Ancient Obscenities

Their Nature and Use in the Ancient Greek and Roman Worlds
Dorota Dutsch and Ann Suter, editors
References to the body’s sexual and excretory functions occupy a peculiarly ambivalent space in Greece and Rome


Ancient Obscenities inquires into the Greco-Roman handling of explicit representations of the body in its excretory and sexual functions, taking as its point of departure the modern preoccupation with the obscene. The essays in this volume offer new interpretations of materials that have been perceived by generations of modern readers as “obscene”: the explicit sexual references of Greek iambic poetry and Juvenal’s satires, Aristophanic aischrologia, Priapic poetics, and the scatology of Pompeian graffiti. Other essays venture in an even more provocative fashion into texts that are not immediately associated with the obscene: the Orphic Hymn to Demeter, Herodotus, the supposedly prim scripts of Plautus and the Attic orators. The volume focuses on texts but also includes a chapter devoted to visual representation, and many essays combine evidence from texts and material culture. Of all these texts, artifacts, and practices we ask the same questions: What kinds of cultural and emotional work do sexual and scatological references perform? Can we find a blueprintfor the ancient usage of this material?

Jacket illustration: Pelike, Attica, 440 BCE–430 BCE. Attributed to the Hasselmann Painter. © The Trustees of the British Museum. All rights reserved.

Dorota Dutsch is Associate Professor of Classics at the University of California, Santa Barbara.

 Ann Suter is Professor Emerita of Classical Studies at the University of Rhode Island.

Praise / Awards

  • "Given the breadth of its coverage, this book should interest not only specialists in one or another author but also anyone working on classical morality, values, psychology, and humor...Highly recommended."

  • "Each of these studies is of high scholarly quality and makes an original contribution."
    --Jeffrey Henderson, Bryn Mawr Classical Review
  • "Interesting and surprisingly varied reading."
    --Classics for All
  • "An important monograph that is not just for experts, but will also be read with pleasure by all those who are interested in nature and the use of obscenity in Greco-Roman antiquity."
    --l'Antiquité Classique

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Product Details

  • 6 x 9.
  • 366pp.
  • 14 illustrations, 1 table.
Available for sale worldwide

  • Hardcover
  • 2015
  • Available
  • 978-0-472-11964-6

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  • $99.95 U.S.