Martial, Epigrams. Book 3 . Bohn's Classical Library (1897)
This book, whatever may be its worth, Gaul, named after the Roman toga,1 sends from far distant climes. You read it, and award your praise perhaps to the preceding; but both are equally mine, whichever you think the better. That book which saw the light in the city should, indeed, give the greater pleasure; for a book of Roman production should bear the palm over one from Gaul.
To whom, my little book, do you wish me to dedicate you? Make haste to choose a patron, lest, being hurried off into a murky kitchen, you cover tunnies with your wet leaves, or become a wrapper for incense and pepper. Is it into Faustinus' bosom that you flee? you have chosen wisely: you may now make your way perfumed with oil of cedar, and, decorated with ornaments at both ends, luxuriate in all the glory of painted bosses; delicate purple may cover you, and your title proudly blaze in scarlet. With him for your patron, fear not even Probus.2
Your face, which is beautiful, you cover with a black veil; but with your person, which is not beautiful, you offend the waters in which you bathe. Imagine that the nymph of the brook herself addresses you in these words of mine: "Either uncover your face, or bathe dressed."
Go your ways to Rome, my book. If Rome shall ask whence you are come, you will say from the quarter to which the Aemilian Way leads. If she shall inquire in what land I am, or in what city, you may reply that I am at Cornelii Forum.2 If she ask the reason of my absence, make in few words a full confession: "He was not able to endure the wearisomeness and vanity of the toga." 3 If she shall say, "When is he likely to return?" reply, "He departed a poet: he will return when he has learned to play the lyre."1
Do you wish, my little book, who are going to the city without me, to have recommendations to several persons? or will one person be sufficient? One, believe me, will be sufficient,----one to whom you will not be a stranger,----Julius, whose name is so constantly on my lips. Him you will seek out without delay, near the very entrance to the Via Tecta; he lives in the house which Daphnis once occupied. He has a wife, who will receive you to her arms and bosom, even were you to go to her covered with dust. Whether you see them together, or either of them first, you will say, "Marcus bids me salute you," and that is enough. Let letters of introduction herald others; he is foolish, who thinks it necessary to be introduced to his own friends.
This is the third day, Marcellinus, after the Ides of May; a day to be celebrated by you with double rites: for it witnessed the introduction of your father to the light of heaven, and was the first to receive the offering from your blooming cheeks.1 Although the day conferred on your father the gift of a happy life, yet it never afforded him a greater blessing than your safe arrival at manhood.
Farewell at length, you paltry hundred farthings, the patron's largess to his worn-out escort, doled out by the half-boiled bathing-man. What think you, my masters, who starve your friends? The sportula of proud patrons are no more, there is no way of escape: you must now give a regular dinner.2
"Quintus is in love with Thais."----What Thais?----"Thais with one eye."----Thais wants one eye; he wants two.
Cinna, I am told, is a writer of small squibs against me. A man cannot be called a writer, whose effusions no one reads.
Your father, Philomusus, allowed you two thousand sesterces a month, and paid you day by day; because, with you, the wants of the morrow always pressed close on the extravagance of to-day; and consequently it was necessary to allow daily aliment to your vices. Your father is now dead, and has left you his sole heir; and by so doing, Philomusus, he has disinherited you.1
If your mistress, Quintus, is neither Thais nor one-eyed, why do you imagine my distich to have been levelled against you?----But perhaps there is some similarity in the name; perhaps it said Thais for Lais.----Tell me, what similarity is there between Thais and Hermione?----But you are Quintus, you say;----well, let us change the name of the lover. If Quintus will not have Thais, let Sextus be her swain.1
The perfumes, I own, were good which you gave your guests yesterday; but you carved nothing. It is a queer kind of entertainment to be perfumed and starved at the same time. A man, Fabullus, who eats nothing, and is embalmed, seems to me a veritable corpse.
While you refuse to cut up the hare, Naevia, and the mullet, and spare the boar which is already more than putrid, you accuse and ill-treat your cook, on the pretence that he has served up everything raw and indigestible. At such a banquet I shall never suffer from indigestion.
The hungry Tuccius had left Spain and was coming to Rome. But a rumour about the sportula met him, and he turned back at the Mulvian Bridge.1
No one in the whole city gives more credit than Codrus.----"But since he is so poor, how can that be?"----He bestows his affections with his eyes shut.
Cobbler, kinglet of cobblers, you give gladiatorial exhibitions, and what your awl has bestowed the sword destroys. You are intoxicated; for you never would have acted when sober, in such a way as to amuse yourself, cobbler, at the expense of your tanned hides. You have had your sport; and now, be advised, remember to confine yourself within your own natural skin.
A tart, which had been carried round the second course several times, burnt the hand with its excessive heat. But the throat of Sabidius was still more ardent to swallow it; he immediately, therefore, blew upon it three or four times with his mouth. The tart certainly grew cooler, and seemed likely to allow us to touch it. But no one would touch it: it was infected.
In your exordium you complained that you had caught a cold in your throat. Since you have excused yourself; Maximus, why do you recite?
Close to the hundred columns, where figures of wild beasts adorn the plane-grove, is to be seen a she-bear. The fair Hylas, playing near it, explored its yawning jaws, and buried his tender hand in its mouth; but an accursed viper was lurking in the dark recesses of the brazen throat! and the bear was animated with a breath more deadly than its own. The child did not perceive that any mischief was there, until he was dying from the bite of the snake. Oh, sad misfortune! that the bear was not a real one!
Tell me, my Muse, what my Canius Rufus 1 is doing. Is he committing to imperishable tablets the history of the family of the Claudii, for future generations to read; or refuting the falsehoods of the historian of Nero? Or is he imitating the jocosity of the plain-speaking Phaedrus? 2 Or is he sporting in elegiacs; or writing gravely in heroic verse? Or is he terrible in the buskin of Sophocles? Or is he idling in the school of the poets, uttering jests seasoned with Attic salt? Or, if he has retired from thence, is he pacing the portico of the temple of Isis,3 or traversing at his ease the enclosure of the Argonauts? 4 Or rather, is he sitting or walking, in the afternoon, free from cankering cares, in the sunny box-groves of the delicate Europa?5 Or is he bathing in the warm baths of Titus or of Agrippa, or in that of the shameless Tigillinus? 6 Or is he enjoying the country seat of Tullus and Lucanus? 1 or hastening to Pollio's delightful retreat, four miles from the city? Or has he set out for scorching Baiae, and is he now sailing about on the Lucrine lake?----"Do you wish to know what your Canius is doing? Laughing."
A slave, branded on the forehead by his master, saved him when proscribed. Thus, while the life of the master was preserved, his infamy 2 was perpetuated.
You had spent, Apicius, sixty millions of sesterces 3 on your belly, but you had still left a loose ten millions. In despair at such a reduction, as if you were condemned to endure hunger and thirst, you took as a last draught, a dose of poison. No greater proof of your gluttony than this, Apicius, was ever given by you.
Since you hand over all the dishes to the slaves behind you, why is not your table spread at your back?
A goat, guilty of having gnawed a Vine, was standing doomed before the altar of Bacchus, a grateful victim for his sacred rites. When the Tuscan soothsayer was about to sacrifice him to the god, he chanced to order a rustic and unlettered countryman to castrate the animal quickly with a sharp knife, so that the foul odour from the unclean flesh might pass away.2 But while he himself, with his body bent over the grassy altar, was cutting the neck of the struggling animal with his knife, and pressing it down with his hand, an immense hernia of his own showed itself at the outraged rites. This the rustic seized and cut, thinking that the ancient rites of sacrifice demanded it, and that the ancient deities were honoured with such offerings. So you, who but a while since were a Tuscan, are become a Gallus;3 and while you were cutting the throat of a goat, you were cut yourself.
If you wish, Faustinus, a bath of boiling water to be reduced in temperature,----a bath, such as scarcely Julianus could enter,----ask the rhetorician Sabinaeus to bathe himself in it. He would freeze the warm baths of Nero.
Alone you possess your farms, Candidus, alone your cash; alone your golden and murrhine vessels; alone your Massic wine, alone your Caecuban of Opimius' year; alone your heart, alone your wit; alone you possess all your property; (do you think I wish to deny it?)----but your wife, Candidus, you share with all the world.
You never invite me again, although you frequently accept my invitations. I pardon you, Gallus, provided that you do not invite others. But others you certainly do invite;----we are both in the wrong. "How so?" you ask. I have no common sense; and you, Gallus, no sense of shame.
You wonder that Marius' ear smells unpleasantly. You are the cause of this, Nestor; you whisper into it.
To you, O Saturn, Zoilus dedicates these chains and these double fetters, his first rings.1
The sportula is no longer given;2 you dine as an ordinary guest.3 Tell me then, Gargilianus, how do you contrive to live at Rome? Whence comes your paltry toga, and the rent of your murky den? Whence the money for a bath among the poor? or for the favours of Chione? You say you live in the highest degree reasonably, but you act unreasonably, in my opinion, in living at all.
You have, I admit, many a wide acre of land, and many a farm over which Alban household gods preside; crowds of debtors to your well-filled money-chest serve you as their master, and golden tables support your meals. Do not, however, Faustinus, disdain smaller people than yourself: Didymus had more than you have; Philomelus1 has more.
You ask, Matrinia, whether I can love an old woman. I can, even an old woman: but you are not an old woman; you are a corpse. I can love a Hecuba or a Niobe, Matrinia, provided the one has not yet become a hound, or the other a stone.
I prefer a lady; but if such is denied me, my next choice would be a freed-woman. A slave is the last resource; but if her beauty indemnifies the want of birth, I shall prefer her to either.
Why you are at once deserving and undeserving of your name, I will tell you. You are cold, and you are black. You are not, and you are, Chione.1
You see those fish before you, a beautiful example of the sculpture of Phidias; give them water, and they will swim.
Such attentions as you receive from a new and lately made friend, Fabianus, you expect to receive also from me. You expect that I should constantly run in dishabille to salute you at the dawn of day, and that your litter should drag me through the middle of the mud; that, worn out, I should follow you at four o'clock or later to the baths of Agrippa, while I myself wash in those of Titus. Is this my reward after twenty winters' service, Fabianus, that I am ever to be in my apprenticeship to your friendship? Is this what I have gained, Fabianus, by my worn-out toga,----and this too my own,----that you do not consider me to have yet earned my discharge?
My rich friends, you know nothing save how to put yourselves into a passion. It is not a nice thing for you to do, but it suits your purpose. Do it.
What cause or what presumption, Sextus, brings you to Rome? what do you expect or seek here? Tell me. "I will plead causes," you say, "more eloquently than Cicero himself, and in the three forums 1 there shall be no one to equal me." Atestinus pleaded causes, and Civis; you knew both of them; but neither made enough to pay for his lodging. "If nothing is to be gained from this pursuit, I will write verses: when you have heard them, you will say they are Virgil's own." You are mad; all that you see here shivering in threadbare cloaks are Ovids and Virgils. "I will push my way among the great." That trick has found support for but two or three that have attempted it, while all the rest are pale with hunger. "What shall I do? advise me: for I am determined to live at Rome." If you are a good man, Sextus, you will have to live by chance.2
The one-eyed Lycoris, Faustinus, has set her affections on a boy like the Trojan shepherd. How well the one-eyed Lycoris sees!
For lending me one hundred and fifty thousand sesterces1 out of the vast wealth which your heavy chest, Thelesinus, contains, you imagine yourself a great friend to me. You great, for lending? Say rather, I am great, for repaying.
The lizard wrought upon this vessel by the hand of Mentor, is so life-like that the silver becomes an object of terror.
When you try to conceal your wrinkles, Polla, with paste made from beans, you deceive yourself not me. Let a defect, which is possibly but small, appear undisguised. A fault concealed is presumed to be great.
You ape youth, Laetinus, with your dyed hair; and you, who were but now a swan, are suddenly become a crow! You will not deceive every one: Proserpine knows that you are hoary, and will snatch the mask from your head.
Do you wish to know the reason, Ligurinus, that no one willingly meets you; that, wherever you come, everybody takes flight, and a vast solitude is left around you? You are too much of a poet. This is an extremely dangerous fault. The tigress aroused by the loss of her whelps, the viper scorched by the midday sun, or the ruthless scorpion, are less objects of terror than you. For who, I ask, could undergo such calls upon his patience as you make? You read your verses to me, whether I am standing, or sitting, or running, or about private business. I fly to the hot baths, there you din my ears: I seek the cold bath, there I cannot swim for your noise: I hasten to dinner, you stop me on my way; I sit down to dinner, you drive me from my seat: wearied, I fall asleep, you rouse me from my couch. Do you wish to see how much evil you occasion?----You, a man just, upright, and innocent, are an object of fear.
Whether Phoebus fled from the table and supper of Thyestes, I do not know: I flee from yours, Ligurinus. It is certainly a splendid one, and well furnished with excellent dishes, but nothing pleases me when you recite. I do not want you to put upon table turbots or a mullet of two pounds weight, nor do I wish for mushrooms or oysters; what I want is your silence.
You demand from me, without end, the attentions due from a client. I go not myself, but send you my freed-man. "It is not the same," you say. I will prove that it is much more. I can scarcely follow your litter, he will carry it. If you get into a crowd, he will keep it off with his elbow; my sides are weak, and unsuited to such labour. Whatever statement you may make in pleading, I should hold my tongue; but he will roar out for you the thrice-glorious "bravo!" If you have a dispute with any one, he will heap abuse upon your adversary with a stentorian voice; modesty prevents me from using strong language. "Well then, will you show me," say you, "no attention as my friend?" Yes, Candidus, every attention which my freedman may be unable to show.
Yonder, Faustinus, where the Capene Gate drips with large drops,1 and where the Almo cleanses the Phrygian sacrificial knives of the Mother of the Gods, where the sacred meadow of the Horatii lies verdant, and where the temple of the Little Hercules 2 swarms with many a visitor, Bassus was taking his way in a well-packed chariot, carrying with him all the riches of a favoured country spot. There you might hare seen cabbages with noble hearts, and both kinds of leeks,3 dwarf lettuces, and beet-roots not unserviceable to the torpid stomach. There, also you might have seen an osier ring, hung with fat thrushes; a hare, pierced by the fangs of a Gallic hound; and a sucking-pig, that had never yet crushed bean. Nor did the running footman go idly before the carriage, but bore eggs safely wrapped in hay. Was Bassus going to town? No, he was going to his country-seat.4
Olus built a poor man's cot,3 and sold his farms. Olus now inhabits the poor man's cot.
You mix Veientan wine for me, while you yourself drink Massic. I would rather smell the cups which you present me, than drink of them.
The reason you ask us to dinner, Ligurinus, is no other than this, that you may recite your verses. I have just put off my shoes,1 when forthwith in comes an immense volume among the lettuces and sharp-sauce. Another is handed, while the first course is lingering on the table: then comes a third, before even the second course is served. During a fourth course you recite; and again during a fifth. Why, a boar, if so often placed upon table, is unsavoury. If you do not hand over your accursed poems to the mackerel-sellers, Ligurinus, you will soon dine alone.
When I praise your face, when I admire your limbs and hands, you tell me, Galla, "In nature's garments I shall please you still better." Yet you always avoid the same baths with myself! Do you fear, Galla, that I shall not please you?
You had purchased a house, Tongilianus, for two hundred thousand sesterces; and a calamity but too frequent in this city destroyed it. Contributions poured in to the amount of a million sesterces. May you not, I ask, be suspected of having set fire to your own house, Tongilianus?
I could do without your face, and your neck, and your hands, and your limbs, and your bosom, and other of your charms. Indeed, not to fatigue myself with enumerating each of them, I could do without you, Chloe, altogether.
Seeing that I cannot give you, Galla, what you ask of me as the price of your favours, it would be much mere simple. Galla, to say No at once.
Wherever you come, Gellia, we think that Cosmus 1 has migrated, and that his bottles are broken, and his perfumes flowing about. I would not have you delight in outlandish superfluities. You know, I suppose, that in this manner my dog might be made to smell agreeably.
At Ravenna, I would rather have a cistern than a vineyard, as I could sell water there for much more than wine.
A crafty innkeeper at Ravenna lately cheated me. I asked him for wine and water; he sold me pure wine.
Our friend Faustinus's Baian farm, Bassus, does not occupy an ungrateful expanse of broad land, laid out with useless myrtle groves, sterile plane-trees, and clipped box-rows, but rejoices in a real unsophisticated country scene. Here close-pressed heaps of corn are crammed into every corner, and many a cask is redolent with wine of old vintages. Here, after November, when winter is at hand, the rough vine-dresser brings in the ripened grapes; the savage bulls bellow in the deep valley, and the steer, with forehead still unarmed, yearns for the fight. The whole muster of the farmyard roams at large, the screaming goose, the spangled peacock, the bird which derives its name from its red wings,1 the spotted partridge, the speckled fowls of Numidia, and the pheasants of the impious Colchians; the proud cocks caress their Rhodian mates, and the turrets resound with the murmur of pigeons. On this side mourns the ringdove, on that the wax-coloured turtle-dove; the greedy swine fellow the apron of the bailiff's wife, and the tender lamb bleats after its well-filled mother. Young house-bred slaves, sleek as milk, surround the cheerful fire, and piles of wood blaze near the joyous Lares. The steward does not, through inactivity, grow pale with enervating ease, nor waste oil in anointing himself for wrestling, but sets crafty nets for greedy thrushes, or draws up fish captured with the tremulous line, or brings home deer caught in the hunter's toils. The productive garden amuses the well-pleased townsmen,2 and long-haired children, freed from the rule of their instructor, delight to obey the farm-bailiff, and even the effeminate eunuch finds enjoyment in working. Nor does the rustic come empty-handed to pay his respects; he brings with him white honey in its waxen cells, and the conical cheese from the forest of Sassina. This one offers the sleepy dormouse, that the bleating young of the hairy she-goat; another, the capon debarred from loving. Tall maidens, daughters of honest husbandmen, bring their mothers' presents in baskets of osiers. Work being over, the cheerful neighbourhood is invited in; nor does a stinted table reserve its dainties for the morrow, but every one eats his fill, and the well-fed attendant has no cause to envy the reeling guest. But you, Bassus, possess in the suburbs of the city a splendid mansion, where your visitor is starved, and where, from lofty towers, you look over mere laurels secure in a garden where Priapus need fear no thief. You feed your vinedresser on corn which you have bought in town, and carry idly to your ornamental farm vegetables, eggs, chickens, fruits, cheese, and wine. Should your dwelling be called a country-house, or a town-house out of town?
A paltry cobbler, O elegant Bononia, has exhibited to you a show of gladiators; a dyer has done the same to Mutina, Now where will the innkeeper exhibit?
Seeing that I am invited to dinner, and am no longer, as before, to be bought,2 why is not the same dinner given to me, as to you? You partake of oysters fattened in the Lucrine lake; I tear my lips in sucking at a limpet. Before you are placed splendid mushrooms; I help myself to such as are fit only for pigs. You are provided with a turbot; I with a sparulus.3 The golden turtle-dove fills your stomach with its over-fattened body; a magpie which died in its cage is set before me. Why do I dine without you, Ponticus, when I dine with you? Let it be of some profit to me that the sportula exists no longer; let us eat or the same dishes.
Whatever favour you ask, presuming Cinna, you call it nothing: if you ask for nothing, Cinna, I refuse you nothing.
Because you purchase slaves at a hundred and often two hundred thousand sesterces; because you drink wines stored in the reign of Numa; because your not over-large stock of furniture cost you a million; because a pound weight ox wrought silver costs you five thousand; because a golden chariot becomes yours at the price of a whole farm; because your mule cost you more than the value of a house;----do you imagine that such expenses are the proof of a great mind, Quintus? You are mistaken, Quintus; they are the extravagances of a small mind.
Cotilus, you are a beau; so say many, Cotilus, I hear; but tell me, what is a beau? "A beau is one who arranges his curled locks gracefully, who ever smells of balm, and cinnamon; who hums the songs of the Nile, and Cadis; who throws his sleek arms into various attitudes; who idles away the whole day among the chairs of the ladies, and is ever whispering into some one's ear; who reads little billets-doux from this quarter and that, and writes them in return; who avoids ruffling his dress by contact with his neighbour's sleeve; who knows with whom everybody is in love; who flutters from feast to feast; who can recount exactly the pedigree of Hirpinus." 1 What do you tell me? is this a beau, Cotilus? Then a beau, Cotilus, is a very trifling thing.
The Sirens, those seductive destroyers of mariners with their deceitful blandishments and fatal caresses, whom, once listened to, nobody had before been able to quit, the crafty Ulysses is said to have escaped. Nor do I wonder at it; but I should have wondered, Cassianus, had he escaped from Canius,1 when reciting his verses.
The perfume, which is exhaled by the apple bitten by a young damsel; by the zephyr that passes over the saffron-fields of Corycia; by the vine, when it flowers white with its first clusters; by grass just cropped by the sheep; by the myrtle; by the Arabian spice-gatherer; by amber rubbed with the hand; by the fire pale with eastern frankincense; by the turf lightly sprinkled with summer showers; by the chaplet resting loosely on locks dripping with nard: all this fragrance, cruel Diadumenus, is combined in your kisses. What would it not be, were you to grant them without grudging?
Antony was guilty of a crime similar to that committed by Pothinus; either sword cut off a sacred head. The one, your head, O Rome, when you were celebrating with joy laurelled triumphs; the other, when you were displaying your eloquence. Yet the case of Antony is worse than that of Pothinus; Pothinus did the deed for his master, Antony for himself.1
You are loitering, sailors, and know nothing of your business, more sluggish than Vaternus and Rasina;2 through whose sleepy waters while you take your way, you just dip your idle oars to measured time. Already Phaeton is descending, and Aethon 3 is perspiring; the day has reached its greatest heat, and noon unyokes the tired horses of the husbandman. But you, floating negligently on the unrippled waters, enjoy your leisure in a safe bark. You are not sailors, I consider, but Argonauts.4
Thus far this book is written entirely for you, chaste matron. Do you ask for whom the sequel is written? For myself. The gymnasium, the warm baths, the race-course, are here; you must retire. We lay aside our garments; spare yourself the sight of us in that state. Here at last, after her wine and crowns of roses, Terpsichore is intoxicated, and, laying aside all restraint, knows not what she says. She names no longer in doubtful guise, but openly, that deity 1 whom triumphant Venus welcomes to her temple in the sixth month of the year; whom the bailiff stations as protector in the midst of his garden, and at whom all modest maidens gaze with hand before the face. If I know you well, you were laying down the long book from weariness; now you will read diligently to the end.
Inasmuch as you write all your epigrams in chaste words, and ribaldry is nowhere to be found in your verses, I admire you, I praise you; no human being is more pure than yourself. But no page of mine is without freedoms of language. Mine, then, let sportive youths, easy damsels, and the old man who is tortured by his mistress, read. But your respectable and immaculate writings, Cosconius, must be read only by children and virgins.
You, Scaevinus, who were recently the husband of Aufidia, are now her gallant; while he who was your rival is now her husband. Why should you take pleasure in her, as the wife of your neighbour, who, as your own wife, gave you no pleasure? Is it that obstacles alone inspire you with ardour?
Your slave, Naevolus, is suffering from a disgraceful disease; yourself from one analogous to it. I am no sorcerer, but I know what you are about.
With the psilothrum 1 you make sleek your face, with the dropax 1 your bald head. Are you afraid of the barber, Gargilianus? How will your nails fare?2----for certainly you cannot pare them by means of resin or Venetian clay.3 Cease, if you have any modesty left, to disgrace your miserable head, Gargilianus: leave such things for the other sex.
You are all on fire for old women, Bassus, and look with contempt on young ones; and it is not a handsome lady that charms you, but one just on the brink of the tomb. Is not this, I ask, madness? is not your desire insane? To love a Hecuba, and disdain an Andromache!
Neither mullet, Baeticus, nor turtle-dove delights you; nor is hare ever acceptable to you, or wild boar. Nor do sweetmeats please you, or slices of cake; nor for you does Libya or Phasis send its birds. You devour capers and onions swimming in disgusting sauce, and the soft part of a gammon of bacon, whose freshness is disputable; and pilchards and tunny, whose flesh is turning white: you drink wines which taste of the resin seal, and abhor Falernian. I suspect that there must be some other more secret vice in your stomach: for why, Baeticus, do you eat disgusting meats? 1
You have emptied your vessel once, Paulinus, while the ship was going at full speed. Do you wish again to repeat the act? You will be a Palinurus,2 if you do.
You complain of no one, Apicius; you slander no one; and yet rumour says you have an filthy tongue.
He who would consent to be the guest of Zoilus, would not hesitate to sup with the strumpets of the Summoenium,1 and drink, without a blush, from the broken pitcher of Leda.2 This, I contend, would be both easier and more decent. Clothed in an effeminate kind of robe, he lies upon a couch which he wholly covers, and, propped up on purple and silk cushions, thrusts aside his guests with his elbows on this side and that. At hand stands a minion, who hands to his master, ready to vomit, red feathers 3 and toothpicks of lentisc wood; while, if he is oppressed by the heat, a concubine, reclining by his side, waves upon him a pleasant coolness with a green fan; and a young slave scares away the flies with a rod of myrtle, A softener,4 with nimble art, strokes his whole body, and passes her skilled hand over all his limbs, The signal of snapping his fingers is watched by an eunuch, who presents him with the vessel which his copious draughts render indispensable. Meanwhile Zoilus himself, leaning backwards to the crowd at his feet, among the puppies who are licking up the giblets of geese, divides among his athletes the neck of a wild-boar, or bestows upon his favourite the thigh of a turtle-dove; and while to us is offered wine from Ligurian rocks, or such as has been ripened in the smoke of Marseilles, he hands to his creatures Opimian nectar in crystalline and myrrhine vases; and, while he himself is drenched with essences from the stores of Cosmus, he is not ashamed to divide amongst us in a little gilt shell, unguents such as only the lowest women use. Finally, overcome by many draughts from his large cups, he falls snoring asleep. We sit at the table, and, ordered to keep silence while he is grunting, drink each other's healths by signs. Such is the insolence which we have to endure from this presuming Malchion; nor do we ask to be avenged, Rufus. He has a filthy tongue.5
You bid me write shorter epigrams, Cordus. Act me now the part of Chione. I could not say anything shorter.1
What says your trollop, Tongilion? I do not mean your trull?----"What then? "----Your tongue.
Who persuaded you to cut off the nose of your wife's gallant? Wretched husband, that was not the part which outraged you. Fool, what have you done? Your wife has lost nothing by the operation, since that which pleased her in your friend Deiphobus is still safe.
I forewarned and admonished you, chaste matron, not to read this part of my sportive book: and yet, you see, you continue to read. But if chaste as you are, you go to see the acting of Fanniculus and Latinus, read on; these verses are not more shameless than the pantomimes.
Rumour says, Chione, that you have never had to do with man, and that nothing can be purer than yourself! And yet when you bathe, you veil not that part which you should veil. If you have any modesty, veil your face.
Use lettuces, Phoebus, use laxative mallows; for you have a face like one suffering from constipation.
Galla will, and will not, comply with my wishes; and I cannot tell, with her willing and not willing, what she wills.
When a dismissed veteran, a native of Ravenna, was returning home, he joined on the way a troop of the emasculated priests of Cybele. There was in close attendance upon him a runaway slave named Achillas, a youth remarkable far his handsome looks and saucy manner. This was noticed by the effete troop; and they inquired what part of the couch he occupied. The youth understood their secret intentions, and gave them false information; they believed him. After drinking sufficiently, each retired to his couch; when forthwith the malicious crew seized their knives, and mutilated the old man, as he lay on one side of the couch; while the youth was safe in the protection of the inner recess. It is said that a staff was once substituted for a virgin; but in this case something of a different nature was substituted for a stag.2
My wife, Gallus, asks me to allow her one sweetheart,----only one. Shall I not, Gallus, put out his two eyes? 3
Though you have seen three hundred consuls, Vetustilla, and have but three hairs, and four teeth, with the chest of a grasshopper, and the legs of an ant; though your forehead shows more folds than a matron's dress, and your bosom resembles a spider's web; though in comparison with your vast jaws the mouth of crocodile of the Nile is small; though the frogs at Ravenna chatter more melodiously than you, and the gnat of Atria sings more sweetly; though your eyesight is no better than the owl's in the morning, and your body exhales the odour of the husband of the she-goat; though your loins are those of a lean duck, and your legs shrunk like those of a withered old Cynic; though the bath-keeper does not admit you into the bath till he has extinguished his light, and then only among the prostitutes that lodge in the tombs; though it is winter with you even in the month of August, and not even a pestilent fever can unfreeze you, you nevertheless dare to think of marriage after two hundred years of widowhood, and insanely expect somebody to fall in love with relics like yours. Who, I ask, even if he were willing to till a rock, would call you wife?----you whom Philomelus but recently called grandmother. But if you will have your corpse meddled with, let Coris the grave-digger prepare you a couch, such as alone befits your nuptial rites, and let the kindler of the funeral pile bear the marriage torches for the new bride. Such a torch is the only one that Hymen can offer you.
You say the hare is not sufficiently cooked, and call for a whip. You would rather cut up your cook, Rufus, than your hare.
You never say, "Good day!" first, Naevolus: but content yourself with returning the salute, though even the crow is often in the habit of saying it first. Why do you expect this from me, Naevolus? I pray you, tell me. For I consider, Naevolus, you are neither better than I am, nor have precedence of me in the eyes of the world. Both Caesars have bestowed upon me praise and rewards, and have given me the rights of a father of three children. I am read by many; and fame has given me a name known throughout the cities of the earth, without waiting for my death. There is something, too, in this, that Rome has seen me a tribune, and that I sit in those seats whence Oceanus 1 excludes you. I suspect that your servants are not even as numerous as the Roman citizens that Caesar has made at my request. But you are a debauchee, Naevolus, and play your part excellently in that capacity. Yes, now you take precedence of me, Naevolus; you have decidedly the advantage. Good day to you.
I advise you, Rufus, not to let Chione read this little book of mine. She is hurt by my verses: and she may hurt me in return.
You ought not, cobbler, to be angry with my book; your trade, and not your life, is satirized in my writings. Allow me innocent pleasantries. Why should I not have the right of amusing myself if you have had that of getting throats cut? 1
It was twelve o'clock, Rufus, when I sent the messenger to you, and, I suppose, he must have been wet through when he handed you my verses. For it happened that the sky was pouring down floods of rain. This was exactly the weather in which it was proper for the book to be sent.2
This text was transcribed by Roger Pearse, Ipswich, UK, 2008. This file and all material on this page is in the public domain - copy freely.
Greek text is rendered using unicode.
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