Sunday, August 22, 2010

De Opresssione

One of the best kept 'secrets' of Medievalists is the "Deeds Of the Romans", a book of stories that has not seemed to catch on with a modern audience although it was a fertile plundering ground for ideas and inspiration to later writers. I felt like translating one of the stories because I thought it was interesting.

About Violence

Claudius ruled, who established on behalf of the law that, if anyone seized a woman and overpowered her by force, it should be by the choice of the woman if he ought to be put to death or if he should have to marry her without a dowry. It happened that a certain man ravished two women in one night. One woman asked for death and the other to be wed. The rapist was seized and lead in person before the judge so that he could answer to the two women in accordance with the law.
The first woman sought the death penalty in accordance with the law. The second woman sought the man for a husband in accordance with the law and said to the first: "It is true, since the law says it, that you should obtain what you ask for. And thus it should be done for me. But since my request is gentler and more affectionate, it seems to me therefore, that the judge will choose on behalf of me". Both women proceeded to see the judge in person and each demanded the privilege of the law. When the judge heard the reasons from each, he ruled for the second woman so that she would be able to marry the man. And thus it was done.

Several thoughts occur to me with this story. First off, raptus could mean abduction, looting, violence, hurrying as well as sexual assault. In this story it seems pretty clear that rape is meant. Secondly, what a busy guy - attacking two women in one night! Thirdly, imagine marrying your rapist! Except that seizing a woman was usually a property complaint; she was the property of her father, brother or husband. Even if she was willing, it could be called rape since she did not usually have the right of consent.

2 comments:

anachronist said...

Claudius ruled, who established on behalf of the law that, if anyone seized a woman and overpowered her by force, it should be by the choice of the woman if he ought to be put to death or if he should have to marry her without a dowry.

My first thought: if today's rapists faced a similar alternative, there would be far less rapes. I bet plenty of women would choose death as the punishment.

Do translate some more, please!

The Red Witch said...

I was planning to post more of the shorter stories. These stories don't seem to exist in translation on the web in spite of how much other stuff is out there.