top of page

Exhibit Number


3 February 2021 at 17:00:00


Image Credits:

Left: William Lithgow (Scottish Traveller and Writer, credits to Wikimedia Creative commons) | Right: The burning of two sodomites at the stake outside Zürich in 1482, by Spiezer Schilling.

Some cities in Malta made clear distinctions between different types of culprit: passive partners, the young and first offenders were generally treated more leniently. We learn that boys involved in sodomy were hardly ever executed.

In various ways then, society recognised the age of eighteen as a watershed in young males' lives. Boys's abandonment of the passive role around this age, whether they continued to engage in sodomy as the dominant partner or not, marked like a symbolic and sometimes experiential rite of passage their entry into the sexual world of adult males.

Nonetheless William Lithgow, a scottish traveller to Malta in 1616, wrote that:

"The fift day of my staying here, I saw a Spanish Souldier and a Maltezen boy burn in ashes, for the publick profession of Sodomy, and long or night, there were above a hundred Bardassoes, whoorish boyes that fled away to Sicilie in a Galleyot, for feare of fire but never one Burgeon stirred, being few or non there free of it".

Lithgow's comment seems to suggest that the Maltese authorities were seriously preoccupied with the spreading practice of sodomy at the time. One cannot exclude that the judges were ready to condemn to death anyone singled out for practising the abominable crime (vizio nefando) once the victim was accused.

Cassar, C. (2003). 'Homosexuality and Moral Value in Historical Perspective: The Case of Malta in a European Context' in Paul A. Bartolo & Mark G. Borg (Eds): Homosexuality - Challenging the Stigma. Valletta: Agenda Publishers

bottom of page