Sotadic zone

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Burton's Sotadic Zone encompassed only small areas of Europe and North Africa, larger areas of Asia, and all of North and South America. (Erratum: Iran (Persia) should be included in the Zone.)

The existence of a Sotadic Zone was an hypothesis of the British Orientalist and explorer Sir Richard Francis Burton (1821-1890). He asserted that there exists a geographic zone in which pederasty (romantic-sexual intimacy between a boy and a man) is prevalent and celebrated among the indigenous inhabitants.[1] The name derives from Sotades, a 3rd-century BC Greek poet who was the chief representative of a group of writers of obscene, and sometimes pederastic, satirical poetry. (These homoerotic verses are preserved in the Greek Anthology, a collection of poems spanning the Classical and Byzantine periods of Greek literature.)

Burton first advanced his Sotadic Zone concept in the "Terminal Essay" [2] contained in Volume 10 of his translation of The Arabian Nights — which he called The Book of the Thousand Nights and a Night — in 1886.[3]


According to Burton's description, the Sotadic Zone is:

  1. bounded westward 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, Sindh, 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."



  1. ^ Waitt, Gordon; Kevin Markwell (2008). "The Lure of the "Sotadic Zone"'". Gay & Lesbian Review Worldwide. 15 (2). 
  2. ^ (§1., D)
  3. ^ The Book of the Thousand Nights and A Night. s.l.: Burton Society (Private printing). 1886. 

Other sources[edit]

  • Anthropological Notes on the Sotadic Zone of Sexual Inversion Throughout the World Including Some Observations on Social and Sexual Relations of the Mohammedan Empire, by Richard F. Burton, with Photographs of Anthropological Rarities... and Rare Burton Collectanea (n.d., 1930s?), The Falstaff Press, 95 pgs (edited anonymously by N.M. Penzer and privately printed)