OWU Home

News Release

Ohio Wesleyan Professor to Present Kissing Lesson
Donald Lateiner to Speak at American Association for the Advancement of Science Meeting

February 13, 2009

DELAWARE, OHIO – Donald Lateiner, Ph.D., professor of humanities-classics at Ohio Wesleyan University, will present “Greek and Roman Kissing: Occasions, Protocols, Methods, and Mistakes” during the 2009 annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS).

The meeting is being held Feb. 12-16 in Chicago. Lateiner, the John R. Wright Professor of Humanities-Classics at Ohio Wesleyan, will make his presentation as part of a special “Science of Kissing” symposium on Feb. 14—Valentine’s Day. He also will take part in a pre-event media briefing on Feb. 13.

In his research, Lateiner examined how ancient kissing habits differ from current Euro-American etiquette and expectations. In the ancient world, for example, some Greeks thought that kisses bestowed upon lovers or upon the newly departed actually released the soul. In addition, kissing an enemy fighter’s hands could indicate a plea for mercy.

Imperial Romans, Lateiner said, seemed to kiss more often than Greeks. Some Roman husbands apparently kissed their wives as a primitive type of sobriety test. As for their wives, he said, custom – if not law – limited whom they were permitted to kiss.

“Throughout Western history, the kiss—lips touching someone or something—has meant more than just a gesture of affection,” Lateiner said. “Kisses are given to people, but also to pets and the earth itself. This gesture, this body language, can also convey a request, forgiveness, relative social standing, even hostility. Objections to another’s kisses, based on previous contact, amounted to a form of Roman aggression.”

Lateiner, who specializes in Greek and Latin language and literature, also teaches courses on folklore, archaeology, and love and sexuality. He is well-known on the Ohio Wesleyan campus for donning a toga and participating in the Department of Humanities-Classics annual marathon reading of ancient poetry, such as Homer’s “Odyssey” and Virgil’s “Aeneid.” He publishes frequently on Greek and Roman nonverbal behaviors, such as oath protocols, weeping, sneezes, and laughter.

Founded in 1848, the American Association for the Advancement of Science serves some 272 affiliated societies and academies of science and publishes the peer-reviewed journal “Science.” The non-profit organization, based in Washington, D.C., seeks to “advance science and serve society” through initiatives that include policy, education, and public understanding of science.

Ohio Wesleyan University is an undergraduate liberal arts college that transforms the lives of its students through a combination of rigorous academics, mentoring relationships, and real-world experiences. Featured in the book “Colleges That Change Lives,” the private university’s 1,850 students come from 47 states and 50 countries. Visit www.owu.edu for more information.