Sunday, November 24, 2019

What's in a Name? Pueri & Puellae in Latin Love Poetry

***Students, shame on you for using this translation to cheat on an exam! 

I am removing the contents of this post.***

When reading Latin love poetry, remember that puella means "girlfriend" and not "girl," and puer means "boyfriend" and not "boy."  Textual evidence supports that the Romans used these terms to refer to adult partners old enough to engage in sexual activity (e.g., cum puero ut bello bella puella cubet, Catullus 78.4; vir reliquis, uni sit puer mihi, Martial Epig. IV.42.14). 

However, remember that enslaved people of all ages were often the target of sexual abuse, and there are references to these acts in Roman poetry. Terms like puer delicatus and the phrase in deliciis are used to refer to enslaved people. Regardless of their age, these people were not capable of consent due to their enslaved status. It is important to not joke about or romanticize poems that use these terms, as this damages the dignity of our students.