Obscenity or taboo? : remarks on profanities in Juvenal and Martial

Source document: Graeco-Latina Brunensia. 2017, vol. 22, iss. 2, pp. 155-164
  • ISSN
    1803-7402 (print)
    2336-4424 (online)
Type: Article
License: Not specified license
When examining obscene expressions and taboos in the Latin language, one cannot rely on the modern concepts of profanities or taboos at all, since the limits of obscenity were drawn much further than in our times, as it is sufficiently demonstrated by certain elements of the Roman culture. It is enough to mention the custom of hanging a phallic charm on babies' necks, or the fascini used to ward the evil away from conquering generals. In my paper, I deal with the appearance of themes and expressions that can be considered as obscene in the poems of Martial and Juvenal. In doing this, I have examined the graffiti-corpus found in the cities destroyed by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD, being the most important contemporary source of these expressions. The analysis of these literary texts can bring us closer to revealing where the aforementioned limits were drawn in the Latin language of the 1st and 2nd century AD.
  • The research has been developed with the support of MTA-SZTE Antiquity and Renaissance: Sources and Reception Research Group (TK2016-126) and the János Bolyai Research Scholarship of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences.
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