Latin in full Decimus Junius Juvenalis
born ad 55, –60?, Aquinum, Italy
died probably in or after 127
most powerful of all Roman satiric poets. Many of his phrases and
epigrams have entered common parlance—for example, “bread and circuses”
and “who will guard the guards themselves?”
The one contemporary who ever mentions Juvenal is Martial, who claims to
be his friend, calls him eloquent, and describes him as living the life
of a poor dependent cadging from rich men. There are a few biographies
of him, apparently composed long after his death; these may contain some
nuggets of fact, but they are brief, ill-proportioned, and sometimes
From these sparse sources it can be inferred that Juvenal’s family
was well-to-do, and he became an officer in the army as a first step to
a career in the administrative service of the emperor Domitian (ad
81–96) but failed to obtain promotion and grew embittered. He wrote a
satire declaring that court favourites had undue influence in the
promotion of officers, and for this he was banished—possibly to the
remote frontier town of Syene, now Aswān, in Egypt—and his property was
confiscated. In 96, after Domitian’s assassination, Juvenal returned to
Rome; but, without money or a career, he was reduced to living as a
“client” on the grudging charity of the rich. After some years his
situation improved, for autobiographical remarks in Satire 11 show him,
now elderly, living in modest comfort in Rome and possessing a farm at
Tibur (now Tivoli) with servants and livestock. Still pessimistic, the
later Satires show a marked change of tone and some touches of human
kindness, as though he had found some consolation at last. Though no
details of his death exist, he probably died in or after 127.
Juvenal’s 16 satiric poems deal mainly with life in Rome under the
much-dreaded emperor Domitian and his more humane successors Nerva
(96–98), Trajan (98–117), and Hadrian (117–138). They were published at
intervals in five separate books. Book One, containing Satires 1–5,
views in retrospect the horrors of Domitian’s tyrannical reign and was
issued between 100 and 110. (The historian Tacitus, a contemporary of
Juvenal, was also embittered by the suspicion and fear of that epoch.)
Book Two, the single, enormous Satire 6, contains topical references to
the year 115. The third Book, with Satires 7, 8, and 9, opens with
praise of an emperor—surely Hadrian, who endowed a literary institute to
assist deserving authors—whose generosity makes him the sole hope of
literature. There is no datable allusion in Book Four, which comprises
Satires 10–12. Book Five, made up of Satires 13, 14, 15, and 16, has two
clear references to the year 127.
The Satires attack two main themes: the corruption of society in the
city of Rome and the follies and brutalities of mankind. In the first
Satire, Juvenal declares that vice, crime, and the misuse of wealth have
reached such a peak that it is impossible not to write satire, but that,
since it is dangerous to attack powerful men in their lifetime, he will
take his examples from the dead. He does not maintain this principle,
for sometimes he mentions living contemporaries; but it provides a
useful insurance policy against retaliation, and it implies that Rome
has been evil for many generations. Male homosexuals are derided in two
poems: passives in Satire 2, actives and passives together in Satire 9.
In the third Satire a friend of Juvenal explains why, abandoning the
humiliating life of a dependent, he is determined to live in a quiet
country town and leave crowded and uncomfortable Rome, which has been
ruined by Greeks and other foreign immigrants; while in the fifth
Juvenal mocks another such dependent by describing the calculated
insults he must endure on the rare occasions when his patron invites him
to dinner. The fourth relates how Domitian summoned his cringing Cabinet
to consider an absurdly petty problem: how to cook a turbot too large
for any ordinary pan.
Satire 6, more than 600 lines long, is a ruthless denunciation of the
folly, arrogance, cruelty, and sexual depravity of Roman women. The
seventh Satire depicts the poverty and wretchedness of the Roman
intellectuals who cannot find decent rewards for their labours. In the
eighth, Juvenal attacks the cult of hereditary nobility. One of his
grandest poems is the 10th, which examines the ambitions of
mankind—wealth, power, glory, long life, and personal beauty—and shows
that they all lead to disappointment or danger: what mankind should pray
for is “a sound mind in a sound body, and a brave heart.” In Satire 11,
Juvenal invites an old friend to dine quietly but comfortably and
discourses on the foolishly extravagant banquets of the rich. The 12th
is a quiet little poem distinguishing between true and mercenary
friendship. In the 13th Juvenal offers sarcastic consolation to a man
who has been defrauded of some money by a friend, telling him that such
misdeeds are commonplace; while in the 14th he denounces parents who
teach their children avarice. Satire 15 tells of a riot in Egypt during
which a man was torn to pieces and eaten: a proof that men are crueler
than animals. In the 16th Juvenal announces that he will survey the
privileges of professional soldiers, an important theme; but the poem
breaks off at line 60 in the middle of a sentence: the rest was lost in
Technically, Juvenal’s poetry is very fine. The structure of the
individual Satires is—with a few exceptions—clear and forceful. They are
full of skillfully expressive effects in which the sound and rhythm
mimic and enhance the sense; and they abound in trenchant phrases and
memorable epigrams, many known to people who have never heard of
Juvenal: “bread and circuses”; “slow rises worth, by poverty oppressed”;
“who will guard the guards themselves?”; “the itch for writing”; “the
greatest reverence is due to a child.” Vivid, often cruelly frank,
remarks appear on almost every page: after describing a rich woman’s
efforts to preserve her complexion with ointments, tonics, donkey’s
milk, and poultices, Juvenal asks, “Is that a face, or an ulcer?” He
describes striking and disgusting scenes with a clarity that makes them
unforgettable: we see the statues of the emperor’s discarded favourite
melted down to make kitchenware and chamber pots; the husband closing
his disgusted eyes while his drunken wife vomits on the marble floor;
the emperor Claudius (poisoned by his consort) “going to heaven” with
his head trembling and his lips drooling long trains of saliva; the
impotent bridegroom whimpering while a paid substitute consoles his
wife. Juvenal is not a poet to be relished by soft hearts or optimists,
but he has power.
His work was forgotten for a time after his death. Later it began to be
read and quoted, first by the Christian propagandist Tertullian—who
lived and wrote about ad 200 and was as full of passionate indignation
as Juvenal—then by other Christian authors and also by pagan students of
literature. A commentary on the Satires (which survives) was compiled at
some time between 350 and 420, and two editions of the text were
produced, based on one master copy: apparently the only copy that had
been preserved until then. Thenceforward Juvenal has never ceased to be
studied and admired, and he has been imitated by many satirists; for
instance, by Giovanni Boccaccio, Nicolas Boileau, and Lord Byron. The
term “Juvenalian satire” still denotes any criticism of contemporary
persons and institutions in Juvenal’s manner.
Translated by G. G. Ramsay
Difficile est Saturam non Scribere
What? Am I to be a listener only all my days? Am I never to get my
word in----I that have been so often bored by the Theseid 1 of the
ranting Cordus? Shall this one have spouted to me his comedies, and that
one his love ditties, and I be unavenged? Shall I have no revenge on one
who has taken up the whole day with an interminable Telephus,2 or with
an Orestes,2 which, after filling the margin at the top of the roll and
the back as well, hasn't even yet come to an end? No one knows his own
house so well as I know the groves of Mars, and the cave of Vulcan near
the cliffs of Aeolus. What the winds are brewing; whose souls Aeacus 3
has on the rack; from what country another worthy 4 is carrying off that
stolen golden fleece; how big are the ash trees which Monychus 5 tosses
about: these are the themes with which Fronto's 6 plane trees and marble
halls are for ever ringing until the pillars quiver and quake under the
continual recitations; such is the kind of stuff you may look for from
every poet, greatest or least. Well, I too have slipped my hand from
under the cane; I too have counselled Sulla to retire from public life
and sleep his fill 7; it is a foolish clemency when you jostle against
poets at every corner, to spare paper that will be wasted anyhow. But if
you can give me time, and will listen quietly to reason, I will tell you
why I prefer to run in the same course over which the great nursling ol
Aurunca 8 drove his steeds.
When a soft eunuch takes to matrimony, and Maevia, with spear in hand
and breasts exposed, to pig-sticking; when a fellow under whose razor my
stiff youthful beard used to grate 9 challenges, with his single wealth,
the whole nobility; when a guttersnipe of the Nile like Crispinus
10----a slave-born denizen of Canopus 11----hitches a Tyrian cloak on to
his shoulder, whilst on his sweating finger he airs a summer ring of
gold, unable to endure the weight of a heavier gem----it is hard not to
write satire. For who can be so tolerant of this monstrous city, who so
iron of soul, as to contain himself when the brand-new litter of lawyer
Matho comes along, filled with his huge self; after him one who has
informed against his noble patron and will soon despoil our pillaged
nobility of what remains to them----one whom Massa 12 dreads, whom Carus
12 propitiates by a bribe, and to whom Thymele 13 was made over by the
terrified Latinus;13 when you are thrust on one side by men who earn
legacies by nightly performances, and are raised to heaven by that now
royal road to high preferment----the favours of an aged and wealthy
woman? Each of the lovers will have his share; Proculeius a twelfth
part, Gillo eleven parts, each in proportion to the magnitude of his
services. Let each take the price of his own blood, and turn as pale as
a man who has trodden upon a snake bare-footed, or of one who awaits his
turn to orate before the altar at Lugdunum.14
Why tell how my heart burns hot with rage when I see the people
hustled by a mob of retainers attending on one who has defrauded and
debauched his ward, or on another who has been condemned by a futile
verdict----for what matters infamy if the cash be kept? The exiled
Marius 15 carouses from the eighth hour of the day and revels in the
wrath of Heaven, while you, poor Province, win your cause and weep!
Must I not deem these things worthy of the Venusian's 16 lamp? Must I
not have my fling at them? Should I do better to tell tales about
Hercules, or Diomede, or the bellowing in the Labyrinth, or about the
flying carpenter 17 and the lad 18 who splashed into the sea; and that
in an age when the compliant husband, if his wife may not lawfully
inherit,19 takes money from her paramour, being well trained to keep his
eyes upon the ceiling, or to snore with wakeful nose over his cups; an
age when one who has squandered his family fortunes upon horse flesh
thinks it right and proper to look for the command of a cohort? See him
dashing at break-neck speed, like a very Automedon,20 along the
Flaminian way, holding the reins himself, while he shows himself off to
his great-coated mistress!
Would you not like to fill up a whole note-book at the street
crossings when you see a forger borne along upon the necks of six
porters, and exposed to view on this side and on that in his almost
naked litter, and reminding you of the lounging Maecenas: one who by
help of a scrap of paper and a moistened seal has converted himself into
a fine and wealthy gentleman?
Then up comes a lordly dame who, when her husband wants a drink,
mixes toad's blood with his old Calenian,21 and improving upon Lucusta
22 herself, teaches her artless neighbours to brave the talk of the town
and carry forth to burial the blackened corpses of their husbands. If
you want to be anybody nowadays, you must dare some crime that merits
narrow Gyara 23 or a gaol; honesty is praised and starves. It is to
their crimes that men owe their pleasure-grounds and high commands,
their fine tables and old silver goblets with goats standing out in
relief. Who can get, sleep for thinking of a money-loving
daughter-in-law seduced, of brides that have lost their virtue, or of
adulterers not out of their teens? Though nature say me nay, indignation
will prompt my verse, of whatever kind it be----such verse as I can
write, or Cluvienus! 24
From the day when the rain-clouds lifted up the waters, and Deucalion
climbed that mountain in his ship to seek an oracle----that day when
stones grew soft and warm with life, and Pyrrha showed maidens in
nature's garb to men----all the doings of mankind, their vows, their
fears, their angers and their pleasures, their joys and goings to and
fro, shall form the motley subject of my page. For when was Vice more
rampant? When did the maw of Avarice gape wider? When was gambling so
reckless? Men come not now with purses to the hazard of the gaming
table, but with a treasure-chest beside them. What battles will you
there see waged with a steward for armour-bearer! Is it a simple form of
madness to lose a hundred thousand sesterces, and not have a shirt to
give to a shivering slave? Which of our grandfathers built such numbers
of villas, or dined by himself off seven courses? Look now at the meagre
dole set down upon the threshold for a toga-clad mob to scramble for!
The patron first peers into your face, fearing that you may be claiming
under someone else's name: once recognised, you will get your share. He
then bids the crier call up the Trojan-blooded nobles----for they too
besiege the door as well as we: "The Praetor first," says he, "and after
him the Tribune." "But I was here first," says a freedman who stops the
way; "why should I be afraid, or hesitate to keep my place? Though born
on the Euphrates----a fact which the little windows in my ears would
testify though I myself denied it----yet I am the owner of five shops
which bring me in four hundred thousand sesterces.25 What better thing
does the Broad Purple 26 bestow if a Corvinus 27 herds sheep for daily
wage in the Laurentian country, while I possess more property than
either a Pallas or a Licinus?" 28 So let the Tribunes await their turn;
let money carry the day; let the sacred office 29 give way to one who
came but yesterday with whitened 30 feet into our city. For no deity is
held in such reverence amongst us as Wealth; though as yet, O baneful
money, thou hast no temple of thine own; not yet have we reared altars
to Money in like manner as we worship Peace and Honour, Victory and
Virtue, or that Concord 31 that twitters when we salute her nest.
If then the great officers of state reckon up at the end of the year
how much the dole brings in, how much it adds to their income, what
shall we dependants do who, out of the self-same dole, have to find
ourselves in coats and shoes, in the bread and fire of our homes? A mob
of litters comes in quest of the hundred farthings; here is a husband
going the round, followed by a sickly or pregnant wife; another, by a
clever and well-known trick, claims for a wife that is not there,
pointing, in her stead, to a closed and empty chair: "My Galla's in
there," says he; "let us off quick, will you not?" "Galla, put out your
head!" "Don't disturb her, she's asleep! "
The day itself is marked out by a fine round of business. First comes
the dole; then the courts, and Apollo 32 learned in the law, and those
triumphal statues among which some Egyptian Arabarch 33 or other has
dared to set up his titles; against whose statue more than one kind of
nuisance may be committed! Wearied and hopeless, the old clients leave
the door, though the last hope that a man relinquishes is that of a
dinner; the poor wretches must buy their cabbage and their fuel.
Meanwhile their lordly patron will be devouring the choicest products of
wood and sea, lying alone upon an empty couch; for off those huge and
splendid antique dinner-tables he will consume a whole patrimony at a
single meal. Ere long no parasites will be left! Who can bear to see
luxury so mean? What a huge gullet to have a whole boar----an animal
created for conviviality----served up to it! But you will soon pay for
it, my friend, when you take off your clothes, and with distended
stomach carry your peacock into the bath undigested! Hence a sudden
death, and an intestate old age; the new and merry tale runs the round
of every dinner-table, and the corpse is carried forth to burial amid
the cheers of enraged friends!
To these ways of ours Posterity will have nothing to add; our
grandchildren will do the same things, and desire the same things, that
we do. All vice is at its acme;34 up with your sails and shake out every
stitch of canvas! Here perhaps you will say, "Where find the talent to
match the theme? Where find that freedom of our forefathers to write
whatever the burning soul desired? 'What man is there that I dare not
name? What matters it whether Mucius forgives my words or no?35'" But
just describe Tigellinus 36 and you will blaze amid those faggots in
which men, with their throats tightly gripped, stand and burn and smoke,
and you 37 trace a broad furrow through the middle of the arena.
What? Is a man who has administered aconite to half a dozen uncles to
ride by and look down upon me from his swaying cushions? "Yes; and when
he comes near you, put your finger to your lip: he who but says the
word, 'That's the man!' will be counted an informer. You may set Aeneas
and the brave Rutulian 38 a-fighting with an easy mind; it will hurt no
one's feelings to hear how Achilles was slain, or how Hylas 39 was
searched for when he tumbled after his pitcher. But when Lucilius roars
and rages as if with sword in hand, the hearer, whose soul was cold with
crime, grows red; he sweats with the secret consciousness of sin. Hence
wrath and tears. So turn these things over in your mind before the
trumpet sounds; the helmet once donned, it is too late to repent you of
the battle." Then I will try what I may say of those worthies whose
ashes lie under the Flaminian and Latin 40 roads.
1. 1 An epic poem.
2. 2 Names of tragedies.
3. 3 One of the judges in Hades.
4. 4 Jason.
5. 5 A Centaur, alluding to the battle between the Centaurs and the
6. 6 A rich patron who lends his house for recitations.
7. 1 Referring to the retirement of Sulla from public life in B.C. 79.
Such themes would be prescribed to schoolboys as rhetorical exercises,
of the kind called suasoriae. See Mayor's n. and Sat. vii. 150-170.
8. 2 Lucilius, the first Roman satirist, B.C. 148-103.
9. 3 Some barber who had made a fortune. The line is repeated in x. 226.
10. 4 A favourite aversion of Juvenal's as a rich Egyptian parvenu who
had risen to be princeps equitum. See iv. 1, 31, 108.
11. 5 A city in the Nile Delta.
12. 6 Notorious informers under Domitian.
13. 7 Both actors: the allusion is not known.
14. 1 Alluding to a rhetorical contest instituted at Lyons by Caligula
(Suet. Cal. 20). Severe and humiliating punishments were inflicted on
those defeated in these contests.
15. 2 Condemned for extortion in Africa in A.D. 100.
16. 3 Horace was born at Venusia B.C. 65.
17. 4 Daedalus.
18. 5 Icarus.
19. 6 i.e. be legally incapacitated from taking an inheritance.
20. 7 The charioteer of Achilles.
21. 1 Calenian and Falernian were two of the most famous Roman wines.
22. 2 A notorious poisoner under Nero.
23. 3 A small island in the Aegean Sea on which criminals were confined.
24. 4 Unknown; some scribbler of the day.
25. 1 The fortune required of a knight (the census equestris) was
26. 2 The broad purple stripe (latus clavus) on the tunic of senators.
27. 3 One of an ancient Roman family.
28. 4 Pallas and Licinus were wealthy freedmen.
29. 5 The persons of the Tribunes of the Plebs were sacrosanct.
30. 6 Slaves imported for sale had white chalk-marks on their feet.
31. 1 The temple of Concord, near the Capitol. Storks built their nests
on the temple.
32. 2 A statue of Apollo in the Forum Augusti.
33. 3 Probably an allusion to Julius Alexander, a Jew who was Prefect of
Egypt A.D. 67-70.
34. 1 The phrase is difficult. Duff translates ''Vice always stands
above a sheer descent," and therefore soon reaches its extreme point.
35. 2 Apparently a quotation from Lucilius, being an attack on P. Mucius
36. 3 An infamous favourite of Nero's.
37. 4 i.e. "your body." The passage refers to the burning of the early
Christians, and the dragging of their remains across the arena.
38. 1 Turnus, king of the Rutulians.
39. 2 A favourite of Hercules, who was drawn into a well by the Naids.
40. 3 The sides of the great roads leading out from Rome were lined with
monuments to the dead.
Moralists without Morals
I would fain flee to Sarmatia and the frozen Sea when people who ape
the Curii 1 and live like Bacchanals dare talk about morals. In the
first place, they are unlearned persons, though you may find their
houses crammed with plaster casts of Chrysippus 2; for their greatest
hero is the man who has bought a likeness of Aristotle or Pittacus,3 or
bids his shelves preserve an original portrait of Cleanthes.4 Men's
faces are not to be trusted; does not every street abound in
gloomy-visaged debauchees? And do you rebuke foul practices, when you
are yourself the most notorious of the Socratic reprobates? A hairy
body, and arms stiff with bristles, give promise of a manly soul: but
the doctor grins when he cuts into the growths on your shaved buttocks.
Men of your kidney talk little; they glory in taciturnity, and cut their
hair shorter than their eyebrows. Peribomius 5 himself is more open and
more honest; his face, his walk, betray his distemper, and I charge
Destiny with his failings. Such men excite your pity by their frankness;
the very fury of their passions wins them pardon. Far worse are those
who denounce evil ways in the language of a Hercules; and after
discoursing upon virtue, prepare to practise vice. "Am I to respect you,
Sextus," quoth the ill-famed Varillus, "when you do as I do? How am I
worse than yourself? " Let the straight-legged man laugh at the
club-footed, the white man at the blackamoor: but who could endure the
Gracchi railing at sedition? Who will not confound heaven with earth,
and sea with sky, if Verves denounce thieves, or Milo 6 cut-throats? If
Clodius condemn adulterers, or Catiline upbraid Cethegus 7; or if
Sulla's three disciples 8 inveigh against proscriptions? Such a man was
that adulterer 9 who, after lately defiling himself by a union of the
tragic style, revived the stern laws that were to be a terror to all
men----ay, even to Mars and Venus----at the moment when Julia was
relieving her fertile womb and giving birth to abortions that displayed
the similitude of her uncle. Is it not then right and proper that the
very worst of sinners should despise your pretended Scauri,10 and bite
back when bitten?
Laronia could not contain herself when one of these sour-faced
worthies cried out, "What of your Julian Law? 11 Has it gone to sleep?"
To which she answered smilingly," O happy times to have you for a censor
of our morals! Once more may Rome regain her modesty; a third Cato has
come down to us from the skies! But tell me, where did you buy that
balsam juice that exhales from your hairy neck? Don't be ashamed to
point out to me the shopman! If laws and statutes are to be raked up,
you should cite first of all the Scantinian 12: inquire first into the
things that are done by men; men do more wicked things than we do, but
they are protected by their numbers, and the tight-locked shields of
their phalanx. Male effeminates agree wondrously well among themselves;
never in our sex will you find such loathsome examples of evil.
"Do we women ever plead in the courts? Are we learned in the Law? Do
your court-houses ever ring with our bawling? Some few of us are
wrestlers; some of us eat meat-rations: you men spin wool and bring back
your tale of work in baskets when it is done; you twirl round the
spindle big with fine thread more deftly than Penelope, more delicately
than Arachne,13 doing work such as an unkempt drab squatting on a log
would do. Everybody knows why Hister left all his property to his
freedman, why in his life-time he gave so many presents to his young
wife; the woman who sleeps third in a big bed will want for nothing. So
when you take a husband, keep your mouth shut; precious stones 14 will
be the reward of a well-kept secret. After this, what condemnation can
be pronounced on women? Our censor absolves the crow and passes judgment
on the pigeon!"
While Laronia was uttering these plain truths, the would-be Stoics
made off in confusion: for what word of untruth had she spoken? Yet what
will not other men do when you, Creticus, dress yourself in garments of
gauze, and while everyone is marvelling at your attire, launch out
against the Proculae and the Pollittae? Fabulla is an adulteress;
condemn Carfinia of the same crime if you please; but however guilty,
they would never wear such a gown as yours. "O but," you say, "these
July days are so sweltering!" Then why not plead without clothes? Such
madness would be less disgraceful. A pretty garb yours in which to
propose or expound laws to our countrymen flushed with victory, and with
their wounds yet unhealed; and to those mountain rustics who had laid
down their ploughs to listen to you? What would you not exclaim if you
saw a judge dressed like that? Would a robe of gauze sit becomingly on a
witness? You, Creticus, you, the keen, unbending champion of human
liberty, to be clothed in a transparency! This plague has come upon us
by infection, and it will spread still further, just as in the fields
the scab of one sheep, or the mange of one pig, destroys an entire herd;
just as one bunch of grapes takes on its sickly colour from the aspect
of its neighbour.
Some day you will venture on something more shameful than this dress;
no one reaches the depths of turpitude all at once. In due time you will
be welcomed by those who in their homes put fillets round their brows,
swathe themselves with necklaces, and propitiate the Bona Dea with the
stomach of a porker and a huge bowl of wine, though by an evil usage the
Goddess warns off all women from the door; none but males may approach
her altar. 15 "Away with you! profane women" is the cry; "no booming
horn, no she-minstrels here!" Such were the secret torchlight orgies
with which the Baptae 16 wearied the Cecropian 17 Cotytto. One prolongs
his eyebrows with some damp soot on the edge of a needle, and lifts up
his blinking eyes to be painted; another drinks out of an
obscenely-shaped glass, and ties up his long locks in a gilded net; he
is clothed in blue checks, or smooth-faced green; the attendant swears
by Juno like his master. Another holds in his hand a mirror like that
carried by the effeminate Otho: a trophy of the Auruncan Actor,18 in
which he gazed at his own image in full armour when he was just ready to
give the order to advance----a thing notable and novel in the annals of
our time, a mirror among the kit of Civil War! It needed, in truth, a
mighty general to slay Galba, and keep his own skin shaved; it needed a
citizen of highest courage to ape the splendours of the Palace on the
field of Bebriacum,19 and plaster his face with dough! Never did the
quiver-bearing Samiramis 20 the like in her Assyrian realm, nor the
despairing Cleopatra on board her ship at Actium. No decency of language
is there here: no regard for the manners of the table. You will hear all
the foul talk and squeaking tones of Cybele; a grey-haired frenzied old
man presides over the rites; he is a rare and notable master of the art
of gluttony, and should be hired to teach it. But why wait any longer
when it were time in Phrygian fashion to lop off the superfluous flesh?
Gracchus has presented to a cornet player----or perhaps it was a
player on the straight horn----a dowry of four hundred thousand
sesterces. The contract has been signed; the benedictions have been
pronounced; the banqueters are seated, the new made bride is reclining
on the bosom of her husband. O ye nobles of Rome! is it a soothsayer
that we need, or a Censor? Would you be more aghast, would you deem it a
greater portent, if a woman gave birth to a calf, or an ox to a lamb?
The man who is now arraying himself in the flounces and train and veil
of a bride once carried the quivering shields 21 of Mars by the sacred
thongs and sweated under the sacred burden!
O Father of our city, whence came such wickedness among thy Latin
shepherds? How did such a lust possess thy grandchildren, O Gradivus?
Behold! Here you have a man of high birth and wealth being handed over
in marriage to a man, and yet neither shakest thy helmet, nor smitest
the earth with thy spear, nor yet protestest to thy Father? Away with
thee then; begone from that broad Martial Plain 22 which thou hast
"I have a ceremony to attend," quoth one, "at dawn to-morrow, in the
Quirinal valley." "What is the occasion?" "No need to ask: a friend is
taking to himself a husband; quite a small affair." Yes, and if we only
live long enough, we shall see these things done openly: people will
wish to see them reported among the news of the day. Meanwhile these
would-be brides have one great trouble: they can bear no children
wherewith to keep the affection of their husbands; well has nature done
in granting to their desires no power over their bodies. They die
infertile; naught avails them the medicine-chest of the bloated Lyde, or
to hold out their hands to the blows of the swift-footed Luperci! 23
Greater still the portent when Gracchus, clad in a tunic, played the
gladiator, and fled, trident in hand, across the arena----Gracchus, a
man of nobler birth than the Capitolini, or the Marcelli, or the
descendents of Catulus or Paulus, or the Fabii: nobler than all the
spectators in the podium 24; not excepting him who gave the show at
which that net 25 was flung.
That there are such things as Manes, and kingdoms below ground, and
punt-poles, and Stygian pools black with frogs, and all those thousands
crossing over in a single bark----these things not even boys believe,
except such as have not yet had their penny bath. But just imagine them
to be true----what would Curius and the two Scipios think? or Fabricius
and the spirit of Camillus? What would the legion that fought at the
Cremera 26 think, or the young manhood that fell at Cannae; what would
all those gallant hearts feel when a shade of this sort came down to
them from here? They would wish to be purified; if only sulphur and
torches and damp laurel-branches were to be had. Such is the degradation
to which we have come! Our arms indeed we have pushed beyond Juverna's
27 shores, to the new-conquered Orcades and the short-nighted Britons;
but the things which we do in our victorious city will never be done by
the men whom we have conquered. And yet they say that one Zalaces, an
Armenian more effeminate than any of our youth, has yielded to the
ardour of a Tribune! Just see what evil communications do! He came as a
hostage: but here boys are turned into men. Give them a long sojourn in
our city, and lovers will never fail them. They will throw away their
trousers and their knives, their bridles and their whips, and carry back
to Artaxata the manners of our Roman youth.
1. 4 A famous family of early Rome.
2. 5 The eminent Stoic philosopher, pupil of Cleanthes.
3. 6 One of the seven wise men of Greece, b. circ. B.C. 652.
4. 1 Pupil and successor of Zeno, founder of the Stoic School, from
about B.C. 300 to 220. Famous for his poverty and iron will.
5. 2 Some villainous character of the day.
6. 3 Alluding to the faction fights between Clodius and Milo, B.C. 52.
Clodius violated the rites of the Bona Dea; see vi. 314-341.
7. 4 A partner in the Catilinarian conspiracy, B.C. 63.
8. 5 i.e. the second triumvirate (Octavius, Antony, and Lepidus) who
followed the example of Sulla's proscriptions.
9. 6 The emperor Domitian. Domitian was a lover of his niece Julia,
daughter of his brother Titus.
10. 1 One of the most famous families of the later Republic.
11. 2 In reference to the law passed by Augustus for encouraging
marriage (Lex Iulia de maritandis ordinibus).
12. 3 A law against unnatural crime.
13. 1 A Lydian maiden who challenged Athene in spinning and was turned
into a spider.
14. 2 Cylindrus, a cylinder, is here used for a precious stone cut in
15. 1 None but women could attend the rites of the Bona Dea. Hence the
scandal created in B.C. 62 by Clodius when he made his way into the
house of Caesar, where the rites were being celebrated, disguised as a
woman. Hence Caesar put away his wife Pompeia, as " Caesar's wife must
be above suspicion." In the present passage Juvenal refers to some real
or imaginary inversion of the old rule, by which none but males, clothed
in female dresses, were to be admitted to the worship of the Goddess.
16. 2 Worshippers of the Thracian deity Cotytto.
17. 3 i.e. Athenian, Cecrops being the first king of Athens.
18. 4 The words Actoris Aurunci spolium are a quotation from Virg. Aen.
xii. 94. The suggestion seems to be that Otho was as proud of his mirror
as if it had been a trophy of war, like the spear which King Turnus
captured from Actor.
19. 1 The battle in which Otho was defeated by Vitellius.
20. 2 Mythical founder of the Assyrian empire with her husband Ninus.
21. 3 Gracchus was one of the Salii, priests of Mars who had to carry
the sacred shields of Mars (ancilia) in procession through the city.
22. 1 i.e. the Campus Martius.
23. 2 The Luperci were a mysterious priesthood who on certain days ran
round the pomoerium clad in goat-skins and struck at any woman they met
with goat-skin thongs in order to produce fertility.
24. 3 The podium was a balustrade, or balcony, set all round the
amphitheatre, from which the most distinguished of the spectators
witnessed the performance.
25. 4 For the disgrace incurred by Gracchus in fighting as a retiarius
against a secutor, see the fuller passage viii. 199----210 and note.
26. 1 The battle in which 300 Fabii were killed.
27. 2 Ireland.
Quid Romae Faciam?
Though put out by the departure of my old friend, I commend his
purpose to fix his home at Cumae, and to present one citizen to the
Sibyl. That is the gate of Baiae, a sweet retreat upon a pleasant shore;
I myself would prefer even Prochyta 1 to the Saburra! 2 For where has
one ever seen a place so dismal and so lonely that one would not deem it
worse to live in perpetual dread of fires and falling houses, and the
thousand perils of this terrible city, and poets spouting in the month
But while all his goods and chattels were being packed upon a single
wagon, my friend halted at the dripping archway of the old Porta Capena.
3 Here Numa held his nightly assignations with his mistress; but now the
holy fount and grove and shrine are let out to Jews, who possess a
basket and a truss of hay for all their furnishings. For as every tree
nowadays has to pay toll to the people, the Muses have been ejected, and
the wood has to go a-begging. We go down to the Valley of Egeria, and
into the caves so unlike to nature: how much more near to us would be
the spirit of the fountain if its waters were fringed by a green border
of grass, and there were no marble to outrage the native tufa!
Here spoke Umbritius:----" Since there is no room," quoth he, "for
honest callings in this city, no reward for labour; since my means are
less to-day than they were yesterday, and to-morrow will rub off
something from the little that is left, I purpose to go to the place
where Daedalus put off his weary wings while my white hairs are recent,
while my old age is erect and fresh, while Lachesis has something left
to spin, and I can support myself on my own feet without slipping a
staff beneath my hand. Farewell my country! Let Artorius live there, and
Catulus; let those remain who turn black into white, to whom it comes
easy to take contracts for temples, rivers or harbours, for cleansing
drains, or carrying corpses to the pyre, or to put up slaves for sale
under the authority of the spear.4 These men once were horn-blowers, who
went the round of every provincial show, and whose puffed-out cheeks
were known in every village; to-day they hold shows of their own, and
win applause by slaying with a turn of the thumb 5 whomsoever the mob
bids them slay; from that they go back to contract for cesspools, and
why not for any kind of thing, seeing that they are of the kind that
Fortune raises from the gutter to the mighty places of earth whenever
she wishes to enjoy a laugh?
What can I do at Rome? I cannot lie; if a book is bad, I cannot
praise it, and beg for a copy; I am ignorant of the movements of the
stars; I cannot, and will not, promise to a man his father's death; I
have never examined the entrails of a frog; I must leave it to others to
carry to a bride the presents and messages of a paramour. No man will
get my help in robbery, and therefore no governor will take me on his
staff: I am treated as a maimed and useless trunk that has lost the
power of its hands. What man wins favour nowadays unless he be an
accomplice----one whose soul seethes and burns with secrets that must
never be disclosed? No one who has imparted to you an innocent secret
thinks he owes you anything, or will ever bestow on you a favour; the
man whom Verres loves is the man who can impeach Verres at any moment
that he chooses. Ah! Let not all the sands of the shaded Tagus, and the
gold which it rolls into the sea, be so precious in your eyes that you
should lose your sleep, and accept gifts, to your sorrow, which you must
one day lay down, and be for ever a terror to your mighty friend! "And
now let me speak at once of the race which is most dear to our rich men,
and which I avoid above all others; no shyness shall stand in my way. I
cannot abide, Quirites, a Rome of Greeks; and yet what fraction of our
dregs comes from Greece? The Syrian Orontes has long since poured into
the Tiber, bringing with it its lingo and its manners, its flutes and
its slanting harp-strings:6 bringing too the timbrels of the breed, and
the trulls who are bidden ply their trade at the Circus. Out upon you,
all ye that delight in foreign strumpets with painted headdresses! Your
country clown, Quirinus, now trips to dinner in Greek-fangled slippers,7
and wears niceterian 7 ornaments upon a ceromatic 7 neck! One comes from
lofty Sicyon, another from Amydon or Andros, others from Samos, Tralles
or Alabanda; all making for the Esquiline, or for the hill that takes
its name from osier-beds 8; all ready to worm their way into the houses
of the great and become their masters. Quick of wit and of unbounded
impudence, they are as ready of speech as Isaeus,9 and more torrential.
Say, what do you think that fellow there to be? He has brought with him
any character you please; grammarian, orator, geometrician; painter,
trainer, or rope-dancer; augur, doctor or astrologer:----
'All sciences a fasting monsieur knows,
And bid him go to Hell, to Hell he goes!' 10
In fine, the man who took to himself wings 11 was not a Moor, nor a
Sarmatian, nor a Thracian, but one born in the very heart of Athens!
"Must I not make my escape from purple-clad gentry like these? Is a
man to sign his name before me, and recline upon a couch above mine, who
has been wafted to Rome by the wind which brings us our damsons and our
figs? Is it to go so utterly for nothing that as a babe I drank in the
air of the Aventine, and was nurtured on the Sabine berry?
"What of this again, that these people are experts in flattery, and
will commend the talk of an illiterate, or the beauty of a deformed,
friend, and compare the scraggy neck of some weakling to the brawny
throat of Hercules when holding up Antaeus 12 from the earth; or go into
ecstasies over a squeaky voice not more melodious than that of a cock
when he pecks his spouse the hen? We, no doubt, can praise the same
things that they do; but what they say is believed. Could any actor do
better when he plays the part of Thais, or of a matron, or of the nude
Doris? You would never think that it was an actor that was speaking, but
a very woman, complete in all her parts. Yet, in their own country,
neither Antiochus 13 nor Stratocles,13 neither Demetrius 13 nor the
delicate Haemus,13 will be applauded: they are a nation of play-actors.
If you smile, your Greek will split his sides with laughter; if he sees
his friend drop a tear, he weeps, though without grieving; if you call
for a bit of fire in winter-time, he puts on his cloak; if you say 'I am
hot,' he breaks into a sweat. Thus we are not upon a level, he and I; he
has always the best of it, being ready at any moment, by night or by
day, to take his expression from another man's face, to throw up his
hands and applaud if his friend spit or hiccup nicely, or if his golden
basin make a gurgle when turned upside down.
"Besides all this, there is nothing sacred to his lusts: not the
matron of the family, nor the maiden daughter, not the as yet unbearded
son-in-law to be, not even the as yet unpolluted son; if none of these
be there, he will debauch the grandmother. These men want to discover
the secrets of the family, and so make themselves feared. And now that I
am speaking of the Greeks, pass on to the schools, and hear of a graver
crime; the Stoic 14 who informed against and slew his own young friend
and disciple 15 was born on that river bank 16 where the Gorgon's winged
steed fell to earth. No: there is no room for any Roman here, where some
Protogenes, or Diphilus, or Hermarchus rules the roast----one who by a
defect of his race never shares a friend, but keeps him all to himself.
For when once he has dropped into a facile ear one particle of his own
and his country's poison, I am thrust from the door, and all my long
years of servitude go for nothing. Nowhere is it so easy as at Rome to
throw an old client overboard.
"And besides, not to flatter ourselves, what value is there in a poor
man's serving here in Rome, even if he be at pains to hurry along in his
toga before daylight, seeing that the praetor is bidding the lictor to
go full speed lest his colleague should be the first to salute the
childless ladies Albina and Modia, who have long ago been awake. Here in
Rome the son of free-born parents has to give the wall to some rich
man's slave; for that other will give as much as the whole pay of a
legionary tribune to enjoy the chance favours of a Calvinal or a
Catiena,17 while you, when the face of some gay-decked harlot takes your
fancy, scarce venture to hand her down from her lofty chair. At Rome you
may produce a witness as unimpeachable as the host of the Idaean Goddess
18----Numa himself might present himself, or he who rescued the
trembling Minerva from the blazing shrine 19----the first question asked
will be as to his wealth, the last about his character: 'how many slaves
does he keep?' 'how many acres does he own?' 'how big and how many are
his dinner dishes?' A man's word is believed in exact proportion to the
amount of cash which he keeps in his strong box. Though he swear by all
the altars of Samothrace or of Rome, the poor man is believed to care
naught for Gods and thunderbolts, the Gods themselves forgiving him.
"And what of this, that the poor man gives food and occasion for jest
if his cloak be torn and dirty; if his toga be a little soiled; if one
of his shoes gapes where the leather is split, or if some fresh stitches
of coarse thread reveal where not one, but many a rent has been patched?
Of all the woes of luckless poverty none is harder to endure than this,
that it exposes men to ridicule. 'Out you go! for very shame,' says the
marshal; 'out of the Knights' stalls, all of you whose means do not
satisfy the law.' Here let the sons of panders, born in any brothel,
take their seats; here let the spruce son of an auctioneer clap his
hands, with the smart sons of a gladiator on one side of him and the
young gentlemen of a trainer on the other: such was the will of the
numskull Otho who assigned to each of us his place.20 Who ever was
approved as a son-in-law if he was short of cash, and no match for the
money-bags of the young lady? What poor man ever gets a legacy, or is
appointed assessor to an aedile? Romans without money should have
marched out in a body long ago!
"It is no easy matter, anywhere, for a man to rise when poverty
stands in the way of his merits: but nowhere is the effort harder than
in Rome, where you must pay a big rent for a wretched lodging, a big sum
to fill the bellies of your slaves, and buy a frugal dinner for
yourself. You are ashamed to dine off delf; but you would see no shame
in it if transported suddenly to a Marsian or Sabine table, where you
would be pleased enough to wear a cape of coarse Venetian blue.
"There are many parts of Italy, to tell the truth, in which no man
puts on a toga until he is dead. Even on days of festival, when a brave
show is made in a theatre of turf, and when the well-known farce steps
once more upon the boards; when the rustic babe on its mother's breast
shrinks back affrighted at the gaping of the pallid masks, you will see
stalls and populace all dressed alike, and the worshipful aediles
content with white tunics as vesture for their high office. In Rome,
everyone dresses above his means, and sometimes something more than what
is enough is taken out of another man's pocket. This failing is
universal here: we all live in a state of pretentious poverty. To put it
shortly, nothing can be had in Rome for nothing. How much does it cost
you to be able now and then to make your bow to Cossus? Or to be
vouchsafed one glance, with lip firmly closed, from Veiento? One of
these great men is cutting off his beard; another is dedicating the
locks of a favourite; the house is full of cakes----which you will have
to pay for. Take your cake,21 and let this thought rankle in your heart:
we clients are compelled to pay tribute and add to a shaved menial's
"Who at cool Praeneste, or at Volsinii amid its leafy hills, was ever
afraid of his house tumbling down? Who in modest Gabii, or on the
sloping heights of Tivoli? But here we inhabit a city propped up for the
most part by slender flute-players:23 for that is how the bailiff
patches up the cracks in the old wall, bidding the inmates sleep at ease
under a roof ready to tumble about their ears. No, no, I must live where
there are no fires, no nightly alarms. Ucalegon 24 below is already
shouting for water and shifting his chattels; smoke is pouring out of
your third-floor attic above, but you know nothing of it; for if the
alarm begins in the ground-floor, the last man to burn will be he who
has nothing to shelter him from the rain but the tiles, where the gentle
doves lay their eggs. Codrus possessed a bed too small for the dwarf
Procula, a marble slab adorned by six pipkins, with a small drinking
cup, and a recumbent Chiron below, and an old chest containing Greek
books whose divine lays were being gnawed by unlettered mice. Poor
Codrus had nothing, it is true: but he lost that nothing, which was his
all; and the last straw in his heap of misery is this, that though he is
destitute and begging for a bite, no one will help him with a meal, no
one offer him board or shelter.
"But if the grand house of Asturicus be destroyed, the matrons go
dishevelled, your great men put on mourning, the praetor adjourns his
court: then indeed do we deplore the calamities of the city, and bewail
its fires! Before the house has ceased to burn, up comes one with a gift
of marble or of building materials, another offers nude and glistening
statues, a third some notable work of Euphranor or Polyclitus,25 or
bronzes that had been the glory of old Asian shrines. Others will offer
books and bookcases, or a bust of Minerva, or a hundredweight of
silver-plate. Thus does Persicus, that most sumptuous of childless men,
replace what he has lost with more and better things, and with good
reason incurs the suspicion of having set his own house on fire.
"If you can tear yourself away from the games of the Circus, you can
buy an excellent house at Sora, at Fabrateria or Frusino, for what you
now pay in Rome to rent a dark garret for one year. And you will there
have a little garden, with a shallow well from which you can easily draw
water, without need of a rope, to bedew your weakly plants. There make
your abode, mattock in hand, tending a trim garden fit to feast a
hundred Pythagoreans.26 It is something, in whatever spot, however
remote, to have become the possessor of a single lizard!
"Most sick people here in Rome perish for want of sleep, the illness
itself having been produced by food lying undigested on a fevered
stomach. For what sleep is possible in a lodging? Who but the wealthy
get sleep in Rome? There lies the root of the disorder. The crossing of
wagons in the narrow winding streets, the slanging of drovers when
brought to a stand, would make sleep impossible for a Drusus 27 ----or a
sea-calf. When the rich man has a call of social duty, the mob makes way
for him as he is borne swiftly over their heads in a huge Liburnian car.
He writes or reads or sleeps as he goes along, for the closed window of
the litter induces slumber. Yet he will arrive before us; hurry as we
may, we are blocked by a surging crowd in front, and by a dense mass of
people pressing in on us from behind: one man digs an elbow into me,
another a sedan-pole; one bangs a beam, another a wine-cask, against my
head. My legs are be-plastered with mud; huge feet trample on me from
every side, and a soldier plants his hobnails firmly on my toe.
"See now the smoke rising from that crowd which hurries for the daily
dole: there are a hundred guests, each followed by a kitchener of his
own.28 Corbulo 29 himself could scarce bear the weight of all the big
vessels and other gear which that poor little slave is carrying with
head erect, fanning the flame as he runs along. Newly-patched tunics are
torn in two; up comes a huge log swaying on a wagon, and then a second
dray carrying a whole pine-tree, towering aloft and threatening the
people. For if that axle with its load of Ligurian marble breaks down,
and pours its spilt contents on to the crowd, what is left of their
bodies? Who can identify the limbs, who the bones? The poor man's
crushed corpse disappears, just like his soul. At home meanwhile the
folk, unwitting, are washing the dishes, blowing up the fire with
distended cheek, clattering over the greasy flesh-scrapers, filling the
oil-flasks and laying out the towels. And while each of them is thus
busy over his own task, their master is already sitting, a new arrival,
upon the bank, and shuddering at the grim ferryman: he has no copper in
his mouth to tender for his fare, and no hope of a passage over the
"And now regard the different and diverse perils of the night. See
what a height it is to that towering roof from which a potsherd comes
crack upon my head every time that some broken or leaky vessel is
pitched out of the window! See with what a smash it strikes and dints
the pavement! There's death in every open window as you pass along at
night; you may well be deemed a fool, improvident of sudden accident, if
you go out to dinner without having made your will. You can but hope,
and put up a piteous prayer in your heart, that they may be content to
pour down on you the contents of their slop-pails!
"Your drunken bully who has by chance not slain his man passes a
night of torture like that of Achilles when he bemoaned his friend,
lying now upon his face, and now upon his back; he will get no rest in
any other way, since some men can only sleep after a brawl. Yet however
reckless the fellow may be, however hot with wine and young blood, he
gives a wide berth to one whose scarlet cloak and long-retinue of
attendants, with torches and brass lamps in their hands, bid him keep
his distance. But to me, who am wont to be escorted home by the moon, or
by the scant light of a candle whose wick I husband with due care, he
pays no respect. Hear how the wretched fray begins----if fray it can be
called when you do all the thrashing and I get all the blows! The fellow
stands up against me, and bids me halt; obey I must. What else can you
do when attacked by a madman stronger than yourself? 'Where are you
from?' shouts he; 'whose swipes, whose beans have blown you out? With
what cobbler have you been munching cut leeks 30 and boiled sheep's
head?----What, sirrah, no answer? Speak out, or take that upon your
shins! Where is your stand? In what prayer-shop 31 shall I find you?'
Whether you venture to say anything, or make off silently, it's all one:
he will thrash you just the same, and then, in a rage, take bail from
you. Such is the liberty of the poor man: having been pounded and cuffed
into a jelly, he begs and. prays to be allowed to return home with a few
teeth in his head!
"Nor are these your only terrors. When your house is shut, when bar
and chain have made fast your shop, and all is silent, you will be
robbed by a burglar; or perhaps a cut-throat will do for you quickly
with cold steel. For whenever the Pontine marshes and the Gallinarian
forest are secured by an armed guard, all that tribe flocks into Rome as
into a fish-preserve. What furnaces, what anvils, are not groaning with
the forging of chains? That is how our iron is mostly used; and you may
well fear that ere long none will be left for plough-shares, none for
hoes and mattocks. Happy were the forbears of our great-grandfathers,
happy the days of old which under Kings and Tribunes beheld Rome
satisfied with a single gaol!
"To these I might add more and different reasons; but my cattle call,
the sun is sloping and I must away: my muleteer has long been signalling
to me with his whip. And so farewell; forget me not. And if ever you run
over from Rome to your own Aquinum 32 to recruit, summon me too from
Cumae to your Helvine 33 Ceres and Diana; I will come over to your cold
country in my thick boots to hear your Satires, if they think me worthy
of that honour."
1. 1 A small island off Misenum.
2. 2 The noisiest street in Rome.
3. 3 The Porta Capena was on the Appian Way, the great S. road from
Rome. Over the gate passed an aqueduct, carrying the water of the Aqua
Marcia. Hence " the dripping archway."
4. 1 A spear was set up at auctions as the sign of ownership.
5. 2 Vertere pollicem, to turn the thumb up, was the signal for
dispatching the wounded gladiator; premere pollicem, to turn it down,
was a sign that he was to be spared.
6. 1 Referring to the sambuca, a kind of harp, of triangular shape,
producing a shrill sound.
7. 2 Trechedipna, "a run-to-dinner coat"; ceromaticus, from ceroma, oil
used by wrestlers; and niceterium, "a prize of victory"----all used to
ridicule the use of the Greek forms.
8. 3 i.e. the Mons Viminalis, from vimen, " an osier."
9. 4 An Assyrian rhetorician: not the Greek orator Isaeus.
10. 5 From Johnson's London.
11. 1 Daedalus.
12. 2 Hercules slew Antaeus by raising him from the ground, till when he
13. 3 Names of Greek actors.
14. 1 Publius Egnatius Celer. See Tac. Ann. xvi. 30-32 and Hist. iv. 20
15. 2 For the accusation and death of Barea Soranus, see Tac. Ann. xvi.
23 and 33.
16. 3 i.e. at Tarsus on the river Cydnus.
17. 1 Ladies of rank.
18. 2 P. Cornelius Scipio received the image of Cybele when brought from
Phrygia, B.C. 204.
19. 3 L. Caecilius Metellus, in B.C. 241.
20. 1 The law of Otho (B.C. 67) reserved for knights the first fourteen
rows in the theatre behind the orchestra where senators sat. The knights
(equites) were the wealthy middle class, each having to possess a census
of 400,000 sesterces.
21. 1 The rendering is uncertain. Duff translates, "Take your money and
keep your cake."
22. 2 At this feast cakes (liba) are provided; but the guests are
expected to give a tip to the slaves. According to Duff, the client pays
the slave, but is too indignant to take the cake.
23. 3 i.e. statues used by way of props.
24. 4 Borrowed from Virgil, Aen. ii. 311, of the firing of Troy, iam
proximus ardet= Vcalegon. Juvenal's friend inhabits the third floor, and
the fire has broken out on the ground floor.
25. 1 Celebrated Greek sculptors.
26. 2 i.e.. vegetarians.
27. 1 Probably the somnolent Emperor Claudius is meant.
28. 2 The hundred guests are clients; each is followed by a slave
carrying a kitchener to keep the dole hot when received.
29. 3 The great Roman general under Claudius and Nero, famed for his
30. 1 See note on xiv. 133.
31. 2 Proseucha, a Jewish synagogue or praying-house.
32. 1 Aquinum was Juvenal's birthplace.
33. 2 The origin of this name of Ceres is unknown.
A tale of a turbot.
Crispinus once again! a man whom I shall often have to call on to the
scene, a prodigy of wickedness without one redeeming virtue; a sickly
libertine, strong only in his lusts, which scorn none save the unwedded.
What matters it then how spacious are the colonnades which tire out his
horses, how large the shady groves in which he drives, how many acres
near the Forum, how many palaces, he has bought? No bad man can be
happy: least of all the incestuous seducer with whom lately lay a
filleted 1 priestess, doomed to pass beneath the earth with the blood
still warm within her veins.
To-day I shall tell of a less heinous deed, though had any other man
done the like, he would fall under the censor's lash: for what would be
shameful in good men like Seius or Teius sat gracefully on Crispinus.
What can you do when the man himself is more foul and monstrous than any
charge you can bring against him? Crispinus bought a mullet for six
thousand sesterces----one thousand sesterces for every pound of fish, as
those would say who make big things bigger in the telling of them. I
could commend the man's cunning if by such a lordly gift he secured the
first place in the will of some childless old mail, or, better still,
sent it to some great lady who rides in a close, broad-windowed litter.
But nothing of the sort; he bought it for himself: we see many a thing
done nowadays which poor niggardly Apicius 2 never did. What? Did you,
Crispinus----you who once wore a strip of your native papyrus round your
loins----give that price for a fish? A price bigger than you need have
paid for the fisherman himself, a price for which you might buy a whole
estate in some province, or a still larger one in Apulia. What kind of
feasts are we to suppose were guzzled by our Emperor himself when all
those thousands of sesterces----forming a small fraction, a mere
side-dish of a modest entertainment----were belched up by a purple-clad
parasite of the august Palace----one who is now Chief of the Knights,
and who once used to hawk, at the top of his voice, a broken lot of his
fellow-countrymen the sprats? Begin, Calliope! let us take our seats.
This is no mere fable, but a true tale that is being told; tell it
forth, ye maidens of Pieria, and let it profit me that I have called you
What time the last of the Flavii was flaying the half-dying world,
and Rome was enslaved to a bald-headed Nero,3 there fell into a net in
the sea of Hadria, in front of the shrine of Venus that stands in Dorian
Ancona, a turbot of wondrous size, filling up all its meshes,----a fish
no less huge than those which the lake Maeotis conceals beneath the ice
till it is broken up by the sun, and then sends forth, torpid through
sloth and fattened by long cold, to the mouths of the Pontic sea. This
monster the master of the boat and line designs for the High Pontiff 4;
for who would dare to put up for sale or to buy so big a fish in days
when even the sea shores were crowded with informers? The inspectors of
sea-weed would straightway have taken the law of the poor fisherman,
ready to affirm that the fish was a run-away that had long feasted in
Caesar's fishponds; escaped from thence, he must needs be restored to
his former master. For if Palfurius 5 is to be believed, or Armillatus,5
every rare and beautiful thing in the wide ocean, in whatever sea it
swims, belongs to the Imperial Treasury. The fish therefore, that it be
not wasted, shall be given as a gift.
And now death-bearing Autumn was giving way before the frosts,
fevered patients were hoping for a quartan,6 and bleak winter's blasts
were keeping the booty fresh; yet on sped the fisherman as though the
South wind were at his heels. And when beneath him lay the lake where
Alba, though in ruins, still holds the Trojan fire and worships the
lesser Vesta,7 a wondering crowd barred his way for a while; as it gave
way, the gates swung open on easy hinge, and the excluded Fathers gazed
on the dish that had gained an entrance. Admitted to the Presence,
"Receive," quoth he of Picenum, "a fish too big for a private kitchen.
Be this kept as a festive day; hasten to fill out thy belly with good
things, and devour a turbot that has been preserved to grace thy reign.
The fish himself wanted to be caught." Could flattery be more gross? Yet
the Monarch's comb began to rise: there is nothing that divine Majesty
will not believe concerning itself when lauded to the skies! But no
platter could be found big enough for the fish; so a council of magnates
is summoned: men hated by the Emperor, and on whose faces sat the pallor
of that great and perilous friendship. First to answer the Ligurian's
call "Haste, haste! he is seated!" was Pegasus, hastily catching up his
cloak----he that had newly been appointed as bailiff over the astonished
city. For what else but bailiffs were the Prefects 8 of those days? Of
whom Pegasus was the best, and the most righteous expounder of the law,
though he thought that even in those dread days there should be no sword
in the hand of Justice. Next to come in was the aged, genial Crispus, 9
whose gentle soul well matched his style of eloquence. No better adviser
than he for the ruler of lands and seas and nations had he been free,
under that scourge and plague, to denounce cruelties and proffer honest
counsels. But what can be more dangerous than the ear of a tyrant on
whose caprice hangs the life of a friend who has come to talk of the
rain or the heat or the showery spring weather? So Crispus never struck
out against the torrent, nor was he one to speak freely the thoughts of
his heart, and stake his life upon the truth. Thus was it that he lived
through many winters and saw his eightieth solstice, protected, even in
that Court, by weapons such as these.
Next to him hurried Acilius, of like age as himself, and with him the
youth 10 who little merited the cruel death that was so soon hurried on
by his master's sword. But to be both young and noble has long since
become a prodigy; hence I would rather be a giant's 11 little brother.
Therefore it availed the poor youth nothing that he speared Numidian
bears, stripped as a huntsman upon the Alban arena. For who nowadays
would not see through patrician tricks? Who would now marvel, Brutus, at
that old-world cleverness of yours? 12 'Tis an easy matter to befool a
king that wears a beard.
No more cheerful in face, though of ignoble blood, came Rubrius,
condemned long since of a crime that may not be named, and yet more
shameless than a reprobate who should write satire. There too was
present the unwieldy frame of Montanus; and Crispinus, reeking at early
dawn with odours enough to out-scent two funerals; more ruthless than he
Pompeius,13 whose gentle whisper would cut men's throats; and Fuscus,14
who planned battles in his marble halls, keeping his flesh for the
Dacian vultures. Then along with the sage Veiento came the death-dealing
Catullus,15 who burnt with love for a maiden whom he had never seen----a
mighty and notable marvel even in these days of ours: a blind flatterer,
a dire courtier from a beggar's stand, well fitted to beg at the wheels
of chariots and blow soft kisses to them as they rolled down the Arician
hill. None marvelled more at the fish than he, turning to the left as he
spoke; only the creature happened to be on his right. In like fashion
would he commend the thrusts of a Cilician gladiator, or the machine
which whisks up the boys into the awning.
But Veiento was not to be outdone; and like a seer inspired, O
Bellona, by thine own gadfly, he bursts into prophecy: "A mighty presage
hast thou, O Emperor! of a great and glorious victory. Some King will be
thy captive; or Arviragus 16 will be hurled from his British chariot.
The brute is foreign-born: dost thou not see the prickles bristling upon
his back?" Nothing remained for Fabricius but to tell the turbot's age
"What then do you advise?" quoth the Emperor. "Shall we cut it up?"
"Nay, nay," rejoins Montanus; "let that indignity be spared him. Let a
deep vessel be provided to gather his huge dimensions within its slender
walls; some great and unforeseen Prometheus is destined for the dish!
Haste, haste, with clay and wheel! but from this day forth, O Caesar,
let potters always attend upon thy camp!" This proposal, so worthy of
the man, gained the day. Well known to him were the old debauches of the
Imperial Court, which Nero carried on to midnight till a second hunger
came and veins were heated with hot Falernian. No one in my time had
more skill in the eating art than he. He could tell at the first bite
whether an oyster had been bred at Circeii, or on the Lucrine rocks, or
on the beds of Rutupiae;17 one glance would tell him the native shore of
The Council rises, and the councillors are dismissed: men whom the
mighty Emperor had dragged in terror and hot haste to his Alban castle,
as though to give them news of the Chatti, or the savage Sycambri,18 or
as though an alarming despatch had arrived on wings of speed from some
remote quarter of the earth.
And yet would that he had rather given to follies such as these all
those days of cruelty when he robbed the city of its noblest and
choicest souls, with none to punish or avenge! He could steep himself in
the blood of the Lamiae; 19 but when once he became a terror to the
common herd he met his doom.20
1. 3 The vitta, or fillet, was worn round the hair by Vestal Virgins.
2. 1 A celebrated gourmand.
3. 1 i.e. the emperor Domitian.
4. 2 The Pontifex Maximus, i.e. Domitian himself.
5. 3 These were two lawyers.
6. 4 i.e. a fever recurring every fourth day----an improvement upon a
"tertian," one recurring every third day.
7. 5 i.e. as compared with the larger temple of Vesta in Rome.
8. 1 The Praefectus Urbi, under the Emperors, was the head magistrate in
Rome, and exercised many important functions.
9. 2 Vibius Crispus; see Tac. Hist. ii. 10.
10. 1 Acilius Glabrio the younger was exiled, and afterwards put to
death by Domitian.
11. 2 i.e. " son of a clod." Giants were supposed to be sprung from
12. 3 Brutus feigned madness to elude the suspicion of Tarquin. A simple
" bearded " monarch was easily imposed upon.
13. 4 Evidently an informer.
14. 5 Cornelius Fuscus, prefect of the Praetorian Guard. He was killed
in Domitian's Dacian wars, A. D. 86-88.
15. 6 Fabricius Veiento and Catullus Messalinus, informers under
16. 1 A British prince, as in Cymbeline.
17. 1 Richborough.
18. 2 The Chatti and the Sycambri were two of the most powerful German
tribes, between the Rhine and the Weser.
19. 3 Taken as a type of the ancient noble families of Rome.
20. 4 Domitian was murdered, as the outcome of a conspiracy, by the hand
of a freedman, Stephanus, on September 18, A.D. 96.
How Clients are Entertained
If you are still unashamed of your plan of life, and still deem it to
be the highest bliss to live at another man's board----if you can brook
indignities which neither Sarmentus nor the despicable Gabba 1 would
have endured at Caesar's ill-assorted table----I should refuse to
believe your testimony, even upon oath. I know of nothing so easily
satisfied as the belly; but even granted that you have nothing wherewith
to fill its emptiness, is there no quay vacant, no bridge? Can you find
no fraction of a beggar's mat to stand upon? Is a dinner worth all the
insults with which you have to pay for it? Is your hunger so
importunate, when it might, with greater dignity, be shivering where you
are, and munching dirty scraps of dog's bread?
First of all be sure of this----that when bidden to dinner, you
receive payment in full for all your past services. A meal is the return
which your grand friendship yields you; the great man scores it against
you, and though it come but seldom, he scores it against you all the
same. So if after a couple of months it is his pleasure to invite his
forgotten client, lest the third place on the lowest couch 2 should be
unoccupied, and he says to you, "Come and dine with me," you are in the
seventh Heaven! what more can you desire? Now at last has Trebius 3 got
the reward for which he must needs cut short his sleep, and hurry with
shoe-strings untied, fearing that the whole crowd of callers may already
have gone their rounds, at an hour when the stars are fading or when the
chilly wain of Bootes is wheeling slowly round.
And what a dinner after all! You are given wine that fresh-clipped
wool would refuse to suck up,4 and which soon converts your revellers
into Corybants. Foul words are the prelude to the fray; but before long
tankards will be flying about; a battle royal with Saguntine crockery
will soon be raging between you and the company of freedmen, and you
will be staunching your wounds with a blood-stained napkin.
The great man himself drinks wine bottled in the days when Consuls
wore long hair; the juice which he holds in his hand was squeezed during
the Social Wars,5 but never a glass of it will he send to a friend
suffering from dyspepsia! To-morrow he will drink a vintage from the
hills of Alba or Setia whose date and name have been effaced by the soot
which time has gathered upon the aged jar----such wine as Thrasea 6 and
Helvidius 6 used to drink with chaplets on their heads upon the
birthdays of Cassius and the Bruti.
The cup in Virro's 7 hands is richly crusted with amber and rough
with beryl: to you no gold is entrusted; or if it is, a watcher is
posted over it to count the gems and keep an eye on your sharp
finger-nails. Pardon his anxiety; that fine jasper of his is much
admired! For Virro, like so many others, transfers from his fingers to
his cups the jewels with which the youth 8 preferred to the jealous
Iarbas used to adorn his scabbard. To you will be given a cracked cup
with four nozzles that takes its name from a Beneventine cobbler,9 and
calls for sulphur wherewith to repair its broken glass.
If my lord's stomach is fevered with food and wine, a decoction
colder than Thracian hoar-frosts will be brought to him. Did I complain
just now that you were given a different wine? Why, the water which you
clients drink is not the same. It will be handed to you by a Gaetulian
groom, or by the bony hand of a blackamoor whom you would rather not
meet at midnight when driving past the monuments on the hilly Latin Way.
Before mine host stands the very pink of Asia, a youth bought for a sum
bigger than the entire fortune of the warlike Tullus or Ancus, more
valuable, in short, than all the chattels of all the kings of Rome. That
being so, when you are thirsty look to your swarthy Ganymede. The page
who has cost so many thousands cannot mix a drink for a poor man: but
then his beauty, his youth, justify his disdain! When will he get as far
as you? When does he listen to your request for water, hot or cold? It
is beneath him to attend to an old dependent; he is indignant that you
should ask for anything, and that you should be seated while he stands.
All your great houses are full of saucy slaves. See with what a grumble
another of them has handed you a bit of hard bread that you can scarce
break in two, or lumps of dough that have turned mouldy----stuff that
will exercise your grinders and into which no tooth can gain admittance.
For Virro himself a delicate loaf is reserved, white as snow, and
kneaded of the finest flour. Be sure to keep your hands off it: take no
liberties with the bread-basket! If you are presumptuous enough to take
a piece, there will be someone to bid you put it down: "What, Sir
Impudence? Will you please fill yourself from your proper tray, and
learn the colour of your own bread?" "What?" you ask, "was it for this
that I would so often leave my wife's side on a spring morning and hurry
up the chilly Esquiline when the spring skies were rattling down the
pitiless hail, and the rain was pouring in streams off my cloak? "
See now that huge lobster being served to my lord, all garnished with
asparagus; see how his lordly breast distinguishes the dish; with what a
tail he looks down upon the company, borne aloft in the hands of that
tall attendant! Before you is placed on a tiny plate a crab hemmed in by
half an egg----a fit banquet for the dead. The host souses his fish in
Venafran oil; the sickly greens offered to you, poor devil, will smell
of the lamp; for the stuff contained in your cruets was brought up the
Tiber in a sharp-prowed Numidian canoe----stuff which prevents anyone at
Rome sharing a bath with Bocchar, and which will even protect you from a
black serpent's bite.
My lord will have a mullet dispatched from Corsica or the Rocks of
Tauromenium:10 for in the rage for gluttony our own seas have given out;
the nets of the fish-market are for ever raking our home waters, and
prevent Tyrrhenian fish from attaining their full size. And so the
Provinces supply our kitchens; from the Provinces come the fish for the
legacy-hunter Laenas to buy, and for Aurelia to send to market.11
Virro is served with a lamprey, the finest that the Straits of Sicily
can purvey; for so long as the South wind stays at home, and sits in his
prison-house drying his dank wings, Charybdis has no terrors for the
daring fisherman. For you is reserved an eel, first cousin to a
water-snake, or perchance a pike mottled with ice-spots; he too was bred
on Tiber's banks and was wont to find his way into the inmost recesses
of the Subura, battening himself amid its flowing sewers.
And now one word with the great man himself, if he will lend his ear.
"No one asks of you such lordly gifts as Seneca, or the good Piso or
Cotta, used to send to their humble friends: for in the days of old, the
glory of giving was deemed grander than titles or fasces. All we ask of
you is that you should dine with us as a fellow-citizen 12: do this and
remain, like so many others nowadays, rich for yourself and poor to your
Before Virro is put a huge goose's liver; a capon as big as a goose,
and a boar, piping hot, worthy of yellow-haired Meleager's 13 steel.
Then will come truffles, if it be spring-time and the longed-for thunder
have enlarged our dinners.14 "Keep your corn to yourself, O Libya!" says
Alledius; "unyoke your oxen, if only you send us truffles!"
During all this time, lest any occasion for disgust should be
wanting, you may behold the carver capering and gesticulating with knife
in air, and carrying out all the instructions of his preceptor: for it
makes a mighty difference with what gestures a hare or a hen be carved!
If you ever dare to utter one word as though you were possessed of three
names,15 you will be dragged by the heels and thrust out of doors as
Cacus was, after the drubbing he got from Hercules. When will Virro
offer to drink wine with you? or take a cup that has been polluted by
your lips? Which one of you would be so foolhardy, so lost to shame, as
to say to your patron "A glass with you, Sir"? No, no: there's many a
thing which a man whose coat has holes in it cannot say! But if some
God, or god-like manikin more kindly than the fates, should present you
with four hundred thousand sesterces,16 O how great a personage would
you become, from being a nobody; how dear a friend to Virro! "Pray help
Trebius to this!" "Let Trebius have some of that!" "Would you like a cut
just from the loin, good brother?" O money, money! It is to you that he
pays this honour, it is you that are his brother! Nevertheless, if you
wish to be yourself a great man, and a great man's lord, let there be no
little Aeneas playing about your halls, nor yet a little daughter, more
sweet than he; nothing will so endear you to your friend as a barren
wife.17 But as things now are, though your Mycale pour into your
paternal bosom three boys at a birth, Virro will be charmed with the
chattering brood, and will order cuirasses of green rushes to be given
them, and little nuts, and pennies too if they be asked for, when the
little parasites present themselves at his table.
Before the guests will be placed toadstools of doubtful quality,
before my lord a noble mushroom, such a one as Claudius ate before that
mushroom of his wife's 18----after which he ate nothing more. To himself
and the rest of the Virros he will order apples to be served whose scent
alone would be a feast----apples such as grew in the never-failing
Autumn of the Phaeacians, and which you might believe to have been
filched from the African sisters;19 you are treated to a rotten apple
like those munched on the ramparts by a monkey equipped with spear and
shield who learns, in terror of the whip, to hurl a javelin from the
back of a shaggy goat.
You may perhaps suppose that Virro grudges the expense; not a bit of
it! His object is to give you pain. For what comedy, what mime, is so
amusing as a disappointed belly? His one object, let me tell you, is to
compel you to pour out your wrath in tears, and to keep gnashing your
molars against each other. You think yourself a free man, and guest of a
grandee; he thinks----and he is not far wrong----that you have been
captured by the savoury odours of his kitchen. For who that had ever
worn the Etruscan bulla 20 in his boyhood,----or even the poor man's
leather badge----could tolerate such a patron for a second time, however
destitute he might be? It is the hope of a good dinner that beguiles
you: "Surely he will give us," you say, "what is left of a hare, or some
scraps of a boar's haunch; the remains of a capon will come our way by
and by." And so you all sit in dumb silence, your bread clutched,
untasted, and ready for action. In treating you thus, the great man
shows his wisdom. If you can endure such things, you deserve them; some
day you will be offering your head to be shaved and slapped: nor will
you flinch from a stroke of the whip, well worthy of such a feast and
such a friend.
1. Sarmentus and Gabba are representatives of the lowest parasite
2. i.e. the least honourable place on the least honourable of the three
couches of the triclinium.
3. The name of the client whom he is addressing.
4. i.e. the wine was not good enough to be used even for fomentations.
5. The Social Wars, after which the Italians gained the Roman franchise,
were fought between B.C. 91 and 88.
6. Two famous Stoics whose outspoken freedom cost them their lives under
Nero and Vespasian respectively.
7. The patron who gives the dinner.
8. Aeneas. Aen. iv. 36.
9. Vatinius, a man with a long nose.
10. Tauromenium, on the E. coast of Sicily.
11. Juvenal and other Roman writers are full of allusions to captatores,
legacy-hunters, who showered presents of all kinds upon rich and
childless old men or women. Aurelia sells the fish she has received as a
present from Laenas.
12. The word civiliter, from which our word "civil" comes, meant " as a
citizen and an equal."
13. The Aetolian hero who slew the Calydonian boar.
14. Thunder was supposed to be favourable to the growth of truffles.
15. i.e., as if you were a free-born Roman with the three necessary
names----the praenomen, the nomen, and the cognomen.
16. i e. the fortune of an eques. See note on iii. 154-5.
17. It was the childless that were courted for their money.
18. Agrippina the younger. She poisoned her husband, the emperor, with a
19. The Hesperides.
20. The golden bulla, enclosing a charm, was the sign of free birth
The Ways of Women
In the days of Saturn,1 I believe, Chastity still lingered on the
earth, and was to be seen for a time ----days when men were poorly
housed in chilly caves, when one common shelter enclosed hearth and
household gods, herds and their owners; when the hill-bred wife spread
her silvan bed with leaves and straw and the skins of her neighbours the
wild beasts----a wife not like to thee, O Cynthia,2 nor to thee,
Lesbia,3 whose bright eyes were clouded by a sparrow's death, but one
whose breasts gave suck to lusty babes, often more unkempt herself than
her acorn-belching spouse. For in those days, when the world was young,
and the skies were new, men born of the riven oak,4 or formed of dust,
lived differently from now, and had no parents of their own. Under Jove,
perchance, some few traces of ancient modesty may have survived; but
that was before he had grown his beard, before the Greeks had learned to
swear by someone else's head, when men feared not thieves for their
cabbages or apples, and lived with unwalled gardens. After that Astraea
5 withdrew by degrees to heaven, with Chastity as her comrade, the two
sisters taking flight together.
To set your neighbour's bed a-shaking, Postumus, and to flout the
Genius of the sacred couch,6 is now an ancient and long-established
practice. All other sins came later, the products of the age of Iron;
but it was the silver age that saw the first adulterers. Nevertheless,
in these days of ours, you are preparing for a covenant, a
marriage-contract and a betrothal; you are by now getting your hair cut
by a master barber; you have also perhaps given a pledge to her finger.
What! Postumus, are you, you who once had your wits, taking to yourself
a wife? Tell me what Tisiphone, what snakes are driving you mad? Can you
submit to a she-tyrant when there is so much rope to be had, so many
dizzy heights of windows standing open, and when the Aemilian bridge
offers itself to hand? Or if none of all these modes of exit hit your
fancy, how much better to take some boy-bedfellow, who would never
wrangle with you o' nights, never ask presents of you when in bed, and
never complain that you took your ease and were indifferent to his
But Ursidius approves of the Julian Law.7 He purposes to bring up a
dear little heir, though he will thereby have to do without the fine
turtles, the bearded mullets, and all the legacy-hunting delicacies of
the meat-market. What can you think impossible if Ursidius takes to
himself a wife? if he, who has long been the most notorious of gallants,
who has so often found safety in the corn-bin of the luckless Latinus,8
puts his head into the connubial noose? And what think you of his
searching for a wife of the good old virtuous sort? O doctors, lance his
over-blooded veins. A pretty fellow you! Why, if you have the good luck
to find a modest spouse, you should prostrate yourself before the
Tarpeian threshold, and sacrifice a heifer with gilded horns to Juno; so
few are the wives worthy to handle the fillets of Ceres, or from whose
kisses their own father would not shrink! Weave a garland for thy
doorposts, and set up wreaths of ivy over thy lintel! But will Hiberina
be satisfied with one man? Sooner compel her to be satisfied with one
eye! You tell me of the high repute of some maiden, who lives on her
paternal farm: well, let her live at Gabii, at Fidenae, as she lived in
her own country, and I will believe in your paternal farm. But will
anyone tell me that nothing ever took place on a mountain side or in a
cave? Have Jupiter and Mars become so senile?
Can our arcades show you one woman worthy of your vows? Do all the
tiers in all our theatres hold one whom you may love without misgiving,
and pick out thence? When the soft Bathyllus dances the part of the
gesticulating Leda, Tuccia cannot contain herself; your Apulian maiden
heaves a sudden and longing cry of ecstasy, as though she were in a
man's arms; the rustic Thymele is all attention, it is then that she
learns her lesson.
Others again, when all the stage draperies have been put away; when
the theatres are closed, and all is silent save in the courts, and the
Megalesian games are far off from the Plebeian,9 ease their dullness by
taking to the mask, the thyrsus and the tights of Accius. Urbicus, in an
Atellane interlude, raises a laugh by the gestures of Autonoe; the
penniless Aelia is in love with him. Other women pay great prices for
the favours of a comedian; some will not allow Chrysogonus 10 to sing.
Hispulla has a fancy for tragedians; but do you suppose that any one
will be found to love Quintilian? 11 If you marry a wife, it will be
that the lyrist Echion or Glaphyrus, or the flute player Ambrosius, may
become a father. Then up with a long dais in the narrow street! Adorn
your doors and doorposts with wreaths of laurel, that your highborn son,
O Lentulus, may exhibit, in his tortoiseshell cradle,12 the lineaments
of Euryalus 13 or of a murmillo! 14
When Eppia, the senator's wife, ran off with a gladiator 15 to Pharos
and the Nile and the ill-famed city of Lagos, Canopus itself cried shame
upon the monstrous morals of our town. Forgetful of home, of husband and
of sister, without thought of her country, she shamelessly abandoned her
weeping children; and----more marvellous still----deserted Paris and the
games. Though born in wealth, though as a babe she had slept in a
bedizened cradle on the paternal down, she made light of the sea, just
as she had long made light of her good name----a loss but little
accounted of among our soft litter-riding dames. And so with stout heart
she endured the tossing and the roaring of the Tyrrhenian and Ionian
Seas, and all the many seas she had to cross. For when danger comes in a
right and honourable way, a woman's heart grows chill with fear; she
cannot stand upon her trembling feet: but if she be doing a bold, bad
thing, her courage fails not. For a husband to order his wife on board
ship is cruelty: the bilge-water then sickens her, the heavens go round
and round. But if she is running away with a lover, she feels no qualms:
then she vomits over her husband; now she messes with the sailors, she
roams about the deck, and delights in hauling at the hard ropes.
And what were the youthful charms which captivated Eppia? What did
she see in him to allow herself to be called "a she-Gladiator"? Her dear
Sergius had already begun to shave; a wounded arm gave promise of a
discharge, and there were sundry deformities in his face: a scar caused
by the helmet, a huge wen upon his nose, a nasty humour always trickling
from his eye. But then he was a gladiator! It is this that transforms
these fellows into Hyacinths! it was this that she preferred to children
and to country, to sister and to husband. What these women love is the
sword: had this same Sergius received his discharge, he would have been
no better than a Veiento.16
Do the concerns of a private household and the doings of Eppia affect
you? Then look at those who rival the Gods,17 and hear what Claudius
endured. As soon as his wife perceived that her husband was asleep, this
august harlot was shameless enough to prefer a common mat to the
imperial couch. Assuming a night-cowl, and attended by a single maid,
she issued forth; then, having concealed her raven locks under a
light-coloured peruque, she took her place in a brothel reeking with
long-used coverlets. Entering an empty cell reserved for herself, she
there took her stand, under the feigned name of Lycisca, her nipples
bare and gilded, and exposed to view the womb that bore thee, O
nobly-born Britannicus! 18 Here she graciously received all comers,
asking from each his fee; and when at length the keeper dismissed the
rest, she remained to the very last before closing her cell, and with
passion still raging hot within her went sorrowfully away. Then
exhausted but unsatisfied, with soiled cheeks, and begrimed with the
smoke of lamps, she took back to the imperial pillow all the odours of
Why tell of love potions and incantations, of poisons brewed and
administered to stepsons, or of the grosser crimes to which women are
driven by the imperious power of sex? Their sins of lust are the least
of all their sins.
But tell me why is Censennia, on her husband's testimony, the best of
wives? "She brought him a million sesterces; that is the price at which
he calls her chaste. He has not pined under the darts of Venus; he was
never burnt by her torch. It was the dowry that lighted his fires, the
dowry that shot those arrows! That dowry bought liberty for her: she may
make what signals, and write what love letters she pleases, before her
husband's face; the rich woman who marries a money-loving husband is as
good as unmarried.
"Why does Sartorius burn with love for Bibula?" If you shake out the
truth, it is the face that he loves, not the woman. Let three wrinkles
make their appearance; let her skin become dry and flabby; let her teeth
turn black, and her eyes lose their lustre: then will his freedman give
her the order, "Pack up your traps and be off! you've become a nuisance;
you are for ever blowing your nose; be off, and quick about it! There's
another wife coming who will not sniffle." But till that day comes, the
lady rules the roast, asking her husband for shepherds and Canusian
sheep, and elms for her Falernian vines. But that's a mere nothing: she
asks for all his slave-boys, in town and country; everything that her
neighbour possesses, and that she does not possess, must be bought. Then
in the winter time, when the merchant Jason is shut out from view, and
his armed sailors are blocked out by the white booths,19 she will carry
off huge crystal vases, vases bigger still of agate, and finally a
diamond of great renown, made precious by the finger of Berenice.20 It
was given as a present long ago by the barbarian Agrippa to his
incestuous sister, in that country where kings celebrate festal sabbaths
with bare feet,21 and where a long-established clemency suffers pigs to
attain old age.22
"Do you say no worthy wife is to be found among all these crowds?"
Well, let her be handsome, charming, rich and fertile; let her have
ancient ancestors ranged about her halls; let her be more chaste than
the dishevelled Sabine maidens who stopped the war----a prodigy as rare
upon the earth as a black swan! yet who could endure a wife that
possessed all perfections? I would rather have a Venusian wench for my
wife than you, O Cornelia, mother of the Gracchi, if, with all your
virtues, you bring me a haughty brow, and reckon up Triumphs as part of
your marriage portion. Away with your Hannibal, I beseech you! Away with
Syphax overpowered in his camp! Take yourself off, Carthage and all! 23
"Be merciful, I pray, O Apollo! and thou, O goddess, lay down thine
arrows. These babes have done naught: shoot down their mother!" Thus
prayed Amphion;24 but Apollo bends his bow, and Niobe 25 led forth to
the grave her troop of sons, and their father to boot, because she
deemed herself of nobler race than Latona, and more prolific than the
white sow of Alba. For is any dignity in a wife, any beauty, worth the
cost, if she is for ever reckoning up her merits against you? These high
and transcendent qualities lose all their charm when spoilt by a pride
that savours more of aloes than of honey. And who was ever so enamoured
as not to shrink from the woman whom he praises to the skies, and to
hate her for seven hours out of every twelve?
Some small faults are intolerable to husbands. What can be more
offensive than this, that no woman believes in her own beauty unless she
has converted herself from a Tuscan into a Greekling, or from a maid of
Sulmo 26 into a maid of Athens? They talk nothing but Greek, though it
is a greater shame for our people to be ignorant of Latin. Their fears
and their wrath, their joys and their troubles----all the secrets of
their souls----are poured forth in Greek; their very loves are carried
on in Greek fashion. All this might be pardoned in a girl; but will you,
who are hard on your eighty-sixth year, still talk in Greek? That tongue
is not decent in an old woman's mouth. When you come out with the wanton
words ζωὴ καὶ ψυχή, you are using in public the language of the
bed-chamber. Caressing and naughty words like these incite to love; but
though you say them more tenderly than a Haemus or a Carpophorus,27 they
will cause no fluttering of the heart----your years are counted up upon
If you are not to love the woman betrothed and united to you in due
form, what reason have you for marrying? Why waste the supper, and the
wedding cakes to be given to the well-filled guests when the company is
slipping away----to say nothing of the first night's gift of a salver
rich with glittering gold inscribed with Dacian or Germanic victories?
28 If you are honestly uxorious, and devoted to one woman, then bow your
head and submit your neck to the yoke. Never will you find a woman who
spares the man who loves her; for though she be herself aflame, she
delights to torment and plunder him. So the better the man, the more
desirable he be as a husband, the less good will he get out of his wife.
No present will you ever make if your wife forbids; nothing will you
ever sell if she objects; nothing will you buy without her consent. She
will arrange your friendships for you; she will turn your now-aged
friend from the door which saw the beginnings of his beard. Panders and
trainers can make their wills as they please, as also can the gentlemen
of the arena; but you will have to write down among your heirs more than
one rival of your own.
"Crucify that slave!" says the wife. "But what crime worthy of death
has he committed? " asks the husband; "where are the witnesses? who
informed against him? Give him a hearing at least; no delay can be too
long when a man's life is at stake!" "What, you numskull? You call a
slave a man, do you? He has done no wrong, you say? Be it so; but this
is my will and my command: let my will be the voucher for the deed."
Thus does she lord it over her husband. But before long she vacates her
kingdom; she flits from one home to another, wearing out her bridal
veil; then back she flies again and returns to her own imprints in the
bed that she has abandoned, leaving behind her the newly decorated door,
the festal hangings on the walls, and the garlands still green over the
threshold. Thus does the tale of her husbands grow; there will be eight
of them in the course of five autumns----a fact worthy of commemoration
on her tomb!
Give up all hope of peace so long as your mother-in-law is alive. It
is she that teaches her daughter to revel in stripping and despoiling
her husband; it is she that teaches her to reply to a seducer's
love-letters in no plain and honest fashion; she eludes or bribes your
guards; it is she that calls in Archigenes 29 when your daughter has
nothing the matter with her, and tosses off the heavy blankets; the
lover meanwhile is in secret and silent hiding, trembling with
impatience and expectation. Do you really expect the mother to teach her
daughter honest ways----ways different from her own? Nay, the vile old
woman finds a profit in bringing up her daughter to be vile.
There never was a case in court in which the quarrel was not started
by a woman. If Manilia is not a defendant, she'll be the plaintiff; she
will herself frame and adjust the pleadings; she will be ready to
instruct Celsus 30 himself how to open his case, and how to urge his
Why need I tell of the purple wraps 31 and the wrestling-oils used by
women? Who has not seen one of them smiting a stump, piercing it through
and through with a foil, lunging at it with a shield, and going through
all the proper motions?----a matron truly qualified to blow a trumpet at
the Floralia! 32 Unless, indeed, she is nursing some further ambition in
her bosom, and is practising for the real arena. What modesty can you
expect in a woman who wears a helmet, abjures her own sex, and delights
in feats of strength? Yet she would not choose to be a man, knowing the
superior joys of womanhood. What a fine thing for a husband, at an
auction of his wife's effects, to see her belt and armlets and plumes
put up for sale, with a gaiter that covers half the left leg; or if she
fight another sort 33 of battle, how charmed you will be to see your
young wife disposing of her greaves! Yet these are the women who find
the thinnest of thin robes too hot for them; whose delicate flesh is
chafed by the finest of silk tissue. See how she pants as she goes
through her prescribed exercises; how she bends under the weight of her
helmet; how big and coarse are the bandages which enclose her haunches;
and then laugh when she lays down her arms and shows herself to be a
woman! Tell us, ye grand-daughters of Lepidus, or of the blind Metellus,
or of Fabius Gurges, what gladiator's wife ever assumed accoutrements
like these? When did the wife of Asylus 34 ever gasp against a stump?
The bed that holds a wife is never free from wrangling and mutual
bickerings; no sleep is to be got there! It is there that she sets upon
her husband, more savage than a tigress that has lost her cubs;
conscious of her own secret slips, she affects a grievance, abusing his
slaves, or weeping over some imagined mistress. She has an abundant
supply of tears always ready in their place, awaiting her command in
which fashion they should flow. You, poor dolt, are delighted, believing
them to be tears of love, and kiss them away; but what notes, what
love-letters would you find if you opened the desk of your green-eyed
adulterous wife! If you find her in the arms of a slave or of a knight,
"Speak, speak, Quintilian, 35 give me one of your colours,36" she will
say. But Quintilian has none to give: "find it yourself," says he. "We
agreed long ago," says the lady, "that you were to go your way, and I
mine. You may confound sea and sky with your bellowing, I am a human
being after all." There's no effrontery like that of a woman caught in
the act; her very guilt inspires her with wrath and insolence.
But whence come these monstrosities? you ask; from what fountain do
they flow? In days of old, the wives of Latium were kept chaste by their
humble fortunes. It was toil and brief slumbers that kept vice from
polluting their modest homes; hands chafed and hardened by Tuscan
fleeces, Hannibal nearing the city, and husbands standing to arms at the
Colline gate.37 We are now suffering the calamities of long peace.
Luxury, more deadly than any foe, has laid her hand upon us, and avenges
a conquered world. Since the day when Roman poverty perished, no deed of
crime or lust has been wanting to us; from that moment Sybaris and
Rhodes and Miletus have poured in upon our hills, with the begarlanded
and drunken and unabashed Tarentum.38 Filthy lucre first brought in
amongst us foreign ways; wealth enervated and corrupted the ages with
foul indulgences. What decency does Venus observe when she is drunken?
when she knows not one member from another, eats giant oysters at
midnight, pours foaming unguents into her unmixed Falernian, and drinks
out of perfume-bowls, while the roof spins dizzily round, the table
dances, and every light shows double!
Go to now and wonder what means the sneer with which Tullia snuffs
the air, or what Maura whispers to her ill-famed foster-sister, when she
passes by the ancient altar of Chastity? 39 It is there that they set
down their litters at night, and befoul the image of the Goddess,
playing their filthy pranks for the morn to witness. Thence home they
go; while you, when daylight conies, and you are on your way to salute
your mighty friends, will tread upon the traces of your wife's
Well known to all are the mysteries of the Good Goddess, when the
flute stirs the loins and the Maenads of Priapus sweep along, frenzied
alike by the horn-blowing and the wine, whirling their locks and
howling. What foul longings burn within their breasts! What cries they
utter as the passion palpitates within! How drenched their limbs in
torrents of old wine! Saufeia challenges the slave-girls to a contest.
Her agility wins the prize, but she has herself in turn to bow the knee
to Medullina. And so the palm remains with the mistress, whose exploits
match her birth! There is no pretence in the game; all is enacted to the
life in a manner that would warm the cold blood of a Priam or a Nestor.
And now impatient nature can wait no longer: woman shows herself as she
is, and the cry comes from every corner of the den, "Let in the men!" If
one favoured youth is asleep, another is bidden to put on his cowl and
hurry along; if better cannot be got, a run is made upon the slaves; if
they too fail, the water-carrier will be paid to come in. O would that
our ancient practices, or at least our public rites, were not polluted
by scenes like these! But every Moor and every Indian knows how Clodius
forced his way into a place from which every buck-mouse scuttles away
conscious of his virility, and in which no picture of the male form may
be exhibited except behind a veil.
Who ever sneered at the Gods in the days of old? Who would have dared
to laugh at the earthen-ware bowls or black pots of Numa, or the brittle
plates made out of Vatican clay? But nowadays at what altar will you not
find a Clodius? 40
I hear all this time the advice of my old friends----keep your women
at home, and put them under lock and key. Yes, but who will watch the
warders? Wives are crafty and will begin with them. High or low their
passions are all the same. She who wears out the black cobble-stones
with her bare feet is no better than she who rides upon the necks of
eight stalwart Syrians.
Ogulnia hires clothes to see the games; she hires attendants, a
litter, cushions, female friends, a nurse, and a fair-haired girl to run
her messages; yet she will give all that remains of the family plate,
down to the last flagon, to some smooth-faced athlete. Many of these
women are poor, but none of them pay any regard to their poverty, or
measure themselves by the standard which that prescribes and lays down
for them. Men, on the other hand, do sometimes have an eye to utility;
the ant has at last taught some of them to dread cold and hunger. But
your extravagant woman is never sensible of her dwindling means; and
just as though money were for ever sprouting up afresh from her
exhausted coffers, and she had always a full heap to draw from, she
never gives a thought to what her pleasures cost her.
"Whenever a cinaedus is kept he taints the household. Folks let these
fellows eat and drink with them, and merely have the vessels washed, not
shivered to atoms as they should be when such lips have touched them. So
even the lanista's establishment is better ordered than yours, for he
separates the vile from the decent, and sequesters even from their
fellow-retiarii the wearers of the ill-famed tunic; in the
training-school, and even in gaol, such creatures herd apart; but your
wife condemns you to drink out of the same cup as these gentry, with
whom the poorest trull would refuse to sip the choicest wine. Them do
women consult about marriage and divorce, with their society do they
relieve boredom or business, from them do they learn lascivious motions
and whatever else the teacher knows. But beware! that teacher is not
always what he seems: true, he darkens his eyes and dresses like a
woman, but adultery is his design. Mistrust him the more for his show of
effeminacy; he is a valiant mattress-knight; there Triphallus drops the
mask of Thais. Whom are you fooling? 41 not me; play this farce to those
who cannot pierce the masquerade. I wager you are every inch a man; do
you own it, or must we wring the truth out of the maid-servants?"
I know well the advice and warnings of my old friends: "Put on a lock
and keep your wife indoors." Yes, and who will ward the warders? They
get paid in kind for holding their tongues as to their young lady's
escapades; participation seals their lips. The wily wife arranges
accordingly, and begins with them. . . . If your wife is musical, none
of those who sell their voices 42 to the praetor will hold out against
her charms. She is for ever handling musical instruments; her sardonyx
rings sparkle thick all over the tortoise-shell; the quivering quill
with which she runs over the chords will be that with which the gentle
Hedymeles performed; she hugs it, consoles herself with it, and lavishes
kisses on the dear implement. A certain lady of the lineage of the
Lamiae and the Appii 43 inquired of Janus and Vesta, with offerings of
cake and wine, whether Pollio could hope for the Capitoline oak-chaplet
and promise victory to his lyre.44 What more could she have done had her
husband been ill, or if the doctors had been shaking their heads over
her dear little son? There she stood before the altar, thinking it no
shame to veil her head 45 on behalf of a harper; she repeated, in due
form, all the words prescribed to her; her cheek blanched when the lamb
was opened. Tell me now, I pray, O father Janus, thou most ancient of
the Gods, dost thou answer such as she? You have much time on your hands
in heaven; so far as I can see, there is nothing for you Gods to do. One
lady consults you about a comedian, another wishes to commend to you a
tragic actor; the soothsayer will soon be troubled with varicose
Better, however, that your wife should be musical than that she
should be rushing boldly about the entire city, attending men's
meetings, talking with unflinching face and hard breasts to Generals in
their military cloaks, with her husband looking on! This same woman
knows what is going on all over the world: what the Thracians and
Chinese are after, what has passed between the stepmother and the
stepson; she knows who loves whom, what gallant is the rage; she will
tell you who got the widow with child, and in what month; how every
woman behaves to her lovers, and what she says to them. She is the first
to notice the comet threatening the kings of Armenia and Parthia; she
picks up the latest rumours at the city gates, and invents some herself:
how the Niphates 47 has burst out upon the nations, and is inundating
entire districts; how cities are tottering and lands subsiding, she
tells to every one she meets at every street crossing.
No less insufferable is the woman who loves to catch hold of her poor
neighbours, and deaf to their cries for mercy lays into them with a
whip. If her sound slumbers are disturbed by a barking dog, "Quick with
the rods!" she cries; "thrash the owner first, and then the dog!" She is
a formidable woman to encounter; she is terrible to look at.
She frequents the baths by night; not till night does she order her
oil-jars and her quarters to be shifted thither; she loves all the
bustle of the hot bath; when her arms drop exhausted by the heavy
weights, the anointer passes his hand skilfully over her body, bringing
it down at last with a resounding smack upon her thigh. Meanwhile her
unfortunate guests are overcome with sleep and hunger, till at last she
comes in with a flushed face, and with thirst enough to drink off the
vessel containing full three gallons which is laid at her feet, and from
which she tosses off a couple of pints before her dinner to create a
raging appetite; then she brings it all up again and souses the floor
with the washings of her inside. The stream runs over the marble
pavement; the gilt basin reeks of Falernian, for she drinks and vomits
like a big snake that has tumbled into a vat. The sickened husband
closes his eyes and so keeps down his bile.
But most intolerable of all is the woman who as soon as she has sat
down to dinner commends Virgil, pardons the dying Dido, and pits the
poets against each other, putting Virgil in the one scale and Homer in
the other. The grammarians make way before her; the rhetoricians give
in; the whole crowd is silenced: no lawyer, no auctioneer will get a
word in, no, nor any other woman; so torrential is her speech that you
would think that all the pots and bells were being clashed together. Let
no one more blow a trumpet or clash a cymbal: one woman will be able to
bring succour to the labouring moon! 48 She lays down definitions, and
discourses on morals, like a philosopher; thirsting to be deemed both
wise and eloquent, she ought to tuck up her skirts knee-high,49
sacrifice a pig to Silvanus,50 and take a penny bath.51 Let not the wife
of your bosom possess a special style of her own; let her not hurl at
you in whirling speech the crooked enthymeme! Let her not know all
history; let there be some things in her reading which she does not
understand. I hate a woman who is for ever consulting and poring over
the "Grammar" of Palaemon,52 who observes all the rules and laws of
language, who quotes from ancient poets that I never heard of, and
corrects her unlettered 53 female friends for slips of speech that no
man need trouble about: let husbands at least be permitted to make slips
in grammar! There is nothing that a woman will not permit herself to do,
nothing that she deems shameful, when she encircles her neck with green
emeralds, and fastens huge pearls to her elongated ears: there is
nothing more intolerable than a wealthy woman. Meanwhile she
ridiculously puffs out and disfigures her face with lumps of dough; she
reeks of rich Poppaean 54 unguents which stick to the lips of her
unfortunate husband. Her lover she will meet with a clean-washed skin;
but when does she ever care to look nice at home? It is for her lovers
that she provides the spikenard, for them she buys all the scents which
the slender Indians bring to us. In good time she discloses her face;
she removes the first layer of plaster, and begins to be recognisable.
She then laves herself with that milk for which she takes a herd of
she-asses in her train if sent away to the Hyperborean pole. But when
she has been coated over and treated with all those layers of
medicaments, and had those lumps of moist dough applied to it, shall we
call it a face or a sore?
It is well worth while to ascertain how these ladies busy themselves
all day. If the husband has turned his back upon his wife at night, the
wool-maid is done for; the tire-women will be stripped of their tunics;
the Liburnian chair-man will be accused of coming late, and will have to
pay for another man's 55 drowsiness; one will have a rod broken over his
back, another will be bleeding from a strap, a third from the cat; some
women engage their executioners by the year. While the flogging goes on,
the lady will be daubing her face, or listening to her lady-friends, or
inspecting the widths of a gold-embroidered robe. While thus flogging
and flogging,56 she reads the lengthy Gazette, written right across the
page,57 till at last, the floggers being exhausted, and the inquisition
ended, she thunders out a gruff "Be off with you!"
Her household is governed as cruelly as a Sicilian Court.58 If she
has an appointment and wishes to be turned out more nicely than usual,
and is in a hurry to meet some one waiting for her in the gardens, or
more likely near the chapel of the wanton Isis, the unhappy maid that
does her hair will have her own hair torn, and the clothes stripped off
her shoulders and her breasts. "Why is this curl standing up?" she asks,
and then down comes a thong of bull's hide to inflict chastisement for
the offending ringlet. Pray how was Psecas in fault? How would the girl
be to blame if you happened not to like the shape of your own nose?
Another maid on the left side combs out the hair and rolls it into a
coil; a maid of her mother's, who has served her time at sewing, and has
been promoted to the wool department, assists at the council. She is the
first to give her opinion; after her, her inferiors in age or skill will
give theirs, as though some question of life or honour were at stake. So
important is the business of beautification; so numerous are the tiers
and storeys piled one upon another on her head! In front, you would take
her for an Andromache 59; she is not so tall behind: you would not think
it was the same person. What if nature has made her so short of stature
that, if unaided by high heels, she looks no bigger than a pigmy, and
has to rise nimbly on tip-toe for a kiss! Meantime she pays no attention
to her husband; she never speaks of what she costs him. She lives with
him as if she were only his neighbour; in this alone more near to him,
that she hates his friends and his slaves, and plays the mischief with
And now, behold! in comes the chorus of the frantic Bellona and the
mother of the Gods, attended by a giant eunuch to whom his obscene
inferiors must do reverence. . . . Before him the howling herd with the
timbrels give way; his plebeian cheeks are covered with a Phrygian
tiara. With solemn utterance he bids the lady beware of the September
Siroccos if she do not purify herself with a hundred eggs, and present
him with some old mulberry-coloured garments in order that any great and
unforeseen calamity may pass into the clothes, and make expiation for
the entire year. In winter she will go down to the river of a morning,
break the ice, and plunge three times into the Tiber, dipping her
trembling head in its whirling waters, and crawling out thence naked and
shivering, she will creep with bleeding knees right across the field 60
of Tarquin the Proud. If the white Io 61 shall so order, she will
journey to the confines of Egypt, and fetch water from hot Meroe 62 with
which to sprinkle the Temple of Isis which stands hard by the ancient
sheepfold.63 For she believes that the command was given by the voice of
the Goddess herself----a pretty kind of mind and spirit for the Gods to
have converse with by night! Hence the chief and highest place of honour
is awarded to Anubis,64 who, with his linen-clad and shaven crew, mocks
at the weeping of the people as he runs along.65 He it is that obtains
pardon for wives who break the law of purity on days that should be kept
holy, and exacts huge penalties when the coverlet has been profaned, or
when the silver serpent has been seen to nod his head. His tears and
carefully-studied mutterings make sure that Osiris will not refuse a
pardon for the fault, bribed, no doubt, by a fat goose and a slice of
No sooner has that fellow departed than a palsied Jewess, leaving her
basket and her truss of hay,66 comes begging to her secret ear; she is
an interpreter of the laws of Jerusalem, a high priestess of the tree,67
a trusty go-between of highest heaven. She, too, fills her palm, but
more sparingly, for a Jew will tell you dreams of any kind you please
for the minutest of coins.
An Armenian or Commagenian sooth-sayer, after examining the lungs of
a dove that is still warm, will promise a youthful lover, or a big
bequest from some rich and childless man; he will probe the breast of a
chicken, or the entrails of a dog, sometimes even of a boy; some things
he will do with the intention of informing against them himself.
Still more trusted are the Chaldaeans; every word uttered by the
astrologer they will believe has come from Hammon's fountain, for now
that the Delphian oracles are dumb, man is condemned to darkness as to
his future. Chief among these was one 68 who was oft in exile, through
whose friendship and venal prophecies the great citizen 69 died whom
Otho feared. For nowadays no astrologer has credit unless he have been
imprisoned in some distant camp, with chains clanking on either arm;
none believe in his powers unless he has been condemned and all but put
to death, having just contrived to get deported to a Cyclad, or to
escape at last from the diminutive Seriphos.70
Your excellent Tanaquil 71 consults as to the long-delayed death of
her jaundiced mother----having previously enquired about your own; she
will ask when she may expect to bury her sister, or her uncles; and
whether her lover will outlive herself----what greater boon could the
Gods bestow upon her? And yet your Tanaquil does not herself understand
the gloomy threats of Saturn, or under what constellation Venus will
show herself propitious, which months will be months of losses, which of
gains; but beware of ever encountering one whom you see clutching a
well-worn calendar in her hands as if it were a ball of clammy amber 72;
one who inquires of none, but is now herself inquired of; one who, if
her husband is going forth to camp, or returning home from abroad, will
not bear him company if the numbers of Thrasyllus 73 call her back. If
she wants to drive as far as the first mile-stone, she finds the right
hour from her book; if there is a sore place in the corner of her eye,
she will not call for a salve until she has consulted her horoscope: and
if she be ill in bed, deems no hour so suitable for taking food as that
prescribed to her by Petosiris.74
If the woman be of humble rank, she will promenade between the
turning-posts 75 of the Circus; she will have her fortune told, and will
present her brow and her hand to the seer who asks for many an approving
smack.76 Wealthy women will pay for answers from a Phrygian or Indian
augur well skilled in the stars and the heavens, or one of the elders
employed to expiate thunderbolts. Plebeian destinies are determined in
the Circus or on the ramparts 77: the woman 78 who displays a long gold
chain on her bare neck inquires before the pillars and the clusters of
dolphins whether she shall throw over the tavern-keeper and marry the
These poor women, however, endure the perils of child-birth, and all
the troubles of nursing to which their lot condemns them; but how often
does a gilded bed contain a woman that is lying in? So great is the
skill, so powerful the drugs, of the abortionist, paid to murder mankind
within the womb. Rejoice, poor wretch; give her the stuff to drink
whatever it be, with your own hand: for were she willing to get big and
trouble her womb with bouncing babes, you might perhaps find yourself
the father of an Ethiopian; and some day a coloured heir, whom you would
rather not meet by daylight, would fill all the places in your will.
I say nothing of supposititious children, of the hopes and prayers so
often cheated at those filthy pools 79 from which are supplied Priests
and Salii,80 with bodies that will falsely bear the name of Scauri.
There Fortune shamelessly takes her stand by night, smiling on the naked
babes; she fondles them all and folds them in her bosom, and then, to
provide herself with a secret comedy, she sends them forth to the houses
of the great. These are the children that she loves, on these she
lavishes herself, and with a laugh brings them always forward as her
One man supplies magical spells; another sells Thessalian 81 charms
by which a wife may upset her husband's mind, and lather his buttocks
with a slipper; thence come loss of reason, and darkness of soul, and
blank forgetfulness of all that you did but yesterday. Yet even that can
be endured, if only you become not raving mad like that uncle 82 of
Nero's into whose drink Caesonia poured the whole brow of a weakly foal
83; and what woman will not follow when an Empress leads the way? The
whole world was ablaze then and falling down in ruin just as if Juno had
made her husband mad. Less guilty therefore will Agrippina's mushroom 84
be deemed, seeing that it only stopped the breath of one old man, and
sent down his palsied head and slobbering lips to heaven, whereas the
other potion demanded fire and sword and torture, mingling Knights and
Fathers in one mangled bleeding heap. Such was the cost of one mare's
offspring and of one she-poisoner.
A wife hates the children of a concubine; let none demur or forbid,
seeing that it has long been deemed right and proper to slay a stepson.
But I warn you wards----you that have a good estate----keep watch over
your lives; trust not a single dish: those hot cakes are black with
poison of a mother's baking. Whatever is offered you by the mother, let
someone taste it first; let your trembling tutor take the first taste of
Now think you that all this is a fancy tale, and that our Satire is
taking to herself the high heels of tragedy? Think you that I have
out-stepped the limits and the laws of those before me, and am mouthing
in Sophoclean tones a grand theme unknown to the Rutulian hills and the
skies of Latium? Would indeed that my words were idle! But here is
Pontia proclaiming "I did the deed; I gave aconite, I confess it, to my
own children; the crime was detected, and is known to all; yes, with my
own hands I did it." "What, you most savage of vipers? you killed two,
did you, two, at a single meal?" "Aye, and seven too, had there chanced
to be seven to kill!"
Let us believe all that Tragedy tells us of the savage Colchian 85
and of Procne 86; I seek not to gainsay her. Those women were monsters
of wickedness in their day; but it was not for money that they sinned.
We marvel less at great crimes when it is wrath that incites the sex to
the guilty deed, when burning passion carries them headlong, like a rock
torn from a mountain side, when the ground beneath gives way, and the
overhanging slopes fall in. I cannot endure the woman who calculates,
and commits a great crime in her sober senses. Our wives look on at
Alcestis undergoing her husband's fate; if they were granted a like
liberty of exchange, they would fain let the husband die to save a
lap-dog's life. You will meet a daughter of Belus 87 or an Eriphyle
every morning: no street but has its Clytemnestra.88 The only difference
is this: the daughter of Tyndareus 89 wielded in her two hands a clumsy
two-headed axe, whereas nowadays a slice of a toad's lung will do the
business. Yet it may be done by steel as well, if the wary husband have
beforehand tasted the medicaments of the thrice-conquered king of
1. i.e. in the golden days of innocence.
2. The Cynthia of Propertius.
3. The Lesbia of Catullus.
4. There was a legend that men had been born from oak-trees.
5. Astraea, daughter of Zeus and Themis, was the last mortal to leave
the earth when the Golden Age came to an end; she was placed among the
stars as Virgo.
6. The fulcrum was the head of the couch, often ornamented with the
figure of the Genius in bronze.
7. A law to encourage marriage.
8. An actor who played the part of a lover in hiding.
9. The Megalesian games began on the 4th of April and lasted for six
days; the Plebeian games took place early in November.
10. A famous singer.
11. M. Fabius Quintilianus, the famous Roman rhetorician, A. D. 40-100.
No grave and learned man like Quintilian will attract them.
12. The conopeum was properly a mosquito-net; here it seems to be used
for a bassinette or cradle.
13. A gladiator.
14. A murmillo was equipped as a Gaulish warrior in heavy armour. He
carried the image of a fish in his crest, whence the name μορμύρος or
15. Ludus is properly a gladiatorial school, or a troop of gladiators.
16. Probably the husband.
17. In allusion to the deification of the emperors.
18. Messalina was the mother of Britannicus, b. A.D. 42.
19. This passage is thus explained: The lady buys various articles at
the feast of the Sigillaria (December 17-20), so called from the
statuettes which were then on sale. These and other articles were set
out in canvas booths, which were built up against certain public
buildings so as to screen them from view. One of these buildings was the
Portico of Agrippa on which there were paintings of the Argonauts. Thus
"the merchant" Jason and his armed sailors were shut out and could not
20. Sister to King Agrippa II. (Acts, xxv. 23).
21. Josephus relates that Berenice sacrificed at Jerusalem with
dishevelled hair and bare feet.
22. For Jewish abstinence from pork see Tac. Hist. v. 4.
23. Alluding to the exploits of the elder Scipio.
24. Husband of Niobe.
25. Wife of Amphion, king of Thebes. Proud of her six sons and six
daughters, she boasted herself against Leto, mother of Apollo and
Artemis. Indignant at her presumption, they slew all her children with
26. Sulmo, in the Pelignian country, was the birthplace of Ovid.
27. Names of actors.
28. Alluding to the gold coins (aurei) minted by Trajan in honour of his
victories. The aureus was about equal in metal value to our guinea.
29. A fashionable doctor of the day.
30. Either a jurist or a rhetorician.
31. The endromis was a coarse, woollen cloak in which athletes wrapped
themselves after their exercises.
32. Games in honour of Flora (April 28-May 3), at which much female
licence was allowed.
33. i. e. a gladiatorial contest.
34. Supposed to be a gladiator.
35. The famous Roman rhetorician, b. A.D. 44, author of the
36. Color is a technical term in rhetoric, denoting an argument which
puts a favourable or palliative light on some act.
37. For Hannibal at the Colline Gate, B.C. 213, see Liv. xxvi. 10.
38. Mr. Duff explains this of a scene in the theatre in Tarentum when
the people, garlanded in honour of Dionysus, insulted the Roman
ambassador (Dio. Cass. fragm. 145).
39. The ancient Temple of Pudicitia was in the Forum Boarium.
40. Alluding to the profanation of the mysteries of the Bona Dea by
Clodius, in B.C. 62, by appearing in the disguise of a female lutist.
41. He now addresses the cinaedus [catamite] himself.
42. i.e. professionals who sing for hire on public occasions.
43. i.e. of a noble family.
44. A prize of oak-leaves was given at the agon Capitolinus, instituted
by Domitian. Pollio was a player on the cithara.
45. To veil the head was part of the ceremony at a sacrifice.
46. i.e. with so much standing about.
47. Properly a mountain; here meant for a river.
48. Eclipses of the moon were supposed to be due to the incantations of
witches. To prevent these from being heard, and so ward off the evil
events portended by the eclipse, it was the custom to create a din by
the clashing of bells, horns and trumpets, etc.
49. i.e. wear the short tunic of a man.
50. Only men sacrificed to Silvanus.
51. i. e. bathe in the public baths.
52. A treatise on grammar by Q. Remmius Palaemon, the most famous
grammarian of the early empire.
53. The word Opican is equivalent to Oscan, denoting the early
inhabitants of Campania. It is used here as equivalent to barbarian.
54. Cosmetics, called after Nero's wife Poppaea.
55. i.e. the husband's.
56. The text reads as if the flogging was done by the lady herself. But
it was evidently done for her by slaves.
57. Books were usually written lengthwise on the roll; but it seems that
the acta diurna, here mentioned, were written crosswise.
58. In allusion to Phalaris, tyrant of Agrigentum.
59. Hector's wife Andromache must be tall, as living in the heroic age.
60. i.e. the Campus Martius.
61. Apparently here identified with Isis. Io was changed into a white
cow by Juno out of jealousy.
62. An island formed by the waters of the Nile. See xiii. 163.
63. The Temple of Isis was in the Campus Martius near the polling-booths
(saepta) here called ovile.
64. A god of the dead; he attended on Isis, and is represented with the
head of a dog.
65. The priest who im personates Anubis laughs at the people when they
66. See iii. 14: Iudaei quorum cophinus fatnumque supellex.
67. Jews were allowed to camp out under trees as gipsies do in our own
country. See iii. 15, 16.
68. According to Tac. Hist. i. 22 the name of Otho's astrologer was
69. The emperor Galba.
70. One of the smaller Cyclades (Serpho), a well-known place of exile.
71. i.e. his wife. Tanaquil was wife of Tarquinius Priscus (perita
caelestium prodigiorum, Liv. i. 34).
72. Roman ladies carried balls of amber in their hands, either as a
scent or for warmth.
73. The favourite astrologer of Tiberius.
74. An ancient Egyptian astrologer.
75. The metae were the turning-posts at each end of the low wall (spina)
round which the chariots had to turn. Each meta consisted of a group of
conical pillars with dolphins on them.
76. Poppysma is a smacking sound made by the lips; it was apparently a
sign of approval and satisfaction. These sounds are made by the
77. The famous rampart of Servius Tullius, which protected Rome on its
78. Apparently alluding to a low class of women.
79. These were pools or reservoirs in which infants were exposed.
Fortune delights in spiriting these foundlings into the houses of the
80. The priests of Mars, recruited from noble families.
81. Thessaly was famous for witches and the magic art. The husband here
is made mad by a love-potion.
82. The emperor Caligula. His wife Caesonia was said to have made him
mad by a love-philtre.
83. Alluding to the hippomanes, an excrescence on the head of a young
foal, which was used in love-potions.
84. Agrippina the younger murdered her husband, the Emperor Claudius, by
a dish of mushrooms (Tac. Ann. xii. 57, Suet. 44). See v. 147.
86. Procne, daughter of Pandion, king of Athens, revenged herself on her
husband, Tereus, by serving up to him the flesh of his son Itys. She was
turned into a swallow.
87. Belus was the father of Danaus; hence the Danaids are called
88. The Danaids (daughters of Belus), Eriphyle, and Clytemnestra, all
killed their husbands.
89. Clytemnestra was daughter of Tyndareus.
90. Mithridates, who was said to have secured himself against poisoning
Learning and Letters Unprofitable
On Caesar alone hang all the hopes and prospects of the learned; he
alone in these days of ours has cast a favouring glance upon the
sorrowing Muses----at a time when poets of name and fame thought of
hiring baths at Gabii, or bakehouses in Rome, while others felt no shame
in becoming public criers, and starving Clio herself, bidding adieu to
the vales of Aganippe,1 was flitting to the auction rooms. For if you
see no prospect of earning a groat within the Muses' grove, you had
better put up with Machaera's 2 name and profits and join in the battle
of the sale-room, selling to the crowd winejars, tripods, book-cases and
cupboards----the Alcithoe of Paccius, the Thebes or the Tereus 3 of
Faustus! How much better that than to say before a judge "I saw" what
you did not see! Leave that to the Knights of Asia,4 of Bithynia and
Cappadocia----gentry that were imported bare-footed 5 from New Gaul!
But from this day forth no man who weaves the tuneful web of song and
has bitten Apollo's laurel will be compelled to endure toil unworthy of
his craft. To your task, young men! Your Prince is looking around and
goading you on, seeking objects for his favour. If you expect patronage
from any other quarter, and in that hope are filling up the parchment of
your saffron tablet, you had better order faggots at once, Telesinus,
and present your productions to the spouse 6 of Venus; or else put away
your tomes, and let bookworms bore holes in them where they lie. Break
your pen, poor wretch; destroy the battles that have robbed you of your
sleep----you that are inditing lofty strains in a tiny garret, that you
may come forth worthy of a scraggy bust 7 wreathed with ivy! No hope
have you beyond that; your rich miser has now learnt only to admire,
only to commend the eloquent, just as boys admire the bird of Juno.8
Meantime the years flow by that could have endured the sea, the helmet,
or the spade; the soul becomes wearied, and an eloquent but penniless
old age curses itself and its own Terpsichore! 9
And now learn the devices by which the patron for whose favour you
desert the temples of the Muses and Apollo seeks to avoid spending
anything on you. He writes verses of his own; yielding the palm to none
but Homer----and that only because of his thousand years. If the sweets
of fame fire you to give a recitation, he puts at your disposal a
tumbledown house in some distant quarter, the door of which is closely
barred like the gate of a beleaguered city. He knows how to supply you
Avith freedmen to sit at the end of the rows, and how to distribute
about the room the stalwart voices of his retainers: but none of your
great men will give you as much as will pay for the benches, or for the
tiers of seats resting on hired beams, or for the chairs in the front
rows which will have to be returned when done with. Yet for all that, we
poets stick to our task; we go on drawing furrows in the thin soil, and
turning up the shore with unprofitable plough. For if you would give it
up, the itch for writing and making a name holds you fast as with a
noose, and becomes inveterate in your distempered brain.
But your real poet, who has a vein of genius all his own----one who
spins no hackneyed lays, and whose pieces are struck from no common
mint----such an one as I cannot point to, and only feel----is the
product of a soul free from care, that knows no bitterness, that loves
the woodlands, and is fitted to drink at the Muses' spring. For how can
unhappy Poverty sing songs in the Pierian cave and grasp the thyrsus
when it is short of cash, which the body has need of both by night and
day? Horace's stomach was well filled when he shouted his cry of Evoe!
Where can genius find a place except in a heart stirred by song alone,
that shuts out every thought but one, and is swept along by the lords of
Cirrha and of Nysa! 10 It needs a lofty soul, not one that is dismayed
at the cost of a coverlet, to have visions of chariots and horses and
Gods' faces, or to tell with what a mien the Fury confounded the
Rutulian 11: had Virgil possessed no slave, and no decent roof over his
head, all the snakes would have fallen from the Fury's hair; no dread
note would have boomed from her voiceless trumpet. Do we expect Rubrenus
Lappa to be as great in the buskin as the ancients, when his Atreus has
to be pawned for his cloak and crockery? Numitor, poor man, has nothing
to give to a needy friend, though he is rich enough to send presents to
his mistress, and he had enough, too, to buy a tamed lion that needed
masses of meat for his keep. It costs less, no doubt, to keep a lion
than a poet; the poet's belly is more capacious!
Lucan,12 indeed, reclining amid the statues of his gardens, may be
content with fame; but what will ever so much glory bring in to
Serranus, or to the starving Saleius, if it be glory only? When Statius
13 has gladdened the city by promising a day, people flock to hear his
pleasing voice and his loved Thebais; so charmed are their souls by his
sweetness, with such rapture does the multitude listen to him. But when
his verses have brought down the house, poor Statius will starve if he
does not sell his virgin Agave to Paris 14: for it is Paris who appoints
men to military commands; it is Paris who puts the golden ring round the
poet's finger after six months of service.15 You can get from a
stage-player what no great man will give you: why frequent the spacious
antechambers of the Bareae or the Camerini? It is Pelopea 4 that
appoints our Prefects, and Philomela 16 our Tribunes! Yet you need not
begrudge the bard who gains his living from the play-house: who nowadays
will be a Maecenas 17 to you, a Proculeius, or a Fabius? who another
Cotta, or a second Lentulus? Genius in those days met with its due
reward; many then found their profit in pale cheeks and in abjuring
potations all through December.18
And is your labour more remunerative, ye writers of history? More
time, more oil, is wasted here; regardless of all limit, the pages run
up to thousands; the pile of paper is ever mounting to your ruin. So
ordains the vast array of facts, and the rules of the craft. But what
harvest will you gather, what fruit, from the tilling of your land? Who
will give to an historian as much as he gives to the man who reads out
"O but historians are a lazy crew, that delight in lounging and the
shade." Tell me then what do pleaders get for their services in the
courts, and for those huge bundles of papers which they bring with them?
They talk big enough, especially if a creditor 19 of their own happens
to be listening: or if, more urgent still, they get poked in the ribs by
one who has brought a huge ledger to claim a doubtful debt. Then indeed
do their capacious bellows pant forth prodigious lies! Then are their
breasts be-slobbered! 20 and yet, if you want to discover their real
gains, you may put on one side the fortunes of a hundred lawyers, on the
other that of a single jockey of the Red! 21 The great men are seated;
you rise, a pale-faced Ajax,22 to declaim before a bumpkin judge in a
case of contested liberty. Strain your lungs, poor fool, until they
burst, that when exhausted by your labours some green palm-branches may
be put up to adorn your garret.23 What fee will your voice bring in? A
dried-up ham 24; a jar of sprats; some veteran onions which would serve
as rations for a Moor, or five flagons of wine that has sailed down the
Tiber.25 If you have pled on four occasions, and been lucky enough to
get a gold piece, a bit of it, as part of the compact, will go to the
attorney. Aemilius will get the maximum legal fee,26 though he did not
plead so well as we did; but then he has a bronze chariot in his
forecourt, with four stately steeds, and an effigy of himself, seated on
a gallant charger, brandishing from afar a bending spear, and practising
for battle with one eye closed. That is how Pedo 27 becomes bankrupt,
and how Matho 27 fails; and such will be the end of Tongilius, who
frequents the baths with a huge oil-flask of rhinoceros horn, and
disturbs the bathers with a mob of dirty retainers. His Maedian bearers
are weighed down by the long poles of his litter as he passes through
the Forum on his way to buy slaves or plate, agate vases or country
houses; for that foreign robe of his, with its Tyrian purple, gains him
credit. These gentlemen get profit out of this display; the purple or
the violet robe brings practice to a lawyer; it pays him to live with a
racket and an appearance beyond his means, and wasteful Rome sets no
limits to extravagance.
Trust in eloquence, indeed? Why, no one would give Cicero himself two
hundred pence nowadays unless a huge ring were blazing on his finger.
The first thing that a litigant looks to is, Have you eight slaves and a
dozen retainers? Have you a litter to wait on you, and gowned citizens
to walk before you? That is why Paulus used to hire a sardonyx ring;
that is why he earned a higher fee than Gallus or Basilus. When is
eloquence ever found beneath a shabby coat? When does Basilus get the
chance of producing in court a weeping mother? Who would listen to him,
however well he spoke? Better go to Gaul or to Africa,28 that nursing
mother of lawyers, if you would make a living by your tongue!
Or do you teach rhetoric? O Vettius! what iron bowels must you have
when your troop of scholars slays 29 the cruel tyrant: when each in turn
stands up, and repeats what he has just been conning in his seat,
reciting the self-same things in the self-same verses! Served up again
and again, the cabbage is the death of the unhappy master! What
complexion 30 should be put on the case; within what category it falls;
what is the crucial point; what hits will be made on the other
side----these are things which everyone wants to know, but for which no
one is willing to pay. "Pay indeed? Why, what have I learnt?" asks the
scholar. It is the teacher's fault, of course, that the Arcadian youth
feels no flutter in his left breast when he dins his "dire Hannibal"
into my unfortunate head on every sixth day of the week, whatever be the
question which he is pondering: whether he should make straight for the
city from the field of Cannae, or whether, after the rain and thunder,
he should lead around his cohorts, all dripping after the storm. Name
any sum you please and you shall have it: what would I give 31 that the
lad's father might listen to him as often as I do! So cry half-a-dozen
or more of our sophists 32 in one breath, entering upon real lawsuits 33
of their own, abandoning "The Ravisher" and forgetting all about "The
Poisoner" or "The wicked and thankless Husband," or the drugs that
restore sight to the chronic blind.
And so, if my counsel goes for anything, I would advise the man who
comes down from his rhetorical shade to fight for a sum that would buy a
trumpery corn-ticket 34----for that's the most handsome fee he will ever
get----to present himself with a discharge,35 and enter upon some other
walk of life. If you ask what fees Chrysogonus and Pollio 36 get for
teaching music to the sons of our great men, you will tear up the
Rhetoric of Theodorus.37
Your great man will spend six hundred thousand sesterces upon his
baths, and something more on the colonnade in which he is to drive on
rainy days. What? Is he to wait for a clear sky, and bespatter his
horses with fresh mud? How much better to drive where their hoofs will
remain bright and spotless! Elsewhere let a banqueting hall arise,
supported on lofty pillars of African marble, to catch the winter sun.
And cost the house what it may, there will come a man to arrange the
courses skilfully, and the man who makes up the tasty dishes. Amidst
expenditure such as this two thousand sesterces will be enough, and more
than enough, for Quintilian: there is nothing on which a father will not
spend more money than on his son. "How then," you ask, "does Quintilian
possess those vast domains?" Pass by cases of rare good fortune: the
lucky man 38 is both beautiful and brave, he is wise and noble and
high-born; he sews on to his black shoe the crescent of the Senator. He
is a great orator too, a good javelin-man, and if he chance to have
caught a cold, he sings divinely. For it makes all the difference by
what stars you are welcomed when you utter your first cry, and are still
red from your mother's womb. If Fortune so choose, you will become a
Consul from being a rhetor; if again she so wills, you will become a
rhetor from being a Consul.
What of Ventidius 39 and Tullius? 40 What made their fortunes but the
stars and the wondrous potency of secret Fate? The Fates will give
kingdoms to a slave, and triumphs to a captive! Nevertheless that
fortunate man is rare----rarer than a white crow. Many have repented
them of the Professor's vain and unprofitable chair; witness the ends of
Thrasymachus 41 and Secundus Carrinas.41 Him too didst thou see in
poverty on whom thou, O Athens, hadst nothing better to bestow than a
cup of cold hemlock! 42 Grant, O Gods, that the earth may lie soft and
light upon the shades of our forefathers: may the sweet-scented crocus
and a perpetual spring-time bloom over their ashes; who deemed that the
teacher should hold the place of a revered parent! Achilles trembled for
fear of the rod when already of full age, singing songs in his native
hills; nor would he then have dared to laugh at the tail of his musical
instructor.43 But Rufus and the rest are cudgelled each by his own
pupils----that Rufus 44 whom they have so often styled "the Allobrogian
Who pours into the lap of Celadus, or of the learned Palaemon,45 as
much as their grammatical labours deserve? And yet, small as the fee
is----and it is smaller than the rhetor's wage----the pupil's unfeeling
46 attendant nibbles off a bit of it for himself; so too does the
steward. But never mind, Palaemon; suffer some diminution of your wage,
like the hawker who sells rags and white Gallic blankets for winter
wear, if only it do not go for nothing that you have sat from early dawn
in a hole which no blacksmith would put up with, no workman who teaches
how to card wool with slanting tool: that it do not go for nothing to
have snuffed up the odour of as many lamps as you had scholars in your
class thumbing a discoloured Horace or a begrimed Virgil.
But it is seldom that the fee can be recovered without a judgment of
the Court. And yet be sure, ye parents, to impose the strictest laws
upon the teacher: he must never be at fault in his grammar; he must know
all history, and have all the authorities at his finger-tips. If asked a
chance question on his way to the baths, or to the establishment of
Phoebus,47 he must at once tell you who was the nurse of Anchises, what
was the name and birth-place of Anchemolus' 48 step-mother, to what age
Acestes lived, how many flagons of Sicilian wine he presented to the
Trojans.49 Require of him that he shall mould the young minds as a man
moulds a face out of wax with his thumb; insist that he shall be a
father to the whole brood, so that they shall play no nasty game, and do
no nasty trick----no easy matter to watch the hands and sparkling eyes
of so many youngsters! "See to all this," you say, "and then, when the
year comes round, receive the golden piece which the mob demands for a
1. An inspiring spring on Mt. Helicon, sacred to the Muses.
2. Apparently an auctioneer.
3. Apparently names of tragedies.
4. Easterns originally imported as slaves, who had risen to be equites.
5. i. e. as slaves from Galatia.
7. The busts of poets were wreathed with ivy (doctarum hederae praemia
frontium, Hor. Od. i. i. 29).
8. i.e. the peacock.
9. Properly the Muse of Dancing; used here, like Clio above, for poetry
10. Apollo and Dionysus.
11. Turnus. See Virg. Aen. viii. 445-450.
12. The famous author of the Pharsalia. M. Annaeus Lucanus, A.D. 39-65.
13. P. Papinius Statius, author of the Thebais, circ. A. D. 61-96.
14. Paris, a famous pantomimic dancer. There were two of the name; one a
favourite of Nero, executed by him as a rival, A.D. 67; the other a
favourite of Domitian, also executed, A.D. 87. See Introduction.
15. The commanding officers of a Legion (tribuni) became equites after
serving for six months. Claudius instituted the practice of making
honorary appointments, without service, so as to bestow the title of
eques on his favourites.
16. Names of pantomime plays.
17. A noble patron of letters, especially of Horace; for Proculeius, see
Hor. Od. II. ii. 5. Paulus Fabius Maximus was the patron of Ovid; Cotta
is panegyrised by Ovid, Epp. ex P. ii. viii.; P. Lentulus Spinther
helped to recall Cicero from banishment.
18. In reference to the festive season of the Saturnalia.
19. The creditor is one to whom the advocate owes money, and before whom
he wishes to make a good appearance; the acrior illo is a litigant whom
the advocate hopes to secure as a client.
20. Spitting or slobbering on the breast was considered lucky, to
obviate the evil results of boasting.
21. Lacerta is apparently the name of a charioteer.
22. Alluding to the contest between Ajax and Achilles for the arms of
23. The advocate who had won a case would have his stair decorated.
24. Lawyers received presents in kind from their country clients.
25. i.e. poor wine; like the vile Sabinum of Hor. Od. i. xx. 1.
26. Aemilius was a noble; the Lex Cincia (B.C. 204) placed a limit upon
27. These men are ruined by imitating the extravagance of their betters.
28. Flourishing schools of rhetoric were established under the early
Empire in Gaul, Spain, and Africa.
29. i. e. in a rhetorical exercise.
30. For the meaning of color, see note on vi. 280.
31. The English idiom would be " What would I not give."
32. i.e. teachers, especially of rhetoric.
33. The rhetor goes to law to recover his fees.
34. A ticket for the gratuitous distributions of corn.
35. A retiring gladiator received a wooden sword (rudis) as a token of
36. Chrysogonus was a singer (vi. 74), Pollio a player on the cithara
37. A famous rhetorician at Rhodes.
38. Juvenal sarcastically assigns to the lucky man all the qualities
which the Stoics attributed to the sapiens. See Hor. Epp. i. i. 106-108.
Juvenal probably had an eye to that passage.
39. P. Ventidius Bassus rose from nothing to be consul B.C. 43; he
triumphed over the Parthians.
41. Both rhetoricians. Carrinas was banished by Caligula, and apparently
42. The reference must surely be to Socrates ; though illum would have
been more appropriate than hunc.
43. Achilles was instructed in the lyre by the Centaur Chiron.
44. Rufus was apparently an Allobrogian. The Allobroges occupied the
country between the Rhone and the Isere.
45. Q. Remmius Palaemon, a famous Roman grammarian in the time of
Tiberius and Caligula.
46. Acoenonoetus is one of those Greek terms whose use Juvenal wishes to
ridicule. The Scholiast explains it as communi sensu carens. See Mayor.
47. Probably a private bathing establishment.
48. A warrior slain by Pallas. Virg. Aen, x. 389.
49. Aen. v. 73 ff.
Stemmata quid Faciunt?
What avail your pedigrees? What boots it, Ponticus, to be valued for
one's ancient blood, and to display the painted visages of one's
forefathers----an Aemilianus 1 standing in his car; a half-crumbled
Curius; a Corvinus who has lost a shoulder, or a Galba that has neither
ear nor nose? Of what profit is it to boast a Fabius on your ample
family chart, and thereafter to trace kinship through many a branch with
grimy Dictators and Masters of the Horse, if in presence of the Lepidi
you live an evil life? What signify all these effigies of warriors if
you gamble all night long before your Numantine 2 ancestors, and begin
your sleep with the rise of Lucifer, at an hour when our Generals of old
would be moving their standards and their camps? Why should a Fabius,
born in the home of Hercules,3 take pride in the title Allobrogicus,4
and in the Great Altar,5 if he be covetous and empty-headed and more
effeminate than a Euganean 6 lambkin; if his loins, rubbed smooth by
Catanian 7 pumice, throw shame on his shaggy-haired grandfathers; or if,
as a trafficker in poison, he dishonour his unhappy race by a statue
that will have to be broken in pieces? Though you deck your hall from
end to end with ancient waxen images, Virtue is the one and only true
nobility. Be a Paulus, or a Cossus, or a Drusus in character; rank them
before the statues of your ancestors; let them precede the fasces
themselves when you are Consul. You owe me, first of all things, the
virtues of the soul; prove yourself stainless in life, one who holds
fast to the right both in word and deed, and I acknowledge you as a
lord; all hail to you, Gaetulicus, or you, Silanus, or from whatever
stock you come, if you have proved yourself to a rejoicing country a
rare and illustrious citizen, we would fain cry what Egypt shouts when
Osiris has been found.8 For who can be called "noble" who is unworthy of
his race, and distinguished in nothing but his name? We call some one's
dwarf an "Atlas," his blackamoor "a swan"; an ill-favoured, misshapen
girl we call "Europa"; lazy hounds that are bald with chronic mange, and
who lick the edges of a dry lamp, will bear the names of "Pard,"
"Tiger," "Lion," or of any other animal in the world that roars more
fiercely: take you care that it be not on that principle that you are a
Creticus or a Camerinus!
Who is it whom I admonish thus? It is to you, Rubellius Blandus,9
that I speak. You are puffed up with the lofty pedigree of the Drusi, as
though you had done something to make you noble, and to be conceived by
one glorying in the blood of Iulus, rather than by one who weaves for
hire under the windy rampart. "You others are dirt," you say; "the very
scum of our populace; not one of you can point to his father's
birthplace; but I am one of the Cecropidae!" Long life to you! May you
long enjoy the glories of your birth! And yet among the lowest rabble
you will find a Roman, who has eloquence, one who will plead the cause
of the unlettered noble; you must go to the toga-clad herd for a man to
untie the knots and riddles of the law. From them will come the brave
young soldier who marches to the Euphrates, or to the eagles that guard
the conquered Batavians, while you are nothing but a Cecropid, the image
of a limbless Hermes! For in no respect but one have you the advantage
over him: his head is of marble, while yours is a living effigy!
Tell me, thou scion of the Trojans, who deems a dumb animal well-born
unless it be strong? It is for this that we commend the swift horse
whose speed sets every hand aglow, and fills the Circus with the hoarse
shout of victory; that horse is noblest, on whatever pasture reared,
whose rush outstrips the rest, and whose dust is foremost upon the
plain. But the offspring of Coryphaeus 10 or Hirpinus 10 comes to the
hammer if Victory light but seldom on his car: no respect is there paid
to ancestors, no favour is shown to Shades! The slow of foot, that are
fit only to turn a miller's wheel, pass, for a mere nothing, from one
owner to another, and gall their necks against the collar. So, if I am
to respect yourself, and not your belongings, give me something of your
own to engrave among your titles, in addition to those honours which we
pay, and have paid, to those to whom you owe your all.
Enough this for the youth whom report has handed down to us as proud
and puffed up with his kinship to Nero: for in those high places regard
for others is rarely to be found. But for you, Ponticus, I cannot wish
that you should be valued for the glories of your race while doing
nothing that shall bring you praise in the days to come. It is a poor
thing to lean upon the fame of others, lest the pillars give way and the
house fall down in ruin. The vine-shoot, trailing upon the ground, longs
for the widowed elm. Be a stout soldier, a faithful guardian, and an
incorruptible judge; if summoned to bear witness in some dubious and
uncertain cause, though Phalaris 11 himself should bring up his bull and
dictate to you a perjury, count it the greatest of all sins to prefer
life to honour, and to lose, for the sake of living, all that makes life
worth having. The man who merits death is already dead, though he dine
off a hundred Lucrine 12 oysters, and bathe in a whole cauldron of
Cosmus' 13 essences.
When you enter your long-expected Province as its Governor, set a
curb and a limit to your passion, as also to your greed; have compassion
on the impoverished provincials, whose very bones have been sucked dry
of marrow; have regard to what the law ordains, what the Senate enjoins;
consider what honours await the good ruler, with what a just
thunderstroke the Senate hurled down Capito and Numitor,14 those
plunderers 15 of the Cilicians. Yet what profit was there from their
condemnation? 16 Look out for an auctioneer, Chaerippus,17 to sell your
chattels, seeing that Pansa has stripped you of all that Natta left. And
hold your tongue about it; when all else is gone, it is madness to throw
away your passage-money.18
Very different in days of old were the wailings of our allies and the
harm inflicted on them by losses, when they had been newly conquered and
were wealthy still. Their houses then were all well-stored; they had
piles of money, with Spartan mantles and Coan purples; beside the
paintings of Parrhasius, and the statues of Myron, stood the living
ivories of Phidias; everywhere the works of Polyclitus were to be seen;
few tables were without a Mentor.19 But after that came now a
Dolabella,20 now an Antonius,21 and now a sacrilegious Verres,22 loading
big ships with secret spoils, peace-trophies more numerous than those of
war. Nowadays, on capturing a farm, you may rob our allies of a few yoke
of oxen, or a few mares, with the sire of the herd; or of the household
gods themselves, if there be a good statue left, or a single Deity in
his little shrine; such are the best and choicest things to be got now.
You despise perchance, and deservedly, the unwarlike Rhodian and the
scented Corinthian: what harm will their resined 23 youths do you, or
the smooth legs of the entire breed? But keep clear of rugged Spain,
avoid the land of Gaul and the Dalmatian shore; spare, too, those
harvesters 24 who fill the belly of a city that has no leisure save for
the Circus and the play: what great profit can you reap from outrages
upon Libyans, seeing that Marius 25 has so lately stripped Africa to the
skin? Beware above all things to do no wrong to men who are at once
brave and miserable. You may take from them all the gold and silver that
they have; but plundered though they be, they will still have their
arms; they will still have their shields and their swords, their
javelins and helmets.
What I have just propounded is no mere theme, it is the truth; you
may take it that I am reading out to you one of the Sibyl's leaves. If
your whole staff be incorruptible: if no long-haired Ganymede sells your
judgments; if your wife be blameless; if, in your circuit through the
towns and districts, there is no Harpy ready to pounce with crooked
talons upon gold,----then you may trace back your race to Picus 26; if
you delight in lofty names, you may count the whole array of Titans, and
Prometheus himself, among your ancestors, and select for yourself a
great-grandfather from whatever myth you please. But if you are carried
away headlong by ambition and by lust; if you break your rods upon the
bleeding backs of our allies; if you love to see your axes blunted and
your headsmen weary, then the nobility of your own parents begins to
rise up in judgment against you, and to hold a glaring torch over your
misdeeds. The greater the sinner's name, the more signal the guiltiness
of the sin. If you are wont to put your signature to forged deeds, what
matters it to me that you sign them in temples built by your
grandfather, or in front of the triumphal statue of your father? What
does that matter, if you steal out at night for adultery, your brow
concealed under a cowl of Gallic wool?
The bloated Lateranus whirls past the bones and ashes of his
ancestors in a rapid car; with his own hands this muleteer 27 Consul
locks the wheel with the drag. It is by night, indeed: but the moon
looks on; the stars strain their eyes to see. When his time of office is
over, Lateranus will take up his whip in broad daylight; not shrinking
to meet a now-aged friend, he will be the first to salute him with his
whip; he will unbind the trusses of hay, and deal out the fodder to his
weary cattle. Meanwhile, though he slays woolly victims and tawny steers
after Numa's fashion, he swears by no other deity before Jove's high
altar than the Goddess of horseflesh, and the images painted on the
reeking stables. And when it pleases him to go back to the all-night
tavern, a Syro-Phoenician runs forth to meet him-----a denizen of the
Idumaean gate 28 perpetually drenched in perfumes----and salutes him as
lord and prince with all the airs of a host; and with him comes Cyane,
her dress tucked up, carrying a flagon of wine for sale.
An apologist will say to me, "We too did the same as boys." Perhaps:
but then you ceased from your follies and let them drop. Let your evil
days be short; let some of your misdoings be cut off with your first
beard.29 Boys may be pardoned; but when Lateranus frequented those hot
liquor shops with their inscribed linen awnings, he was of ripe age, fit
to guard in arms the Armenian and Syrian rivers, the Danube and the
Rhine; fit to protect the person of his Emperor. Send your Legate to
Ostia, O Caesar, but search for him in some big cookshop! There you will
find him, lying cheek-by-jowl beside a cut-throat, in the company of
bargees, thieves, and runaway slaves, beside hangmen and coffin-makers,
or of some eunuch priest lying drunk with idle timbrels. Here is Liberty
Hall! One cup serves for everybody; no one has a bed to himself, nor a
table apart from the rest. What would you do, friend Ponticus, if you
chanced upon a slave like this? You would send him to your Lucanian or
Tuscan bridewell.30 But you gentlemen of Trojan blood find excuses for
yourselves; what would disgrace a huckster sits gracefully on a Volesus
or a Brutus!
What if I can never cite any example so foul and shameful that there
is not something worse behind? Your means exhausted, Damasippus, you
hired out your voice to the stage,31 taking the part of the Clamorous
Ghost of Catullus.32 The nimble Lentulus acted famously the part of
Laureolus 33: deserving, in my judgment, to be really and truly
crucified. Nor can the spectators themselves be forgiven: the populace
that with brazen front sits and beholds the triple buffooneries of our
patricians, that can listen to a bare-footed 34 Fabius, and laugh to see
the Mamerci cuffing each other. What matters it at what price they sell
their deaths? 35 No Nero compels them to sell; yet they hesitate not to
sell themselves at the games of the exalted Praetor. And yet suppose
that on one side of you were placed a sword, on the other the stage:
which were the better choice? Was ever any man so afraid of death that
he would choose to be the jealous husband of a Thymele, or the colleague
of the clown Corinthus? Yet when an Emperor 36 has taken to
harp-playing, it is not so very strange that a noble should act in a
mime. Beyond this, what will be left but the gladiatorial school? And
that scandal too you have seen in our city: a Gracchus fighting, not
indeed as a murmillo, nor with the round shield and scimitar 37: such
accoutrements he rejects, ay rejects and detests; nor does a helmet
shroud his face. See how he wields his trident! and when with poised
right hand he has cast the trailing net in vain, he lifts up his bare
face to the benches and flies, for all to recognise, from one end of the
arena to the other.38 We cannot mistake the golden tunic that flutters
from his throat, and the twisted cord that dangles from the high-crowned
cap 39; and so the pursuer who was pitted against Gracchus endured a
shame more grievous than any wound.
If free suffrage were granted to the people, who would be so
abandoned as not to prefer Seneca 40 to Nero----Nero, for whose
chastisement no single ape or adder, no solitary sack,41 should have
been provided? His crime was like that of Agamemnon's son 42; but the
case was not the same, seeing that Orestes, at the bidding of the Gods,
was avenging a father slain in his cups.43 Orestes never stained himself
with Electra's blood, or with that of his Spartan wife 44; he never
mixed poison-drafts for his own kin; he never sang upon the stage,45 he
never wrote an Epic upon Troy! For of all the deeds of Nero's cruel and
bloody tyranny, which was there that more deserved to be avenged by the
arms of a Verginius,46 of a Vindex 47 or a Galba? These were the deeds,
these the graces of our high-born Prince, whose delight it was to
prostitute himself by unseemly singing upon a foreign stage, and to earn
a chaplet of Greek parsley! Let thy ancestral images be decked with the
trophies of thy voice! Place thou at the feet of a Domitius 48 the
trailing robe of Thyestes 49 or Antigone,49 or the mask of Melanippa,49
and hang up thy harp on a colossus 50 of marble!
Where can be found, O Catiline, nobler ancestors than thine, or than
thine, Cethegus? 51 Yet you plot a night attack, you prepare to give our
houses and temples to the flames as though you were the sons of
trousered 52 Gauls, or sprung from the Senones,53 daring deeds that
deserved the shirt of torture.54 But our Consul 55 is awake, and beats
back your hosts. Born at Arpinum, of ignoble blood, a municipal knight
new to Rome, he posts helmeted men at every point to guard the
affrighted citizens, and is alert on every hill. Thus within the walls
his toga won for him as much name and honour as Octavius gained by
battle in Leucas 56; as much as Octavius won by his blood-dripping sword
on the plains of Thessaly 57; but then Rome was yet free when she styled
him the Parent and Father of his country! Another son of Arpinum 58 used
to work for hire upon the Volscian hills, toiling behind a plough not
his own; after that, a centurion's knotty staff would be broken over his
head 59 if his pick were slow and sluggish in the trench. Yet it is he
who faces the Cimbri,60 and the mightiest perils; alone he saves the
trembling city. And so when the ravens, who had never before seen such
huge carcasses, flew down upon the slaughtered Cimbri, his high-born
colleague is decorated with the second bay.
Plebeian were the souls of the Decii,61 plebeian were their names;
yet they were accepted by the Gods beneath and by Mother Earth in lieu
of all the Legions and the allies, and all the youth of Latium, for the
Decii were more precious than the hosts whom they saved.
It was one born of a slave who won the robe and diadem and fasces of
Quirinus----the last he of our good Kings 62----whereas the Consul's own
sons, who should have dared some great thing for endangered
liberty----some deed to be marvelled at by Mucius or Cocles,63 or by the
maiden 64 who swam across the river-boundary of our realm----were for
traitorously loosing the bolts of the city gates to the exiled tyrants.
It was a slave----well worthy he to be bewailed by matrons----who
revealed the secret plot to the Fathers, while the sons met their just
punishment from scourging and from the axe then first used in the cause
I would rather that Thersites were your father if only you were like
the grandson of Aeacus,65 and could wield the arms of Vulcan, than that
you should have been begotten by Achilles and be like Thersites. Yet,
after all, however far you may trace back your name, however long the
roll, you derive your race from an ill-famed asylum: the first of your
ancestors, whoever he was, was either a shepherd or something that I
would rather not name.
1. Alluding to the younger Scipio, son of L. Aemilius Paulus, who
according to rule took the name of Aemilianus after his adoption by P.
Cornelius Scipio (son of Scipio Africanus major).
2. Scipio the younger was called Numantinus after the capture of
Numantia, B.C. 134.
3. The Fabii pretended to be descended from Hercules.
4. Alluding to Q. Fabius Maximus Allobrogicus (B.C. 121).
5. The ara maxima of Hercules, near the Circus.
6. Fine pasture land in Venetia, where dwelt the Euganei.
7. From Catana near Mount Aetna.
8. When a new Apis was born, the people shouted εὑρήκαμεν συγχαίρομεν.
Apis was supposed to be an incarnation of Osiris.
9. Rubellius Blandus was married to Julia, grand-daughter of Tiberius.
One of his descendants must be meant here.
10. Famous racers.
11. The famous tyrant of Agrigentum, who slowly roasted his victims in a
12. Gaurus was a hill overlooking the Lucrine lake.
13. A well-known perfumer.
14. Condemned for extortion in Cilicia. See Tac. Ann. xiii. 33.
15. The word piratae is used because the Cilicians were notorious
16. The native Cilicians reap no benefit from the condemnation of the
17. Chaerippus is a Cilician native who is advised to sell anything he
has left. Pansa and Natta are fictitious names to denote the plundering
18. i.e. the fee to be given to Charon for the passage over the Styx.
Some take it of the passage-money to Rome.
19. These are all names of famous Greek artists of the third and fourth
20. Cornelius Dolabella, condemned of extortion in Cilicia, B.C. 78.
21. C. Antonius, uncle of Mark Antony, expelled from the Senate for
extortion, B.C. 70.
22. C. Verres, propraetor of Sicily B.C. 73-70, attacked by Cicero in
his famous Verrine orations.
23. Resin was used as a depilatory.
24. i. e. of Africa, whence came the main part of the Roman supplies of
25. See n. to i. 49.
26. A mythical Latin king, son of Saturn, and father of Faunus.
27. Lateranus is called mulio as a term of reproach.
28. A low quarter of Rome; perhaps the Jews' quarter.
29. The first cutting off of the beard of a son or a favourite was
attended with some ceremony.
30. Private prisons in which gangs of slaves were kept in irons.
31. Siparium was a curtain separating the front part of the stage, on
which mimes were acted, from the back.
32. A writer of mimi.
33. A highwayman who was crucified.
34. Actors in mimes wore no shoes.
35. "To sell their deaths" is equivalent to "to sell their lives." The
word funera may also suggest that these degenerate nobles are destroying
the old glories of their families.
37. The phrase falce supina = "a sickle on its back"; the point of the
weapon was bent backwards instead of forwards.
38. It was a disgrace for Gracchus to fight as a retiarius. Having no
armour, he had to run away if he missed his throw with the net. His
adversary was fully armed.
39. Galerus or galerum was probably a kind of helmet or cap. The Schol.
here says Galerus est humero impositus gladiatoris. See Duff and Mayor.
40. Seneca had to open his veins by Nero's order.
41. The ancient punishment for parricide was that the criminal should be
tied up in a sack along with a dog, an ape, a snake, and a cock, and
then cast into the sea.
42. Orestes slew his mother Clytemnestra in revenge for the murder of
his father. But he did not slay a sister or a wife as Nero slew his wife
Octavia and his half-sister Antonia.
43. So Homer, Od. xi. 409. The tragedian's story is that Agamemnon was
slain in his bath.
45. In the year A.D. 59 Nero presented himself upon the stage (Tac. Ann.
xiv. 15). In A.D. 67-8 he made a tour of the Greek games and won prizes
at many musical contests.
46. Verginius Rufus, Legate of Upper Germany, defeated the revolting
Vindex, and refused to be named emperor after Galba's death in A.D. 69.
47. C. Julius Vindex, propraetor of the province Lugdunensis, revolted
against Nero in A.D. 68, and was defeated by Verginius.
48. Not the father of Nero, but one of his distinguished ancestors on
his father's side. Nero's name before his adoption by Claudius was L.
49. Tragic parts acted by Nero.
50. This is doubtless meant as a hit at the famous bronze Colossus of
51. C. Cornelius Cethegus was the most prominent associate of Catiline
in the long-nursed conspiracy which was crushed by Cicero as consul in
52. Narbonese Gaul was called bracata because its inhabitants wore
53. The Gauls who defeated the Romans in the battle of the Allia, B.C.
54. A shirt lined with pitch in which the victims were burnt to death.
See above i. 115 and Tac. Ann. xv. 44.
56. The island of Leucas here stands for the battle of Actium, though it
was many miles distant from the place where the battle was fought.
57. The battle of Philippi (B.C. 42) is meant, though Philippi was in
Macedonia, not in Thessaly. The battle fought in Thessaly was the battle
of Pharsalia, B.C. 49. The Roman poets confound the two battles.
58. C. Marius.
59. i. e. he served as a private soldier.
60. The Cimbri and Teutones were utterly defeated by Marius and his
colleague Q. Lutatius Catulus on the Raudian plain in B.C. 101. Catulus
shared in the triumph, but all the honour was given to Marius.
61. P. Decius Mus, in the Latin War, B.C. 340, gained the victory for
the Romans by devoting himself and the enemy to destruction; his son did
the same in the battle of Sentinum, B.C. 295.
62. Servius Tullius.
63. Horatius Cocles, who "kept the bridge so well"; Mucius Scaevola, to
show his courage, put his hand into the flames in Porsena's camp.
64. Cloelia, the hostage who escaped by swimming across the Tiber.
65. Achilles is called Aeacides as he was the grandson of Aeacus.
The Sorrows of a Reprobate
I should like to know, Naevolus, why you so often look gloomy when I
meet you, knitting your brow like a vanquished Marsyas.1 What have you
to do with the look that Ravola wore when caught playing that dirty
trick with Rhodope? If a slave takes a lick at the pastry, he gets a
thrashing for his pains! Why do you look as woe-begone as Crepereius
Pollio when he goes round offering a triple rate of interest, and can
find no fool to trust him? Why have you suddenly developed those
wrinkles? You used to be an easily contented person, who passed as a
home-bred knight that could make biting jests at the dinner-table and
tell witty town-bred stories. But now you are a different man. You have
a hang-dog look; your head is a forest of unkempt, unanointed hair; your
skin has lost all the gloss that it got from swathes of hot Bruttian
pitch, and your legs are dirty and rough with sprouting hair. Why are
you as thin as a chronic invalid in whom a quartan fever has long made
its home? One can detect in a sickly body the secret torments of the
soul, as also its joys: the face takes on the stamp of either. You seem,
therefore, to have changed your mode of life, and to be going in a way
opposite to your past. Not long ago, as I remember, you were a gallant
more notorious than Aundius; you used to frequent the Temple of Isis and
that of Peace with its Ganymede, and the secret courts of the Foreign
Mother----for in what temple are there not frail fair ones to be found?
"Many men have found profit in my mode of life; but I have made
nothing substantial out of my labours. I sometimes have a greasy cloak
given me that will save my toga----a coarse and crudely dyed garment
that has been ill-combed by the Gallic weaver----or some trifle in
silver of an inferior quality. Man is ruled by destiny; even those parts
of him that lie beneath his clothes. . . . What greater monster is there
in the world than a miserly debauchee? 'I gave you this,' says he, 'and
then that; and later again ever so much more.' Thus he makes a reckoning
with his lusts. Well, set out the counters, call in the lads with the
reckoning board, count out five thousand sesterces all told, and then
enumerate my services. ... I am less accounted of than the poor hind who
ploughs his master's field. You used to deem yourself a delicate and
good-looking youth, fit to be Jove's own cup-bearer; but will men like
you, who are unwilling to pay for your own morbid pleasures, ever show a
kindness to a poor follower or a slave? A pretty fellow to have presents
sent him of green sunshades or big amber balls on a birthday, or on the
first day of showery spring, when he lolls at full length in a huge easy
chair counting over the secret gifts he has received upon the Matron's
"Tell me, you sparrow, for whose benefit are you keeping all those
hills and farms in Apulia, all those pasture-lands that tire out the
kites? Your stores are filled with rich grapes from your Trifoline
vineyard, or from the slopes that look down upon Cumae, or the unpeopled
Gaurus; whose vats seal up more vintages destined for long life than
yours? Would it be a great matter to present a few acres to the loins of
an exhausted client? Is it better, think you, that this country woman,
with her cottage and her babe and her pet dog, should be bequeathed to a
friend who plays the timbrels? 'You're an impudent beggar,' you say.
Yes, but my rent cries on me to beg; and so does my single
slave-lad----as single as that big eye of Polyphemus which helped the
wily Ulysses to make his escape. And one slave is not enough; I shall
have to buy a second and feed them both. What shall I do, pray, when the
winter howls? What shall I say to their shivering feet and shoulders
when December's north wind blows? Shall I say 'Hold on, and wait till
the grasshoppers arrive'?
"And though you ignore and pass by my other services, what price do
you put on this, that were I not your true and devoted client, your wife
would still be a maid? You know how often, and in what ways, you have
asked that service of me, and what promises you made to me. . . .
There's many a household in which a union that was unstable, ready to
break up, and all but dissolved, has been saved by the intervention of a
lover. Which way can you turn? Which service do you put first, which
last? Is it to be no merit, you thankless and perfidious man, none at
all, that I have presented you with a little son or daughter? For you
rear the children, and love to spread abroad in the gazette the proofs
of your virility. Hang up garlands over your door! You are now a father;
I have given you something to set up against ill fame. You have now
parental rights; through me you can be entered as an heir, and receive a
legacy entire, with a nice little extra into the bargain; to all which
perquisites many more will be added if I make up your family to the full
number of three."
Indeed, Naevolus, you have just cause of complaint. But what has he
got to say on the other side? "He takes no notice, and looks out for
another two-legged donkey like myself. But remember, my secrets are for
your ears alone; keep my complaints fast locked up in your own bosom. It
is a fatal thing to have for your enemy a man who keeps himself smooth
by pumice-stone! The man who has lately entrusted me with a secret has a
consuming hatred of me, believing I have revealed everything that I
know; he will not hesitate to take up a sword, or to lay open my head
with a club, or to put a lighted candle against my door. Nor can you
disregard or make nothing of the fact that for a man of his means the
price of poison is never high. So keep my secrets close----as close as
did the Council of Areopagus!"
O my poor Corydon! Do you suppose that a rich man has any secrets?
Though his slaves hold their tongues, his beasts of burden and his dog
will talk; his door posts and his marble columns will tell tales. Let
him shut the windows, and close every chink with curtains; let him
fasten the doors, remove the light, turn everyone out of the house, and
permit no one to sleep in it----yet the tavern-keeper close by will know
before dawn what he was doing at the second cock-crow; he will hear also
all the tales invented by the pastry-man, by the head cook and the
carver. For what calumny will they hesitate to concoct against their
masters when a slander will avenge them for their strappings? Nor will
some tippling friend be wanting to look for you at the crossways, and,
do what you will, pour his drunken story into your ear. So just ask
those people to hold their tongues about the things you questioned me
about just now! Why, they would rather blab out a secret than drink as
much stolen wine as Saufeia used to swill when conducting a public
sacrifice. There are many reasons for right living; but the chiefest of
them all is this, that you need pay no attention to the talk of your
slaves. For the tongue is the worst part of a bad slave; and yet worse
still is the plight of a man who cannot escape from the talk of those
whom he supports with his own bread and money.
"Your advice is excellent, but it is vague. What do you advise me to
do now, after all my lost time and disappointed hopes? for the short
span of our poor unhappy life is hurrying swiftly on, like a flower, to
its close: while we drink, and call for chaplets, for unguents, and for
maidens, old age is creeping on us unperceived."
Be not afraid; so long as these seven hills of ours stand fast,
pathic friends will never fail you: from every quarter, in carriages and
in ships, those gentry who scratch their heads with one finger will
flock in. And you have always a further and better ground of hope----if
you fit your diet to your trade.
"Such maxims are for the fortunate; my Clotho and Lachesis are well
pleased if I can fill my belly with my labours. O my own little Lares,
whom I am wont to supplicate with a pinch of frankincense or corn, or
with a tiny garland, when can I assure myself of what will keep my old
days from the beggar's staff and mat? Twenty thousand sesterces, well
secured; some vessels of plain silver----yet such as Censor Fabricius
would have condemned----and a couple of stout Moesian porters on whose
hired necks I may be taken comfortably to my place in the bawling
circus. Let me have besides a stooping engraver, and a painter who will
quickly dash off any number of likenesses. Enough this for a poor man
like me. It is a pitiful prayer, and I have little hope even of that;
for whenever Fortune is supplicated on my behalf, she plugs her ears
with wax fetched from that selfsame ship which escaped from the Sicilian
songstresses through the deafness of her crew." 3
1. Flayed by Apollo when beaten in a musical contest.
2. The 1st of March; see Hor. Od. III. viii. 1.
3. Ulysses stuffed the ears of his followers with wax to prevent them
hearing the voices of the Sirens (Od. xii. 39 ff.).
The Vanity of Human Wishes
In all the lands that stretch from Gades to the Ganges and the Morn,
there are but few who can distinguish true blessings from their
opposites, putting aside the mists of error. For when does Reason direct
our desires or our fears? What project do we form so auspiciously that
we do not repent us of our effort and of the granted wish? Whole
households have been destroyed by the compliant Gods in answer to the
masters' prayers; in camp and city alike we ask for things that will be
our ruin. Many a man has met death from the rushing flood of his own
eloquence; others from the strength and wondrous thews in which they
have trusted. More still have been ruined by money too carefully
amassed, and by fortunes that surpass all patrimonies by as much as the
British whale exceeds the dolphin. It was for this that in the dire days
Nero ordered Longinus 1 and the great gardens of the over-wealthy Seneca
2 to be put under siege; for this was it that the noble Palace of the
Laterani 3 was beset by an entire cohort; it is but seldom that soldiers
find their way into a garret!
Though you carry but few silver vessels with you in a night journey,
you will be afraid of the sword and cudgel of a freebooter, you will
tremble at the shadow of a reed shaking in the moonlight; but the
empty-handed traveller will whistle in the robber's face.
The foremost of all petitions----the one best known to every
temple----is for riches and their increase, that our money-chest may be
the biggest in the Forum. But you will drink no aconite out of an
earthenware cup; you may dread it when a jewelled cup is offered you, or
when Setine wine sparkles in a golden bowl. Then will you not commend
the two wise men, one of whom 4 would laugh while the opposite sage 5
would weep every time he set a foot outside the door? To condemn by a
cutting laugh comes readily to us all; the wonder is how the other
sage's eyes were supplied with all that water. The sides of Democritus
shook with unceasing laughter, although in the cities of his day there
were no purple-bordered or purple-striped robes, no fasces, no
palanquins, no tribunals. What if he had seen the Praetor uplifted in
his lofty car amid the dust of the Circus, attired in the tunic 6 of
Jove, hitching an embroidered Tyrian toga 6 on to his shoulders, and
carrying a crown so big that no neck could bear the weight of it? For a
public slave is sweating under the burden; and that the Consul may not
fancy himself overmuch, the slave rides in the same chariot with his
master. Add to all this the bird that is perched on his ivory staff; on
this side the horn-blowers, on that the duteous clients preceding him in
long array, with white-robed Roman citizens, whose friendship has been
gained by the dinner-dole snugly lying in their purses,7 marching at his
bridle-rein. Even then the philosopher found food for laughter at every
meeting with his kind: his wisdom shows us that men of high distinction
and destined to set great examples may be born in a dullard air, and in
the land of mutton-heads.8 He laughed at the troubles, ay and at the
pleasures, of the crowd, sometimes too at their tears, while for himself
he would bid frowning fortune go hang, and point at her the finger of
Thus it is that the things for which we pray, and for which it is
right and proper to load the knees of the Gods with wax, are either
profitless or pernicious! Some men are hurled headlong by over-great
power and the envy to which it exposes them; they are wrecked by the
long and illustrious roll of their honours: down come their statues,
obedient to the rope; the axe hews in pieces their chariot wheels and
the legs of the unoffending horses. And now the flames are hissing, and
amid the roar of furnace and of bellows the head of the mighty Sejanus,9
the darling of the mob, is burning and crackling, and from that face,
which was but lately second in the entire world, are being fashioned
pipkins, pitchers, frying-pans and slop-pails! Up with the
laurel-wreaths over your doors! Lead forth a grand chalked bull to the
Capitol! Sejanus is being dragged along by a hook, as a show and joy to
all! "What a lip the fellow had! What a face!"----"Believe me, I never
liked the man!"----"But on what charge was he condemned? Who informed
against him? What was the evidence, who the witnesses, who made good the
case?"-----"Nothing of the sort; a great and wordy letter came from
Capri." 10----"Good; I ask no more."
And what does the mob of Remus say? It follows fortune, as it always
does, and rails against the condemned. That same rabble, if Nortia had
smiled upon the Etruscan,11 if the aged Emperor had been struck down
unawares, would in that very hour have conferred upon Sejanus the title
of Augustus. Now that no one buys our votes, the public has long since
cast off its cares; the people that once bestowed commands, consulships,
legions and all else, now meddles no more and longs eagerly for just two
things----Bread and Games!
"I hear that many are to perish."----"No doubt of it; there is a big
furnace ready."----"My friend Brutidius 12 looked a trifle pale when I
met him at the Altar of Mars. I tremble lest the defeated Ajax should
take vengeance for having been so ill-defended." 13----"Let us rush
headlong and trample on Caesar's enemy, while he lies upon the
bank!"----"Ay, and let our slaves see us, that none bear witness against
us, and drag their trembling master into court with a halter round his
Such was the talk at the moment about Sejanus; such were the
mutterings of the crowd. And would you like to be courted like Sejanus?
To be as rich as he was? To bestow on one man the ivory chairs of
office, appoint another to the command of armies, and be counted
guardian of a Prince seated on the narrow ledge of Capri with his herd
of Chaldaean astrologers? You would like, no doubt, to have Centurions,
Cohorts, and Illustrious 14 Knights at your call, and to possess a camp
of your own? Why should you not? Even those who don't want to kill
anybody would like to have the power to do it. But what grandeur, what
high fortune, are worth the having if the joy is overbalanced by the
calamities they bring with them? Would you rather choose to wear the
bordered robe of the man now being dragged along the streets, or to be a
magnate at Fidenae or Gabii, adjudicating upon weights, or smashing
vessels of short measure, as a thread-bare Aedile at deserted Ulubrae?
15 You admit, then, that Sejanus did not know what things were to be
desired; for in coveting excessive honours, and seeking excessive
wealth, he was but building up the many stories of a lofty tower whence
the fall would be the greater, and the crash of headlong ruin more
terrific. What was it that overthrew the Crassi, and the Pompeii, and
him who brought the conquered Quirites under his lash? 16 What but lust
for the highest place pursued by every kind of means? What but ambitious
prayers granted by unkindly Gods? Few indeed are the kings who go down
to Ceres' son-in-law 17 save by sword and slaughter----few the tyrants
that perish by a bloodless death!
Every schoolboy who worships Minerva with a modest penny fee,
attended by a slave to guard his little satchel, prays all through his
holidays for eloquence, for the fame of a Cicero or a Demosthenes. Yet
it was eloquence that brought both orators to their death; each perished
by the copious and overflowing torrent of his own genius. It was his
genius that cut off the hand, and severed the neck, of Cicero; never yet
did futile pleader stain the rostra with his blood!
"O happy Fate for the Roman State
Was the date of my great Consulate!" 18
Had Cicero always spoken thus, he might have laughed at the swords of
Antony. Better verses meet only for contempt than thou, O famous and
divine Philippic, that comest out second on the roll! Terrible, too, was
the death of him whom Athens loved to hear sweeping along and holding in
check the crowded theatre. Unfriendly were the Gods, and evil the star,
under whom was born the man whom his father, blear-eyed with the soot of
glowing ore, sent away from the coal, the pincers and the
sword-fashioning anvil of grimy Vulcan,19 to study the art of the
The spoils of war and trophies fastened upon stumps----a
breast-plate, a cheek-strap hanging from a broken helmet, a yoke shorn
of its pole, the flagstaff of a captured galley, or a captive sorrowing
on a triumphal arch----such things are deemed glories too great for man;
these are the prizes for which every General strives, be he Greek,
Roman, or barbarian; it is for these that he endures toil and peril: so
much greater is the thirst for glory than for virtue! For who would
embrace virtue herself if you stripped her of her rewards? Yet full oft
has a land been destroyed by the vainglory of a few, by the lust for
honour and for a title that shall cling to the stones that guard their
ashes----stones which may be rent asunder by the rude strength of the
barren fig-tree, seeing that even sepulchres have their doom assigned to
Put Hannibal into the scales; how many pounds' weight will you find
in that greatest of commanders? This is the man for whom Africa was all
too small----a land beaten by the Moorish sea and stretching to the
steaming Nile, and then, again, to the tribes of Aethiopia and a new
race of Elephants! Spain is added to his dominions: he overleaps the
Pyrenees; Nature throws in his way Alps and snow: he splits the rocks
asunder, and breaks up the mountain-side with vinegar! And now Italy is
in his grasp, but still on he presses: "Nought is accomplished," he
cries, "until my Punic host breaks down the city gates, and I plant my
standard in the midst of the Subura! " O what a sight was that! What a
picture it would make, the one-eyed General riding on the Gaetulian
monster! What then was his end? Alas for glory! A conquered man, he
flees headlong into exile, and there he sits, a mighty and marvellous
suppliant, in the King's antechamber, until it please his Bithynian
Majesty 20 to awake! No sword, no stone, no javelin shall end the life
which once wrought havoc throughout the world: that little ring 21 shall
avenge Cannae and all those seas of blood. On! on! thou madman, and race
over the wintry Alps, that thou mayest be the delight of schoolboys and
supply declaimers with a theme!
One globe is all too little for the youth of Pella;22 he chafes
uneasily within the narrow limits of the world, as though he were cooped
up within the rocks of Gyara or the diminutive Seriphos; but yet when
once he shall have entered the city fortified by the potter's art,23 a
sarcophagus will suffice him! Death alone proclaims how small are our
poor human bodies! We have heard how ships once sailed through Mount
Athos, and all the lying tales of Grecian history; how the sea was paved
by those self-same ships, and gave solid support to chariot-wheels; how
deep rivers failed, and whole streams were drunk dry when the Persian
breakfasted, with all the fables of which Sostratus 24 sings with
reeking pinions. But in what plight did that king 25 flee from Salamis?
he that had been wont to inflict barbaric stripes upon the winds Corus
and Eurus----never treated thus in their Aeolian prison-house----he who
had bound the Earth-shaker himself with chains, deeming it clemency,
forsooth, not to think him worthy of a branding also: what god, indeed,
would be willing to serve such a master?----in what plight did he
return? Why, in a single ship; on blood-stained waves, the prow slowly
forcing her way through waters thick with corpses! Such was the penalty
exacted for that long-desired glory!
Give me length of days, give me many years, O Jupiter! Such is your
one and only prayer, in days of strength or of sickness; yet how great,
how unceasing, are the miseries of old age! Look first at the misshapen
and ungainly face, so unlike its former self; see the unsightly hide
that serves for skin; see the pendulous cheeks and the wrinkles like
those which a matron baboon carves upon her aged jaws in the shaded
glades of Thabraca.26 The young men differ in various ways: this man is
handsomer than that, and he than another; one is stronger than another:
but old men all look alike. Their voices are as shaky as their limbs,
their heads without hair, their noses drivelling as in childhood. Their
bread, poor wretches, has to be munched by toothless gums; so offensive
do they become to their wives, their children and themselves, that even
the legacy-hunter, Cossus, turns from them in disgust. Their sluggish
palate takes joy in wine or food no longer, and all pleasures of the
flesh have been long ago forgotten. . . .
And now consider the loss of another sense: what joy has the old man
in song, however famous be the singer? what joy in the harping of
Seleucus himself, or of those who shine resplendent in gold-embroidered
robes? What matters it in what part of the great theatre he sits when he
can scarce hear the horns and trumpets when they all blow together? The
slave who announces a visitor, or tells the time of day, must needs
shout in his ear if he is to be heard.
Besides all this, the little blood in his now chilly frame is never
warm except with fever; diseases of every kind dance around him in a
body; if you ask of me their names, I could more readily tell you the
number of Oppia's paramours, how many patients Themison killed in one
season, how many partners were defrauded by Basilus, how many wards
corrupted by Hirrus, how many lovers tall Maura wears out in a single
season; I could sooner run over the number of villas now belonging to
the barber under whose razor my stiff youthful beard used to grate.27
One suffers in the shoulder, another in the loins, a third in the hip;
another has lost both eyes, and envies those who have one; another takes
food into his pallid lips from someone else's fingers, while he whose
jaws used to fly open at the sight of his dinner, now only gapes like
the young of a swallow whose fasting mother flies to him with well-laden
beak. But worse than any loss of limb is the failing mind which forgets
the names of slaves, and cannot recognise the face of the old friend who
dined with him last night, nor those of the children whom he has
begotten and brought up. For by a cruel will he cuts off his own flesh
and blood and leaves all his estate to Phiale----so potent was the
breath of that alluring mouth which had plied its trade for so many
years in her narrow archway.
And though the powers of his mind be strong as ever, yet must he
carry forth his sons to burial; he must behold the funeral pyres of his
beloved wife and his brothers, and urns filled with the ashes of his
sisters. Such are the penalties of the long liver: he sees calamity
after calamity befall his house, he lives in a world of sorrow, he grows
old amid continual lamentation and in the garb of woe. If we can believe
mighty Homer, the King of Pylos 28 was an example of long life second
only to the crow; happy forsooth in this that he had put off death for
so many generations, and had so often quaffed the new-made wine,
counting now his years upon his right hand.29 But mark for a moment, I
beg, how he bewails the decrees of fate and his too-long thread of life,
when he beholds the beard of his brave Antilochus 30 in the flames,31
and asks of every friend around him why he has lived so long, what crime
he has committed to deserve such length of days. Thus did Peleus also
mourn when he lost Achilles; and so that other father 32 who had to
bewail the sea-roving Ithacan. Had Priam perished at some other time,
before Paris began to build his audacious ships, he would have gone down
to the shade of Assaracus 33 when Troy was still standing, and with
regal pomp; his body would have been borne on the shoulders ot Hector
and his brothers amid the tears of Ilion's daughters, and the rending of
Polyxena's 34 garments: Cassandra 34 would have led the cries of woe.
What boon did length of days bring to him? He saw everything in ruins,
and Asia perishing by fire and the sword. Laying aside his tiara, and
arming himself, he fell, a trembling soldier, before the altar of
Almighty Jove, like an aged ox discarded by the thankless plough who
offers his poor lean neck to his master's knife. Priam's death was at
least that of a human being; but his wife 35 lived on to open her mouth
with the savage barking of a dog.
I hasten to our own countrymen, passing by the king of Pontus 36 and
Croesus,37 who was bidden by the wise and eloquent Solon to look to the
last lap of a long life. It was this that brought Marius to exile and to
prison, it took him to the swamps of Minturnae and made him beg his
bread in the Carthage that he had conquered. What could Nature ever in
all the world have produced more glorious than him, if after parading
his troops of captives with all the pomp of war he had breathed forth
his soul in glory as he was about to step down from his Teutonic car? 38
Kindly Campania gave to Pompey a fever, which he might have prayed for
as a boon 39; but the public prayers of all those cities gained the day;
so his own fortune and that of Rome preserved him to be vanquished and
to lose his head. No such cruel thing befell Lentulus 40; Cethegus 40
escaped such punishment and fell whole; and Catiline's corpse lay
When the loving mother passes the temple of Venus, she prays in
whispered breath for her boys----more loudly, and entering into the most
trifling particulars, for her daughters----that they may have beauty.
"And why should I not?" she asks; "did not Latona rejoice in Diana's
beauty?" Yes: but Lucretia forbids us to pray for a face like her own;
and Verginia would gladly take Rutila's hump and give her own fair form
to Rutila. A handsome son keeps his parents in constant fear and misery;
so rarely do modesty and good looks go together. For though his home be
strict, and have taught him ways as pure as those of the ancient
Sabines, and though Nature besides with kindly hand have lavishly gifted
him with a pure mind and a cheek mantling with modest blood----and what
better thing can Nature, more careful, more potent than any guardian,
bestow upon a youth?----he will not be allowed to become a man. The
lavish wickedness of some seducer will tempt the boy's own parents: such
trust can be placed in money! No misshapen youth was ever unsexed by
cruel tyrant in his castle; never did Nero have a bandy-legged or
scrofulous favourite, or one that was hump-backed or pot-bellied!
Go to now, you that revel in your son's beauty; think of the deadly
perils that lie before him. He will become a promiscuous gallant, and
have to fear all the vengeance due to outraged husbands; no luckier than
Mars, he will not fail to fall into the net. And sometimes the husband's
wrath exacts greater penalties than any law allows: one lover is slain
by the sword, another bleeds under the lash; some undergo the punishment
of the mullet. Your dear Endymion will become the gallant of some matron
whom he loves; but before long, when Servilia has taken him into her
pay, he will serve one also whom he loves not, and will strip her of all
her ornaments; for what can any woman, be she an Oppia or a Catulla,41
deny to the man who serves her passion? It is on her passion that a bad
woman's whole nature centres. "But how does beauty hurt the chaste?" you
ask. Well, what availed Hippolytus or Bellerophon 42 their firm resolve?
The Cretan lady flared up as though repelled with scorn; no less furious
was Stheneboea. Both dames lashed themselves into fury; for never is
woman so savage as when her hatred is goaded on by shame.
And now tell me what counsel you think should be given to him 43 whom
Caesar's wife is minded to wed. Best and fairest of a patrician house,
the unhappy youth is dragged to destruction by Messalina's eyes. She has
long been seated; her bridal veil is ready; the Tyrian nuptial couch is
being spread openly in the gardens; a dowry of one million sesterces
will be given after the ancient fashion, the soothsayer and the
witnesses will be there. And you thought these things were secret, did
you, known only to a few? But the lady will not wed save with all the
due forms. Say what is your resolve: if you say nay to her, you will
have to perish before the lighting of the lamps; if you perpetrate the
crime, you will have a brief respite until the affair, known already to
the city and the people, shall come to the Prince's ears; he will be the
last to know of the dishonour of his house. Meanwhile, if you value a
few days of life so highly, obey your orders: whatever you may deem the
easier and the better way, that fair white neck of yours will have to be
offered to the sword.
Is there nothing then for which men shall pray? If you ask my
counsel, you will leave it to the gods themselves to provide what is
good for us, and what will be serviceable for our state; for, in place
of what is pleasing, they will give us what is best. Man is dearer to
them than he is to himself. Impelled by strong and blind desire, we ask
for wife and offspring; but the gods know ot what sort the sons, of what
sort the wife, will be. Nevertheless that you may have something to pray
for, and be able to offer to the shrines entrails and presaging sausages
from a white porker, you should pray for a sound mind in a sound body;
for a stout heart that has no fear of death, and deems length of days
the least of Nature's gifts; that can endure any kind of toil; that
knows neither wrath nor desire, and thinks that the woes and hard
labours of Hercules are better than the loves and the banquets and the
down cushions of Sardanapalus.44 What I commend to you, you can give to
yourself; for it is assuredly through virtue that lies the one and only
road to a life of peace. Thou wouldst have no divinity, O Fortune, if we
had but wisdom; it is we that make a goddess of thee, and place thee in
1. A famous lawyer banished by Nero.
2. Forced by Nero to commit suicide.
3. Plautius Lateranus was put to death by Nero for joining in Piso's
conspiracy, A.D. 63.
4. Democritus of Abdera.
5. Heraclitus of Ephesus.
6. The tunica palmata, embroidered with palm, and the toga picta, with
gold, were triumphal garments, described by Livy as Iovis optimi maximi
ornatus (xx. 7).
7. In i. 95-6 ff, the sportula (properly a basket) is spoken of as a
meal actually carried away by the clients. The present passage refers to
the later practice which substituted a sum of 100 quadrantes (4
sesterces) for the meal in kind.
8. Abdera, in Thrace, the birthplace of Democritus, had the reputation
of being a breeder of thick-heads.
9. The upstart favourite of Tiberius.
10. Tiberius was living in grim solitude in his rock fortress on the
island of Capreae when he sent to the Senate the famous letter----the
verbosa et grandis epistola----which hurried Sejanus to his doom on the
18th of October, a.d. 29. (The passage in Tacitus which described the
whole event is unfortunately lost; but the fine account of Dion Cassius
is given in my Annals of Tacitus, vol. i. pp. 344-353.----G. G. R.).
11. Sejanus was a native of Volsinii in Etruria; Nortia was the Etruscan
Goddess of Fortune.
12. A famous orator.
13. Apparently Ajax here stands for Tiberius, who, it is thought, may
revenge himself by punishing those who have not sufficiently guarded his
person.14. The highest and richest class of Equites were called Equites
Illustres or Splendidi.
15. Fidenae, Gabii, Ulubrae, small and deserted towns in Latium.
18. This line is taken from the poem (De suo Consulatu) which Cicero
wrote to glorify the events of his Consulship. To the many who are not
gifted with the divine faculty of poesy it may be a consolation to know
that a writer of the most splendid prose could be guilty of such a
rubbishy line as that here quoted.
19. Demosthenes' father, of the same name, was a blacksmith ----or at
least a manufacturer of swords.
20. Prusias I, king of Bithynia.
21. Containing poison.
22. Alexander the Great, b. at Pella B.C. 356, d. at Babylon B.C. 323.
23. The famous walls of Babylon were built of brick.
24. An unknown poet.
26. A town in Numidia.
27. Referring to some barber who had made money, and was obnoxious to
Juvenal as a rich parvenu.
29. i.e. had begun to count by hundreds.
30. Nestor's son.
31. ardentem, i.e. on the pyre.
32. Laertes, father of Ulysses.
33. Son of Tros, from whom the Trojans took their name.
34. Daughters of Priam.
37. The wealthy king of Lydia.
38. i.e. after the battle of Campi Raudii, near Vercellae, in B.C. 101.
39. When Pompey lay dangerously ill of a fever in B.C. 50 many of the
towns of Italy offered vows and sacrifices for his recovery.
40. Accomplices in Catiline's conspiracy.
41. i.e. however noble the lady may be.
42. As Mr. Duff puts it, "Hippolytus and Bellerophon are the Josephs of
the pagan mythology."
43. C. Silius, brought to ruin by the passion entertained for him by
Messalina, wife of Claudius (Tac. Ann. xi. 12 and 26 ff.).44. The last
king of the Assyrian empire of Nineveh. A proverb for luxury.
Extravagance and Simplicity of Living
If Atticus dines sumptuously, he is thought a fine gentleman; if
Rutilus does the same, people say he has lost his senses: for at what
does the public laugh so loudly as at an Apicius 1 reduced to poverty?
Every dinner table, all the baths, lounging-places and theatres have
their fling at Rutilus; for while still young, active, and warm-blooded,
and fit to wear a helmet, he plunges on till he will have to enrol
himself----not compelled indeed, but not forbidden by the Tribune
2----under the rules and royal mandates of a trainer of gladiators. You
may see many of these gentry being waited for by an oft-eluded creditor
at the entrance to the meat-market----men whose sole reason for living
lies in their palate. The greater their straits----though the house is
ready to fall, and the daylight begins to show between the cracks----the
more luxuriously and daintily do they dine. Meanwhile they ransack all
the elements for new relishes; no cost ever stands in their way; if you
look closely into it, the greater the price, the greater the pleasure.
So when they want to raise money to go after the rest, they think
nothing of pawning their plate, or breaking up the image of their
mother; and having thus seasoned their gluttonous delf at a cost of four
hundred sesterces, they come down at last to the hotch-potch of the
gladiatorial school. It matters much therefore who provides the feast;
what is extravagant in Rutilus, gets a fine name in Ventidius, and takes
its character from his means.
Rightly do I despise a man who knows how much higher Atlas is than
all the other mountains of Africa, and yet knows not the difference
between a purse and an iron-bound money-box. The maxim "Know thyself"
comes down to us from the skies; it should be imprinted in the heart,
and stored in the memory, whether you are looking for a wife, or wishing
for a seat in the sacred Senate: even Thersites never asked for that
breastplate of Achilles in which Ulysses cut such a sorry figure.3 If
you are preparing to conduct a great and difficult cause, take counsel
of yourself and tell yourself what you are----are you a great orator, or
just a spouter like Curtius and Matho? Let a man take his own measure
and have regard to it in things great or small, even in the buying of a
fish, that he set not his heart upon a mullet, when he has only a
gudgeon in his purse. For if your purse is getting empty while your maw
is expanding, what will be your end when you have sunk your paternal
fortune and all your belongings in a belly which can hold capital and
solid silver as well as flocks and lands? With such owners the last
thing to go is the ring; poor Pollio, his finger stripped, has to go
a-begging! It is not an early death or an untimely grave that
extravagance has to dread: old age is more terrible to it than death.
The regular stages are these: money is borrowed in Rome and
squandered before the owner's eyes; when some little of it is still
left, and the lender's face grows pale, these gentlemen give leg bail,
and make off for Baiae and its oyster-beds----for in these days people
think no more of absconding from the Forum than of flitting from the
stuffy Subuva to the Esquiline. One pang, one sorrow only, afflicts
these exiles, that they must, for one season, miss the Circensian games!
No drop of blood lingers in their cheek: Shame is ridiculed as she flees
from the city, and few would bid her stay.
To-day, friend Persicus, you will discover whether I make good, in
deed and in my ways of life, the fair maxims which I preach, or whether,
while commending beans, I am at heart a glutton: openly bidding my slave
to bring me porridge, but whispering "cheese-cakes" in his ear. For now
that you have promised to be my guest, you will find in me an Evander 4;
you yourself will be the Tirynthian, or the guest less great than he,5
though he too came of blood divine----the one by water, the other borne
by fire,6 to the stars. And now hear my feast, which no meat-market
shall adorn. From my Tiburtine farm there will come a plump kid,
tenderest of the flock, innocent of grass, that has never yet dared to
nibble the twigs of the dwarf willow, and has more of milk in him than
blood; some wild asparagus, gathered by the bailiff's wife when done
with her spindle, and some lordly eggs, warm in their wisps of hay,
together with the hens that laid them. There will be crapes too, kept
half the year, as fresh as when they hung upon the tree; pears from
Signia and Syria, and in the same baskets fresh-smelling apples that
rival those of Picenum, and of which you need not be afraid, seeing that
winter's cold has dried up their autumnal juice, and removed the perils
Such were the banquets of our Senate in days of old, when already
grown luxurious; when Curius,7 with his own hands, would lay upon his
modest hearth the simple herbs he had gathered in his little garden
----herbs scoffed at nowadays by the dirty ditcher who works in chains,
and remembers the savour of tripe in the reeking cookshop. For feast
days, in olden times, they would keep a side of dried pork, hanging from
an open rack, or put before the relations a flitch of birthday bacon,
with the addition of some fresh meat, if there happened to be a
sacrifice to supply it. A kinsman who had thrice been hailed as Consul,
who had commanded armies, and filled the office of Dictator, would come
home earlier than was his wont for such a feast, shouldering the spade
with which he had been subduing the hillside. For when men quailed
before a Fabius or a stern Cato, before a Scaurus or a Fabricius----when
even a Censor might dread the severe verdict of his colleague 8----no
one deemed it a matter of grave and serious concern what kind of
tortoise-shell was swimming in the waves of Ocean to form a head-rest
for our Troy-born grandees. Couches in those days were small, their
sides unadorned: a simple headpiece of bronze would display the head of
a be-garlanded ass, beside which would romp in play the children of the
village. Thus house and furniture were all in keeping with the fare.
The rude soldier of those days had no taste for, or knowledge of,
Greek art; if allotted cups made by great artists as his share in the
booty of a captured city, he would break them up to provide gay
trappings for his horse, or to chase a helmet that should display to the
dying foe an image of the Romulean beast bidden by Rome's destiny to
grow tame, with the twin Quirini beneath a rock, and the nude effigy of
the God 9 swooping down with spear and shield. Their messes of spelt
were then served on platters of earthenware; such silver as there was
glittered only on their arms----all which things you may envy if you are
at all inclined that way. The majesty of the temples also was more near
to help us; it was then that was heard through the entire city that
midnight voice telling how the Gauls were advancing from the shores of
Ocean, the Gods taking on them the part of prophecy. Such were the
warnings of Jupiter, such the cave which he bestowed on the concerns of
Latium when he was made of clay, and undefiled by gold.
In those days our tables were home-grown, made of our own trees; for
such use was kept some aged chestnut blown down perchance by the
Southwestern blast. But nowadays a rich man takes no pleasure in his
dinner----his turbot and his venison have no taste, his unguents and his
roses no perfume----unless the broad slabs of his dinner-table rest upon
a ramping, gaping leopard of solid ivory, made of the tusks sent to us
by the swift-footed Moor from the portal of Syene,10 or by the still
duskier Indian ----or perhaps shed by the monstrous beast in the
Nabataean 11 forest when too big and too heavy for his head. These are
the things that give good appetite and good digestion; for to these
gentlemen a table with a leg of silver is like a finger with an iron
ring. For this reason I will have none of your haughty guests to make
comparisons between himself and me, and look down upon my humble state.
So destitute am I of ivory that neither my dice nor counters are made of
it; even my knife-handles are of bone. Yet are not the viands tainted
thereby, nor does the pullet cut up any the worse on that account. Nor
shall I have a carver to whom the whole carving-school must bow, a pupil
of the learned Trypherus, in whose school is cut up, with blunt knives,
a magnificent feast of hares and sow's paunches, of boars and antelopes,
of Scythian fowls and tall flamingoes and Gaetulian gazelles, until the
whole Subura rings with the clatter of the elm-wood banquet. My raw
youngster, untutored all his days, has never learnt how to filch a slice
of kid or the wing of a guinea-fowl, unpractised save in the theft of
scraps. Cups of common ware, bought for a few pence, will be handed
round by an unpolished lad, clad so as to keep out the cold. No Phrygian
or Lycian youth, none bought from a dealer at a huge price, will you
find; when you want anything, ask for it in Latin. They are all dressed
alike; their hair cut close and uncurled, and only combed to-day because
of the company. One is the son of a hardy shepherd; another of the
cattle-man: he sighs for the mother whom he has not seen for so long,
and thinks wistfully of the little cottage and the kids he knew so well;
a lad of open countenance and simple modesty, such as those ought to be
who are clothed in glowing purple.12 No noisy frequenter he of baths,
presenting his armpits to be cleared of hair, and with only an oil-flask
to conceal his nudity. He will hand you a wine that was bottled on the
hills among which he was born, and beneath whose tops he played----for
wine and servant alike have one and the same fatherland.
You may look perhaps for a troop of Spanish maidens to win applause
by immodest dance and song, sinking down with quivering thighs to the
floor----such sights as brides behold seated beside their husbands,
though it were a shame to speak of such things in their presence. . . .
My humble home has no place for follies such as these. The clatter of
castanets, words too foul for the strumpet that stands naked in a
reeking archway, with all the arts and language of lust, may be left to
him who spits wine upon floors of Lacedaemonian marble; such men we
pardon because of their high station. In men of moderate position gaming
and adultery are shameful; but when those others do these same things,
they are called gay fellows and fine gentlemen. My feast to-day will
provide other performances than these. The bard of the Iliad will be
sung, and the lays of the lofty-toned Maro that contest the palm with
his. What matters it with what voice strains like these are read?
And now put away cares and cast business to the winds! Present
yourself with a welcome holiday, now that you may be idle for the entire
day. Let there be no talk of money, and let there be no secret wrath or
suspicion in your heart because your wife is wont to go forth at dawn
and to come home at night with crumpled hair and flushed face and ears.
Cast off straightway before my threshold all that troubles you, all
thought of house and slaves, with all that slaves break or lose, and
above all put away all thought of thankless friends.
Meantime the solemn Idaean rite of the Megalesian napkin 13 is being
held; there sits the Praetor in his triumphal state, the prey of
horseflesh; and (if I may say so without offence to the vast unnumbered
mob) all Rome to-day is in the Circus. A roar strikes upon my ear which
tells me that the Green 14 has won; for had it lost, Rome would be as
sad and dismayed as when the Consuls were vanquished in the dust of
Cannae. Such sights are for the young, whom it befits to shout and make
bold wagers with a smart damsel by their side: but let my shrivelled
skin drink in the vernal sun, and escape the toga. You may go at once to
your bath with no shame on your brow, though it wants a whole hour of
mid-day.15 That you could not do for five days continuously, since even
such a life has weariness. It is rarity that gives zest to pleasure.16
1. A notorious and wealthy glutton; see iv. 23.
2. i.e. a tribunus plebis, whose permission would be necessary.
3. Referring to his contest with Ajax for the arms of Achilles.
4. Alluding to the entertainment of Hercules by Evander (Virg. Aen.
6. Both heroes were deified; Hercules met his death by burning, Aeneas
7. Manius Curius Dentatus, the conqueror of Pyrrhus, type of the simple
noble Roman of early times.
8. For the quarrel between the censors, see Livy, xxix. 37.
9. i.e. the god Mars.
10. Now Aswan, on the Roman frontier. The phrase "portal of Syene" means
"the portal consisting of Syene," Syene itself constituting the portal.
11. The Nabataeans were an Arabian tribe. But there are no elephants in
12. Referring to the purple stripe on the toga praetexta worn by all
13. The Megalesian games (April 4-10) were held in honour of Cybele
(μεγάλη μήτηρ); the praetor gave the signal for starting the
chariot-race by dropping a napkin.
14. There were four factions in the Circus, consisting of the supporters
of the four charioteering colours, White, Red, Green, and Blue. The
Green it seems was the popular colour, being usually favoured by the
15. The bath was usually not taken till the eighth hour.
16. This would seem to be almost a translation from Epictetus (Flor. 6.
59). "The rarest pleasures give most delight."
How Catullus escaped Shipwreck
Dearer to me, Corvinus, is this day, when my festal turf is awaiting
the victims vowed to the Gods, than my own birthday. To the Queen of
Heaven I offer a snow-white lamb; a fleece as white to the Goddess 1
armed with the Moorish 2 Gorgon; hard by is the frolicsome victim
destined for Tarpeian Jove, shaking the tight-stretched rope and
brandishing his brow; for he is a bold young steer, ripe for temple and
for altar, and fit to be sprinkled with wine; it already shames him to
suck his mother's milk, and with his budding horn he assails the oaks.
Were my fortune large, and as ample as my love, I should have been
hauling along a bull fatter than Hispulla, slow-footed from his very
bulk; reared on no neighbouring herbage he, but showing in his blood the
rich pastures of the Clitumnus,3 and marching along to to offer his neck
to the stroke of the stalwart priest, to celebrate the return of my
still trembling friend who has lately gone through such terrors, and now
marvels to find himself safe and sound.
For besides the perils of the deep he escaped a lightning stroke. A
mass of dense black cloud shut out the heavens, and down came a flash of
fire upon the yards. Every man believed himself smitten by the bolt, and
soon in his terror bethought him that no shipwreck could be so terrible
as a ship on fire. All happened in the same way and as frightfully as
when a storm arises in a poem, when lo! a new kind of peril came: hear
it and give your pity once again, though the rest of the tale is all of
one piece: a fearful lot, well known to many, and testified by many a
votive tablet in our temples. Who knows not that it is Isis who feeds
our painters? 4
A fate like to these befell our friend Catullus also. For when the
hold was half full of water, and the waves rocked the hull from side to
side, so that the white-haired skipper, with all his skill, could bring
no succour to the labouring mast, he resolved to compound with the winds
like the beaver, who gives up one part of his body that he may keep the
rest; so conscious is he of the drug which he carries in his groin.
"Overboard with everything!" shouted Catullus, ready to cast headlong
his finest wares: purple garments, such as would have befitted a soft
Maecenas, with other fabrics dyed on the sheep's back by the noble
nature of the herbage ----though doubtless the hidden virtues of the
water and air of Baetica 5 also lent their aid. Nor did he hesitate to
throw over pieces of silver plate----charger's wrought by Parthenius,6
and bowls holding three gallons, fit to slake the thirst of the Centaur
Pholus 7 or the wife of Fuscus. Besides these were baskets and dishes
without number, and much chased work out of which the crafty purchaser
of Olynthus 8 had slaked his thirst. What other man is there, in what
part of the world, who would dare to value his life above his plate, or
his safety above his property? Some men are so blinded and depraved
that, instead of making fortunes for the sake of living, they live for
their fortunes' sake.
And now most of the cargo has gone overboard, but even these losses
do not ease the vessel; so in his extremity the skipper had to fall back
upon cutting away the mast, and so find a way out of his straits----a
dire pass indeed when no remedy can be found but one that diminishes the
ship! Go now, and commit your life to the winds! Go trust yourself to a
hewn plank which parts you from death by four finger-breadths, or seven
if it be extra thick! Only remember in future, besides your bread and
your bread-basket and your pot-bellied flagon, to take with you axes
also for use in time of storm.
But soon the sea fell flat, and our mariners came on better times.
Destiny proved stronger than wind and wave; the glad Fates, with kindly
hand, spun a yarn of white wool, there sprang up what was no stronger
than a gentle breeze, under which the poor ship sped on by the sorry
help of outstretched garments, and the single sail now left to her on
her prow. Soon the winds abated, and out came the sun, bringing hope of
life; and then there came into view the beetling height 9 so dear to
lulus, and preferred by him for his abode to his stepmother's Lavinum, a
height that took its name from the white sow whose wondrous womb made
glad the Phrygians' hearts, and gained fame for her thirty teats----a
sight never seen before!
And now at length the ship comes within the moles built out to
enclose the sea.10 She passes the Tyrrhenian Pharos, and those arms
which stretch out and meet again in mid-ocean, leaving Italy far behind
---- a port more wondrous far than those of Nature's making. Then the
skipper, with his crippled ship, makes for the still waters of the inner
basin in which any Baian shallop may ride in safety. There the sailors
shave their heads 11 and delight, in garrulous ease, to tell the story
of their perils.
Away then, ye boys, and with reverent tongues and souls hang up
garlands upon the shrines, sprinkle meal upon the knives, and deck the
soft altars of verdant turf. I will quickly follow, and having duly
performed the greater rite, will return thence home, where my little
images of shining crumbling wax are being decked with slender wreaths.
Here will I entreat my own Jupiter; here will I offer incense to my
paternal Lares, and scatter pansies of every hue. Here all is bright;
the gateway, in token of feast, has put up trailing branches, and is
worshipping with early-lighted lamps.
Look not askance, Corvinus, upon these rejoicings. The Catullus for
whose return I set up all these altars has three little heirs of his
own. You may wait long enough before you find anyone to bestow a sickly
hen, just closing her eyes, upon so unprofitable a friend; nay, a hen
would be all too costly: no quail will ever fall for a man who is a
father! But if the rich and childless Gallitta or Pacius have a touch of
fever, their entire porticoes will be dressed out with tablets fastened
in due form; there will be some to vow hecatombs, not elephants, indeed,
seeing that elephants are not for sale, nor does that beast breed in
Latium, or anywhere beneath our skies, but is fetched from the dark
man's land, and fed in the Rutulian forest and the domains of Turnus.12
The herd is Caesar's,'12 and will serve no private master, since their
forefathers were wont to obey the Tyrian Hannibal and our generals and
the Molossian king,13 and to carry cohorts on their backs----no small
fraction of a war----whole towers going forth to battle! Therefore
Novius 14 would not hesitate, Pacuvius Hister2 would not hesitate, to
lead that ivoried monster to the altar, and offer it to Gallitta's
Lares, the only victim worthy of such august divinities, and of those
who hunt their gold. For the latter worthy, if permitted, will vow to
sacrifice the tallest and comeliest of his slaves; he will place fillets
on the brows of his slave-boys and maidservants; if he has a
marriageable Iphigenia 15 at home, he will place her upon the altar,
though he could never hope for the hind of tragic story to provide a
I commend the wisdom of my fellow townsman, nor can I compare a
thousand ships to an inheritance; for if the sick man escape the Goddess
of Death, he will be caught within the net, he will destroy his will,
and after the prodigious services of Pacuvius will maybe by a single
word, make him heir to all his possessions, and Pacuvius will strut
proudly over his vanquished rivals. You see therefore how well worth
while it was to slaughter that maiden at Mycenae! Long live Pacuvius!
may he live, I pray, as many years as Nestor; may he possess as much as
Nero plundered; may he pile up gold mountain-high; may he love no one,
and be by none beloved!
2. The Gorgon (or Gorgons) were supposed to belong to Libya.
3. Famed for their breed of white cattle.
4. i.e by employing them to paint votive tablets for her temples.
5. Baetica was one of the provinces of Spain, called after the Baetis
(Guadalquiver). The wool was famed for its golden colour.
6. An engraver, otherwise unknown.
7. The Centaurs were famed for their drinking capacity.
8. Philip of Macedon.
9. The Alban Mount.
10. The port of Ostia, built by Claudius and called Portus Augusti.
11. In fulfilment, no doubt, of a vow made in the moment of danger.
12. The emperors kept a herd of elephants for games, etc., at Laurentum,
near the kingdom of the Rutulian Turnus.
15. Sacrificed by her father Agamemnon to procure a fair wind for the
16. Later tradition pretended that a hind had been substituted for
The Terrors of a Guilty Conscience
No deed that sets an example of evil brings joy to the doer of it.
The first punishment is this: that no guilty man is acquitted at the bar
of his own conscience, though he have won his cause by a juggling urn,
and the corrupt favour of the judge. What do you suppose, Calvinus, that
people are now thinking about the recent villainy and the charge of
trust betrayed? Your means are not so small that the weight of a slight
loss will weigh you down; nor is your misfortune rare. Such a mishap has
been known to many; it is one of the common kind, plucked at random out
of Fortune's heap. Away with undue lamentations! a man's wrath should
not be hotter than is fit, nor greater than the loss sustained. You are
scarce able to bear, the very smallest particle of misfortune; your
bowels foam hot within you because your friend will not give up to you
the sacred trust committed to him; does this amaze one who was born in
the Consulship of Fonteius,1 and has left sixty years behind him? Have
you gained nothing from all your experience?
Great indeed is Philosophy, the conqueror of Fortune, and sacred are
her precepts; but they too are to be deemed happy who have learnt under
the schooling of life to endure its ills without fretting against the
yoke. What day is there, however festal, which fails to disclose theft,
treachery and fraud: gain made out of every kind of crime, and money won
by the dagger or the bowl? 2 For honest men are scarce; hardly so
numerous as the gates of Thebes, or the mouths of the enriching Nile.3
We are living in a ninth age; an age more evil than that of iron----one
for whose wickedness Nature herself can find no name, no metal from
which to call it. We summon Gods and men to our aid with cries as loud
as that with which the vocal dole 4 applauds Faesidius when he pleads.
Tell me, you old gentleman, that should be wearing the bulla 5 of
childhood, do you know nothing of the charm of other people's money? Are
you ignorant of how the world laughs at your simplicity when you demand
of any man that he shall not perjure himself, and believe that some
divinity is to be found in temples or in altars red with blood?
Primitive men lived thus in the olden days, before Saturn laid down his
diadem and fled, betaking himself to the rustic sickle; in the days when
Juno was a little maid, and Jupiter still a private gentleman in the
caves of Ida.6 In those days there were no banquets of the heavenly host
above the clouds, there was no Trojan youth, no fair wife of Hercules 7
for cup-bearer, no Vulcan wiping arms begrimed by the Liparaean 8 forge
after tossing off his nectar. Each God then dined by himself; there was
no such mob of deities as there is to-day; the stars were satisfied with
a few divinities, and pressed with a lighter load upon the hapless
Atlas. No monarch had as yet had the gloomy realms below allotted to
him; there was no grim Pluto with a Sicilian spouse; there was no
wheel,9 no rock,10 no Furies, no black torturing Vulture;11 the shades
led a merry life, with no kings over their nether world. Dishonesty was
a prodigy in those days; men deemed it a heinous sin, worthy of death,
if a youth did not rise before his elders, or a boy before any bearded
man, though he himself might see more strawberries, and bigger heaps of
acorns, in his own home. So worshipful was it to be older by four years,
so equal to reverend age was the first down of manhood!
But nowadays, if a friend does not disavow a sum entrusted to him, if
he restore the old purse with all its rust, his good faith is deemed a
portent calling for the sacred books of Etruria, and to be expiated by a
lamb decked with garlands. If I discover an upright and blameless man, I
liken him to a boy born with double limbs, or to fishes found by a
marvelling rustic under the plough, or to a pregnant mule: I am as
concerned as though it had rained stones, or a swarm of bees had settled
in a long cluster on a temple-roof, or as though some river had poured
down wondrous floods of milk into the sea. You complain, do you, that by
an impious fraud you have been robbed of ten thousand sesterces? What if
someone else has by a like fraud lost a secret deposit of two hundred
thousand sesterces? A third a still greater sum, which could scarce find
room in the corners of his ample treasure-chest? So simple and easy a
thing is it to disregard heavenly witnesses, if no mortal man is privy
to the secret! Hear how loudly the fellow denies the charge! See the
assurance of his perfidious face! He swears by the rays of the sun and
the Tarpeian thunderbolts; by the lance of Mars and the arrows of the
Cirrhaean Seer; by the shafts and quiver of the maiden huntress, and by
thine own trident, O Neptune, thou lord of the Aegaean sea. He throws in
besides the bow of Hercules, and Minerva's spear, and all the weapons
contained in all the armouries of Heaven; if he be a father, "May I
eat," he tearfully declares, "my own son's head boiled, and dripping
with Egyptian vinegar!"
Some think that all things are subject to the chances of Fortune;
these believe that the world has no governor to move it, but that Nature
rolls along the changes of day and year; they will therefore lay their
hands on any altar you please without a tremor. Another fears that
punishment will follow crime; he believes that there are Gods, but
perjures himself all the same, reasoning thus within himself: "Let Isis
deal with my body as she wills, and blast my sight with her avenging
rattle, provided only that even when blind I may keep the money which I
disavow; it is worth having phthisis or running ulcers or losing half
one's leg at the price! Ladas 12 himself, if not needing treatment at
Anticyra 13 or by Archigenes, would not hesitate to accept the rich
man's gout; for what is to be got out of fame for swiftness of foot, or
from a hungry branch of the Pisaean Olive 14? The wrath of the Gods may
be great, but it assuredly is slow; if then they charge themselves with
punishing all the guilty, when will they get my length? And besides I
may perchance find the God placable; he is wont to forgive things like
this. Many commit the same crime and fare differently: one man gets a
gibbet, another a crown, as the reward of crime."
That is how they reassure their minds when in terror for some deadly
guilt. If you summon them then to the holy shrine, they will be there
before you; nay, they will themselves drag you thither, and dare you to
the proof; for when a bad cause is well backed by a bold face, the man
gets credit for self-confidence. Such a one plays a part, like the
runaway buffoon of the witty Catullus,15 but you, poor wretch, may shout
so as to out-do Stentor,16 or rather as loudly as the Mars of Homer, "Do
you hear all this, O Jupiter, with lip unmoved, when you ought to have
been making yourself heard, whether you be made of marble or of bronze?
Else why do I open my packet of holy incense, and place it on your
blazing altar? Why offer slices of a calf's liver or the fat of a white
pig? So far as I can see, there is nothing to choose between your images
and the statue of Vagellius!"
And now hear what consolations can be offered on the other side by
one who has not embraced the doctrines either of the Cynics, or of the
Stoics----who only differ from the Cynics by a shirt 17----nor yet
reverenced Epicurus, so proud of the herbs in his tiny garden. Let
doubtful maladies be tended by doctors of repute; your veins may be
entrusted to a disciple of Philippus.18 If in all the world you cannot
show me so abominable a crime, I hold my peace; I will not forbid you to
smite your breast with your fists, or to pummel your face with open
palm, seeing that after so great a loss you must close your doors, and
that a household bewails the loss of money with louder lamentations than
a death. In such a misfortune no grief is simulated; no one is content
to rend the top of his garment, or to squeeze forced moisture from his
eyes; unfeigned are the tears which lament the loss of wealth.
But if you see every court beset with complaints like to yours; if
after a bond has been read over ten times by the opposing party, they
declare the document to be waste paper, though convicted by their own
handwriting, and. by the signet ring, most choice of sardonyx stones,
kept in an ivory case----do you, my fine fellow, suppose that you are to
be placed outside the common lot, because you were born of a white hen,
while we are common chickens, hatched out of unlucky eggs? Your loss is
a modest one, to be endured with a moderate amount of choler, if you
cast an eye on grosser wrongs. Compare with your case the hired robber,
or the fire purposely started by sulphur, the flame bursting out at your
front door; think too of those who carry off from ancient temples
splendid cups of venerable antiquity, that were the gift of nations, or
crowns dedicated by some ancient monarch! If such things are not to be
had, a petty desecrator will be found to scrape off the gilding from the
thigh of Hercules, or from the very face of Neptune, or to strip Castor
of his beaten gold. And why should he hesitate, when he has been used to
melt down an entire Thunderer? Compare too the manufacturers and sellers
of poison, and the man who should be cast into the sea inside an ox's
hide, with whom a luckless destiny encloses a harmless ape.19 What a
mere fraction these of the crimes which Gallicus,20 the guardian of our
city, has to listen to from dawn to eve! If you would know what mankind
is like, that one court-house will suffice; spend a few days in it, and
when you come out, dare to call yourself unfortunate. Who marvels at a
swollen throat in the Alps? or in Meroe 21 at a woman's breast bigger
than her sturdy babe? Who is amazed to see a German with blue eyes and
yellow hair, twisting his greasy curls into a horn? We marvel not,
clearly because this one nature is common to them all. The Pygmy warrior
marches forth in his tiny arms to encounter the sudden swoop and
clamorous cloud of Thracian birds; but soon, no match for his foe, he is
snatched up by the savage crane and borne in his crooked talons through
the air.22 If you saw this in our own country, you would shake with
laughter; but in that land, where the whole host is only one foot high,
though like battles are witnessed every day, no one laughs! "What? Is
there to be no punishment for that perjured soul and his impious fraud?"
Well, suppose him to have been hurried off in heavy chains, and slain
(what more could anger ask?) at our good pleasure; yet your loss still
remains, your deposit will not be saved; and the smallest drop of blood
from that headless body will bring you hatred along with your
consolation. "O! but vengeance is good, sweeter than life itself." Yes;
so say the ignorant, whose passionate hearts you may see ablaze at the
slightest cause, sometimes for no cause at all; any occasion, indeed,
however small it be, suffices for their wrath. But so will not
Chrysippus 23 say, or the gentle Thales,24 or the old man 25 who dwelt
near sweet Hymettus, who would have given to his accuser no drop of the
hemlock-draught which was administered to him in that cruel bondage.
Benign Philosophy, by degrees, strips from us most of our vices, and all
our mistakes; it is she that first teaches us the right. For vengeance
is always the delight of a little, weak, and petty mind; of which you
may straightway draw proof from this----that no one so rejoices in
vengeance as a woman.
But why should you suppose that a man escapes punishment whose mind
is ever kept in terror by the consciousness of an evil deed which lashes
him with unheard blows, his own soul ever shaking over him the unseen
whip of torture? It is a grievous punishment, more cruel far than any
devised by the stern Caedicius 26 or by Rhadamanthus, to carry in one's
breast by night and by day one's own accusing witness. The Pythian
prophetess once made answer to a Spartan that it would not pass
unpunished in after time that he had thought of keeping back a sum
entrusted to him supporting the wrong by perjury; for he asked what was
the mind of the Deity, and whether Apollo counselled him to do the deed.
He therefore restored the money, through fear, and not from honesty;
nevertheless he found all the words of the Oracle to be true and worthy
of the shrine, being destroyed with his whole race and family and
relations, however far removed. Such are the penalties endured by the
mere wish to sin; for he who secretly meditates a crime within his
breast has all the guiltiness of the deed.
What then if the purposed deed be done? His disquiet never ceases,
not even at the festal board; his throat is as dry as in a fever; he can
scarcely take his food, it swells between his teeth; he spits out the
wine, poor wretch; he cannot abide the choicest old Albanian, and if you
bring out something finer still, wrinkles gather upon his brow as though
it had been puckered up by some Falernian turned sour. In the night, if
his troubles grant him a short slumber, and his limbs, after tossing
upon the bed, are sinking into repose, he straightway beholds the temple
and the altar of the God whom he has outraged; and what weighs with
chiefest terror on his soul, he sees you in his dreams; your awful form,
larger than life, frightens his quaking heart and wrings confession from
him. These are the men who tremble and grow pale at every
lightning-flash; when it thunders, they quail at the first rumbling in
the heavens; not as though it were an affair of chance or brought about
by the raging of the winds, but as though the flame had fallen in wrath
and as a judgment upon the earth. If one storm pass harmless by, they
look more anxiously for the next, as though this calm were only a
reprieve. If, again, they suffer from pains in the side, with a fever
that robs them of their sleep, they believe that the sickness has been
inflicted on them by the offended Deity: these they deem to be the
missiles, these the arrows of the Gods. They dare not vow a bleating
victim to a shrine, or offer a crested cock to the Lares; for what hope
is permitted to the guilty sick? What victim is not more worthy of life
than they? Inconstant and shifty, for the most part, is the nature of
bad men. In committing a crime, they have courage enough and to spare;
they only begin to feel what is right and what wrong when it has been
committed. Yet nature, firm and changeless, returns to the ways which it
has condemned. For who ever fixed a term to his own offending? When did
a hardened brow ever recover the banished blush? What man have you ever
seen that was satisfied with one act of villainy? Our scoundrel will yet
put his feet into the snare; he will have to endure the dark
prison-house and the staple, or one of those crags in the Aegaean sea
that are crowded with our noble exiles. You will exult over the stern
punishment of a hated name, and at length admit with joy that none of
the Gods is deaf or like unto Tiresias.27
1. C. Fonteius Capito, consul A.D. 67. That fixes the date of this
Satire to the year A.D. 127.
2. Pyxis is any bowl made of boxwood.
3. Thebes had seven gates, the Nile seven mouths.
4. The dole (sportula) is called " vocal" because it secures to the
patron the applause of his client when he pleads in court.
5. The bulla was a case of gold containing an amulet against the evil
eye, worn by all free-born boys until they put on the toga virilis.
6. Mount Ida in Crete where Zeus was born.
8. Lipari, the group of islands elsewhere called Aeolian (i. 7), where
Vulcan's forge was placed.
9. The wheel of Ixion.
10. The stone of Sisyphus.
11. Tityus was preyed upon by a vulture.
12. A famous Greek runner.
13. An island on which hellebore, the remedy for madness, was grown.
14. An olive-wreath was the prize at the Olympian games.
15. See viii. 180.
16. See Hom. Il. v. 785.
17. The Cynics discarded the tunic.
18. Some inferior doctor; unknown.
19. See note on viii. 214.
20. Rutilius Gallicus, prefect of the city under Domitian.
21. An island in Upper Egypt formed by two branches of the Nile.
22. Legends of battles between cranes and pygmies are found in Homer
(Il. iii. 3-6), Aristotle, and elsewhere.
23. The great Stoic philosopher, B.C. 280-207.
24. The Ionic philosopher of Miletus, about B.C. 636-546.
26. Not known.
27. The soothsayer Tiresias was blind.
No Teaching like that of Example
There are many things of ill repute, friend Fuscinus,----things that
would affix a lasting stain to the brightest of lives,----which parents
themselves point out and hand on to their sons. If the aged father
delights in ruinous play, his heir too gambles in his teens, and rattles
the selfsame weapons in a tiny dice-box. If a youth has learnt from the
hoary gluttony of a spendthrift father to peel truffles, to preserve
mushrooms, and to souse beccaficoes in their own juice, none of his
relatives need expect better things of him when he grows up. As soon as
he has passed his seventh year, before he has cut all his second teeth,
though you put a thousand bearded preceptors on his right hand, and as
many on his left, he will always long to fare sumptuously, and not fall
below the high standard of his cookery.
When Rutilus delights in the sound of a cruel flogging, deeming it
sweeter than any siren's song, and being himself a very Antiphates,1 or
a Polyphemus, to his trembling household, is he inculcating gentleness,
and leniency to slight faults: does he hold that the bodies and souls of
slaves are made of the same stuff and elements as our own; or is he
inculcating cruelty, never happy until he has summoned a torturer, and
he can brand some one with a hot iron for stealing a couple of towels?
What counsel does the father give to his son when he revels in the
clanking of a chain, and takes wondrous pleasure in branded slaves, in
prisons and his country bridewell? Are you simple enough to suppose that
Larga's daughter will remain virtuous when she cannot count over her
mother's lovers so rapidly, or string their names together so quickly,
as not to take breath full thirty times? She was her mother's confidante
as a girl; at her dictation she now indites her own little love-notes,
despatching them to her paramours by the hand of the self-same menials.
So Nature ordains; no evil example corrupts us so soon and so rapidly as
one that has been set at home, since it comes into the mind on high
authority. Here and there perhaps a youth may decline to follow the bad
example: one whose soul the Titan 2 has fashioned with kindlier skill
and of a finer clay; but the rest are led on by the parental steps which
they should avoid, and are dragged into the old track of vice which has
so long been pointed out to them.
Abstain therefore from things which you must condemn: for this there
is at least one all-powerful motive, that our crimes be not copied by
our children. For we are all of us teachable in what is base and wrong;
you may find a Catiline among any people, and in any clime, but nowhere
will you find a Brutus, or the uncle of a Brutus. Let no foul word or
sight cross the threshold within which there is a father. Away with you,
ye hireling damsels! Away with the songs of the night-revelling
parasite! If you have any evil deed in mind, you owe the greatest
reverence to the young; disregard not your boy's tender years, and let
your infant son stand in the way of the sin that you propose. For if
some day or other he shall do a deed deserving the censor's wrath, and
shall show himself like to you, not in form and face only, but also your
child in vice, and following in all your footsteps with sin deeper than
your own, you will doubtless rebuke him and chide him angrily and
thereafter prepare to change your will. But how can you assume the grave
brow and the free tone of a father if you in your old age are doing
things worse than he did, and your own empty pate has long been needing
the windy cupping-glass?
When you expect a guest, not one of your household will be idle.
"Sweep the pavement! Polish up the pillars! Down with that dusty spider,
web and all! One of you clean the plain silver, another the embossed
vessels!" So shouts the master, standing over them whip in hand. And so
you are afraid, poor fool, that the eyes of your expected guest may be
offended by the sight of dog's filth in the hall or of a portico
splashed with mud----things which one slave-boy can put right with half
a peck of sawdust: and yet will you take no pains that your son may
behold a stainless home, free from any stain and blemish? It is good
that you have presented your country and your people with a citizen, if
you make him serviceable to his country, useful for the land, useful for
the things both of peace and war. For it will make all the difference in
what practices, in what habits, you bring him up. The stork feeds her
young upon the serpents and the lizards which she finds in the wilds;
the young search for the same things when they have gotten to themselves
wings. The vulture hurries from dead cattle and dogs and gibbets to
bring some of the carrion to her offspring; so this becomes the food of
the vulture when he is full-grown and feeds himself, making his nest in
a tree of his own. The noble birds that wait on Jove hunt the hare or
the roe in the woods, and from them serve up prey to their eyrie; so
when their progeny are of full age and soar up from the nest, hunger
bids them swoop down upon that same prey which they had first tasted
when they chipped the shell.
Cretonius was given to building; now on Caieta's winding shore, now
on the heights of Tibur, now on the Praenestine hills, he would rear
lofty mansions, with marbles fetched from Greece and distant lands,
outdoing the temples of Fortune and of Hercules 3 by as much as the
eunuch Posides 4 overtopped our own Capitol. Housed therefore in this
manner, he impaired his fortune and frittered away his wealth; some
goodly portion of it still remained, but it was all squandered by his
madman of a son in building new mansions of still costlier marbles.
Some who have had a father who reveres the Sabbath, worship nothing
but the clouds, and the divinity of the heavens,5 and see no difference
between eating swine's flesh, from which their father abstained, and
that of man; and in time they take to circumcision. Having been wont to
flout the laws of Rome, they learn and practise and revere the Jewish
law, and all that Moses committed to his secret tome, forbidding to
point out the way to any not worshipping the same rites, and conducting
none but the circumcised to the desired fountain.6 For all which the
father was to blame, who gave up every seventh day to idleness, keeping
it apart from all the concerns of life.7
All vices but one the young imitate of their own free will; avarice
alone is enjoined on them against the grain. For that vice has a
deceptive appearance and semblance of virtue, being gloomy of mien,
severe in face and garb. The miser is openly commended for his thrift,
being deemed a saving man, who will be a surer guardian of his own
wealth than if it were watched by the dragons of the Hesperides or of
Colchis. Moreover, such a one is thought to be skilled in the art of
money-getting; for it is under workers such as he that fortunes grow.
And they grow bigger by every kind of means: the anvil is ever working,
and the forge never ceases to glow.
Thus the father deems the miser to be fortunate; and when he worships
wealth, believing that no poor man was ever happy, he urges his sons to
follow in the same path and to attach themselves to the same school.
There are certain rudiments in vice; in these he imbues them from the
beginning, compelling them to study its pettiest meannesses; after a
while he instructs them in the inappeasable lust of money-getting. He
pinches the bellies of his slaves with short rations, starving himself
into the bargain; for he cannot bear to eat up all the mouldy fragments
of stale bread. In the middle of September he will save up the hash of
yesterday; in summer-time he will preserve under seal for to-morrow's
dinner a dish of beans, with a bit of mackerel, or half a stinking
sprat, counting the leaves of the cut leeks before he puts them away. No
beggar from a bridge would accept an invitation to such a meal! But for
what end do you pile up riches gathered through torments such as these,
when it is plain madness and sheer lunacy to live in want that you may
be wealthy when you die? Meantime, while your purse is full to bursting,
your love of gain grows as much as the money itself has grown, and the
man who has none of it covets it the least. And so when one country
house is not enough for you, you buy a second; then you must extend your
boundaries, because your neighbour's field seems bigger and better than
your own; you must buy that too, and his vineyard, and the hill that is
thick and grey with olive-trees. And if no price will persuade the owner
to sell, you will send into his green corn by night a herd of lean and
famished cattle, with wearied necks, who will not come home until they
have put the whole crop into their ravenous bellies; no sickle could
make a cleaner job! How many bewail wrongs like these can scarce be
told, nor how many fields have been brought to the hammer by such
But what a talk there will be! How loud the blast of evil rumour!
"What harm in that?" you will say: "better keep my peapods for myself
than have the praises of the whole country-side if I am to have but a
small farm and a miserable crop."
Yes; and no doubt you will escape disease and weakness, you will have
no sorrow, no trouble, you will have long and ever happier days, if only
you are sole possessor of as many acres of good land as the Roman people
tilled in the days of Tatius. In later times, Romans broken with old
age, who had fought in the Punic battles or against the dread Pyrrhus or
the swords of the Molossians, received at last, in return for all their
wounds, a scanty two acres of land. None ever deemed such recompense too
small for their service of toil and blood; none spoke of a shabby,
thankless country. A little plot like that would feed the father himself
and the crowd at the cottage where lay the wife in childbed, with four
little ones playing around----one slave-born, three the master's own;
for their big brothers, on their return from ditch or furrow, a second
and ampler supper of porridge would be smoking in a lordly dish. To-day
we don't think such a plot of ground big enough for our garden!
It is here mostly that lies the cause of crime. No human passion has
mingled more poison-bowls, none has more often wielded the murderous
dagger, than the fierce craving for unbounded wealth. For the man who
wants wealth must have it at once; what respect for laws, what fear,
what sense of shame is to be found in a miser hurrying to be rich? "Live
content, my boys, with these cottages and hills of yours," said the
Marsian or Hernican or Vestinian father in the days of yore; "let the
plough win for us what bread shall suffice our table; such fare the
rustic Gods approve, whose aid and bounty gave us the glad ear of corn,
and taught man to disdain the acorn of ancient times. The man who is not
ashamed to wear high boots in time of frost, and who keeps off the East
wind with skins turned inwards, will never wish to do a forbidden thing;
it is purple raiment, whatever it be, foreign and unknown to us, that
leads to crime and wickedness."
Such were the maxims which those ancients taught the young; but now,
when autumn days are over, the father rouses his sleeping son after
midnight with a shout: "Awake, boy, and take your tablets; scribble away
and get up your cases; read through the red-lettered laws of our
forefathers, or send in a petition for a centurion's vine-staff. See
that Laelius notes your uncombed head and hairy nostrils, and admires
your broad shoulders; destroy the huts of the Moors and the forts of the
Brigantes,8 that your sixtieth year may bring you the eagle 9 that will
make you rich. Or if you are too lazy to endure the weary labours of the
camp, if the sound of horn and trumpet melts your soul within you, buy
something that you can sell at half as much again; feel no disgust at a
trade that must be banished to the other side of the Tiber; make no
distinction between hides and unguents: the smell of gain is good
whatever the thing from which it comes. Let this maxim be ever on your
lips, a saying worthy of the Gods, and of Jove himself if he turned
poet: 'No matter whence the money comes, but money you must have.'"
These are the lessons taught by skinny old nurses to little boys before
they can walk; this is what every girl learns before her ABC!
To any father urging precepts such as these I would say this: "Tell
me, O emptiest of men, who bids you hurry? The disciple, I warrant you,
will outstrip his master. You may leave him with an easy mind; you will
be outdone as surely as Telamon was beaten by Ajax, or Peleus by
Achilles. Be gentle with the young; their bones are not yet filled up
with the marrow of ripe wickedness. When the lad begins to comb a beard,
and apply to its length the razor's edge, he will give false testimony,
he will sell his perjuries for a trifling sum, touching the altar and
the foot of Ceres all the time. If your daughter-in-law brings a deadly
dowry into the house, you may count her as already dead and buried. What
a grip of fingers will throttle her in her sleep! For the wealth which
you think should be hunted for over land and sea, your son will acquire
by a shorter road; great crimes demand no labour. Some day you will say,
'I never taught these things, I never advised them': no, but you are
yourself the cause and origin of your son's depravity; for whosoever
teaches the love of wealth turns his sons into misers by his ill-omened
instruction. When he shows him how to double his patrimony by fraud, he
gives him his head, and throws a free rein over the car; try to call him
back, and he cannot stop: he will pay no heed to you, he will rush on,
leaving the turning-post far behind. No man is satisfied with sinning
just as far as you permit: so much greater is the license which they
"When you tell a youth that a man is a fool who makes a present to a
friend, or relieves and lightens the poverty of a kinsman, you teach him
to plunder and to cheat and to commit any kind of crime for money's
sake, the love of which is as great in you as was love of their country
in the hearts of the Decii, or in that of Menoeceus,10 if Greece speaks
true for Thebes----that country in whose furrows armed legions sprang
into life out of dragons' teeth, taking straightway to grim battle as
though a bugler had also risen up along with them. Thus you will see the
fire, whose sparks you yourself have kindled, blazing far and wide and
carrying all before them. Nor will you yourself, poor wretch, meet with
any mercy; the pupil lion, with a loud roar, will devour the trembling
instructor in his den. Your nativity, you say, is known to the
astrologers: but it is a tedious thing to wait for the slow-running
spindle, and you will die before your thread is snapped. You are already
in your son's way; you are delaying his prayers; your long and stag-like
old age is a torment to the young man. Seek out Archigenes at once; buy
some of the mixture of Mithridates; if you wish to pluck one more fig,
and gather roses once again, you should have some medicament to be
swallowed before dinner by one who is both a father and a king."
I am showing you the choicest of diversions, one with which no
theatre, no show of a grand Praetor can compare, if you will observe at
what a risk to life men increase their fortunes, become possessors of
full brass-bound treasure-chests, or of the cash which must be deposited
with watchful Castor,11 ever since Mars the Avenger lost his helmet and
failed to protect his own effects.12 So you may give up all the
performances of Flora, of Ceres, and of Cybele 13; so much finer are the
games of human life. Is there more pleasure to be got from gazing at men
hurled from a spring-board, or tripping down a tight rope, than from
yourself----you who spend your whole life in a Corycian 14 ship, ever
tossed by the wind from North or South, a poor contemptible trafficker
in stinking wares, finding your joy in importing sweet wine from the
shores of ancient Crete, or flagons that were fellow-citizens of Jove?
15 Yet the man who plants his steps with balanced foot gains his
livelihood thereby; that rope keeps him from cold and hunger; while you
run the risk for the sake of a thousand talents or a hundred mansions.
Look at our ports, our seas, crowded with big ships! The men at sea now
outnumber those on shore. Whithersoever hope of gain shall call, thither
fleets will come; not content with bounding over the Carpathian and
Gaetulian seas, they will leave Calpe 16 far behind, and hear the sun
hissing in the Herculean main. It is well worth while, no doubt, to have
beheld the monsters of the deep and the young mermen of the Ocean that
you may return home with tight-stuffed purse, and exult in your swollen
Not all men are possessed with one form of madness. One 17 madman in
his sister's arms is terrified by the faces and fire of the Furies;
another,18 when he strikes down an ox, believes that it is Agamemnon or
the Ithacan 19 that is bellowing. The man who loads his ship up to the
gunwale with goods, with only a plank between him and the deep, is in
need of a keeper, though he keep his hands off his shirt and his cloak,
seeing that he endures all that misery and all that danger for the sake
of bits of silver cut up into little images and inscriptions! Should
clouds and thunder threaten, "Let go!" cries the merchant who has bought
up corn or pepper, "that black sky, this dark wrack, are nought----it is
but summer lightning." Poor wretch! on this very night perchance he will
be cast out amid broken timbers and engulfed by the waves, clutching his
purse with his left hand or his teeth. The man for whose desires
yesterday not all the gold which Tagus and the ruddy Pactolus 20 rolls
along would have sufficed, must now content himself with a rag to cover
his cold and nakedness, and a poor morsel of food, while he begs for
pennies as a shipwrecked mariner, and supports himself by a painted
Wealth gotten with such woes is preserved by fears and troubles that
are greater still; it is misery to have the guardianship of a great
fortune. The millionaire Licinus orders a troop of slaves to be on the
watch all night with fire buckets in their places, being anxious for his
amber, his statues and Phrygian marbles, his ivory and plaques of
tortoise-shell. The nude Cynic 21 fears no fire for his tub; if broken,
he will make himself a new house to-morrow, or repair it with clamps of
lead. When Alexander beheld in that tub its mighty occupant, he felt how
much happier was the man who had no desires than he who claimed for
himself the entire world, with perils before him as great as his
achievements. Had we but wisdom, thou wouldst have no Divinity, O
Fortune: it is we that make thee into a Goddess!
Yet if any should ask of me what measure of fortune is enough, I will
tell him: as much as thirst, cold and hunger demand; as much as sufficed
you, Epicurus, in your little garden; as much as in earlier days was to
be found in the house of Socrates. Never does Nature say one thing and
Wisdom another. Do the limits within which I confine you seem too
severe? Then throw in something from our own manners; make up a sum as
big as that which Otho's law 22 deems worthy of the fourteen rows. If
that also knits your brow, and makes you thrust out your lip, take a
couple of knights, or make up thrice four hundred thousand sesterces! If
your lap is not yet full, if it is still opening for more, then neither
the wealth of Croesus, nor that of the Persian Monarchs, will suffice
you, nor yet that of Narcissus,23 on whom Claudius Caesar lavished
everything, and whose orders he obeyed when bidden to slay his wife.24
1. A cruel tyrant, king of the Laestrygones,
2. Prometheus, who made men out of clay.
3. There were great temples of Fortuna at Praeneste, of Hercules at
4. A freedman of Claudius.
5. The phrase caeli numen is hard to translate. What Juvenal means is
that the Jews worshipped no concrete deity, such as could be pourtrayed,
but only some impalpable mysterious spirit. They did not worship the sky
or the heavens, but only the numen of the heavens. This is what Tacitus
means when he says (Hist. v. 5) "The Jews worship with the mind alone."
So Lucan. ii. 592-3 dedita sacris Incerti Judaea dei.
6. It is possible that this refers to the practice of baptism which had
become usual among the Jews in the time of our Lord, as we see from the
case of John the Baptist.
7. Tacitus also attributed the Sabbath to laziness; and adds dein
blandiente inertia septimum quoque annum ignaviae datum (Hist. v. 4).
8. A powerful British tribe, occupying the greater part of England north
of the Humber.
9. i.e. the post of Senior Centurion (centurio primi pili), who had
charge of the eagle of the legion.
10. Slew himself to save Thebes.
11. Money was deposited in the temple of Castor, in the Forum.
12. The temple of Mars Ultor, in the Forum Augusti, seems to have been
13. i.e. the games.
14. Corycus, a town in Cilicia.
15. Because Zeus was born in Crete.
16. The rock of Gibraltar.
17. i. e. Orestes.
18. i.e. Ajax, who went mad, slaughtering a flock of sheep in the belief
that he was slaying Agamemnon and Ulysses.
20. The gold-bearing river of Lydia.
22. See note on iii. 155.
23. The most powerful and wealthiest of Claudius' freedmen.
24. For the part played by Narcissus in securing the punishment of
Messalina, see Tac. Ann. xi. 33-37.
An Egyptian Atrocity
Who knows not, O Bithynian Volusius, what monsters demented Egypt
worships? One district adores the crocodile, another venerates the Ibis
that gorges itself with snakes. In the place where magic chords are
sounded by the truncated Memnon,1 and ancient hundred-gated Thebes lies
in ruins, men worship the glittering golden image of the long-tailed
ape. In one part cats are worshipped, in another a river fish, in
another whole townships venerate a dog; none adore Diana, but it is an
impious outrage to crunch leeks and onions with the teeth. What a holy
race to have such divinities springing up in their gardens! No animal
that grows wool may appear upon the dinner-table; it is forbidden there
to slay the young of the goat; but it is lawful to feed on the flesh of
man! When Ulysses told a tale like this over the dinner-table to the
amazed Alcinous,2 he stirred some to wrath, some perhaps to laughter, as
a lying story-teller. "What?" one would say, "will no one hurl this
fellow into the sea, who merits a terrible and a true Charybdis with his
inventions of monstrous Laestrygones and Cyclopes? For I could sooner
believe in Scylla, and the clashing Cyanean rocks,3 and skins full of
storms, or in the story how Circe, by a gentle touch, turned Elpenor 4
and his comrades into grunting swine. Did he deem the Phaeacians people
so devoid of brains?" So might some one have justly spoken who was not
yet tipsy, and had taken but a small drink of wine from the Corcyraean
bowl, for the Ithacan's tale was all his own, with none to bear him
I will now relate strange deeds done of late in the consulship of
Juncus,5 beyond the walls of broiling Coptus; a crime of the common
herd, worse than any crime of the tragedians; for though you turn over
all the tales of long-robed Tragedy from the days of Pyrrha onwards, you
will find there no crime committed by an entire people. But hear what an
example of ruthless barbarism has been displayed in these days of ours.
Between the neighbouring towns of Ombi and Tentyra 6 there burns an
ancient and long-cherished feud and undying hatred, whose wounds are not
to be healed. Each people is filled with fury against the other because
each hates its neighbours' Gods, deeming that none can be held as
deities save its own. So when one of these peoples held a feast, the
chiefs and leaders of their enemy thought good to seize the occasion, so
that their foe might not enjoy a glad and merry day, with the delight of
grand banquets, with tables set out at every temple and every crossway,
and with night-long feasts, and with couches spread all day and all
night, and sometimes discovered by the sun upon the seventh morn. Egypt,
doubtless, is a rude country; but in indulgence, so far as I myself have
noted, its barbarous rabble yields not to the ill-famed Canopus.7
Victory too would be easy, it was thought, over men steeped in wine,
stuttering and stumbling in their cups. On the one side were men dancing
to a swarthy piper, with unguents, such as they were, and flowers and
chaplets on their heads; on the other side, a ravenous hate. First come
loud words, as preludes to the fray: these serve as a trumpet-call to
their hot passions; then shout answering shout, they charge. Bare hands
do the fell work of war. Scarce a cheek is left without a gash; scarce
one nose, if any, comes out of the battle unbroken. Through all the
ranks might be seen battered faces, and features other than they were;
bones gaping through torn cheeks, and fists dripping with blood from
eyes. Yet the combatants deem themselves at play and waging a boyish
warfare because there are no corpses on which to trample. What avails a
mob of so many thousand brawlers if no lives are lost? So fiercer and
fiercer grows the fight; they now search the ground for stones----the
natural weapons of civic strife----and hurl them with bended arms
against the foe: not such stones as Turnus or Ajax flung, or like that
with which the son of Tydeus 8 struck Aeneas on the hip, but such as may
be cast by hands unlike to theirs, and born in these days of ours. For
even in Homer's day the race of man was on the wane; earth now produces
none but weak and wicked men that provoke such Gods as see them to
laughter and to loathing.
To come back from our digression: the one side, reinforced, boldly
draws the sword and renews the fight with showers of arrows; the
dwellers in the shady palm-groves of neighbouring Tentyra turn their
backs in headlong flight before the Ombite charge. Hereupon one of them,
over-afraid and hurrying, tripped and was caught; the conquering host
cut up his body into a multitude of scraps and morsels, that one dead
man might suffice for everyone, and devoured it bones and all. There was
no stewing of it in boiling pots, no roasting upon spits; so slow and
tedious they thought it to wait for a fire, that they contented
themselves with the corpse uncooked!
One may here rejoice that no outrage was done to the flame that
Prometheus stole from the highest heavens, and gifted to the earth. I
felicitate the element, and doubt not that you are pleased; but never
was flesh so relished as by those who endured to put that carcase
between their teeth. For in that act of gross wickedness, do not doubt
or ask whether it was only the first gullet that enjoyed its meal; for
when the whole body had been consumed, those who stood furthest away
actually dragged their fingers along the ground and so got some smack of
The Vascones,9 fame tells us, once prolonged their lives by such food
as this; but their case was different. Unkindly fortune had brought on
them the last dire extremity of war, the famine of a long siege. In a
plight like that of the people just named, resorting to such food
deserves our pity, inasmuch as not till they had consumed every herb,
every living thing, and everything else to which the pangs of an empty
belly drove them----not till their very enemies pitied their pale, lean
and wasted limbs----did hunger make them tear the limbs of other men,
being ready to feed even upon their own. What man, what God, would
withhold a pardon from bellies which had suffered such dire straits, and
which might look to be forgiven by the Manes of those whose bodies they
were devouring? To us, indeed, Zeno 10 gives better teaching, for he
permits some things, though not indeed all things, to be done for the
saving of life; but how could a Cantabrian 11 be a Stoic, and that too
in the days of old Metellus? 12 To-day the whole world has its Greek and
its Roman Athens; eloquent Gaul has trained the pleaders of Britain, and
distant Thule 13 talks of hiring a rhetorician. Yet the people I have
named were a noble people; and the people of Zacynthos,14 their equals
in bravery and honour, their more than equals in calamity, offer a like
excuse. But Egypt is more savage than the Maeotid 15 altar; for if we
may hold the poet's tales as true, the foundress of that accursed Tauric
rite does but slay her victims; they have nought further or more
terrible than the knife to fear. But what calamity drove these Egyptians
to the deed? What extremity of hunger, what beleaguering army, compelled
them to so monstrous and infamous a crime? Were the land of Memphis to
run dry, could they do aught else than this to shame the Nile for being
loth to rise? No dread Cimbrians or Britons, no savage Scythians or
monstrous Agathyrsians,16 ever raged so furiously as this unwarlike and
worthless rabble that hoists tiny sails on crockery ships, and plies
puny oars on boats of painted earthenware! No penalty can you devise for
such a crime, no fit punishment for a people in whose minds rage and
hunger are like and equal things. When Nature gave tears to man, she
proclaimed that he was tender-hearted; and tenderness is the best
quality in man. She therefore bids us weep for the misery of a friend
upon his trial, or when a ward whose streaming cheeks and girlish locks
raise a doubt as to his sex brings a defrauder into court. It is at
Nature's behest that we weep when we meet the bier of a full-grown
maiden, or when the earth closes over a babe too young for the funeral
pyre. For what good man, what man worthy of the mystic torch,17 and such
as the priest of Ceres would wish him to be, believes that any human
woes concern him not? It is this that separates us from the dumb herd;
and it is for this that we alone have had allotted to us a nature worthy
of reverence, capable of divine things, fit to acquire and practise the
arts of life, and that we have drawn from on high that gift of feeling
which is lacking to the beasts that grovel with eyes upon the ground. To
them in the beginning of the world our common maker gave only life; to
us he gave souls as well, that fellow-feeling might bid us ask or
proffer aid, gather scattered dwellers into a people, desert the
primeval groves and woods inhabited by our forefathers, build houses for
ourselves, with others adjacent to our own, that a neighbour's threshold
from the confidence that comes of union, might give us peaceful
slumbers; shield with arms a fallen citizen, or one staggering from a
grievous wound, give battle signals by a common trumpet, and seek
protection inside the same city walls, and behind gates fastened by a
But in these days there is more amity among serpents than among men;
wild beasts are merciful to beasts spotted like themselves. When did the
stronger lion ever take the life of the weaker? In what wood did a boar
ever breathe his last under the tusks of a boar bigger than himself? The
fierce tigress of India dwells in perpetual peace with her fellow; bears
live in harmony with bears. But man finds it all too little to have
forged the deadly blade on an impious anvil; for whereas the first
artificers only wearied themselves with forging hoes and harrows, spades
and ploughshares, not knowing how to beat out swords, we now behold a
people whose wrath is not assuaged by slaying someone, but who deem that
a man's breast, arms, and face afford a kind of food. What would
Pythagoras say, or to what place would he not flee, if he beheld these
horrors of to-day,----he who refrained from every living creature as if
it were human, and would not indulge his belly with every kind of
1. The famous statue of Memnon at Thebes, which emitted musical
sounds at daybreak.
2. King of the Phaeacians, to whom Ulysses narrated his adventures.
3. The clashing rocks (συμπληγάδεσ) at the mouth of the Bosporus.
4. One of the crew of Ulysses turned into a pig by Circe.
5. Aemilius Juncus was consul in A.D. 127. This fixes the earliest date
for this Satire.
6. Ombi and Tentyra (now Dendera), towns in Upper Egypt.
7. A city in the Delta, near the W. mouth of the Nile.
9. A Spanish tribe N. of the Ebro; their chief town, Calagurris, was
reduced by Afranius in B.C. 72, after the fall of Sertorius.
10. The founder of the Stoic school.
11. The Vascones were not Cantabrians, who were more to the W.
12. Q. Caecilius Metellus conducted the war against Sertorius, B.C.
13. The most distant land or island to the N.; possibly Shetland or
14. A poetic name for the Spanish town of Saguntum, supposed to have
been founded from Zacynthus; taken by Hannibal B.C. 218.
15. The palus Maeotis was the sea of Azov: strangers were there
sacrificed on the altar of the Tauric (i.e. Crimean) Artemis.
16. An uncertain tribe, placed by Herodotus in Transylvania.
17. i.e. worthy of being initiated in the Eleusinian mysteries.
The Immunities of the Military
Who can count up, Gallius, all the prizes of prosperous soldiering? I
would myself pray to be a trembling recruit if I could but enter a
favoured camp under a lucky star: for one moment of benignant fate is of
more avail than a letter of commendation to Mars from Venus, or from his
mother,1 who delights in the sandy shore of Samos.
Let us first consider the benefits common to all soldiers, of which
not the least is this, that no civilian will dare to thrash you; if
thrashed himself, he must hold his tongue, and not venture to exhibit to
the Praetor the teeth that have been knocked out, or the black and blue
lumps upon his face, or the one eye left which the doctor holds out no
hope of saving. If he seek redress, he has appointed for him as judge a
hob-nailed centurion with a row of jurors with brawny calves sitting
before a big bench. For the old camp law and the rule of Camillus still
holds good which forbids a soldier to attend court outside the camp, and
at a distance from the standards. "Most right and proper it is," you
say, "that a centurion should pass sentence on a soldier; nor shall I
fail of satisfaction if I make good my case." But then the whole cohort
will be your enemies; all the maniples will agree as one man in applying
a cure to the redress you have received by giving you a thrashing which
shall be worse than the first. So, as you possess a pair of legs, you
must have a mulish brain worthy of the eloquent Vagellius to provoke so
many jack-boots, and all those thousands of hobnails. And besides who
would venture so far from the city? Who would be such a Pylades 2 as to
go inside the rampart? Better dry your eyes at once, and not importune
friends who will but make excuses. When the judge has called for
witnesses, let the man, whoever he be, who saw the assault dare to say,
"I saw it," and I will deem him worthy of the beard and long hair of our
forefathers. Sooner will you find a false witness against a civilian
than one who will tell the truth against the interest and the honour of
And now let us note other profits and perquisites of the service. If
some rascally neighbour have filched from me a dell or a field of my
ancestral estate, and have dug up, from the mid point of my boundary,
the hallowed stone which I have honoured every year with an offering of
flat cake and porridge; or if a debtor refuses to repay the money that
he has borrowed, declaring that the signatures are false, and the
document null and void: I shall have to wait for the time of year when
the whole world begin their suits, and even then there will be a
thousand wearisome delays. So often does it happen that when only the
benches have been set out----when the eloquent Caecilius is taking off
his cloak, and Fuscus has gone out for a moment----though everything is
ready, we disperse, and fight our battle after the dilatory fashion of
the courts. But the gentlemen who are armed and belted have their cases
set down for whatever time they please; nor is their substance worn away
by the slow drag-chain of the law.
Soldiers alone, again, have the right to make their wills during
their fathers' lifetime; for the law ordains that money earned in
military service is not to be included in the property which is in the
father's sole control. This is why Coranus, who follows the standards
and earns soldier's pay, is courted by his own father, though now
tottering from old age. The son receives the advancement that is his
due, and reaps the recompense for his own good services. And indeed it
is the interest of the General that the most brave should also be the
most fortunate, and that all should have medals and necklets to be proud
The Satire breaks off here.
2. The inseparable friend of Orestes.