Gaius Petronius Arbiter
original name Titus Petronius Niger
died ad 66
reputed author of the Satyricon, a literary portrait of Roman society of
the 1st century ad.
The most complete and the most authentic account of Petronius’ life
appears in Tacitus’ Annals, an account that may be supplemented, with
caution, from other sources. It is probable that Petronius’ correct name
was Titus Petronius Niger. From his high position in Roman society, it
may be assumed that he was wealthy; he belonged to a noble family and
was therefore, by Roman standards, a man from whom solid achievements
might have been expected. Tacitus’ account, however, shows that he
belonged to a class of pleasure-seekers attacked by the Stoic
philosopher Seneca, men who “turned night into day”; where others won
reputation by effort, Petronius did so by idleness. On the rare
occasions, however, when he was appointed to official positions, he
showed himself energetic and fully equal to public responsibilities. He
served as governor of the Asian province of Bithynia and later in his
career, probably in ad 62 or 63, held the high office of consul, or
first magistrate of Rome.
After his term as consul, Petronius was received by Nero into his
most intimate circle as his “director of elegance” (arbiter elegantiae),
whose word on all matters of taste was law. It is from this title that
the epithet “Arbiter” was attached to his name. Petronius’ association
with Nero fell within the emperor’s later years, when he had embarked on
a career of reckless extravagance that shocked public opinion almost
more than the actual crimes of which he was guilty. What Petronius
thought of his imperial patron may be indicated by his treatment of the
rich vulgarian Trimalchio in the Satyricon. Trimalchio is a composite
figure, but there are detailed correspondences between him and Nero that
cannot, given the contemporary nature of the work, be accidental and
that strongly suggest that Petronius was sneering at the emperor.
Tacitus records that Nero’s friendship ultimately brought on
Petronius the enmity of the commander of the emperor’s guard, Tigellinus,
who in ad 66 denounced him as having been implicated in a conspiracy of
the previous year to assassinate Nero and place a rival on the imperial
throne. Petronius, though innocent, was arrested at Cumae in southern
Italy; he did not wait for the inevitable sentence but made his own
preparations for death. Slitting his veins and then bandaging them again
in order to delay his death, he passed the remaining hours of his life
conversing with his friends on trivial topics, listening to light music
and poetry, rewarding or punishing his slaves, feasting, and finally
sleeping “so that his death, though forced upon him, should seem
The Satyricon, or Satyricon liber (“Book of Satyrlike Adventures”), is a
comic, picaresque novel that is related to several ancient literary
genres. In style it ranges between the highly realistic and the
self-consciously literary, and its form is episodic. It relates the
wanderings and escapades of a disreputable trio of adventurers, the
narrator Encolpius (“Embracer”), his friend Ascyltos (“Scot-free”), and
the boy Giton (“Neighbour”). The surviving portions of the Satyricon
(parts of Books XV and XVI) probably represent about one-tenth of the
complete work, which was evidently very long. The loose narrative
framework encloses a number of independent tales, a classic instance
being the famous “Widow of Ephesus” (Satyricon, ch. 111–112). Other
features, however, recall the “Menippean” satire; these features include
the mixture of prose and verse in which the work is composed; and the
digressions in which the author airs his own views on various topics
having no connection with the plot.
The longest and the best episode in the surviving portions of the
Satyricon is the Cena Trimalchionis, or “Banquet of Trimalchio” (ch.
26–78). This is a description of a dinner party given by Trimalchio, an
immensely rich and vulgar freedman (former slave), to a group of friends
and hangers-on. This episode’s length appears disproportionate even to
the presumed original size of the Satyricon, and it has little or no
apparent connection with the plot. The scene is a Greco-Roman town in
Campania, and the guests, mostly freedmen like their host, are drawn
from what corresponded to the petit bourgeois class. Trimalchio is the
quintessence of the parvenu, a figure familiar enough in ancient
satirical literature, but especially so in the 1st century ad, when
freedmen as a class were at their most influential.
Two features distinguish Petronius’ “Banquet” from other ancient
examples: its extraordinary realism and the figure of Trimalchio. It is
obvious that the table talk of the guests in the “Banquet” is based on
the author’s personal observation of provincial societies. The speakers
are beautifully and exactly characterized and their dialogue, quite
apart from the invaluable evidence for colloquial Latin afforded by the
vulgarisms and solecisms in which it abounds, is a humorous masterpiece.
Trimalchio himself, with his vast wealth, his tasteless ostentation, his
affectation of culture, his superstition, and his maudlin lapses into
his natural vulgarity, is more than a typical satirist’s figure. As
depicted by Petronius he is one of the great comic figures of literature
and is fit company for Shakespeare’s Falstaff. The development of
character for its own sake was hardly known in ancient literature: the
emphasis was always on the typical, and the classical rules laid down
that character was secondary to more important considerations such as
plot. Petronius, in his treatment of Trimalchio, transcended this almost
universal limitation in a way that irresistibly recalls Dickens, and
much else in the “Banquet” is Dickensian—its exuberance, its boisterous
humour (rare in ancient literature, where wit predominates), and its
loving profusion of detail.
The rest of the Satyricon is hardly to be compared to the “Banquet.”
Insofar as any moral attitude at all is perceptible in the work as a
whole, it is a trivial and debased brand of hedonism. The aim of the
Satyricon was evidently above all to entertain by portraying certain
aspects of contemporary society, and when considered as such, the book
is of immense value: superficial details of the speech, behaviour,
appearance, and surroundings of the characters are exactly observed and
vividly communicated. The wealth of specific allusions to persons and
events of Nero’s time shows that the work was aimed at a contemporary
audience, and certain features suggest that the audience in fact
consisted of Nero and his courtiers. The realistic descriptions of low
life recall the emperor’s relish for slumming expeditions; and the
combination of literary sophistication with polished obscenity is
consistent with the wish to titillate the jaded palates of a debauched
If Petronius’ book has a message, it is aesthetic rather than moral.
The emphasis throughout the account of Trimalchio’s dinner party is on
the contrast between taste and tastelessness. Stylistically, too, the
Satyricon is what Tacitus’ account of the author would lead one to
expect. The language of the narrative and the educated speakers is pure,
easy, and elegant, and the wit of the best comic passages is brilliant;
but the general impression, even when allowance is made for the
fragmentary state of the text, is that of a book written quickly and
somewhat carelessly by a writer who would not take the necessary trouble
to discipline his astonishing powers of invention. In his book, as in
his life, Petronius achieved fame by indolence.
Edward John Kenney
Satyricon (or Satyrica) is a Latin work of
fiction in a mixture of prose and poetry. It is believed to have been
written by Gaius Petronius, though the manuscript tradition identifies
the author as a certain Titus Petronius. As with the Metamorphoses of
Apuleius, classical scholars often describe it as a "Roman novel",
without necessarily implying continuity with the modern literary form.
The surviving portions of the text detail the misadventures of the
narrator, Encolpius, and his lover, a handsome sixteen year old boy
named Giton. Throughout the novel, Encolpius has a hard time keeping his
lover faithful to him as he is constantly being enticed away by others.
Encolpius' friend Ascyltus (who seems to have previously been in a
relationship with Encolpius) is another major character. It is a rare
example of a Roman novel, the only other surviving example (quite
different in style and plot) being Metamorphoses written by Lucius
Apuleius. It is also extremely important evidence for the reconstruction
of what everyday life must have been like for the lower classes during
the early Roman Empire.
Translated by Alfred R. Allinson
Such a long time has passed since first I promised you the story of
my adventures I am resolved to keep my word today, seeing we are happily
met together to season those matters with lively conversation and tales
of a merry and diverting sort.
Fabricius Veiento was discoursing very wisely to us just now on the
follies of superstition, exposing the various forms of priestly
charlatanry, the holy men's mania for prophecy, and the effrontery they
display in expounding mysteries they very often
i utterly fail to comprehend themselves. Is it not much the same type of
madness that afflicts our declaimers, who shout: "These wounds I got,
defending our common liberties; this eye I lost in your behalf. Give me
a helping hand to lead me to my children, for my poor maimed limbs
refuse to bear my weight." Even such extravagances might be borne, if
they really served to guide beginners in the way of eloquence; but all
pupils gain by these high-flown themes, these empty sounding phrases, is
this, that on entering the forum they imagine themselves transported
into a new and strange world.
This is the reason, in my opinion, why young men grow up such
blockheads in the schools, because they neither see nor hear one single
thing connected with the usual circumstances of everyday life, nothing
but stuff about pirates lurking on the seashore with fetters in their
hands, tyrants issuing edicts to compel sons to cut off their own
fathers' heads, oracles in times of pestilence commanding three virgins
or more to be sacrificed to stay the plague,-- honey-sweet, well-rounded
sentences, words and facts alike as it were, besprinkled with poppy and
ii Under such a training it is no more possible to acquire good taste
than it is not to stink, if you live in a kitchen. Give me leave to tell
you that you rhetoricians are chiefly to blame for the ruin of Oratory,
for with your silly, idle phrases, meant only to tickle the ears of an
audience, you have enervated and deboshed the very substance of true
Young men were not bound down to declamations in the days when Sophocles
and Euripides found the very words they wanted to best express their
meaning. No cloistered professor had as yet darkened men's intellects,
when Pindar and the nine Lyric bards shrank from emulating the Homeric
note. And not to cite poets exclusively,-- I cannot see that either
Plato or Demosthenes ever practised this sort of mental exercise. A
noble, and so to say chaste, style is not overloaded with ornament, not
turgid; its own natural beauty gives it elevation.
Then after a while this windy, extravagant deluge of words invaded
Athens from Asia, and like a malignant star, blasting the minds of young
men aiming at lofty ideals, instantly broke up all rules of art and
struck eloquence dumb. Since that day who has reached the perfection of
Thucydides, the glory of Hyperides? Nay! not a poem has been written of
bright and wholesome complexion; but all, as if fed on the same
unhealthy diet, have lacked stamina to attain old age. Painting moreover
shared the same fate, after Egypt presumptuously invented a compendious
method for that noble Art.
iii Such and suchlike reflections I was indulging in one day before a
numerous audience, when Agamemnon came up, curious to see who it was
they were listening to so attentively. Well! he declined to allow me to
declaim longer in the Portico than he had himself sweated in the schools
but: "Young man," he cries, "seeing your words are something better than
mere popular commonplaces, and-- a very rare occurrence-- you are an
admirer of sound sense, I will confide to you a professional secret. In
the choice of these exercises it is not the masters that are to blame.
They are forced to be just as mad as all the rest; for if they refuse to
teach what pleases their scholars, they will be left, as Cicero says, to
lecure to empty benches. Just as false-hearted sycophants, scheming for
a seat at a rich man's table, make it their chief business to discover
what will be most agreeable hearing to their host, for indeed their only
way to gain their end is by cajolement and flattery; so a professor of
Rhetoric, unless like a fisherman he arm his hook with the bait he knows
the fish will take, may stand long enough on his rock without a chance
iv "Whose fault is it then? It is the parents deserve censure, who will
not give their children the advantages of a strict training. In the
first place their hopes, like everything else, are centered in ambition,
and so being impatient to see their wishes fulfilled, they hurry lads
into the forum when still raw and half taught, and indue mere babes with
the mantle of eloquence, an art they admit themselves to be equaled by
none in difficulty. If only they would let them advance step by step in
their tasks, so that serious students might be broken in by solid
reading, steady their minds with the precepts of philosophy, chasten
their style with unsparing correction, study deep and long what they
propose to imitate, and refuse to be dazzled by puerile graces, then and
then only would the grand old type of Oratory recover its former
authority and stateliness. Nowadays, boys waste their time at school; as
youths, they are jeered at in the forum, and what is worse than either,
no one will acknowledge, as an old man, the faultiness of the teaching
he received in his younger days.
"But that you may not imagine I disapprove of satirical impromptus in
the Lucilian vein, I will myself throw my notions on this matter into
v "He that would be an orator, must strive
To follow out the discipline of old,
And heed the laws of stern frugality;
Not his to haunt the Court with fawning brow,
Nor sit a flatterer at great folks' boards;
Not his with boon companions o'er the wine
To overcloud his brain, nor at the play
To sit and clap, agape at actors' tricks.
But whether to Tritonia's famous halls
The Muses lead his steps, or to those walls
That Spartan exiles rear'd or where
The Sirens' song thrill'd the enraptured air
Of all his tasks let Poesy be first,
And Homer's verse the fount to quench his thirst.
Soon will be master deep Socratic lore,
And wield the arms Demosthenes erst bore.
Then to new modes must he in turn be led,
And Grecian wit to Roman accents wed.
Nor in the forum only will he find
Meet occupation for his busy mind;
On books he'll feast, the poet's words of fire,
Heroic tales of War and Tully's patriot ire,
Such be thy studies; then, whate'er the theme,
Pour forth thine eloquence in copious stream."
vi Listening attentively to the speaker, I never noticed that Ascyltos
had given me the slip; and I was still walking up and down in the
gardens full of the burning words I had heard, when a great mob of
students rushed into the Portico. Apparently these had just come from
hearing an impromptu lecture of some critic or other who had been
cutting up Agamemnon's speech. So whilst the lads were making fun of his
sentiments and abusing the arrangement of the whole discourse, I seized
the opportunity to escape, and started off at a run in pursuit of
Ascyltos. But I was heedless about the road I followed, and indeed felt
by no means sure of the situation of our inn, the result being that
whichever direction I took, I presently found myself back again at my
starting point. At last, exhausted with running and dripping with sweat,
I came across a little old woman, who was selling herbs.
vii "Prithee, good mother," say I, "can you tell me where I live?"
Charmed with the quiet absurdity of my question, "Why certainly!" she
replied; and getting up, went on before me. I thought she must be a
witch; but presently, when we had arrived at a rather shy neighborhood,
the obliging old lady drew back the curtain of a doorway, and said,
"Here is where you ought to live."
I was just protesting I did not know the house, when I catch sight of
mysterious figures prowling between rows of name-boards, and naked
harlots. Then when too late, I saw I had been brought into a house of
ill fame. So cursing the old woman's falseness, I threw my robe over my
head and made a dash right through the brothel to the opposite door,
when lo! just on the threshold, whom should I meet but Ascyltos, fagged
out and half dead like myself? You would have thought the very same old
hag had been his conductress. I made him a mocking bow, and asked him
what he was doing in such a disreputable place?
viii Wiping the sweat from his face with both hands, he replied, "If
you only knew what happened to me!"
"Why! what has happened?" said I.
Then in a faint voice he went on, "I was wandering all over the town,
without being able to discover where I had left our inn, when a
respectable looking man accosted me, and most politely offered to show
me the way. Then after traversing some very dark and intricate alleys,
he brought me where we are, and producing his affair, began begging me
to grant him my favors. In two twos the woman had taken the fee for the
room, and the man laid hold of me; and if I had not proved the stronger,
I should have fared very ill indeed."
While Ascyltos was thus recounting his adventures, up came his
respectable friend again, accompanied by a woman of considerable
personal attractions, and addressing himself to Ascyltos, besought him
to enter, assuring him he had nothing to fear, and that as he would not
consent to play the passive, he should do the active part. The woman on
her side was very anxious I should go with her. Accordingly we followed
the pair, who led us among the name-boards, where we saw in the chambers
persons of both sexes behaving in such fashion I concluded they must
every one have been drinking satyrion. On seeing us, they endeavored to
allure us to sodomy with enticing gestures; and suddenly one fellow with
his clothes well tucked up assails Ascyltos, and throwing him down on a
bed, tries to get to work a-top of him. I spring to the sufferer's
rescue, and uniting our efforts, we make short work of the ruffian.
Ascyltos bolts out of the house, and away, leaving me to escape their
beastly advances as best I might; but discovering I was too strong for
them and in no mood for trifling, they left me alone.
ix After running about almost over the city, I caught sight of Giton,
as it were a fog, standing at the corner of an alley close to the door
of our inn, and hurried to join him. I asked my favorite whether he had
got anything ready for our dinner, whereupon the lad sat down on the bed
and began wiping away the tears with his thumb. Much disturbed at my
favorite's distress, I demanded what had happened. For a long time I
could not drag a word out of him, not indeed till I had added threats to
prayers. Then he reluctantly told me. "That favorite or comrade of yours
came into our lodging just now, and set to work to force me. When I
screamed he drew a sword and said, 'If you're a Lucretia, you've found a
Hearing this, I exclaimed, shaking my two fists in Ascyltos' face. "What
have you to say now, you pathic prostitute, you, whose very breath is
abominable?" Ascyltos feigned extreme indignation, and immediately
repeated my gesture with greater emphasis, crying in still louder tones,
"Will you hold your tongue, you filthy gladiator, who after murdering
your host, had luck enough to escape from the criminals' cage at the
Amphitheater? Will you hold your tongue, you midnight cut-throat, who
never, when at your bravest, durst face an honest woman? Didn't I serve
you for a minion in an orchard, just as this lad does now in an inn?"
"Did you or did you not," I interrupted, "sneak off from the master's
x "What was I to do, fool, when I was dying of hunger? Stop and
listen to a string of phrases no better than the tinkling of broken
glass or the nonsensical interpretations in dream books? By great
Hercules, you are dead baser than I; to compass a dinner you have
condescended to flatter a Poet!" This ended our unseemly wrangle, and we
both burst into a fit of laughter, and proceeded to discuss other
matters in a more peaceable tone.
But the recollection of his late violence coming over me afresh,
"Ascyltos," I said, "I see we cannot get on together; so let us divide
between us our bits of common funds, and each try to make head against
poverty on his own bottom. You are a scholar; so am I. I don't wish to
spoil your profits, so I'll take up another line. Else shall we find a
thousand causes of quarrel every day, and soon make ourselves the talk
of the town."
Ascyltos raised no objection, merely saying, "For today, as we have
accepted, in our quality of men of letters, an invitation to dine out,
don't let us lose our evening; but tomorrow, since you wish it, I will
look out for a new lodging and another bedfellow."
"Poor work," said I, "putting off the execution of a good plan." It was
really my naughty passions that urged me to so speedy a parting; indeed
I had been long wishing to be rid of his jealous observation, in order
to renew my old relations with my sweet Giton. Ascyltos, mortally
offended at my remark, rushed out of the room without another word. So
sudden a departure boded ill; for I knew his ungovernable temper and the
strength of his passions. So I went after him, to keep an eye on his
doings and guard against their consequences; but he slipped adroitly out
of my sight, and I wasted a long time in a fruitless search for the
xi After looking through the whole city, I came back to my little
room, and now at length claiming my full tale of kisses, I clip my
darling lad in the tightest of embraces; my utmost hopes of bliss are
fulfilled to the envy of all mankind. The rites were not yet complete,
when Ascyltos crept up stealthily to the door, and violently bursting in
the bolts, caught me at play with his favorite. His laughter and
applause filled the room, and tearing off the mantle that covered us,
"Why! what are you after," he cries, "my sainted friend? What! both
tucked cozily under one coverlet?" Nor did he stop at words, but
detaching the strap from his wallet, he fell to thrashing me with no
perfunctory hand, seasoning his blows with insulting remarks. "This is
the way you divide stock with a comrade, is it? Not so fast, my friend."
So unexpected was the attack I was obliged to put up with the blows in
Accordingly I took the matter as a joke, and it was well I did so;
otherwise I should have had to fight my rival. My counterfeited
merriment calmed his anger, and he even smiled faintly. "Look you,
Encolpius," said he, "are you so buried in your pleasures, you never
reflect that our money is exhausted, and the trifles we have left are
valueless. Town is good for nothing in the summer days; there'll be
better luck in the country. Let's go visit our friends."
Necessity constrained me to approve his advice and restrain the
expression of my resentment. So, loading Giton with our scanty baggage,
we quitted the city and made our way to the country house of Lycurgus, a
Roman knight. Ascyltos had been a minion in former days, so he gave us
an excellent reception, and the company assembled there rendered our
entertainment still more delightful. First and foremost was Tryphaena, a
very handsome woman, who had come with Lichas, master of a ship and
owner of estates near the seacoast.
Words cannot describe the pleasures we enjoyed in this most delightful
spot, though Lycurgus's table was frugal enough. You must know we lost
no time in pairing off as lovers. The lovely Tryphaena was my fancy, and
readily acceded to my wishes. But scarcely was I in enjoyment of her
favors, when Lichas, furious at his lady-love being filched from him,
insisted I must indemnify him for the injury done him. She had long been
his mistress; so he made the festive proposal that I should make good
his loss in person. He pressed me passionately; but Tryphaena possessing
my heart, my ears were deaf to his importunities. My refusal made him
still more eager and he followed me about like a dog, and actually came
into my chamber one night. Finding his entreaties scorned, he tried to
force me; but I shouted so loudly I roused the household and by favor of
Lycurgus's countenance was saved from the ruffian's attempts.
Eventually thinking Lycurgus's house inconvenient for his purpose, he
endeavored to persuade me to be his guest. When I refused his
invitation, he got Tryphaena to use her influence. The latter begged me
to comply with Lichas's wishes, what made her so ready to do so being
the prospect of leading a more independent life there. Accordingly I
follow where my love leads the way. But Lycurgus, having renewed his
former relations with Ascyltos, would not let him go. So we agreed that
he should stop with Lycurgus, whilst we accompanied Lichas, resolving at
the same time that, as opportunity offered, we should each and all lay
hands on anything handy for the common stock.
My consent delighted Lichas beyond measure. He hurried on our departure
all he could, and forthwith bidding our friends farewell, we arrived the
same day at his house. Lichas had cleverly arranged it in such a way
that he sat beside me during the journey, while Tryphaena was next to
Giton. This he had contrived because he knew the woman's notorious
fickleness, and the result justified his expectations. In fact she
instantly fell in love with the lad, as I saw easily enough. Lichas
moreover made a point of drawing my attention to the circumstance, and
assured me there was no doubt about it. This made me receive his
advances more complacently, at which he was overjoyed. He felt certain
the injury my mistress was doing me would turn my love into contempt,
and that consequently out of pique against Tryphaena, I should be the
more disposed to welcome his proposals.
Such was the state of affairs under Lichas's roof. Tryphaena was
desperately enamored of Giton; Giton's whole heart was aflame for
Tryphaena; I hated the sight of both; while Lichas, studying to please
me, contrived some fresh diversion every day. Doris, his pretty wife,
eagerly seconded his efforts, and that so charmingly she soon drove
Tryphaena from my heart. A wink informed Doris of the state of my
feelings, and she returned the compliment with alluring glances; so that
this mute language, anticipating the tongue, furtively expressed the
mutual liking we had simultaneously conceived for one another.
I soon saw Lichas was jealous, and this made me cautious; while the
quick eyes of love had already revealed to the wife the husband's
designs on me. The first opportunity we had of conversing together, she
announced her discovery to me. I frankly admitted the fact, and told her
how austerely I had always treated his advances. But like a wise,
discreet woman, she only said, "Well! well! we must act judiciously in
the matter." I followed her advice, and found that, to yield to the one
was to win the other.
Meanwhile, while Giton was recruiting his exhausted strength, Tryphaena
was for returning to me; but on my repulsing her overtures, her love
changed into furious hate. Nor was the ardent little wanton long in
discovering my dealings both with husband and wife. The former's
naughtiness with me she made light of, for she lost nothing by it; but
she went savagely for Doris and her secret pleasures. She denounced her
to Lichas, whose jealousy proving stronger than his love, he prepared
for revenge. However Doris, warned by Tryphaena's maid to look out for
storms, refrained from any clandestine meetings for the present.
As soon as I learned the truth, cursing at once Tryphaena's perfidy and
Lichas's ingratitude, I made up my mind to be gone. Fortune moreover was
in my favor; for the very day before a vessel, dedicated to Isis and
laden with rich offerings for the feast of the goddess, had run ashore
on the rocks of the neighboring coast.
I talked the matter over with Giton, and he readily enough agreed to my
plan, for Tryphaena, after draining him of his strength, was now openly
neglecting him. Accordingly we set off betimes next day for the coast,
and easily got aboard the wreck as we were known to Lichas's servants,
who were in charge. But finding they insisted on attending us everywhere
out of politeness, so stopping any chance of looting, I left Giton with
them and seizing an opportunity to get away by myself, crept into the
poop, where stood the image of Isis. This I robbed of a rich mantle and
a silver sistrum, besides appropriating other valuables from the
Captain's cabin. This done, I slipped down a mooring-rope without
anybody seeing me except Giton, who likewise eluded the men in charge
before very long and sneaked after me.
On his coming up, I showed him my booty, and we resolved to make the
best of our way to Ascyltos, but we could not reach Lycurgus's house
till next day. Arrived there, I gave Ascyltos a brief account of the
robbery, and of our untoward love adventures. His advice was to get
Lycurgus on our side, telling him that fresh persecutions on the part of
Lichas had determined our sudden and secret flight. When he heard this
Lycurgus took an oath he would never fail us as a bulwark against our
Our flight was not observed until Tryphaena and Doris awoke and got up;
for every morning we made a point of attending these ladies' toilette.
Our unwonted absence therefore being noticed, Lichas dispatched
messengers to look for us, particularly to the seashore. From them he
heard of our having visited the ship, but not a word about the robbery.
This was still undiscovered, because the poop lay seawards, and the
Master had not as yet returned to his vessel.
Eventually, when no doubt remained as to our flight, which annoyed
Lichas extremely, the latter turned furiously upon Doris, considering
her to be responsible for it. I will not describe his language nor the
violence he indulged in towards her; indeed I do not know the details.
Enough to say that Tryphaena, the originator of all the disturbance,
prevailed on Lichas to go and look for us at Lycurgus's house, as being
our most likely place of refuge, choosing herself to accompany him
thither, that she might find opportunity to load us with the abuse and
scorn we had so well merited at her hands.
Setting out next day, they arrived at the mansion. We were not at home,
Lycurgus having taken us to a feast of Hercules that was being
celebrated at a neighboring village. Learning this, they followed us in
all haste, and came up with us in the Portico of the Temple. Their
appearance disconcerted us not a little. Lichas instantly began to
complain bitterly of our running away to Lycurgus; but was met with such
an angry brow and haughty air by the latter, that plucking up a spirit,
I loudly cried shame on his lecherous attempts on my person both under
Lycurgus's roof and his own. Tryphaena interfered, but got the worst of
it, too, for I proclaimed her baseness to the crowds of people our
altercation had attracted, and in token of the truth of my allegations,
I showed them Giton pale and bloodless and myself brought to death's
door by the strumpet's wantonness. The crowd burst into loud shouts of
laughter, which so abashed our adversaries that they withdrew,
crestfallen and vowing vengeance.
Perceiving we had quite won Lycurgus over, they determined to wait for
him at his own house, in order to disabuse his mind of this
prepossession in our favor. The solemnities finished too late for us to
return to the mansion that night; so Lycurgus took us to a country lodge
of his situated halfway thither. Here he left us next morning still
asleep, while he went home himself to attend to the dispatch of
business. He found Lichas and Tryphaena waiting for him there, who
talked him over so cleverly, they actually persuaded him to deliver us
up into their hands. Lycurgus, a man naturally cruel and treacherous,
meditating how best to betray us, urged Lichas to go for help, while he
went himself to the lodge to secure our capture.
Arrived there, he accosted us with as harsh a mien as ever Lichas might
have been expected to show; then, wringing his hands, he upbraided us
with our falsehood to Lichas, and ordered us to be kept fast prisoners
in the chamber where we lay, excluding Ascyltos and refusing to hear a
word from him in our defense. Taking the latter with him to his mansion,
he left us behind in custody till his return.
On the journey Ascyltos tried in vain to modify Lycurgus's
determination, but neither prayers, caresses nor tears would move him.
Accordingly our comrade conceived the idea of setting us at liberty by
other means. Indignant at Lycurgus's harshness, he positively refused to
sleep with him, and so found himself in a better position to carry out
the plan he had formed.
Waiting till the household were buried in their first sleep, he took our
bits of baggage on his shoulders, and slipping through a breach in the
wall he had previously marked, he reached the lodge at daybreak.
Entering the house unopposed, he sought our room, which the guards had
taken care to secure. There was little difficulty in opening the door,
for the bolt being of wood, he loosened this by inserting an iron bar.
Presently the lock dropped off, and awoke us in falling, for we were
snoring away in spite of our unhappy situation. Yet so sound asleep were
our guards, being tired out with watching, that the crash roused no one
Then Ascyltos, entering our prison, briefly told us what he had done for
us, nor indeed were many words necessary. While we were busy dressing,
it occurred to me to kill the watchmen and loot the house. I confided my
notion to Ascyltos, who approved of the robbery, but said we could gain
our ends better without bloodshed. Accordingly, knowing as he did all
the ins and outs of the premises, he led us to the store chamber, the
doors of which he undid. Appropriating the more valuable of the
contents, we made off while it was still early morning, and avoiding the
public roads, never stopped till we deemed ourselves safe from pursuit.
Hereupon Ascyltos, taking breath, declared emphatically what delight he
had felt in pillaging Lycurgus's house. He was an arrant miser, he said,
and had given him good reason to complain; while he had never paid him a
farthing for his nights' work, he had at the same time kept him on very
short commons and the thinnest of drink. So niggardly indeed was the
fellow that notwithstanding his boundless wealth, he used to deny
himself the barest necessaries of life.
Unhappy Tantalus, with plenty curst,
'Mid fruits for hunger faints, 'mid streams for
The Miser's emblem! who of all possess'd,
Yet fears to taste, in blessings most unbless'd.
Ascyltos was for returning to Naples that same day. "But surely,"
said I, "it is acting imprudently to go to the very place of all others
where they are most likely to look for us. Let us keep away for a while
and ramble about the country. We have the means to do it in comfort." My
advice was approved, and we set out for a hamlet embellished with a
number of agreeable country residences, where several of our familiars
were enjoying the pleasures of the season. But scarcely had we covered
half the distance when a storm of rain coming down in bucketfuls
compelled us to fly for shelter to the nearest village. Entering the
inn, we found a crowd of other travelers who had turned in there to
escape the inclemency of the weather.
The throng prevented our attracting notice, which made it all the easier
for us to pry about in search of anything we could appropriate. Ascyltos
picked up from the floor, quite unobserved, a little bag containing a
number of gold pieces. We were delighted at this lucky beginning; but
fearing some one might claim the money, we stole away by the back door.
There we found a servant saddling some horses, who at that moment left
them to go back to the house for something he had forgotten. Profiting
by his absence, I snatched a superb riding-cloak from a saddle, undoing
the straps that fastened it. This done, we made off into the nearest
wood under cover of some outhouses.
Sitting down in the depths of the wood, where we were in comparative
safety, we held a council of war about concealing the gold, not wishing
either to be accused of the theft or to be robbed of it ourselves.
Finally we decided to sew it up in a hem of an old threadbare tunic,
which I threw round my shoulders, and entrusting the cloak to Ascyltos,
we prepared to start for the city by way of bypaths. But just as we were
quitting the forest, we hear a voice pronounce these terrible words:
"They shan't escape. They've gone into the wood; and if we spread out
and search everywhere, they'll easily be caught."
These words filled us with such consternation that Ascyltos and Giton
dashed away through the bushes in the direction of the city; while I
stepped back so hurriedly that, without my knowing it, the precious
tunic slipped from my shoulders. At length, tired out and unable to go a
step further, I lay down under a tree, and then for the first time
discovered my loss. Vexation gave me new strength, and starting up again
to look for the treasure, I wandered up and down for a long time in
vain, till worn out with toil and trouble I plunged into the darkest
recesses of the forest, where I remained for four weary hours. Sick at
last of the horrible solitude, I sought a way out, but as I advanced I
caught sight of a peasant. Then indeed I wanted all my assurance, and it
did not fail me. Going boldly up to him, I asked my way to the city,
complaining I had been lost for ever so long in the wood. He led me very
civilly into the high road, where he came upon two of his comrades, who
reported they had searched all the paths through the forest, but had
found nothing except a tunic which they showed him.
I had not the impudence to claim the garment, as may be supposed. My
vexation redoubled, and I uttered many a groan over my lost gold.
Thus it was already late when I reached the city. Entering the inn, I
found Ascyltos stretched half dead on a bed. Disturbed at not seeing the
tunic intrusted to my care, Ascyltos eagerly demanded it. After a while
my strength came back a little, and I then told him the whole
misadventure; but he thought I was joking, and though an appealing flood
of tears further confirmed my asseverations, he remained obviously
incredulous, thinking I wanted to cheat him out of the money. But after
all, what most troubled our minds was the hue and cry after us. I
mentioned this to Ascyltos, but he made light of it, having managed to
extricate himself successfully from the affair. Besides he was convinced
we were safe enough, for we were not known, and nobody had set eyes on
us. Still we thought it advisable to feign sickness, so as to have a
pretext for keeping our room the longer. But our cash running short, we
had to go abroad sooner than we had intended, and under the spur of
necessity to sell some of our plunder.
xii On the approach of night we took our way to the market-place,
where we saw an abundance of goods for sale, not indeed articles of any
great value, but rather such as needed the kindly veil of darkness,
considering their rather shady origin. Thither we also conveyed our
stolen riding-cloak, and seizing the opportunity, displayed a corner of
it in a quiet spot, hoping a buyer might be attracted by the beauty of
It was not long before a countryman, whose face seemed somehow familiar
to me, approached in company with a young woman, and began to examine
the cloak minutely. On the other part Ascyltos, casting his eye on the
rustic customer's shoulders, was instantly struck dumb with surprise.
Nor could I myself avoid some perturbation of mind when I saw him; for
he appeared to be the identical peasant who had found our old tunic in
the loneliness of the wood. Yes! he was the very man. But Ascyltos,
afraid to trust his eyes and anxious not to do anything rash, first went
up to the fellow as a would-be purchaser, drew the tunic from his
shoulders and began to scrutinize it carefully.
xiii By a wonderful stroke of luck the rustic had not as yet had the
curiosity to search the seams, but was offering the thing for sale with
an indifferent air as some beggar-man's leavings. When Ascyltos saw our
money was intact and that the vendor was a person of no great account,
he drew me a little aside from the throng and said, "Do you observe,
comrade, our treasure that I was regretting as lost is come back again?
That is our tunic and it seems to have the gold pieces in it still: they
haven't been touched. But what can we do about it? How are we to prove
ownership?" I was greatly cheered not only at beholding our loot once
more, but also because I thus found myself freed from a villainous
suspicion, and at once declared against any sort of beating about the
bush. I advised we should bring a civil action right out to compel him
to give up the property to its rightful owners by law, if he refused to
do so otherwise.
xiv Not so Ascyltos, who had a wholesome fear of the law. "Who knows
us," he said, "in this place, or will believe what we say? My own strong
opinion is we should buy the property, our own though it be, now we see
it, and rather pay a small sum to recover our treasure than get mixed up
in a lawsuit, the issue of which is uncertain."
What worth our laws, when pelf alone is king,
When to be poor is to be always wrong?
The Cynic sage himself, stern moralist,
Is not averse to sell his words for gold;
Justice is bought, the highest bidder wins,
A partial Judge directs a venal Court.
But alas! except for a brace of copper coins, which we had purposed
to spend on lupines and peas, we were penniless just then. So, for fear
the prey might escape us meanwhile, we resolved to part with the cloak
at a lower price, making the profit on the one transaction balance the
loss on the other. Accordingly we spread out our merchandise; but the
woman who had hitherto been standing beside the countryman closely
muffled, now suddenly, after carefully scanning certain marks on the
cloak, laid hold of the hem with both hands, and screamed out "Stop,
thieves! Stop, thieves!" at the top of her voice.
At this we were not a little disconcerted, but that we might not seem to
acquiesce without a protest, we in our turn seized the tattered, filthy
tunic, and declared no less spitefully it was our goods they had in
their possession. But our case was far from being on all fours with
theirs; and the crowd, that had gathered at the outcry, began to make
fun of our impertinent claim, and not unnaturally, when on the one side
they asserted their right to a most valuable cloak, but we to this old
rag hardly worth mending. However Ascyltos adroitly stopped their
ridicule by crying out, directly he could get a
xv hearing, "Well! look you, every man likes his own property best; let
‘em give us up our tunic, and they shall have their cloak."
Both the rustic and the young woman were ready enough to make the
exchange; but a couple of attorneys, or to give them their true name,
night-prowlers, who wanted to appropriate the cloak themselves, demanded
that both the articles in dispute should be deposited with them, and the
Judge look into the case in the morning; for not only must the ownership
of these be investigated, but quite another question altogether as well,
to wit, a suspicion of theft on the part of both parties.
The bystanders were by this time all in favor of sequestration, and an
individual in the crowd, a bald man with a very pimply face, who was in
the habit of undertaking occasional jobs for the lawyers, impounded the
cloak, saying he would produce it on the morrow. But the real object was
self-evident, that the knavish crew having once got hold of the article
in question, they might smuggle it out of the way, while we should be
scared by the fear of a charge of theft from putting in an appearance at
the appointed time. This was very much what we wanted ourselves, and
luck seconded the wishes of both parties. For the countryman, indignant
at our requiring the surrender of an old rag, threw the tunic in
Ascyltos's face, and withdrawing his own claim altogether, merely
demanded the sequestration of the cloak as the only object of
litigation. Having thus recovered our treasure, as we felt, we rush off
full speed for our inn, and bolting the room door, start making merry
over the astuteness both of our opponents and of the crowd, who had
exercised so much ingenuity in giving us back our money!
As we were unstitching the tunic to take out the gold pieces, we
overheard some one asking the innkeeper what kind of people they were
who had just entered his house. Terrified at the question, I went down
after he had gone, to see what was the matter, and found that a Pretor's
lictor, whose duty it was to see the names of strangers entered in the
public registers, had seen two such enter the inn, whose names he had
not yet taken down, and was therefore making inquiries as to their
nationality and business. This information the inn-keeper gave in such
an offhand manner as made me suspect his house was not altogether a safe
place for us; so, to avoid the chance of arrest, we determined to leave
the place and not return till after dark. Accordingly we sallied forth,
leaving the care of providing our dinner to Giton.
As our wish was to avoid the frequented streets, we went by way of the
more lonely districts of the city. Towards nightfall we met in a remote
spot two respectably robed and good-looking women, and followed them
slowly and softly to a small temple, which they entered, and from which
a strange humming was audible, like the sound of voices issuing from the
recesses of a cavern. Curiosity impelled us likewise to enter the
temple, and there we beheld a number of women, resembling Bacchantes,
each brandishing an emblem of Priapus in her right hand. This was all we
were permitted to see; for the instant they caught sight of us, they set
up such a shouting the vault of the sacred building trembled, and tried
to seize hold of us. But we fled as fast as our legs would carry us back
to our inn.
xvi Scarcely had we eaten our fill of the dinner Giton had provided
us, when the door resounded with a most imperative knocking. Turning
pale, we demanded, "Who's there?"-- "Open the door," was the answer,
"and you'll find out." We were still arguing when the bolt tumbled off
of itself, the door flew open and admitted our visitor. This was a woman
with her head muffled, the very same who a little time before had been
standing by the countryman's side in the market. "Ah, ha!" she cried,
"did you suppose you had really made a fool of me? I am Quartilla's
maid, Quartilla whose devotions before the grotto you disturbed. She is
coming in person to the inn, and begs to speak with you. Do not be
afraid; she brings no accusation, and has no wish to punish your fault.
She only wonders what god it was brought such genteel young men into her
xvii We were still dumb, not knowing in the least what kind of
response to give, when the mistress herself entered, accompanied only by
a young girl, and sitting down on my couch, wept for ever so long. Not
even then had we a word to offer, but looked on in amazement at this
tearful display of pretended grief. When the enticing shower had
exhausted itself, she drew back the hood that concealed her haughty
features, and wringing her hands till the finger joints cracked, "What
means this recklessness?" she cried; "wherever have you learned these
knavish tricks that for audacity outdo the heroes of the story-books. By
heaven! I pity you! for be sure no man ever looked with impunity on
forbidden sights. Truly our neighborhood is so well stocked with deities
to hand, you will easier meet with a god than a man. But don't imagine
I've come here vindictively; I'm more moved by your youth than angered
by the wrong you have done me. It was in sheer ignorance, I still think,
you committed your unpardonable act of sacrilege.
"Last night I was grievously tormented, and shaken with such alarming
tremblings, I dreaded an attack of tertian ague. So in my sleep I prayed
for a remedy, and was bidden seek you out, that you might assuage the
violence of the complaint by means of a cunning contrivance also
indicated in my dream. But indeed and indeed it is not so much this cure
I am exercised about; what wrings my heart and drives me almost to
despair is the dread that in your youthful levity you may reveal what
you saw in the shrine of Priapus, and betray the counsels of the gods to
the common herd. This is why I stretch forth suppliant hands to your
knees, and beg and pray you not to turn into ribaldry and jest our
nocturnal rites, nor willingly divulge the secrets of so many years,--
secrets known to barely a thousand persons all told."
After this impassioned appeal she again burst into tears, and shaken by
mighty sobs, entirely buried her face and bosom in my couch. Meantime,
moved at once by pity and apprehension, I bade her keep a good heart,
and be quite easy on either head. For, I assured her, not one of us
would divulge the mysteries, and moreover, if the god had revealed any
extraordinary means of curing her ague, we would second divine
providence, even if it involved danger to ourselves.
xviii The woman cheered up at this promise, and fell to kissing me
thick and fast, and changing from tears to laughter, combed back with
her fingers some stray locks that had escaped from behind my ears. "I
make truce with you," she said, "and withdraw my case against you. But
if you had not agreed about the remedy I am seeking, I had a posse of
men all ready for tomorrow to avenge my wrongs and vindicate my honor.
"Contempt is hateful; what I love is power,
To work my will at my own place and hour.
A wise man's scorn bends the most stubborn will,
The noblest victor he who spares to kill."
Next, clapping her hands together, she suddenly burst into such a fit of
laughter as quite alarmed us. The maid, who had entered first followed
suit, and was followed in turn by the little girl who had come in along
xix The whole place reëchoed with their forced merriment; meantime,
seeing no reason for this rapid change of mood, we stand staring now at
each other, now at the women. At length says Quartilla, "I have given
express orders that no mortal be admitted into this inn today, that you
may, without interruption, apply the remedy for my ague."
"At this declaration Ascyltos stood for a time appalled; for myself, I
turned colder that a Gallic winter, and was unable to utter a word.
Still our numbers somewhat reassured me against any disaster. After all,
they were only three weak women, quite incapable of any serious assault
on us, who if we had nothing else manly about us, were at least of the
male sex. Anyway we were all ready prepared for the fray; in fact I had
already so arranged the couples, that if it came to a fight, I should
myself tackle Quartilla, Ascyltos the waiting-maid, Giton the girl.
In the middle of these reflections, up came Quartilla to me to be cured
of her ague; but finding herself sadly disappointed, she flung out of
the house in a rage. Returning after a little, she had us seized by some
unknown bravos and carried off to a magnificent palace.
At this crisis amazement and consternation quite broke our spirit,
certain death seeming to stare us
xx miserably in the face. "I beseech you, lady," I cried, "if you have
any sinister design, put us out of our misery at once; we have done
nothing so heinous as to deserve torturing to death." The maid, whose
name was Psyche, now carefully spread a rug on the marble floor, and
endeavored to rouse my member into activity, but it lay cold as a
thousand deaths could make it. Ascyltos had muffled his head in his
mantle, having doubtless learned from experience the peril of meddling
with other people's secrets. Meantime Psyche produced two ribbons from
her bosom, and proceeded to tie our hands with one and our feet with the
other. Finding myself thus fettered, "This is not the way," I protested,
"for your mistress to get what she wants." "Granted," replied the maid;
"but I have other remedies to my hand, and surer ones."
So saying, she brought me a goblet full of satyrion, and with quips and
cranks and a host of wonderful tales of its virtues, induced me to drain
off nearly the whole of the liquor. Then, because he had slighted her
overtures a little before, she poured what was left of the stuff over
Ascyltos's back without his noticing. The latter, seeing the stream of
her eloquence dried up, exclaimed, "Well! and am I not thought worthy to
have a drink too?" Betrayed by my laughter, the girl clapped her hands
and cried, "Why! I've given it you already, young man; you've had the
whole draft all to yourself." "What!" put in Quartilla, "has Encolpius
drunk up all our stock of satyrion?" and her sides shook with pretty
merriment. Eventually not even Giton could contain his mirth,
particularly when the little girl threw her arms round his neck, and
gave the boy, who showed no signs of reluctance, a thousand kisses.
xxi We should have cried out for help in our unhappy plight, but
there was no one to hear us and besides Psyche pricked my cheeks with
her hair pin every time I tried to call upon my fellow countrymen for
succor, while at the same time the other girl threatened Ascyltos with a
brush dipped in satyrion. Finally there entered a catamite, tricked out
in a coat of chestnut frieze, and wearing a sash, who would alternately
writhe his buttocks and bump against us, and beslaver us with the most
evil-smelling kisses, until Quartilla, holding a whalebone wand in her
hand and with skirts tucked up, ordered him to give the poor fellows
quarter. Then we all three swore the most solemn oaths the horrid secret
should die with us.
Next a company of wrestlers appeared, who rubbed us over with the proper
gymnastic oil, which was very refreshing. This gradually removed our
fatigue and resuming the dinner clothes that we had taken off, we were
then conducted into the adjoining room, where the couches were laid and
all preparations made for an elegant feast in the most sumptuous style.
We were requested to take our places, and the banquet opened with some
wonderful hors d'oeuvres, while the Falernian flowed like water. A
number of other courses followed, and we were all but falling asleep,
when Quartilla cried, "Come, come! can you think of sleep, when you know
this livelong night is owed to the service of Priapus?"
xxii Ascyltos was so worn out with all he had gone through he could
not keep his eyes open a moment longer, and the waiting-maid, whom he
had scorned and slighted, now proceeded to daub his face all over with
streaks of soot, and bepaint his lips and shoulders as he lay
I too, tired with the persecutions I had endured, was just enjoying
forty winks, as they say, while all the household, within doors and
without, had copied my example. Some lay sprawling about the diners'
feet, others propped against the walls, while others snored head to head
right on the threshold. The oil in the lamps had burned low, and they
shed a feeble, dying light, when two Syrian slaves came into the
banquet-room to crib a flagon of wine.
Whilst they were greedily fighting for it and scuffling amongst the
silver, it parted and broke in two. At the same moment the table with
the silver plate collapsed, and a goblet falling from perhaps a greater
height than the rest, struck the waiting-maid who was lying exhausted on
a couch underneath and cut her head open. She screamed out at the blow,
at once discovering the thieves and awakening some of the drunkards. The
Syrians, thus caught in the act, threw themselves with one accord onto a
couch, and started snoring as if they had been asleep ever so long.
By this time the chief butler had wakened up and put fresh oil into the
expiring lamps, while the other slaves after rubbing their eyes a bit,
had resumed their posts, and presently a cymbal-player came in and
roused us all up with a clash of her instruments.
xxiii So the banquet was resumed, and Quartilla challenged us to start a
fresh carouse, the tinkle of cymbals still further stimulating her
The next to appear is a catamite, the silliest of mankind and quite
worthy of the house, who beat his hands together, gave a groan, and then
spouted the following delightful effusion:
"Who hath a pathic lust,
With Delian vice accurst;
Who loves the pliant thigh,
Quick hand and wanton sigh;
Come hither, come hither, come hither,
Here shall he see
Gross beasts as he,
Lechers of every feather!"
Then, his poetry exhausted, he spat a most stinking kiss in my face;
before long he mounted on the couch where I lay and exposed me by force
in spite of my resistance. He labored hard and long to bring up my
member, but in vain. Streams of gummy paint and sweat poured from his
heated brow, and such a lot of chalk filled the wrinkles of his cheeks,
you might have thought his face was an old dilapidated wall with the
plaster crumbling away in the rain.
xxiv I could no longer restrain my tears, but driven to the last
extremity of disgust, "I ask you, lady," I cried, "is this the
'night-cap' (ambasicoetas) you promised me?" At this she clapped her
hands daintily, exclaiming, "Oh you clever boy! what a pretty wit you
have! Of course you didn't know 'night-cap' is another name for a
catamite?" Then, that my comrade might not miss his share too, I asked
her, "Now, on your conscience, is Ascyltos to be the only guest in the
room to keep holiday!"
"So?" she cried, "why! let Ascyltos have his 'night-cap' too!" In
obedience to her order, the catamite now changed his mount, and
transferring his attentions to my friend, set to grinding him under his
buttocks and smothering him with lecherous kisses.
All this while Giton had been standing by, laughing as if his sides
would split. Now Quartilla, catching sight of him, asked with eager
curiosity, whose lad he was. When I told her he was my little favorite,
"Why hasn't he kissed me then?" she cried, and calling him to her glued
her lips to his. Next minute she slipped her hand under his clothes, and
pulling out his unpractised tool, she observed, "This will be a very
pretty whet tomorrow to our naughty appetite. For today,-- ‘After such a
dainty dish, I will taste no common fish!'"
xxv Just as she was saying this, Psyche approached her mistress
laughingly and whispered something in her ear. "Yes! yes!" exclaimed
Quartilla, "a capital idea! why should not our little Pannychis lose her
maidenhood! ‘tis an excellent opportunity, indeed." Immediately they
brought in a pretty enough little girl, and who did not appear to be
more than seven years old the same child who had accompanied Quartilla
on her first visit to our room at the inn. So amid general applause and
indeed at the special request of the company, they began the bridal
preparations. I was horrified, and declared that, while on the one hand
Giton, who was a very modest boy, was quite unequal to such naughtiness,
on the other Pannychis was far too young to endure the treatment a woman
must expect. "Why!" said Quartilla, "is the girl any younger than I was
when I first submitted to a man? May Juno, my patroness, desert me, if I
can mind the time when I was a maid. As a child I was naughty with
little boys of my own age, and presently as the years rolled by, with
bigger lads, till I reached my present time of life. Hence I suppose the
proverb that says: ‘Who carried the calf, may well carry the bull.'"
Fearing my favorite might get into greater troubles if I were not there,
I got up to assist at the wedding ceremony.
xxvi By this time Psyche had thrown the bridal veil over the child's
head; our pathic friend was marching in front with a torch; a long
procession of drunken women followed, clapping their hands, having
previously decked the marriage bed with a splendid coverlet. Then
Quartilla, fired by the wanton pleasantry, likewise rose from table, and
seizing Giton drew him into the chamber. The lad was not at all loath to
go, and even the child manifested very little fear or reluctance at the
name of matrimony.
In due course when they were in bed and the door shut, we sat down on
the threshold of the nuptial chamber, and first of all Quartilla applied
an inquisitive eye to a crack in the door contrived for some such
naughty purpose, and watched their childish dalliance with lecherous
intentness. She drew me gently to her side to enjoy the same spectacle,
and our faces being close together as we looked, she would, at every
interval in the performance, twist her lips sideways to meet mine, and
kept continually pecking at me with a sort of furtive kisses.
Suddenly in the midst of these proceedings a prodigious thumping made
itself heard at the entrance door, and whilst everybody was wondering
what the unexpected interruption might mean, we saw a soldier come in,
one of the nightwatch, with a drawn sword in his hand and surrounded by
a crowd of young men. The fellow glared about him with bloodshot eyes
and braggadocio airs; presently spying Quartilla, he cried, "What have
we here, abandoned woman? How dare you make game of me with your
falsehoods and cheat me out of the night you promised me? But you shan't
go unpunished, I can tell you; you and your lover shall find out you
have a man to deal with."
Obeying the soldier's orders, his comrades now bind Quartilla and myself
together, mouth to mouth, bosom to bosom, and thigh to thigh, in the
midst of shouts of laughter. Then the catamite, still by the soldier's
order, began to beslaver me horribly all over with the odious kisses of
his stinking lips-- a treatment I had no means either of escaping from
or avoiding. Before long he debauched me, and worked his full will upon
my body. Meantime, the satyrion I had drunk a while before, stirring
every fiber to lasciviousness, I began to perform on Quartilla, while
she, fired with a like wantonness, showed no repugnance to the game. The
young soldiers burst into fits of laughter at the ludicrous performance;
for, while myself mounted by a vile catamite, involuntarily and almost
without knowing what I was at, I kept moving to him just as fast and
furiously as Quartilla was wriggling under me.
At this moment Pannychis, unaccustomed at her age to love's ardors,
raised a sudden cry of pain and consternation, which the soldiers heard.
The poor child was in the act of being ravished, and the triumphant
Giton had won a not bloodless victory. Roused by the sight, the man
rushed at them, and clipped now Pannychis, now Giton, and now both of
them together, in his sturdy arms. The girl burst into tears and
besought him to take pity on her tender years; but her prayers were
entirely unavailing, the soldier being only the more excited by her
childish charms. All Pannychis could do was to throw a veil over her
face and resign herself to endure whatever fate might bring her.
But at this crisis who should come to the unfortunate child's rescue, as
if she had dropped from the sky, but the very same old woman who had
beguiled me the day I was inquiring my road home? She burst into the
house with loud cries, declaring that a band of robbers was prowling
about the neighborhood while peaceful citizens were crying in vain for
help, the guard being asleep or busy with their victuals, at any rate
nowhere to be found. The soldier, much disturbed at what she said, fled
precipitately from the house and his companions following his example,
freed Pannychis from the impending danger which had threatened her and
relieved us all of our terror.
So weary was I by this time of Quartilla's lecherousness that I began to
revolve means of escape. I opened my mind to Ascyltos, who was only too
pleased to hear of my purpose, longing to be rid of Psyche's
The whole thing would have been plain enough sailing had not Giton been
locked up in the chamber; for we wished to take him with us and save him
from the viciousness of these strumpets. We were anxiously debating the
point when Pannychis fell out of bed, and her weight dragged Giton after
her. He was unhurt, but the child, having given her head a slight knock,
raised such an outcry that Quartilla in a fright rushed headlong into
the room, and so gave us an opportunity to escape.
Taking advantage of this opening without an instant's delay, we fly with
all speed to our inn and throwing ourselves into bed, spent the rest of
the night in security.
Going abroad next day, we came upon two of Quartilla's fellows who had
kidnapped us to her palace. No sooner did Ascyltos clap eyes on the
rascals than he vigorously attacked one of them, and after beating and
seriously wounding him, came to my help against the other. But this last
bore himself so stoutly that he managed to wound us both, though only
slightly, escaping himself without a scratch.
CHAPTER FIVE The third day had now arrived, the date appointed for
the free banquet at Trimalchio's; but with so many wounds as we had, we
deemed it better policy to fly than to remain where we were. So we made
the best of our way to our inn, and our hurts being only skin-deep after
all, we lay in bed and dressed them with wine and oil. Still one of the
rascals was lying on the ground disabled, and we were afraid we might
yet be discovered. Whilst we were still debating sadly with ourselves
how we might best escape the storm, a slave of Agamemnon's broke into
our trembling conclave, crying, "What! don't you recollect whose
entertainment it is this day?-- Trimalchio's, a most elegant personage;
he has a time-piece in his dining-room and a trumpeter specially
provided for the purpose keeps him constantly informed how much of his
lifetime is gone." So, forgetting all our troubles, we proceed to make a
careful toilette, and bid Giton, who had always hitherto been very ready
to act as servant, to attend us at the bath. xxvii Meantime in our gala
dresses, we began to stroll about, or rather to amuse ourselves by
approaching the different groups of ball-players. Amongst these we all
of a sudden catch sight of a bald-headed old man in a russet tunic,
playing ball amid a troupe of long-haired boys. It was not however so
much the boys, though these were well worth looking at, that drew us to
the spot, as the master himself, who wore sandals and was playing with
green balls. He never stooped for a ball that had once touched ground,
but an attendant stood by with a sackful, and supplied the players as
they required them. We noticed other novelties too. For two eunuchs were
stationed at opposite points of the circle, one holding a silver
chamber-pot, while the other counted the balls, not those that were in
play and flying from hand to hand, but such as fell on the floor. We
were still admiring these refinements of elegance when Menelaus runs up,
saying, "See! that's the gentleman you are to dine with; why! this is
really nothing else than a prelude to the entertainment." He had not
finished speaking when Trimalchio snapped his fingers, and at the signal
the eunuch held out the chamber-pot for him, without his ever stopping
play. After easing his bladder, he called for water, and having dipped
his hands momentarily in the bowl, dried them on one of the lads' hair.
xxviii There was no time to notice every detail; so we entered the bath,
and after stewing in the sweating-room, passed instantly into the cold
chamber. Trimalchio, after being drenched with unguent, was being rubbed
down, not however with ordinary towels but with pieces of blanketing of
the softest and finest wool. Meanwhile three bagnio doctors were
swilling Falernian under his eyes; and seeing how the fellows were
brawling over their liquor and spilling most of it, Trimalchio declared
it was a libation they were making in his particular honor. Presently
muffled in a wrap-rascal of scarlet frieze, he was placed in a litter,
preceded by four running-footmen in tinseled liveries, and a wheeled
chair, in which his favorite rode, a little old young man, sore-eyed and
uglier even than his master. As the latter was borne along, a musician
took up his place at this head with a pair of miniature flutes, and
played softly to him, as if he were whispering secrets in his ear. Full
of wonder we follow the procession and arrive at the same moment as
Agamemnon at the outer door, on one of the pillars of which was
suspended a tablet bearing the words: ANY SLAVE GOING ABROAD WITHOUT THE
MASTER'S PERMISSION SHALL RECEIVE ONE HUNDRED LASHES Just within the
vestibule stood the doorkeeper, dressed in green with a cherry-colored
sash, busy picking peas in a silver dish. Over the threshold hung a gold
cage with a black and white magpie in it, which greeted visitors on
their entrance. xxix But as I was staring open-eyed at all these fine
sights, I came near tumbling backwards and breaking my legs. For to the
left hand as you entered, and not far from the porter's lodge, a huge
chained dog was depicted on the wall, and written above in capital
letters: ‘WARE DOG! ‘WARE DOG! My companions made merry at my expense;
but soon regaining confidence, I fell to examining the other paintings
on the walls. One of these represented a slave-market, the men standing
up with labels round their necks, while in another Trimalchio himself,
wearing long hair, holding a caduceus in his hand and led by Minerva,
was entering Rome. Further on, the ingenious painter had shown him
learning accounts, and presently made steward of the estate, each
incident being made clear by explanatory inscriptions. Lastly, at the
extreme end of the portico, Mercury was lifting the hero by the chin and
placing him on the highest seat of a tribunal. Fortune stood by with her
cornucopia, and the three Fates, spinning his destiny with a golden
thread. I noticed likewise in the portico a gang of running-footmen
exercising under a trainer. Moreover I saw in a corner a vast armory;
and in a shrine inside were ranged Lares of silver, and a marble statue
of Venus, and a golden casket of ample dimensions, in which they said
the great man's first beard was preserved. I now asked the hall-keeper
what were the subjects of the frescoes in the atrium itself? "The Iliad
and Odyssey," he replied, "and on your left the combat of gladiators
given under Laenas." xxx We had no opportunity of examining the numerous
paintings more minutely, having by this time reached the banquet-hall,
at the outer door of which the house-steward sat receiving accounts. But
the thing that surprised me most was to notice on the doorposts of the
apartment fasces and axes fixed up, the lower part terminating in an
ornament resembling the bronze beak of a ship, on which was inscribed:
TO GAIUS POMPEIUS TRIMALCHIO AUGUSTAL SEVIR, CINNAMUS HIS TREASURER
Underneath this inscription hung a lamp with two lights, depending from
the vaulting. Two other tablets were attached to the doorposts. One, if
my memory serves me, bore the following inscription: ON DECEMBER
THIRTIETH AND THIRTY-FIRST OUR MASTER GAIUS DINES ABROAD The other
showed the phases of the moon and the seven planets, while lucky and
unlucky days were marked by distinctive studs. When, sated with all
these fine sights, we were just making for the entrance of the
banquet-hall, one of the slaves, stationed there for the purpose, called
out, "Right foot first!" Not unnaturally there was a moment's
hesitation, for fear one of us should break the rule. But this was not
all; for just as we stepped out in line right leg foremost, another
slave, stripped of his outer garments, threw himself before our feet,
beseeching us to save him from punishment. Not indeed that his fault was
a very serious one; in point of fact the Intendant's clothes had been
stolen when in his charge at the bath,-- a matter of ten sesterces or so
at the outside. So facing about, still right foot in front, we
approached the Intendant, who was counting gold in the hall, and asked
him to forgive the poor man. He looked up haughtily and said, "It's not
so much the loss that annoys me as the rascal's carelessness. He has
lost my dinner robes, which a client gave me on my birthday,-- genuine
Tyrian purple, I assure you, though only once dipped. But there! I will
pardon the delinquent at your request." xxxi Deeply grateful for so
signal a favor, we now returned to the banquet-hall, where we were met
by the same slave for whom we had interceded, who to our astonishment
overwhelmed us with a perfect storm of kisses, thanking us again and
again for our humanity. "Indeed," he cried, "you shall presently know
who it is you have obliged; the master's wine is the cup-bearer's
thank-offering." Well! at last we take our places, Alexandrian
slave-boys pouring snow water over our hands, and others succeeding them
to wash our feet and cleanse our toe-nails with extreme dexterity. Not
even while engaged in this unpleasant office were they silent, but sang
away over their work. I had a mind to try whether all the house servants
were singers and accordingly asked for a drink of wine. Instantly an
attendant was at my side, pouring out the liquor to the accompaniment of
the same sort of shrill recitative. Demand what you would, it was the
same; you might have supposed yourself among a troupe of pantomime
actors rather than at a respectable citizen's table. Then the
preliminary course was served in very elegant style. For all were now at
table except Trimalchio, for whom the first place was reserved, by a
reversal of ordinary usage. Among the other hors d'oeuvres stood a
little ass of Corinthian bronze with a packsaddle holding olives, white
olives on one side, black on the other. The animal was flanked right and
left by silver dishes, on the rim of which Trimalchio's name was
engraved and the weight. On arches built up in the form of miniature
bridges were dormice seasoned with honey and poppy-seed. There were
sausages, too, smoking hot on a silver grill, and underneath (to imitate
coals) Syrian plums and pomegranate seeds. xxxii We were in the middle
of these elegant trifles when Trimalchio himself was carried in to the
sound of music, and was bolstered up among a host of tiny cushions, a
sight that set one or two indiscreet guests laughing. And no wonder; his
bald head poked up out of a scarlet mantle, his neck was closely
muffled, and over all was laid a napkin with a broad purple stripe or
laticlave, and long fringes hanging down either side. Moreover he wore
on the little finger of his left hand a massive ring of silver gilt, and
on the last joint of the next finger a smaller ring, apparently of solid
gold, but starred superficially with little ornaments of steel. Nay! to
show this was not the whole of his magnificence, his left arm was bare,
and displayed a gold bracelet and an ivory circlet with a sparkling
clasp to put it on. xxxiii After picking his teeth with a silver
toothpick, "My friends," he began, "I was far from desirous of coming to
table just yet, but that I might not keep you waiting by my own absence,
I have sadly interfered with my own amusement. But will you permit me to
finish my game?" A slave followed him, bearing a draughtsboard of
terebinth wood and crystal dice. One special bit of refinement I
noticed; instead of the ordinary black and white men he had medals of
gold and silver respectively. Meantime, whilst he is exhausting the
vocabulary of a tinker over the game, and we are still at the hors
d'oeuvres, a dish was brought in with a basket on it, in which lay a
wooden hen, her wings outspread round her as if she were sitting.
Instantly a couple of slaves came up, and to the sound of lively music
began to search the straw, and pulling out a lot of peafowl's eggs one
after the other, handed them round to the company. Trimalchio turns his
head at this, saying, "My friends, it was by my orders the hen set on
the peafowl's eggs yonder; but by God! I am very much afraid they are
half-hatched. Nevertheless we can try whether they are eatable." For our
part, we take our spoons, which weighed at least half a pound each, and
break the eggs, which were made of paste. I was on the point of throwing
mine away, for I thought I discerned a chick inside. But when I
overheard a veteran guest saying, "There should be something good here!"
I further investigated the shell, and found a very fine fat beccafico
swimming in yolk of egg flavored with pepper. xxxiv Trimalchio had by
this time stopped his game and been helped to all the dishes before us.
He had just announced in a loud voice that any of us who wanted a second
supply of honeyed wine had only to ask for it, when suddenly at a signal
from the band, the hors d'oeuvres are whisked away by a troupe of
slaves, all singing too. But in the confusion a silver dish happened to
fall and a slave picked it up again from the floor; this Trimalchio
noticed, and boxing the fellow's ears, rated him soundly and ordered him
to throw it down again. Then a groom came in and began to sweep up the
silver along with the other refuse with his besom. He was succeeded by
two long-haired Ethiopians, carrying small leather skins, like the
fellows that water the sand in the amphitheater, who poured wine over
our hands; for no one thought of offering water. After being duly
complimented on this refinement, our host cried out, "Fair play's a
jewel!" and accordingly ordered a separate table to be assigned to each
guest. "In this way," he said, "by preventing any crowding, the stinking
servants won't make us so hot." Simultaneously there were brought in a
number of wine-jars of glass carefully stoppered with plaster, and
having labels attached to their necks reading: FALERNIAN; OPIMIAN
VINTAGE ONE HUNDRED YEARS OLD. Whilst we were reading the labels,
Trimalchio ejaculated, striking his palms together, "Alackaday! to think
wine is longer lived than poor humanity! Well! bumpers then! There's
life in wine. ‘Tis the right Opimian, I give you my word. I didn't bring
out any so good yesterday, and much better men than you were dining with
me." So we drank our wine and admired all this luxury in good set terms.
Then the slave brought in a silver skeleton, so artfully fitted that its
articulations and vertebræ were all movable and would turn and twist in
any direction. After he had tossed this once or twice on the table,
causing the loosely jointed limbs to take various postures, Trimalchio
moralized thus: Alas! how less than naught are we; Fragile life's
thread, and brief our day! What this is now, we all shall be; Drink and
make merry while you may.
xxxv Our applause was interrupted by the second course, which did not
by any means come up to our expectations. Still the oddity of the thing
drew the eyes of all. An immense circular tray bore the twelve signs of
the zodiac displayed round the circumference, on each of which the
Manoiple or Arranger had placed a dish of suitable and appropriate
viands: on the Ram ram's-head peas, on the Bull a piece of beef, on the
Twins fried testicles and kidneys, on the Crab simply a crown, on the
Lion African figs, on a Virgin a sow's haslet, on Libra a balance with a
tart in one scale and a cheesecake in the other, on Scorpio a small
sea-fish, on Sagittarius an eye-seeker, on Capricornus a lobster, on
Aquarius a wild goose, on Pisces two mullets. In the middle was a sod of
green turf, cut to shape and supporting a honey-comb. Meanwhile an
Egyptian slave was carrying bread around in a miniature oven of silver,
crooning to himself in a horrible voice a song on wine and laserpitium.
Seeing us look rather blank at the idea of attacking such common fare,
Trimalchio cried, "I pray you gentlemen, begin; the best of your dinner
xxxvi is before you." No sooner had he spoken than four fellows ran
prancing in, keeping time to the music, and whipped off the top of the
tray. This done, we beheld underneath, on a second tray in fact, stuffed
capons, a sow's paps, and as a centerpiece a hare fitted with wings to
represent Pegasus. We noticed besides four figures of Marsyas, one at
each corner of the tray, spouting out peppered fish-sauce over the
fishes swimming in the Channel of the dish.
We all join in the applause started by the domestics and laughingly
fall to on the choice viands. Trimalchio, as pleased as anybody with a
device of the sort, now called out, "Cut!" Instantly the Carver
advanced, and posturing in time to the music, sliced up the joint with
such antics you might have thought him a jockey struggling to pull off a
chariot-race to the thunder of the organ. Yet all the while Trimalchio
kept repeating in a wheedling voice, "Cut! Cut!" For my part, suspecting
there was some pretty jest connected with this everlasting reiteration
of the word, I made no bones about asking the question of the guest who
sat immediately above me. He had often witnessed similar scenes and told
me at once, "You see the man who is carving; well; his name is Cut. The
master is calling and commanding him at one and the same time."
xxxvii Unable to eat any more, I now turned towards my neighbor in
order to glean what information I could, and after indulging in a string
of general remarks, presently asked him, "Who is that lady bustling up
and down the room yonder?" "Trimalchio's lady," he replied; "her name is
Fortunata, and she counts her coin by the bushelful! Before? what was
she before? Why! my dear Sir! saving your respect, you would have been
mighty sorry to take bread from her hand. Now, by hook or by crook,
she's got to heaven, and is Trimalchio's factotum. In fact if she told
him it was dark night at high noon, he'd believe her. The man's rolling
in riches, and really can't tell what he has and what he hasn't got;
still his good lady looks keenly after everything, and is on the spot
where you least expect to see her. She's temperate, sober and well
advised, but she has a sharp tongue of her own and chatters like a
magpie between the bed-curtains. When she likes a man, she likes him;
and when she doesn't, well! she doesn't.
"As for Trimalchio, his lands reach as far as the kites fly, and his
money breeds money. I tell you, he has more coin lying idle in his
porter's lodge than would make another man's whole fortune. Slaves! why,
heaven and earth! I don't believe one in ten knows his own master by
sight. For all that, there's never a one of the fine fellows a word of
his wouldn't send scuttling into the nearest rat-hole.
xxxviii And don't you imagine he ever buys anything; every mortal thing
is home grown,-- wool, rosin, pepper; call for hen's milk and he'd
supply you! As a matter of fact his wool was not first-rate originally;
but he purchased rams at Tarentum and so improved the breed. To get
home-made Attic honey he had bees imported direct from Athens, hoping at
the same time to benefit the native insects a bit by a cross with the
Greek fellows. Why! only the other day he wrote to India for mushroom
spawn. He has not a single mule but was got by a wild ass. You see all
these mattresses; never a one that is not stuffed with the finest wool,
purple or scarlet as the case may be. Lucky, lucky dog!
"And look you, don't you turn up your nose at the other freedmen, his
fellows. They're very warm men. You see the one lying last on the last
couch yonder? He's worth his eight hundred thousand any of these days. A
self-made man; once upon a time he carried wood on his own two
shoulders. They do say,-- I don't know how true it may be, but I've been
told so,-- he snatched an Incubo's hat, and so discovered a treasure. I
grudge no man's good fortune, whatever God has seen good to give him.
He'll still take a box o' the ear for all that, and keeps a keen eye on
the main chance. Only the other day he placarded his house with this
C. POMPEIUS DIOGENES
IS PREPARED TO LET HIS GARRET
FROM JULY FIRST,
HAVING BOUGHT THE HOUSE HIMSELF."
"But the other man yonder, occupying a freedman's place, what of him?
Was he originally very well to do?" "I have not a word to say against
him. He was master once of a cool million, but he came to sad grief. I
don't suppose he has a hair on his head unmortgaged. Not that it was any
fault of his; there never was a better man, but his rascally freedmen
swindled him out of everything. Let me tell you, when the hospitable pot
stops boiling, and fortune has once taken the turn, friends soon make
themselves scarce." "What was the honorable calling he followed, that
you see him brought to this?" "He was an undertaker. He used to dine
like a King,-- boars in pastry, cakes of every sort and game galore,
cooks and pastry-cooks without end. More wine was spilt under his table
than another man has in his cellar. A dream-- not a life for a mere
mortal man! Even when his affairs were getting shaky, for fear his
creditors might think he was in difficulties, he posted this notice of
C. JULIUS PROCULUS
WILL PUT UP TO AUCTION
OF HIS SUPERFLUOUS FURNITURE."
xxxix This agreeable gossip was here interrupted by Trimalchio; for
the second course had now been removed, and the company being merry with
wine began to engage in general conversation. Our host then, lying back
on his elbow and addressing the company, said, "I hope you will all do
justice to this wine; you must make the fish swim again. Come, come, do
you suppose I was going to rest content with the dinner you saw boxed up
under the cover of the tray just now? ‘Is Ulysses no better known?'
Well, well! even at table we mustn't forget our scholarship. Peace to my
worthy patron's bones, who was pleased to make me a man amongst men. For
truly there is nothing can be set before me that will nonplus me by its
novelty. For instance the meaning of that tray just now can be easily
enough explained. This heaven in which dwell the twelve gods resolves
itself into twelve different configurations, and presently becomes the
Ram. So whosoever is born under this sign has many flocks and herds and
much wool, a hard head into the bargain, a shameless brow and a sharp
horn. Most of your schoolmen and pettifoggers are born under this sign."
We recommended the learned expounder's graceful erudition, and he went
on to add: "Next the whole sky becomes Bull; then are born obstinate
fellows and neatherds and such as think of nothing but filling their own
bellies. Under the Twins are born horses in a pair, oxen in a yoke, men
blessed with a sturdy brace of testicles, all who manage to keep in with
both sides. I was born under the Crab myself. Wherefore I stand on many
feet, and have many possessions both by sea and land; for the Crab is
equally adapted to either element. And this is why I never put anything
on that sign, so as not to eclipse my horoscope. Under the Lion are born
great eaters and wasters, and all who love to domineer; under the
Virgin, women and runaways and jailbirds; under the Scales, butchers and
perfumers and all retail traders; under the Scorpion, poisoners and
cutthroats; under the Archer, squint-eyed folks, who look at the greens
and whip off with the bacon; under Capricorn, the ‘horny-handed sons of
toil'; under Aquarius or the Waterman, innkeepers and pumpkin-heads;
under Pisces, or the Fishes, fine cooks and fine talkers. Thus the world
goes round like a mill, and is for ever at some mischief, whether making
men or marring them. But about the sod of turf you see in the middle,
and the honeycomb a-top of it, I have a good reason to show too. Our
mother Earth is in the middle, round-about like an egg, and has all good
things in her inside, like a honey-comb!"
xl "Clever! clever!" we cry in chorus and with hands uplifted to the
ceiling, swear Hipparchus and Aratus were not to be named in the same
breath with him. This lasted till fresh servants entered and spread
carpets before the couches, embroidered with pictures of fowling nets,
prickers with their hunting spears, and sporting gear of all kinds. We
were still at a loss what to expect when a tremendous shout was raised
outside the doors, and lo and behold! a pack of Laconian dogs came
careering round and round the very table. These were soon succeeded by a
huge tray, on which lay a wild boar of the largest size, with a cap on
its head, while from the tushes hung two little baskets of woven palm
leaves, one full of Syrian dates, the other of Theban. Round it were
little piglets of baked sweetmeat, as if at suck, to show it was a sow
we had before us; and these were gifts to be taken home with them by the
To carve the dish however, it was not this time our friend Cut who
appeared, the same who had dismembered the capons, but a great bearded
fellow, wearing leggings and a shaggy jerkin. Drawing his hunting knife,
he made a furious lunge and gashed open the boar's flank, from which
there flew out a number of fieldfares. Fowlers stood ready with their
rods and immediately caught the birds as they fluttered about the table.
Then Trimalchio directed each guest to be given his bird, and this done,
added "Look what elegant acorns this wildwood pig fed on." Instantly
slaves ran to the baskets that were suspended from the animal's tushes
and divided the two kind of dates in equal proportions among the diners.
xli Meantime, sitting as I did a little apart, I was led into a
thousand conjectures to account for the boar's being brought in with a
cap on. So after exhausting all sorts of absurd guesses, I resolved to
ask my former "philosopher and friend" to explain the difficulty that
tormented me so. "Why!" said he, "your own servant could tell you that
much. Riddle? it's as plain as daylight. The boar was presented with his
freedom at yesterday's dinner; he appeared at the end of the meal and
the company gave him his conge. Therefore today he comes back to table
as a freedman." I cursed my own stupidity, and asked no more questions,
for fear of their thinking I had never dined with good company before.
We were still conversing, when a pretty boy entered, his head wreathed
with vine-leaves and ivy, announcing himself now as Bromius, anon as
Lyaeus and Evous. He proceeded to hand round grapes in a small basket,
and recited in the shrillest of voices some verses of his master's
composition. Trimalchio turned round at the sound, and, "Dionysus," said
he, "be free (Liber)!" The lad snatched the cap from the boar's head and
stuck it on his own. Then Trimalchio went on again, "Well! you'll not
deny," he cried, "I have a Father Liber (a freeborn father) of my own."
We praised Trimalchio's joke, and heartily kissed the fortunate lad, as
he went round to receive our congratulations.
At the end of this course Trimalchio left the table to relieve
himself, and so finding ourselves free from the constraint of his
overbearing presence, we began to indulge in a little friendly
conversation. Accordingly Dama began first, after calling for a cup of
wine. "A day! what is a day?" he exclaimed, "before you can turn round,
it's night again! So really you can't do better than go straight from
bed to board. Fine cold weather we've been having; why! even my bath has
hardly warmed me. But truly hot liquor is a good clothier. I've been
drinking bumpers, and I'm downright fuddled. The wine has got into my
xlii Seleucus then struck into the talk: "I don't bathe every day,"
he said; "your systematic bather's a mere fuller. Water's got teeth, and
melts the heart away, a little every day; but there! when I've fortified
my belly with a cup of mulled wine, I say ‘Go hang!' to the cold. Indeed
I couldn't bathe today, for I've been to a funeral. A fine fellow he was
too, good old Chrysanthus, but he's given up the ghost now. He was
calling me just this moment, only just this moment; I could fancy myself
talking to him now. Alas! alas! what are we but blown bladders on two
legs? We're not worth as much as flies; they are some use, but we're no
better than bubbles. He wasn't careful enough in his diet, you say? I
tell you, for five whole days not one drop of water, or one crumb of
bread passed his lips. Nevertheless he has joined the majority. The
doctors killed him,-- or rather his day was come; the very best of
doctors is only a satisfaction to the mind. Anyhow he was handsomely
buried, on his own best bed, with good blankets. The wailing was first
class,-- he did a trifle of manumission before he died; though no doubt
his wife's tears were a bit forced. A pity he always treated her so
well. But woman! woman's of the kite kind. No man ought ever to do ‘em a
good turn; just as well pitch it in the well at once. Old love's an
xliii He was getting tiresome, and Phileros broke in: "Let's talk of
living. He's got his deserts, whatever they were; he lived well and died
well, what has he to complain about? He started with next to nothing,
and was ready to the last to pick a farthing out of a dunghill with his
teeth. So he grew and grew, like a honeycomb. Upon my word I believe he
left a round hundred million behind him, and all in ready money. But
I'll tell you the actual facts, for I'm the soul of truth, as they say.
He had a rough tongue, and a ready one, and was quarrelsomeness
personified. Now his brother was a fine fellow and a true friend, with a
free hand and keeping a liberal table. Just at the beginning he had a
bad bird to pluck, but the very first vintage set him on his legs, for
he sold his wine at his own price. But the thing that chiefly made him
lift up his head in the world was getting an inheritance, out of which
he managed to prig a good deal more than was really left him. And that
log Chrysanthus, falling out with his brother, has positively left all
his property to I don't know what scum of the earth. He goes too far,
say I, who goes outside his own kith and kin. But he had a lot of
overwise interfering servants, who proved his ruin. A man will never do
well, who believes all he's told too readily, especially a man in
business. Yet it's fair to say he did well enough all his life, getting
what was never meant for him. Evidently one of Fortune's favorites, in
whose hands lead turns to gold. But that's simple enough, when
everything runs on wheels exactly as you want it to. How old, think you,
was he when he died? Seventy and over. But he was as tough as horn; he
carried his age well, and he was still as black as a crow. I knew him
when he was a pretty loose fish, and he was lecherous to the last. Upon
my soul I don't believe he left a living thing in his house alone, down
to the dog. A great lover of lads, indeed a man of universal talents and
tastes. Not that I blame him; this was all he got out of life."
xliv So much for Phileros; then Ganymede began: "Yes! you talk away,"
he said, "about things that concern neither heaven nor earth, but no one
ever thinks of the pinch of famine that's upon us. I swear I couldn't
come across a mouthful of bread this day. And how the drought holds!
Starvation's been the word for a whole twelvemonth now. Bad cess to the
Ediles, who are in collusion with the bakers-- ‘you scratch my back, and
I'll scratch yours.' And so poor folks suffer; for your rich fellows'
jawbones keep feast-day all the year round. Ah! if only we had those
lion-hearted chaps I found here, when first I came from Asia. That was
something like living. ‘Twas like the midlands of Sicily for plenty, and
they used to batter those vampires about so that Jupiter positively
"Why! I remember Safinius; he used to live at the Old Arch when I was a
boy. It was a peppercorn, I tell you, not a man. Wherever he went, he
made the ground smoke under him. An upright, downright honest man, and a
trusty friend, one you might confidently play mora with in the dark. But
in Court, how he pounded ‘em down, one and all; he didn't talk in
figures of speech, not he, but straight out. Then when he pleaded in the
Forum, his voice would swell out like a trumpet, though he never sweated
or spat. I believe myself he had a smack of Asiatic blood in him. And
how civil he was to return our bows and give each man his name, just as
if he'd been one of ourselves. So in those days provisions were dirt
cheap. A halfpenny loaf,-- when you'd bought it, you couldn't have
finished it, with another man to help you! Now,-- I've seen a bullock's
"Alas! alas! Things get worse and worse every day, and this city of ours
is growing like a cow's tail, backwards. Why ever have we an Edile not
worth three figs, who thinks more of a halfpenny than of all our lives?
So he sits at home and rubs his hands, making more coin in a day than
another man's whole fortune comes to. I know one transaction brought him
in a thousand gold denars. Why! if we weren't geldings, he wouldn't be
so pleased with himself long. Nowadays the folks are lions at home, and
"As for me, I've eaten up my duds, and if the scarcity goes on, I shall
sell my bits of houses. What is to become of us, if neither gods nor men
take pity on this unhappy city? As I hope for happiness, I think it's
all the gods' doing. For nobody any more believes heaven to be heaven,
nobody keeps fast, nobody cares one straw for Jupiter, but all men shut
their eyes and count up their own belongings. In former days the
long-robed matrons went barefoot, with unbound hair and a pure heart, up
the hill to pray Jupiter for rain; and instantly it started raining
bucketfuls,-- then or never,-- and they all came back looking like
drowned rats. So the gods come stealthy-footed to our destruction,
because we have no piety or reverence. The fields lie idle, and--"
xlv "I beseech you," cried Echion, the old-clothes-man, at this
point, "I beseech you, better words! Luck's for ever changing, as the
chawbacon said, when he lost his brindled hog. If not today, then
tomorrow; that's the way the world wags. My word! you couldn't name a
better countryside, if only the inhabitants were to match. True, we are
in low water for the moment, but we're not the only ones. We must not be
so over particular, the same heaven is over us all. If you lived
elsewhere, you'd say pigs ran about here ready roasted.
"And I tell you, we're going to have a grand show in three days from now
at the festival-- none of your common gangs of gladiators, but most of
the chaps freedmen. Our good Titus has a heart of gold and a hot head;
‘twill be do or die, and no quarter. I'm in his service, he is no
shirker! He'll have the best of sharp swords and no backing out; bloody
butcher's meat in the middle, for the amphitheater to feast their eyes
on. And he's got the wherewithal; he was left thirty million, his father
came to a bad end. Suppose he does spend four hundred thousand or so,
his property won't feel it, and his name will live for ever. He has
already got together a lot of ponies and a female chariot fighter, and
Glyco's factor, who was caught diverting his mistress. You'll see what a
row the people will have betwixt the jealous husbands and the happy
lovers. Anyhow Glyco, who's not worth twopence, condemned his factor to
the beasts,-- which was simply betraying his own dishonor. How was the
servant to blame, who was forced to do what he did? It was she, the
pisspot, deserved tossing by the bull far more than he. But there, if a
man can't get at the donkey's back, he must thrash the donkey's pack.
And how could Glyco ever suppose Hermogenes' girl should come to any
good. He could cut a kite's claws flying; a snake doesn't father a rope.
Glyco! Glyco! you've paid your price; as long as you live, you're a
marked man,-- a brand Hell only can obliterate. A man's mistakes always
come home to roost.
"Why! I can nose out now what a feast Mammaea is going to give us, two
gold denars each for me and mine. If he does so, I only hope he'll show
no favor whatever to Norbanus. You may rest assured he will clap on all
sail. And in good sooth what has the other ever done for us? He gave a
show of twopenny halfpenny gladiators, such a rickety lot,-- blow on
them, they'd have fallen flat; and I've seen better bestiaries. He
killed his mounted men by torchlight, you might have taken them for
dunghill cocks. One was mule-footed, another bandy-legged, while the
third, put up to replace a dead man, was a deadhead himself, for he was
hamstrung before beginning. The only one to show any spunk was a
Thracian, and he only fought when we tarred him on. In the end they all
got a sound thrashing; in fact the crowd had cried ‘Trice up!' for every
one of them, they were obviously such arrant runaways. ‘Anyhow I gave
you a show,' said he. ‘And I applauded,' said I; ‘reckon it up, and I
gave you more than I got. One good turn deserves another.'
xlvi "You look, Agamemnon, as if you were saying to yourself,
‘Whatever is that bore driving at?' I talk, because you fellows who can
talk, won't talk. You're not of our stuff and so you laugh at poor men's
conversation. You're a monument of learning, we all know. But there, let
me persuade you one day to come down into the country and see our little
place. We'll find something to eat, a pullet and a few eggs; it will be
grand, even though the bad weather this year has turned everything
upside down. Anyway we shall find enough to fill our bellies.
"And there's a future pupil growing up for you, my little lad at home.
He can repeat four pieces already; if he lives, you will have a little
servant at your beck and call. If he has a spare moment, he never lifts
his head from his slate. He's a bright lad with good stuff in him,
though he is so gone on birds. I've killed three linnets of his, and
told him a weasel ate ‘em. But he has found other hobbies, and he's
devoted to painting. Why! he is already showing his heels to the Greek,
and beginning to take capitally to his Latin, though his master is too
easy-going and too restless; he knows his work well enough, but won't
take proper pains. Then there's another, not a learned man but a very
ingenious one, who teaches more than he knows. Accordingly he comes to
the house on high days and holidays, and whatever you give him, he looks
pleased. So I've just bought the lad some lawbooks, for I want him to
have a smack of law for home use. There's bread and butter in that. For
as to Literature, he has been tarred enough already with that brush. If
he kicks, I've made up my mind to teach him a trade,-- a barber, or an
auctioneer, or best of all a lawyer,-- which nothing but Hell can rob
him of. So I impress on him every day. ‘Believe me, my first-born,
whatever you learn, you learn for your good. Look at Phileros the
advocate; if he hadn't studied, he would be starving today. The other
day, just the other day, he was carting things round on his shoulders,
now he is a match for Norbanus himself. Learning's a treasure, and a
trade never starves.'"
xlvii Such were the brilliant remarks that were flashing round the
board, when Trimalchio re-entered, and after wiping his brow and
scenting his hands, "Pardon me, my friends," he said after a brief
pause, "but for several days I have been costive. My physicians were
nonplused. However, pomegranate rind and an infusion of firwood in
vinegar has done me good. And now I trust my belly will be better
behaved. At times I have such a rumbling about my stomach, you'd think I
had a bull bellowing inside me! So if any of you want to relieve
yourselves, there's no necessity to be ashamed about it. None of us is
born solid. I don't know any torment so bad as holding it in. It's the
one thing Jove himself cannot stop. What are you laughing at, Fortunata,
you who so often keep me awake o' nights yourself? I never hinder any
man at my table from easing himself, and indeed the doctors forbid our
balking nature. Even if something more presses, everything's ready
outside,-- water, close-stools, and the other little matters needful.
Take my word for it, the vapors rise to the brain and may cause a
fluxion of the whole constitution. I know many a man that's died of it,
because he was too shy to speak out."
We thank our host for his generous indulgence, taking our wine in little
sips the while to keep down our laughter. But little we thought we had
still another hill to climb, as the saying is, and were only half
through the elaborations of the meal. For when the tables had been
cleared with a flourish of music, three white hogs were brought in, hung
with little bells and muzzled. One, so the nomenclator informed us, was
a two-year-old, another three, and the third six. For my part, I thought
they were learned pigs, come in to perform some of those marvelous
tricks you see in circuses. But Trimalchio put an end to my surmises by
saying, "Which of the three will you have dressed for supper right away?
Farmyard cocks and pheasants are for country folks; my cooks are used to
serving up calves boiled whole."
So saying, he immediately ordered the cook to be summoned, and without
waiting for our choice, directed the six-year-old to be killed. Then
speaking loud and clear, he asked the man, "What decuria do you belong
"To the fortieth," he replied.
"Bought," he went on, "or born in my house?"
"Neither;" returned the cook, "I was left you by Pansa's will."
"Then mind you serve the dish carefully dressed; else I shall order you
to be degraded into the decuria of the outdoor slaves."
And the cook, thus cogently admonished, then withdrew with his charge
into the kitchen.
xlviii But Trimalchio, relaxing his stern aspect, now turned to us
and said "If you don't like the wine, I'll have it changed; otherwise
please prove its quality by your drinking. Thanks to the gods' goodness,
I never buy it; but now I have everything that smacks good growing on a
suburban estate of mine. I've not seen it yet, but they tell me it's
down Terracina and Tarentum way. I am thinking at the moment of making
Sicily one of my little properties, that when I've a mind to visit
Africa, I may sail along my own boundaries to get there.
"But tell me, Agamemnon, what question formed the subject of your
declamation today? Though I don't plead myself, I've studied letters for
domestic use. Don't imagine I have despised scholarship; why! I have two
Libraries, one Greek, the other Latin. If you love me, then, let me know
what your discourse was."
Agamemnon had just begun, "A poor man and a rich were at feud . . ."
when Trimalchio struck in with the question, "What is a poor man!"
"Oh, capital!" cried Agamemnon; and went on to develop some dialectical
problem or another.
Trimalchio summed up without an instant's hesitation as follows, "If
this is so, there's no question about it; if it's not so, why! there's
an end of the matter."
Whilst we were still acclaiming these and similar remarks with fulsome
praise, he resumed, "Pray, my dearest Agamemnon, do you recollect by any
chance the twelve labors of Hercules, or the story of Ulysses, how the
Cyclops twisted his thumb out of joint, after he was turned into a pig.
I used to read these tales in Homer when I was a lad. Then the Sibyl! I
saw her at Cumae with my own eyes hanging in a jar; and when the boys
cried to her, ‘Sibyl, what would you?' she'd answer, ‘I would die,'--
both of ‘em speaking Greek."
He was still in the middle of this nonsense when a tray supporting an
enormous hog was set on the table. One and all we expressed our
admiration at the expedition shown, and swore a mere ordinary fowl could
not have been cooked in the time, the more so as the hog appeared to be
a much larger animal than the wild boar just before. Presently
Trimalchio, staring harder and harder, exclaimed, "What! what! isn't he
gutted? No! by heaven! he's not. Call the cook in!"
The cook came and stood by the table, looking sadly crestfallen and
saying he had clean forgotten. "What! forgotten!" cried Trimalchio; "to
hear him, you would suppose he'd just omitted a pinch of pepper or a bit
of cumin. Strip him!"
Instantly the cook was stripped, and standing between two tormentors,
the picture of misery. But we all began to intercede for him, saying,
"Accidents will happen; do forgive him this once. If ever he does it
again, not one of us will say a word in his favor." For my own part I
felt mercilessly indignant, and could not hold myself, but bending over
to Agamemnon's ear, I whispered, "Evidently he must be a villainous bad
servant. To think of anybody forgetting to bowel a hog; by Gad! I would
not let the fellow off, if he'd shown such carelessness about a fish."
Not so Trimalchio, for with a smile breaking over his face, "Well!
well!" said he, "as you have such a bad memory, bowel him now, where we
can all see."
Thereupon the cook resumed his tunic, seized his knife and with a
trembling hand slashed open the animal's belly. In a moment, the
apertures widening under the weight behind, out tumbled a lot of
sausages and black-puddings.
At this all the servants applauded like one man, and chorused, "Gaius
for ever!" Moreover the cook was gratified with a goblet of wine and a
silver wreath, and received a drinking cup on a salver of Corinthian
metal. This Agamemnon scanned with some attention, and Trimalchio
observed, "I am the only man possessing the genuine Corinthian plate."
I fully expected him to match his usual effrontery by declaring he had
himself imported the articles from Corinth; but he had a better account
to give of the matter. "You may wonder perhaps," he said, "why I alone
have the true Corinthian. The fact is, the smith I buy them from is
called Corinth, and what can be more Corinthian than to have Corinth at
one's orders? But you must not set me down for a dunce; I know perfectly
well how Corinthian plate first originated. On the capture of Troy,
Hannibal, an astute fellow and a consummate knave, collected together
all the statues of bronze and gold and silver into one great heap, and
firing the pile, melted down the different metals into one alloy. This
mass of metal the smiths utilized to make into platters and dishes and
statuettes. Such was the origin of Corinthian metal, neither one thing
nor the other, but an amalgam of all.
"But you must allow me to say this, I prefer glass ones myself; they
are quite free from smell at any rate. And if they didn't break, I would
rather have them than gold itself; but they've got cheap and common now.
However there was an artificer once who made a glass goblet that would
not break. So he was admitted to Caesar's presence to offer him his
invention; then, on receiving the cup back from Caesar's hands, he
dashed it down on the floor. Who so startled as Caesar? but the man
quietly picked up the goblet again, which was dinted as a vessel of
bronze might be. Then taking a little hammer from his pocket, he easily
and neatly knocked the goblet into shape again. This done, the fellow
thought he was as good as in heaven already, especially when Caesar said
to him, ‘Does anybody else besides yourself understand the manufacture
of this glass?' But lo! on his replying in the negative, Caesar ordered
him to be beheaded, because if once the secret became known, we should
think no more of gold than of so much dirt.
"I'm quite a connoisseur in plate. I've got cups as big as waterpots,
a hundred of them more or less, representing how Cassandra slew her
sons, and there lie the lads dead, as natural as life! I've got a
thousand bowls Mummius bequeathed to my patron, on which Daedalus is
shown shutting Niobe up in the Trojan horse. Why! I've got the fights of
Hermeros and Petraites on a series of cups all of massive metal. I
wouldn't sell my savvy in these things for any money."
In the middle of these remarks a slave dropped a cup. Trimalchio looked
at him and said, "Go at once and kill yourself; you are a careless
fellow." The slave immediately dropped his lip and began to beg for
mercy. "Why worry me," cried Trimalchio, "as if I were being harsh upon
you. I merely urge you to secure yourself from being so heedless again."
At length, on our entreaty, he pardoned the man. The latter, to
celebrate the event, began running round and round the table, crying,
"Out water, in wine!" We were all ready to take the merry rascal's kind
suggestion, and particularly Agamemnon, who knew very well how to earn
another invitation. But Trimalchio under the stimulus of our flattery
drank away more gayly than ever, and being close on the verge of
intoxication, "Won't any of you," he cried, "ask my wife Fortunata to
dance? Believe me, there's no one foots the cancan better." Then putting
up his two hands himself above his brow, he began imitating Syrus the
comedian, the whole household singing out, "Bravo! Oh, bravissimo!" in
chorus; and he would have made a public exhibition of himself, had not
Fortunata whispered in his ear and told him, I suppose, that suchlike
buffooneries were beneath his dignity. But nothing could well be more
uncertain than his humor; one moment he would listen respectfully to
Fortunata, the next hark back to his natural propensities.
However his dancing fit was cut short by the entrance of the
historiographer, who read out solemnly, as if he were reciting the
"Seventh of Kalends of July (June 25th): On the manor of Cumae,
Trimalchio's property, were born this day thirty boys, forty girls; were
carried from threshing-floor to granary 500,000 bushels of wheat; were
put to the yoke 500 oxen.
"Same day: Mithridates, a slave, was crucified for blaspheming our
master Gaius' tutelary genius.
"Same day: returned to treasury ten million sesterces, no investment
being forthcoming for the sum.
"Same day: a fire occurred in Pompey's garden, originating at the house
of Nasta, the Bailiff."
"Eh?" interrupted Trimalchio, "when were Pompey's gardens bought for
"Last year," answer the historiographer; "therefore they have not been
brought into account yet."
Trimalchio blazed up at this and shouted, "Any estates bought in my
name, if I hear nothing of them within six months, I forbid their being
carried to my account at all."
Next were read his Ediles' edicts and Foresters' wills, in which
Trimalchio was excluded from inheritance, but mentioned with the highest
encomiums. Then the names of his Bailiffs were recited; how the Chief
Inspector had repudiated his mistress, a freedwoman, having detected her
in an intrigue with the Bath-Super-intendent; how the Chamberlain had
been removed to Baiae: the Steward convicted of peculation; and a
dispute between the Grooms of the Chamber adjudicated upon.
But now the acrobats entered at last. A most tiresome, dull fellow stood
supporting a ladder, up the rungs of which he ordered a lad to climb and
dance and sing on the top, and then leap down through blazing hoops
holding a wine-jar in his teeth. Trimalchio was the only person present
who admired this performance, saying it was a hard life truly. There
were but two things, he went on, in all the world he really enjoyed
seeing-- acrobats and horn-blowers; all other shows were mere trash.
"Yes! I bought a company of comedians too," he said, "but I insisted on
their playing Atellanes, and I ordered my conductor to play Latin airs
and Latin airs only."
liv In the middle of these fine remarks of the great Gaius, the boy
suddenly tumbled down on top of our host. The domestics all raised a
shriek, and the guests as well, not for any love they bore the
disgusting creature, whose neck they would have gladly seen broken, but
for fear of a bad end to the feast and the necessity of lamenting the
man's death. Trimalchio himself gave a deep groan and bent over one arm,
as if it were injured. His physicians flocked round him, and amongst the
foremost Fortunata with streaming hair and a cup in her hand,
asseverating she was a most miserable, unhappy woman. For his part, the
boy who had fallen was already creeping round at our knees, beseeching
us to intercede for him.
I was tormented with the idea that these prayers were only intended to
lead up by some ridiculous turn to another theatrical dénouement. For
the cook who had forgotten to bowel the hog still stuck in my memory. So
I began to carry my eyes all about the room, to see if the wall would
not open to admit some stage-machine or other, especially after
observing how a slave was thrashed, who had bandaged his master's
bruised arm with white instead of purple wool. Nor was I far out in my
suspicions, for in lieu of punishment being inflicted, Trimalchio now
ruled that the lad must be made free, that none might be able to say so
noble a gentleman had been injured by a slave. We acclaim the generous
act, and indulge in a string of platitudes on the precariousness of
human affairs. "Well, then!" interposed Trimalchio, "an accident like
this must not be allowed to pass without an impromptu," and instantly
calling for his tablets, and without much racking of brains, he read out
the following lines:
"When least we think, things go astray,
Dame Fortune o'er our life holds sway;
Then drink, make merry, whilst ye may!"
This epigram led the way to a discussion of poets and poetry, and for
some time the palm of song was awarded to Mopsus the Thracian, until
Trimalchio remarked to Agamemnon, "Pray, master, what do you consider
the difference to be between Cicero and Publilius? For my own part, I
consider the former the more eloquent author, the latter the more
genteel. What for instance can be better put than this:
"‘Tis arrant luxury undoes the State;
To please your palate pampered peacocks die,
That flaunt their plumed Assyrian gold abroad
For you Numidian fowl and capon fat.
Even the kindly stork is sacrificed,
Our graceful, noisy, long-legged friend,
Fearful of winter's cold and harbinger of Spring,
And finds the cruel cooking-pot its nest.
Why are the Indian pearls so dear to you,--
If not to deck with sea-sought gems the wife
That lifts a wanton leg adulterously?
Why love you so the emerald's greeny gleam,
And flashing fires of Punic carbuncles?
Honor and virtue are the truest gems.
Is't right the bride should wear the woven wind,
And stand exposed in garments thin as air?
"Now what do you hold to be the most difficult calling," he went on,
"after Literature? I think the doctor's and the money-changer's; the
doctor, because he's got to know what chaps have in their insides, and
when the fever's coming,-- though truly I hate ‘em like fury, for
they're for ever ordering me duck-broth; the money-changer, who detects
the bronze underneath the surface plating of silver.
"Of beasts the most hard-working are oxen and sheep; to the former we
owe the bread we eat, while ‘tis the latter make us so fine with their
wool. What a brutal shame it is when a man eats mutton and wears a
woolen coat! Now bees,-- I do think they are God's own creatures, for
they vomit honey, though some say they bring it down from Jupiter. And
that's why they sting, for you'll never find sweet without sour."
He was still cutting out the philosophers in this fashion, when lottery
tickets were passed round in a cup, and a slave, whose special duty this
was, read out the presents to be distributed in the tombola:
"Humbug Silver; a gammon of bacon was shown, with cruets of that
metal standing on it.
A Neck-Pillow; and a neck of mutton was produced.
Forbidden Fruits and Contumely; pommeloes were brought in, and a
punt-pole with an apple.
Leeks and Peaches; the drawer received a whip and a knife.
Dress Clothes and Morning Coat; a piece of meat and a memorandum book.
Canal and Foot Measure; a hare and a slipper.
Lamprey and Letter; a mouse and a frog tied together, and a bundle of
We laughed loud and long; and there were a hundred and fifty other
conceits of the same sort that have escaped my memory.
lvii But Ascyltos, lost to all self-control, threw his arms up in the
air, and turning the whole proceedings into ridicule, laughed till the
tears ran down his cheeks. At this once of the freedmen among the
guests, the same who occupied the place next above me, lost his temper
"What are you laughing at, muttonhead? Isn't my master's elegant
hospitality to your taste? You're a mighty fine gentleman, I suppose,
and used to better entertainment. So help me the guardian spirits of
this house, but I would have made him baa to some purpose, had I been
next him. A pretty sprig indeed, to laugh at other people! a vagabond
from who knows where, a night-raker, that's not worth his own piddle!
Just let me piss round him, and he would not know how to save his life!
By the powers, I'm not as a rule quick to take offense, but there! worms
are bred in soft flesh. He's laughing; what's he got to laugh at? Did
his father buy the brat for money? You're a Roman knight: and I'm a
king's son. ‘Why did you serve as a slave then?' Why! because I chose
to, and thought it better to be a Roman citizen than a tributary king.
And henceforth I hope to live a life beyond the reach of any one's
ridicule. I am a man now among men; I can walk about with my nose in the
air. I owe nobody a brass farthing; I've never made composition; no one
ever stopped me in the forum with a ‘Pay me that thou owest!' I've
bought some bits of land, put by a trifle of tin; I keep twenty folks in
victuals, to say nothing of the dog; I've purchased my bedfellow's
freedom, that no man should wipe his hands on her bosom; I paid a
thousand denars to redeem her; I was made a sevir, free gratis for
nothing; I trust I may die and have no cause to blush in my grave.
"But you, are you so busy you can't so much as look behind you? You
can spy a louse on a neighbor's back, and never see the great tick on
your own. You're the only man to find us ridiculous; there's your master
and your elder, he likes us well enough, I warrant. You! with your
mammy's milk scarce dry on your lips, you can't say boo! to a goose; you
crock, you limp scrap of soaked leather, you may be supple, but you're
no good. Are you richer than other folk? then dine twice over, and sup
twice! For myself I value my credit far above millions. Did any man ever
dun me twice? I served forty years, but nobody knows whether I was slave
or free. I was a long-haired lad when first I came to this town; the
basilica was not built yet. But I took pains to please my master, a
great, grand gentleman and a dignified, whose nail-parings were worth
more than your whole body. And I had enemies in the house, let me tell
you, quite ready to trip me up on occasion; but-- thanks to his kind
nature-- I swam the rapids. That's the real struggle; for to be born a
gentleman is as easy as ‘Come here.' Whatever are you gaping at now,
like a buck-goat in a field of bitter vetch?"
lviii At this harangue Giton, who was standing at my feet, could no
longer contain himself, but burst into a most indecorous peal of
merriment. When Ascyltos' adversary noticed the fact, he turned his
abuse upon the lad, screaming, "You're laughing too, are you, you curled
onion? Ho! for the Saturnalia, is it December, pray? When did you stump
up your twentieth? What's he at now, the crow's meat gallows-bird? I'll
take care God's anger falls on you, you and your master who does not
keep you in better order. As I hope to live by bread. I only keep my
hands off you out of respect for my fellow freedmen; else would I have
paid you off this instant minute. We're right enough, but your folks are
good for nothing, who don't keep you to heel. Verily, like master like
man. I can scarce hold myself, and I'm not a hot-headed man naturally;
but if I once begin, I don't care twopence for my own mother. All right,
I shall come across you yet in the open street, you rat, you mushroom,
you! I'll never stir up nor down, if I don't drive your master into a
wretched hole, and show you what's what, though you call upon Olympian
Jove himself to help you! I'll be the ruin of your rubbishy ringlets and
your twopenny master into the bargain. All right, see if I don't get my
teeth into you; either I don't know myself, or you shall laugh on the
wrong side of your face, even if you have a beard of gold. I'll see that
Minerva's down on you, and the man that first trained you to be what you
"I never learned Geometry and Criticism and such like nonsensical
screeds, but I do understand the lapidaries' marks, and I can subdivide
to the hundredth part when it comes to questions of mass, and weight and
mintage. Well and good! if you have a mind, we'll have a little wager,
you and I; come now, here I clap down the tin. You'll soon see your
father wasted his money on you, though you do know Rhetoric. Now:
‘Which of us?-- I come long, I come wide:
now guess me.'
"I'll tell you which of us runs, yet never stirs from the spot; which
of us grows, and gets less all the while. How you skip and fidget and
fuss, like a mouse in a chamber-pot! So either hold your tongue
altogether, or don't attack a better man than yourself, who hardly knows
of your existence,-- unless perhaps you think I'm troubled by your
yellow ringlets, that you stole from your doxy. God helps the man that
helps himself! Let's away to the forum to borrow money; you'll soon see
this bit of iron commands some credit. Aha! a fine sight, a fox in a
sweat! As I hope to thrive and make such a good end the people will all
be swearing at my death, hang me if I don't chivy you up hill and down
dale till you drop! A fine sight too, the fellow that taught you so,-- a
muff I call him, not a master! We learned something else in my time; the
master used to say, ‘Are your things safe? go straight home; don't stop
staring about, and don't be impertinent to your elders.' Now it's all
trash; they turn out nobody worth twopence. That I am what I am, I owe
to my own wits, and I thank God for it!"
lix Ascyltos was just beginning to answer his abuse; but Trimalchio,
charmed with his fellow-freedman's eloquence, stopped him, saying,
"Come, come! leave your bickerings on one side. Better be good-natured;
and do you Hermeros, spare the young man. His blood is up; so be
reasonable. To yield is always to win in these matters. You were a young
cockerel yourself once, and then coco coco you went, and never a grain
of sense in you! So take my advice, let's start afresh and be jolly,
while we enjoy the Homerists."
Immediately there filed in an armed band, and clashed spears on shields.
Trimalchio himself sat in state on his cushion, and when the Homerists
began a dialogue in Greek verse, as is their unmannerly manner, read out
a Latin text in a clear, loud voice. Presently in an interval of
silence, "You know," says he, "what the tale is they are giving us?
Diomed and Ganymede were two brothers. Their sister was Helen of Troy.
Agamemnon carried her off and palmed a doe on Diana in her stead. So
Homer relates how the Trojans and Parentines fought each other. He got
the best of it, it seems, and gave his daughter Iphigenia in marriage to
Achilles. This drove Ajax mad, who will presently make it all plain to
you." No sooner had Trimalchio finished speaking than the Homerists
raised a shout, and with the servants bustling in all directions, a
boiled calf was borne in on a silver dish weighing two hundred pounds,
and actually wearing a helmet. Then came Ajax, and rushing at it like a
madman slashed it to bits with his naked sword, and making passes now up
and down, collected the pieces on his point and so distributed the flesh
among the astonished guests.
lx We had little time however to admire these elegant surprises; for
all of a sudden the ceiling began to rattle and the whole room trembled.
I sprang up in consternation, fearing some tumbler was going to fall
through the roof. The other guests were no less astounded, and gazed
aloft, wondering what new prodigy they were to expect now from the
skies. Then lo and behold! the ceiling opened and a huge hoop, evidently
stripped from an enormous cask, was let down, all round which hung
suspended golden wreaths and caskets containing precious ungents. These
we were invited to take home with us as mementos.
Then looking again at the table, I saw that a tray of cakes had been
placed on it, with a figure of Priapus, the handiwork of the
pastry-cook, standing in the middle, represented in the conventional way
as carrying in his capacious bosom grapes and all sorts of fruits.
Eagerly we reached out after these dainties, when instantly a new trick
set us laughing afresh. For each cake and each fruit was full of
saffron, which spurted out into our faces at the slightest touch, giving
us an unpleasant drenching. So conceiving there must be something
specially holy about this dish, scented as it was in this ceremonial
fashion, we rose to our feet, crying, "All hail, Augustus, Father of his
Country!" But seeing the others still helping themselves to the dessert,
even after this act of piety, we also filled our napkins,-- myself among
the foremost, as I thought no gift good enough to pour into my beloved
Giton's bosom. Meantime three slaves entered wearing short white
jackets. Two of them set on the table images of the Lares with amulets
round their necks, while the third carried round a goblet of wine,
crying, "The gods be favorable! the gods be favorable!" Trimalchio told
us they were named respectively Cerdo, Felicio and Lucrio. Then came a
faithful likeness of Trimalchio in marble, and as everybody else kissed
it, we were ashamed not to do likewise.
lxi Then after we had all wished one another good health of mind and
body, Trimalchio turned to Niceros and said, "You used to be better
company; what makes you so dull and silent today? I beg you, if you wish
to oblige me, tell us that adventure of yours." Niceros, delighted at
his friend's affability, replied, "May I never make profit more, if I'm
not ready to burst with satisfaction to see you so well disposed,
Trimalchio. So ho! for a pleasant hour,-- though I very much fear these
learned chaps will laugh at me. Well! let ‘em. I'll say my say for all
that! What does it hurt me, if a man does grin? Better they should laugh
with me than at me." "These words the hero spake," and so began the
following strange story:
"When I was still a slave, we lived in a narrow street; the house is
Gavilla's now. There, as the gods would have it, I fell in love with
Terentius, the tavern-keeper's wife; you all knew Melissa from Tarentum,
the prettiest of pretty wenches! Not that I courted her carnally or for
venery, but more because she was such a good sort. Nothing I asked did
she ever refuse; if she made a penny, I got a halfpenny; whatever I
saved, I put in her purse, and she never choused me. Well! her husband
died when they were at a country house. So I moved heaven and earth to
get to her; true friends, you know, are proved in adversity.
lxii "It so happened my master had gone to Capua, to attend to
various trifles of business. So seizing the opportunity, I persuade our
lodger to accompany me as far as the fifth milestone. He was a soldier,
as bold as Hell. We got under way about first cockcrow, with the moon
shining as bright as day. We arrive at the tombs; my man lingers behind
among the gravestones, whilst I sit down singing, and start counting the
gravestones. Presently I looked back for my comrade; he had stripped off
all his clothes and laid them down by the wayside. My heart was in my
mouth; and there I stood feeling like a dead man. Then he made water all
round the clothes, and in an instant changed into a wolf. Don't imagine
I'm joking; I would not tell a lie for the finest fortune ever man had.
"However, as I was telling you, directly he was turned into a wolf, he
set up a howl, and away to the woods. At first I didn't know where I
was, but presently I went forward to gather up his clothes; but lo and
behold! they were turned into stone. If ever a man was like to die of
terror, I was that man! Still I drew my sword and let out at every
shadow on the road till I arrived at my sweetheart's house. I rushed in
looking like a ghost, soul and body barely sticking together. The sweat
was pouring down between my legs, my eyes were set, my wits gone almost
past recovery. Melissa was astounded at my plight, wondering why ever I
was abroad so late. ‘Had you come a little sooner,' she said, ‘you might
have given us a hand; a wolf broke into the farm and has slaughtered all
the cattle, just as if a butcher had bled them. Still he didn't
altogether have the laugh on us, though he did escape; for one of the
laborers ran him through the neck with a pike.'
"After hearing this, I could not close an eye, but directly it was broad
daylight, I started off for our good Gaius's house, like a peddler whose
pack's been stolen; and coming to the spot where the clothes had been
turned into stone, I found nothing whatever but a pool of blood. When
eventually I got home, there lay my soldier a-bed like a great ox, while
a surgeon was dressing his neck. I saw at once he was a werewolf and I
could never afterwards eat bread with him, no! not if you'd killed me.
Other people may think what they please; but as for me, if I'm telling
you a lie, may your guardian spirits confound me!"
lxiii We were all struck dumb with amazement, till Trimalchio broke
the silence, saying, "Far be it from me to doubt your story; if you'll
believe me, my hair stood on end, for I know Niceros is not the man to
repeat idle fables; he's perfectly trustworthy and anything but a
babbler. Now! I'll tell you a horrible tale myself, as much out of the
common as an ass on the tiles!
"I was still but a long-haired lad (for I led a Chian life from a boy)
when our master's minion died,-- a pearl, by heaven! a paragon of
perfection at all points. Well! as his poor mother was mourning him, and
several of us besides condoling with her, all of a sudden the witches
set up their hullabaloo, for all the world like a hound in full cry
after a hare. At that time we had a Cappadocian in the household, a tall
fellow, and a high-spirited, and strong enough to lift a mad bull off
its feet. This man gallantly drawing his sword, dashed out in front of
the house door, first winding his cloak carefully round his left arm,
and lunging out, as it might be there-- no harm to what I touch-- ran a
woman clean through. We heard a groan, but the actual witches (I'm very
particular to tell the exact truth) we did not see. Coming in again, our
champion threw himself down on a bed and his body was black and blue all
over, just as if he had been scourged with whips, for it seems an evil
hand had touched him. We barred the door and turned back afresh to our
lamentations, but when his mother threw her arms round her boy and
touched his dead body, she found nothing but a wisp of straw. It had
neither heart, nor entrails, nor anything else; for the witches had
whipped away the lad and left a changeling of straw in his place. Now I
ask you, can you help after this believing there are wise women, and
hags that fly by night. But our tall bully, after what happened, never
got back his color, in fact a few days afterward he died raving mad!"
lxiv We listened with wonder and credulity in equal proportions, and
kissing the table, besought the Night-hags to keep in quarters, while we
were returning home.
And indeed by this time the lights seemed to burn double and I thought
the whole room looked changed, when Trimalchio exclaimed, "I call on
you, Plocamus; have you nothing to tell us? no diversion for us? And you
used to be such good company, with your amusing dialogues and the comic
songs you interspersed. Heigho! all gone, ye toothsome titbits, all
gone?" "Alas! my racing days are over, since I got the gout," replied
the other; "but when I was a young man, I very nearly sang myself into a
consumption. Dancing? dialogues? buffoonery? when did I ever find my
match, eh?-- always excepting Appelles." And clapping his hand to his
mouth, he spit out some horrid stuff that sounded like whistling, and
which he told us afterwards was Greek.
Moreover Trimalchio himself gave an imitation of a horn-blower, and
presently turned to his minion whom he called Crœsus. This was a lad
with sore eyes and filthy teeth: he was playing with a little black
bitch, disgustingly fat, twisting a green scarf round her, putting half
a loaf of bread on the couch, and on the animal's refusing to eat it,
being already overfed, cramming it down her throat. This reminding
Trimalchio of a duty omitted, he ordered Scylax to be brought in, "the
guardian of my house and home." Next moment a huge watchdog was led in
on a large chain and took up a position in front of the table. Then
Trimalchio tossed him a lump of white bread, observing, "There's no one
in the house loves me better." The boy was enraged at hearing Scylax so
lavishly praised, and setting his bitch down on the floor, cheered her
on to attack the monster. Scylax, as was his nature to, filled the room
with savage barking, and almost tore Crœsus's little "Pearl" into bits.
Nor did this fight end the trouble; but a chandelier was upset over the
table, smashing all the crystal, and scalding some of the guests with
Trimalchio, not to appear disconcerted at the damage done, kissed the
lad and told him to get up on his back. The latter mounted a-cockhorse
without a moment's hesitation, and repeatedly slapping him on the
shoulders with his open hand, laughingly shouted, "Buck! buck! how many
fingers do I hold up?" After thus submitting for a while to be made a
horse of, Trimalchio ordered them to prepare a capacious bowl of wine
for all the slaves sitting at our feet, but on this condition, he added,
"If any one won't take his whack, souse it over his head! Business in
the daytime, now for jollity!"
lxv After this display of good nature, there followed a course of
delicacies, only to think of which, if you'll believe me, makes me feel
ill. For instead of thrushes, a fatted hen was set before each guest and
chaperoned goose-eggs which Trimalchio urged us most pressingly to
partake of, assuring us the hens were boned.
At this moment a lictor knocked at the folding doors of the dining-hall,
and dressed out in a white robe, a fresh boon-companion now entered,
with a large train in attendance. As for me, I was so much impressed by
all this state and ceremony, I thought it was the Pretor. So I made as
if to rise and set my naked feet to the floor. Agamemnon laughed at my
trepidation. "Sit still, you silly fellow," said he, "it's Habinnas the
Sevir, he's a marble-mason, and it seems makes capital good monuments."
Reassured by what he said, I lay back again in my place, and watched
Habinnas' entry with the greatest admiration. He was already tipsy, and
leant for support on his wife's shoulder; wearing several heavy wreaths
round his brow, which was so reeking with perfume it kept trickling into
his eyes, he took the Pretor's place, and at once called for wine and
Delighted at his joviality, Trimalchio himself called for a large
goblet, and asked him how he had been entertained. "We had everything in
the world," he replied, "except the pleasure of your company; for indeed
my inclinations were here. But upon my word, it was very fine. Scissa
was giving a very elegant novendial in memory of her poor old slave,
whom she had enfranchised after his death. And I suppose she will have a
good round sum to pay to the tax-collectors, for they do tell me the
dead man's fortune came to fifty thousand. I assure you it was all very
pleasant, though we did have to pour half our liquor over his old
lxvi "But what did you have for dinner?" Trimalchio asked.
"I'll tell you, if I can," was the answer, "but there, I have such a
first-class memory, I often forget my own name. However, for first
course we had a pig topped with a black-pudding and garnished with
fritters and giblets, capitally dressed, and beetroot of course, and
whole-meal brown bread, which I prefer myself to white; it makes muscle,
and when I do my does, I don't have to yell. The next course was cold
tarts, and to drink, excellent Spanish wine poured over warm honey. So I
ate a fine helping of tart, and smeared myself well with the honey. As
accessories, were chick-peas and lupines, nuts at discretion, and an
apple apiece. But I took two, and look you! I've got them here tied up
in a napkin; for if I don't take some present back for my little slave
lad at home, there'll be a row. Right! my wife reminds me, we had also,
on the sideboard a joint of bear's meat. Scintilla took some
inadvertently, and very nearly threw up her guts. I on the contrary ate
nearly a pound of it; indeed it tasted quite like boar's flesh. And what
I say is, if bear eats man, why should not man, with a far better
reason, eat bear? To end up with, we had cream cheese flavored with wine
jelly, snails, one apiece, chitterlings, scalloped liver and chaperoned
eggs, turnips, mustard and (by your leave, Palamedes!) a dish of mixed
siftings; pickled olives also were handed round in a bowl, from which
some of the party were mean enough to help themselves to three handfuls
each; the ham we declined altogether.
lxvii "But pray, Gaius, why is not Fortunata at table?"
"Don't you know her better than that?" answered Trimalchio. "Not until
she has counted the plate, and divided the leavings among the slaves,
will she let so much as a drop of water pass her lips."
"Well!" returned Habinnas, "if she does not join us, I'm off for one,"
and made as though to get up, when at a signal from their master the
whole houseful of slaves called out, four times over and more,
"Fortunata! Fortunata!" At this she entered at last, her frock kilted up
with a yellow girdle, so as to show a cherry-colored tunic underneath,
and corded anklets and gold-embroidered slippers. Then wiping her hands
on a handkerchief she wore at her neck, she placed herself on the same
couch beside Habinnas' wife, Scintilla, kissing her while the other
claps her hands, and exclaiming, "Have I really the pleasure of seeing
Before long it came to Fortunata's taking off the bracelets from her
great fat arms to show them to her admiring companion. Finally she even
undid her anklets and her hairnet, which she assured Scintilla was of
the very finest gold. Trimalchio observing this, ordered all the things
to be brought to him. "You see this woman's fetters," he cried; "that's
the way we poor devils are robbed! Six pound and a half, if it's an
ounce; and yet I've got one myself of ten pound weight, all made out of
Mercury's thousandths." Eventually to prove he was not telling a lie, he
ordered a pair of scales to be brought, and had the articles carried
round and the weight tested by each in turn. And Scintilla was just as
bad, for she drew from her bosom a little gold casket she called her
Lucky Box. From it she produced a pair of ear-pendants and handed them
one after the other to Fortunata to admire, saying, "Thanks to my
husband's goodness, no wife has finer."
"Why truly!" remarked Habinnas, "you gave me no peace till I bought you
the glass bean. I tell you straight, if I had a daughter, I should cut
off her ears. If there were no women in the world, we should have
everything in the world dirt cheap; as it is, we've just got to piss hot
and drink cold."
Meanwhile the two women, though a trifle piqued, laughed good-humoredly
together and interchanged some tipsy kisses, the one praising the
thrifty management of the lady of the house, the other enlarging on the
minions her husband kept and his unthrifty ways. While they were thus
engaged in close confabulation, Habinnas got up stealthily and catching
hold of Fortunata's legs, upset her on the couch. "Ah! ah!" she
screeched, as her tunic slipped up above her knees. Then falling on
Scintilla's bosom, she hid in her handkerchief a face all afire with
lxviii After a short interval Trimalchio next ordered the dessert to
be served; hereupon the servants removed all the tables and brought in
fresh ones, and strewed the floor with saffron and vermilion colored
sawdust and,-- a refinement I had not seen before,-- with specular stone
reduced to powder. The moment the tables were changed, Trimalchio
remarked, "I could really be quite content with what we have; for you
see your ‘second tables' before you. However, if there is anything spicy
for dessert, let's have it in." Meantime an Alexandrian lad, who served
round the hot water, began imitating a nightingale, his master from time
to time calling out, "Change!" Another form of entertainment followed. A
slave who was sitting at Habinnas' feet, at his master's bidding, as I
imagine, suddenly sang out in a loud voice:
"Meantime Æneas cuts his watery way. . . ."
Nothing harsher ever shocked my ears, for to say nothing of the false
inflections, now high now low, of his voice and his barbarous
pronunciation, he kept sticking in tags from Atellane farces, so that
for the first time in my life I found Virgil intolerable. Yet no sooner
did he pause for an instant than Habinnas loudly applauded the
performance, adding, "The man has had no regular training; I merely sent
him to see some mountebanks, and that's how he learned. The result is,
he has not his match, whether it's muleteers or mountebanks he wants to
mimic. He's just desperate clever; he's cobbler, cook, confectioner, a
compendium of all the talents. Still he has two faults, but for which he
would be a perfect paragon: he is circumcised and he snores. For his
squinting, I don't mind that; Venus has the same little defect. That's
why his tongue is never still, because one eye is pretty much always on
the alert. I gave three hundred denars for him."
lxix Here Scintilla interrupted the speaker; "You take good care,"
she said, "not to mention all the scamp's qualifications. I'm sure he
must be an arrant go-between; but I'll see to it that he has his brand
Trimalchio only laughed and said, "I see he's a true Cappadocian; always
looks out for number one. And, my word! I don't blame him; for indeed,
once dead, this is a thing nobody can secure us. And you, Scintilla,
don't be so jealous! Believe me, we understand you women. As I hope to
be safe and sound, I used myself to poke her ladyship, so that even my
master got suspicious; and that's why he sent me off to be factor in the
country. But hush! tongue, and I'll give thee a cake."
Taking everything that was said for high praise, the foul slave now drew
an earthenware lamp from his bosom, and for more than half an hour
mimicked a trumpeter, while Habinnas accompanied him, squeezing his lip
down with his fingers. Finally he actually stepped out into the middle
of the room, and first imitated a fluteplayer by means of broken reeds;
then with riding-cloak and whip, acted the muleteer, till Habinnas
called him to his side and kissed him, gave him a drink and cried,
"Bravo! Massa, bravo! I'll give you a pair of boots."
We should never have seen the end of these tiresome inflictions but for
the Extra-Course now coming in,-- thrushes of pastry, stuffed with
raisins and walnuts, followed by quinces stuck over with thorns, to
represent sea-urchins. This would have been intolerable enough, had it
not been for a still more outlandish dish, such a horrible concoction,
we would rather have died than touch it. Directly it was on the table,--
to all appearance a fatted goose, with fish and fowl of all kinds round
it. "Friends," cried Trimalchio, "every single thing you see on that
dish is made out of one substance." With my wonted perspicacity, I
instantly guessed its nature, and said, giving Agamemnon a look, "For my
own part, I shall be greatly surprised, if it is not all made of filth,
or at any rate mud. When I was in Rome at the Saturnalia, I saw some
lxx of the same sort." I had not done speaking when Trimalchio
explained, "As I hope to grow a bigger man,-- in fortune I mean, not
fat,-- I declare my cook made it every bit out of a pig. Never was a
more invaluable fellow! Give the word, he'll make you a fish of the
paunch, a wood-pigeon of the lard, a turtle-dove of the forehand, and a
hen of the hind leg! And that's why I very cleverly gave him such a fine
and fitting name as Dædalus. And because he's such a good servant, I
brought him a present from Rome, a set of knives of Noric steel." These
he immediately ordered to be brought, and examined and admired them,
even allowing us to try their edge on our cheeks.
All of a sudden in rushed two slaves, as if fresh from a quarrel at the
fountain; at any rate they still had their water-pots hanging from the
shoulder-yokes. Then when Trimalchio gave judgment upon their
difference, they would neither of them accept his decision, but each
smashed the other's pot with a stick. We were horror-struck at the
drunken scoundrels' insolence, and looking hard at the combatants, we
noticed oysters and scallops tumbling out of the broken pitchers, which
another slave gathered up and handed round on a platter. This refinement
was matched by the ingenious cook, who now brought in snails on a little
silver gridiron, singing the while in a quavering, horribly rasping
I am really ashamed to relate what followed, it was so unheard-of a
piece of luxury. Long-haired slave boys brought in an unguent in a
silver basin, and anointed our feet with it as we lay at table, after
first wreathing our legs and ankles with garlands. Afterwards a small
quantity of the same perfume was poured into the wine-jars and the
By this time a strong wish to dance had seized upon Fortunata, while
Scintilla's hands were going quicker in applause even than her tongue in
chatter, when Trimalchio said, "I give you my permission, Philargyrus,
and you, Cario, notorious champion though you are of the green, to take
your places at table; also bid Menophila, your bedfellow, to do the
same." To make a long story short, we were all but thrust off our
couches, such a throng of domestics now invaded the dinner- table. I
actually noticed occupying a place above my own the cook who had made a
goose out of a pig, reeking as he was with fish-pickle and sauces.
Indeed he was not satisfied with merely being present, but immediately
began an imitation of Ephesus the Tragedian, after which he offered his
master a bet that at the next races the green would score first prize.
lxxi Delighted at the challenge, Trimalchio cried, "Yes! my friends,
slaves are human beings too, and have sucked mother's milk as well as
we, though untoward circumstance has borne them down. Nevertheless,
without prejudicing me, they shall some day soon drink the water of the
free. In a word, I enfranchise them all in my will. I bequeath into the
bargain a farm and his bedfellow to Philargyrus, a street block to
Cario, besides a twentieth and a bed and bedding. I name Fortunata my
heir, and commend her to all my friends' kindness. And all this I make
public, to the end my whole household may love me now as well as if I
were dead already."
All began to express their gratitude to so kind a master, when
Trimalchio, quite dropping his trifling vein, ordered a copy of his will
to be fetched, and read it through from beginning to end amid the groans
of all members of the household. Then turning to Habinnas, he asked him,
"What say you, dear friend? are you building my monument according to my
directions? I ask you particularly that at the feet of my effigy you
have my little bitch put, and garlands and perfume caskets and all
Petraites' fights, that by your good help I may live on even after
death. The frontage is to be a hundred feet long, and it must reach back
two hundred. For I wish to have all kinds of fruit trees growing around
my ashes and plenty of vines. Surely it's a great mistake to make houses
so fine for the living, yet to give never a thought to these where we
have to dwell far, far longer. And that's why I especially insist on the
THIS MONUMENT DOES NOT DESCEND
TO THE HEIR.
But I shall take good care to provide in my will against my remains
being insulted. For I intend to put one of my freedmen in charge of my
burial place, to see that the rabble don't come running and dirtying up
my monument. I beg you to have ships under full sail carved on it, and
me sitting on the tribunal, in my Senator's robes, with five gold rings
on my fingers, and showering money from a bag among the public; for you
remember I gave a public banquet once, two denars a head. Also there
should be shown, if you approve, a banqueting-hall, and all the people
enjoying themselves pleasantly. On my right hand put a figure of my
wife, Fortunata, holding a dove and leading a little bitch on a leash,
also my little lad, and some good capacious wine-jars, stoppered so that
the wine may not escape. Also you may carve a broken urn, and a boy
weeping over it. Also a horologe in the center, so that anyone looking
to see the time must willy-nilly read my name. As for the lettering,
look this over carefully and see if you think it is good enough:
C. POMPEIUS TRIMALCHIO,
A SECOND MAECENAS.
HE WAS NOMINATED SEVIR
IN HIS ABSENCE.
HE MIGHT HAVE BEEN A MEMBER
OF EVERY DECURIA IN ROME,
PIOUS, BRAVE, HONORABLE,
HE ROSE FROM THE RANKS.
WITHOUT LEARNING OR EDUCATION,
HE LEFT A MILLION OF MONEY
GO AND DO THOU LIKEWISE!"
lxxii When he had finished reading this document, Trimalchio fell to
weeping copiously. Fortunata wept too; so did Habinnas; so did the
servants; in fact, the whole household filled the room with
lamentations, for all the world like guests at a funeral. Indeed I was
beginning to weep myself, when Trimalchio resumed. "Well!" said he, "as
we know we've got to die, why not make the most of life? As I should
like to see you all happy, let's jump into the bath. I guarantee you'll
be none the worse; it's as hot as an oven."
"Right! right!" cried Habinnas, "to make two days out of one; nothing I
should like better," and springing up barefoot as he was, he followed
Trimalchio, who led the way, clapping his hands.
For myself I said, turning to Ascyltos, "What think you, Ascyltos? as
for me, to look at a bath now would kill me."
"Let's consent," he replied; "and then, as they are making for the
bathroom, escape in the confusion."
This being agreed upon, Giton led the way through the colonnade, and we
reached the house-door, where the watchdog greeted us with such furious
barking that Ascyltos tumbled into the tank in sheer terror. I too,
tipsy as I was, and having been once already scared at a painted dog,
got dragged in myself in helping him out of the water. However the
hall-keeper rescued us, who interfered and quieted the dog, and pulled
us out shivering onto terra firma. Giton had already discovered an
ingenious way of disarming the animal; anything we had given him from
our dinner, he threw to the barking brute, whose temper was appeased and
his attention diverted by the food. But when, cold and wet, we asked the
hall-keeper to let us out, "You're much mistaken," said he, "if you
think you can go out the same way you came in. No guest is ever
dismissed by the same door; they enter one, go out by another."
lxxiii So what were we poor unfortunates to do now, prisoners in this
new kind of labyrinth, and reduced to choose the bath as the only
alternative? We took the bull by the horns therefore, and asked the
hall-keeper to show us the way there; then throwing off our clothes,
which Giton proceeded to dry in the porch, we entered the bath, which we
found to be a narrow chamber, more like a cooling cistern than anything
else, with Trimalchio standing upright in it. Not even under these
circumstances could he refrain from his loathsome trick of boasting,
declaring there was nothing more agreeable than to be free of a crowd in
bathing, and that his bath-house occupied the exact site of a former
bakery. Presently, feeling tired, he sat down, and tempted by his
resonance of the bathroom, turned up his tipsy face and open mouth to
the vault, and began murdering some of Menecrates' songs, as we were
told by those who could make out the words.
The remainder of the company were running hand in hand round the edge of
the bath, laughing and shouting at the top of their voices. Others with
their hands tied behind their backs, were trying to pick up rings from
the pavement in their mouths, or kneeling down, to bend back and kiss
the points of their toes. Whilst the others were engaged in these
amusements, we got down into the bath, that was being heated for
After dissipating the fumes of wine by these means, we were next
conducted to another dinner-hall, where Fortunata had laid out a dainty
banquet of her own. I noticed especially lamps suspended over the table
with miniature figures of fishermen in bronze, tables of soled silver,
cups of gilt pottery ware round the board, and wine pouring from a wine
skin before our eyes.
Presently Trimalchio said, "You see, friends, a slave of mine has cut
his first beard today, a very careful, thrifty young man, if I may say
so without offense. So let's be jovial, and keep it up till daylight
doth appear." Just as he uttered these words, a cock crew. Trimalchio,
much disquieted at the circumstance, ordered wine to be poured under the
table, and some even to be sprinkled over the lamp; moreover he shifted
a ring from his left hand to his right, saying, "‘Tis not for nothing
chanticleer has sounded his note of warning; a fire is bound to happen,
or some one's going to die in the vicinity. Save us from ill! Anyone
bringing me yonder prophet of evil, shall have a present for his pains."
lxxiv No sooner said than done; a cock was instantly produced from
somewhere near, which Trimalchio ordered to be killed and put in the pot
to boil. He was cut up accordingly by the same clever cordon bleu who a
while before had manufactured game and fish out of a pig, and thrown
into a stew-pan. Then whilst Dædalus kept the pot boiling, Fortunata
ground pepper in a box-wood mill.
These dainties being dispatched, Trimalchio turned to the servants,
saying, "What! haven't you had your dinners yet? be off now, and let the
relay take your places." Hereupon a second set of attendants came in,
the outgoing slaves crying, "Farewell, Gaius!" and the incoming, "Hail,
Gaius!" At this point our mirth was disturbed for the first time; for a
rather good-looking slave boy having entered along with the new lot of
domestics, Trimalchio laid hold of him and started kissing him over and
over again. At this Fortunata, to assert "her lawful and equitable
rights" (as she put it), began abusing her husband, calling him an
abomination and a disgrace, that he could not restrain his filthy
passions, ending up with the epithet "dog!" Trimalchio for his part was
so enraged at her railing that he hurled a wine-cup in his wife's face.
Fortunata screamed out, as if she had lost an eye, and clapped her
trembling hands to her countenance. Scintilla was equally alarmed, and
sheltered her shuddering friend in her bosom. At the same time an
officious attendant applied a pitcher of cold water to her cheek, over
which the poor lady drooped and fell a-sighing and a-sobbing.
But Trimalchio went on. "What! what!" he stormed, "has the trollop no
memory? didn't I take her from the stand in the slave-market, and make
her a free woman among her equals? But there, she puffs herself out,
like the frog in the fable; she's too proud to spit in her own bosom,
the blockhead. If you are born in a hovel, you shouldn't dream of a
palace. As I hope to prosper, I'll see to it this Cassandra of the camp
is brought to reason. Why! when I was only worth twopence, I might have
married ten millions of money. You know I might. Agatho, perfumer to the
lady next door, drew me aside, and ‘I'll give you a hint,' said he;
‘don't let your race die out.' But I, with my silly good nature, and not
wanting to seem fickle-minded, I've driven my ax into my own leg. All
right! I'll make you long yet to dig me up again with your fingernails!
And to show this minute the harm you've done yourself, I forbid you,
Habinnas, to put her statue on my tomb at all, that I may not have any
scolding when I'm gone. I'll teach her I can do her a mischief; I won't
have her so much as kiss my dead body!"
lxxv After this thunderclap, Habinnas began to entreat him to forget
and forgive. "Nobody," he urged, "but goes wrong sometimes; we're men
after all, not gods." Scintilla spoke to the same purpose with tears in
her eyes, and besought him in the name of his good Genius and addressing
him as Gaius, to be pacified. Trimalchio could restrain his tears no
longer, but cried, "As you hope, Habinnas, to enjoy your little
fortune,-- if I've done anything wrong, spit in my face. I kissed the
good, careful lad, not because he's a pretty boy, but because he's so
thrifty and clever. I tell you he can recite ten pieces, reads his book
at sight, has bought himself a Thracian costume out of his daily
rations, besides an armchair and a pair of cups. Does he not deserve to
be the apple of my eye? But Fortunata won't have it. That's your
pleasure, is it, you tipsy wench? I warn you, make the most of what
you've got, you cormorant; and don't make me nasty, sweetheart, else
you'll get a taste of my temper. You know me; once I've made up my mind,
I'm just as hard as nails!
"However, not to forget the living, pray, my good friends, enjoy
yourselves. I was once what you are now, but my own merits have made me
what you see. It's gumption makes a man, all the rest's trash. ‘Buy
cheap, and sell dear,' that's me; one man will tell you one thing,
another another, but I'm just bursting with success. What! crying still,
grunty pig? Mark me, I'll give you something worth crying for. But as I
was saying, it was my thriftiness raised me to my present position. When
first I came from Asia, I was no higher than this candle-stick. I tell
you, I used to measure myself by it every day; and the sooner to get a
beard under my nose, I would smear my lips with the lamp oil. But I was
my master's joy for fourteen years; there's nothing disgraceful in doing
your master's bidding. And I satisfied my mistress into the bargain. You
know what I mean; I say no more, for I'm none of your boasters.
lxxvi "Eventually, it so pleased the gods, I found myself king of the
castle, and behold! I could twist my master round my finger. To make a
long story short, he made me his co-heir with the Emperor, and I came
into a senatorial fortune. Still no one is ever satisfied. I longed to
be a merchant prince. So, not to be tedious, I built five ships, loaded
up with wine,-- it was worth its weight in gold just then,-- and sent
them off to Rome. You might have supposed I'd ordered it so! if you'll
believe me, every one of the ships foundered, and that's a fact. In one
day Neptune swallowed me up thirty millions. Do you imagine I gave in?
Not I, by my faith! the loss only whetted my appetite, as if it were a
mere nothing. I built more ships, bigger and better found and luckier,
till every one allowed I was a well-plucked one. Nothing venture,
nothing win, you know; and a big ship's a big venture. I loaded up again
with wine, bacon, beans, perfumery and slaves. Fortunata was a real good
wife to me that time; she sold all her jewelry and all her clothes, and
laid a hundred gold pieces in my hand; and it proved the leaven of my
little property. A thing's soon done, when the gods will it. One voyage
I cleared a round ten millions. Instantly I bought back all the farms
that had been my late master's; I build a house; I buy up cattle to sell
again. Whatever I touched, grew like a honeycomb. When I discovered I
had as large an income as the whole revenue of my native land amounted
to, off hands; I withdrew from commerce, and started lending money among
freedmen. Moreover, just when I'd quite made up my mind to have no more
to do with trade, an astrologer advised me to the same course, a little
Greek fellow, that happened to come to our own town. Serapa he was
called, up to all the secrets of the gods. He told me things I had clean
forgotten, explaining it all as pat as needle and thread; he knew my
inside, he could all but tell me what I'd had for dinner the day before.
You would have thought he had lived with me all my life.
lxxvii "Now tell me, Habinnas,-- you were there at the time, I
think-- didn't he say: ‘You have used your wealth to set a mistress over
you. You are not very lucky in your friends. No one is ever properly
grateful to you. You have enormous estates. You are nourishing a viper
beneath your wing,' and-- why should I not tell you?-- that I have now
left me to live thirty years, four months and two days. Also I am soon
to come in for another fortune. This is what my Fate has in store for
me. And if I have the luck to extend my lands to Apulia, I shall have
done pretty well in my day. Meantime by Mercury's good help, I have
built this house. You remember it as a cottage; it's as big as a temple
now. It has four dining-rooms, twenty bedrooms, two marble porticos, a
series of storerooms up stairs, the chamber where I sleep myself, this
viper's sitting-room, an excellent porter's lodge; while the guest
chambers afford ample accommodations. In fact, when Scaurus comes this
way, there's nowhere he better likes to stop at, and he has an ancestral
mansion of his own by the seaside. Yes! and there are plenty more fine
things I'll show you directly. Take my word for it,-- Have a penny, good
for a penny; have something, and you're thought something. So your
humble servant, who was a toad once upon a time, is a king now.
"Meantime, Stichus, just bring out the graveclothes I propose to be
buried in; also the unguent, and a taste of the wine I wish to have my
bones washed with."
lxxviii Without a moment's delay, Stichus produced a white shroud and
a magistrate's gown into the dining-hall, and asked us to feel if they
were made of good wool. Then his master added with a laugh, "Mind,
Stichus, mice and moth don't get at them; else I'll have you burned
alive. I wish to be buried in all my bravery, that the whole people may
call down the blessings on my head." Immediately afterwards he opened a
pot of spikenard, and after rubbing us all with the ointment, "I only
hope," said he, "it will give me as much pleasure when I'm dead as it
does now when I'm alive." Further he ordered the wine vessels to be
filled up, telling us to "imagine you are invited guests at my funeral
The thing was getting positively sickening, when Trimalchio, now in a
state of disgusting intoxication, commanded a new diversion, a company
of horn-blowers, to be introduced; and then stretching himself out along
the edge of a couch on a pile of pillows, "Make believe I am dead," he
ordered. "Play something fine." Then the horn-blowers struck up a loud
funeral dirge. In particular one of these undertaker's men, the most
conscientious of the lot, blew so tremendous a fanfare he roused the
whole neighborhood. Hereupon the watchman in charge of the surrounding
district, thinking Trimalchio's house was on fire, suddenly burst open
the door, and rushing in with water and axes, started the much admired
confusion usual under such circumstances. For our part, we seized the
excellent opportunity thus offered, snapped our fingers in Agamemnon's
face, and rushed away helter-skelter just as if we were escaping from a
lxxix We had never a torch to guide our wandering steps, while the
silent hour of midnight gave small hope of procuring light from chance
wayfarers. Added to this was our own intoxication and ignorance of the
locality, baffling even by daylight. After dragging our bleeding feet
for the best part of an hour over all sorts of stumbling-blocks and
fragments of projecting paving-stones, we were finally saved by Giton's
ingenuity. For being afraid even by daylight of missing his way, he had
taken the precaution the day before to make every post and pillar on the
road with chalk. The strokes he had drawn were visible on the darkest
night, their conspicuous whiteness showing wanderers the way. Though
truly we were in no less of a fix, even when we did get to our inn. For
the old woman had been swilling so long with her customers, you might
have set her afire without her knowing anything about it. And we might
very likely have passed the night on the doorstep, had not one of
Trimalchio's carriers come up, in charge of ten wagons. Accordingly,
without stopping to make any more ado, he burst in the door, and let us
in by the same road.
Going to my chamber, I went to bed with my dear lad, and burning with
amorous ardor as I was after my sumptuous meal, gave myself up heart and
soul to all the delights of love.
Oh! what a night was that! how soft
The couch, ye gods! as many a time and oft
Our lips met burning in o'ermastering bliss,
And interchanged our souls in every kiss.
To mortal cares I bid farewell for aye--
So sweet I find it in thine arms to die!
But my self-congratulations were premature. For no sooner had my
enfeebled hands relaxed their tipsy hold than Ascyltos, that everlasting
contriver of mischief, drew the boy away from me in the dark and carried
him off to his own bed; and there rolling about in wanton excess with
another man's minion, the latter either not noticing the fraud or
pretending not to, he went off to sleep, enfolded in an embrace he had
no sort of right to, utterly regardless of all human justice. So when I
awoke, and feeling the bed over, found it robbed of delight, I declare,
by all that lovers hold sacred, I had half a mind to run them both
through with my sword where they lay, and make their sleep eternal. But
presently adopting safer counsels, I thumped Giton awake, and turning a
stern countenance on Ascyltos, said severely, "You have broken faith by
your dastardly conduct and sinned against our mutual friendship; remove
your things as quick as may be, and go seek another place to be the
scene of your abominations."
He made no objection to this, but after we had divided our loot with
scrupulous exactness, "Come
lxxx now," said he, "let's divide the boy." I thought this was merely a
parting jest. But murderously drawing a sword, "Never," he cried, "shall
you enjoy this prey you gloat over so selfishly. I've been slighted, and
I must have my share, even if I have to cut it off with this sword." I
followed suit on my side, and wrapping my cloak round my arm, took up a
In wretched trepidation at our unhappy fury the boy fell at our knees in
tears and begged and besought us not to repeat in a miserable tavern the
tragedy of the two Theban brothers, nor pollute with each other's blood
the sanctity of so noble a friendship. "But if murder must be done," he
declared, "lo! here I lay bare my throat; here strike, here bury your
points. ‘Tis I should die, who have violated the sacred bond of
At these entreaties we put up our swords. Then Ascyltos, taking the
initiative, said, "I will end this difference. Let the lad himself
follow whom he will, so that he may be perfectly free to choose his
friend and favorite."
For my part, supposing my long, long intimacy had bound the boy to me in
ties as strong as those of blood, I felt not the slightest fear, but
gladly and eagerly accepted the proposal to submit the question to this
arbitrament. Yet the instant the words were out of my mouth, without a
moment's hesitation or one look of uncertainty, he sprang up and
declared Ascyltos to be his choice.
Thunderstruck at this decision, I threw myself just as I was and unarmed
on my bed, and in my despair would certainly have laid violent hands on
myself, had I not grudged such a victory to my adversary. Off goes
Ascyltos in triumph with his prize, leaving me forlorn in a strange
place-- me who so short a while before had been his dearest comrade and
the partner in all his escapades.
Friendship's a name, expediency's mate,
The shifting symbol of the changing slate.
While Fortune's on our side, our friends stay true;
Let her once change, farewell the recreant crew!
So on the stage, one plays a father's part,
A son's, a rich man's, each with pliant art;
But when the play is ended, grave or gay,
Dropped is the mask, and truth resumes her sway.
lxxxi However, I had no time to indulge my grief, but dreading lest, to
complete my misfortunes, Menelaus, the under-professor, should find me
alone at the inn, I collected my traps together, and with a sad heart
went off to hire a solitary lodging near the seashore. Shutting myself
up for three days there, my loneliness and humiliation for ever haunting
my mind, I spent my time in beating my poor breast, and with many a
deep-drawn groan, crying again and again, "Oh! why has not the earth
swallowed me? why has the sea, that drowns the guiltless mariner, spared
me? Have I escaped the law, cheated the gallows, slain my host, that
after so many proofs of spirit, I should be lying here a beggar and a
vagabond, alone and forlorn in the inn of a paltry Greek city? And who
is it has brought me to this desolation? A stripling defiled with every
lust, who on his own freedom and enfranchisement by the prostitution of
his body, whose youthful favors were sold to the highest bidder, who was
hired out as a girl, when known to be a boy all the while. And what was
the other? One who donned on the day of puberty the woman's frock in
lieu of the manly gown, who was bent from his mother's womb on changing
sex, who was whore to a barrackful of slaves, who after playing me false
and exchanging the instrument of his lust, abandoned his old friend and,
oh! the infamy of it! like a common strumpet sold everything in one
night's vile work. Now the lovers lie twined in each other's arms whole
nights together, and it may be, as they rest exhausted after mutual
excesses, make mock of my loneliness. But they shall not go unpunished.
As I am a man, and a Roman citizen, I will avenge the wrong they have
done me in their guilty blood!"
lxxxii So saying, I gird on a sword, and that bodily weakness might
not hinder my warlike intentions, recruit my strength with a copious
meal. Presently I sally forth, and stalk like a madman through all the
public colonnades. As I was prowling thus, with haggard, ferocious looks
that threatened sheer blood and slaughter, ever and anon clapping my
hand to the hilt of the weapon I had devoted to my vengeance, a soldier
observed me-- if a simple soldier indeed he was, and not some nocturnal
footpad. "Ho, there! comrade," he cried, "what's your legion, and who's
your Centurion?" I named both legion and Centurion with confident
mendacity. "Come, come," he retorted, "do the men of your division go
about the streets in Greek pumps?" Then, my face and my agitation
sufficiently betraying the imposture, he ordered me to drop my weapon
and have a care I did not get into trouble. So despoiled and deprived of
my means of vengeance, I retrace my steps to the inn, and my resolution
gradually slipping away, I begin to feel nothing but gratitude to the
footpad for his bold interference. It never does to trust too much to
foresight, for Fortune has her own way of doing things.
Meantime I found it no easy task to overcome my thirst for revenge, and
spent half the night in
lxxxiii anxious debate. In hopes, however, of beguiling my melancholy
and forgetting my wrongs, I rose at dawn and visited all the different
colonnades, finally entering a picture gallery, containing admirable
paintings in various styles. There I beheld Zeuxis' handiwork, still
unimpaired by the lapse of years, and scanned, not without a certain
awe, some sketches of Protogenes', that vied with Nature herself in
their truth of presentment. Then I reverently admired the work of
Apelles, of the kind the Greeks call "monochromatic"; for such was the
exquisite delicacy and precision with which the figures were outlined,
you seemed to see the very soul portrayed. Here was the eagle towering
to the sky and bearing Ganymede in its talons. There the fair Hylas,
struggling in the embraces of the amorous Naiad. Another work showed
Apollo cursing his murderous hand, and bedecking his unstrung lyre with
blossoms of the new-sprung hyacinth.
Standing surrounded by these painted images of famous lovers, I
ejaculated as if in solitary self-communion, "Love, so it seems,
troubles even the gods. Jupiter could discover no fitting object of his
passion in heaven, his own domain; but though condescending to earthly
amours, yet he wronged no trusting heart. Hylas' nymph that ravished him
would have checked her ardor, had she known Hercules would come to chide
her passion. Apollo renewed the memory of his favorite in a flower; and
all these fabled lovers had their way without a rival's interference.
But I have taken to my bosom a false-hearted friend more cruel than
But lo! while I am thus complaining to the winds of heaven, there
entered the colonnade an old white-headed man, with a thought-worn face,
that seemed to promise something mysterious and out of the common. Yet
his dress was far from imposing, making it evident he belonged to the
class of men of letters, so ill-looked upon by the rich. This man now
came up to me, saying, "Sir! I am a poet, and I trust of no mean genius,
if these crowns mean anything, which I admit unfair partiality often
confers on unworthy recipients. ‘Why then,' you will ask, ‘are you so
poorly clad?' Just because I am a genius; when did love of art ever make
a man wealthy?
The sea-borne trafficker gains pelf untold;
The hardy soldier wins his spoil of gold;
The sycophant on Tyrian purple lies;
The base adulterer with Crœsus vies.
Learning alone, in shuddering rags arrayed,
Vainly invokes th' indifferent Muses' aid!
lxxxiv "No doubt about it; if any man declare himself the foe of every
vice, and start boldly on the path of rectitude, in the first place the
singularity of his principles makes him odious, for who can approve
habits so different from his own? Secondly, men whose one idea is to
pile up the dollars cannot bear that others should have a nobler creed
than they live by themselves. So they spite all lovers of literature in
every possible way, to put them into their proper place-- below the
"I cannot understand why poverty is always talent's sister," I said, and
heaved a sigh.
"You do well," returned the old man, "to deplore the lot of men of
"Nay!" I replied, "that was not why I sighed; I have another and a far
heavier reason for my sorrow!"-- and immediately, following the common
propensity of mankind to pour one's private griefs into another's ear, I
told him all my misfortunes, inveighing particularly against Ascyltos'
perfidy, and ejaculating with many a groan, "Would to heaven my enemy,
the cause of my present enforced continence, had any vestige of good
feeling left to work upon; but ‘tis a hardened sinner, more cunning and
astute than the basest pander."
Pleased by my frankness, the old man tried to comfort me; and in order
to divert my melancholy thoughts, told me of an amorous adventure that
had once happened to himself.
lxxxv "When I went to Asia," he began, "as a paid officer in the
Quaestor's suite, I lodged with a family at Pergamus. I found my
quarters very pleasant, first on account of the convenience and elegance
of the apartments, and still more so because of the beauty of my host's
son. I devised the following method to prevent the master of the house
entertaining any suspicions of me as a seducer. Whenever the
conversation at table turned on the abuse of handsome boys, I showed
such extreme indignation and protested with such an air of austerity and
offended dignity against the violence done to my ears by filthy talk of
the sort, that I came to be regarded, especially by the mother, as one
of the greatest of moralists and philosophers. Before long I was allowed
to take the lad to the gymnasium; it was I that directed his studies, I
that guided his conduct, and guarded against any possible debaucher of
his person being admitted to the house.
"It happened on one occasion that we were sleeping in the dining-hall,
the school having closed early as it was a holiday, and our amusements
having rendered us too lazy to retire to our sleeping-chambers.
Somewhere about midnight I noticed that the lad was awake; so whispering
soft and low, I murmured a timid prayer in these words, ‘Lady Venus, if
I may kiss this boy, so that he know it not, tomorrow I will present him
with a pair of doves.' Hearing the price offered for the gratification,
the boy set up a snore. So approaching him, where he lay still making
pretense to be asleep, I stole two or three flying kisses. Satisfied
with this beginning, I rose betimes next morning, and discharged my vow
by bringing the eager lad a choice and costly pair of doves.
lxxxvi "The following night, the same opportunity occurring, I
changed my petition, ‘If I may pass a naughty hand over this boy, and he
not feel it, I will present him for his complaisance with a brace of the
best fighting cocks ever seen.' At this promise the child came nestling
up to me of his own accord and was actually afraid, I think, lest I
might drop asleep again. I soon quieted his uneasiness on this point,
and amply satisfied my longings, short of the supreme bliss, on every
part of his beautiful body. Then when daylight came, I made him happy
with the gift I had promised him.
lxxxvii "As soon as the third night left me free to try again, I rose
as before, and creeping up to the rascal, who was lying awake expecting
me, whispered at his ear, ‘If only, ye Immortal Gods, I may win of this
sleeping darling full and happy satisfaction of my love, for such bliss
I will tomorrow present the lad with an Asturian of the Macedonian
strain, the best to be had for money, but always on the condition he
shall not feel my violence.' Never did the stripling sleep more sound.
So first I handled his plump and snowy bosoms, then kissed him on the
mouth, and finally concentrated all my ardors in one supreme delight.
Next morning he sat still in his room, expecting my present as usual.
Well! you know as well as I do, it is a much easier matter to buy doves
and fighting cocks than an Asturian; besides which, I was afraid so
valuable a present might rouse suspicion as to the real motives of my
liberality. After walking about for an hour or so, I returned to the
house, and gave the boy a kiss-- and nothing else. He looked about
inquiringly, then threw his arms round my neck, and ‘Please, sir!' he
said, ‘where is my Asturian?'
"‘It is hard,' I replied, ‘to get one fine enough. You will have to wait
a few days for me to fulfill my vow.'
"The boy had wits enough to see through my answer, and his resentment
was betrayed by the angry look that crossed his face.
"Although by this breach of faith I had closed against myself the door
of access so carefully contrived, I returned once more to the attack.
For, after allowing a few days to elapse, one night when similar
circumstances had created just another opportunity for us as before, I
began, the moment I heard the father snoring, to beg and pray the boy to
be friends with me again,-- that is, to let me give him pleasure for
pleasure, adding all the arguments my burning concupiscence could
suggest. But he was positively angry and refused to say one word beyond,
‘Go to sleep, or I will tell my father.' But there is never an obstacle
so difficult audacity will not vanquish it. He was still repeating, ‘I
will wake my father,' when I slipped into his bed and took my pleasure
of him in spite of his half-hearted resistance. However, he found a
certain pleasure in my naughty ways, for after a long string of
complaints about my having cheated and cajoled him and made him the
laughing-stock of his school-fellows, to whom he had boasted of his rich
friend, he whispered, ‘Still I won't be so unkind as you; if you like,
do it again.'
"So forgetting all our differences, I was reconciled to the dear lad
once more, and after utilizing his kind permission, I slipped off to
sleep in his arms. But the stripling was not satisfied with only one
repetition, all ripe for love as he was and just at the time of life for
passive enjoyment. So he woke me up from my slumbers, and, ‘Anything
you'd like, eh?' said he. Nor was I, so far, indisposed to accept his
offer. So working him the best ever I could, to the accompaniment of
much panting and perspiration, I gave him what he wanted, and then
dropped asleep again, worn out with pleasure. Less than an hour had
passed before he started pinching me and asking, ‘Eh! why are we not at
work?' Hereupon, sick to death of being so often disturbed, I flew into
a regular rage, and retorted his own words upon him; ‘Go to sleep,' I
cried, ‘or I'll tell your father!'"
lxxxviii Enlivened by this discourse, I now began to question my
companion, who was better informed on these points than myself, as to
the dates of the different pictures and the subjects of some that
baffled me. At the same time I asked him the reason for the supineness
of the present day and the utter decay of the highest branches of art,
and amongst the rest of painting, which now showed not the smallest
vestige of its former excellence.
"It is greed of money," he replied, "has wrought the change. In early
days, when plain worth was still esteemed, the liberal arts flourished,
and the chief object of men's emulation was to ensure no discovery
likely to benefit future ages long remaining undeveloped. To this end
Democritus extracted the juices of every herb, and spent his life in
experimenting, that no virtue of mineral or plant might escape
detection. In a similar way Eudoxus grew gray on the summit of a lofty
mountain, observing the motions of the stars and firmament, while
Chrysippus thrice purged his brain with hellebore, to stimulate its
capacity and inventiveness. But to consider the sculptors only,--
Lysippus was so absorbed in the modeling of a single figure that he
actually perished from lack of food, and Myron, who came near embodying
the very souls of men and beasts in bronze, died too poor to find an
"But we, engrossed with wine and women, have not the spirit to
appreciate the arts already discovered; we can only criticize Antiquity,
and devote all our energies, in precept and practice, to the faults of
the old masters. What is become of Dialectic? of Astronomy? of
Philosophy, that richly cultivated domain? Who nowadays has ever been
known to enter a temple and engage to pay a vow, if only he may attain
unto Eloquence, or find the fountain of wisdom? Not even do sound
intellect and sound health any longer form the objects of men's prayers,
but before ever they set food on the threshold of the Capitol, they
promise lavish offerings, one if he may bury a wealthy relative, another
if he may unearth a treasure, another if only he may live to reach his
thirty million. The very Senate, the ensample of all that is right and
good, is in the habit of promising a thousand pounds of gold to
Capitoline Jove, and that no man may be ashamed of the lust of pelf,
bribes the very God of Heaven. What wonder then if Painting is in decay,
when all, gods and men alike, find a big lump of gold a fairer sight
than anything those crack-brained Greek fellows, Apelles and Phidias,
lxxxix "But there! I see your attention is riveted on that picture
representing the capture of Troy; so I will endeavor to expound the
theme in a copy of verses:
"Still the tenth summer saw the Phrygian host
A prey to doubt and fear, and Calchas' faith
Wavering and weak in spite of oracles,
When at Apollo's word, the wooded heights
Of topmost Ida lent their tallest trees
To shape the framework of a monstrous horse.
Within, a vasty cave and secret halls,
Capacious of an army, hold the flower
Of all the Greeks, by ten years' strife enraged;
Their own thank-offering hides th' avenging crew!
Oh! my unhappy country! now we dreamed
A thousand ships were scattered, and our land
Freed from the foe. So ran the lying words
Writ on the horse's flank, and so the tale
Of Sinon's wheedling tongue and traitor's heart.
Now through the gates, glad to be free at last,
The shouting Trojans hailed the pledge of peace,
While tears relieve the tension of their joy.
But terror checked their triumph; lo! the priest
Of Neptune, wise Laocoön, his locks unbound,
With cries of warning stays the eager crowd!
His brandished spear he hurled, but foiled by fate,
The blow falls harmless, and the sight renews
Their ill-starred confidence in Grecian guile.
Yet once again he summons all his strength,
And drives his ax deep in the monster's side.
Th' imprisoned warriors' groan resounds, and fills
The wooden hull with terror not its own.
In vain! the captives ride to capture Troy,
And end the tedious war by fraud, not force.
Another marvel! where above the deep
Tower the sheer cliffs of Tenedos, the surge
Is lashed to foam, and a fierce roaring breaks
The silence of the seas, as on a quiet night
The sound of pulsing oars is borne to land,
When fleets are passing on the distant main.
We turn our gaze; and there with rolling coils
Two water-snakes are sweeping toward the shore;
Their flanks, like lofty ships, throw back the foam,
They lash the main, their crests that ride the waves
Gleam fiery like their eyes, whose lightning flash
Kindles the deep, the billows hiss and roar.
All stare aghast. Behold, like priests attired
In Phrygian robes, there stand Laocoön's sons,
Twin pledges of his love, whom in their folds
The fiery snakes entwine. Each lifts his hands,
His childish hands, to guard,-- alas! in vain,--
His brother's head; from love's unselfishness
Remorseless death a sharper anguish wins.
Their sire, too weak to save them, shares their fate.
Gorged with fresh blood, the monsters drag him
Weltering in gore at his own altar's side
The priest a victim dies, in agony
Beating the ground. Thus from polluted shrines
The gods of fated Troy were driven away.
The rising Moon her beam had just displayed,
Kindling her radiant torch amid the stars,
When the impatient Greeks unbar the doors;
And forth on Troy, by sleep and wine betrayed,
The steel-clad warriors rush, as from the yoke
Just loosed, a gallant steed of Thessaly
Darts o'er the course tossing his eager mane.
They draw their flashing blades and wave their
And ‘havoc!' cry. One stabs the sleeping sot
With wine oppressed, one from the altar flames
Snatches a burning brand and fires the town,--
And Troy's own temples arm her foemen's hands."
xc Sundry of the public who were strolling in the colonnades now
proceeded to pelt the aged reciter with stones. But Eumolpus, who was
familiar with the sort of applause his talents usually met with, merely
covered up his head and bolted from the Temple. I was afraid he would
claim me as a poet. So I started off in pursuit of the fugitive, and
came up with him on the seashore. There we halted, directly we were out
of range of the missiles, and I asked him, "Now what do you mean by this
confounded malady of yours? I have not been a couple of hours in your
company, and you've talked oftener like a mad poet than a sensible man.
I don't wonder the populace pelts you. I am going to fill my pockets
with stones, and every time I see your wits going, I shall bleed you in
At this he changed countenance, and "Oh! my young friend," he said,
"today is by no means my first essay; every time I've entered a theater
to recite some trifle, the audience invariably welcomes me with this
kind of treat. However as I am far from wishing to quarrel with you, I
undertake a whole day's fast from poetry."
"Very well, then," said I; "if you'll abjure your crankiness for today,
we'll dine together." So saying, I commissioned the housekeeper at my
humble rooms to make preparations for our humble meal, and we went off
straight to the Baths.
xci Arrived at the Baths, I catch sight of Giton laden with towels
and scrapers, leaning against a wall and wearing a look of melancholy
embarrassment on his face. You could easily see he was an unwilling
servant; and indeed, to show my eyes had not deceived me, he now turned
upon me a countenance beaming with pleasure, saying, "Oh! have pity on
me, brother! there are no weapons to fear here, so I can speak freely.
Save me, save me, from the murderous ruffian; and then lay upon your
judge, now your penitent, any punishment you please, no matter how
severe. It will be comfort enough for me in my misery to have perished
by your good pleasure."
I bad him hush his complaints, that no one might surprise our plans, and
leaving Eumolpus to his own devices,-- he was engaged reciting a poem to
his fellow bathers-- I dragged Giton down a dark and dirty passage, and
so hurried him away to my lodging. Then after bolting the door, I threw
my arms round his neck, pressing my lips convulsively to his
tear-stained face. It was long before either of us could find his voice;
for my darling's bosom was quivering like my own with quick-coming sobs.
"I am ashamed of my criminal weakness," I cried, "but I love you still,
though you did forsake me, and the wound that pierced my heart has left
not a scar behind. What can you say to excuse your surrender to another?
Did I deserve so base a wrong?"
Seeing he was still loved, he put on a less downcast look:
To chide, to love,-- how make these two agree?
The task beyond e'en Hercules would be.
Let Love appear, all angry passions cease.
"Yet," I could not help adding, "I never meant to refer the choice of
whom you should love to any third person; but there! all is forgiven and
forgotten, if only you show yourself sincerely penitent." My words were
interspersed with groans and tears; when I had done, the dear boy dried
my cheeks with his mantle, saying, "I beg you, Encolpius, let me appeal
to your own recollection of the circumstances. Did I desert you, or did
you throw me over? I am ready to confess, and it is my best excuse, when
I saw you both sword in hand, I fled for safety to the stronger
fighter." Kissing the bosom so full of wise prudence, I threw my arms
round his neck, and to let him see he was restored to favor once more,
and that my affection and confidence were as strong as ever, I pressed
him closely to my heart.
xcii It was quite dark and the woman had completed my orders for
dinner when Eumolpus knocked at the door. I called out "How many of you
are there?" and immediately proceeded to spy through a chink in the door
to see whether Ascyltos had not come too. But seeing my guest was alone,
I at once hastened to let him in. He threw himself on my pallet, and
directly he observed Giton moving about in attendance he wagged his head
and remarked, "I like your Ganymede; we shall have a good time today." I
was anything but pleased with this indiscreet beginning, and began to
fear I had opened my doors to another Ascyltos. Eumolpus grew more and
more pressing, and on the lad's serving him with wine, "I like you
better," he said, "than any of them at the Baths;" and draining his cup
thirstily, added he had never been more vexed in his life.
"I tell you, at the Bath just now, I came very near getting a beating,
merely because I tried to repeat a copy of verses to the bathers sitting
around the basin. It was just like the Theater-- I was turned out of the
place. Then I started to look for you in every corner of the building,
shouting Encolpius! Encolpius! at the top of my voice. Not far off was a
naked youth, who had lost his clothes, and roaring with just the same
clamorous indignation after Giton. For me, I was treated like a madman
by the very slave lads, who mocked and mimicked me most insolently; he
on the contrary was soon surrounded by a thronging multitude, clapping
their hands and showing the most awe-struck admiration. The fact is, he
possessed virile parts of such enormous mass and weight, the man really
seemed only an appendage of his own member. Oh! an indefatigable worker!
I warrant, the sort to begin yesterday, and finish tomorrow! Accordingly
he soon found a way out of his difficulties; a bystander, a Roman
knight, they said, of notorious character, wrapped his own cloak round
the poor wanderer, and took him home with him, in order, I imagine, to
have the sole enjoyment of so rich a windfall. But I should never have
recovered so much as my own clothes from the Bathkeeper, had I not
produced some one to vouch for me. So much better does it profit a man
to train his member than his mind!"
During Eumolpus's narrative I changed countenance repeatedly, now
jubilant at my hated rival's misfortunes, now saddened by his success. I
held my tongue, however, pretending to know nothing of the matter, and
set to work arranging the dinner table. I had hardly finished this, when
our humble repast was brought in; the fare was homely, but succulent and
substantial, and Eumolpus, our famished scholar, fell to with a will,
extolling the simplicity of the viands in the following lines:
All things that may our simple wants assuage
Kind heaven bestows to ease our hunger's rage;
Wild herbs and berries from the woodland spray
Suffice the craving appetite to stay.
What man would thirst beside a stream, or stand
To front the wintry blast with fire at hand?
The law is armed to guard the marriage bed,
The chaste bride blameless yields her maidenhead.
Whate'er is needful, bounteous Nature gives;
Pride only in unbridled riot lives!
After satisfying his appetite, our philosopher began to moralize,
indulging in many criticisms of such as despise familiar things and
attach value only to what is rich and rare. To their perverted taste
anything that is allowable is held cheap, while they display a morbid
predilection for forbidden luxuries.
xciii Facile success, a rose without a thorn,
An instant victory, are things I scorn.
The Phasian bird from distant Colchis brought
And Afric fowl! are dainties ever sought,
For these are rarities; not so the goose
And bright-plumed duck, fit but for vulgar use.
The costly scar, choice fish from Syrtes' shore,
That cost poor fishers' lives, these all adore;
The mullet's out of date. The modern man
Deserts his wife to woo the courtesan;
The rose yields place to cinnamon. For naught
Is held of worth that is not dearly bought.
"Is this the way," I cried, "you keep your promise of making no more
poetry today? On your conscience, spare us at least, who have never
thrown a stone at you. Once let any one of the company drinking under
the same roof with us scent out your poetship, he will rouse the whole
neighborhood and overwhelm us all in the same ruin. Have some pity on
your friends, and remember the picture gallery and the baths." But
Giton, who was all gentleness, remonstrated with me for speaking so, and
declared I was doing ill thus to jeer at my elders. He said I was
forgetting my duty as a host, and after inviting a man to my table out
of compassion, was nullifying the obligation by then insulting him.
Other remarks follow, all equally imbued with moderation and good sense,
and coming with added grace from so beautiful a mouth.
xciv "Happy the mother of such a son!" exclaimed Eumolpus. "Go on,
good youth, and prosper! Rare indeed is such a combination of wisdom and
beauty. Never think all your words have been wasted; you have won a
lover! I, I will extol your praises in my verse. I will be your
preceptor and your guardian, your companion everywhere, even when
unbidden. Nor has Encolpius anything to complain of, who loves another."
The speaker had much to be thankful for to the soldier who had taken
away my sword; otherwise the wrath I had conceived against Ascyltos
would surely have been wreaked on Eumolpus's head. Giton saw what was
toward, and slipped out of the room, as if to fetch water; and his
judicious departure abated the extreme heat of my indignation. My anger
cooled a little, and I told Eumolpus, "Sir! I would rather have you
talking poetry than entertaining such hopes as these. I am a passionate
man, and you a lecherous; our characters, look you, can never accord
together. Suppose me stark mad; humor my frenzy,-- in other words, leave
the house without a moment's delay."
Confounded at this outburst, Eumolpus never stopped to ask my reasons,
but instantly left the room, drew the door to after him, and locked me
in, to my intense surprise. He carried off the key with him, and hurried
away at a run in search of Giton.
Finding myself a prisoner, I resolved to hang myself and so end my
miseries. I had already attached my girdle to the framework of a bed
which stood against the wall, and was just fitting the noose round my
neck, when the doors were flung open again, and Eumolpus coming in with
Giton recalled me to the light of life from the fatal bourne I had so
nearly passed. Giton especially, his agony turning to rage and fury,
uttered a piercing shriek, and pushing me down headlong on the bed with
both hands, "You deceive yourself, Encolpius," he cried, "if you think
you can contrive to die before me. I was first; I have already been to
Ascyltos's lodging to look for a sword. Had I not found you, I was going
to hurl myself over a precipice. Now, to show you Death is never far
from those who seek him, behold in your turn the sight you intended me
With these words he snatches a razor from Eumolpus's hired servant, and
drawing it once and again across his throat, tumbles down at our feet.
Uttering a cry of horror, I fall on the floor beside him, and seek to
take my own life with the same weapon. But neither did Giton exhibit the
smallest sign of a wound, nor did I myself feel any pain. The fact is,
the razor had no edge, coming from a case of razors purposely blunted,
with the object of training barbers' apprentices to a proper confidence
in the exercise of their craft; and that was why the servant from whom
he snatched the instrument had expressed no sort of consternation, nor
had Eumolpus made an effort to hinder the mimic tragedy.
xcv In the midst of this lovers' fooling, the landlord enters with
another course of the dinner, and staring hard at us where we lay
sprawling disgracefully on the floor, "Are you all drunk," he asked, "or
runaways, or both? Now who put up that bed against the wall like that?
and what do all these underhanded proceedings mean? By great Hercules,
you intended, you scamps, to levant in the night, and get out of paying
the rent for your room. Not so fast, I say. I'll let you know it's no
poor widow woman's the owner of the block, but Marcus Mannicius." "You
threaten, do you," shouts Eumolpus, and fetches the man a good sharp
slap in the face. The latter hurled at his head an earthenware jar,
emptied by a succession of thirsty guests, cut open his noisy
adversary's forehead, and darted out of the room. Furious at the
indignity, Eumolpus snatches up a wooden candlestick, pursues the
fugitive, and revenges his injury with a shower of blows. The whole
household comes crowding to the scene of action, together with a mob of
drunken customers. Now was my opportunity for retaliation; so I turn the
tables on Eumolpus by shutting the blackguard out, and find myself
without a rival and free to do as I please with my room and my night.
Meanwhile the unfortunate Eumolpus, being locked out, is assaulted by
the scullions and miscellaneous tenants of the block. One threatens his
eyes with a spit loaded with hissing-hot guts; another snatches a
flesh-hook from the kitchen hearth and assumes a fighting attitude.
First and foremost, an old hag with sore eyes and a most filthy apron,
and mounted on wooden clogs (an odd pair) hauls in a huge dog on a
chain, and sets him at Eumolpus, who however made a gallant defense
xcvi against all assailants with his candlestick. All this we saw
through a hole in the door, just made by the wrenching off of the handle
of the wicket, and for my own part I wished him joy of his beating.
Giton on the contrary, with his usual tender-heartedness, was for
opening the door and rescuing him from his perilous position. My
resentment being still hot within me, I could not hold my hand, but
favored the poet's sympathizer with a good smart box on the side of the
head, at which he went and sat down crying on the bed. For myself, I put
first one eye, then the other, to the opening, and was regaling myself
with the sight of Eumolpus's sorry plight and mentally patting his
assailants on the back, when Bargates, the agent of the block, who had
been called away from his dinner, was borne into the heart of the
skirmish by a couple of chairmen, for he was disabled by the gout. After
a long harangue against drunkards and runaways, uttered in a savage tone
and barbarous accent, he said, turning upon Eumolpus, "My prince of
poets, you here? and these ruffianly slaves don't fly at once and stop
their brawling!" Then putting his lips to Eumolpus's ear, "My
bedfellow," he went on, in a more subdued tone, "is a scornful jade; so
if you love me, blackguard her in verse, will you, to make her feel
ashamed of herself."
xcvii Whilst Eumolpus was talking apart with Bargates, a crier
attended by a public slave and a small crowd of curious persons besides,
entered the inn, and brandishing a torch that gave more smoke than
light, read out the follow public notice:
"Lost or strayed lately in the Baths, a boy,-- aged sixteen,
curly-headed, a minion by trade, good-looking, Giton by name. Whoever
will bring back the same or give information of his present whereabouts,
will receive a thousand sesterces reward."
Not far from the herald stood Ascyltos in a particolored robe,
exhibiting description, and voucher for the sum promised, on a silver
platter. I told Giton to dash under the bed and twist his hands and feet
into the cords by which the mattress was supported on the framework, so
that stretched full length underneath, like Ulysses of old clinging
under the ram's belly, he might escape any prying hands. Giton promptly
obeyed, and in another instant had cleverly twisted his fingers in the
attachments, and beaten the wily Ulysses at his own game. For my part,
so as to leave no room for suspicion, I heaped the pallet with clothes
and shaped an impression amongst them of a single sleeper, and that a
man of my own size.
Meantime Ascyltos, visiting each room in succession with the apparitor,
arrived at mine, where his hopes of success rose the higher on finding
the door so carefully barred. But the public slave, inserting his ax in
the crack of the door, broke the hold of the fastenings. Thereupon I
threw myself at Ascyltos' feet and implored him by the memory of our
former friendship and our companionship in misfortune at any rate to let
me see Giton. Nay! more, to give color to my pretended supplication, "I
am well aware, Ascyltos," I cried, "that you have come to murder me; why
else have you brought these axes with you? Take your revenge then; see,
I offer my neck, so shed my life's blood, which you are seeking under
pretense of searching my room."
Ascyltos protested indignantly against the imputation, asseverating he
was there only to look for his runaway favorite; he desired, he said, no
man's, certainly no suppliant's death, and least of all that of a man
whom, even after our fatal quarrel, he still thought of as his dearest
xcviii Nor was the public slave idle meanwhile, but snatching a cane
from the innkeeper, he thrusts it under the bed, and even investigates
every cranny in the walls. Giton kept shirking away from the stick, and
holding his breath in abject terror, squeezed closer and closer, till
the bugs were tickling his very nose.
Scarcely had the men left the room when Eumolpus, for the shattered door
could keep no one out, dashes in in great excitement, shouting, "The
thousand sesterces are mine; I shall now run after the officer and
denounce you, as you richly deserve, and inform him Giton is in your
hands at the present moment." I embrace the poet's knees but he remains
obdurate; I beseech him not to kill the dying; I tell him, "Your
resolution would have some sense in it, if you could produce the missing
boy, but he has disappeared in the crowd, and I cannot so much as guess
where he is gone to. In heaven's name, Eumolpus, bring the lad back and
restore him to his friends,-- to Ascyltos, if it must be so."
He was just beginning to credit my plausible story when Giton, all but
smothered and choking for breath, give three loud sneezes one after the
other, so that the bed positively shook. Eumolpus wheeled round at the
commotion, exclaiming, "Giton, God bless you!" Then lifting the mattress
away, he reveals Ulysses in such a plight even a half-starving Cyclops
might well have spared him! Next turning to me, "What is the meaning of
all this, you thief?" said he. "What! even when found out, you had not
spirit enough to tell the truth. In fact, if some God that governs human
affairs had not made the boy betray where he hung concealed, I should
have been sent wandering from tavern to tavern on a wild goose chase."
Giton, a far better wheedler than myself, first stanched the wound in
the poor man's forehead with some cobwebs dipped in oil; then exchanged
his own little cloak for the other's torn robe, and seeing him somewhat
mollified, kissed his bruises to make them well, crying, "We are in your
keeping, in your hands, dearest father! If you love your Giton, try, oh!
try to save him. I would the consuming fire might scorch me to ashes,
the raging waters overwhelm me, and me alone! For ‘tis I am the subject,
I the cause, of all these wicked doings! My death would reconcile two
xcix Touched by our troubles, and above all stirred by Giton's
blandishments, Eumolpus exclaimed, "Fools, fools; gifted as you are with
qualities to ensure your happiness, you persist in leading a life of
wretchedness, and every day by your own acts draw down fresh torments on
your heads. My plan of life has always been, so to spend each day as if
it were my last, that is in peace and quietness; if you would follow my
example, dismiss all anxious thoughts from your minds. Ascyltos
persecutes you here; then fly his neighborhood, and come with me on a
voyage I am about to make to foreign parts. I sail as a passenger in a
vessel that may very likely weigh this very night; I am well known on
board, and we shall be sure of a hearty welcome."
His advice appeared to me sound and good, as it was likely to free me
from further annoyance on the part of Ascyltos, and at the same time
gave promise of a happier existence. Overwhelmed by Eumolpus's
generosity, I felt profoundly sorry for the insults I had just been
offering him and very penitent for my jealousy, which had given rise to
so many calamities. With floods of tears I begged and prayed him to
include me too in his forgiveness, pointing out that it was beyond the
power of lovers to control their frenzies of jealousy. I pledged myself
for the future to do or say nothing whatever that could give him
offense, and urged him to banish all irritation from his mind, as a
learned and educated man should, so that not a trace of injury should
remain. "On rugged and uncultivated ground," I went on, "the snow lies
long, but where the soil has been disciplined and improved by the plow,
the light snowfall melts away before you can say it has fallen. It is
the same with resentment in men's hearts; it abides long in uncultured
minds, but melts quickly from the surface of such as have been trained
and educated." "To prove the truth of what you say," returned Eumolpus,
"I hereby end my anger with this kiss. So in luck's name, pack up your
traps and follow me, or if you so prefer, lead the way yourselves."
The words were still on his lips when the door flew open with a crash,
and a rough-bearded sailor appeared on the threshold, who shouted,
"You're all behind, Eumolpus; don't you know the Blue Peter's flying?"
In an instant we were all afoot. Eumolpus wakes his servant, who had
long ago dropped asleep, and orders him off with his baggage. Giton and
I pack up all our belongings for the journey, and after a prayer to the
stars, make our way on board.
c We chose out a retired spot on the stern-deck, and as it was not
even yet daylight, Eumolpus dozed off; but neither Giton nor myself
could get a single wink of sleep. I reflected with anxiety on the fact
that I had made a companion of Eumolpus, a still more redoubtable rival
than Ascyltos, and the thought gave me no peace. But reason presently
getting the better of my chagrin, "It is certainly unfortunate," I said
to myself, "that our friend finds the boy so much to his liking; but
then are not all Nature's finest productions common to all mankind? The
sun shines on the just and on the unjust. The moon, with her countless
train of attendant stars, lights the very beasts of the wilderness to
their prey. What can be more beautiful than water? Yet it flows freely
for all and sundry. Is Love alone to be furtively snatched and not won
in the open field? Nay! for my own part, I would rather not have any
good thing that all the world may not covet. One rival, and that an old
man, will hardly do me much harm; even should he wish to presume, he
will but lose his labor, for want of breath."
Reassured by the unlikelihood of his success, I calmed my anxieties,
and wrapping my head in my cloak, tried to persuade myself I was asleep.
But all of a sudden, as if Fortune were resolved to destroy my
composure, a lamentable voice sounded on the poop-deck, crying, "What!
has he fooled me then?" It was a man's voice, and one not unfamiliar to
my ears, and my heart began to beat wildly. Nor was this all; for now a
woman, equally indignant, blazed out in an even fiercer tone, "If only
some god would put Giton in my power, what a welcome I would give the
vagabond!" Stunned by the unexpectedness of the words, we both turned
pale as death. I was particularly terrified, and felt as if I were being
tortured by a horrible nightmare. When I found my voice at last, I asked
Eumolpus, who was just dropping off to sleep, plucking at the skirt of
his tunic with trembling hands, "By all you deem holy, father, whose
ship is this? and who are aboard her? tell me that."
He was furious at being disturbed. "So this was the reason," he
grumbled, "you chose out the quietest nook on the deck for us to occupy,
that you might not allow us one moment's rest? What the better are you,
when I've told you Lichas a Tarentine commands the ship, and that
Tryphaena is his passenger to Tarentum?" I shuddered horror-struck at
this thunderclap, and baring my throat, "Oh! Destiny," I ejaculated,
"now truly is your triumph complete!" Giton for his part fell in a dead
faint on my bosom. Presently, when a copious sweat had relieved the
tension of our spirits, I grasped Eumolpus round the knees, and cried,
"Have pity on two dying wretches, and in the name of what we both hold
dear, end our life; death draws nigh, and unless you refuse to deal it,
will haply be a boon."
Overwhelmed by my odious suspicion, Eumolpus swore by gods and goddesses
he knew nothing whatever of what had happened, and had never entertained
a thought of treachery; but that in absolute innocence of heart and
simple good faith he had led his comrades aboard the ship he had long
ago chosen for his own conveyance overseas. "Come now, what plot is
there afoot?" he demanded; "what Hannibal have we on board with us?
Lichas of Tarentum, a most respectable man, and not merely owner of this
vessel, which he commands himself, but of sundry landed estates besides
and a house of commerce, is carrying a cargo to sell in the way of
business. So this is the Cyclops, the pirate king, we owe our
passage-money to; then besides him, there is Tryphaena, the fairest of
fair women, who is sailing from port to port on pleasure bent."
ci "Why! these," retorted Giton, "are the very persons we wish to
avoid," and gave the amazed Eumolpus a short account of the reasons for
their hostility and the extremity of the risk we ran. So confounded was
he at the news, he knew not what advice to offer, but besought each of
us to say what he thought. "Imagine us entrapped," he went on, "in the
Cyclops' cave; some means or other of escape must be discovered, unless
we prefer a leap overboard and a sudden end to all our troubles."
"Better," interposed Giton, "persuade the pilot to steer the ship into
some harbor, of course making it worth his while, and tell him your
brother is so subject to seasickness he is at death's door. You can
easily color this excuse with woebegone looks and streaming tears, so
that the officer may grant you the favor out of sheer compassion." But
Eumolpus at once declared this scheme to be impracticable; "for big
ships," he pointed out, "require to be laboriously warped into
landlocked harbors; besides, how utterly improbable it will sound that
the boy should have come to such a desperate pass so quickly as all
this. Another point. Most likely Lichas will want to visit a sick
passenger as a mark of civility. How singularly pleasant for us, look
you, to have the captain, whom we particularly wish to avoid, coming to
see us of his own motion! But again, granted the vessel could be turned
from her main course, and that Lichas should never think of inspecting
the sick boy, how are we to get off the ship without every soul on board
seeing us? With faces muffled, or faces bare? If muffled, who but will
spring forward to help the poor patients ashore? If bare, what does this
amount to but simply giving ourselves away?"
cii "Nay! why not," I interposed, "make a bold stroke, slip down a
rope into the ship's boat and cutting the painter leave the rest to
Fortune? Not that I expect Eumolpus to join in the venture; why should
we involve an innocent man in troubles that in no way concern him?
Enough for me if good luck attend us two on our descent into the boat."
"Not at all a bad idea," said Eumolpus, "if only it were feasible; but
who could help noticing your attempt,-- first and foremost the pilot,
who is on watch all night, observing every motion of the stars? Possibly
you might elude his vigilance during an instant's sleepiness, if escape
were practicable by any other part of the vessel; but as things are, you
are bound to escape by the stern, past the very helm, for that is where
the rope is made fast that secures the boat. Besides, I wonder this
never occurred to you, Encolpius, that one of the crew is on watch in
the boat night and day, a sentinel you cannot get rid of, except by
killing the man or pitching him neck and crop overboard. As to the
feasibility of this, well! consult your own courage. About my
accompanying you myself, I shirk no danger that gives the faintest hope
of success. But to throw away one's life as a thing of no importance is,
I am sure, what you do not approve of.
"Now consider how you like this plan; I will clap you in a couple of
hides, cording you up among my clothes as part of my luggage, of course
leaving sufficient openings for you to breathe and eat through. Then I
will raise an outcry to the effect that my slaves have both jumped
overboard, because they were afraid of a more terrible punishment. So
when we get into port, I will convey you ashore as baggage without
exciting any suspicion whatever."
"Oh! you would pack us up in bales, as if we were solid inside, eh?--
and not liable to evacuations at all? as if we never sneezed or snored?
The same sort of trick turned out such a success once before, didn't it?
Granted we could endure the bondage for a day, what if a calm or a
contrary gale prolonged the time further? what would become of us then?
Why! even clothes, if kept too long tightly packed, cut at the folds,
and papers grow illegible, when tied up in bundles. Young and unused to
hardship, how shall we endure swathing bands and ligaments, like graven
images? We must find some better way of escape than this. Listen to what
I have hit on. Eumolpus, as a man of letters, of course carries ink
about him; let us black ourselves with it from head to foot. Then as
Ethiopian slaves we shall be at your service, light-hearted and free
from fear of consequences, besting our enemies by this change of
"Why certainly," cried Giton, "circumcise us too, that we may pass for
Jews, and bore our ears to imitate Arabs, and chalk our faces that Gaul
may claim us as her sons! As if a change of color could modify the whole
appearance; why! a host of alterations must be united to make the
illusion convincing. Grant our dyed faces would keep their black;
suppose no touch of water to make the color run, no blot of ink to stick
to our clothes, an accident that will often happen even when no mucilage
is added; pray, can we give ourselves the hideous swollen lips of the
African? can we transform our hair to wool with curling-tongs? can we
scar our brows with rows of ugly wrinkles? render ourselves bow-legged
and flat-footed? give our beards that outlandish look? A dye may
disfigure the person, it cannot change it. Now hear a desperate man's
remedy; let us wind our clothes around our heads, and plunge into the
ciii "Gods and men forbid," cried Eumolpus, "you should end your days
in so base a fashion. Better, far better, do as I advise. My servant, as
the razor incident showed you, is a barber; let him instantly shave you
both,-- not heads only but eyebrows as well. I will second his efforts,
marking your foreheads with writing, so cleverly executed you will have
all the look of a pair of branded slaves. My lettering will at one and
the same time divert the suspicions of your pursuers, and under the
guise of a degrading punishment, conceal your real features."
This plan was approved, and our metamorphosis effected without delay. We
stole to the side of the ship, and submitted our heads and eyebrows too
to the barber's tender mercies. Eumolpus then proceeded to cover both
our foreheads with enormous capital letters, and with a liberal hand
sprawl the well-known sign of runaways all over our faces. It so
happened that one of the passengers, who was leaning over the side
unburdening his seasick stomach, privately noted the barber busied with
this unseasonable moonlight work, and with a curse at the sinister omen
of an act so nearly resembling the last despairing vow of shipwrecked
mariners, hurried back to his berth. Feigning indifference to the
sufferer's imprecation, we fell into the same melancholy train of
thought as before, and settling down in silence, spent the remaining
hours of darkness in an uneasy doze.
civ Next day, directly Eumolpus learned Tryphaena was risen, he
entered Lichas's cabin; here, after some conversation about the
prosperous voyage promised by the fine weather, Lichas remarked, turning
towards Tryphaena, "Priapus appeared to me in a dream last night, and
said, 'Encolpius, the man you are in search of, I hereby tell you, has
by me been brought on board your ship.'" Tryphaena started violently;
"You might think we had slept together," she exclaimed; "for I too saw a
vision, that image of Neptune I noticed in the Temple Court at Baiae,
telling me, 'You will find Giton on Lichas's ship.'"
"This will show you plainly," interrupted Eumolpus, "that Epicurus was a
man inspired, who most elegantly expresses his opinion of these figments
of the imagination:
"Dreams that delude our minds with shadows vain
Are not heaven-sent. But each man's proper brain
Forges these nothings; and the mind at play
Doth nightly reënact the deeds of day,
While the tired body sleeps. The conqueror
Who cities shakes, loosing the dogs of War,
Sees brandished spears, and routs, and deaths of Kings.
And blood, and all the horrors battle brings.
What sees the lawyer?-- ranged a dreadful show,
The bench, the bar, the judges all a-row!
The miser dreams of gold, lost treasure finds.
In woodland ways his horn the huntsman winds.
The sailor's vision scenes of wreck describes.
The harlot wheedles; the adultress bribes.
The sleeping hound the flying hare pursues;
And each unhappy wretch old griefs renews."
Lichas, however, after duly expiating Tryphaena's dream, said, "Who is
to hinder us searching the ship anyway, that we may not appear to scorn
the revelation the gods vouchsafe?"
The passenger who had so unfortunately surprised our furtive maneuvers
during the night, Hesus he was called, now suddenly broke in with the
question, "Who were the fellows then that were shaved by moonlight last
night, an abominable thing to do, upon my word! For they tell me it's
wicked for any man alive, when aboard ship, to cut either nails or hair,
except when the wind is at odds with the waves."
cv Lichas flew into a passion of anger and consternation at the
words, blustering, "Has anyone dared to cut his hair on my ship, and at
dead of night too? Produce the culprits instantly, that I may know whose
head must fall to purify my vessel from the taint."
"It was I," Eumolpus confessed, "ordered it. If I have brought down ill
luck, I shall not escape my share, for am I not to travel in the same
ship? But the fact is the offenders had such monstrously long and shaggy
hair I ordered the wretches' unkempt locks to be shorn, that I might not
seem to be turning our good ship into a jail, as also that the letters
branded on their brows might be legible to all men's eyes, being no
longer overshadowed and hidden by the hair. Amongst other knavish
tricks, they have been spending my money on a light-o'-love they kept
between them, from whose side I dragged them away only last night
reeking with wine and filthy perfumes. Indeed at this very minute they
stink of the relics of their debauch-- and it is all at my expense!"
Accordingly, by way of expiation to the tutelary spirit of the ship, it
was decreed we should each of us receive forty stripes. Without further
delay the savage sailors fall upon us, anxious to appease the deity with
our wretched blood. For myself, I digested three lashes with Spartan
fortitude; but Giton, at the very first blow, set up such a yell his
well remembered voice penetrated straight to Tryphaena's ears.
Nor was the mistress the only one startled by his cries; all her maids
as well, attracted by the familiar tones, gather round the triangles.
Already had his wondrous beauty begun to disarm the sailors and
deprecate their rage with its mute appeal, when Tryphaena's women all
chime in with the cry, "Giton! it's Giton! stay, oh! stay your savage
hands. Help, help, mistress! it's Giton!" Tryphaena turns only too ready
an ear to their words, and flies headlong to his side. Lichas, who knew
me perfectly, just as well as if he had heard my voice too, now runs up,
and looking neither at hands nor face, but instantly lowering his eyes
to my middle, politely laid his hands on those parts, and greeted me by
my name. Why wonder any longer at Ulysses' nurse, after twenty years,
identifying the scar that proved his birth, when this most observing
master mariner, spite of every lineament of face and form being
disguised, yet pounced shrewdly on the sole and only attribute that
betrayed the fugitive. Tryphaena burst into tears, supposing our
disfigurement real and that we had been branded on the brow as slaves
and inquired in soft tones of pity, what dungeon we had fallen into on
our wanderings, or whose hands had been barbarous enough to inflict so
terrible a punishment. Doubtless they had merited some mark of ignominy,
the runaways, whom her favors had only turned into enemies-- but not
such a one as this!
cvi Frenzied with indignation, Lichas sprang forward, crying, "Oh!
the simplicity of the woman! to actually believe these scars were made
and the letters really imprinted, with the branding-iron! I only wish
the marks they have disfigured their faces with were permanent! This
would be some satisfaction to us at any rate. As a matter of fact, the
whole thing's a farce, and the lettering a delusion and a snare!"
Tryphaena was by way of showing some compassion, inasmuch as all was not
lost for her pleasures; but Lichas, remembering his wife's seduction and
the insults he had received in the portico of the Temple of Hercules,
and showing a countenance fiercely contorted with passion, cries, "This
will show you, I imagine, Tryphaena, the immortal gods do govern human
lives. Have they not brought the culprits all unwitting on board our
ship, yea! and warned us of the fact by dreams coinciding in every
particular with the truth? Look you now, how can we pardon offenders
whom God himself puts into our hands for chastisement? For my part, I'm
not a cruel man; but I dare not spare them, lest I suffer for it
Impressed by these superstitious arguments, Tryphaena changed her mind,
and declared she would make no further objection to our punishment, but
would gladly second so just a piece of retribution. She had received,
she added, as cruel wrong as Lichas himself; for had not her good name
been publicly traduced before a vulgar mob?
cvii 'Twas terror first gave origin to gods,
When the forked lightning, flashing from the sky
Would o'erwhelm towns and lofty Athos fire.
Next, rising Sun, and waxing, waning Moon,
Offerings received. So idols filled the world,
And not a month but had its proper god.
Far spread the taint; blind superstition led
The rustic swain to pay his first-fruits' toll
To Ceres, and with grapes Bacchus to crown,
And Pales venerate, the shepherds' god;
So Neptune ruled the waves, Pallas the schools.
Each man of mark, each founder of a State,
New gods invents, his rival to outstrip.
Lichas, seeing Tryphaena eager as himself for revenge, ordered our
punishment to be renewed and increased. On hearing this Eumolpus
endeavored to mitigate his anger by the following speech: "The unhappy
beings whose destruction your vengeance claims, imploring your
compassion, Lichas, they have chosen me, as one not unknown to you, to
the office of mediator, to reconcile them once more to those they
formerly held so dear. You cannot really suppose the young men fell into
this trap by mere chance; for surely the very first thing an intending
passenger asks, is the name of the person he is to intrust his safety
to. Relent then; be satisfied with the penalties already exacted and
suffer free men to proceed to their destination without further injury.
The harshest and most unforgiving of masters stay their cruelty, when
slaves return home penitent; and do we not all of us spare enemies who
surrender? What more do you want or desire? Prostrate before you lie
these youths, men of birth and breeding though they be, and what is more
than this, friends once bound to you in the ties of closest intimacy.
Had they embezzled your money, had they betrayed your trust, by great
Hercules! even then your resentment might be satisfied with the pains
and penalties you behold. Lo! the marks of servitude upon their brows,
and their faces-- free men's faces-- wearing voluntarily the degrading
badge of punishment!"
But Lichas cut short the plea of mercy. "Nay! you confuse the issue," he
interrupted; "you should keep each point separate and distinct. First of
all, if they came here of their own free will, why did they shave their
heads? The man who adopts a disguise is after no good, but is trying to
deceive. Secondly, if they were seeking forgiveness and reconciliation
through your good offices, why did you take every possible pains to keep
your clients concealed? It is plain enough the culprits did fall into
the trap accidentally, and that you are merely trying on an artful
subterfuge to slip out of reach of our resentment.
"Then for your special pleading, your noisy claim about their being men
of birth and breeding, have a care you don't injure your case by
over-confidence. Whatever is the injured party to do, when the guilty
run blindly to their own punishment? But, you urge, they were our
friends; the more thoroughly, I say, have they earned their
chastisement. The man who wrongs mere strangers, is called a robber; he
who betrays his friends, is little better than a murderer."
Eumolpus, to rebut this damaging reasoning, replies, "There is nothing,
I gather, tells more heavily against the unfortunate young men than the
fact of their having cut off their hair by night; this is taken to prove
they did not come on board voluntarily, but by mischance. I only trust
my explanation may seem as simple and straightforward as the act itself
was simply and innocently done. They purposed, before ever they
embarked, to have eased their heads of an annoying and needless burden,
but the wind springing up sooner than was expected forced them to put
off their visit to the barber; nor did they for an instant imagine it
mattered where they carried out the intention they had formed, knowing
nothing of the omen involved or the rules aboard ship."
"What made them take the guise of suppliants and shave their heads," was
Lichas's only answer, "unless possibly because bald heads are more
likely to win compassion? But there, what use trying to get at the truth
through an interpreter? What have you to say for yourself, you thief?
What salamander has burnt off your eyebrows? what god have you
cviii vowed your locks to? Answer me, villain." As for me, I stood
dumfounded, silenced by my terror of punishment, unable in my confusion
to find a word, so plain was the case against me. Besides, I was so
disfigured, what with my cropped head and my eyebrows as bare as my
forehead, I could do nothing and say nothing becomingly. But when
presently my tearful face was wiped with a wet sponge, and the ink being
thus moistened and smeared all over my countenance, my features were all
confounded together in one sooty cloud, his anger turned into disgust.
Eumolpus stoutly declared he would not stand by and see freeborn men
degraded against all right and justice, and protested against our savage
foeman's threats not only in word but in act. His protests were seconded
by his hired servant and by one or two passengers very much exhausted by
seasickness, and whose interference was more of an inducement to further
violence than an accession of strength. I asked for no mercy for myself,
but shaking my fists in Tryphaena's face, I cried out in a bold, loud
voice, I would use all my strength upon her, if she laid a finger on
Giton, cursed woman that she was, the only person on the ship that
really wanted flogging.
This insolence made Lichas still more angry, for he was furious at
seeing me thus abandon my own cause to protest on Giton's behalf. Nor
was Tryphaena less enraged at the affront, and the whole ship's company
was split into two opposing factions. On the one side the barber servant
is busied distributing his razors amongst us, after first arming himself
with one of them, on the other Tryphaena's slaves are tucking up their
sleeves the better to use their fists. Even the maids did their part,
encouraging the combatants with their cries, the pilot alone protesting
and declaring he would leave the helm, if they did not make an end of
this frantic uproar all about a couple of lecherous blackguards.
Even this threat failed to mitigate the fury of the disputants, our
adversaries fighting for revenge, and ourselves for dear life. Numbers
fall on either side, though no one is actually killed; still more retire
wounded and bleeding, like soldiers after a pitched battle, without
anyone showing the smallest loss of determination.
At this crisis the gallant Giton suddenly clapped his razor menacingly
to his virile parts, threatening to amputate the cause of so many
calamities; but Tryphaena forbade the perpetration of the horrid deed,
readily granting him quarter. I myself repeatedly laid a similar weapon
to my throat, though without any more intention of really killing myself
than Giton had of carrying out his threat. At the same time he was able
to enact the comedy with the more reckless realism, knowing as he did
that the razor in his hand was the identical one he had once already cut
his throat with.
Both sides kept the field with equal resolution, till the pilot, seeing
it was likely to be no everyday fight, arranged after no little
difficulty that Tryphaena should act as peacemaker and effect a truce.
So after mutual pledges had been exchanged in the time-honored fashion,
holding forth an olive branch she had hastily snatched from the image of
the tutelary deity of the vessel, she advanced boldly to the parley.
"What direful rage," she cries, "turns peace to war?
What crime is ours? No faithless Paris here
Rides in our ship, nor Menelaus' bride,
Nor with a brother's gore Medea dyed.
'Tis slighted love inspires the feud, and craves
For blood and murderous deeds amidst these waves;
Why die before our time? your wrath forbear,
Nor make the harmless sea your passions share!"
cix This effusion, pronounced by Tryphaena in a broken voice, did
something to stop the fray, the combatants at length turning their
thoughts to a peaceful solution and ceasing from active hostilities.
Eumolpus, the leader on our side, at once seized the opportunity for
reconciliation thus offered, and after first indulging in a fierce
invective against Lichas and all his doings, put his seal to a treaty of
peace, which ran as follows:
"From the bottom of your heart, you, Tryphaena, do promise and undertake
to fore-go all complaint of the wrong done you by Giton; and never, by
reason of any act of his committed aforetime, to upbraid, or punish, or
in any wise molest him. Furthermore, that you will do nothing to the boy
against his free will and pleasure, neither embracing, nor kissing, the
said Giton, nor fornicating with him, except under forfeiture of one
hundred denars for such offense.
"Item: from the bottom of your heart, you, Lichas, do promise that you
will in no wise annoy Encolpius with word or look of contumely, nor
inquire where he may sleep at night; or if you so do, that you will
incontinently count down two hundred denars for each offense."
A truce being agreed to upon these terms, we laid down our arms, and in
order that no vestige of rancor might be left, once the oath was taken,
it was resolved we should kiss away all memory of past injuries. All
being unanimous for peace, our swelling passions soon subside, and a
banquet served with emulous alacrity crowns our reconciliation with the
pledge of good-fellowship. The whole ship resounds with singing, and a
sudden calm having arrested her progress, one might be seen harpooning
the fish that leapt above the waves, while another would he hauling in
the struggling prey enticed by his cunningly baited hooks. Sea-birds too
came and settled on the main yard; these a practised sportsman touched
with his jointed fowling-rods, and conveyed them glued to the limed
tackle into our very hands. The down flew dancing in the air, while the
larger feathers fell into the sea and tossed lightly to and fro on the
Lichas seemed already on the point of making it up with me, and
Tryphaena was throwing the last drops of her wine amorously over Giton,
when Eumolpus, who was as drunk as anybody, took it into his head to
start jeering at people who were bald-headed and branded. Eventually
coming to the end of his exceedingly pointless witticisms, he once more
dropped into poetry, and treated us to the following little "Lament for
Beauty is fallen! thy hair's soft vernal grace
To wintry baldness gives untimely place.
Thy injured temples mourn their ravished shade;
Waste, like a stubble field, thy brow is laid.
Fallacious gods! your treacherous gifts how vain!
You only give us joy, to give us pain.
Unhappy youth! but late thy curling gold
E'en Phoebus self might envy to behold;
But now for smoothness, nor the liquid air,
Nor watered pumpkin can with thee compare.
The laughter-loving maids you fly, and fear;
And death with hasty steps will soon be here.
His fatal night already clouds thy morn,
Beauty is fallen! and thy gay locks are shorn.
cx He was still longing, I verily believe, to give us more of this stuff
or perhaps something worse, when Tryphaena's maid led Giton away below
and dressed the lad up in one of her mistress's heads of hair. She next
produced eyebrows out of a make-up box, and cleverly following the lines
of the lost features, soon restored him to all his pristine comeliness.
Tryphaena saw Giton once more under his true colors, and bursting into
tears, gave the boy the first genuine and heartfelt kiss she had
bestowed on him since his misfortunes. Rejoiced as I was to see the lad
restored to his former beauty, I could not help continually hiding my
own face, feeling how extraordinarily I must be disfigured, since Lichas
did not deign to give me so much as a word. However I was rescued before
long from these sad thoughts by the kind offices of the same maid
servant, who now called me aside and decked me out with an equally
elegant substitute for my lost ringlets. Indeed my face looked prettier
than ever, as it happened to be a flaxen wig.
But Eumolpus, champion of the distressed and author of the existing
harmony, fearing that our cheerfulness should flag for lack of amusing
anecdotes, commenced a series of gibes at women's frailty,-- how lightly
they fell in love, how quickly they forgot even their own sons for a
lover's sake, asserting there was never yet a woman so chaste she might
not be wrought to the wildest excesses by a lawless passion. Without
alluding to the old plays and world-renowned examples of women's folly,
he need only instance a case that had occurred, he said, within his own
memory, which if we pleased he would now relate. This offer concentrated
the attention of all on the speaker, who began as follows:
cxi "There was once upon a time at Ephesus a lady of so high repute
for chastity that women would actually come to that city from
neighboring lands to see and admire. This fair lady, having lost her
husband, was not content with the ordinary signs of mourning, such as
walking with hair disheveled behind the funeral car and beating her
naked bosom in presence of the assembled crowd; she was fain further to
accompany her lost one to his final resting-place, watch over his corpse
in the vault where it was laid according to the Greek mode of burial,
and weep day and night beside it. So deep was her affliction, neither
family nor friends could dissuade her from these austerities and the
purpose she had formed of perishing of hunger. Even the Magistrates had
to retire worsted after a last but fruitless effort. All mourned as
virtually dead already a woman of such singular determination, who had
already passed five days without food.
"A trusty handmaid sat by her mistress's side, mingling her tears with
those of the unhappy woman, and trimming the lamp which stood in the
tomb as often as it burned low. Nothing else was talked of throughout
the city but her sublime devotion, and men of every station quoted her
as a shining example of virtue and conjugal affection.
"Meantime, as it fell out, the Governor of the Province ordered certain
robbers to be crucified in close proximity to the vault where the matron
sat bewailing the recent loss of her mate. Next night the soldier who
was set to guard the crosses to prevent anyone coming and removing the
robbers' bodies to give them burial, saw a light shining among the tombs
and heard the widow's groans. Yielding to curiosity, a failing common to
all mankind, he was eager to discover who it was, and what was afoot.
Accordingly he descended into the tomb, where beholding a lovely woman,
he was at first confounded, thinking he saw a ghost or some supernatural
vision. But presently the spectacle of the husband's dead body lying
there, and the woman's tear-stained and nail-torn face, everything went
to show him the reality, how it was a disconsolate widow unable to
resign herself to the death of her helpmate. He proceeded therefore to
carry his humble meal into the tomb, and to urge the fair mourner to
cease her indulgence in grief so excessive, and to leave off torturing
her bosom with unavailing sobs. Death, he declared, was the common end
and last home of all men, enlarging on this and the other commonplaces
generally employed to console a wounded spirit. But the lady, only
shocked by this offer of sympathy from a stranger's lips, began to tear
her breast with redoubled vehemence, and dragging out handfuls of her
hair, she laid them on her husband's corpse.
"The soldier, however, refusing to be rebuffed, renewed his adjuration
to the unhappy lady to eat. Eventually the maid, seduced doubtless by
the scent of the wine, found herself unable to resist any longer, and
extended her hand for the refreshment offered; then with energies
restored by food and drink, she set herself to the task of breaking down
her mistress's resolution. 'What good will it do you,' she urged, 'to
die of famine, to bury yourself alive in the tomb, to yield your life to
destiny before the Fates demand it?
"'Think you to pleasure thus the dead and gone?
"'Nay! rather return to life, and shaking off this womanly weakness,
enjoy the good things of this world as long as you may. The very corpse
that lies here before your eyes should be a warning to make the most of
"No one is really loath to consent, when pressed to eat or live. The
widow therefore, worn as she was with several days' fasting, suffered
her resolution to be broken, and took her fill of nourishment with no
less avidity than her maid had done, who had been the first to give way.
cxii "Now you all know what temptations assail poor human nature
after a hearty meal. The soldier resorted to the same cajolements which
had already been successful in inducing the lady to eat, in order to
overcome her virtue. The modest widow found the young soldier neither
ill-looking nor wanting in address, while the maid was strong indeed in
his favor and kept repeating:
"Why thus unmindful of your past delight,
Against a pleasing passion will you fight?"
"But why make a long story? The lady showed herself equally
complaisant in this respect also, and the victorious soldier gained both
his ends. So they lay together not only that first night of their
nuptials, but a second likewise, and a third, the door of the vault
being of course kept shut, so that anyone, friend or stranger, that
might come to the tomb, should suppose this most chaste of wives had
expired by now on her husband's corpse. Meantime the soldier, entranced
with the woman's beauty and the mystery of the thing, purchased day by
day the best his means allowed him, and as soon as ever night was come,
conveyed the provisions to the tomb.
"Thus it came about that the relatives of one of the malefactors,
observing this relaxation of vigilance, removed his body from the cross
during the night and gave it proper burial. But what of the unfortunate
soldier, whose self-indulgence had thus been taken advantage of, when
next morning he saw one of the crosses under his charge without its
body! Dreading instant punishment, he acquaints his mistress with what
had occurred, assuring her he would not await the judge's sentence, but
with his own sword exact the penalty of his negligence. He must die
therefore; would she give him sepulture, and join the friend to the
husband in that fatal spot?
"But the lady was no less tender-hearted than virtuous. ‘The Gods
forbid,' she cried, ‘I should at one and the same time look on the
corpses of two men, both most dear to me. I had rather hang a dead man
on the cross than kill a living.' So said, so done; she orders her
husband's body to be taken from its coffin and fixed upon the vacant
cross. The soldier availed himself of the ready-witted lady's expedient,
and next day all men marveled how in the world a dead man had found his
own way to the cross."
cxiii This story set the sailors all laughing, while it made
Tryphaena blush not a little and lay her face amorously against Giton's
bosom. Lichas on the other hand was far from laughing, and shaking his
head indignantly, "If the Governor of Ephesus had been a just man," he
declared, "he should have returned the good husband's body to the tomb
and hung the woman on the cross." Doubtless he was thinking of the
injury done to his own bed, and the pillage of his ship by the roving
band of wantons. But not only did the terms of our treaty forbid his
bearing rancor, but the mirth that filled all hearts left no room for
resentment. Meantime Tryphaena, sitting on Giton's lap, was now covering
his breast with kisses, now adjusting his wig so as to set off his face
in spite of the loss of his ringlets.
For myself, so chagrined and impatient was I at this new and unexpected
reconciliation I could neither eat nor drink, but sat looking grimly
askance at the pair. Every kiss they exchanged wounded me, and every
artful blandishment the wanton employed. I knew not whether I was the
more incensed with the boy for having robbed me of my mistress, or with
my mistress for debauching the boy. Both sights cut me to the quick, and
were far more painful than my late captivity. To make things worse,
Tryphaena never vouchsafed me a word, as she surely might have to a
friend and a once favored lover, nor did Giton deign so much as to do me
the common courtesy of drinking my health, or at the very least speaking
to me in the course of general conversation. I suppose he was afraid,
just at the commencement of renewed favors on the lady's part, of
re-opening a scarcely healed wound. Tears of vexation wetted my bosom,
and the groans I stifled under the guise of a sigh all but choked me.
The vulture grim that, sick hearts torturing,
Mangles the inmost vitals day and night,
Is not the bird complacent poets sing,
But bitter jealousy and sore despite.
Notwithstanding my dismal countenance, my flaxen wig set off my
beauty to advantage, and Lichas, inflamed afresh with amorousness, began
to cast sheep's eyes at me and to solicit my favors, adopting more the
tone of a friend than of a supercilious master who commands. Many were
his attempts, but all in vain; at last, his advances meeting with
nothing but decided rebuffs, his love changed to fury, and he endeavored
to carry the place by assault. But Tryphaena, making a sudden inroad,
observed his naughtiness, whereupon he hurriedly adjusts his dress in
great confusion, and takes to his heels.
This added fresh fuel to Tryphaena's wantonness, who demanded, "What was
Lichas aiming at in these ardent attempts of his?" She forced me to
explain, and fired by my tale, remembering too our former intimate
relations, would fain have had me renew our bygone amours. But I was
tired out with excessive venery, and rejected her advances with scorn.
At this, Tryphaena, in a frenzy of desire, threw her arms wildly around
me and hugged me so tight I uttered a sudden cry of pain. One of the
maids rushed in at the sound, and jumping to the conclusion I was
extorting from her mistress the very favor I refused her, sprang at me
and tore us apart. Mad with the disappointment of her lecherous passion,
Tryphaena upbraided me violently, and with a thousand threats hastened
away to Lichas, to still further exasperate him against me and to join
him in contriving some means of vengeance.
You must know that at one time I had found much favor in this same
waiting-maid's eyes, when I was on familiar terms with her mistress; so
she took it extremely ill when she surprised me with Tryphaena, and
sobbed bitterly. I eagerly inquired the reason of her distress, and
after making some show of reluctance, she burst out, "If you have one
drop of good blood in your veins, you will treat her as no better than a
strumpet; as you are a man, don't go with that female catamite."
This incident perplexed my mind and made me still more anxious; but what
I feared more than anything else was that Eumolpus might get wind of the
circumstances, such as they were, and being a most sarcastic person
might compose a versified lampoon to avenge my supposed wrongs, for in
that case his fiery partisanship would undoubtedly have made me
ridiculous, a thing I especially dreaded. I was just debating in my own
mind how I could keep Eumolpus from this knowledge, when behold! the
very man in question appeared, perfectly acquainted with what had
occurred; for Tryphaena had retailed the whole circumstances to Giton,
trying to indemnify herself for my rebuff at my little favorite's
expense. This had made Eumolpus furiously angry, all the more as these
ebullitions of amorousness were open violations of the treaty signed and
sealed between us. The instant the old fellow set eyes on me, he began
bewailing my lot, and begged I would tell him exactly how it had all
happened. So I frankly told him, seeing he was thoroughly posted
already, of Lichas's abominable attempt and Tryphaena's lecherous
provocations. After listening to my tale, Eumolpus swore in good set
terms, that he would avenge us, declaring the Gods were too just to
suffer such villainies to go unpunished.
cxiv Whilst we were still engaged in talk of this and the like sort,
the sea rose and heavy clouds gathering from all quarters plunged the
scene in darkness. The sailors run to their posts in panic haste, and
take in sail to ease the ship. But the wind, continually changing, had
raised a cross-sea, and the helmsman was uncertain what course to steer.
At one moment the storm would be driving us towards Sicily, while at
others the North Wind, that tyrant of the Italian coast, would
repeatedly whirl our helpless ship hither and thither at its mercy; and
what was more dangerous than all the squalls, a sudden darkness had
fallen, so thick the helmsman could not see even to the ship's bows. So
the tempest being, God knows, utterly overpowering, Lichas stretches
forth his hands towards me in terror and supplication, crying, "Help us,
Encolpius, help us in our peril; restore that sacred robe and the
sistrum you robbed the ship of. By all you hold sacred, have pity, you
who are so tender-hearted usually." As he was vociferating thus, the
gale swept him overboard; he rose once and again from the raging
whirlpool, then the waters whirled him round and sucked him under.
Tryphaena on the contrary was saved by the fidelity of her slaves, who
seized her, put her in the ship's boat along with the greater part of
her baggage, and so rescued her from certain death.
Clinging to Giton, I lamented, "Is this all the Gods give us, to unite
us only in death? Nay! cruel Fortune grudges even this. Look! in an
instant the waves will overset the ship; look! the angry sea will in an
instant sever the embraces of two lovers. If ever you truly loved
Encolpius, kiss me, while you may, and snatch this last delight from
swift impending doom."
As I said the words, Giton threw off his robe, and creeping inside my
tunic, protruded his head to be kissed. Moreover, that the cruel waves
might not tear our embrace asunder, he girt us both together with a
girdle round our waists, crying, "If nothing else, at least we shall
thus float longer united; or if the ocean be so merciful as to cast up
our dead bodies on the same shore, either some passer-by will have the
common humanity to heap a cairn over us, or else the unconscious sand
will give us a burial even the angry waves cannot dispute." I submit to
this last and final bond, and calm as if composed on my funeral couch,
await a death I no longer dread.
The tempest meantime carries out the decrees of Fate, and beats down the
last defenses of the ship. Mast and rudder are carried away, and not a
rope or an oar left; like a mere shapeless mass of logs she goes
drifting with the billows. Some fishermen now put out hastily in their
small craft to loot the vessel; but when they saw men were still on
board ready to defend their property, they changed
cxv from wreckers into rescuers. Suddenly we hear an extraordinary
noise, like the howling of a wild beast trying to get out, coming from
underneath the master's cabin. Following up the sound, we discover
Eumolpus seated, dashing down verses on a huge sheet of parchment.
Marveling how the man could find leisure in the very face of death to be
writing poetry, we haul him out in spite of his clamorous protests,
telling him to have some common sense for once. But he was furious at
the interruption, and shouted, "Let me finish my phrase; my poem's just
in the throes of completion!" I laid violent hands on the maniac,
calling on Giton to help me drag the bellowing poet ashore. After
accomplishing our purpose with much difficulty, we found dismal shelter
in a fisherman's hut, where having refreshed ourselves as best we might
with provisions damaged by sea-water, we passed a most wretched night.
Next day, as we were debating what district we might most safely make
for, I suddenly caught sight of a human body that was driving ashore,
tossing lightly up and down on the waves. I stood sadly waiting, gazing
with wet eyes on the work of the faithless element, and thus
soliloquized, "Somewhere or another, mayhap, a wife is looking in
blissful security for this poor fellow's return, or a son perhaps, or a
father, all unsuspicious of storm and wreck; be sure, he has left some
one behind, whom he kissed fondly at parting. This then is the end of
human projects, this the accomplishment of men's mighty schemes. Look!
how now he rides the waves."
I was still deploring the stranger's fate, as I supposed him to be, when
the swell heaved the face, still quite undisfigured, towards the beach,
and I recognized the features of Lichas, my erstwhile enemy, so
formidable and implacable a foe, now cast helpless almost at my feet. I
could restrain my tears no longer, but smiting my breast again and
again, "Where is your anger now," I exclaimed, "and all your domineering
ways? There you lie, a prey to the fishes and monsters of the deep; you
who so short a while ago proudly boasted your despotic powers, have
never a plank left of your great ship. Go to, mortals; swell your hearts
with high-flown anticipations. Go to, ye men of craft; arrange the
disposal for a thousand years to come of the wealth you have got by
fraud. Why! only yesterday this dead man here cast up the accounts of
his fortune, and actually fixed in his own mind the day, when he should
return to his native shore. Ye Gods! how far away he lies from the point
he hoped to reach. Nor is it the sea alone that disappoints men's hopes
like this. The warrior is betrayed by his arms; the householder in the
act of paying his offerings to heaven is overwhelmed in the ruin of his
own penates. One is thrown from his car, and breathes his last hurried
breath; the glutton dies of an over-hearty meal, the frugal man of
fasting. Reckon it aright, and there is shipwreck everywhere. But then a
drowned man misses burial, you object. As if it made one scrap of
difference how the perishable body is consumed,-- by fire, by water, or
by time. Do what you will, these all end in the same result. Ah! but
wild bests will mangle his corpse. As if fire would treat it any
kindlier; why! fire is the very penalty we deem the most appalling, when
we are savage with our slaves. What folly then to make such ado to
ensure that no part of us remain unburied, when the Fates arrange this
matter at their pleasure, whether we will or no."
After indulging in these grim thoughts, we proceed to perform the last
offices to the dead man, and Lichas, borne by the hands of his
ill-wishers to the pile, is consumed to ashes. Eumolpus meantime is busy
composing an epitaph for the departed, and after rolling his eyes about
for a while in search of inspiration, delivers himself of the following
His doom was sealed,
No carven marble marked his sepulture;
Five feet of common earth received the corpse,
His tomb a lowly mound.
cxvi This office duly and willingly performed, we pursue our interrupted
journey, and in a very brief space of time arrive sweating at the top of
a steep hill, whence we spy at no great distance a city occupying the
summit of a lofty crag. We did not know its name, being mere wanderers,
until a peasant informed us it was Croton, a very ancient place and once
upon a time the first town of all Italy. We next inquired anxiously what
sort were the people inhabiting this famous site, and what commerce they
mostly carried on since the ruin of their former prosperity by
constantly recurring wars.
"Good strangers," the fellow replied, "if so be you are merchants,
change your trade and seek some other means of livelihood. But if you
are of a more genteel stamp, and can tell lies without end and stick to
them, you're in the straight road to fortune. In this city literature is
not cultivated, nor does eloquence find favor; sobriety and morality
meet with neither commendation nor success; its inhabitants each and
all, you must know, belong to one or other of two classes, viz., legacy
hunters and their prey. In this city no man rears children, for
whosoever has natural heirs of his own, is admitted to no entertainment,
no public show; excluded from every privilege of citizenship, he is
condemned to a life of furtive obscurity among the lowest of the low.
The unmarried on the contrary and all who have no near kindred, attain
the highest honors; they alone are brave, and capable, and respectable.
You will find the town," he concluded, "like a pestfield, where there
are but two thing to be seen-- corpses being torn, and crows tearing
cxvii Eumolpus, more far-seeing than the rest of us, pondered over
these novel arrangements and admitted the method indicated of making a
fortune took his fancy. For my part, I supposed the old poet was joking
in his fantastic way, but he went on quite seriously, "I only wish I had
a more adequate stock in trade, I mean a more fashionable robe and more
elegant outfit generally, to make the imposture more convincing. Great
Hercules; I would get done with my wallet for good and all, and lead you
all straight to wealth." On this I promised him whatever he required,
provided the dress we used for our light-fingered work would satisfy
him; together with anything we had appropriated from Lycurgus's place.
As for ready money, this we might safely trust the Mother of Gods to
"What hinders us then," cried Eumolpus, "to arrange our little comedy?
Make me master, if you like my plan." None of us ventured to disapprove
a project where we had nothing to lose. Accordingly, to ensure the
deception being faithfully kept up by all concerned, we swore an oath in
terms dictated by Eumolpus, to endure fire, imprisonment, stripes, cold
steel, and whatsoever else he might command us, in his behalf. Like
regular gladiators we vowed ourselves most solemnly to our master, body
After completing the oath-taking, we salute our master with pretended
servility, and are instructed all to tell the same tale,-- how Eumolpus
had lost a son, a young man of prodigious eloquence and high promise;
how consequently the poor old father had quitted his native city, that
the sight of his boy's clients and companions and the vicinity of his
tomb might not be continually renewing his grief. This sad event, we
were to add, had been followed by a recent shipwreck, which had cost him
two million sesterces; that it was not however so much the loss of the
money which annoyed him as the fact that for want of a proper retinue he
could not fittingly keep up his rank. Further, that he had thirty
millions in Africa invested in landed estates and securities, and such a
host of slaves scattered over the length and breadth of Numidia that
they could storm Carthage at a pinch.
In accordance with this scheme, we direct Eumolpus to cough a great
deal, to have a weak digestion at any rate, and in company to grumble at
every dish set before him; to be for ever talking about gold and silver,
and unproductive farms, and how terrible barren land always was; also
every day to sit over accounts, and regularly once a month to add new
codicils to his will. And to make the farce quite complete, whenever he
wished to call one of us, he was to use the wrong name, plainly showing
the master was thinking of other servants no longer with him.
Matters being thus arranged, after praying the gods for "good success
and happy issue," as the phrase runs, we set forward. But poor Giton
could not stand his unusual load; while Corax, Eumolpus's hired man,
objecting strongly to his job, kept everlastingly dropping his pack and
cursing us for going too fast; he swore he would either throw away his
traps, or else make off with the swag altogether. "Do you take me for a
beast of burden," he grumbled, "or a stone-ship? I contracted for a
man's work, not a dray-horse's! I'm as much a freeman as you are, though
my father did leave me a poor man." Not content with bad language, he
kept lifting up his leg again and again, and filling the road with a
filthy noise and a filthy stench. Giton only laughed at his impudence,
and after each explosion gave a loud imitation of the noise with his
cxviii But even this did not hinder the poet from relapsing into his
accustomed vein. "Many are the victims, my young friends," he began,
"poetry has seduced! The instant a man has got a verse to stand on its
feet and clothed a tender thought in appropriate language, he thinks he
has scaled Helicon right off. Many others, after long practice of
forensic talents, finally retreat to the tranquil calm of verse-making
as to a blessed harbor of refuge, imagining a poem is easier put
together than an argument all embroidered with scintillating conceits.
But a mind of nobler inspiration is revolted by this flippancy; and no
intellect that is not flooded with a mighty tide of learning, can either
conceive or bring to birth a worthy poetic child. In diction, anything
approaching commonness, if I may use the word, is to be avoided; a poet
must choose words devoid of base associations, and hold to Horace's,
I hate and bid avaunt the vulgar herd.
Again, care should be exercised to avoid sentiments that stand out as
mere excrescences on the framework of the main conception; let the
fabric be as brilliant as it may, its colors must be ingrained in the
stuff. I may instance Homer, and the Lyric poets, and our Roman Virgil,
and Horace with his happy preciosity. The rest, one and all, were blind
to the true path to Parnassus, or if they did see it, were afraid to
"Look at that mighty subject, the Civil Wars; anyone attempting it, if
not a man of the ripest scholarship, will sink under the burden. It is
no question of a string of facts to be catalogued in verse, a task the
Historian will perform far better; nay! rather must the untrammeled
spirit be hurried along through a series of digressions and divine
interventions and all the intricacies of myth and fable. The inspired
frenzy of the bard should be more apparent than the tested pedantry of
scrupulous precision. For example, see how you like this rapid sketch,
though indeed it has not yet received the final touches:
cxix Now haughty Rome reigned mistress of the Globe,
Where'er the Ether shines with heavenly fires,
Or Earth extends, or circling Ocean rolls.
Yet still insatiate, her winged navies plowed
The burdened main, to each unplundered shore;
For to the rich she bore immortal hate,
And her own avarice still prepared her Fall.
E'en former pleasures were beheld with scorn,
As joys grown threadbare by too vulgar use.
The soldier now admired th' Assyrian dye,
And now th' Hesperian charmed his fickle pride.
Numidia here the lofty roof sustained;
There shone the honors of Serean looms;
Arabia of her balmy sweets was spoiled;
Yet still unquenched, the lust of ravage burned.
In Maurian wilds, and Ammon's distant reign,
Monsters were captived for our cruel sports.
The stranger tiger in his golden cage
Now crossed the main to press our friendly shore;
Whilst joyful Rome her monster entertained
With purple streams of her own kindred blood.
I blush to speak, I tremble to recite
Our Persian manners, and our curse of Fate!
From Youth they snatched the Man with cruel art,
Whilst Venus frowned o'er the retreating tide;
As if they thought to favor the deceit,
E'en Age itself would like that tide retire!
Nature was lost, and sought herself in vain.
Hence naught but lewd effeminacies please,
Soft curling hair, and wantonness of dress,
And all that can disgrace man's godlike form.
From Afric slaves and purple carpets come,
With citron tables, rich in golden stains,
Around whose costly, but dishonored pride,
Buried in wine, the giddy drunkards lie.
Nothing escapes our raging lust of taste;
The soldier draws his sword in rapine's cause;
And from Sicilia's distant main the scar
Is brought alive to our luxurious board;
The Lucrine shore is of its oysters spoiled,
And hunger purchased with th' expensive sauce;
Phasis is widowed of its feathered race,
And nothing heard o'er all the desert strand
But trees remurmuring to the passing gales.
Nor less in Mars's Field Corruption swayed,
Where every vote was prostitute to gain;
The People and the Senate both were sold.
E'en Age itself was deaf to Virtue's voice,
And all its court to sordid interest paid,
Beneath whose feet lay trampled Majesty.
E'en Cato's self was by the crowd exiled,
Whilst he who won suffused with blushes stood,
Ashamed to snatch the power from worthier hands.
Oh! shame to Rome and to the Roman name!
'Twas not one man alone whom they exiled,
But banished Virtue, Fame and Freedom too.
Thus wretched Rome her own destruction bought,
Herself the merchant, and herself the ware.
Besides, in debt was the whole Empire bound,
A prey to Usury's insatiate jaws;
Not one could call his house, or self, his own;
But debts on debts like silent fevers wrought,
Till through the members they the vitals seized.
Fierce tumults now they to their succor call,
And War must heal the wounds of Luxury;
For Want may safely dare without a fear.
And sunk in hopeless misery, what could wake
Licentious Rome from her voluptuous trance,
But fire, and sword, and all the din of arms?
cxx Three mighty chiefs kind Fortune had supplied,
Whom cruel Fate in various manner slew.
The Parthian fields were drunk with Crassus' gore;
Great Pompey perished on the Libyan main;
And thankless Rome saw greater Julius bleed.
Thus as one soil too narrow were to hold
Their rival dust, their ashes shared the World.
But their immortal glory never dies.
'Twixt Naples and Dicharchian fields extends
A horrid Gulf, immensely deep and wide,
Through which Cocytus rolls his lazy streams,
And poisons all the air with sulphurous fogs.
No Autumn here e'er clothes himself with green,
Nor joyful Spring the languid herbage cheers;
Nor feathered warblers chant their mirthful strains
In vernal comfort to the rustling boughs;
But Chaos reigns, and ragged rocks around
With naught but baleful cypress are adorned.
Amidst these horrors Pluto raised his head,
With mingled flames and ashes sprinkled o'er,
Stopped Fortune in her flight, and thus addressed:
Oh! thou controller of both Earth and Heaven,
Who had'st the power which too securely stands,
And only heap'st thy favors to resume;
Dost thou not sink beneath Rome's ponderous
Unable to sustain her tottering pride?
E'en Rome herself beneath her burden groans,
And ill sustains Monopoly of Power.
For see elate in Luxury of Spoils,
Her golden domes invade the frighted skies!
Sea's turned to land, and land is turned to sea,
And injured Nature mourns her slighted Laws.
E'en me they threaten, and besiege my Throne;
The Earth is ransacked for her treasured stores,
And in the solid hills such caverns made,
That murmuring ghosts begin to hope for day.
Change, Fortune, ergo change this prideful scene!
Fire every Roman's breast with civil rage,
And give new subjects to my desert reign!
For ne'er have I been joyed with human gore,
Nor my Tisiphone e'er quenched her thirst,
Since Sulla's sword let loose the purple tide,
And reaped the harvest of insatiate death.
cxxi He spoke . . . and lo! the opening Earth disclosed,
And to the Goddess' hand his hand he joined.
Then Fortune, smiling, this reply addressed:
Oh! Father who Cocytus' empire sways!
If dangerous truths may safely be revealed,
Enjoy your wish! not less my anger boils,
And in my breast as fierce resentment burns.
I hate the height to which I've lifted Rome,
And my own lavished favors now repent.
But that same God who built her haughty power,
Shall soon rehumble to the dust her pride.
Then I'll with transport light the general flame,
And with the plenteous slaughter feast revenge.
Methinks I see Thessalia's fatal plain
Already heaped with dead, and funeral piles
Innumerous blazing on Iberia's shore!
I see the Libyan sands distained with blood,
And sevenfold Nile groans with prophetic fears!
On every side the clang of arms resounds,
An Actium's flight seems present to my eyes!
Then open all the portals of thy Reign,
And give thy crowding subjects free access!
Old Charon in his boats can ne'er convey
The shoals of ghosts that for their passage wait,
But needs a fleet!-- Tisiphone may then
Quench her dire thirst, and cloy herself with Fate.
The mangled World is hurrying to thy Reign.
cxxii Scarce ended she her words, when from a cloud
Blue lightnings flashed, and sudden thunders roared.
Affrighted Pluto feared his brother's darts,
And trembling hid his head in shades of night.
The Gods by dreadful omens straight disclosed
The deathful horrors of approaching Fate.
The Sun in bloody clouds obscured his rays,
As if he mourned the dreadful scene begun;
Whilst trembling Cynthia fled the impious sight,
Quenching her orb, and from the World withdrew.
Mountains by sudden storms were overturned;
And erring rivers left their channels dry.
E'en Heaven itself confesses the alarm,
And fierce battalions skirmish in the clouds;
Etna redoubles all her sulphurous rage,
And darts strange lightnings at th' affrighted sky;
Unburied ghosts too wander round the tombs,
And with impatient threatenings ask repose;
A fiery comet shakes her blazing hair;
And wondering Jove descends in showers of blood.
Nor was it long that Heaven th' event concealed;
For mighty Caesar panting for revenge,
Gave peace to Gaul, and flew to Civil Arms.
Upon the towering Alps' remotest height,
Where the cragg'd rocks look down upon the clouds,
A Grecian altar to Alcides smokes.
There everlasting Winter bars access,
And the ambitious summit props the skies;
No Summer ever darts his genials beams,
Nor vernal Zephyrs cheer the joyless air;
But snows on snows accumulated rise,
The icy pillars of the starry Orb.
Here Caesar with his joyful legions climbed;
Here camped; and from the lofty precipice,
Surveying all Hesperia's fertile plains.
With hands uplifted, thus addressed his prayer:
Almighty Jove! And thou, Saturnian Earth,
So oft by me with filial triumphs graced!
Witness these arms I with reluctance bear,
Compelled by matchless wrongs to War's redress.
Exiled and interdicted, whilst the Rhine
I swelled beyond its banks with native gore,
And to his Alps confined the haughty Gaul,
Once more to storm your Capitol prepared.
But what reward has all these toils repaid?
Conquest alas! is by herself undone!
Germania vanquished a new crime is deemed,
And sixty Triumphs are with exile crowned.
But what are they my glory thus compels
To count the aid of mercenary arms?
Oh! shame to Rome! My Rome disowns their birth
Nor shall they long her injured honors stain,
Beneath this arm their envious Chief shall fall!
Come fellow-victors, rouse your martial rage,
And with your conquering swords assert my cause!
One is our danger, and our crime the same.
It was not I alone reaped glory's field,
But thanks to you! by you these laurels won;
Then since disgrace and punishment's decreed,
Mutual our trophies and victorious toils,
The die be thrown! and Fortune judge the cast!
Let each brave warrior grasp his shining blade!
For me my rights already crowned appear,
Nor 'midst so many heroes doubt success.
He spoke. . . . When swift-descending from the
The Bird of Jove urged his auspicious flight.
Strange voices in the left-hand woods were heard;
And issuing flames flashed through the sylvan gloom.
Phoebus himself assumed his brightest beams,
And with unusual splendor cheered the day.
cxxiii Fired with the omen, dauntless Caesar bids
His engines move; himself the first t' essay
The dangerous path; for yet in frost confined
And peaceful horrors lay the passive ground.
But when with ardent feet th' innumerous train
Of men and horse and icy fetters loosed,
To fierce resistance swelled the melted snows,
And sudden rivers o'er the mountains rolled.
But soon again as if by Fate's command,
The rising waves in icy billows stood;
Whilst in confusion o'er the treacherous path
Horses and men and mingled standards lay.
To aid the horror, sudden winds compel
The gathering clouds, and burst into a storm,
Thick o'er their ringing arms and hail descends,
And from the Ether pours an icy sea;
One common ruin conquers Earth and Sky,
And frighted rivers hurry o'er their banks;
But dauntless Caesar aided by his spear
Still presses forward with unshaken soul.
With such an ardor was Alcides fired,
When down Caucasian steeps he rushed to fame.
And thus descending from Olympus' brow,
Almighty Jove the Giants put to flight.
Meantime on trembling pinions through the Skies
To Mount Palatium frighted Rumor flew.
And to astonished Rome these tidings bore:
A hostile Fleet is riding on the main,
And o'er the Alps, with German conquests flushed,
The vengeful Legions pour on guilty Rome.
Straight Fire and Sword and all the dreadful train
Of civil rage before their eyes appear!
Distracting tumults every bosom swayed,
And Reason 'midst the dubious fears was lost.
This flies by land, and that confides the sea,
As far less dangerous than his native shores!
These run to arms; Fate aids the wild affright,
And each obeys the guidance of his fears.
No certain course the giddy vulgar know,
But through the Gates in thronged confusion crowd,
And rival terror;-- Rome to Rumor yields,
And weeping Romans leave their native seats.
This is his hand his trembling children leads,
And this his gods within his bosom hides,
His long-loved threshold quits with mournful looks.
And wings his curses at the absent foe.
There on the husband's breast the bride complains;
And here his father's age a pious youth
Supports with filial care, nor feels his load,
Nor fears but for his venerable charge.
Whilst these, insensate! to the field convey
Their treasured wealth, and glut the war with spoils.
As on the deep when stormy Auster blows,
And mounts the billows with tumultuous rage,
Th' affrighted seamen ply their arts in vain;
The pilots stand aghast; these lash their sails;
Whilst these make land, and those avoid the shores,
And rather Fortune than the rocks confide.
But what can paint the fears that seized all men,
When both the Consuls with great Pompey fled?
Pompey, Hydaspes' and proud Pontus' scourge,
The rock of Pirates, whom with wonder Jove
Had thrice beheld in the triumphal Car!
That mighty Chief who gave the Euxine laws,
And taught th' admiring Bosphorus to obey,
Oh shame! Deserted the Imperial Name,
And meanly left both Rome and Fame behind!
Whilst fickle Fortune gloried in his flight.
cxxiv The Gods with horror see th' intestine jars,
And even celestial breasts consent to fear.
For see the mild pacific train depart.
Exiled the World by our impiety!
First soft-winged Peace extends her snowy arm,
And pulling o'er her brows her olive wreath,
Seeks the Elysian shades with hasty flight.
On her with downcast eyes meek Faith attends,
And mourning Justice with disheveled hair,
And weeping Concord with her garments rent.
But joyful Hell unbolts the brazen doors,
And all her Furies quit the Stygian Court.
Threatening Bellona with Erinys joins,
And dire Megaera armed with fiery brands.
Pale Death, insidious Fraud, and Massacre,
With Rage, burst forth! Who from his fetters freed,
Lifts high his gory head; a helmet hides
His wounded visage, and his left hand grasps
The shield of Mars horrid with countless darts.
Whilst in his right a flaming torch appears,
To light Destruction, and to fire the World.
The Gods descending also left the skies,
Whilst wondering Atlas missed his usual load;
And mortal jars even Heaven itself divide.
In Caesar's cause Dione first appeared;
Her Pallas aided, and the God of War.
Whilst in espousal of brave Pompey's part
Cynthia and Phoebus and Cyllene's son
And his own model, great Alcides, joined.
The trumpets sound! When straight fell Discord
Her Stygian head, and shook her matted locks.
With clotted blood her face was covered o'er,
And gummy horrors from her eyes distilled;
Two rows of cankered teeth deformed her mouth,
And from her tongue a stream of poison flowed;
Whilst hissing serpents played around her cheeks;
Her livid skin with rags was scarce concealed,
And in her trembling hand a torch she shook.
Ascending thus from the Tartarean gloom,
She reached the top of lofty Apennine;
Whence viewing all the subject land and sea,
And armies floating on the crowded plains,
This into words her joyful fury broke:
Now, rush ye Nations, rush to mutual arms,
And let Dissension's torch for ever burn!
For flight no longer shall the Coward save,
Nor age, nor sex, nor children's pity move,
But the Earth tremble, and her haughtiest towers
Shake in convulsive ruins to the ground.
Do thou, Marcellus, the Decree uphold;
And Curio, thou excite the madding crowd!
Nor thou, persuasive Lentulus, forbear
To aid the Faction with thy potent tongue!
But why, O Caesar, this delayed Revenge?
Why burst'st thou not the Gates of guilty Rome,
And mak'st her treasured pride thy welcome prey?
And thou, O Pompey, know'st thou not thy power?
If thou fear'st Rome, to Epidamnus haste,
And feast Thessalia's plain with human gore!
Thus Discord spoke. . . . The impious Earth
Eumolpus having declaimed this effusion with prodigious volubility,
we eventually entered the gates of Croton. Here we baited at a small,
mean inn, but started out next morning to find a lodging of greater
pretensions. We soon fell in with a mob of legacy hunters, who plied us
with questions as to who we were and where we came from. So we answered
both inquiries, in strict accordance with the plan arranged between us,
with an exaggerated glibness, and they believed every word of it; for
they instantly put their fortunes at Eumolpus's disposal, almost
fighting which should be first to do him this service. One and all offer
presents, in order to curry favor with the supposed millionaire.
cxxv Things went on thus at Croton for a long time, till Eumolpus,
intoxicated with success, so completely forgot his former lowly
condition as to boast to his followers how no one could resist his
influence, and that any misdemeanor they might have committed in the
town, they could carry off with impunity by his friends' good offices.
For my part however, though every day I stuffed my swollen carcass with
a greater superfluity of good things and really thought Fortune had at
last ceased watching me with an eye of malevolence, still I often
reflected on my present mode of life and the way it had come about.
"What if some astute legacy hunter," I often said to myself, "sent some
one to Africa to make inquiries, and discovered our swindle? What if
Eumolpus's servant, as is just possible, sick of this life of luxury,
should give a hint to his cronies and betray the whole imposture out of
malice? Why! we should just have to fly once more, return to the penury
we have at last got the better of, and start begging afresh. Gods and
goddesses of heaven! what a life outlaws lead, forever dreading the
penalty of one felony or another!"
cxxvi Thus communing with myself, I quit the house in a most
melancholy mood, hoping to refresh my spirits with the open air out of
doors. I had scarcely entered the public promenade, when a girl of far
from unpleasing exterior met me, and calling "Polyaenos," the name I had
adopted by way of disguise, informed me that her mistress desired
permission to speak with me.
"You have surely made a mistake," I answered in some confusion; "I am
but a foreigner and a slave, and quite undeserving of the honor."
"Nay! my mission was to yourself," she returned; "but I see, because you
know your own beauty, you give yourself airs, and sell your favors,
instead of giving them. What else can those waved and well combed locks
mean, and that made-up face, and the languishing look of your eyes? For
what else that studied gait, and mincing steps that never exceed a
measured pace, except to sell your person by the meretricious display of
your charms? Look at me; I am no augur, no student of the planets like
the astrologers, yet I can infer a man's character from his looks, and
foretell his intentions the moment I see his way of walking. Therefore,
if you are willing to sell us what I require, there's a customer all
ready; or, if you will give it, like a gentleman, we shall be glad to be
under this obligation to you. You tell me you are a slave and a common
varlet; this only the more inflames my mistress's heated imagination.
There are women fancy muck, whose passions are stirred only at the sight
of slaves or runner boys with bare legs. Others are hot after
gladiators, or dusty muleteers, or actors swaggering on the boards. This
is the sort my mistress is; she jumps clean over the fourteen rows from
orchestra to gallery, to seek her choice among the rabble of the back
So, charmed with her fascinating chatter, "Tell me, my dear," I said,
"is this lady who loves me yourself?"
The maid laughed heartily at my cool way of putting it, saying, "Pray!
pray! don't be so mighty pleased with yourself. I've never given myself
to a slave yet; and God forbid I should waste my embraces on
gallows-birds. 'Tis their own lookout, if ladies go kissing the marks
the lash has left; for my part, though I'm only a servant maid, I never
go with anybody below a knight.
"Tastes differ 'tis as chance disposes;
Some like thorns, and some like roses."
I was astounded at such abnormal predilections, and thought it
monstrous thus to find the maid with the mistress's fastidiousness, the
mistress with the maid's vulgar tastes.
Presently, after further pleasantries had passed, I begged the girl to
bring her mistress into the plane tree avenue. She was quite agreeable,
and tucking up her skirts dived into a laurel wood that bordered the
promenade. In a very few moments she brought out her mistress from where
she was hiding, and led her up to me, a more perfect being than ever
artist fashioned. There are no words to express her beauty, for anything
I can say will fall far short of the reality. Her locks, which curled
naturally, rippled all over her shoulders, her brow was low, the hair
being turned back from it, her brows, extending to the very spring of
the cheek, almost met between the eyes, which shone brighter than stars
in a moonless sky, her nose was slightly aquiline, her little mouth such
as Praxiteles gave Diana. Chin, neck, hands, snow-white feet confined in
elegant sandals of gold work, all vied with Parian marble in brilliancy.
For the first time I thought lightly of Doris, whose long-time admirer I
Why tarries Jove, scorning the arts of Love,
Mute and inglorious in the heavens above?
How well the Bull would now the God become,
Or his gray hairs to be transformed to down!
Here's Danae's self,-- a touch from her would fire,
And make the God in liquid joys expire.
cxxvii Quite delighted, she smiled so sweetly I thought I saw the moon
breaking full-faced from a cloud. Presently, with fingers punctuating
her words, she laughed, "If you are not too proud to enjoy a woman of
condition, and one who only within the year has known your sex. I offer
you a 'sister,' fair youth. You have a 'brother' already, I know, for I
did not disdain to make inquiries, but what hinders you to adopt a
sister too? I claim a like dignity. Only taste and try, when you will,
how you like my kisses."
"Nay!" I replied, "by your own loveliness I adjure you, deign to admit
an alien among your worshipers. You will find him a sincere devotee, if
you give him leave to adore you. And that you may not think I enter this
temple of Love giftless, I will sacrifice my 'brother' to you."
"What!" she cried, "you sacrifice to me the being you cannot live
without, on whose kisses your happiness depends, whom you love as I
would have you love me?" As she said these words, they sounded so
sweetly you might have thought it was the Siren's harmonies came
floating on the breeze. So, lost in admiration and dazzled with a
wondrous effulgence brighter than the light of heaven, I was fain to ask
my divinity's name.
"Why! did not my maid tell you," she replied, "I was called Circe? I am
not indeed the daughter of the Sun; nor did my mother ever stay at her
good pleasure the course of the revolving globe. Still I have one noble
boon to thank heaven for, if the fates unite us two. Yes! some god's
mysterious, silent workings are beneath all this. 'Tis not without a
cause Circe loves Polyaenos; a great torch of sympathy flames between
these names. Then take your will of me, beloved one. For we have no
prying interference to dread, and your 'brother' is far away."
With these words Circe threw her arms, that were softer than down,
around my neck, and drew me down on the flower-bespangled grass:
On Ida's top, when Jove his nymph caressed,
And lawless heat in open view expressed,
His mother Earth in all her charms was seen,
The rose, the violet, the sweet jasmine,
And the fair lily smiling on the green.
Such was the plat whereon my Venus lay;
Our Love was secret, but the charming day
Was bright, like her, and as her temple gay.
Side by side on the grass we lay, dallying with a
cxxviii thousand kisses, the prelude to robuster joys. But alas! a
sudden debility of my nerves quite disappointed Circe, who exclaimed,
infuriated at the affront, "What now? do my kisses revolt you? is my
breath offensive with fasting? are my armpits uncleanly and smelling? If
it is nothing of this sort, can it be that you are afraid of Giton?"
Flushing hotly at her words, I lost any little vigor still left me, and
my whole frame feeling dislocated, I besought my mistress, "Do not, my
Queen, aggravate my misery. I am bewitched."
So trivial an excuse was far from appeasing Circe's indignation. She
turned her eyes contemptuously away from me, and glancing towards her
maid, "Tell me, Chrysis," she said, "and tell me true. Am I repulsive?
am I sluttish? is there some natural blemish disfigures my beauty? Do
not deceive your mistress; there must be something strangely amiss about
Then, as Chrysis stood silent, she snatched up a mirror, and after
rehearsing all the looks and smiles lovers are wont to exchange, she
shook out her robe that lay crumpled on the ground, and flounced off
into the Temple of Venus. I was left standing like a convicted felon, or
a man horror-struck with some awful vision, asking myself whether the
bliss I had been cheated of was indeed a reality or only a dream.
As when in sleep our wanton Fancy sports,
And our fond eyes with hidden riches courts,
We hug the theft; the smiling treasure fills
Our guilty hands; the conscious sweat distills;
Whilst laboring fear sits heavy on the mind,
Lest the big secret should an utterance find.
But when with night th' illusive joys retreat,
And our eyes open to the gay deceit,
That which we ne'er possessed, as lost, we mourn,
And for imaginary blessings burn.
My calamity really seemed to me a dream, or rather a hallucination; and
so long did my enervation last, I could not so much as get up off the
ground. However the mind recovering its tone by degrees, my strength
slowly came back to me, and I made for home, where feigning
indisposition, I threw myself down on my pallet. Before long, Giton, who
had heard I was ill, entered my chamber in much concern. To make his
mind easier, I told him I had gone to bed merely to take a rest, talking
a deal of other stuff besides, but not a word about my misadventure, as
I very much dreaded his jealousy. So to avoid all suspicion, drawing him
to my side, I tried to give him a proof of my love, but all my panting
and sweating was in vain. He got up full of indignation, and upbraiding
me with debilitated vigor and diminished affection, declared he had
noticed for a long time I must certainly have been expending my strength
of mind and body elsewhere.
"No! no! darling," I interrupted, "my affection for you has always been
the same; but reason now prevails over love and lechery."
"Well! thank you, thank you for the Socratic innocency of your passion.
Alcibiades was not more uncontaminated when he lay in his
cxxix preceptor's bed." "I tell you, little brother," I went on, "I have
lost all knowledge and sense of manhood. Dead and buried is that part of
me that once made me a very Achilles!"
Seeing I was really unnerved, and afraid, if he were caught alone with
me, it might give rise to scandal, he withdrew in haste, retreating to
an inner room of the house. He was hardly gone when Chrysis entered my
room and handed me her mistress's tablets, on which was written the
CIRCE TO POLYAENOS-- GREETING.
"If I were a mere wanton, I should complain of my disappointment.
Instead I am positively grateful to your impotence; for so I enjoyed
longer dalliance with the semblance of pleasure. What I ask is, how you
do, and whether you got home on your own legs; for doctors say a man
cannot walk without nerves. I will tell you what I think; beware, young
Sir, of paralysis. I never saw a patient in more imminent danger; upon
my word and honor, you are as good as dead already. If a like lethargy
attack your knees and hands, I should advise you to send immediately for
the undertaker's men.
"Well! well! dire as is the affront I have received, still I will never
grudge a prescription to a man in your miserable plight. If you would be
cured, ask Giton's help. You will recover your nerve, I assure you, if
you sleep three nights running apart from your 'little brother.' For
myself, I have no fear but I can find another admirer to love me a
little. My mirror and my reputation both tell me this is true.
Farewell, (if you can)."
As soon as Chrysis saw I had read this caustic epistle to the end,
"These accidents are common enough," she said, "and particularly in this
city, where there are women who can lure down the moon out of the sky.
So never fear, your matter shall be set right; only write back
graciously to my mistress and restore her confidence with a candid and
gently-worded reply. For to tell you the honest truth-- from the hour
you wronged her, she has not been her own woman."
I complied very willingly with the girl's suggestion, and wrote the
following answer on the tablets:
cxxx POLYAENOS TO CIRCE-- GREETING.
"I confess, Lady, I have often offended; I am but a man, and a young one
still. But never before this day have I done mortal sin. The criminal
admits his crime; any penalty you inflict, I have richly deserved. I
have betrayed a trust, slain a man, violated a temple; assign due
punishment for all these crimes. If you choose to kill me, I hand you my
sword; if you are satisfied with stripes, I haste to throw myself naked
at my mistress's feet. Remember one thing only, 'twas not myself, but my
tools that failed me. The soldier was ready but he had no arms. What so
demoralized me, I cannot tell. Perhaps my imagination outran my lagging
powers, perhaps in my all-aspiring eagerness, I lavished by ardor
prematurely. I know not how it was. You bid me beware of paralysis; as
if a greater palsy could exist than that which robbed me of the power to
possess you. But this is the sum and substance of my plea: I will
satisfy you yet, if you will grant me leave to repair my fault."
After dismissing Chrysis with fair promises of this sort, I put my
body, which had served me so ill, into special training, and
pretermitting the bath together, restricted myself to a moderate use of
unguents. Then adopting a more fortifying diet, that is to say onions
and snails' heads without sauce, I also cut down my wine. Finally
composing my nerves by an easy walk before retiring, I went to bed with
no Giton to share my couch. For anxious as I was to make my peace, I was
afraid of even the slightest contact with my favorite.
cxxxi Next day, having risen sound in mind and body, I went down to
the same plane tree walk, though truly I felt a dread of the ominous
locality, and waited for Chrysis to act as my guide. After strolling to
and fro for a while, I had just sat down in the same spot as the day
before, when she came in sight, bringing a little old woman with her.
When she had saluted me, "How now, Sir Squeamsih," she began, "do you
feel yourself in better fettle?"
The old woman meantime drew from her pocket a hank of plaited yarns of
different colors, and tied it round my neck. Then puddling dust and
spittle together, she dipped her middle finder in the mess, and
disregarding my repugnance, marked my forehead with it.
Never despair! Priapus I invoke,
To help the parts that make his altars smoke.
The incantation ended, she bade me spit out thrice, and thrice toss
pebbles into my bosom, which she had wrapped up in purple after
pronouncing a charm over them. Then putting her hands to my privates,
she began to try my virile condition. Quicker than thought the nerves
obeyed her summons, and filled the old lady's hand with a huge erection.
Then jumping for joy, "Look, Chrysis, look," she cried, "how I've
started the hare for other folk to course." This accomplished, the old
woman handed me back to Chrysis, who was overjoyed at the recovery of
her mistress's treasure; with all haste she led me straight to the
latter, whom we found in a most delightful spot, adorned with everything
that fairest Nature can show to charm the eyes.
Where noble Planes cast a refreshing shade,
And well-cared Pines their shaking tops displayed,
And Daphne midst the Cypress crowned her head.
Near-by a circling river gently flows,
And rolls the pebbles as it murmuring goes.
A spot designed for Love; the nightingale
And gentle swallow its delights can tell,
Who on each bush salute the coming day,
And in their orgies sing its hours away.
She lay luxuriously stretched on golden cushions, which supported her
marble neck, fanning the calm air with a branch of flowering myrtle.
Directly she saw me, she blushed a little, no doubt remembering
yesterday's affront; presently, when we were quite alone, and at her
invitation I had sat down by her side, she laid the branch over my eyes,
and this emboldening her as if a wall had been raised between us, "How
goes it, paralytic?" she laughed, "are you quite recovered, that you've
come back again today?"
"Why ask me," I returned, "instead of making trial?" and throwing myself
bodily into her arms, I took my fill of good, healthy, unbewitched
cxxxii Her loveliness drew me irresistibly to her and disposed me to
enjoyment. Already had our lips joined in many a sounding kiss, our
fingers interlocked had played all sorts of amorous pranks, our two
bodies had twined in mutual embraces till our very souls seemed fused in
one; yet in the very height of these delicious preliminaries, lo! my
nerves once more betrayed me, and I failed utterly to reach the supreme
moment of our bliss.
Lashed to fury by two such dire affronts, the lady ends by seeking
vengeance, and summoning her chamberlains, orders me a sound thumping.
Not content with this cruel treatment of me, she calls together all the
spinning wenches and meanest drudges of the house, and bids them spit at
me. Clapping my hands to my eyes, and without one word of expostulation,
for I knew I richly deserved it all, I fled from the house, driven forth
under a hurricane of blows and spittle. Proselenos is kicked out too,
and Chrysis beaten. The whole household was in dismay, all grumbling
together and asking who it was had put their mistress in so vile a
temper. This was some compensation and encouragement to me, and I
carefully hid the marks of the blows I had received, not to make
Eumolpus merry over my disaster, or Giton sad for the same reason. The
only thing I could do to save my dignity was to pretend to be ill; this
I did, and creeping into bed, turned the whole fire of my wrath against
the vile cause of all my calamities:
With dreadful steel the part I would have lopped;
Thrice from my trembling hand the razor dropped.
Now, what I might before, I could not do;
For, cold as ice, the shuddering thing withdrew,
And shrank behind a wrinkled canopy.
Hiding its head from my revenge and me.
Thus by its fear I'm balked of my intent,
And in mere mouthing words my anger vent.
So raising myself on my elbow, I address the recreant in some such terms
as these, "What have you to say for yourself, abomination of gods and
men? For indeed your very name must not be mentioned by self-respecting
folks. Did I merit such treatment from you,-- to be dragged down from
heaven's bliss to hell's torments, to have the prime and vigor of my
years maligned and to be reduced to the imbecility of dotage? Give me, I
beseech you, give me a proof you are yet good for something." In words
such as these I vented my irritation.
But with averted eyes, unmoved he mourned
Nor to my fond reproach one look returned;
Like bended osiers trembling o'er a brook,
Or wounded poppies by no zephyr shook.
Nevertheless, on reaching the end of this undignified expostulation,
I beganto be ashamed of what I had been saying, and to blush furtively
at having so far forgotten my self-respect as to bandy words with a part
of my person men of graver sort do not so much as deign to notice.
Presently after rubbing my brow awhile, "After all, what have I done so
much amiss," I asked myself, "in thus relieving my resentment by means
of a little natural abuse? Do we not habitually curse various parts of
our bodies, our belly, throat,-- head even, when it aches, as it often
does? Does not Ulysses quarrel with his own heart? and do not our
Tragedians rail at their own eyes, as if they could hear? The gouty
abuse their feet, the rheumatic their hands, the sore-eyed their optics;
and does not a man who has damaged his toes, vent all the agony of his
pain on his poor feet?"
Nothing is falser than mankind's silly prejudices, or sillier than an
affectation of peculiar gravity.
cxxxiii My declamation ended, I called Giton to me and asked him,
"Tell me, darling, tell me on your honor; that night Ascyltos stole you
from me, did he resort to active violence upon you, or was he content
with a night of self-restraint and continence?" The lad touched his
eyes, and swore in the most solemn terms that Ascyltos had done him no
I queried him no further for the truth is, I was so crushed by my
misfortunes I was not master of myself, and did not rightly know what I
was saying. Let bygones be bygones, I murmured to myself, especially
when nothing but pain can come from recalling them. Eventually I
directed all my attention to the task of recovering my lost vigor.
I was determined even to consecrate myself to the gods; accordingly I
started out implore the help of Priapus. To make the best of things, I
feigned a cheerful countenance, and dropping on my knees at the Temple
threshold besought the deity's intervention in the following lines:
"Delight of Bacchus, Guardian of the Groves,
The kind Restorer of decaying Loves,
Lesbos and verdant Thasos thee implore,
Whose maids thy power in wanton rites adore;
Joy of the Dryads, with propitious care
Attend my wishes, and indulge my prayer.
My guiltless hands with blood I never stained,
Or sacrilegiously the gods profaned;
Thus low I bow; restoring blessings send,
I did not thee with my whole self offend,
Who sins through weakness is less guilty thought;
Indulge my crime, and spare a venial fault.
When kindly Fate shall genial gifts allow,
I'll, not ungrateful, to thy godhead bow.
A sucking pig I'll offer at thy shrine.
And sacred bowls brimful of generous wine;
A destined goat shall on thy altars lie,
And the horned parent of my flock shall die.
Then thrice thy frantic votaries shall round
Thy temple dance, with smiling garlands crowned,
And most devoutly drunk, thy Orgies sound."
Whilst I was thus engaged, anxiously intent on the part affected, the
old woman entered the shrine with disheveled hair and wearing black
garments all in a state of disorder, and laying her hand on my shoulder
led me outside the vestibule.
cxxxiv "What foul witches have devoured your manhood?" she exclaimed;
"what refuse or what garbage have you trod on in the streets at night?
You could not so much as do your duty by the boy; but flabby, faint and
weary, like a cart-horse at a hill, you wasted your labor and your sweat
in vain! And now, not content with your own delinquencies, you have set
the gods against me as well-- and I mean to make you smart for it."
So she led me unresisting back again into the Temple and to the
Priestess's chamber, where she pushed me down on the bed, and snatching
up a cane that hung behind the door, she gave me yet another thrashing.
Still I said not a word, and if the cane had not split at the first
stroke, and so lessened the force of her blows, she would likely have
broken my arms or my head. I groaned dismally, particularly at the way
she worked my member, and bursting into a torrent of weeping, hid my
face in my hand and cowered down on the pillow. The old woman was also
melted to tears, and sitting down on the other side of the bed, began to
complain in quavering tones of the tediousness of having lived too long.
Presently the Priestess came in, "Why! what has brought you to my
chamber," she cried, "and with these long faces, as if you were come to
a funeral? and on a holiday too, when the most sorrow-laden laugh for
"Oh, it's this young man here, Œnothea," the old woman answered; "for
sure, he was born under an evil star; he cannot sell his goods to boy or
girl. You never saw so unfortunate a fellow; soaked leather, that's what
his tool is! What think you of a man, I ask you that, who left Circe's
bed without having tasted pleasure?" On hearing this, Œnothea sat down
between us, and after shaking her head awhile, "I am the only woman,"
she said, "knows how to cure this complaint. And that you may not think
I'm doing at random, I require the young fellow to sleep one night with
me, and see if I don't make it stiff as horn!
"All Nature's works my magic power obey,
The blooming Earth shall wither and decay,
And when I please, be verdant, fresh and gay.
Here flowery vales shall vernal beauties know,
There frozen plains shall hide themselves in snow;
By magic charms I'll make a whirlwind cease,
Contract its breath, and murmur into peace;
Tigers and pards, submissive to my will,
Obey my orders and neglect to kill;
At my commands substantial darkness soon
O'erspreads the skies and hides the silver moon;
Sol's fiery car stops in th' Ethereal plain,
And Thetis long expects her Lord in vain.
The Pontic bulls emitting fire and smoke
The witch Medea to her service broke
And made their swelling chest sustain her yoke.
Refulgent Circe, daughter of the Sun,
Could into swine Ulysses' soldiers turn;
In woods Silenus, Proteus in the seas,
Conceal the God, and take what form they please.
My skill's as great, my power no less extends,
The servile World to my enchantment bends."
cxxxv I shuddered with terror to hear her promise such miracles, and
began to scrutinize the old woman more carefully.
"Now," ejaculated Œnothea, "now do as I tell you." And after washing her
hands with scrupulous care, she bent over the couch and kissed me again
She then placed an old table on the middle of the altar, and filling it
with live coals, proceeded to patch up an ancient bowl, so time-worn it
was falling to pieces, with melted pitch. Next she put back in the
smoke-begrimed wall a peg which had come down along with the wooden
bowl, when she unhitched the latter. Presently after donning a square
cloak, she set a huge cooking-pot on the fire, at the same time with a
fork reaching down a cloth from the meat-rack, in which was stored a
supply of beans and some exceedingly stale pieces of pig's cheek,
slashed with a thousand cuts. She undid the string, shook out some of
the contents on to the table, and bade me strip them smartly. Obeying
her orders, I proceed carefully to separate the beans from the filthy
pods that contained them. But Œnothea, chiding my slowness,
incontinently snatches them from me, and instantly stripping off the
husks with her teeth, spits them out on the ground, where they looked
like dead flies. I could not help admiring the ingenuity of poverty, and
the knack there is in every single thing. Indeed, this virtue of poverty
found so ardent a follower in the Priestess, it was conspicuous in every
trifle about her. Her cottage especially was a very shrine of misery.
No Indian ivories here are set in gold,
No marble covers the deluded mold;
Void of expensive art, the reverent Shrine
With natural modest ornaments doth shine.
Round Ceres' bower the bending osier grows;
Earthen is all the plate the Priestess knows;
The jug is earth which holds the holy wine,
Osier the dish, sacred to Powers divine;
No brazen gauds are here, no purple pride,
Mud and dirt mixed the pious relics hide;
Rushes and reeds the humble roof adorn,
And straw deprived of its Autumnal corn.
On an old shelf a savory ham is found,
And service-berries into garlands bound.
Such a low cottage Hecate confined,
Low was her dwelling, but sublime her mind.
Her bounteous heart a grateful praise shall crown,
And Muses make immortal her renown.
cxxxvi Then, having shelled the beans and eaten a scrap of the meat, she
took a fork and went to replace the pig's cheek, which was as great an
antiquity as herself; but the rotten stool, on which she had mounted so
as to reach up to the rack, broke down under the old woman's weight and
threw her on the fire. The lip of the cooking-pot was smashed, and put
out the fire, that was just burning up; the woman's elbow was burnt by a
red-hot ember, and her whole face begrimed with the flying ashes. I
sprang up in dismay, and not without some inward laughter set the old
thing on her legs again; this accomplished, she ran instantly to a
neighbor's to replenish the fire, that nothing might delay the
I was making my way to the door of the cottage, when lo and behold!
three sacred geese, which I suppose the old woman was in habit of
feeding at midday, rushed at me and set me all in a twitter, pressing
round me with their disconcerting and almost rabid cackle. One of them
tore my tunic, another undid my shoestrings and dragged at them, the
third, leader and director of the savage assault, actually worried my
leg with its serrated beak. So, thinking it no time for nonsense, I
dragged off a leg of the table, and armed with this weapon started
belaboring the warlike creature. Nor was I satisfied with trifling
blows, but avenged my hurt by killing the bird outright:
Such were the birds Heruclean art subdued,
And with loud tumults to the skies pursued;
And such the Harpies the winged brothers chased
From trembling Phineus' illusive feast.
The heavens were startled at their clamorous flight,
And backward seemed to roll in wild affright.
I left the creature sprawling, while its companions, after picking up
the beans that were scattered all about the floor, and finding
themselves I suppose bereft of their leader, retreated into the Temple
again. Then, proud of my booty and the vengeance I had exacted, I tossed
the dead bird behind the bed, and washed the trifling wound in my leg
with vinegar. Presently, fearing a scolding, I determined to be off, and
gathering my belongings together started to leave the cottage. I had not
yet crossed the threshold however when I saw Œnothea coming along with
an earthen pot full of fire. I drew back again therefore, and throwing
aside my robe, as if I had been waiting for her return, took my stand at
the entrance. She packed her fire on some reeds broken up small, and
piling up the top with a number of logs, began to excuse her delay,
saying her friend had refused to let her go till she had drained the
three cups custom required. Then, "What have you been doing," she asked,
"in my absence? and where are the beans?"
I really thought I had done something very praiseworthy and described
the whole battle to her in detail, finally, to end her melancholy,
presenting her with the dead goose in compensation for her loss.
Directly the old woman set eyes on the bird, she set up such a terrible
outcry you might have thought the geese had invaded the place again.
Confused at this and astounded at the strange nature of my offense, I
repeatedly begged her to tell me why she was so angry, and why all her
pity was for the goose and none at all for me.
cxxxvii But beating her palms together, "How dare you speak," she
screamed, "abandoned wretch! You must know what an atrocity you have
committed; you have killed the delight of Priapus, the goose that was
the darling of all the matrons. You think it's a trifle you've done!--
if the Magistrates get wind of it, you'll be crucified. You have
polluted my home with blood, that was never profaned before; and put it
in the power of any ill-wisher I may have to turn me out of my office."
"Don't shout so, I beseech you," I interposed; "I tell you, I'll give
you an ostrich for your goose." She was still sitting on the pallet and
bewailing the goose's untimely death, with me standing in amazement,
when Proselenos arrived with the materials for the sacrifice. Directly
she saw the dead bird, she asked excitedly how the calamity had
occurred, and she too began to weep violently, and make as much ado over
me as if I had killed my own father instead of a public goose. Feeling
utterly sick of the tiresome business, "Now tell me," I expostulated,
"could not I purchase expiation for money, if it was you I had
assaulted, even though I'd done murder. Look you, I offer two gold
pieces, enough to buy both gods and geese with." As soon as Œnothea saw
the coins, "Forgive me, young man," she exclaimed; "'tis for your sake I
am so anxious, and that shows affection surely, not malice. (And we'll
take care that no one shall know anything about it.) Only do you pray to
the gods to pardon the sacrilege you have done."
Whoe'er has magic gold, secure may sail
Where'er he please, he's lord of Fortune's gale;
May in a Danae's arms make soft abode,--
There's no Acrisius will dispute the God!
He may turn Poet, Orator, what not?
When he harangues, old Cato is forgot!
Or if the noisy bar delights him more,
Behold what mighty Labeo was before!
In short-- when of the money you're possessed,
You need but wish,-- you've Jove within your chest.
Meantime the Priestess, bustling about, placed a bowl of wine under my
hands, and making me spread out my fingers evenly, purified them with
leeks and parsley. Then with a muttered charm she dipped filberts in the
wine, and according as they rose to the surface again, or sank, she drew
her prognostications. But I did not fail to observe that the blind nuts,
with nothing but air inside of kernels, naturally floated on the top,
while the heavy ones, that were full and sound within, settled to the
bottom. Next turning her attentions to the goose, she opened its breast
and drew out a fine fat liver, and proceeded to predict my future
prospects from the indications it afforded. Nay! that not a trace of my
crime might be left, she broke up the whole bird, and sticking the
pieces on spits, prepared a very appetizing dinner for me, whom she so
short a time before condemned to death with her own lips. Meantime
bumpers of unmixed wine were circulating freely, and the old woman
merrily gobbled up the goose they had been mourning over so sadly just
before. When it was all gone, the Priestess, now half drunk, turned to
me and said, "We must complete the mysteries, to recover you of your
cxxxviii So saying, Œnothea brought out a leathern godemiche, which
she smeared with oil and ground pepper and pounded nettle seed, and then
proceeded to insert it little by little up my back. Next the cruel old
dame anoints my two thighs with the same concoction. Then mixing
nasturtium juice with southern-wood, she bathes my genitals with the
stuff, and grasping a bundle of stinging nettles, begins slowly and
methodically to lash my belly with them all over below the navel. The
nettles burn sharply, and I suddenly take to my heels, the old woman
after me in hot haste. Though disordered with wine and lust, they take
the right road, and follow me up through several streets, screaming,
"Stop thief!" However, I escaped eventually, after making all my toes
bleed in the course of my headlong gallop.
As soon as ever I could get home, I went to bed, utterly worn out
with fatigue; but I was unable to sleep a wink. My various disasters
kept on running through my head, and quite convinced I was the most
unfortunate wretch alive, I ejaculated, "Fortune has ever been my
bitterest foe; it only needed Love's torments as well to make me utterly
miserable. Doomed wretch! Fortune and Love now join their forces to
conspire my ruin. Cruel Cupid has never spared me; whether lover or
loved, I am perpetually on the rack! There is Chrysis now! she loves me
madly and never ceases to tease me. Chrysis who looked down on me, when
she was acting as her mistress's go-between, and scorned me as a slave,
because I wore slave's clothes; she, I say, that same Chrysis who once
loathed my humble condition, is now bent on following it up even at the
risk of life itself. She swore she would never leave me alone, that time
she declared the vehemence of her passion for me.
"But Circe has my whole heart; all other women I despise. Indeed who so
fair as she? What was Ariadne's beauty, or Leda's, compared to hers?
What had Helen of Troy, or Venus herself, to boast against her? If
Paris, umpire of the rival goddesses, had seen her at the trial with her
dancing eyes, he would have given up all to her, Helen and the goddesses
three! Could I but kiss that mouth, could I press that divine, that
heavenly bosom, maybe my powers of body would return, and those parts of
me revive that now lie torpid and, I verily believe, bewitched. No
insults exhaust my patience. I have been thrashed,-- 'tis nothing; I
have been kicked out,-- 'tis a merry jest; if only I may be restored to
These and the like thoughts of lovely Circe's charms so roused my
fancy that I disordered my bed with the repeated efforts of a sort of
imaginary voluptuousness. But all my struggles remained unavailing. At
last continual disappointment wore my patience out, and I cursed the
cxxxix that oppressed me. Presently however, recovering my self-control,
and drawing what consolation I might from remembering how many heroes of
antiquity had been persecuted by the anger of the gods, I broke out into
"Not I alone have Heaven's just anger felt,
The gods with others have severely dealt;
By Juno's rage the heavens Alcides bore,
And lost fair Hylas on the Pontic Shore.
Laomedon did Jove's resentment feel,
And Telephus bled by the fatal steel.
Fate's sure decrees no mortal power can shun,
Nor can the swiftest from Heaven's vengeance run."
Tortured by these anxieties, I tossed about wakefully the whole night
long. At peep of day Giton, informed of the fact of my having slept at
home, entered my room, and after chiding me severely for my licentious
way of life, told me the whole household were complaining bitterly of my
goings on, how I paid scarcely any attention to business, and was like a
ruin myself over the fatal intrigue I was now engaged in. I gathered
from all this he was well posted in my affairs, and guessed some one had
been to the house to inquire for me. I asked my companion if anyone had
been in quest of me.
"No one today," Giton replied; "but yesterday there was a woman,
stylishly dressed enough, came in, and after a long talk with me and
boring me to death with her forced conversation, ended by saying you
deserved the gallows and would surely get a slave's scourging, if the
individual you had wronged persisted in his complaint." This news
tormented me extremely, and I launched out into fresh recriminations
against Fortune. My invective was still in full swing when Chrysis came
in, and throwing her arms wildly round my neck, exclaimed, "I have you
in my arms, my heart's desire! My love, my joy! Never, never will you
end this fire of mine, but by quenching it in my blood."
I was not a little disconcerted by this amorous display on her part, and
resorted to a string of flattering speeches to get rid of her, fearing
the madwoman's cries might reach Eumolpus's ears, who in the arrogance
of success had now adopted the domineering ways of a real master. So I
used every means to calm her excitement,-- feigning love, whispering
soft nothings; in a word, so cleverly did I play the fond adorer she
thought me genuinely smitten with her charms. I explained what peril we
should both be in, if she were caught with me in my bedroom, Eumolpus
being only too ready to punish the smallest indiscretion. Hearing this,
she left me hurriedly, all the more so as she saw Giton coming back, who
had quitted the room shortly before she joined me.
Hardly was she gone before one of the newly engaged servants rushed in
to tell me the master was excessively angry at my two days' neglect of
my duties. The best thing I could do, he said, was to get some plausible
excuse ready; for it was hardly possible his angry passions could
subside without somebody getting a thrashing.
Giton seeing me so vexed and disheartened, did not say one word to me
about the woman; he merely spoke of Eumolpus, recommending me to treat
the matter jocularly with him, rather than look gloomy about it. I was
glad enough to take his advice, and approached the old man with so gay
an air that, instead of showing severity, he received me banteringly,
rallying me about my success in love and complimenting me on my grace
and elegance, which made me such a favorite with all the ladies. "It is
no news to me," he went on, "that a most beautiful woman is dying of
love for you; now this may very likely be useful to us on occasion,
Encolpius. Well then! play the fond lover, you; I will keep up the same
rôle I have been acting all along."
cxl He was still speaking when a matron entered, a lady of the
highest distinction, Philomela by name, who in earlier days had won many
a fat legacy by the charms of her youth; but who being old now and past
her prime, used to put her son and daughter in the way of childless old
men, and so continued to extend her old trade by the efforts of these
successors. Well! this woman came to Eumolpus and proceeded to commend
her children to his judicious guardianship, and confide herself and her
hopes to his kindly good nature, asseverating he was the only man in all
the world to train young people by the daily inculcation of healthy
precepts; in fine, that she was leaving her children under Eumolpus's
roof, that they might hear his words of wisdom, the only heritage worth
having that could be bestowed on youth. And she was as good as her word;
for leaving behind her a very attractive looking girl along with her
brother, a stripling, in the old man's chamber, she left the house under
pretext of visiting the Temple to say her prayers.
Eumolpus, who was so careful a soul he was ready to take even me at my
age for a minion, was not long in inviting the girl to sacrifice to the
rearward Venus. But then he had informed everybody he was gouty and
crippled in the loins, and if he failed to keep up the pretense, he ran
considerable risk of spoiling the whole play. So, to maintain the
imposture intact, he begged the girl to take a seat on that kindly good
nature her mother had appealed to, ordering Corax at the same time to
slip under the bed he lay on himself, and resting his hands on the
floor, to hoist him up and down with his back. The servant obeyed, and
gently seconded the child's artful movements with a corresponding,
rhythmical seesaw. Then when the crisis was coming, Eumolpus shouted out
loud and clear to Corax to work faster. Thus the old fellow, suspended
between his servant and his mistress, enjoyed himself as if in a swing.
This exercise he repeated more than once, to the accompaniment of peals
of laughter, in which he himself joined. Nor was I idle; but fearing my
hand might get out of practise from disuse, I assailed the brother,
where he stood admiring his sister's gymnastics through the keyhole, to
see if he were amenable to outrage. He made no bones about accepting my
caresses; but once more, alas! I found the god unpropitious to my
However I was not so much cast down by failure this time as I had been
on previous occasions; for very soon afterwards my vigor came back to
me, and suddenly feeling myself in better condition, I exclaimed, "The
great gods of higher heaven it is have made me a man again! Mercury, who
conveys and reconveys the souls of men, has of his loving kindness given
me back what an unfriendly hand had docked me of, to show you I am
really more graciously endowed than ever was Protesilaus or any of the
mighty men of yore." So saying, I lifted my tunic, and offered Eumolpus
a view of all my glories. For an instant he stood panic-stricken; then,
to make assurance doubly sure, he put out both hands and felt the good
gift the gods had given me.
This great boon restoring our cheerfulness, we made merry over
Philomela's artfulness and her children's proficiency, little likely to
profit them much with us however; for it was solely and entirely in
hopes of a legacy she had abandoned the boy and girl to our tender
mercies. So reflecting on this sordid fashion of getting round childless
old men, I was led on to think of the present state of our own fortunes,
and took occasion to warn Eumolpus that this game of biting might easily
end in biters being bit.
"Our every act," I added, "should be governed by caution. Socrates,
wisest of mankind as both men and gods allow, was wont to boast he had
never so much as glanced into a tavern, nor trusted his eyes to look at
any crowded and disorderly assemblage. Nothing in the world is more
advisable than always to speak within the bounds of prudence.
"All this is true," I insisted, "and no class of men is more liable to
come to mischance than those who covet other folks' goods. How should
mountebanks, and swindlers, live, unless they were now and again to toss
a little purse or a jingling bag of money as baits to the crowd? Just as
dumb beasts are enticed by food, so men are to be caught only with
something solid in the way of
cxli expectations to bite at. The ship from Africa with your money and
your slaves has not arrived, as you promised. Our fortune-hunters are
tired out, and already stint their generosity. Either I am much
mistaken, or the jade Fortune has begun to repent of her favors to you."
"I have thought out a scheme," Eumolpus replied, "that will mightily
embarrass our fortune-hunting friends," and drawing his tablets from his
wallet, he read out his last wishes as follows:
"All who shall receives legacies under my will, my own freedmen
excepted, will inherit the said bequests subject to this condition, to
wit that they do cut up my body into pieces and eat the same before the
eyes of the public there present.
"They need not be over and above shocked, I tell them; for we know that
to this day some nations observe the custom by which the dead are eaten
by their relatives-- so much so indeed that sick folk amongst them are
often reproached for spoiling their flesh by being so long ill. I remind
my friends of these facts, that they may not refuse to follow my
directions, but rather consume my dead body with the same heartiness
with which they prayed the living breath might leave it."
Just as he was reading the initial clauses, several of Eumolpus's most
intimate friends came into his room, and seeing the document in his
hand, begged him eagerly to let them hear its contents. He consented
instantly, and read it out from beginning to end. On hearing the
extraordinary stipulation about being obliged to eat his corpse, they
were very much cast down. But the glamour of his wealth so dazzled the
wretched creatures and stifled their consciences, making mere cringing
cowards of them in his presence, that they durst enter no protest
against the enormity. One of them, however Gorgias, was ready to comply,
provided he had not too long to wait.
At this Eumolpus continued, turning to Gorgias, "I have no apprehensions
of your stomach's turning rebellious; it will obey orders, once you
promise it, in return for one hour's nausea, a plethora of good things.
Just shut your eyes, and pretend it's not human flesh you've bolted, but
a cool ten million. Besides, we'll find some condiments, never fear, to
disguise the flavor. Indeed, no meat really tastes good by itself, but
is always masked in some artful way, and the recalcitrant stomach
reconciled to it. Why! if you want examples to fortify your
resolutions-- the Saguntines, when hard pressed by Hannibal, ate human
flesh; and they had no legacy to expect. The men of Perusia did the same
thing in the extremity of famine, looking for no other benefit from the
horrid diet but just to escape starvation. When Numantia was taken by
Scipio, mothers were found grasping their children's half-eaten bodies
to their bosoms. In fine, seeing it is merely the idea of cannibalism
that can cause disgust, you must fight with all your heart to banish
this repugnance from your minds, to the end you may receive the enormous
legacies I put you down for."
These insolent extravagances Eumolpus reeled off with such reckless
inconsequence as made the fortune hunters begin to distrust his
promises. Instantly they began to scrutinize more closely our words and
actions, and everything they saw only increasing their suspicions, they
soon set us down for a gang of common cheats and swindlers. Hereupon
such as had gone to more than ordinary expense for our entertainment,
resolved to have at us and take their just revenge.
But now Chrysis, who was in all their secrets, warned me of what the
Crotonians' intentions towards us were. This news scared me so terribly
I fled instantly with Giton, leaving Eumolpus to his fate; and a few
days later I learned that the Crotonians, furious at the old fox having
lived sumptuously at their expense for so long, had massacred him in the
Massilian fashion. To show you what this means, I must tell you that
whenever the Massilians were visited by the Plague, one of the poorer
inhabitants would volunteer himself as an expiatory victim, on condition
of being maintained a full year at the public cost and fed on choice
food. Later on, the unhappy man, bedecked with festal wreaths and sacred
robes, was carried in procession through the whole city, and made the
butt of general execration, to the end that all the calamities of all
the State might be concentrated on his devoted head. This done, he was
hurled headlong from a rock.