Katherine Prouting, The University of Queensland
‘Physical and Sexual Abuse in Athenian Lawcourt Speeches’

Domestic violence is a common topic in Athenian literature. Often writers or speakers introduced it to emphasise didactic statements or as a way to continue a story’s narrative. However, unlike other genres of Athenian literature, the analysis of domestic violence in Athenian legal speeches is underdeveloped. Domestic violence involves a person perpetrating acts against a victim in which there is a relationship. These acts are often categorised as physical abuse, such as hitting, slapping and kicking, and as sexual abuse, such as rape and non-consensual sexual acts. The Athenians responded to these complex phenomena through the overt and covert use of legal procedures. The latter provided a legal and rhetorical way to examine domestic violence. These procedures could deal directly with alleged domestic violence (e.g. the trauma ek poronias) or indirectly, as was the case with the dokimasia tōn rhētērōn (‘public scrutiny of speakers’). In this paper, I shall discuss how the Athenians used forensic speeches to discuss physical and sexual abuse, while contextualising these behaviours through modern studies of domestic violence that are applicable to the world of classical Athens.

Dr Kit Morrell, The University of Queensland
‘Talking about Laws in the Roman Republic’

Roman public discourse typically privileged tradition over innovation: ‘let no innovation be made contrary to the precedents and customs of the ancestors’, as Cicero put it in Pro Lege Manilia (60), summing up his opponents’ views. Yet, Roman lawmakers frequently did introduce significant innovations. The language of making and naming laws also suggests an attitude to innovation different from the rhetoric of mos maiorum (‘ancestral custom’). A vote in favour of a proposed law was precisely a vote for change: uti rogas (‘as you ask’), abbreviated to V on the voting tablet, as opposed to A for antiquo (‘I maintain things as they are’). Roman statutes were named for their proposers (lex Acilia, lex Julia, etc.), and it was a source of prestige to give one’s name to a new law. Even the inclusion of a so-called sanctio clause to try to prevent the repeal of a law anticipated further legislation in the future. This paper will consider what Roman ways of speaking and writing about laws might tell us about attitudes to lawmaking and innovation in the Roman republic.

About Classics and Ancient History Seminars

Event details

  • The seminars take place at 4pm, in the Michie Building (09), Room 536
  • Seminars are also on Zoom. Send an email to Duncan Keenan-Jones (d.keenanjones@uq.edu.au) for the link.
  • Upcoming seminars can be found here.
  • Please be aware that we are still operating under Covid-19 regulations during public events. Masks are no longer required at UQ locations - however, UQ strongly encourages mask wearing when physical distancing is not possible. UQ strongly encourages all campus attendees to be up to date with vaccinations. And finally, those who are feeling unwell, have been diagnosed with COVID-19 in the previous 7 days or have been in close contact with a confirmed case in the last 7 days, are asked not to attend this seminar.
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The Friends of Antiquity, an alumni organisation of the University, runs its own series of public lectures, which take place on Sunday afternoons. The Friends’ program for can be found at https://alumni.uq.edu.au/friends-of-antiquity