the daughter of Zeus and Dione, associated with a common love which "is apt to be of women as well as of youths, and is of the body rather than of the soul," representing for Ulrichs men's love for women. Diverging from Plato's account of masculine love, Ulrichs understood male Urnings to be essentially feminine and male Dionings to be masculine in nature.

Ulrichs developed his terminology before the first public use of the term homosexual.

John Addington Symonds was one of the first to take up the term Uranian in the English language and is also responsible for its connection with Ulrichs' Urning.[5]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Ulrichs, Karl Heinrich (1994). The Riddle of “Man-Manly” Love: The Pioneering Work on Male Homosexuality. Translated by Lombardi-Nash, Michael A. New York: Prometheus Books. ISBN 978-0-8797-5859-2.
  2. ^ Carpenter, Edward (1921). The Intermediate Sex: A Study of Some Transitional Types of Men and Women. London: G. Allen & Unwin Ltd.
  3. ^ Smith, Timothy D'Arch (1970). Love in Earnest: Some Notes on the Lives and Writings of English 'Uranian' Poets from 1889 to 1930. Ann Arbor: The University of Michigan Press. ISBN 978-0-7100-6730-2.
  4. ^ Holland, Merlin; Rupert Hart-Davis, eds. (2000). The Complete Letters of Oscar Wilde. New York: Henry Holt and Co. p. 1019. ISBN 978-0-8050-5915-1.
  5. ^ Kaylor, Michael M. (2006). Secreted Desires: The Major Uranians: Hopkins, Pater and Wilde. Czech Republic: Masaryk University.