Bestiality and Bestial Rape in Greek Myth

Robson, James (1997). Bestiality and Bestial Rape in Greek Myth. In: Deacy, S and Pearce, K eds. Rape in Antiquity: Sexual Violence in the Greek and Roman Worlds. London: Duckworth, pp. 65–96.



This article discusses Greek myths of rape where either the aggressor (a god) and/or the victim assume the form of animals. One assumption of this piece is that myths held both entertainment and educative value for the Greeks and that women as well as men contributed to the retelling and shaping of myth. The lessons to be drawn from myths of bestial rape is that they served to underline the distinction between gods, mortals and animals. Importantly, too, bestial myths presented to women lessons about appropriate female behaviour in the male-dominated world of ancient Greece: and so, for example, female passion is always punished in these myths, whereas willing submission is rewarded. In addition, the animal nature of women's assailants and the very fact that sex is non-consensual in these bestial myths can also be seen as indicative of women's anxieties surrounding sex and marriage.

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