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Published online by Cambridge University Press:  16 September 2016


Judging from its history of effect, the Wedding Cento produced by the fourth-century poet Ausonius is in fact not a poem about a wedding at all. It is a work about the ethics of textual recycling; about the impact of political power and patronage on literary production; about smut, or rather about where the responsibility lies when a reader sees smut when none was intended. It is also a poem about sexual violence, but this aspect of the text has been largely missing in its scholarly reception. Such an absence is perhaps to be expected. Sexual assault is a notoriously under-reported offence, and its invisibility tends to extend into the realm of artistic representation and its scholarly treatment. During the last couple of decades, for instance, film scholars have addressed the need to re-read cinematic portrayals of rape in order to unearth it from ‘metaphor and euphemism, naturalized plot device and logical consequence…restoring rape to the literal, to the body: restoring that is, the violence – the physical, sexual violation’. This issue must be addressed here, but first a few words about the Cento and the most prominent trends in its reception.

Research Article
Copyright © The Classical Association 2016 

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This research was supported by a fellowship from the Royal Swedish Academy of Letters, History and Antiquities. Translations are my own unless otherwise indicated.


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18 Ibid.

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50 101: Aen. 11. 631; 103: Aen. 10.892,  Aen. 9.398; 104: Aen. 10.699, Aen. 12.748; 107: Aen. 12.312; 109: Aen. 10. 788; 110: Aen. 11.524; 115: Aen. 11.530; 116–17: Aen. 9.743–4; 118: Aen. 11.804; 120: Aen. 11.816; 121: Aen. 11.817; 123: Aen. 10.770; 127: 12.276; 131: Aen. 11.818.

51 See Tucker, G. H., ‘Le Gallus de Lelio Capilupi’, in Sacré, D. and Papy, J. (eds.), Syntagmatia. Essays on Neo-Latin Literature in Honour of Monique Mund-Dopchie and Gilbert Tournoy (Leuven, 2009), 332, 341–2Google Scholar; Cueto, A. S., ‘Las lágrimas de la nova nupta’, Minerva 24 (2011), 141 Google Scholar; Caldwell (n. 43), 162; Hardie, P., The Last Trojan Hero. A Cultural History of Virgil's Aeneid (New York, 2014), 177–8Google Scholar.

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55 See Hinds (n. 47), 194.

56 B. Moroni, ‘L'Imperatore e il Letterato nel “Cento Nuptialis” di Ausonio’, Acme 54 (2006), 84–5, notes that the wedding night is a prerequisite for the survival of the dynasty.

57 McGill (n. 3), 92; Hinds (n. 47), 194–5.

58 J. A. Arieti, ‘Rape and Livy's View of Roman History’, in Deacy and Pierce (n. 44), 209–18.

59 Ibid., 220.

60 Ibid., 225–6.

61 Ibid., 226.