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Ancient Poem Focus Of Modern-Day Harassment Case

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Ancient Poem Focus Of Modern-Day Harassment Case

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Ancient Poem Focus Of Modern-Day Harassment Case

Ancient Poem Focus Of Modern-Day Harassment Case

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In London, a poem by the first century B.C. poet Catullus has been the focus for lawyers trying to prove that investment banker Mark Lowe illegally dismissed one of his female employees. Mary Beard, the eminent professor of classics at Cambridge University, discusses the story with host Guy Raz.

(Soundbite of music)

GUY RAZ, host:

Ancient Roman poetry is the last thing you might expect to hear at the center of a sexual harassment claim. But in London, a line from a poem by Catullus, written in the first century B.C. has been the focus for lawyers trying to prove that investment banker Mark Lowe illegally dismissed one of his female employees.

We called up Mary Beard, the eminent professor of classics at Cambridge University, to find out more about the story. It began, she says, with an innocent email written to Lowe by a young woman looking to work as his intern.

Professor MARY BEARD (Classics, Cambridge University): And she had asked him to translate a little bit of Latin from the Gospel of St. Matthew.

RAZ: What was the Latin?

Prof. BEARD: The Latin was diligite inimicos vestros.

RAZ: Which means love your enemies. Well, Mark Lowe, the investment banker, studied Greek and Latin at Oxford. And so...

Prof. BEARD: He wrote some Latin back. And the Latin he wrote back was - and I will give it you only in Latin - (BEEP), which is a quotation from a poem of Catullus.

RAZ: And what's it mean in English?

Prof. BEARD: I can tell you what it means in English, and you will have to bleep it out. It means (BEEP).

RAZ: Oh, my gosh. Well, here's roughly what it means.

Prof. BEARD: What it indicates is that what you should do to your enemies is something quite different from love them in the Christian sense.

RAZ: That's Mary Beard, professor of classics at Cambridge, who writes a blog called "A Don's Life" for The Times of London.

(Soundbite of music)

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