Martial, Epigrams. Book 12. Mainly from Bohn's Classical Library (1897)
MARTIAL TO HIS FRIEND PRISCUS.
I know that I owe some apology for my obstinate three years' indolence; though, indeed, it could by no apology have been excused, even amid the engagements or the city, engagements in which we more easily succeed in making ourselves appear troublesome than serviceable to our friends, and much less is it defensible in this country solitude, where, unless a person studies even to excess, his retreat is at once without consolation and without excuse. Listen then to my reasons; among which the first and principal is this, that I miss the audience to which I had grown accustomed at Rome, and seem like an advocate pleading in a strange court; for if there be anything pleasing in my books it is due to my auditors. That penetration of judgment, that fertility of invention, the libraries, the theatres, the social meetings, in which pleasure does not perceive that it is studying; everything, in a word, which we left behind us in satiety, we regret as though utterly deserted. Add to this the backbiting of the provincials, envy usurping the place of criticism, and one or two ill-disposed persons, who, in a small society, are a host; circumstances under which it is difficult to be always in the best of humours. Do not wonder then that I have abandoned in disgust occupations in which I used to employ myself with delight. Not to meet you, however, with a refusal on your arrival from town, and when you ask me for what I have done (you, towards whom I should not show a proper feeling of gratitude, if I did not exert myself for you to the utmost of my power), I have forced myself to do that which I was once in the habit of doing with pleasure, and have set apart a few days for study, in order to regale your friendly ears with the repast suited to them after their journey. Be pleased to weigh considerately the offering, which is entrusted without apprehension to you, and do not think it too much labour to examine it; and, what you may find most difficult, judge of my trifles without scrupulous regard to elegance, lest, if you are too exacting, I send you to Rome a book not merely written in Spain, but in Spanish.
While nets lie unemployed, and Melossian hounds are silent, and while the woods no longer re-echo to shouts in pursuit of the boar, you will be able, Priscus, to accord a portion of your leisure to a short book. The hour so bestowed will not be so long as that of a summer's day, and you will not find it entirely wasted.
You, my verses, who but a short time since were taking your way to the shores of Pyrge,1 take your way along the Via Sacra: it is no longer dusty.2
You, my book, who used lately to be sent from Rome to foreign lands, will now go as a foreigner to Rome; setting out from among the people of the gold-producing Tagus, and from the rude Salo,3 a potent land that gave birth to my forefathers. But you will not be a foreigner, nor can you be justly called a stranger, now that the lofty city of Remus contains so many of your brethren. Seek, as of right, the venerable threshold of the new temple,4 where their sacred abodes have been restored5 to the Pierian choir. Or, if you prefer, enter by the Subura first; there are the lofty halls of my friend the consul. The eloquent Stella inhabits the laurel-crowned mansion; Stella, the illustrious quaffer of the spring dedicated to Ianthe.6 There is a Castalian spring, proud of its glassy waters, which they say the nine sisters have oft-times sipped. He will circulate you amongst the people, and the senators, and the knights, and will read you himself with eyes not altogether dry.7 Why do you ask for a title-page? Let but two or three verses be read, and all will exclaim, Book, you are mine.
What Maecenas, the knight sprung of royal lineage, was to Horace and to the sublime Virgil, many-tongued Fame, and a long-lived work, shall proclaim to people and nations that you, Priscus Torentius, have been to me. You give me my facility, and whatever power I am thought to have; you give me the means of enjoying a not ignoble indolence.
My tenth and eleventh books were too much extended; the present is in smaller compass. Let the larger books be read by those who have leisure, and to whom you have granted undisturbed tranquillity of existence: do you, Caesar, read this shorter one; perhaps you will also read the others.
The palace of Rome has the honour of receiving Nerva, the mildest of princes; we may now enjoy Helicon to the full. Perfect equity, humane clemency, discreet power, now return; long-continued alarms have disappeared. For you, O affectionate Rome, your people, and the nations subject to your empire, utter this prayer: May such a ruler be ever yours, and may this one especially long reign over you! Blessings be upon your spirit, which is such as few have, and upon your character, which is such as Numa, or a cheerful Cato,1 might have owned. Now you may, and it is right that you should, make presents, display your beneficence, enlarge the slender incomes of the poor, and grant blessings such as the indulgent gods could scarcely exceed. For even under a severe prince and in bad times, you had the courage to be good.
If Ligeia's years are equal in number to the hairs of her head, she is only three years old.
Rome, goddess of the earth and its people, to whom there is nothing equal, nothing second, when she was recently computing with joy the long series of years destined for the life of Trajan, and saw in our great leader so much bravery, youth, and martial ardour, Rome, I say, glorying in such a ruler, exclaimed: "You princes of the Parthians, you leaders of the Scythians, you Thracians, Sarmatians, Getae, and Britons, approach, I can show you a Caesar."
Palma,1 most benign Caesar, rules my Iberian countrymen, and under his mild rule the provinces nourish in peace. Joyfully therefore do we offer you our thanks for so great a boon; you have sent your own character into our parts.
Africanus possesses a hundred thousand sesterces, and yet covets more. Fortune gives too much to many, enough to none.
Muse, salute Parthenius, your good friend and mine; for who drinks more largely from the Aonian fountain? Whose lyre comes forth more ennobled from the cave of the muses? Whom among all his Pierian followers does Phoebus love more? And if by chance (but for this we must scarcely hope) he shall have a moment to spare, beg him to present with his own hands our verses to the emperor; and to recommend this little book, so humble and so small, with merely four words: "This your Rome reads."
You promise everything after you have been drinking all night, next morning you perform nothing. Drink, Pollio, in the morning.
The rich, Auctus, make a species of gain out of anger. It is cheaper to get into a passion than to give.1
Use more sparingly, I advise you, the galloping hunter, Priscus, and ride not so furiously after the hare. The sportsman has often made atonement to the prey, and fallen, never to rise again, from the spirited horse. The very plain, too, has its dangers; even though there be no ditch, no mound, no rocky places, yet the level ground is apt to deceive. There will not be wanting some rider to exhibit to you a spectacle such as this; but his fall would excite less repining at Fate than yours. If the excitement of danger attract you, let us spread toils for the wild boars of Tuscany; courage in that pursuit is safer. Why do such break-neck steeds delight you? They much oftener succeed in killing the rider than the hare.
Everything that glittered in the Parrhasian1 palace has been given to our gods and to the eyes of all. Jupiter wonders at the Scythian radiance of the emeralds2 set in gold, and is amazed at the objects of imperial magnificence,3 and at luxuries so oppressive to the nation. Here are cups fit for the Thunderer; there for his Phrygian favourite.4 We all now rejoice with Jupiter. But very lately (and with shame, yes, with shame I confess it) we were all poor as well as Jupiter.
You have made away, Labienus, with three of your farms; you have purchased, Labienus, three favourites: you are making three farms, Labienus, the object of your love.
You inquire, Lentinus, why your fever does not leave you for so many days, and you complain bitterly on the subject. It is carried about with you in your litter; it bathes with you; it feeds upon mushrooms, oysters, sow's paps, and wild boar, with you. It is often inebriated with Setine, and often with Falernian wine; nor does it quaff Caecuban unless it be mixed with snow water. It reclines with you, decked with roses, and darkened with amomum; and sleeps with you on down, and on a purple bed. Seeing that your fever is so well treated, and lives so comfortably in your society, do you expect it to transfer itself in preference to Dama?
While you, my Juvenal, are perhaps wandering restless in the noisy Suburra or pacing the hill of the goddess Diana; while your toga, in which you perspire at the thresholds of your influential friends, is fanning you as you go, and the greater and lesser Caelian hills fatigue you in your wanderings; my own Bilbilis, revisited after many winters, has received me, and made me a country gentleman; Bilbilis, proud of its gold and its iron! Here we indolently cultivate with agreeable labour Boterduna and Platea; these are the somewhat rude names of Celtiberian localities. I enjoy profound and extraordinary sleep, which is frequently unbroken, even at nine in the morning; and I am now indemnifying myself fully for all the interruptions to sleep that I endured for thirty years. The toga here is unknown, but the nearest dress is given me, when I ask for it, from an old press. When I rise, a hearth, heaped up with faggots from a neighbouring oak grove, welcomes me; a hearth which the bailiff's wife crowns with many a pot. Then comes the housemaid, such a one as you would envy me. A close-shorn bailiff issues the orders to my boy attendants, and begs that they may be obliged to lay aside their long hair.1 Thus I delight to live, and thus I hope to die.
At the warm baths Aemilius takes lettuces, eggs, and anchovies, 1 and then says that he does not dine out.
Do you ask, Fabullus, why Themison has not a wife? He has a sister.
Who would imagine, Marcella, that you dwelt upon the banks of the iron-hardening Salo,2 and were born in our regions? So rare, so sweet is your disposition! The court of Caesar will say, should it but once hear your voice, that you belong to itself. Nor can any woman born in the midst of the Suburra, nor any native of the Capitoline Hill, vie with you. Nor will any glorious foreign offspring more fit to be a daughter of Rome soon smile upon its mother. You cause my longing for the Queen of Cities to be more supportable; you alone are a Rome to me.
Do you wish me, Fabullus, to tell you in few words how ugly Philaenis is with her one eye? Philaenis would be better looking with no eye at all.
You wear bought teeth, and bought hair, Laelia, without a blush. What will you do for an eye? You cannot buy that.
O carriage, that affords a sweet solitude!----Gift of my eloquent friend Aelianus, more pleasant than open curricle or chariot! Here, Juvatus, you may say to me whatever comes into your head. No black driver of a Libyan horse, no well-girt running footman in front of us, no muleteer alongside; and the horses will not babble. Would that Avitus were here with us; I should not fear his third pair of ears. Thus how charmingly would the whole day pass!
When I ask you for a loan without offering you, security, you say, "I have no money." Yet, if my farm stands pledged for me, you have money. What you refuse, Telesinus, to lend me, your old friend, you are willing to lend to my acres and my trees. But see! Carus1 has accused you before the magistrate; let my farm undertake your defence. Or if you look for a companion when you go into exile; let my farm attend you.
When you, a senator, go about knocking at sixty doors every morning, I appear in your estimation but a slothful knight, for not running all over the city from the first dawn of day, and bringing home, fatigued and worn out, some thousand kisses.1 But you do all this, that you may add a new name to the Fasti, or that you may be sent as governor to the Numidians or Cappadocians; while, as to me, whom you persuade to break my slumbers unseasonably, and endure the morning mud, what have I to expect? When my foot bursts out from my torn shoe, when a pelting shower of rain has suddenly drenched me, and when, on taking off my outer-coat, no servant answers my call, your slave comes up to my chilly ear, and says, "Laetorius requests your company at dinner." What, at a dinner of which my share is worth twenty sesterces? Not I. I prefer my own scanty fare, rather than have a dinner for my reward, while yours is a province; rather than that while our labour is the same, our gains should be so different
Yon say, Senia, that you were violated by robbers, but the robbers deny it.
The size of the cups, Cinna, from which I drink, and that of those from which you drink, are in the proportion of seven to eleven; and yet you complain that we do not drink the same sort of wine.
Hermogenes, it seems to me, Ponticus, is as great a thief of napkins as Massa was of money. Even though you watch his right hand, and hold his left, he will find means to abstract your napkin. With like subtilty does the breath of the stag draw out the cold snake;1 and the rainbow exhale the waters from the clouds. Lately, while a respite was implored for Myrinus,2 who had been wounded in a conflict, Hermogenes contrived to filch four napkins. Just as the praetor was going to drop his white napkin, to start the horses in the circus, Hermogenes stole it. When at last nobody brought a napkin with him, for fear of thefts, Hermogenes stole the cloth from the table. And should there be nothing of this kind to steal, Hermogenes does not hesitate to detach the ornaments from the couches,3 or the feet from the tables. However immoderate may he the heat in the theatres, the awnings are withdrawn when Hermogenes makes his appearance. The sailors, in trembling haste, proceed to furl their sails whenever Hermogenes shows himself in the harbour. The bareheaded priests of Isis, clad in linen vestments, and the choristers who play the sistrum, betake themselves to flight when Hermogenes comes to worship. Hermogenes never took a napkin to dinner; Hermogenes never came away from a dinner without one.
Aper is abstemious and sober. What is that to me? For such a quality I praise my slave, not my friend.
This grove, these fountains, this interwoven shade of the spreading vine; this meandering stream of gurgling water; these meadows, and these rosaries which will not yield to the twice-bearing Paestum; these vegetables which bloom in the month of January, and feel not the cold; these eels that swim domestic in the enclosed waters; this white tower which affords an asylum for doves like itself in colour; all these are the gift of my mistress; Marcella gave me this retreat, this little kingdom, on my return to my native home after thirty-five years of absence. Had Nausicaa offered me the gardens of her sire, I should have said to Alcinous, "I prefer my own."
Oh disgrace of the Calends of July, I saw, Vacerra, I saw your chattels, which, refused by the landlord in discharge of two years' rent, were carried away by your wife, distinguishable by her seven carroty hairs, your hoary-headed mother, and your giantess of a sister. I thought at first they were Furies emerging from the shades of Pluto. They went before, while you, wasted with cold and hunger, and paler than a piece of old box-wood, the very Irus of your day, followed. People might have thought that the Aricine Hill was migrating. There went in procession a three-legged bed, a two footed table, a lamp, a horn cup, and a cracked chamberpot, leaking through its side. Close to these was a rusty store, the neck of a wine-vessel, and a jar, which its disgusting smell proved to have contained pilchards and decayed herrings, a smell like that wafted by the breeze from a pond of stagnant water. Nor was there wanting a slice of Toulouse cheese; a garland, four years old, of black pennyroyal; a rope of bald1 garlic and onions; or a pot belonging to your mother, full of offensive resin, which the easy dames of the Suburra use at their toilette. Why are you looking about for a house and deluding agents,2 when you may live for nothing, Vacerra? This pompous train of baggage just suits the bridge.3
In order to purchase his slaves, Labienus sold his gardens. Now Labienus has nothing but a clump of figs.
Four-and-thirty years, Julius, if I remember right, I passed in your society; have shared your friendship, the delights of which were not unmixed with pain, but the pleasures preponderated. And if all the stones of different colours, that mark the several days, were placed in juxtaposition, the white would far exceed the black. Would you avoid many griefs, and escape heart-rendings, make of no one too dear a friend. You will have less joy, but your sorrow will be less.
As if you have lived with me on the frankest terms, Callistratus, you are accustomed to tell me all the time that you have been debauched. You are not so frank as you would have it believed, Callistratus; for a man who tells such things, must have much more that he does not tell.
Because no one but yourself, Labullus, gives a friend two or three pounds, a thin toga, and a scanty cloak, sometimes a few gold pieces, which you chink in your hand, and which are to last for a couple of months, you are not for that reason, believe me, a good man. What then? To speak the truth, the best of bad ones. Give us back our Pisos, and our Senecas, our Memmi and our Crispi, I mean those of old time, and you will forthwith become the last of good men. Do you wish to boast of your running, and swiftness of foot? Outstrip Tigris and the fleet Passerinus.1 There is no glory in outstripping asses.
You wish to be regarded as having an extremely good nose. I like a man with a good nose, but object to one with a polypus.1
You have no reason to fear yon person, Candidus, who, strutting about night and day, is well known throughout the city to the litters of the ladies, whose hair shines so brightly, and is darkened with unguents; who is radiant in purple, of delicate feature, broad chest, and smooth limbs, and who constantly follows your wife with importunities. Fear him not, Candidus, he does not meddle in your department.
I hate you, Prettyman, because you are always acting the pretty fellow. A pretty fellow is a contemptible thing, and so is Prettyman. I prefer a manly man to Prettyman. May you wither away prettily, Prettyman.
You utter all sorts of falsehoods, Pontilianus; I assent to them. You recite bad verses; I praise them. You sing; I do the same. You drink, Pontilianus; I drink also. You are rude; I pretend not to perceive it. You wish to play at chess; I allow myself to be beaten. There is one thing only which you do without me, and I hold my tongue on the subject. Yet you never make me the slightest present. "When I die," say you, "I shall remember you handsomely." I do not look for anything; but die.
Yon are not content, Tucca, to be a glutton. You long to be called and to appear a glutton.
The bearded Callistratus has been taken in marriage by the lusty Afer, in the same way as a virgin is usually taken in marriage by her husband. The torches shone forth, the flame-coloured veil concealed the bride's countenance, and the language heard at bridals was not wanting. Even the dowry was settled. Does not this seem yet enough to you, Rome? Do you expect that the bride should present the spouse with pledges of affection?
[Not translated in either the Bohn or Ker's Loeb]
Unicus, name connected with me by ties of blood, and attached to me by similarity of pursuit; while the verses which you write yield the palm only to those of your brother, you are not inferior to him inability, and are superior to him in affection. Lesbia would have shared her love for the tender Catullus with you, sweet Corinna would have followed you next to her Ovid. Nor would the Zephyrs have refused their assistance, had you been pleased to spread wide your sails, but you prefer the shore. This too is a peculiarity which you have from your brother.
It was not without wit, Phoebus, that a person said of you, when you covered your bald pate and temples with a kid's skin, that your head was well shod.
Gallus and Lupercus sell their poems; no longer deny, Classicus, common sense to poets.
You are at once morose and agreeable, pleasing and repulsive. I can neither live with you, nor without you.
If you put on table before me mushrooms and wild boar as common fare, and do not presume that such dishes are the object of my prayers, it is well; but if you imagine that by them I am made happy, and expect to get yourself inscribed in my will, as my heir, in return for some half-dozen Lucrine oysters, good-bye to you. Yet your dinner is a handsome one, I admit, most handsome, but to-morrow nothing of it will remain; nay, this very day, in fact this very moment, there is nothing of it but what a common sponge at the end of a mop-stick, or a famished dog, or any street convenience can take away. Of mullets and hares and sow's teats, the result is cadaverous complexion and gouty feet. In my estimation, no Alban revel,1 no feasts in the Capitol, nor banquets of the chief priests, would be worth so much. Were Jupiter himself to give me nectar on such conditions, it would turn to vinegar, and the cheating trash of a Vatican cask. Seek other guests, Sir Host, who may be caught by the regal sumptuousness of your table; as for me, I prefer a friendly invitation to a hastily arranged little dinner: it is such a repast as I can return that pleases me.
O Linus, preceptor of the long-haired troop, whom the rich Postumilla calls the lord of her fortune, and to whom she entrusts gems, gold, plate, wines, favourites: so may your patroness prefer you to all others, having made proof of your lasting fidelity, as you grant to my prayer the indulgence of my wretched desires, and keep at times but a negligent watch over those objects which have taken possession of my heart, which in my longing I pray day and night to clasp as my own----beautiful, snow-white, equal in size, twins, large----not slaves, but pearls.
You are distinguished for possessing laurel-groves, avenues of plane-trees, towering cypresses, and most capacious baths. Your lofty portico stands on a hundred columns, and is paved with polished marble. The swift-footed horse makes your dusty hippodrome resound with his hoofs, and the murmur of fountains is heard on every side. Your halls are spacious and extensive; but there are no chambers either for dining or for sleep. How pleasantly you do not live!
Are you astonished, Aulus, that our friend Fabullinus is so frequently deceived? A good man has always something to learn in regard to fraud.
Here, Sempronia, lies your late husband Rufus, whose brows were wreathed with Pierian chaplets, and whose eloquence in defence of dejected criminals was renowned; his very ashes burn with love for you. You are the theme of admiration in the Elysian fields, and Helen herself marvels at the story of your abduction. You are superior to her, as you deserted him who overcame you, and returned, but she would not follow her husband, even when he sought to regain her. Menelaus smiles, and listens to these new Trojan-like amours; the violence done to you excuses the Phrygian Paris. When the joyful asylum of the pious shall one day receive you, there will be no shade in the Stygian abodes better known than yourself. Proserpina does not look with aversion upon fair ones that have been carried off, but loves them. Your amour will gain you the queen's favour.
Although you possess abundance of money and wealth, Paternus, such as but few other citizens possess, you never make any present, and brood over your hoard like the great dragon, which the poets sing of as the guardian of the Scythian grove. The cause, as you yourself allege and boast, is the dire rapacity of your son. Pray are you looking for fools and novices to beguile and delude? To this vice you have ever been a father.
With red hair, a black face, a cloven foot, and blear eyes, you show the world a prodigy, Zoilus, if you are an honest man.
He who bids you, girls, give your favours for nothing, is a most foolish and impudent fellow. Do not give them for nothing, kiss for nothing. This Aegle refuses, this in her greed she sells. But let her sell it; how precious is a good kiss! This she sells, I say, and for no small plunder too; she asks for either a pound of Cosmian unguent, or four times two gold coins of the new mintage, that her kisses may not be silent ones or grudgingly given, that she may not with shut lips deny their approach. Yet this one thing she does graciously; Aegle, who refuses to give a kiss, a single kiss, for nothing, does not refuse to lick you for free.
You fall sick ten times or more in the coarse of a year; a practice which inconveniences, not yourself Polycharmus, but us; for every time you leave your bed, you exact the customary presents of congratulation from your friends, Have some consideration: fall sick at length, Polycharmus, once for all.
You ask why I so often go to my small domain at arid Momentum and the humble household at my farm? There is no place in town, Sparsus, where a poor man can either think or rest One cannot live for schoolmasters in the morning, corn grinders at night, and braziers' hammers all day and night. Here the money-changer indolently rattles piles of Nero's rough coins on his dirty counter; there a beater of Spanish gold belabours his worn stone with shining mallet. Nor does the fanatic rabble of Bellona cease from its clamour, nor the gabbling sailor with his piece of wreck hung over his shoulder; nor the Jew boy, brought up to begging by his mother, nor the blear-eyed huckster of matches. Who can enumerate the various interruptions to sleep at Rome? As well might you tell how many hands in the city strike the cymbals, when the moon under eclipse is assailed with the sound of the Colchian magic rhomb.2 You, Sparsus, are ignorant of such things, living, as you do, in luxurious ease on your Petilian domain;3 whose mansion, though on a level plane, overlooks the lofty hills which surround it; who enjoy the country in the city4 (rus in urbe), with a Roman 5 vine-dresser, and a vintage not to be surpassed on the Falernian mount. Within your own premises is a retired carriage drive; in your deep recesses sleep and repose are unbroken by the noise of tongues: and no daylight penetrates unless purposely admitted. But I am awakened by the laughter of the passing crowd; and all Rome is at my bed-side. Whenever, overcome with weariness, I long for repose, I repair to my country-house.
Your wife, Alauda, calls you a courier of slaves, while she herself runs after litter-bearers. You are on an equal footing.
Rome gives, on one's return after fifteen years' absence, such a number of kisses 1 as exceeds those given by Lesbia to Catullus. Every neighbour, every hairy-faced fanner, presses on you with a strongly-scented kiss. Here the weaver assails you, there the fuller and the cobbler, who has just been kissing leather; here the owner of a filthy beard, and a one-eyed gentleman; there one with bleared eyes, and fellows whose mouths are defiled with all manner of abominations. It was hardly worth while to return.
O day, nursling of Mars,1 on which I first beheld the rosy light of Aurora, and the broad face of the sun, should you feel shame at being celebrated in the country, and at an altar of turf who are used to being celebrated by me in the city of Rome, be indulgent, if I am unwilling to be a slave upon my own birthday, and if I wish to live,2 on the day on which I received life.
LX. B. ON THE SAME.
To grow pale with anxiety on one's birthday, lest Sabellus should not be supplied with hot water, and Alauda not have clear wine to drink;3 to strain turbid Caecuban anxiously through linen filters, and to run to and fro among one's tables; to receive this guest and that, and to be getting up all dinnertime from one's place, and treading upon marble pavement colder than ice; what is the reason that you should endure all these annoyances of your own choice, when, if a rich friend and patron were to impose them on you, you would refuse to submit to them?
You are afraid, Ligurra, lest I should compose verses on you, some short and pungent epigram, and you wish to be thought a proper object of such rear. But vain is your fear. and vain your desire! Libyan lions rush upon bulls; they do not hurt butterflies. If you aim at getting your name into verse, seek, I advise you, some sot of a poet from some dark den, who writes, with coarse charcoal and crumbling chalk, verses which people read as they ease themselves, Your brow is not to be branded with my mark.
Great king of the ancient world, and of the primitive state of things, under whose rule quiet repose prevailed, and labour was unknown; nor was the thunder-bolt of Jove frequently used, nor lived there those who were deserving of it; and the earth yielded its riches, without being cloven down to the infernal regions; come, propitious and gracious, to this solemn festival of Priscus; it befits you to be present at your own sacred rites. You restore him to his country,1 glorious father, in the sixth winter, from the Latian city2 of the pacific Numa. Do you observe how like Roman luxury the festal array is spread, and how great splendour is shown in gay profusion? how unsparing the hand, and the coins on the rich table, the wealth, Saturn, which is counted for you? And that your beneficence and favour for these deserts may be greater, it is both a father and a careful man that thus magnificently celebrates your festival. But may you, venerable deity, be ever thus greeted with proofs of affection, in December; may you bid this season frequently return to him.
Cordova, spot more delightful than rich Venafrum, unsurpassed in fertility by the olive-bearing Istria,3 richer in sheep than the pellucid Galaesus,4 and that deceives not with purple or red dye, but have your flocks tinged by nature; command, I pray you, that poet of yours to have some sense of modesty, and not to recite my compositions without having paid me for them. I could have borne his proceedings, if he had been a good poet, on whom I could have made reprisal, but he is a bachelor who destroys my peace without giving me the opportunity of revenge. A blind man cannot be retaliated upon for the loss of sight of which he deprives another. Nobody is more reckless than a plunderer, who has nothing to lose; nobody more secure than a bad poet.
Cinna made one of his rosy attendants, who surpassed all the others in beauty of feature and hair, his cook. Cinna is a luxurious personage.
During a whole night of pleasure, the beauteous Phyllis had shown herself kind to me in every way; and, as I was thinking in the morning what present to make her, whether a pound of Cosmus' or Niceros' perfumes, or a piece of fine Spanish wool, or ten yellow coins of Domitian, she threw her arms round my neck, and caressing me with a long kiss, like those of amorous doves, proceeded to ask me for----a jar of wine.
Though your house cost you a hundred thousand sesterces, you pretend to be willing to sell it for even a smaller sum. But you are seeking, Amoenus, to cheat your purchaser by art and cunning, for your house is hidden amid the rich furniture with which it is gorgeously adorned. Couches gemmed with tortoise-shell, and valuable solid furniture of citron-wood from Africa, glitter at the entrance; silver and gold vases are supported upon a Delphic table of extraordinary beauty, and slaves stand by whom I would willingly pray to be my masters. Then you talk of two hundred thousand sesterces, and say that it cannot be had for less. You offer a house so exquisitely furnished, Amoenus, at a low price.1
You, Ides of May, gave birth to Mercury. Diana's birthday recurs on the Ides of August. Virgil has consecrated the Ides of October. You who celebrate the Ides of the great Maro, may you often celebrate both the first and the second!
O clients, that beset me in the morning, and who were the cause of my departure from Rome, frequent, if you are wise, the lordly mansions of the city. I am no lawyer, nor fitted for pleading troublesome causes, but inactive, somewhat advanced in years, and a votary of the Pierian sisters. I wish to enjoy repose and slumber, which great Rome denied; but I must return thither, if I am to be equally hunted here.
You have friends, Paullus, just like your pictures and vases, all antique originals.1
When recently a miserable bow-legged slave need to carry Aper's linen to the bath for him, and a one-eyed old woman sat on his paltry toga to guard it, while a herniose bathing man supplied him with his drop of oil, he used to be a severe and unsparing censor of drunkards. "Break your cups, and throw away your Falernian," he would exclaim to any knight who drank anything on leaving the bath. But since three hundred thousand sesterces came to him from his old uncle, he cannot go home from the warm baths sober. Oh what power jewelled cups and a retinue of five long-haired servants have! Aper, as long as he was a poor man, did not suffer from thirst.
You refuse me, Lygdus, everything I ask; but there was a time, Lygdus, when you refused me nothing.1
Having purchased the acres of a little obscure farm near the Sepulchres,2 and a badly constructed cabin with a propped-up roof you leave the litigations of the town, Pannicus, which were your farm, and the scanty but certain profits of the worn toga. As a lawyer you used to sell wheat, millet, barley, and beans;3 now, as a farmer, you buy them.
You tell me, Catullus, that I am your heir. I shall not believe it, Catullus, till I read it.
Although the Nile vessels bring you goblets of crystal, yet accept some cups from the Flaminian circus. Are these cups the more audacious, or those who send such presents? But there is a double advantage in the use of these common vessels; no thief is allured, Flaccus, by such specimens of art, and they are not cracked by over-heated water. Nay more, the guest drinks without disturbing the peace of the attendant, and trembling hands have no fear lest they should fall. This too is something, that if after a toast, you must break your cup, Flaccus, you will propose it in one of these vessels.
Polytimus hurries off to girls, Hypnus unwittingly confesses that he is a boy, Secundus has buttocks yard-fed 1, Dindymus is effeminate but wishes not to seem so, Amphion might have been born a girl. The caprice of these boys and their haughtiness, and their querolous disdain, I prefer, Avitus, to five times two hundred thousand sesterces of dower.
The amphora of wine sells for twenty sesterces, a bushel of corn for four. The husbandman, intoxicated and over-fed, makes nothing.1
While Aethon was praying in the Capitol, with many a supplication, to Jupiter, and with up-turned eyes was bowing to his very feet, he let wind escape behind. The bystanders laughed, but the father of the gods was offended, and condemned his worshipper to dine at home for three successive days. After this accident, the unhappy Aethon, when he wished to enter the Capitol, goes first to Patroclus' house of convenience, and relieves himself by some ten or twenty discharges. But, notwithstanding this precaution, he is careful never to address Jove again without being tightly compressed in the rear.
I have written nothing against you, Bithynicus, Are you unwilling to believe me, and require me to swear? I prefer to give you another sort of satisfaction.1
I have granted you much that you asked: I have granted you more than you asked: and yet you never cease to ask of me. He who refuses nothing, Atticilla, will soon have nothing to refuse.
Callistratus, making no distinction as to merit, praises everybody. To him, in whose eyes no one is bad, who can appear good?
In winter-time, and at the festival of Saturn, Umber used to send me of his poverty a light dress; now he sends me a light mess of furmity, for he has become rich;
To escape Menogenes at the baths, hot or cold, is quite impossible, although you try every art to do so. He will catch up your warm ball with eager hands, that he may lay you under obligation for having several times stopped it. He will pick up the foot-ball, when collapsed, out of the dirt, and bring it you, even though he may have just bathed and have his slippers on. If you bring linen with you,1 he will declare it whiter than snow, even though it be dirtier than a child's bib. If you comb your scanty hair with the toothed ivory, he will say that you have arranged your tresses like those of Achilles. He will himself bring you the fetid dregs of the smoky wine jar,2 and will even remove the perspiration from your forehead. He will praise everything, admire everything about you, until, after having patiently endured a thousand tortures, you utter the invitation, "Come and dine!"
Fabianus, who used to make merry at the expense of herniae, and whom all dreaded when he derided swelling hydroceles with more pungency even than two Catulli together would have done, suddenly found himself miserable wretch, in the warm baths of Nero, and then became silent.
I was long unwilling, Polytimus, to violate your looks with the scissors;1 but now I am glad that I yielded in this respect to your entreaties. Such was Pelops when, newly shorn, he shone forth with shortened tresses, that his betrothed might see the whole of his ivory shoulders.2
[Not translated in Bohn; evasively translated in Ker]
[Not translated in either Bohn or Ker]
Cotta, complaining that he had twice lost his slippers through the negligence of his servant, who attends him about, and is the poor creature's only valet and escort, hit upon a plan, like a shrewd and cunning fellow, by which he might avoid such a loss for the future. He began to go out to dinner without slippers.3
Tongilianus has a nose, I know, and don't deny it. But Tongilianus has, I know that too, nothing else but a nose.1
When you wrap your head in flannel, Charinus, it is not your ears that trouble you, but your hair.
Maro, on behalf of his old friend, whose semitertian fever was severe and at its height, made a vow, but in a loud voice, so as to be overheard, that, if he were not sent to the Stygian Shades, a grateful victim should fall before great Jove. The doctors began to promise certain recovery. Maro now makes a new vow, that he may avoid paying the former.
Since, Magulla, you have couch and favourite in common with your husband, tell me why you have not your cup-bearer in common. You sigh: the reason is, you fear the cup.1
You often ask me, Priscus, what sort of person I should be, if I were to become suddenly rich and powerful. Who can determine what would be his future conduct? Tell me, if you were to become a lion, what sort of a lion would you be?
Fabulla has found out a way to kiss her lover in the presence of her husband. She has a little fool whom she kisses over and over again, when the lover immediately seizes him while he is still wet with the multitude of kisses, and sends him back forthwith, charged with his own to his smiling mistress. How much greater a fool is the husband than the professed fool!
I was writing an epic poem; you began to write one; I desisted from mine, that my verses might not stand in rivalry with yours. My Thalia transferred herself to the tragic buskin; you immediately assumed the tragic robe. I struck the strings of the lyre studied by the Calabrian muses; with new ambition you snatched from me the plectrum.1 I ventured on satire: you laboured to become a Lucilius. I sport in light elegy; you do the same. What humbler style was left me? I began to write epigrams; my fame in that department became also the object of your envy. Determine what you do not like; it is a shame for you to like everything; and if there be any species of writing that you do not affect, Tucca, leave that for me.
O Baetis, whose locks are bound with a chaplet of olive-leaves; who dye the golden fleeces of the flocks with your radiant waters; whom Bacchus and Pallas love; and for whom the ruler of the waves opens a ship-bearing course into his foaming seas. Grant that Instantius may enter your regions with happy omens, and that this present year may be as propitious to the people as the last. He is not unaware, what a responsibility it is to succeed Macer. He who weighs his responsibilities can bear them.
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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