Scholia Reviews ns 13 (2004) 3.

Susan Deacy and Karen F. Pierce (edd.), Rape in Antiquity: Sexual Violence in the Greek and Roman Worlds. London: Gerald Duckworth and Co. with the Classical Press of Wales, 2002. Pp. xiv incl. bibliography + 274 incl. index. ISBN 0-7156-3147-0. UK£16.90 / US$21.95.

Z. M. Packman
North Carolina State University

Except for the preface by Deacy and Pierce, this collection of articles is reprinted without alteration from the 1997 hardcover edition: two articles on the place of rape in Athenian legal discourse at the front,[[1]] two on rape in Greek and Roman historiography at the back,[[2]] and in between two articles each on Greek myth,[[3]] Greek art,[[4]] and Greek and Roman drama[[5]] -- with a coda in the form of two articles on aspects of rape in eastern and western documents of the post-classical period.[[6]] The treatment is not, however, so comprehensive as suggested by title and arrangement. Some contributors aim to cover the topic of rape in a body of ancient evidence (Kilmer on early red-figure pottery, Pierce on New Comedy); others target selected forms of sexual violence (Robson on bestial rape in Greek myth, Arafat on rape as a political or military metaphor in Greek painting); still others concentrate on language suggestive of rape in texts which do not record any examples of the thing itself (Byrne on a single Aeschylus tragedy; Hopwood on royal marriages in Byzantium). Contributors have joined together not to develop a common thesis regarding the treatment of rape in their separate areas of scholarly interest, or even to compare findings, but rather to highlight an aspect of each area which has been neglected in earlier scholarship. The new openness towards discussion of rape comes from a new generation of scholars -- this volume seems to have originated in seminars and conferences that must have taken place when most were still graduate students -- and the results, if necessarily uneven, are pleasingly free of coyness, defensiveness, and obscurantism.

The definition of rape, combined with a concern to avoid anachronism in the treatment of it, is an issue for editors and contributors. Deacey's preface tells us (p. viii) that 'each contributor is mindful of the complexities of the topic, and care is taken to avoid imposing potentially misleading modern definitions upon the ancient evidence' and she credits contributors (p. x) with ' . . . a recognition that sexual acts that we term "rape" would not necessarily have been viewed as such in antiquity.' The second remark, in particular, is one which I find difficult to interpret, given that the ancient languages do not share either with English or with each other a common term for what we call 'rape.'

On the contrary, there are differences in terminology even among ancients writing in the same language, as I know from my own researches in Roman comedy and Latin declamation, and one thing I would have been glad to see in a volume such as this one is a more consistent attention to the language used to describe or refer to acts of sexual violence. As it is, the first article in the collection and the last give the most intense scrutiny to the English definition of 'rape' which contributors seem to have shared: an episode of sexual contact marked by absence of consent in one of the parties involved. Omitowoju (p. 1) acknowledges with appropriate, if possibly anachronistic, feeling that this definition shifts attention from the behavior of the perpetrator to the intentions of the victim, with the result that, in cases where the ancient text does not concern itself with the victim's state of mind, it may be difficult to establish that the act is one of rape, even where violence is said to be applied by the perpetrator. Harrison pursues this line of thought to its logical conclusion at the end of his article: 'If [a bride!] subscribed unthinkingly to the "lie back and think of . . ." ethos, was she in fact capable of consent? If all (socially acceptable) sex followed this pattern then, was all sex rape, or was there no such thing at all?' With this point of view as our guide, we could easily find our way back to the twentieth-century practice of ignoring or denying episodes of rape in ancient documents.

From books and articles appearing since the original hard-back edition of this volume, there seems to be little likelihood of that, and of course many of the articles have been in some sense overtaken, sometimes by their own authors -- Rosanna Omitowoju's The Language and Politics of Rape in Classical Athens (Cambridge 2002) is the outstanding example, but other scholars represented in this volume have made additional contributions as well.[[7]] Deacy and Pierce's Rape in Antiquity represents a stage in the development of the scholarship on sexuality in the ancient world. With the cost of this paperback issue something like one third that of the hardcover original, those who are following this rapidly- developing field will find it that much easier to acquire.


[[1]] Rosanna Omitowoju, 'Regulating rape: soap operas and self-interest in the Athenian courts' (pp. 1-24), and Daniel Ogden, 'Rape, adultery and protection of bloodlines in classical Athens' (pp. 25-42).

[[2]] Thomas Harrison, 'Herodotus and the ancient Greek idea of rape' (pp. 185-208), and James A. Arieti, 'Rape and Livy's view of Roman history' (pp. 209-30).

[[3]] Susan Deacy, 'The vulnerability of Athena: parthenoi and rape in Greek myth' (pp. 43-64), and J. E. Robson, 'Bestiality and bestial rape in Greek myth' (pp. 65-96).

[[4]] K. W. Arafat, 'State of the art -- art of the State: sexual violence and politics in Late Archaic and Early Classical vase-painting' (pp. 97-122), and Martin Kilmer, 'Rape in early red-figure pottery: violence and threat in homo-erotic and hetero-erotic contexts' (pp. 123-42).

[[5]] Lucy Byrne, 'Fear in the Seven against Thebes' (pp. 143-62), and Karen F. Pierce, 'The portrayal of rape in New Comedy' (pp. 163-84).

[[6]] Keith Hopwood, 'Byzantine princesses and lustful Turks' (pp. 231-42), and Corinne Saunders, 'Classical paradigms of rape in the Middle Ages' (pp. 243-66).

[[7]] Cf., e.g., Daniel Ogden, Polygamy, Prostitutes and Death: The Hellenistic Dynasties (London 1999). Martin Kilmer's Greek Erotica on Attic Red-Figure Vases (London 1993) preceded the volume under review.