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Martial, Epigrams. Book 5. Bohn's Classical Library (1897)



This offering, O Caesar, whether you are residing upon the hills of Palladian Alba, and looking thence on the one side upon the temple of Diana, and on the other upon the waters of Thetis,----or whether the truth-telling sisters are learning your oracular responses,1 where the smooth waters of the straits bathe the suburban meadows; or whether the nurse of Aeneas,2 or the daughter of the Sun,3 or Anxur, white with health-giving waters, attracts you;----this offering I send to you, auspicious support and protection of our empire, by whose continued preservation we believe that Jupiter shows his gratitude.4 Do you but receive it; I will imagine that you have read it, and proudly indulge in Gallic 5 credulity.

1 Whether you are residing at Antium, where Fortune was worshipped under the form of two sisters, representing good and evil fortune.
2  Caieta, so called from the nurse of Aeneas, said to have been buried there.
3  Circeii, which had its name from Circe.
4  For the restoration of the Capitol after it had been destroyed by fire. Suetonius, Domit. c. 5. Comp. B. vii. Ep. 59.
5  The Gauls had the character, among the Romans, of being credulous.


You matrons, youths, and virgins, to you is our page dedicated. But you who delight in wanton sallies and licentious jests may read my first four books, which are of a more free character. The fifth book is for the amusement of the lord of the world; and is such as Germanicus may read without a blush in the presence of the Cecropian virgin-goddess.1

1 Meaning that Domitian, who loved to be called Germanicus, from his expedition into Germany, might read this book in the presence of chaste Minerva, a goddess whom he especially worshipped. Suet. Domit. c.4.


Degis,2 who now, O Germanicus, lives on the banks of our river,3 having come to you from the placid waters of the later, is said in his delight and overjoyment at having just seen the guardian of the world, to have addressed his companions thus:----"How much better is my fate than that of my brother, since I am allowed to behold so closely that god whom he adores at so great a distance!"

2 Supposed to have been the brother of Decebalus, king of the Dacians, and to have come to Rome as an ambassador.
3 The Tiber.


Myrtale is wont to smell of deep draughts of wine; but, to deceive us, she eats bay-leaves, and cautiously mingles them in her cups instead of water. Whenever, Paulus, you observe her with flaming face and swollen veins approaching you, you may well say, "Myrtale drinks bays." 1

1 An allusion to certain poetasters, who were said to seek inspiration by eating laurel-leaves.


Sextus, eloquent keeper of the Palatine library, who enjoys the immediate presence of the god that inhabits it (for it is your privilege to learn the cares of the emperor at they rise within him, and to know the secret soul of our ruler), make room somewhere for my little books also, near those of Pedo, of Marsus, of Catullus. Near the heaven-inspired lay of the Capitoline war,2 place the lofty epic of the sublime Virgil.

2 Some poem on the war raised by the party of Vitellius is evidently meant; written either by Domitian or by Sextus. This war is called Bellum Vitellianum. Suetonius, Domit. c.1.


If it is not too much to ask, or too troublesome to you, you Muses, make this request of your favourite Parthenius:----So may a long and happy old ace, under the rule of Caesar, bring your last hour; so may you prosper, even envy herself looking favourably on you; and so may Burrus soon appreciate the virtues of his father, as you shaft admit this timid and small collection within the sacred precincts of the prince's privacy. You know the times when our Jove is at ease, when he beams on us with his own benignant countenance, with which he is wont to refuse nothing to suppliants. You have no reason to fear that our request is extravagant; a book which is decorated with cedar and purple, and swells proudly with dark bosses, never makes too great or inconvenient demands. Yet do not put these compositions too forward; but hold them as if you were offering and contemplating nothing. If I know the votary of the nine sisters, he will of his own accord ask for the purple-covered book.


As the flames renew the nest of the Assyrian phoenix, when ever the solitary bird has lived through its ten centuries so Rome, renewed, has put off her former old age, and has herself assumed the looks of her guardian. Forget at length, I beseech you, Vulcan, your cause of complaint against us,1 and spare us: we are, it is true, descendants of Mars, but we are also descendants of Venus. Spare us, mighty lord; so may your sprightly consort pardon the nets forged at Lemnos,2 and resign herself to love you.

1 As being the offspring of Mars, to whom Vulcan was an enemy on account of the liberties which he had taken with Venus.
2 Nets in which Venus and Mars were caught by Vulcan. See Odyss. B. viii.


The edict of our supreme lord and ruler, by which the seats in the theatre are more exactly defined, and the knight is allotted a place free from contact with the vulgar, was lately the theme of Phasis' approbation in the theatre, where, flaming with purple robes, he was boasting proudly, and in a pompous tone: "At length we can sit more at our ease; the dignity of the knighthood is now restored; we are not pressed or contaminated by the mob." These and such remarks was this upstart uttering, when Leitus 2 ordered his arrogant purple robes to change their seat.

2 Leitus, having the charge of the equestrian seats, ordered Phasis to quit them, as not being qualified by his fortune to be in the order of knights.


I was indisposed; and you straightway came to see me, Symmachus, accompanied by a hundred of your pupils. A hundred hands, frozen by the northern blast, felt my pulse. I had not then an ague, Symmachus, but I have now.

3 A physician, who came to visit Martial, accompanied, according to the fashion of those times, by his pupils.


For what reason shall I say it happens, that fame is refused to writers while living, and that but few readers love the compositions of their own day? It is doubtless the character of envy, Regulus, ever to prefer the ancients to the moderns. Just so, ungrateful as we are, do we frequent the ancient portico of Pompey;1 just so do old men extol the mean temple of Catulus.2 Ennius was read by you, O Rome, while Virgil was alive; and Homer was derided by his own age. Barely did the theatres applaud and crown Menander; Ovid was known only to his Corinna. Do not, however, you little books of mine, be in haste for fame: if glory comes only after death, I am in no hurry for it.

1 Preferring it to the newer ones of Domitian and others. 
Built by Lutatius Catulus. It was mean in comparison with more modern temples.                           


My friend Stella, Severus, wears on his fingers sardonyxes, emeralds, diamonds, jaspers. Though there are many gems on his fingers, there are more in his verses, whence, I conclude, his hand is so decorated.

3 See Ep. 8.


That Masthlion proudly carries nodding burdens upon his sturdy head, or that the gigantic Ninus holds seven or eight boys on each and, seems to me by no means difficult, when my friend Stella bears, upon any one of his fingers, ten girls.1

1 The representations, perhaps, of the nine Muses, and of his mistress Hiantis See B. vi Ep. 21.


I am, I confess, Callistratus, and have always been, poor; yet I am not an obscure or unknown knight, but am read throughout the world, and people say of me, "That is he!" and, what death has awarded to but few, has become mine during my lifetime. But you have halls, resting upon a hundred columns; your coffers with difficulty contain the wealth which you have gained as a freedman; vast farms in Egyptian Syene are yours; and Gallic Parma shears for you innumerable flocks. Such are you and I; but what I am, you cannot be; what you are, any one of the multitude may be.

I am, I own, and ever have been, poor,
But yet a gentleman, and not obscure.
Spread through the world my writings and my name;
Few in the grave have reach'd my living fame.
You have a house on a vast colonnade;
More wealth than merchant ever gain'd in trade;
Your farms in Evesham Vale rich harvests crown;
Many your flocks which feed on Bansted Down.
Such you and I: like me you cannot be;
Fortune may make a cobbler like to thee.


Nanneius, having been always accustomed to sit in the front row, at the time when anybody was allowed to take a place, moved his quarters, after being twice or thrice requested to do so, yet still seated himself on the benches of the knights, almost immediately behind Caius and Lucius. Thence for awhile, with his head shrouded in a hood, he remains a spectator of the games; ungracefully peeping with but one eye. Being again ejected, the unhappy wight crossed to the standing way, and, leaning over the end of a seat, half kneeling, he endeavoured to make it appear to the knights that he was sitting, and to Leitus that he was standing.


This is the fifth book, Augustus, of my sportive effusions, and no one complains of having been injured by my verse. But many a reader rejoices in an honoured name, to whom lasting fame is secured by my gift. "And yet of what use are these trifles, however much they respect personal character?" Granted that they are of no use to many, still they amuse me.


That, although I could write on serious, I prefer to write on amusing topics, is your fault, kind reader, who read and repeat my verses all over Rome. But you do not know how much your favour costs me. If I were to plead causes at the temple of the scythe-bearing god,1 and to sell my words to persons trembling under accusation, many a seaman whom I had defended would send me jars of Spanish wine, and the lap of my toga would be stained with all sorts of coin. But, as it is, my book is merely a guest and sharer of revels, and my page affords amusement for which I receive no pay. Not even the poets of old were content with empty praise; in those days the smallest present made to the immortal bard (Virgil) was Alexis. "You write charmingly," you say, "and we will reward you with praises for ever."---- Do you pretend not to understand my hints? You will, I suspect, make me a lawyer.

1 Saturn, a temple of whom was near the forum. Macrobius, book 1. c. 8.


While you were telling us of your ancestors, and their ancestors, and the great names of your family, while you looked down on our equestrian order as a mean rank, and while you were asserting that you would marry no one who did not wear the broad border of the senator, you married, Gellia, a porter.


Since, in this month of December,1 in which napkins, and elegant shoe-fastenings, and wax-tapers, and tablets, and tapering vases filled with old Damascene plums, fly about in all directions, I have sent you nothing but my little books, the offspring of my study, I may seem to you stingy or rude. But I hate the crafty and mischievous arts of presents. Gifts are like fish-hooks; for who does not know that the greedy char is deceived by the fly which he swallows? Whenever the poor man abstains from making presents to his rich friend, Quintianus, he shows a liberal spirit.

1 In which presents were made, during the Saturnalia.


If any reliance is to be placed on true report, no age, Caesar, can be preferred to yours. When have men had the privilege of beholding triumphs better deserved? When have the Palatine gods done more to merit our gratitude? Under what ruler has Mars's Rome shown herself fairer or greater? Under what prince was there ever so much liberty? This vice, however, exists, and not a small one, although it be but one, that the poor man cultivates friends who simply treat him with ingratitude. Who bestows any portion of his wealth upon his old and faithful friend, or whose train is accompanied by a knight whom he has helped to create? To have sent at the time of the Saturnalia a silver spoon of small weight, or a gaudy toga worth ten scruples, is extravagant liberality; and our proud patrons call such things presents. Perhaps there may be one, who will chink out a few gold pieces. But since these men are not our friends, be you, Caesar, a friend to us; no virtue in a prince can be more pleasing than generosity. But before you have read thus far, Germanicus, you will have been laughing at me to yourself for giving you advice which is for my own benefit.


If you and I, dear Martialis, might enjoy our days together free from care,----if it rested with us to dispose of our leisure time, and to spend in each other's company a life of true ease,----we should know no halls or mansions of lordly patrons, nor vexatious lawsuits and troubles of courts, nor proud family busts; but carriage airings, conversation, reading, the Campus Maximus, the shady porticoes, the Virgin water,1 the warm baths;----such places would be our constant resorts, and such our daily occupation. As it is, neither of us lives for himself, but sees his good days flee from him and vanish; days which are ever being lost to us, and set down to our account. Should any one, then, delay to live, when he knows how?

1 Water so called, which Agrippa brought by an aqueduct front Praeneste.


The rhetorician Apollodotus, Regulus, used formerly to salute Decimus by the name of Quintus; Crassus, by that of Macer.1 Now he returns the salutation of each by his own name. How much can care and labour effect! He had written the names down, and learned them by heart.

1 Decimus, "tenth," he called Quintus, "fifth;" Crassus, "fat," Macer. "lean." 


If I did not wish, as well as deserve, to find you at home this morning, may your Esquiline mansion, Paulus, be removed still farther from me! But I live close to the Tiburtine column, near the spot where rustic Flora looks upon ancient Jove. I must surmount the steep path of the Suburran hill, and the pavement dirty with footsteps never dry; while it is scarcely possible to get clear of the long trains of mules, and the blocks of marble which you see dragged along by a multitude of ropes. Worse than all this is it, that, after a thousand toils, your porter tells me, fatigued as I am, that you are not at home. This is the end of my useless labour and dripping toga: even to have seen Paulus at home in the morning was scarcely worth so much, The most attentive client always meets with most neglect from his friends. Unless you sleep longer in the morning,2 you cannot be my patron.

2 So that I may find you at home when I call on you.


You used to wear garments of the colour of grass,1 Bassus, while the laws concerning the seats in the theatre were a dead letter. But since the care of a discreet censor2 has bid them revive, and the knight, more certain of his position, obeys the directions of Oceanus,3 you shine forth m a garb dyed either with saffron-colour or vermilion, and think you deceive others by such a dress. No cloak, Bassus, is worth four hundred thousand sesterces,4 or, before all men, my friend Cordus would have been a knight.5

1 You wore a dress of green, or of whatever colour you pleased, while the Roscian law, which allotted the knights seats distinct from the other spectators, was disregarded. Now you dress splendidly, that you may appear to hare a right to the equestrian seats.
2 Domitian.         
3 Holding the same office as Leitus, Ep. 8.
4 The fortune requisite for a knight.
5 For he has at least a fine robe.


Hermes is the pride of his age in martial contests; Hermes is skilled in all kinds of arms; Hermes is a gladiator and a master of gladiators; Hermes is the terror and awe of his whole school; Hermes is he of whom alone Helius is afraid; Hermes is he to whom alone Advolans submits; Hermes is skilled in conquering without a blow; Hermes is his own body of reserve;1 Hermes makes the fortunes of the letters of seats; Hermes is the object of care and anxiety to the actresses; Hermes walks proudly with the warlike spear; Hermes threatens with Neptune's trident; Hermes is terrible with the helmet shading the face; Hermes is the glory of Mara in every way; Hermes is everything in himself and thrice a man.2

1 Other gladiators were succeeded by fresh ones, when they were tired; Hermes was never tired.
2 In allusion to Hermes Trismegistus. This Hermes is as great in the arena as the other was in science.             


"You have not four hundred thousand sesterces, Charestratus; rise, Leitus 3 is coming; quick; away with you; run, hide yourself." Does any one call him back, and restore him to the seat he is leaving? Does any patron offer him a share of his lordly riches? Is there such person whose name we may commit in verse to fame and the applause of the people. Where is he, who does not wish to sink in obscurity to the waters of Styx? Would not such generosity, I ask, he better than to sprinkle the stage with a rufous cloud,1 and to be drenched with a shower of saffron-water? Or than to spend four hundred thousand sesterces upon a horse which will not appreciate it; or that the nose of Scorpus 2 may glisten everywhere in gold? O rich man, rich to no purpose, and faithless to your friend, do you read and approve these verses? What glory do you allow to escape you!

3 See Ep. 8.
1 The stage and theatre used to be sprinkled with saffron. See De Spectac. Ep. 3.
2 A charioteer.


If in calling you lately, Cordus, in one of my jocose effusions, the alpha of Cloaks, the expression happened to move your indignation, you may call me in return the beta of Togas.3

3 See B. ii. Ep. 57. The words in the original are alpha paenulatorum and beta togatorum. The paenula seems to have been worn chiefly by the upper class of people; the togati denotes those who attended on their patrons as clients.


You have, I admit, a knight's intelligence, education manners, and birth; your other qualities you hare in common with the multitude.1 The fourteen rows of seats 2 are not of so much consequence to you, that you should seat yourself there to grow pale at the sight of Oceanus.3

1 You are deficient, like them, in the fortune requisite for a knight.
2 See Ep. 23.
3 See Ep. 23. As you have not the required pecuniary qualification, you will not take a seat on any of those benches, lest Oceanus should question your title to it.


By no excellence of character, Aulus, could you induce Mamercus to think or speak well of you, even though you surpassed the two Curtii in piety, the Nervae in inoffensiveness, the Rusones in courtesy, the Macri in probity, the Maurici inequity, the Reguli in eloquence, the Pauli in wit. Mamercus gnaws everything with his foul teeth. Perhaps you think him envious; I may think him, whom no one can please, a wretch.


Whenever you send me a hare, Gellia, you say, "Marcus, you will be handsome for seven days." 1 If you are not joking, my darling, and if what you say is true, you, Gellia, have never eaten hare.

1 According to a superstitious notion. See Plin. H. N. xxviii. 19.


Varro, whom the tragic muse of Sophocles would not refuse to recognise, and who are not less admirable in Calabrian lays, put aside your work, and let not the scene of the eloquent Catullus 2 detain you, or Elegy with her graceful locks. But read these verses, which are not to be despised in smoky December, and are accordingly sent to you in that month; sent to you in that month; unless perchance you think it fitter and more agreeable, Varro, to lose nuts at the Saturnalia.3

2 Supposed to be a writer of farces, mentioned by Juvenal, Sat. viii.
3 To play for nuts was a common amusement at the Saturnalia.


See with what hardihood you troop of children spring upon the quiet bulls, and how the gentle animals delight in their burdens. One hangs upon the tips of the horns; another runs at pleasure along the back, and brandishes his arms over the whole body. But their savageness is unaroused and at rest; the arena would not be safer; a plane surface might even be more dangerous. Nor do the gestures of the children betray any trepidation; but each of them appears sure of gaining the victory, and each of the bulls seems to be anxious not to prevent it.


Crispus, by his last will, Faustinus, did not give a farthing to his wife. To whom then did he give it? To himself.1

1 He had squandered it all in luxury before his death.


A certain lawyer is said to carp at my verses. I do not know who he is. If I find out, lawyer, woe to you!


To you, O Fronto my father, and to you, O Flaccilla my mother, I commend this child, the little Erotion, my joy and my delight, that she may not be terrified at the dark shades and at the monstrous mouth of the dog of Tartarus. She would just have passed the cold of a sixth winter, had she lived but six days longer. Between protectors so venerable may she sport and play, and with lisping speech babble my name. Let no rude turf cover her tender bones, and press not heavy on her, O earth; she pressed but lightly on you.


While Euclides, clad in purple robes, was exclaiming that his income from each of his farms at Patras was two hundred thousand sesterces, and from his property near Corinth still more, and while he was tracing down his long pedigree from the beautiful Leda, and resisting Leitus, who was trying to make him leave his seat,1 suddenly there dropped from the toga of this knight, so proud, so noble, so rich, a large key Never, Fabullus, was a key a worse friend.2

1 He had seated himself in the seats of the knights. See Ep. 8 and 14.
The key showed that he was a slave; as it was the office of every slave to carry the key of that department of the household of which he had the charge.


A certain individual, Faustinus, whom I had praised in a book of mine, affects not to know the fact, as though he owed me nothing; he has deceived me.1

1 By making me no return.


Child, more sweet to me than the song of aged swans, more tender than a lamb of Phalantine Galaesus,2 more delicate than a shell of the Lucrine lake; you to whom no one could prefer the pearls of the Indian Ocean, or the newly polished tooth of the Indian elephant, or the newly fallen snow, or tho untouched lily; whose hair surpassed the fleece of the Spanish flock, the knotted tresses of the dwellers on the Rhine, and the golden-coloured field-mouse;3 whose breath was redolent with odours which rivalled the rose-beds of Paestum, or the new honey of Attic combs, or amber just rubbed in the hand; compared to whom the peacock was ugly, the squirrel unattractive, the phoenix a common object; O Erotion, your funeral pyre is yet warm. The cruel law of the inexorable Fates has carried you off, my love, my delight, my plaything, in your sixth winter yet incomplete. Yet my friend Paetus forbids me to be sad, although he smites his own breast and tears his hair equally with myself. "Are you not ashamed (says he) to bewail the death of a little slave? I have buried a wife,----a wife distinguished, haughty, noble, rich, and yet am alive." What fortitude can be greater than that of my friend Paetus?----He inherits (by the death of his wife) twenty millions of sesterces, and yet can live.

2 A river near Tarentum, which was founded by Phalantus. See B. ii. Ep. 43.
Her hair was auburn.


Calliodorus, friend Sextus, possesses (who does not know it?) the fortune of a knight; but Calliodorus has also a brother. He who divides four hundred thousand sesterces would halve a fig. Do you think that two men can sit on one horse? What want you with a brother, a troublesome Pollux? if you had not this Pollux, you would be a Castor.1 While you are one, you require, Calliodorus, two seats. You are committing a solecism, Calliodorus. Rise, or else imitate the sons of Leda, and, as you cannot sit along with your brother, Calliodorus, occupy the seat by turns.

1 You would have been a complete and acknowledged knight.


Thirty times in this one year, Charinus, while you have been arranging to make your will, have I sent you cheesecakes dripping with Hyblaean thyme. I am ruined: have pity on me at length, Charinus. Make your will less often, or do that once for all, for which your cough is ever falsely leading us to hope. I have emptied my coffers and my purse. Had I been richer than Croesus, Charinus, I should become poorer than Irus, if you so frequently devoured my poor repast.


You have painted Venus, Artemidorus, while Minerva is the object of your veneration, and do you wonder that your work has not given pleasure?

Do you admire, when Pallas is your saint, 
That but a sorry Venus you do paint? 
When rigid virtue has your study been, 
For wanton verse would you the laurel win?
                                        Anon. 1695


Though you are more enervated than a languid eunuch, and weaker than the Celaenean minion of the mother of the gods, to whom the mutilated priests of that inspiring goddess howl, you prate of theatres, and rows of seats, and edicts,1 and purple robes, and Ides 2 and buckles,3 and equestrian incomes; and, with a hand polished with pumice-stone, point out the poor. I shall see, Didymus, whether you are entitled to sit on the benches allotted to the knights; you certainly are not to sit on those of the married men.

1 Alluding to the edict of Domitian about the seats of the knights, Ep. 8.
2  The Ides of July, when the knights rode in procession.
3  Buckles for the robe worn by the knights.


A cunning thief may burst open your coffers, and steal your coin; an impious fire may lay waste your ancestral home; your debtor may refuse you both principal and interest; your corn-field may prove barren, and not repay the seed you have scattered upon it; a crafty mistress may rob your steward; the waves may engulf your ships laden with merchandise. But what is bestowed on your friends is beyond the reach of fortune; the riches you give away are the only riches you will possess for ever.

Thieves may break locks, and with your cash retire;
Your ancient seat may be consumed: by fire:
Debtors refuse to pay you what they owe;
Or your ungrateful field the seed you sow;
You may be plunder'd by a jilting whore;
Your ships may sink at sea with all their store:
Who gives to friends, so much from fate secures;
That is the only wealth for ever yours.


Thais has black, Laecania white teeth; what is the reason? Thais has her own, Laecania bought ones.


How has it come about, I ask, how has it so suddenly come about, Dento, that though I have asked you to dinner four times, you have (who would believe it?) constantly presumed to refuse me? You not only avoid looking back when I call, but you flee from me as I follow you,----me whom you so lately used to hunt for at the baths, at the theatres, and at every place of resort? The reason is, that you have been captivated by a more delicate table, and that a richer kitchen has attracted you like a dog. But very soon, when your rich host shall have found you out, and left you in disgust, you will come back to the bones of your old dinner with me.


You say, Bassa, that you are beautiful; you say that you are a maiden. She who is not so, Bassa, is generally ready to say that she is.


As I dislike all kisses, except those which I have secured with a struggle, and as your anger, Diadumenus, pleases me more than your face, I often flog you that I may often have to solicit you. The result is, that you neither fear me nor love me.

1 B. iii. Ep. 65.


Philo swears that he has never dined at home, and it is so; he does not dine at all, except when invited out.

Jack boasts he never dines at home,
With reason, too, no doubt: 
In truth, Jack never dines at all,
Unless invited out.


To what does not love compel us? Encolpus has shorn his locks, against the wish of his master, who did not even forbid him. Pudens permitted, though lamenting it. Just so did the father, foreboding evil, give up the reins to the rash Phaeton. Just so did the stolen Hylas, and the discovered Achilles, part with their locks, the latter gladly, though to the grief of his mother. But may your beard be in no haste to come, or presume on your shorn hair; but may it be late in appearing, in return for so great a sacrifice.

2 See B. i Ep. 32.


When I happened to see you a while ago, Labienus, sitting alone, I thought you were three persons. The number of the divisions of your bald head deceived me. You have on each side locks of hair, which might grace even a youth. In the middle, your head is bare, and not a single hair is to be remarked in the whole of that extensive area. This illusion was of advantage to you in December, when the emperor distributed the presents of the Saturnalia; you returned home with three baskets of provisions. I fancy that Geryon must have resembled you. Avoid, I advise you, the portico of Philippus; if Hercules sees you, it is all over with you.1

1 Hercules, whose statue is in the portico of Philippus, will take you for the three-headed Geryon.


Whenever I dine at home, Charopinus, and do not invite you, your anger forthwith exceeds all bounds; you are ready to run me through with a drawn sword, if you discover that my kitchen fire has been lighted without a view to your entertainment. What then, shall I not be allowed for once to defraud you of a dinner? Nothing is more shameless, Charopinus, than that throat of yours. Cease at length, I pray you, to watch my kitchen, and allow my hearth sometimes to disappoint you.


That person yonder, who has his left arm heavily laden with manuscripts, who is closely pressed by a beardless band of short-hand writers, who fixes a grave look on papers and letters, which people bring him from various quarters, assuming a demeanour like that of Cato, or Cicero, or Brutus, that person, I say, Rufus, even should torture try to compel him, cannot properly utter "good morning," either in Latin or in Greek. If you think I am joking, let us go and address him.


Your services to me I remember, and shall never forget Why then am I silent about them, Postumus? Because you yourself talk of them. Whenever I begin to speak to any one of your favours, he immediately exclaims, "He has told me of them himself." There are certain things which cannot be well done by two people; one is enough in this case. If you wish me to speak, keep silence yourself. Believe me, Postumus, gifts, however great, are deprived of their value by garrulity on the part of the donor.


Why, my good sir, do you write about the Colchian queen? why about Thyestes? what have you to do, Bassus, with Niobe, or Andromache? The fittest subject for your pen is Deucalion, or, if he does not please you, Phaeton.1

1 Intimating that his tragedy had better be thrown into the water or the fire.


My friend, the rhetorician, has become an improvisatore; he had not written down Calpurnius's name, yet he saluted him correctly.2


Tell me whom you are carrying, queen of birds. "The Thunderer." Why does he carry no thunderbolts in his grasp? "He is in love." For whom is he warmed with passion? "For a youth." Why do you, with your mouth open, look round so mildly on Jupiter? "I am speaking to him of Ganymede."

2 See Ep. 22.


To what master to entrust your son, Lupus, has been an anxious object of consideration with you for some time. Avoid, I advise you, all the grammarians and rhetoricians; let him have nothing to do with the books of Cicero or Virgil; let him leave Tutilius 1 to his fame. If he makes verses, give him no encouragement to be a poet; if he wishes to study lucrative arts, make him learn to play on the guitar or flute. If he seems to be of a dull disposition, make him an auctioneer or an architect.

1 A rhetorician, whose daughter Quintilian married.


When I call you "My lord;" do not be vain, Cinna. I often return your slave's salutation in a similar way.

When "Sir" I call you, be not pleased; for know, 
Cinna, I often call your servant so.


You tell me, Postumus, that you will live to-morrow; you always say to-morrow, Postumus. Tell me, Postumus, when will that to-morrow arrive? How far is that to-morrow off? Where is it? or where is it to be found? Is it hidden among the Parthians and Armenians? That to-morrow already counts up as many years as those of Priam or Nestor. For how much, tell me, may that to-morrow be bought? You will live to-morrow: even to-day it is too late to begin to live. He is the wise man, Postumus, who lived yesterday.


In forbearing to send you either silver or gold, eloquent Stella, I have acted for your interest. Whoever makes great presents, wishes great presents to be made him in return. By my present of earthenware vases you will be released from such an obligation.

That I nor gold nor silver to you send,
I this forbear, for your sake, learned friend.
Who gives great gifts, expects great gifts again;
My cheap ones to return will cause no pain. 


Although you bark at me for ever and ever, and weary me with your shameless invectives, I am determined to persist in denying you that fame which you have been so long seeking, namely, that you, such as you are, may be read of in my works throughout the whole world. For why should any one know that you ever existed? You must perish unknown, wretched man; it must be so. Still there will not be wanting in this town perhaps one or two, or three or four, who may like to gnaw a dog's hide. For myself I keep my hands away from such corruption.

Snarl on; you never shall your purpose gain:
What long you seek, you still shall seek m vain,
Who aim at any, rather than no fame:
I will not, to abuse you, use your name.
It never in my writings shall be seen,
Or the world know that such a wretch hath been.
Try to make others angry when you bellow,
I scorn to meddle with a dirty fellow.


Who is that curly-headed fellow, who is always at the side of your wife, Marianus? Who is that curly-headed fellow? He who is always whispering some soft nothing into my lady's gentle ear, and pressing her chair with his right elbow? He on all of whose fingers is displayed the light summer ring, and whose legs are disfigured by not even a single hair? Do you give me no answer? "He attends," say you, "to my wife's affairs." Truly he is a trustworthy gentleman, and looks like a man of business,----one who bears the character of agent in his very face; the Chian Aufidius 1 will not be more energetic than he. Oh how well, Marianne, you deserve a slap from Latinus! I imagine you will be the successor of Panniculus.2 He attends to your wife's affairs! Does that curly-headed fellow attend to any affairs? Yes, he attends, not to your wife's affairs, but yours.

1 A licentious character of that day, mentioned by Juvenal, ix. 25.
2 A clown, who played with Latinus as harlequin, or some similar character. See B. ii. Ep. 72.


You may remain in my gardens, my guests, as long as you please, if you can submit to lie upon the bare ground, or if plenty of furniture is brought in for your use along with you; for as to mine, it has already suffered sufficiently from former guests. Not one cushion, even emptied of its feathers, remains to cover my broken couches, the sacking of which lies rotting with the cords all severed. Let us share the premises, however, between us. I have bought the gardens; that is the greater part: do you furnish them; that is the less.


"What do you think," say you, "Marcus, of my compositions?" Such is the question which you often and anxiously put to me, Ponticus. I admire them, I am amazed, nothing is more perfect. Regulus himself must bow to your superior genius. "Do you think so?" say you; "then may Caesar, then may Capitoline Jove be propitious to you!" Nay, may he be propitious to you rather!


Fill double cups of Falernian, Callistus; dissolve into it, Alcimus, the summer snow.1 Let my hair drip richly with abundance of nard, and my temples be encircled with wreaths of roses. The Mausoleums, close at hand, bid us live, for they teach us that even gods 2 can die.

1 Snow preserved till summer, for the purpose of being dissolved in the wine to cool it. 
The emperors, who desired to be worshipped as gods.

You, boy, two measures of brisk wine let flow, 
And you, pour on it summer cooling snow; 
Let my moist hairs with rich perfumes abound, 
With loads of rosy wreaths my temples crown'd: 
"Live now," our neighbouring stately tombs do cry, 
"Since kings, you see (your petty gods), can die. 
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16th cent.


The subjugation of the Nemean lion and the Arcadian wild-boar,----and of the athlete of the Libyan plain,----the conquest of the dread Eryx amid Sicilian dust,----the destruction of Cacos the terror of the woods, who, with stealthy cunning used to draw oxen by their tails to his care,----secured to Alcides, notwithstanding the opposition of his stepmother, a place in heaven among the stars. But how small are such achievements, Caesar, compared to what are performed on your arena! There each new morning exhibits to us greater contests. How many monsters fall, more terrible than that of Nemea! How many Maenalian boars does your spear 1 stretch on the ground! Were the thrice-conquered Iberian shepherd, Geryon, to be restored to life, you have a champion, Caesar, that would conquer even him. And though the hydra of Grecian Lerna be often celebrated for the number of its heads, what is that monster compared to the crocodiles of the Nile? For such exploits, Augustus, the gods awarded early immortality to Alcides; to you they will award it late.

1 The spear of Carpophorus, your servant See de Spectac. Ep. 15.


Though I often salute you, you never salute me first; I shall therefore, Pontilianus, salute you with an eternal farewell.


When the Attic birds, after their custom, were seeking their winter retreats, one of them remained in her nest. The other birds, returning at the approach of spring, discovered the crime, and tore the deserter in pieces. Her punishment came late; the guilty mother had deserved such a death, but it was at the time that she slaughtered Itys.1

1 Alluding to the fable of Progne, who tore in pieces her son Itys, and was afterwards changed into a swallow.


I send you this tress, Lesbia, from the northern regions, that you may know how much lighter your own is.2

2  The courtesans at Rome, at that time, wore false light hair. Lesbia's was extravagantly light.


O  Antony, you can cast no reproach upon the Egyptian Pothinus,3 you who did more injury by the murder of Cicero, than by all your proscription lists. Why did you draw the sword, madman, against the mouth of Rome? Such a crime not even Catiline himself would have committed. An impious soldier was corrupted by your accursed gold, and for so much money procured you the silence of a single tongue. But of what avail to you is the dearly-bought suppression of that sacred eloquence? On behalf of Cicero the whole world will speak.

3 For you are as bad as he. He killed Pompey, you Cicero. See B. iii. Ep. 66.


Syriscus, while wandering about among the low taverns in the neighbourhood of the four baths,1 has dissipated, Maximus, ten whole millions of sesterces, recently lavished upon him by his patron. Oh what gluttony, to have consumed ten millions of sesterces! And how much greater does it appear, when we consider that he consumed it without sitting down to table! 2

1 Those of Agrippa, Nero, Gryllus, and Titus. 
Without spending any of it among the better class of persons, who reclined on couches at their banquets.

In rambling only through base booths and huts, 
Vile tap-houses, and cellars among sluts, 
Syriscus full five hundred pounds made fly 
(His lord's vain gift) i'th' twinkling of an eye. 
Strange luxury, to consume all this deal, 
Nor sitting for't the time allow'd a meal! 


Where moist Trebula sinks in cool vales, and the green fields are cool in the raging heat of summer, a country spot, Faustinus, never withered by the ardour of the Cleonaean lion,1 and a house ever favoured by the Aeolian south wind, invite you. Pass the long days of harvest on these hills; Tivoli shall be your winter retreat.

1 The constellation Leo, where the sun is in the heat of summer.


He who could call Jupiter the mother of Bacchus,2 may very well, Rufus, call Semele his father.

2 Some foolish poet of that day may perhaps have called Jupiter the mother of Bacchus, in allusion to the story of Bacchus having been sewn up in Jupiter's thigh.


Do you wonder for what reason, Theodorus, notwithstanding your frequent requests and importunities, I have never presented you with my works? I have an excellent reason; it is lest you should present me with yours.


The sons of Pompey are covered by the soils of Asia and Europe; Pompey himself by that of Africa, if indeed he be covered by any. What wonder that they are thus dispersed over the whole globe? So great a ruin could not have lain in a single spot.


Laelia, who has become your wife, Quintus, in compliance with the law,1 you may fairly call your lawful wife. 

1 For fear of the Julian law against adultery; a law which Domitian revived.

She's married to avoid the law; now all 
A very lawful wife her well may call
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Mithridates, by frequently drinking poison, rendered it impossible for any poison to hurt him. You, Cinna, by always dining on next to nothing, have taken due precaution against ever perishing from hunger.


A certain person, Marullus, is reported to have made an excellent joke; he said that you carry oil in your ear.

2 A person slow to speak was said "to carry oil in his mouth." Marullus was slow to listen to others, and was therefore said to carry oil in his ear.


If you are suffering from dread of a melancholy dinner at home, Turanius, you may come and fast with me. If you are in the habit of taking a preparatory whet, you will experience no want of common Cappadocian lettuces and strong leeks. The tunny will lurk under slices of egg; a cauliflower hot enough to burn your fingers, and which has but just left the cool garden, will be served freehand green on a black platter; while sausages will float on snow-white porridge, and the pale bean will accompany the red-streaked bacon; If you would know the riches of the second course, raisins will be set before you, and pears which pass for Syrian, and chestnuts to which learned Naples gave birth, roasted at a slow fire. The wine you will prove in drinking it.1 After all this, if Bacchus perchance, as is his wont, produce a craving, excellent olives, which Picenian branches recently bore, will come to your relief with the hot vetch and the tepid lupine.2 The dinner is small; who can deny it?----but you will not have to invent falsehoods, or hear them invented; you will recline at ease, and with your own natural look; the host will not read aloud a bulky volume of his own compositions, nor will licentious girls from shameless Cadiz be there to gratify you with wanton attitudes; but (and I hope it will not be unpleasant or distasteful to you) the small reed-pipe will be heard. Such is my little dinner. You will follow Claudia, whom you earnestly wish should be with me before yourself.

1 By drinking it only when you feel thirsty. Or, you will make me think it good if you drink plenty of it. 
Parched peas and boiled lupines.


Eleven times have you risen from the table, Zoilus, at one meal, and eleven times have you changed your dinner-robe, lest the perspiration retained by your damp dress should remain upon your body, and the light air hurt your relaxed skin. Why do not I perspire, Zoilus, who dine with you? why, to have but one robe keeps me very cool.


If you have the time, Severus, give something less than an hour----and you may count me your debtor for it----to the perusal and examination of my light effusions. It is hard to lose your holidays; yet I beg you to endure and put up with the loss for once. But if you peruse them in company with the eloquent Secundus----(but am I not too bold?)----this little book will owe you much more than it owes to its master. For it will be released from all anxiety, and will not see the rolling stone of the tired Sisyphus,1 if polished by the Censorian file of the learned Secundus, in union with my friend Severus.

1 Will not be sent ad inferos; condemned to oblivion. By Secundus some suppose that Pliny the Younger is meant.


If you are poor now, Aemilianus, you will always be poor, Riches are now given to none but the rich.

Poor once and poor for ever, Nat, I fear; 
None but the rich get place and pension here.


Why did you promise me, Gaurus, two hundred thousand sesterces, if you could not give me a single ten thousand? Is it that you can, and will not? Is not that, I ask, still more dishonourable? Go, to the devil with you, Gaurus. You are a pitiful fellow.


You pursue, I fly; you fly, I pursue; such is my Humour. What you wish, Dindymus, I do not wish; what you do not wish, I do.


The boy now sadly leaves his playthings, and returns at the call of his loud-voiced preceptor; and the drunken gamester, betrayed by the rattling of his seductive dice-box, is imploring mercy of the magistrate, having, but a little while before, been dragged from some obscure tavern. The Saturnalia are quite at an end, and you have sent me, Galla, neither the little nor the lesser gifts, which you used to send. Well, let my December pass thus. You know very well, I suppose, that your Saturnalia, in March,1 will soon be here. I will then make you a return, Galla, for what you have given me.

1 When a kind of Saturnalia of the women was kept.

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Early Church Fathers - Additional Texts