6 February 2024 Start
6 February 2024 End
19:30 (local time in Poland) Time
Zoom lecture

Two thousand years of sexual harassment

Tuesday, 6 February 2024

The 5th session of the lectures that are organised at Nicolaus Copernicus University in Toruń by Rafał Toczko and Andreas Serafim under the general title “The Art of Violence: Reapproaching the Invective in Greek and Latin Literature”. Professor Amy Richlin (University of California Los Angeles) will speak on “Two thousand years of sexual harassment”.

The lecture will take place online via Zoom: (Meeting ID: 946 3724 8772 Passcode: 856123)


Invective is often a speech-act, in that artful invective inflicts real wounds. This is particularly true of the street harassment of women and young men, which is a substitute for violence but also shades into violence, leaving the body stained even when not physically breached. Examples are easy to find, from Dikaiopolis’s jolly song about raping a Thracian slave-woman in Acharnians to a vivid description of the street harassment of a slave-woman in Plautus’s Mercator, culminating in the folk practice known as occentatio (the equivalent of the “rough music” of the charivari). Roman law addressed street invective as part of the delict of iniuria, so that the law provides a remedy as for violent damage (D. 47.10). Yet, in its refined form in the courtroom, such insults are fully illustrated in Seneca Controversiae 2.7 (wife accused by husband) and 5.6 (young man raped while out in public dressed in women’s clothing): young men are taught how to do it, and Cicero’s Pro Caelio shows this schooling put into practice. The continuity suggested in this talk’s title is also easily documented; a look at Catharine MacKinnon’s Sexual Harassment of Working Women underlines how co-implicated sexual invective is with class and labor.