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"The Satyricon by Petronius translated by Alfred R. Allinson." (1930) The Panurge Press, New
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Tacitus writes (Annals, XVI. Chapters 17 and 18-20,
A.D. 66):"Within a few days, indeed, there perished in one and
the same batch, Annaeus Mela, Cerialis Anicius, Rufius Crispinus and
Petronius. . . . With regard to Caius Petronius, his character
and life merit a somewhat more particular attention. He passed
his days in sleep, and his nights in business, or in joy and
revelry. Indolence was at once his passion and his road to fame.
What others did by vigor and industry, he accomplished by his
love of pleasure and luxurious ease. Unlike the men who profess
to understand social enjoyment, and ruin their fortunes, he led a
life of expense, without profusion; an epicure, yet not a
prodigal; addicted to his appetites, but with taste and judgment;
a refined and elegant voluptuary. Gay and airy in his
conversation, he charmed by a certain graceful negligence, the
more engaging as it flowed from the natural frankness of his
disposition. With all this delicacy and careless ease, he
showed, when he was Governor of
Bithynia, and afterwards in the year of his Consulship, that
vigor of mind and softness of manners may well unite in the same
person. With his love of sensuality he possessed talents for
business. From his public station he returned to his usual
gratifications, fond of vice, or of pleasures that bordered upon
it. His gayety recommended him to the notice of the Prince.
Being in favor at Court, and cherished as the companion of Nero
in all his select parties, he was allowed to be the arbiter of
taste and elegance. Without the sanction of Petronius nothing
was exquisite, nothing rare or delicious.
"Hence the jealousy of Tigellinus, who dreaded a rival in the
good graces of the Emperor almost his equal; in the science of
luxury his superior. Tigellinus determined to work his downfall;
and accordingly addressed himself to the cruelty of the Prince,--
that master passion, to which all other affections and every
motive were sure to give way. He charged Petronius with having
lived in close intimacy with Scaevinus, the conspirator; and to
give color to that assertion, he bribed a slave to turn informer
against his master. The rest of the domestics were loaded with
irons. Nor was Petronius suffered to make his
"Nero at that time happened to be on one of his excursions into
Campania. Petronius had followed him as far as Cumae, but was
not allowed to proceed further than that place. He scorned to
linger in doubt and
fear, and yet was not in a hurry to leave a world which he loved.
He opened his veins, and closed them again, at intervals losing a
small quantity of blood, then binding up the orifice, as his own
inclination prompted. He conversed during the whole time with
his usual gayety, never changing his habitual manner, nor talking
sentences to show his contempt of death. He listened to his
friends, who endeavored to entertain him, not with grave
discourses on the immortality of the soul or the moral wisdom of
philosophers, but with strains of poetry and verses of a gay and
natural turn. He distributed presents to some of his servants,
and ordered others to be chastised. He walked out for his
amusement, and even lay down to sleep. In this last scene of his
life he acted with such calm tranquillity, that his death, though
an act of necessity, seemed no more than the decline of nature.
In his will he scorned to follow the example of others, who like
himself died under the tyrant's stroke; he neither flattered the
Emperor nor Tigellinus nor any of the creatures of the Court.
But having written, under the fictitious names of profligate men
and women, a narrative of Nero's debauchery and his new modes of
vice, he had the spirit to send to the Emperor that satirical
romance, sealed with his own seal,-- which he took care to break,
that after his death it might not be used for the destruction of
any person whatever.
"Nero saw with surprise his clandestine passions and
the secrets of his midnight revels laid open to the world. To
whom the discovery was to be imputed still remained a doubt.
Amidst his conjectures, Silia, who by her marriage with a Senator
had risen into notice, occurred to his memory. This woman had
often acted as procuress for the libidinous pleasures of the
Prince, and lived besides in close intimacy with Petronius. Nero
concluded that she had betrayed him, and for that offense ordered
her into banishment, making her a sacrifice to his private
Two questions arise out of this famous passage: 1. Is Petronius
(Arbiter), author of the Satyricon, the same person as the
Caius Petronius here described, and spoken of by the Historian as
"elegantiae arbiter" at the Court of Nero? 2. Is the existing
Satyricon the "satirical romance" composed by the
Emperor's victim during his dying hours and sent under seal to
Both points have been long and vigorously debated, but may now be
taken as fairly well settled by general consent,-- the answer to
the first query being Yes! To the second,
The Introductory Notice to Petronius, in the noble "Collection
des Auteurs Latins," edited by M. Nisard, sums up the controversy
thus: "Is Petronius, here mentioned by Tacitus, the Author of the
Satyricon, and are we to regard this work as being the
testamentary document addressed to Nero of which the Historian
These two questions so long and eagerly disputed, may be looked
upon as decided by this time. The Consular, the favorite of
Nero, the "arbiter of taste and elegance" at the Imperial Court,
is generally acknowledged to be our Petronius Arbiter;
whose book, diversified as it is with "strains of poetry and
verses of a gay and natural turn," with its tone of good company
and its easy-going Epicurean morality, is so much in keeping with
the cheerful, uncomplaining death of the pleasure-loving courtier
who understood his master's little peculiarities, and had, like
Trimalchio, adopted for his motto, "Vivamus, dum licet esse,"--
"Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die." At any rate in our
own opinion, this first point is finally and definitely
"Can this satire (The Satyricon) be the testament of irony
and hate which the victim sent to his executioner? To this
further question we answer No!-- and our personal conviction on
the point is shared by the most weighty authorities. We will
limit ourselves here to one or two observations. According to
Tacitus, Petronius had already caused his veins to be opened,
when he started to recapitulate the series of Nero's debaucheries
in this deposition. The document therefore must necessarily have
been brief; whereas the work we possess, too extensive as it
stands to have been composed by a dying man, was originally of
much greater length, for it seems proved by the titles affixed to
that nearly nine-tenths of the whole is lost. Besides, Petronius
had expressly limited his statement to an account of Nero's
secret debaucheries, with no further disguise beyond the use of
fictitious names,-- 'under the names of profligate men and
women.' Lastly the extremely varied character of the Work is
diametrically opposed to a view, making it out to have been a
personal libel, a piece of abuse that only stops short of giving
the actual name of the individual
What is known of Petronius himself, the man Petronius?-- Granting
an affirmative answer may be given to question 1, something; but
even then not much.
His name was Caius Petronius; he was a Roman Eques or Knight,
born at Massilia (Marseilles). Even these initial points are not
quite firmly established; Pliny and Plutarch speak of Titus
Petronius, and the facts of his being an Eques and his birth at
Marseilles rest on conjectural evidence. He was successively
Proconsul of Bithynia, and Consul, in both which high offices he
showed integrity, energy and ability.
He was in high favor at the Court of Nero, where he devoted his
undoubted talents and genial wit to the amusement of the Prince,
the systematic cultivation of an elegant and luxurious idleness
and the elaboration of a refined profligacy. He won the title
among his fellow courtiers of "arbiter elegantiae," a nickname
that with time appears to have grown into a sort of surname,
posterity knowing him universally as Petronius
Eventually he incurred the jealousy and enmity of Nero's
all-powerful Minister, Tigellinus, who contrived his ruin.
Informed against for conspiracy, or at any rate association with
conspirators, he voluntarily opened his veins. Displaying much
fortitude and a fine indifference, he died calmly and composedly,
spending his last hours in merry conversation with his friends,
the recitation of light-hearted verses and the composition of a
candid and circumstantial account of the Emperor's debaucheries,
which he sent under seal to his Master as his dying
Pliny (1) and Plutarch (2) add further touch, that previous to
his death he broke to pieces a Murrhine vase of priceless value,
which was amongst his possessions, to prevent its falling into
the tyrant's hands.
As to his great work, the so-called Satyricon, its
characteristics and place in literature, we cannot do better than
quote from what Professor Ramsey says of it in the "Dictionary of
Greek and Roman Biography": "A very singular production,
consisting of a prose narrative interspersed with numerous pieces
of poetry, and thus resembling in form the Varronian Satire, has
come down to us in a sadly mutilated state. In the oldest MSS.
and the earliest editions it bears the title Petronii Arbitri
Saturicon, and as it now exists, is composed of a series of
fragments, the continuity of the piece being
frequently interrupted by blanks, and the whole forming but a
very small portion of the original, which, when entire, contained
at least sixteen books, and probably many more. It is a sort of
comic romance, in which the adventures of a certain Encolpius and
his companions in the south of Italy, chiefly in Naples or its
environs, are made a vehicle for exposing the false taste which
prevailed upon all matters connected with literature and the fine
arts, and for holding up to ridicule and detestation the folly,
luxury and dishonesty of all classes of the community in the age
and country in which the scene is laid. A great variety of
characters connected for the most part with the lower ranks of
life are brought upon the stage, and support their parts with the
greatest liveliness and dramatic propriety, while every page
overflows with ironical wit and broad humor. Unfortunately the
vices of the personages introduced are depicted with such minute
fidelity that we are perpetually disgusted by the coarseness and
obscenity of the descriptions. Indeed, if we can believe that
such a book was ever widely circulated and generally admired,
that fact alone would afford the most convincing proof of the
pollution of the epoch to which it belongs. . .
"The longest and most important section is generally known as the
Supper of Trimalchio,
presenting us with a detailed and
very amusing account of a fantastic banquet, such as the most
luxurious and extravagant
gourmands of the empire were wont to exhibit on their tables.
Next in interest is the well-known tale of the Ephesian Matron,
which here appears for the first time among the popular fictions
of the Western world, although current from a very early period
in the remote regions of the East. . . . The longest of the
effusions in verse is a descriptive
poem on the Civil Wars,
extending to 295 hexameter lines, affording a good example of
that declamatory tone of which the Pharsalia is the type. We
have also 65 iambic trimeters, depicting the capture of
Troy (Troiæ Halosis), and
besides these several shorter
morsels are interspersed replete with grace and
Teuffel in his masterly "History of Roman Literature" is brief,
but to the point, in what he says of the Satyricon: "To
Nero's time belongs also the character-novel of Petronius
Arbiter, no doubt the same Petronius whom Nero (A.D. 66)
compelled to kill himself. Originally a large work in at least
20 books, with accounts of various adventures supposed to have
taken place during a journey, it now consists of a heap of
fragments, the most considerable of which is the Cena
Trimalchionis, being the
description of a feast given by a
rich and uneducated upstart. Though steeped in obscenity, this
novel is not only highly important for the history of manners and
language, especially the plebeian speech, but it is also a work
of art in its way, full of
spirit, fine insight into human nature, wit of a high order and
genial humor. In its form it is a satira Menippea, in
which the metrical pieces interspersed contain chiefly parodies
of certain fashions of taste."
"The narrator and hero of the romance," Nisard writes in his
Preliminary Notice to "Petronius," "is a sort of Guzman
d'Alfarache, a young profligate, over head and ears in debt,
without either fortune, or family, and reduced, with all his
brilliant qualitites, to live from hand to mouth by dint of a
series of more or less hazardous expedients. The pictures he
draws with such a bold and lifelike touch change and shift
without plan or purpose, following each other with the same
abrupt inconsequence we observe in real life; and we are strongly
tempted to conclude Petronius has largely depicted in them the
actual phases of his own, that of a self-made adventurer,
appropriating as his own with extraordinary success the tone of
persiflage and the ironical outlook on existence of a man of high
birth and station. With equal ease he sounds the most
contradictory notes. Verse and prose, precepts of rhetoric and
of ethics, scenes of profligate indulgence, comic descriptions of
a feast where luxury is carried to ludicrous extremes, anecdotes
told in the happiest manner, notably the world-famous
tale of the Ephesian Matron, epic poetry even, love letters and love talk
breathing a refined, almost chivalric, spirit,-- such is the
strange fabric of this
drama, at once passionate, derisive, fanfaronading, tragic and
burlesque, where the grand style and the most graceful narrative
tread on the heels of provincial patois and popular
saws. . . .
"Petronius' book belongs essentially to the class of Satirae
Menippeae, of which Varro had given the first example in the
works he composed in imitation of the Greek Menippus,
and of which
Seneca's Apocolocyntosis is another capital
All critics agree upon the excellence of the Satyricon as
a work of art, though many take exception to the grossness of the
subject matter. Indeed there can be no two opinions as to the
brilliancy and refinement of our Author's style generally; while
the vivid picturesqueness of the narrative on the one hand, and
the perfect adaptation of the language to the rank and
idiosyncrasy of the interlocutors on the other, are particularly
noteworthy. "The very criticisms which have been launched
against Petronius are mingled with admiring panegyric which a due
regard for truth has forced from his assailants; and in the mouth
of an enemy, praise counts for much more than blame. Even the
barbarisms and vulgarities of expressions that at times seem to
disfigure his style, are in the eyes of Ménage the
perfection of art and appropriateness; he puts them only in the
mouths of servants and debuachees devoid of any touch of
refinement. Note on the other hand with what elegance
he makes his well-born characters speak. Petronius assigns to
each one of his actors the language most suited to him. This is
a merit precious in direct ratio to its rarity; the shadows with
which a skillful painter darkens his canvas, only serve to bring
out in more startling relief the beauties of the picture. Justus
Lipsius epigrammatically styles him auctor purissimae
impuritatis." (Héguin de
The first thing to strike us is the brilliancy and liveliness of
the book-- fragmentary as is the condition in which it has come
down to us-- as a Novel of Adventure. The reader is hurried on,
his interest forever on the stretch, from episode to episode of
the exciting, and more often than not scandalous, adventures of
the disreputable band of light-hearted gentlemen of the road,
whose leader is that most audacious and irresponsible of amiable
scamps, Encolpius, the narrator of the moving tale. With the
exception of the six chapters devoted to describing the glories
and absurdities of Trimalchio's Feast, which form a long episode
apart, and a most entertaining one, the action never pauses.
From lecture-room to house of ill fame, from country mansion to
country tavern, from the market for stolen goods in a city slum
to the Chapel of Priapus, from a harlot's palace to a rich
parvenu's table, from Picture Gallery to the public baths, from
ship and shipwreck to a luxurious life of imposture in a wealthy
provincial town, we are
hurried along in breathless haste. The pace is tremendous, but
the road bristles with hairbreadth escapes and stirring
incidents, and is never for one instant dull or tame. Probably
the nearest parallel in other literatures is the so-called
picaresque romances of Spain, of which Don Pablo de
Segovia; Lazarillo de Tormes; and, if we regard it of Spanish
origin, the incomparable Gil Blas de Santillana, may be taken as
A mere Novel of Adventure then? Not so! The Satyricon is
this; but it is a great deal besides. It abounds in
clear-sighted and instructive aperçus on education,
literature and art, and contemporary deficiencies in these
domains; its prose is interspersed with many brilliant fragments
of verse, mostly parodies and burlesques, some ludicrous, some
beautiful. Over and above its merits as a tale, it is a copious
literary miscellany, over-flowing with wit and wisdom, drollery
Last but not least, this work of fine, if irregular, genius
contains probably the most lifelike and discriminating character
painting in the realm of everyday life to be found in all the
range of ancient literature. To appreciate this, it is only
necessary to name three or four of the principal dramatis
Encolpius, the gay, unprincipled profligate, but never altogether
worthless, narrator of the story;
Ascyltos, his comrade and rival, as immoral and good for nothing
as the other, but without his redeeming
touch of gentlemanliness and "honor among
Giton, the minion, changeable and capricious, with his pretty
face and wheedling ways;
Tryphaena, the beautiful wanton, who "travels the world for her
Lichas, the overbearing and vindictive merchant and Sea-captain;
Quartilla, the lascivious and unscrupulous votary of Priapus;
Circe, the lovely "femme incomprise" of Croton; and finally, the
never to be forgotten Eumolpus, the mad poet, the disreputable
and starving pedant, at once "childlike and bland" with an
ineffable naïveté of simple conceit, and
frankly given up to the pursuit of the most abominable
immoralities, now bolting from the shower of stones his
ineradicable propensity for reciting his own poetry has provoked,
now composing immortal verse, calm amid the horrors of storm and
wreck and utterly oblivious of impending
Another point, the admirably clever adaptation of the language to
the social position and character of the persons speaking, merits
a word or two more. While both the general narrative, and the
conversation of the educated dramatis personæ,
Eumolpus for instance, are marked by a high degree of correctness
of diction and elegance of phrase, the talk of such characters as
Trimalchio and his freedmen friends, Habinnas and the rest, and
other uneducated or half-educated persons, is full not merely of
vulgarisms and popular words, but of
positive blunders and downright bad grammar. These mistakes of
course are intentional, and it is only another proof of the lack
of humor and want of common sense that often marked the
industrious and meritorious scholars, particularly German
scholars, of the old school, that some commentators have actually
gone out of their way to correct these errors in the text of
Petronius. There are hundreds of them; two or three examples
must suffice here. Libra rubricata says Trimalchio
(Ch. VII.-- xlvi), meaning libros
rubricatos, "lawbooks," and vetuo "I forbid," while his
guests indulge in such glaring solecisms as malus fatus,
exhortavit, naufragarunt. The whole
of Chapter VII., where Trimalchio's guests converse freely
with one another in the temporary absence of their host, and
afterwards Trimalchio harangues the company on various
subjects, is full of these diverting "bulls."
From the philologist's point of view the book is particularly
valuable as containing almost our only specimens of the Roman
popular, country speech,-- the lingua Romana rusticana, so
all important as the link between literary Latin and the Romance
languages of modern Europe. Two or three examples again must
suffice: minutus populus, exactly the modern French "le menu
peuple," urceatim plovebat,
"it rained in bucketfuls," non est miscix, "he's
no shirker," bono filo est,
"he has good stuff in
him." It is also a storehouse of popular saws
and sayings, sometimes of a fine, vigorous outspokenness, not to
say coarseness of expression, such as: caldum meiire et
frigidum potare, "to piss hot and drink
cold"; sudor per
bifurcam volabat, "the sweat was pouring down between my
tanquam caballus in clivo, "as tired as a
carthorse at a hill."
"In addition to the corruptions in the text," says Professor
Ramsay, "which are so numerous and hopeless as to render whole
sentences unintelligible, there are doubtless a multitude of
strange words and of phrases not elsewhere to be found; but this
circumstance need excite no surprise when we remember the various
topics which fall under discussion, and the singular personages
grouped together on the scene. The most remarkable and startling
peculiarities may be considered as the phraseology appropriate to
the characters by whom they are uttered, the language of ordinary
conversation, the familiar slang in everyday use among the hybrid
population of Campania, closely resembling in all probability the
dialect of the Atellan farces. On the other hand, wherever the
author may be supposed to be speaking in his own person, we are
deeply impressed by the extreme felicity of the style, which, far
from bearing marks of decrepitude or decay, is redolent of
spirit, elasticity, and vigorous freshness."
As to the text, the following remarks by Professor Ramsay, give a
complete statement which it is
impossible to improve upon. "Many attempts," he writes, "have
been made to account for the strangely mutilated condition in
which the piece has been transmitted to modern times. It has
been suggested by some that the blanks were caused by the
scruples of pious transcribers, who omitted those parts which
were most licentious; while others have not hesitated to declare
their conviction that the worst passages were studiously
selected. Without meaning to advocate this last hypothesis-- and
we can scarcely believe that Burmann was in earnest when he
propounded it-- it is clear that the first explanation is
altogether unsatisfactory, for it appears to be impossible that
what was passed over could have been more offensive than much of
what was retained. According to another theory, what we now
possess must be regarded as striking and favorite extracts,
copied out into the common-place book of some scholar in the
Middle Ages; a supposition applicable to the Supper of Trimalchio
and the longer poetical essays, but which fails for the numerous
short and abrupt fragments breaking off in the middle of a
sentence. The most simple solution of the difficulty seems to be
the true one. The existing MS. proceeded, in all likelihood,
from two or three archetypes, which may have been so much damaged
by neglect that large portions were rendered illegible, while
whole leaves and sections may have been torn out or otherwise
"The Editio Princeps of the fragments of Petronius was printed at
Venice, by Bernardinus de Vitalibus, 1499; and the second at
Leipzig, by Jacobus Thanner, in 1500; but these editions, and
those which followed for upwards of a hundred and fifty years,
exhibited much less than we now possess. For, about the middle
of the seventeenth century, an individual who assumed the
designation of Martinus Statilius, although his real name was
Petrus Petitus, found a MS. at Traun in Dalmatia, containing
nearly entire the Supper of Trimalchio, which was wanting in all
former copies. This was published separately at Padua, in a very
incorrect state, in 1664, without the knowledge of the
discoverer, again by Petitus himself at Paris, in the same year,
and immediately gave rise to a fierce controversy, in which the
most learned men of that day took a share, one party receiving it
without suspicion as a genuine relic of antiquity, while their
opponents, with great vehemence, contended that it was spurious.
The strife was not quelled until the year 1669, when the MS. was
dispatched from the Library of the proprietor, Nicolaus Cippius,
at Traun, to Rome, where, having been narrowly scrutinized by the
most competent judges, it was finally pronounced to be at least
three hundred years old, and, since no forgery of such a nature
could have been executed at that epoch, the skeptics were
compelled reluctantly to admit that their doubts were ill
founded. The title of the Codex, commonly known as the Codex
Traguriensis, was Petronii Arbitri Satyri Fragmenta ex
libro quinto decimo et sexto decimo, and then follow the
words 'Num alio genere furiarum,' etc.
"Stimulated, it would appear, by the interest excited during the
progress of this discussion, and by the favor with which the new
acquisition was now universally regarded by scholars, a certain
Francis Nodot published at Rotterdam, in 1693, what professed to
be the Satyricon of Petronius complete, taken, it was said, from
a MS. found at Belgrade, when that city was captured in 1688, a
MS. which Nodot declared had been presented to him by a Frenchman
high in the Imperial service. The fate of this volume was soon
decided. The imposture was so palpable that few could be found
to advocate the pretensions put forth on its behalf, and it was
soon given up by all. It is sometimes, however, printed along
with the genuine text, but in a different type, so as to prevent
the possibility of mistake. Besides this, a pretended fragment,
said to have been obtained from the monastery of St. Gall, was
printed in 1800, with notes and a French translation by
Lallemand, but it seems to have deceived nobody."
In the present version the portions of the narrative derived from
this alleged Belgrade MS. are not specially distinguished from
the genuine text; this is done advisedly, in order not to
interrupt the continuity of the story. This does not of course
for a moment imply that these interpolations are regarded as
other than spurious, but as they are both amusing reading in
themselves as well as admirable imitations of our Author's style,
and supply obvious lacunae in the plot, making the whole
book more interesting and coherent, they have been retained as an
integral part of the work.
We append three or four extracts bearing upon Petronius and the
Satyricon, and interesting either on account of the source from
which they come, the quaintness of their expression, or the
weight of their authority.
From the "Age of Petronius," by Charles Beck, 1856: "Among the
small number of Latin writers of prose fiction, Petronius, the
author of the Satyricon, occupies a prominent place. . . .
As to this book, the quality of its language and style and the
nature of its contents constitute it one of the most interesting
and important relics of Roman lierature, antiquities and
"The work, at least the portion which has come down to us,
contains the adventures of a dissipated, unprincipled, but
clever, cultivated and well-informed young man, Encolpius, the
hero himself being the narrator. The book opens with a
discussion on the defects of the existing system of education, in
which the shortcomings of both teachers and parents are pointed
out. Next follows a scene in the Forum, in which the hero and
Ascyltos, are concerned, and which exhibits some of the abuses
connected with judicial proceedings. After a brief and passing
mention of the vices and hypocrisy of the priests, the highly
interesting portion containing an account of the banquet of
Trimalchio follows. This is succeeded by the account of the
acquaintance which the hero, disappointed and dispirited by the
faithless conduct of his companion, forms with a philosopher,
Eumolpus, who besides discussing some subjects relating to art,
especially painting, and to literature, gives an account of his
infamous proceedings in corrupting the son of a family in whose
house he had been hospitably received. The hero accepts the
invitation of the philosopher to accompany him on an excursion to
Tarentum. The account of the voyage, of the discovery made by
Encolpius that he is on board a vessel owned by a person whose
vengeance he had just ground to apprehend, of his fruitless
attempt to escape detection, of the reconciliation of the hostile
parties, and of the destruction of the vessel and the greater
portion of the passengers by shipwreck, is full of interest. The
hero and his immediate companions, being the only persons that
escaped death, make their way to Croton, where Eumolpus, by
representing himself as the owner of valuable and extensive
possessions in Africa, works so upon the avarice and cupidity of
the inhabitants, who are described as a set of legacy-hunters by
profession, that he meets with the most hospitable
reception. An intrigue of the hero with a beautiful lady of the
city occupies a large part of this section of the story. The
book closes with an account of the measures which Eumolpus takes
for the purpose of avoiding the detection of his fraud, by
working anew upon the avarice of his hosts. The close is abrupt
as the beginning had been; the book is incomplete in both parts;
the end, as well as the beginning, is wanting.
"That the author of this work was a man of genius is
unquestionable. The narrative of the events of the story is
simple,-- exciting, without exhausting, the interest of the
reader, the description of customs, chiefly those of the middle
classes of society, is invaluable to the antiquarian, and the
importance of the work in this respect can scarcely be overrated;
the personages introduced into the story are drawn with such a
clearness of perception of their characteristics, and such an
accuracy of portraiture, extending to the very peculiarities of
the language used by each, that they appear to live and breathe
and move before our eyes."
From John Dunlop's History of Fiction: "The most celebrated fable
of ancient Rome is the work of Petronius Arbiter, perhaps the
most remarkable fiction which has dishonored the literature of
any nation. It is the only fable of that period now extant, but
is a strong proof of the monstrous corruption of the times in
which such a production could be tolerated, though no doubt
writings of bad moral tendency might be circulated before the
invention of printing, without arguing the depravity they would
have evinced, if presented to the world subsequent to that
"The work of Petronius is in the form of a satire, and, according
to some commentators, is directed against the vices of the court
of Nero, who is thought to be delineated under the names of
Trimalchio and Agamemnon,-- an opinion which has been justly
ridiculed by Voltaire. The satire is written in a manner which
was first introduced by Varro; verses are intermixed with prose,
and jests with serious remark. It has much the air of a romance,
both in the incidents and their disposition; but the story is too
well known, and too scandalous, to be particularly detailed.
"The scene is laid in Magna Graecia; Encolpius is the chief
character in the work, and the narrator of events;-- he commences
by a lamentation on the decline of eloquence, and while listening
to the reply of Agamemnon, a professor of oratory, he loses his
companion, Ascyltos. Wandering through the town in search of
him, he is finally conducted by an old woman to a retirement
where the incidents that occur are analogous to the scene. The
subsequent adventures,-- the feast of Trimalchio,-- the defection
and return of Giton,-- the amour of Eumolpus in Bithynia,-- the
voyage in the vessel of Lichas,-- the passion and disappointment
Circe,-- all these follow each other without much art of
arrangement, an apparent defect which may arise from the
mutilated form in which the satire has descended to us.
"The style of Petronius has been much applauded for its
elegance,-- it certainly possesses considerable naïveté
and grace, and is by much too fine a veil for so deformed a
From Addison's Preface to his Translation of Petronius:
"'Petronius,' says that judicious critic, Mons. St. Evremond, 'is
to be admired throughout, for the purity of his style and the
delicacy of his sentiments; but that which more surprises me, is
his great easiness in giving us ingenuously all sorts of
Characters. Terence is perhaps the only author of Antiquity that
enters best into the nature of persons. But still this fault I
find in him, that he has too little variety; his whole talent
being confined in making servants and old men, a covetous father
and a debauched son, a slave and an intriguer, to speak properly,
according to their several characters. So far, and no farther,
the capacity of Terence reaches. You must not expect from him
either gallantry or passion, either thoughts or the discourse of
a gentleman. Petronius, who had a universal wit, hits upon the
genius of all professions, and adapts himself, as he pleases, to
a thousand different natures. If he introduces a Declaimer, he
assumes his air and his style so well, that one could
say he had used to declaim all his life. Nothing expresses more
naturally the constant disorders of a debauched life than these
everlasting quarrels of Encolpius and Ascyltos about Giton.
"Is not Quartilla an admirable portrait of a prostitute woman?
Does not the marriage of young Giton and innocent Pannychis give
us the image of a complete wantonness?
"All that a sot ridiculously magnificent in banquets, a vain
affecter of niceness, and an impertinent, are able to do, you
have at the Feast of Trimalchio.
"Eumolpus shows us Nero's extravagant folly for the Theater, and
his vanity in reciting his own poems; and you may observe, as you
run over so many noble verses, of which he makes an ill use, that
an excellent poet may be a very ill man. . . . The infirmity he
has of making verses out of season, even at death's door; his
fluentness in repeating his compositions in all places and at all
times, answers his most ridiculous setting out, where he
characteristically tells him, "I am a Poet, and I hope, of no ordinary
genius.' . . .
"There is nothing so natural as the character of Chrysis, and
none of our confidantes come near her. Not to mention her first
conversation with Polyaenus,-- what she tells him of her
mistress, upon the affront she received, has an inimitable
simplicity. But nobody, besides Petronius, could have described
beautiful, so voluptuous, and so polite. Enothea, the Priestess
of Priapus, ravishes me with the miracles she promises, with her
enchantments, her sacrifices, her sorrow for the death of the
consecrated goose, and the manner in which she is pacified when
Polyaenus makes her a present, with which she might purchase a
goose and gods too, if she thought fit.
"Philumena, that complaisant lady, is no less entertaining, who
after she had cullied several men out of their estates, in the
flower of her beauty, now being old and by consequence unfit for
pleasures, endeavored to keep up this noble trade by the means of
her children, whom she took every opportunity to introduce with a
thousand fine discourses to old men, who had no heirs of their
"In a word, there is no part of Nature, no profession, which
Petronius doth not admirably paint. He is a Poet, an Orator, a
Philosopher, and much more besides, at his pleasure."
Lastly Teufel, writing of the Satyricon in Pauly's
Encyclopedia, says: "The whole plan of the work is that of a
novel; two freedmen, Encolpius and Ascyltos, are enamored of a
boy Giton, and the adventures which have their origin in this
circumstance, and which they encounter severally, the
acquaintances which they make (for instance of Trimalchio and
Eumolpus), form the contents at least of that portion of the book
come down to us. But the book contains in this dress of a
narrative, descriptions of manners, partly of single places (for
example of Croton), partly of certain classes (for example of
Trimalchio, a rich upstart, who apes the manners of a refined man
of the world, but exposes himself most ridiculously, of
Encolpius, a good-natured, cowardly and licentious Greek, of
Eumolpus, a vain and tasteless poet, and at the same time a
thoroughly demoralized preacher of virtue), all drawn with
masterly truthfulness even to the minutest detail. The tone is
humorous throughout; the dramatis personæ act and speak,
even in the most offensive circumstances, with an openness,
unconcern and self-satisfaction, as if they had the most
undoubted right to be and think as they do; at the same time, a
vein of gentle irony pervades the whole, which indicates the
author's moral independence and higher standpoint, as well as his
sincere gratification at the amusing and filthy scenes which he
describes; he accompanies his heroes at every step with a smile
on his lips and a low laugh. The work belongs therefore, by its
contents as well as its tone, to the department of satire,
resembling in tone Horace, in form the
"For not only does the language occasionally pass over from prose
to verse (limping iambs and trochees), but entire poems of
greater extent are interwoven
(Troiæ Halosis and Bellum
which are usually
put in the mouth of Eumolpus, and which always have a satirical object,
sometimes a double one, as in the case with the Bellum Civile, which
ridicules Lucan, as well as his opponents
personified by Eumolpus, the writer with genuine humor placing
himself above both, and dealing against both his blows with
impartial justice. The language is always suited to the
character of the persons speaking, elegant in Encolpius,
bombastic in Trimalchio. The language put in the mouth of the
last is for us an invaluable specimen of the lingua Romana
rustica, as it obtained in that part of Italy where the scene
is laid,-- in Campania, and especially Naples. In conformity
with the originally Greek character of this region, the language
of Trimalchio and his companions is full of Greek words and
Grecisms of the boldest kind (such as coupling the neuter plural
with the verb in the singular). Characteristic of the local
dialect are the many archaisms, compounds not known in the
written language, the frequent solecisms, the many proverbial and
extravagant expressions, the numerous oaths and curses."
A brilliant passage from Emile Thomas' remarkable study of
Petronius and contemporary Roman
society, entitled, "Petrone: L'Envers de
la Société Romaine" (Paris, 1902), may
fitly sum up the situation. "This romance," he writes,
"such delightful and at
the same time such difficult reading, a work at once exquisite
and repulsive, gives us by virtue of its defects no less than of
its merits a fairly adequate representation of the under-side
of Roman civilization. Would it not be a gain, and a
great one, for the systematic history of morals and literature at
Rome to restore this work to its proper place? and is not this
place pretty well identical, barring of course the difference of
field and form, with that reserved in Greek Art for the vases,
statuettes and pottery of Tanagra, and of the periods before and
after Tanagra; in one word, whatever allows us to comprehend, or
at least get a glimpse of, the Ancient world under the aspects of
its everyday life? Everybody knows how successful has been the
revolution, and how fruitful in results, which has been brought
about under our own eyes in these departments of Greek History
"Well! here (in Petronius) we have among the authors of Rome a
veritable genre painter, of a sort to take the place for us, at
any rate in part, of the graceful vase-paintings of Antiquity, as
well as of the grotesques of Greek art.
"From yet another aspect, not a few points of resemblance may be
detected between Petronius and the lighter literary productions,
novels, tales, burlesque narratives, vers de societe, and
even journals, of the last two Centuries. Our Author is refined,
not to say blasé, but none the less inquisitive, full both
of sagacity and
passion, always exact, and above and beyond all else, a supreme
master of style. Laying aside all false delicacy, let us hear
what he has to tell us of the daily routine, of the outward
aspect, and even of the hidden secrets, of Roman existence.
Nowhere else has human life been lived on an ampler scale; no
other people, no other society, has ever displayed so much
variety, so many contrasts, such heights of grandeur and such
depths of degradation."
ALFRED R. ALLINSON.
Such a long time has passed since first I promised you the story of my adventures I am resolved
to keep my word today, seeing we are happily met together to season those matters with lively
conversation and tales of a merry and diverting sort.
Fabricius Veiento was discoursing very wisely to us just now on the follies of superstition,
exposing the various forms of priestly charlatanry, the holy men's mania for prophecy, and the
effrontery they display in expounding mysteries they very often utterly fail to comprehend
themselves. Is it not much the same type of madness that afflicts our declaimers, who shout:
"These wounds I got, defending our common liberties; this eye I lost in your behalf. Give me a
helping hand to lead me to my children, for my poor maimed limbs refuse to bear my weight."
Even such extravagances might be borne, if they really served to guide beginners in the way of
eloquence; but all pupils gain by these high-flown themes, these empty sounding phrases, is
this, that on entering the forum they imagine themselves transported into a new and strange
This is the reason, in my opinion, why young men grow up such blockheads in the schools,
because they neither see nor hear one single thing connected with the usual circumstances of
everyday life, nothing but stuff about pirates lurking on the seashore with fetters in their hands,
tyrants issuing edicts to compel sons to cut off their own fathers' heads, oracles in times of
pestilence commanding three virgins or more to be sacrificed to stay the plague,-- honey-sweet,
well-rounded sentences, words and facts alike as it were, besprinkled with poppy and
Under such a training it is no more possible to acquire good taste than it is not to stink, if you live
in a kitchen. Give me leave to tell you that you rhetoricians are chiefly to blame for the ruin of
Oratory, for with your silly, idle phrases, meant only to tickle the ears of an audience, you have
enervated and deboshed the very substance of true eloquence.
Young men were not bound down to declamations in the days when Sophocles and Euripides
found the very words they wanted to best express their meaning. No cloistered professor had as
yet darkened men's intellects, when Pindar and the nine Lyric bards shrank from emulating the
Homeric note. And not to cite poets exclusively,-- I cannot see that either Plato or Demosthenes
ever practised this sort of mental exercise. A noble, and so to say chaste, style is not overloaded
with ornament, not turgid; its own natural beauty gives it elevation.
Then after a while this windy, extravagant deluge of words invaded Athens from Asia, and like a
malignant star, blasting the minds of young men aiming at lofty ideals, instantly broke up all
rules of art and struck eloquence dumb. Since that day who has reached the perfection of
Thucydides, the glory of Hyperides? Nay! not a poem has been written of bright and wholesome
complexion; but all, as if fed on the same unhealthy diet, have lacked stamina to attain old age.
Painting moreover shared the same fate, after Egypt presumptuously invented a compendious
method for that noble Art.
Such and suchlike reflections I was indulging in one day before a numerous audience, when
Agamemnon came up, curious to see who it was they were listening to so attentively. Well! he
declined to allow me to declaim longer in the Portico than he had himself sweated in the schools
but: "Young man," he cries, "seeing your words are something better than mere popular
commonplaces, and-- a very rare occurrence-- you are an admirer of sound sense, I will confide
to you a professional secret. In the choice of these exercises it is not the masters that are to
blame. They are forced to be just as mad as all the rest; for if they refuse to teach what pleases
their scholars, they will be left, as Cicero says,
to lecure to empty benches. Just as false-hearted sycophants, scheming for a seat at a rich man's
table, make it their chief business to discover what will be most agreeable hearing to their host,
for indeed their only way to gain their end is by cajolement and flattery; so a professor of
Rhetoric, unless like a fisherman he arm his hook with the bait he knows the fish will take, may
stand long enough on his rock without a chance of success.
"Whose fault is it then? It is the parents deserve censure, who will not give their children the
advantages of a strict training. In the first place their hopes, like everything else, are centered in
ambition, and so being impatient to see their wishes fulfilled, they hurry lads into the forum
when still raw and half taught, and indue mere babes with the mantle of eloquence, an art they
admit themselves to be equaled by none in difficulty. If only they would let them advance step
by step in their tasks, so that serious students might be broken in by solid reading, steady their
minds with the precepts of philosophy, chasten their style with unsparing correction, study deep
and long what they propose to imitate, and refuse to be dazzled by puerile graces, then and then
only would the grand old type of Oratory recover its former authority and stateliness.
Nowadays, boys waste their time at school; as youths, they are jeered at in the forum, and what is
worse than either, no one will
acknowledge, as an old man, the faultiness of the teaching he received in his younger
"But that you may not imagine I disapprove of satirical impromptus in the Lucilian vein, I will
myself throw my notions on this matter into verse:
"He that would be an orator, must strive
To follow out the discipline of old,
And heed the laws of stern frugality;
Not his to haunt the Court with fawning brow,
Nor sit a flatterer at great folks' boards;
Not his with boon companions o'er the wine
To overcloud his brain, nor at the play
To sit and clap, agape at actors' tricks.
But whether to Tritonia's famous halls
The Muses lead his steps, or to those walls
That Spartan exiles rear'd or where
The Sirens' song thrill'd the enraptured air
Of all his tasks let Poesy be first,
And Homer's verse the fount to quench his thirst.
Soon will be master deep Socratic lore,
And wield the arms Demosthenes erst bore.
Then to new modes must he in turn be led,
And Grecian wit to Roman accents wed.
Nor in the forum only will he find
Meet occupation for his busy mind;
On books he'll feast, the poet's words of fire,
Heroic tales of War and Tully's patriot ire,
Such be thy studies; then, whate'er the theme,
Pour forth thine eloquence in copious stream."
Listening attentively to the speaker, I never noticed
that Ascyltos had given me the slip; and I was still walking up and down in the gardens full of the
burning words I had heard, when a great mob of students rushed into the Portico. Apparently
these had just come from hearing an impromptu lecture of some critic or other who had been
cutting up Agamemnon's speech. So whilst the lads were making fun of his sentiments and
abusing the arrangement of the whole discourse, I seized the opportunity to escape, and started
off at a run in pursuit of Ascyltos. But I was heedless about the road I followed, and indeed felt
by no means sure of the situation of our inn, the result being that whichever direction I took, I
presently found myself back again at my starting point. At last, exhausted with running and
dripping with sweat, I came across a little old woman, who was selling
"Prithee, good mother," say I, "can you tell me where I live?" Charmed with the quiet absurdity
of my question, "Why certainly!" she replied; and getting up, went on before me. I thought she
must be a witch; but presently, when we had arrived at a rather shy neighborhood, the obliging
old lady drew back the curtain of a doorway, and said, "Here is where you ought to
I was just protesting I did not know the house, when I catch sight of mysterious figures prowling
between rows of name-boards, and naked harlots. Then when
too late, I saw I had been brought into a house of ill fame. So cursing the old woman's falseness,
I threw my robe over my head and made a dash right through the brothel to the opposite door,
when lo! just on the threshold, whom should I meet but Ascyltos, fagged out and half dead like
myself? You would have thought the very same old hag had been his conductress. I made him a
mocking bow, and asked him what he was doing in such a disreputable
Wiping the sweat from his face with both hands, he replied, "If you only knew what happened to
"Why! what has happened?" said I.
Then in a faint voice he went on, "I was wandering all over the town, without being able to
discover where I had left our inn, when a respectable looking man accosted me, and most politely
offered to show me the way. Then after traversing some very dark and intricate alleys, he
brought me where we are, and producing his affair, began begging me to grant him my favors. In
two twos the woman had taken the fee for the room, and the man laid hold of me; and if I had not
proved the stronger, I should have fared very ill indeed."
While Ascyltos was thus recounting his adventures, up came his respectable friend again,
accompanied by a woman of considerable personal attractions, and addressing himself to
Ascyltos, besought him to enter, assuring him he had nothing to fear, and that as he would
not consent to play the passive, he should do the active part. The woman on her side was very
anxious I should go with her. Accordingly we followed the pair, who led us among the
name-boards, where we saw in the chambers persons of both sexes behaving in such fashion I
concluded they must every one have been drinking satyrion. On seeing us, they endeavored to
allure us to sodomy with enticing gestures; and suddenly one fellow with his clothes well tucked
up assails Ascyltos, and throwing him down on a bed, tries to get to work a-top of him. I spring
to the sufferer's rescue, and uniting our efforts, we make short work of the ruffian. Ascyltos bolts
out of the house, and away, leaving me to escape their beastly advances as best I might; but
discovering I was too strong for them and in no mood for trifling, they left me
After running about almost over the city, I caught sight of Giton, as it were a fog, standing at the
corner of an alley close to the door of our inn, and hurried to join him. I asked my favorite
whether he had got anything ready for our dinner, whereupon the lad sat down on the bed and
began wiping away the tears with his thumb. Much disturbed at my favorite's distress, I
demanded what had happened. For a long time I could not drag a word out of him, not indeed till
I had added threats to prayers. Then he reluctantly told me. "That favorite or comrade of yours
came into our lodging just
now, and set to work to force me. When I screamed he drew a sword and said, 'If you're a
Lucretia, you've found a Tarquin'."
Hearing this, I exclaimed, shaking my two fists in Ascyltos' face. "What have you to say now,
you pathic prostitute, you, whose very breath is abominable?" Ascyltos feigned extreme
indignation, and immediately repeated my gesture with greater emphasis, crying in still louder
tones, "Will you hold your tongue, you filthy gladiator, who after murdering your host, had luck
enough to escape from the criminals' cage at the Amphitheater? Will you hold your tongue, you
midnight cut-throat, who never, when at your bravest, durst face an honest woman? Didn't I
serve you for a minion in an orchard, just as this lad does now in an
"Did you or did you not," I interrupted, "sneak off from the master's
"What was I to do, fool, when I was dying of hunger? Stop and listen to a string of phrases no
better than the tinkling of broken glass or the nonsensical interpretations in dream books? By
great Hercules, you are dead baser than I; to compass a dinner you have condescended to flatter a
Poet!" This ended our unseemly wrangle, and we both burst into a fit of laughter, and proceeded
to discuss other matters in a more peaceable tone.
But the recollection of his late violence coming over
me afresh, "Ascyltos," I said, "I see we cannot get on together; so let us divide between us our
bits of common funds, and each try to make head against poverty on his own bottom. You are a
scholar; so am I. I don't wish to spoil your profits, so I'll take up another line. Else shall we find
a thousand causes of quarrel every day, and soon make ourselves the talk of the
Ascyltos raised no objection, merely saying, "For today, as we have accepted, in our quality of
men of letters, an invitation to dine out, don't let us lose our evening; but tomorrow, since you
wish it, I will look out for a new lodging and another bedfellow."
"Poor work," said I, "putting off the execution of a good plan." It was really my naughty passions
that urged me to so speedy a parting; indeed I had been long wishing to be rid of his jealous
observation, in order to renew my old relations with my sweet Giton. Ascyltos, mortally
offended at my remark, rushed out of the room without another word. So sudden a departure
boded ill; for I knew his ungovernable temper and the strength of his passions. So I went after
him, to keep an eye on his doings and guard against their consequences; but he slipped adroitly
out of my sight, and I wasted a long time in a fruitless search for the
After looking through the whole city, I came back to my little room, and now at length claiming
my full tale of kisses, I clip my darling lad in the tightest of
embraces; my utmost hopes of bliss are fulfilled to the envy of all mankind. The rites were not
yet complete, when Ascyltos crept up stealthily to the door, and violently bursting in the bolts,
caught me at play with his favorite. His laughter and applause filled the room, and tearing off the
mantle that covered us, "Why! what are you after," he cries, "my sainted friend? What! both
tucked cozily under one coverlet?" Nor did he stop at words, but detaching the strap from his
wallet, he fell to thrashing me with no perfunctory hand, seasoning his blows with insulting
remarks. "This is the way you divide stock with a comrade, is it? Not so fast, my friend." So
unexpected was the attack I was obliged to put up with the blows in
Accordingly I took the matter as a joke, and it was well I did so; otherwise I should have had to
fight my rival. My counterfeited merriment calmed his anger, and he even smiled faintly. "Look
you, Encolpius," said he, "are you so buried in your pleasures, you never reflect that our money is
exhausted, and the trifles we have left are valueless. Town is good for nothing in the summer
days; there'll be better luck in the country. Let's go visit our friends."
Necessity constrained me to approve his advice and restrain the expression of my resentment.
So, loading Giton with our scanty baggage, we quitted the city and made our way to the country
house of Lycurgus, a Roman knight. Ascyltos had been a minion in former days, so he gave us
an excellent reception, and the company assembled there rendered our entertainment still more
delightful. First and foremost was Tryphaena, a very handsome woman, who had come with
Lichas, master of a ship and owner of estates near the seacoast.
Words cannot describe the pleasures we enjoyed in this most delightful spot, though Lycurgus's
table was frugal enough. You must know we lost no time in pairing off as lovers. The lovely
Tryphaena was my fancy, and readily acceded to my wishes. But scarcely was I in enjoyment of
her favors, when Lichas, furious at his lady-love being filched from him, insisted I must
indemnify him for the injury done him. She had long been his mistress; so he made the festive
proposal that I should make good his loss in person. He pressed me passionately;
but Tryphaena possessing my heart, my ears were deaf to his importunities. My refusal made
him still more eager and he followed me about like a dog, and actually came into my chamber
one night. Finding his entreaties scorned, he tried to force me; but I shouted so loudly I roused
the household and by favor of Lycurgus's countenance was saved from the ruffian's
Eventually thinking Lycurgus's house inconvenient for his purpose, he endeavored to persuade
me to be his guest. When I refused his invitation, he got Tryphaena to use her influence. The
latter begged me to comply with Lichas's wishes, what made her so ready to do so being the
prospect of leading a more independent life there. Accordingly I follow where my love leads the
way. But Lycurgus, having renewed his former relations with Ascyltos, would not let him go.
So we agreed that he should stop with Lycurgus, whilst we accompanied Lichas, resolving at the
same time that, as opportunity offered, we should each and all lay hands on anything handy for
the common stock.
My consent delighted Lichas beyond measure. He hurried on our departure all he could, and
forthwith bidding our friends farewell, we arrived the same day at his house. Lichas had cleverly
arranged it in such a way that he sat beside me during the journey, while Tryphaena was next to
Giton. This he had contrived because he knew the woman's notorious fickleness, and
the result justified his expectations. In fact she instantly fell in love with the lad, as I saw easily
enough. Lichas moreover made a point of drawing my attention to the circumstance, and assured
me there was no doubt about it. This made me receive his advances more complacently, at which
he was overjoyed. He felt certain the injury my mistress was doing me would turn my love into
contempt, and that consequently out of pique against Tryphaena, I should be the more disposed to
welcome his proposals.
Such was the state of affairs under Lichas's roof. Tryphaena was desperately enamored of Giton;
Giton's whole heart was aflame for Tryphaena; I hated the sight of both; while Lichas, studying
to please me, contrived some fresh diversion every day. Doris, his pretty wife, eagerly seconded
his efforts, and that so charmingly she soon drove Tryphaena from my heart. A wink informed
Doris of the state of my feelings, and she returned the compliment with alluring glances; so that
this mute language, anticipating the tongue, furtively expressed the mutual liking we had
simultaneously conceived for one another.
I soon saw Lichas was jealous, and this made me cautious; while the quick eyes of love had
already revealed to the wife the husband's designs on me. The first opportunity we had of
conversing together, she announced her discovery to me. I frankly admitted the fact, and
told her how austerely I had always treated his advances. But like a wise, discreet woman, she
only said, "Well! well! we must act judiciously in the matter." I followed her advice, and found
that, to yield to the one was to win the other.
Meanwhile, while Giton was recruiting his exhausted strength, Tryphaena was for returning to
me; but on my repulsing her overtures, her love changed into furious hate. Nor was the ardent
little wanton long in discovering my dealings both with husband and wife. The former's
naughtiness with me she made light of, for she lost nothing by it; but she went savagely for Doris
and her secret pleasures. She denounced her to Lichas, whose jealousy proving stronger than his
love, he prepared for revenge. However Doris, warned by Tryphaena's maid to look out for
storms, refrained from any clandestine meetings for the present.
As soon as I learned the truth, cursing at once Tryphaena's perfidy and Lichas's ingratitude, I
made up my mind to be gone. Fortune moreover was in my favor; for the very day before a
vessel, dedicated to Isis and laden with rich offerings for the feast of the goddess, had run ashore
on the rocks of the neighboring coast.
I talked the matter over with Giton, and he readily enough agreed to my plan, for Tryphaena, after
draining him of his strength, was now openly neglecting him. Accordingly we set off betimes
next day for the coast,
and easily got aboard the wreck as we were known to Lichas's servants, who were in charge. But
finding they insisted on attending us everywhere out of politeness, so stopping any chance of
looting, I left Giton with them and seizing an opportunity to get away by myself, crept into the
poop, where stood the image of Isis. This I robbed of a rich mantle and a silver sistrum, besides
appropriating other valuables from the Captain's cabin. This done, I slipped down a
mooring-rope without anybody seeing me except Giton, who likewise eluded the men in charge
before very long and sneaked after me.
On his coming up, I showed him my booty, and we resolved to make the best of our way to
Ascyltos, but we could not reach Lycurgus's house till next day. Arrived there, I gave Ascyltos a
brief account of the robbery, and of our untoward love adventures. His advice was to get
Lycurgus on our side, telling him that fresh persecutions on the part of Lichas had determined our
sudden and secret flight. When he heard this Lycurgus took an oath he would never fail us as a
bulwark against our enemies.
Our flight was not observed until Tryphaena and Doris awoke and got up; for every morning we
made a point of attending these ladies' toilette. Our unwonted absence therefore being noticed,
Lichas dispatched messengers to look for us, particularly to the seashore. From them he heard of
our having visited the ship, but
not a word about the robbery. This was still undiscovered, because the poop lay seawards, and
the Master had not as yet returned to his vessel.
Eventually, when no doubt remained as to our flight, which annoyed Lichas extremely, the latter
turned furiously upon Doris, considering her to be responsible for it. I will not describe his
language nor the violence he indulged in towards her; indeed I do not know the details. Enough
to say that Tryphaena, the originator of all the disturbance, prevailed on Lichas to go and look for
us at Lycurgus's house, as being our most likely place of refuge, choosing herself to accompany
him thither, that she might find opportunity to load us with the abuse and scorn we had so well
merited at her hands.
Setting out next day, they arrived at the mansion. We were not at home, Lycurgus having taken
us to a feast of Hercules that was being celebrated at a neighboring village. Learning this, they
followed us in all haste, and came up with us in the Portico of the Temple. Their appearance
disconcerted us not a little. Lichas instantly began to complain bitterly of our running away to
Lycurgus; but was met with such an angry brow and haughty air by the latter, that plucking up a
spirit, I loudly cried shame on his lecherous attempts on my person both under Lycurgus's roof
and his own. Tryphaena interfered, but got the worst of it, too, for I proclaimed her baseness to
the crowds of people our
altercation had attracted, and in token of the truth of my allegations, I showed them Giton pale
and bloodless and myself brought to death's door by the strumpet's wantonness. The crowd burst
into loud shouts of laughter, which so abashed our adversaries that they withdrew, crestfallen and
Perceiving we had quite won Lycurgus over, they determined to wait for him at his own house, in
order to disabuse his mind of this prepossession in our favor. The solemnities finished too late
for us to return to the mansion that night; so Lycurgus took us to a country lodge of his situated
halfway thither. Here he left us next morning still asleep, while he went home himself to attend
to the dispatch of business. He found Lichas and Tryphaena waiting for him there, who talked
him over so cleverly, they actually persuaded him to deliver us up into their hands. Lycurgus, a
man naturally cruel and treacherous, meditating how best to betray us, urged Lichas to go for
help, while he went himself to the lodge to secure our capture.
Arrived there, he accosted us with as harsh a mien as ever Lichas might have been expected to
show; then, wringing his hands, he upbraided us with our falsehood to Lichas, and ordered us to
be kept fast prisoners in the chamber where we lay, excluding Ascyltos and refusing to hear a
word from him in our defense. Taking
the latter with him to his mansion, he left us behind in custody till his
On the journey Ascyltos tried in vain to modify Lycurgus's determination, but neither prayers,
caresses nor tears would move him. Accordingly our comrade conceived the idea of setting us at
liberty by other means. Indignant at Lycurgus's harshness, he positively refused to sleep with
him, and so found himself in a better position to carry out the plan he had
Waiting till the household were buried in their first sleep, he took our bits of baggage on his
shoulders, and slipping through a breach in the wall he had previously marked, he reached the
lodge at daybreak. Entering the house unopposed, he sought our room, which the guards had
taken care to secure. There was little difficulty in opening the door, for the bolt being of wood,
he loosened this by inserting an iron bar. Presently the lock dropped off, and awoke us in falling,
for we were snoring away in spite of our unhappy situation. Yet so sound asleep were our
guards, being tired out with watching, that the crash roused no one but
Then Ascyltos, entering our prison, briefly told us what he had done for us, nor indeed were
many words necessary. While we were busy dressing, it occurred to me to kill the watchmen and
loot the house. I confided my notion to Ascyltos, who approved of the robbery, but said we
could gain our ends better without
bloodshed. Accordingly, knowing as he did all the ins and outs of the premises, he led us to the
store chamber, the doors of which he undid. Appropriating the more valuable of the contents, we
made off while it was still early morning, and avoiding the public roads, never stopped till we
deemed ourselves safe from pursuit.
Hereupon Ascyltos, taking
breath, declared emphatically what delight he had felt in pillaging Lycurgus's house. He was an
arrant miser, he said, and had given him good reason to complain; while he had never paid him a
farthing for his nights' work, he had at the same time kept him on very short commons and the
thinnest of drink. So niggardly indeed was the fellow that notwithstanding his boundless wealth,
he used to deny himself the barest necessaries of
Unhappy Tantalus, with plenty curst,
'Mid fruits for hunger faints, 'mid streams
The Miser's emblem! who of all possess'd,
Yet fears to taste, in blessings most unbless'd.
Ascyltos was for returning to Naples that same day. "But surely," said I, "it is acting imprudently
to go to the very place of all others where they are most likely to look for us. Let us keep away
for a while and ramble about the country. We have the means to do it in comfort." My advice
was approved, and we set out
for a hamlet embellished with a number of agreeable country residences, where several of our
familiars were enjoying the pleasures of the season. But scarcely had we covered half the
distance when a storm of rain coming down in bucketfuls compelled us to fly for shelter to the
nearest village. Entering the inn, we found a crowd of other travelers who had turned in there to
escape the inclemency of the weather.
The throng prevented our attracting notice, which made it all the easier for us to pry about in
search of anything we could appropriate. Ascyltos picked up from the floor, quite unobserved, a
little bag containing a number of gold pieces. We were delighted at this lucky beginning; but
fearing some one might claim the money, we stole away by the back door. There we found a
servant saddling some horses, who at that moment left them to go back to the house for
something he had forgotten. Profiting by his absence, I snatched a superb riding-cloak from a
saddle, undoing the straps that fastened it. This done, we made off into the nearest wood under
cover of some outhouses.
Sitting down in the depths of the wood, where we were in comparative safety, we held a council
of war about concealing the gold, not wishing either to be accused of the theft or to be robbed of
it ourselves. Finally we decided to sew it up in a hem of an old threadbare tunic, which I threw
round my shoulders, and entrusting
the cloak to Ascyltos, we prepared to start for the city by way of bypaths. But just as we were
quitting the forest, we hear a voice pronounce these terrible words: "They shan't escape. They've
gone into the wood; and if we spread out and search everywhere, they'll easily be
These words filled us with such consternation that Ascyltos and Giton dashed away through the
bushes in the direction of the city; while I stepped back so hurriedly that, without my knowing it,
the precious tunic slipped from my shoulders. At length, tired out and unable to go a step further,
I lay down under a tree, and then for the first time discovered my loss. Vexation gave me new
strength, and starting up again to look for the treasure, I wandered up and down for a long time in
vain, till worn out with toil and trouble I plunged into the darkest recesses of the forest, where I
remained for four weary hours. Sick at last of the horrible solitude, I sought a way out, but as I
advanced I caught sight of a peasant. Then indeed I wanted all my assurance, and it did not fail
me. Going boldly up to him, I asked my way to the city, complaining I had been lost for ever so
long in the wood. He led me very civilly into the high road, where he came upon two of his
comrades, who reported they had searched all the paths through the forest, but had found nothing
except a tunic which they showed him.
I had not the impudence to claim the garment, as may be supposed. My vexation redoubled, and
I uttered many a groan over my lost gold.
Thus it was already late when I reached the city. Entering the inn, I found Ascyltos stretched half
dead on a bed. Disturbed at not seeing the tunic intrusted to my care, Ascyltos eagerly demanded
it. After a while my strength came back a little, and I then told him the whole misadventure; but
he thought I was joking, and though an appealing flood of tears further confirmed my
asseverations, he remained obviously incredulous, thinking I wanted to cheat him out of the
money. But after all, what most troubled our minds was the hue and cry after us. I mentioned
this to Ascyltos, but he made light of it, having managed to extricate himself successfully from
the affair. Besides he was convinced we were safe enough, for we were not known, and nobody
had set eyes on us. Still we thought it advisable to feign sickness, so as to have a pretext for
keeping our room the longer. But our cash running short, we had to go abroad sooner than we
had intended, and under the spur of necessity to sell some of our
On the approach of night we took our way to the market-place, where we saw an abundance of
goods for sale, not indeed articles of any great value, but rather such as needed the kindly veil of
darkness, considering their rather shady origin. Thither we also conveyed our stolen
riding-cloak, and seizing the opportunity, displayed a corner of it in a quiet spot, hoping a buyer
might be attracted by the beauty of the garment.
It was not long before a countryman, whose face seemed somehow familiar to me, approached in
company with a young woman, and began to examine the cloak minutely. On the other part
Ascyltos, casting his eye on the rustic customer's shoulders, was instantly struck dumb with
surprise. Nor could I myself avoid some perturbation of mind when I saw him; for he appeared
to be the identical peasant who had found our old tunic in the loneliness of the wood. Yes! he
was the very man. But Ascyltos, afraid to trust his eyes and anxious not to do anything rash, first
went up to the
fellow as a would-be purchaser, drew the tunic from his shoulders and began to scrutinize it
By a wonderful stroke of luck the rustic had not as yet had the curiosity to search the seams, but
was offering the thing for sale with an indifferent air as some beggar-man's leavings. When
Ascyltos saw our money was intact and that the vendor was a person of no great account, he drew
me a little aside from the throng and said, "Do you observe, comrade, our treasure that I was
regretting as lost is come back again? That is our tunic and it seems to have the gold pieces in it
still: they haven't been touched. But what can we do about it? How are we to prove
ownership?" I was greatly cheered not only at beholding our loot once more, but also because I
thus found myself freed from a villainous suspicion, and at once declared against any sort of
beating about the bush. I advised we should bring a civil action right out to compel him to give
up the property to its rightful owners by law, if he refused to do so
Not so Ascyltos, who had a wholesome fear of the law. "Who knows us," he said, "in this place,
or will believe what we say? My own strong opinion is we should buy the property, our own
though it be, now we see it, and rather pay a small sum to recover our treasure than get mixed up
in a lawsuit, the issue of which is uncertain."
What worth our laws, when pelf alone is king,
When to be poor is to be always wrong?
The Cynic sage himself, stern moralist,
Is not averse to sell his words for gold;
Justice is bought, the highest bidder wins,
A partial Judge directs a venal Court.
But alas! except for a brace of copper coins, which we had purposed to spend on lupines and
peas, we were penniless just then. So, for fear the prey might escape us meanwhile, we resolved
to part with the cloak at a lower price, making the profit on the one transaction balance the loss
on the other. Accordingly we spread out our merchandise; but the woman who had hitherto been
standing beside the countryman closely muffled, now suddenly, after carefully scanning certain
marks on the cloak, laid hold of the hem with both hands, and screamed out "Stop, thieves! Stop,
thieves!" at the top of her voice.
At this we were not a little disconcerted, but that we might not seem to acquiesce without a
protest, we in our turn seized the tattered, filthy tunic, and declared no less spitefully it was our
goods they had in their possession. But our case was far from being on all fours with theirs; and
the crowd, that had gathered at the outcry, began to make fun of our impertinent claim, and not
unnaturally, when on the one side they asserted their right to a most valuable cloak, but we to this
hardly worth mending. However Ascyltos adroitly stopped their ridicule by crying out, directly
he could get a hearing, "Well! look you, every man likes his own property best; let 'em give us up
our tunic, and they shall have their cloak."
Both the rustic and the young woman were ready enough to make the exchange; but a couple of
attorneys, or to give them their true name, night-prowlers, who wanted to appropriate the cloak
themselves, demanded that both the articles in dispute should be deposited with them, and the
Judge look into the case in the morning; for not only must the ownership of these be investigated,
but quite another question altogether as well, to wit, a suspicion of theft on the part of both
The bystanders were by this time all in favor of sequestration, and an individual in the crowd, a
bald man with a very pimply face, who was in the habit of undertaking occasional jobs for the
lawyers, impounded the cloak, saying he would produce it on the morrow. But the real object
was self-evident, that the knavish crew having once got hold of the article in question, they might
smuggle it out of the way, while we should be scared by the fear of a charge of theft from putting
in an appearance at the appointed time. This was very much what we wanted ourselves, and luck
seconded the wishes of both parties. For the countryman, indignant at our requiring the surrender
of an old rag, threw the
tunic in Ascyltos's face, and withdrawing his own claim altogether, merely demanded the
sequestration of the cloak as the only object of litigation. Having thus recovered our treasure, as
we felt, we rush off full speed for our inn, and bolting the room door, start making merry over the
astuteness both of our opponents and of the crowd, who had exercised so much ingenuity in
giving us back our money!
As we were unstitching the tunic to take out the gold pieces, we overheard some one asking the
innkeeper what kind of people they were who had just entered his house. Terrified at the
question, I went down after he had gone, to see what was the matter, and found that a Pretor's
lictor, whose duty it was to see the names of strangers entered in the public registers, had seen
two such enter the inn, whose names he had not yet taken down, and was therefore making
inquiries as to their nationality and business. This information the inn-keeper gave in such an
offhand manner as made me suspect his house was not altogether a safe place for us; so, to avoid
the chance of arrest, we determined to leave the place and not return till after dark. Accordingly
we sallied forth, leaving the care of providing our dinner to Giton.
As our wish was to avoid the frequented streets, we went by way of the more lonely districts of
the city. Towards nightfall we met in a remote spot two
respectably robed and good-looking women, and followed them slowly and softly to a small
temple, which they entered, and from which a strange humming was audible, like the sound of
voices issuing from the recesses of a cavern. Curiosity impelled us likewise to enter the temple,
and there we beheld a number of women, resembling Bacchantes, each brandishing an emblem of
Priapus in her right hand. This was all we were permitted to see; for the instant they caught sight
of us, they set up such a shouting the vault of the sacred building trembled, and tried to seize hold
of us. But we fled as fast as our legs would carry us back to our inn.
Scarcely had we eaten our fill of the dinner Giton had provided us, when the door resounded with
a most imperative knocking. Turning pale, we demanded, "Who's there?"-- "Open the door," was
the answer, "and you'll find out." We were still arguing when the bolt tumbled off of itself, the
door flew open and admitted our visitor. This was a woman with her head muffled, the very
same who a little time before had been standing by the countryman's side in the market. "Ah,
ha!" she cried, "did you suppose you had really made a fool of me? I am Quartilla's maid,
Quartilla whose devotions before the grotto you disturbed. She is coming in person to the inn,
and begs to speak with you. Do not be afraid; she brings no accusation, and has no wish to
punish your fault. She only wonders what god
it was brought such genteel young men into her district."
We were still dumb, not knowing in the least what kind of response to give, when the mistress
herself entered, accompanied only by a young girl, and sitting down on my couch, wept for ever
so long. Not even then had we a word to offer, but looked on in amazement at this tearful
display of pretended grief. When the enticing shower had exhausted itself, she drew back the
hood that concealed her haughty features, and wringing her hands till the finger joints cracked,
"What means this recklessness?" she cried; "wherever have you learned these knavish tricks that
for audacity outdo the heroes of the story-books. By heaven! I pity you! for be sure no man ever
looked with impunity on forbidden sights. Truly our neighborhood is so well stocked with
deities to hand, you will easier meet with a god than a man. But don't imagine I've come here
vindictively; I'm more moved by your youth than angered by the wrong you have done me. It
was in sheer ignorance, I still think, you committed your unpardonable act of
"Last night I was grievously tormented, and shaken with such alarming tremblings, I dreaded an
attack of tertian ague. So in my sleep I prayed for a remedy, and was bidden seek you out, that
you might assuage the violence of the complaint by means of a cunning
contrivance also indicated in my dream. But indeed and indeed it is not so much this cure I am
exercised about; what wrings my heart and drives me almost to despair is the dread that in your
youthful levity you may reveal what you saw in the shrine of Priapus, and betray the counsels of
the gods to the common herd. This is why I stretch forth suppliant hands to your knees, and beg
and pray you not to turn into ribaldry and jest our nocturnal rites, nor willingly divulge the secrets
of so many years,-- secrets known to barely a thousand persons all
After this impassioned appeal she again burst into tears, and shaken by mighty sobs, entirely
buried her face and bosom in my couch. Meantime, moved at once by pity and apprehension, I
bade her keep a good heart, and be quite easy on either head. For, I assured her, not one of us
would divulge the mysteries, and moreover, if the god had revealed any extraordinary means of
curing her ague, we would second divine providence, even if it involved danger to
The woman cheered up at this promise, and fell to kissing me thick and fast, and changing from
tears to laughter, combed back with her fingers some stray locks that had escaped from behind
my ears. "I make truce with you," she said, "and withdraw my case against you. But if you had
not agreed about the remedy I am
seeking, I had a posse of men all ready for tomorrow to avenge my wrongs and vindicate my
"Contempt is hateful; what I love is power,
To work my will at my own place and hour.
A wise man's scorn bends the most stubborn will,
The noblest victor he who spares to kill."
Next, clapping her hands together, she suddenly burst into such a fit of laughter as quite alarmed
us. The maid, who had entered first followed suit, and was followed in turn by the little girl who
had come in along with Quartilla.
The whole place reëchoed with their forced merriment; meantime, seeing no reason for
this rapid change of mood, we stand staring now at each other, now at the women. At length says
Quartilla, "I have given express orders that no mortal be admitted into this inn today, that you
may, without interruption, apply the remedy for my ague."
"At this declaration Ascyltos stood for a time appalled; for myself, I turned colder that a Gallic
winter, and was unable to utter a word. Still our numbers somewhat reassured me against any
disaster. After all, they were only three weak women, quite incapable of any serious assault on
us, who if we had nothing else manly about us, were at least of the male sex. Anyway we were
all ready prepared for the fray; in fact I had already so
arranged the couples, that if it came to a fight, I should myself tackle Quartilla, Ascyltos the
waiting-maid, Giton the girl.
In the middle of these reflections, up came Quartilla to me to be cured of her ague; but finding
herself sadly disappointed, she flung out of the house in a rage. Returning after a little, she had
us seized by some unknown bravos and carried off to a magnificent palace.
At this crisis amazement and consternation quite broke our spirit, certain death seeming to stare
us miserably in the face. "I beseech you, lady," I cried, "if you have any sinister design, put us
out of our misery at once; we have done nothing so heinous as to deserve torturing to death."
The maid, whose name was Psyche, now carefully spread a rug on the marble floor, and
endeavored to rouse my member into activity, but it lay cold as a thousand deaths could make it.
Ascyltos had muffled his head in his mantle, having doubtless learned from experience the peril
of meddling with other people's secrets. Meantime Psyche produced two ribbons from her
bosom, and proceeded to tie our hands with one and our feet with the other. Finding myself thus
fettered, "This is not the way," I protested, "for your mistress to get what she wants." "Granted,"
replied the maid; "but I have other remedies to my hand, and surer
So saying, she brought me a goblet full of satyrion, and with quips and cranks and a host of
tales of its virtues, induced me to drain off nearly the whole of the liquor. Then, because he had
slighted her overtures a little before, she poured what was left of the stuff over Ascyltos's back
without his noticing. The latter, seeing the stream of her eloquence dried up, exclaimed, "Well!
and am I not thought worthy to have a drink too?" Betrayed by my laughter, the girl clapped her
hands and cried, "Why! I've given it you already, young man; you've had the whole draft all to
yourself." "What!" put in Quartilla, "has Encolpius drunk up all our stock of satyrion?" and her
sides shook with pretty merriment. Eventually not even Giton could contain his mirth,
particularly when the little girl threw her arms round his neck, and gave the boy, who showed no
signs of reluctance, a thousand kisses.
We should have cried out for help in our unhappy plight, but there was no one to hear us and
besides Psyche pricked my cheeks with her hair pin every time I tried to call upon my fellow
countrymen for succor, while at the same time the other girl threatened Ascyltos with a brush
dipped in satyrion. Finally there entered a catamite, tricked out in a coat of chestnut frieze, and
wearing a sash, who would alternately writhe his buttocks and bump against us, and beslaver us
with the most evil-smelling kisses, until Quartilla, holding a whalebone wand in her hand and
with skirts tucked up, ordered him to give the poor fellows quarter. Then we
all three swore the most solemn oaths the horrid secret should die with
Next a company of wrestlers appeared, who rubbed us over with the proper gymnastic oil, which
was very refreshing. This gradually removed our fatigue and resuming the dinner clothes that we
had taken off, we were then conducted into the adjoining room, where the couches were laid and
all preparations made for an elegant feast in the most sumptuous style. We were requested to
take our places, and the banquet opened with some wonderful hors d'oeuvres, while the
Falernian flowed like water. A number of other courses followed, and we were all but falling
asleep, when Quartilla cried, "Come, come! can you think of sleep, when you know this livelong
night is owed to the service of Priapus?"
Ascyltos was so worn out with all he had gone through he could not keep his eyes open a
moment longer, and the waiting-maid, whom he had scorned and slighted, now proceeded to
daub his face all over with streaks of soot, and bepaint his lips and shoulders as he lay
I too, tired with the persecutions I had endured, was just enjoying forty winks, as they say, while
all the household, within doors and without, had copied my example. Some lay sprawling about
the diners' feet, others propped against the walls, while others snored head to head right
on the threshold. The oil in the lamps had burned low, and they shed a feeble, dying light, when
two Syrian slaves came into the banquet-room to crib a flagon of
Whilst they were greedily fighting for it and scuffling amongst the silver, it parted and broke in
two. At the same moment the table with the silver plate collapsed, and a goblet falling from
perhaps a greater height than the rest, struck the waiting-maid who was lying exhausted on a
couch underneath and cut her head open. She screamed out at the blow, at once discovering the
thieves and awakening some of the drunkards. The Syrians, thus caught in the act, threw
themselves with one accord onto a couch, and started snoring as if they had been asleep ever so
By this time the chief butler had wakened up and put fresh oil into the expiring lamps, while the
other slaves after rubbing their eyes a bit, had resumed their posts, and presently a cymbal-player
came in and roused us all up with a clash of her instruments. So the banquet was resumed, and
Quartilla challenged us to start a fresh carouse, the tinkle of cymbals still further stimulating her
The next to appear is a catamite, the silliest of
mankind and quite worthy of the house, who beat his hands together, gave a groan, and then
spouted the following delightful effusion:
"Who hath a pathic lust,
Then, his poetry exhausted, he spat a most stinking kiss in my face; before long he mounted on
the couch where I lay and exposed me by force in spite of my resistance. He labored hard and
long to bring up my member, but in vain. Streams of gummy paint and sweat poured from his
heated brow, and such a lot of chalk filled the wrinkles of his cheeks, you might have thought his
face was an old dilapidated wall with the plaster crumbling away in the
With Delian vice accurst;
Who loves the pliant thigh,
Quick hand and wanton sigh;
Come hither, come hither, come hither,
Here shall he see
Gross beasts as he,
Lechers of every feather!"
I could no longer restrain my tears, but driven to the last extremity of disgust, "I ask you, lady," I
cried, "is this the 'night-cap' (ambasicoetas) you promised me?" At this she clapped her
hands daintily, exclaiming, "Oh you clever boy! what a pretty wit you have! Of course you didn't
know 'night-cap' is another name for a catamite?" Then, that my comrade might not miss his
share too, I asked her, "Now, on your conscience, is Ascyltos to be the only guest in the room to
"So?" she cried, "why! let Ascyltos have his
'night-cap' too!" In obedience to her order, the catamite now changed his mount, and transferring
his attentions to my friend, set to grinding him under his buttocks and smothering him with
All this while Giton had been standing by, laughing as if his sides would split. Now Quartilla,
catching sight of him, asked with eager curiosity, whose lad he was. When I told her he was my
little favorite, "Why hasn't he kissed me then?" she cried, and calling him to her glued her lips to
his. Next minute she slipped her hand under his clothes, and pulling out his unpractised tool, she
observed, "This will be a very pretty whet tomorrow to our naughty appetite. For today,-- 'After
such a dainty dish, I will taste no common fish!'"
Just as she was saying this, Psyche approached her mistress laughingly and whispered something
in her ear. "Yes! yes!" exclaimed Quartilla, "a capital idea! why should not our little Pannychis
lose her maidenhood! 'tis an excellent opportunity, indeed." Immediately they brought in a pretty
enough little girl, and who did not appear to be more than seven years old the same child who
had accompanied Quartilla on her first visit to our room at the inn. So amid general applause and
indeed at the special request of the company, they began the bridal preparations. I was horrified,
and declared that, while on the one hand Giton, who was a very modest boy, was quite unequal to
such naughtiness, on the
other Pannychis was far too young to endure the treatment a woman must expect. "Why!" said
Quartilla, "is the girl any younger than I was when I first submitted to a man? May Juno, my
patroness, desert me, if I can mind the time when I was a maid. As a child I was naughty with
little boys of my own age, and presently as the years rolled by, with bigger lads, till I reached my
present time of life. Hence I suppose the proverb that says: 'Who carried the calf, may well carry
Fearing my favorite might get into greater troubles if I were not there, I got up to assist at the
By this time Psyche had thrown the bridal veil over the child's head; our pathic friend was
marching in front with a torch; a long procession of drunken women followed, clapping their
hands, having previously decked the marriage bed with a splendid coverlet. Then Quartilla, fired
by the wanton pleasantry, likewise rose from table, and seizing Giton drew him into the chamber.
The lad was not at all loath to go, and even the child manifested very little fear or reluctance at
the name of matrimony.
In due course when they were in bed and the door shut, we sat down on the threshold of the
nuptial chamber, and first of all Quartilla applied an inquisitive eye to a crack in the door
contrived for some such naughty
purpose, and watched their childish dalliance with lecherous intentness. She drew me gently to
her side to enjoy the same spectacle, and our faces being close together as we looked, she would,
at every interval in the performance, twist her lips sideways to meet mine, and kept continually
pecking at me with a sort of furtive kisses.
Suddenly in the midst of these proceedings a prodigious thumping made itself heard at the
entrance door, and whilst everybody was wondering what the unexpected interruption might
mean, we saw a soldier come in, one of the nightwatch, with a drawn sword in his hand and
surrounded by a crowd of young men. The fellow glared about him with bloodshot eyes and
braggadocio airs; presently spying Quartilla, he cried, "What have we here, abandoned woman?
How dare you make game of me with your falsehoods and cheat me out of the night you
promised me? But you shan't go unpunished, I can tell you; you and your lover shall find out you
have a man to deal with."
Obeying the soldier's orders, his comrades now bind Quartilla and myself together, mouth to
mouth, bosom to bosom, and thigh to thigh, in the midst of shouts of laughter. Then the
catamite, still by the soldier's order, began to beslaver me horribly all over with the odious kisses
of his stinking lips-- a treatment I had no means either of escaping from or avoiding. Before long
debauched me, and worked his full will upon my body. Meantime, the satyrion I had drunk a
while before, stirring every fiber to lasciviousness, I began to perform on Quartilla, while she,
fired with a like wantonness, showed no repugnance to the game. The young soldiers burst into
fits of laughter at the ludicrous performance; for, while myself mounted by a vile catamite,
involuntarily and almost without knowing what I was at, I kept moving to him just as fast and
furiously as Quartilla was wriggling under me.
At this moment Pannychis, unaccustomed at her age to love's ardors, raised a sudden cry of pain
and consternation, which the soldiers heard. The poor child was in the act of being ravished, and
the triumphant Giton had won a not bloodless victory. Roused by the sight, the man rushed at
them, and clipped now Pannychis, now Giton, and now both of them together, in his sturdy arms.
The girl burst into tears and besought him to take pity on her tender years; but her prayers were
entirely unavailing, the soldier being only the more excited by her childish charms. All
Pannychis could do was to throw a veil over her face and resign herself to endure whatever fate
might bring her.
But at this crisis who should come to the unfortunate child's rescue, as if she had dropped from
the sky, but the very same old woman who had beguiled me the day I was inquiring my road
home? She burst into the house
with loud cries, declaring that a band of robbers was prowling about the neighborhood while
peaceful citizens were crying in vain for help, the guard being asleep or busy with their victuals,
at any rate nowhere to be found. The soldier, much disturbed at what she said, fled precipitately
from the house and his companions following his example, freed Pannychis from the impending
danger which had threatened her and relieved us all of our terror.
So weary was I by this time of Quartilla's lecherousness that I began to revolve means of escape.
I opened my mind to Ascyltos, who was only too pleased to hear of my purpose, longing to be rid
of Psyche's importunities.
The whole thing would have been plain
enough sailing had not Giton been locked up in the chamber; for we wished to take him with us
and save him from the viciousness of these strumpets. We were anxiously debating the point
when Pannychis fell out of bed, and her weight dragged Giton after her. He was unhurt, but the
child, having given her head a slight knock, raised such an outcry that Quartilla in a fright rushed
headlong into the room, and so gave us an opportunity to escape.
Taking advantage of this opening without an instant's delay, we fly with all speed to our inn and
throwing ourselves into bed, spent the rest of the night in security.
Going abroad next day, we came upon two of Quartilla's fellows who had kidnapped us to her
palace. No sooner did Ascyltos clap eyes on the rascals than he vigorously attacked one of them,
and after beating and seriously wounding him, came to my help against the other. But this last
bore himself so stoutly that he managed to wound us both, though only slightly, escaping himself
without a scratch.
The third day had now arrived, the date appointed for the free banquet at Trimalchio's; but with
so many wounds as we had, we deemed it better policy to fly than to remain where we were. So
we made the best of our way to our inn, and our hurts being only skin-deep after all, we lay in
bed and dressed them with wine and oil.
Still one of the rascals was lying on the ground disabled, and we were afraid we might yet be
discovered. Whilst we were still debating sadly with ourselves how we might best escape the
storm, a slave of Agamemnon's broke into our trembling conclave, crying, "What! don't you
recollect whose entertainment it is this day?-- Trimalchio's, a most elegant personage; he has a
time-piece in his dining-room and a trumpeter specially provided for the purpose keeps him
constantly informed how much of his lifetime is gone." So, forgetting all our troubles, we
proceed to make a careful toilette, and bid Giton, who had always hitherto been very ready to act
as servant, to attend us at the bath.
Meantime in our gala dresses, we began to stroll about, or rather to amuse ourselves by
approaching the different groups of ball-players. Amongst these we all of a sudden catch sight of
a bald-headed old man in a russet tunic, playing ball amid a troupe of long-haired boys. It was
not however so much the boys, though these were well worth looking at, that drew us to the spot,
as the master himself, who wore sandals and was playing with green balls. He never stooped for
a ball that had once touched ground, but an attendant stood by with a sackful, and supplied the
players as they required them. We noticed other novelties too. For two eunuchs were stationed
at opposite points of the circle, one holding a silver chamber-pot, while the other counted the
balls, not those that were in play and flying from hand to hand, but such as fell on the
We were still admiring these refinements of elegance when Menelaus runs up, saying, "See!
that's the gentleman you are to dine with; why! this is really nothing else than a prelude to the
entertainment." He had not finished speaking when Trimalchio snapped his fingers, and at the
signal the eunuch held out the chamber-pot for him, without his ever stopping play. After easing
his bladder, he called for water, and having dipped his hands momentarily in the bowl, dried
them on one of the lads' hair.
There was no time to notice every detail; so we
entered the bath, and after stewing in the sweating-room, passed instantly into the cold chamber.
Trimalchio, after being drenched with unguent, was being rubbed down, not however with
ordinary towels but with pieces of blanketing of the softest and finest wool. Meanwhile three
bagnio doctors were swilling Falernian under his eyes; and seeing how the fellows were brawling
over their liquor and spilling most of it, Trimalchio declared it was a libation they were making
in his particular honor.
Presently muffled in a wrap-rascal of scarlet frieze, he was placed in a litter, preceded by four
running-footmen in tinseled liveries, and a wheeled chair, in which his favorite rode, a little old
young man, sore-eyed and uglier even than his master. As the latter was borne along, a musician
took up his place at this head with a pair of miniature flutes, and played softly to him, as if he
were whispering secrets in his ear. Full of wonder we follow the procession and arrive at the
same moment as Agamemnon at the outer door, on one of the pillars of which was suspended a
tablet bearing the words:
GOING ABROAD WITHOUT THE MASTER'S
SHALL RECEIVE ONE HUNDRED LASHES
Just within the vestibule stood the doorkeeper,
dressed in green with a cherry-colored sash, busy picking peas in a silver dish. Over the
threshold hung a gold cage with a black and white magpie in it, which greeted visitors on their
But as I was staring open-eyed at all these fine sights, I came near tumbling backwards and
breaking my legs. For to the left hand as you entered, and not far from the porter's lodge, a huge
chained dog was depicted on the wall, and written above in capital letters: 'WARE DOG!
'WARE DOG! My companions made merry at my expense; but soon regaining confidence, I fell
to examining the other paintings on the walls. One of these represented a slave-market, the men
standing up with labels round their necks, while in another Trimalchio himself, wearing long
hair, holding a caduceus in his hand and led by Minerva, was entering Rome. Further on, the
ingenious painter had shown him learning accounts, and presently made steward of the estate,
each incident being made clear by explanatory inscriptions. Lastly, at the extreme end of the
portico, Mercury was lifting the hero by the chin and placing him on the highest seat of a
tribunal. Fortune stood by with her cornucopia, and the three Fates, spinning his destiny with a
I noticed likewise in the portico a gang of running-footmen exercising under a trainer. Moreover
I saw in a corner a vast armory; and in a shrine inside were
ranged Lares of silver, and a marble statue of Venus, and a golden casket of ample dimensions, in
which they said the great man's first beard was preserved. I now asked the hall-keeper what were
the subjects of the frescoes in the atrium itself? "The Iliad and Odyssey," he replied, "and on
your left the combat of gladiators given under Laenas."
We had no opportunity of examining the numerous paintings more minutely, having by this time
reached the banquet-hall, at the outer door of which the house-steward sat receiving accounts.
But the thing that surprised me most was to notice on the doorposts of the apartment fasces and
axes fixed up, the lower part terminating in an ornament resembling the bronze beak of a ship, on
which was inscribed:
TO GAIUS POMPEIUS TRIMALCHIO
CINNAMUS HIS TREASURER
Underneath this inscription hung a lamp with two lights, depending from the vaulting. Two
other tablets were attached to the doorposts. One, if my memory serves me, bore the following
ON DECEMBER THIRTIETH AND
OUR MASTER GAIUS DINES ABROAD
The other showed the phases of the moon and the seven planets, while lucky and unlucky days
were marked by distinctive studs.
When, sated with all these fine sights, we were just making for the entrance of the banquet-hall,
one of the slaves, stationed there for the purpose, called out, "Right foot first!" Not unnaturally
there was a moment's hesitation, for fear one of us should break the rule. But this was not all; for
just as we stepped out in line right leg foremost, another slave, stripped of his outer garments,
threw himself before our feet, beseeching us to save him from punishment. Not indeed that his
fault was a very serious one; in point of fact the Intendant's clothes had been stolen when in his
charge at the bath,-- a matter of ten sesterces or so at the outside. So facing about, still right foot
in front, we approached the Intendant, who was counting gold in the hall, and asked him to
forgive the poor man. He looked up haughtily and said, "It's not so much the loss that annoys me
as the rascal's carelessness. He has lost my dinner robes, which a client gave me on my
birthday,-- genuine Tyrian purple, I assure you, though only once dipped. But there! I will
pardon the delinquent at your request."
Deeply grateful for so signal a favor, we now returned to the banquet-hall, where we were met by
the same slave for whom we had interceded, who to our
astonishment overwhelmed us with a perfect storm of kisses, thanking us again and again for our
humanity. "Indeed," he cried, "you shall presently know who it is you have obliged; the master's
wine is the cup-bearer's thank-offering."
Well! at last we take our places, Alexandrian slave-boys pouring snow water over our hands, and
others succeeding them to wash our feet and cleanse our toe-nails with extreme dexterity. Not
even while engaged in this unpleasant office were they silent, but sang away over their work. I
had a mind to try whether all the house servants were singers and accordingly asked for a drink of
wine. Instantly an attendant was at my side, pouring out the liquor to the accompaniment of the
same sort of shrill recitative. Demand what you would, it was the same; you might have
supposed yourself among a troupe of pantomime actors rather than at a respectable citizen's
Then the preliminary course was served in very elegant style. For all were now at table except
Trimalchio, for whom the first place was reserved, by a reversal of ordinary usage. Among the
other hors d'oeuvres stood a little ass of Corinthian bronze with a packsaddle holding
olives, white olives on one side, black on the other. The animal was flanked right and left by
silver dishes, on the rim of which Trimalchio's name was engraved and the weight. On arches
built up in the form of
miniature bridges were dormice seasoned with honey and poppy-seed. There were sausages, too,
smoking hot on a silver grill, and underneath (to imitate coals) Syrian plums and pomegranate
We were in the middle of these elegant trifles when Trimalchio himself was carried in to the
sound of music, and was bolstered up among a host of tiny cushions, a sight that set one or two
indiscreet guests laughing. And no wonder; his bald head poked up out of a scarlet mantle, his
neck was closely muffled, and over all was laid a napkin with a broad purple stripe or laticlave,
and long fringes hanging down either side. Moreover he wore on the little finger of his left hand
a massive ring of silver gilt, and on the last joint of the next finger a smaller ring, apparently of
solid gold, but starred superficially with little ornaments of steel. Nay! to show this was not the
whole of his magnificence, his left arm was bare, and displayed a gold bracelet and an ivory
circlet with a sparkling clasp to put it on.
After picking his teeth with a silver toothpick, "My friends," he began, "I was far from desirous
of coming to table just yet, but that I might not keep you waiting by my own absence, I have
sadly interfered with my own amusement. But will you permit me to finish my game?" A slave
followed him, bearing a draughtsboard of terebinth wood and crystal dice. One special bit of
refinement I noticed; instead of the ordinary black and
white men he had medals of gold and silver respectively.
Meantime, whilst he is exhausting the vocabulary of a tinker over the game, and we are still at
the hors d'oeuvres, a dish was brought in with a basket on it, in which lay a wooden hen,
her wings outspread round her as if she were sitting. Instantly a couple of slaves came up, and to
the sound of lively music began to search the straw, and pulling out a lot of peafowl's eggs one
after the other, handed them round to the company. Trimalchio turns his head at this, saying,
"My friends, it was by my orders the hen set on the peafowl's eggs yonder; but by God! I am very
much afraid they are half-hatched. Nevertheless we can try whether they are eatable." For our
part, we take our spoons, which weighed at least half a pound each, and break the eggs, which
were made of paste. I was on the point of throwing mine away, for I thought I discerned a chick
inside. But when I overheard a veteran guest saying, "There should be something good here!" I
further investigated the shell, and found a very fine fat beccafico swimming in yolk of egg
flavored with pepper.
Trimalchio had by this time stopped his game and been helped to all the dishes before us. He
had just announced in a loud voice that any of us who wanted a second supply of honeyed wine
had only to ask for it, when suddenly at a signal from the band, the hors d'oeuvres are
whisked away by a troupe of slaves, all singing too. But
in the confusion a silver dish happened to fall and a slave picked it up again from the floor; this
Trimalchio noticed, and boxing the fellow's ears, rated him soundly and ordered him to throw it
down again. Then a groom came in and began to sweep up the silver along with the other refuse
with his besom.
He was succeeded by two long-haired Ethiopians, carrying small leather skins, like the fellows
that water the sand in the amphitheater, who poured wine over our hands; for no one thought of
After being duly complimented on this refinement, our host cried out, "Fair play's a jewel!" and
accordingly ordered a separate table to be assigned to each guest. "In this way," he said, "by
preventing any crowding, the stinking servants won't make us so
Simultaneously there were brought in a number of wine-jars of glass carefully stoppered with
plaster, and having labels attached to their necks reading:
FALERNIAN; OPIMIAN VINTAGE
ONE HUNDRED YEARS OLD.
Whilst we were reading the labels, Trimalchio ejaculated, striking his palms together,
"Alackaday! to think wine is longer lived than poor humanity! Well! bumpers then! There's life
in wine. 'Tis the right Opimian, I give you my word. I didn't bring out any so good yesterday,
and much better men than you were dining with me."
So we drank our wine and admired all this luxury in good set terms. Then the slave brought in a
silver skeleton, so artfully fitted that its articulations and vertebræ were all movable and
would turn and twist in any direction. After he had tossed this once or twice on the table, causing
the loosely jointed limbs to take various postures, Trimalchio moralized
Alas! how less than naught are
Fragile life's thread, and brief our
What this is now, we all shall
Drink and make merry while you may.
Our applause was interrupted by the second course, which did not by any means come up to our
expectations. Still the oddity of the thing drew the eyes of all. An immense circular tray bore the
twelve signs of the zodiac displayed round the circumference, on each of which the Manoiple or
Arranger had placed a dish of suitable and appropriate viands: on the Ram ram's-head peas, on
the Bull a piece of beef, on the Twins fried testicles and kidneys, on the Crab simply a crown, on
the Lion African figs, on a Virgin a sow's haslet, on Libra a balance with a tart in one scale and a
cheesecake in the other, on Scorpio a small sea-fish, on Sagittarius an eye-seeker, on Capricornus
a lobster, on Aquarius a wild goose, on Pisces two mullets. In the middle was a sod of green turf,
cut to shape and supporting a honey-comb. Meanwhile an Egyptian slave was carrying bread
around in a miniature oven of silver, crooning to himself in a horrible voice a song on wine and
Seeing us look rather blank at the idea of attacking such common fare, Trimalchio cried, "I pray
gentlemen, begin; the best of your dinner is before you." No sooner had he spoken than four
fellows ran prancing in, keeping time to the music, and whipped off the top of the tray. This
done, we beheld underneath, on a second tray in fact, stuffed capons, a sow's paps, and as a
centerpiece a hare fitted with wings to represent Pegasus. We noticed besides four figures of
Marsyas, one at each corner of the tray, spouting out peppered fish-sauce over the fishes
swimming in the Channel of the dish.
We all join in the applause started by the domestics and laughingly fall to on the choice viands.
Trimalchio, as pleased as anybody with a device of the sort, now called out, "Cut!" Instantly the
Carver advanced, and posturing in time to the music, sliced up the joint with such antics you
might have thought him a jockey struggling to pull off a chariot-race to the thunder of the organ.
Yet all the while Trimalchio kept repeating in a wheedling voice, "Cut! Cut!" For my part,
suspecting there was some pretty jest connected with this everlasting reiteration of the word, I
made no bones about asking the question of the guest who sat immediately above me. He had
often witnessed similar scenes and told me at once, "You see the man who is carving; well; his
name is Cut. The master is calling and commanding him at one and the same
Unable to eat any more, I now turned towards my neighbor in order to glean what information I
and after indulging in a string of general remarks, presently asked him, "Who is that lady bustling
up and down the room yonder?" "Trimalchio's lady," he replied; "her name is Fortunata, and she
counts her coin by the bushelful! Before? what was she before? Why! my dear Sir! saving your
respect, you would have been mighty sorry to take bread from her hand. Now, by hook or by
crook, she's got to heaven, and is Trimalchio's factotum. In fact if she told him it was dark night
at high noon, he'd believe her. The man's rolling in riches, and really can't tell what he has and
what he hasn't got; still his good lady looks keenly after everything, and is on the spot where you
least expect to see her. She's temperate, sober and well advised, but she has a sharp tongue of her
own and chatters like a magpie between the bed-curtains. When she likes a man, she likes him;
and when she doesn't, well! she doesn't.
"As for Trimalchio, his lands reach as far as the kites fly, and his money breeds money. I tell
you, he has more coin lying idle in his porter's lodge than would make another man's whole
fortune. Slaves! why, heaven and earth! I don't believe one in ten knows his own master by
sight. For all that, there's never a one of the fine fellows a word of his wouldn't send scuttling
into the nearest rat-hole. And don't you imagine he ever buys anything; every mortal thing is
home grown,-- wool, rosin, pepper; call for hen's milk and he'd supply you!
As a matter of fact his wool was not first-rate originally; but he purchased rams at Tarentum and
so improved the breed. To get home-made Attic honey he had bees imported direct from Athens,
hoping at the same time to benefit the native insects a bit by a cross with the Greek fellows.
Why! only the other day he wrote to India for mushroom spawn. He has not a single mule but
was got by a wild ass. You see all these mattresses; never a one that is not stuffed with the finest
wool, purple or scarlet as the case may be. Lucky, lucky dog!
"And look you, don't you turn up your nose at the other freedmen, his fellows. They're very
warm men. You see the one lying last on the last couch yonder? He's worth his eight hundred
thousand any of these days. A self-made man; once upon a time he carried wood on his own two
shoulders. They do say,-- I don't know how true it may be, but I've been told so,-- he snatched an
Incubo's hat, and so discovered a treasure. I grudge no man's good fortune, whatever God has
seen good to give him. He'll still take a box o' the ear for all that, and keeps a keen eye on the
main chance. Only the other day he placarded his house with this bill:
C. POMPEIUS DIOGENES
"But the other man yonder, occupying a freedman's place, what of him? Was he originally very
well to do?" "I have not a word to say against him. He was master once of a cool million, but he
came to sad grief. I don't suppose he has a hair on his head unmortgaged. Not that it was any
fault of his; there never was a better man, but his rascally freedmen swindled him out of
everything. Let me tell you, when the hospitable pot stops boiling, and fortune has once taken
the turn, friends soon make themselves scarce." "What was the honorable calling he followed,
that you see him brought to this?" "He was an undertaker. He used to dine like a King,-- boars
in pastry, cakes of every sort and game galore, cooks and pastry-cooks without end. More wine
was spilt under his table than another man has in his cellar. A dream-- not a life for a mere
mortal man! Even when his affairs were getting shaky, for fear his creditors might think he was
in difficulties, he posted this notice of sale:
IS PREPARED TO LET HIS GARRET
FROM JULY FIRST,
HAVING BOUGHT THE HOUSE HIMSELF."
C. JULIUS PROCULUS
This agreeable gossip was here interrupted by Trimalchio; for the second course had now been
and the company being merry with wine began to engage in general conversation. Our host then,
lying back on his elbow and addressing the company, said, "I hope you will all do justice to this
wine; you must make the fish swim again. Come, come, do you suppose I was going to rest
content with the dinner you saw boxed up under the cover of the tray just now? 'Is Ulysses no
better known?' Well, well! even at table we mustn't forget our scholarship. Peace to my worthy
patron's bones, who was pleased to make me a man amongst men. For truly there is nothing can
be set before me that will nonplus me by its novelty. For instance the meaning of that tray just
now can be easily enough explained. This heaven in which dwell the twelve gods resolves itself
into twelve different configurations, and presently becomes the Ram. So whosoever is born
under this sign has many flocks and herds and much wool, a hard head into the bargain, a
shameless brow and a sharp horn. Most of your schoolmen and pettifoggers are born under this
WILL PUT UP TO
OF HIS SUPERFLUOUS FURNITURE."
We recommended the learned expounder's graceful erudition, and he went on to add: "Next the
whole sky becomes Bull; then are born obstinate fellows and neatherds and such as think of
nothing but filling their own bellies. Under the Twins are born horses in a pair, oxen in a yoke,
men blessed with a sturdy brace of testicles, all who manage to keep in with both sides. I
was born under the Crab myself. Wherefore I stand on many feet, and have many possessions
both by sea and land; for the Crab is equally adapted to either element. And this is why I never
put anything on that sign, so as not to eclipse my horoscope. Under the Lion are born great eaters
and wasters, and all who love to domineer; under the Virgin, women and runaways and jailbirds;
under the Scales, butchers and perfumers and all retail traders; under the Scorpion, poisoners and
cutthroats; under the Archer, squint-eyed folks, who look at the greens and whip off with the
bacon; under Capricorn, the 'horny-handed sons of toil'; under Aquarius or the Waterman,
innkeepers and pumpkin-heads; under Pisces, or the Fishes, fine cooks and fine talkers. Thus the
world goes round like a mill, and is for ever at some mischief, whether making men or marring
them. But about the sod of turf you see in the middle, and the honeycomb a-top of it, I have a
good reason to show too. Our mother Earth is in the middle, round-about like an egg, and has all
good things in her inside, like a honey-comb!"
"Clever! clever!" we cry in chorus and with hands uplifted to the ceiling, swear Hipparchus and
Aratus were not to be named in the same breath with him. This lasted till fresh servants entered
and spread carpets before the couches, embroidered with pictures of fowling nets, prickers with
their hunting spears, and sporting
gear of all kinds. We were still at a loss what to expect when a tremendous shout was raised
outside the doors, and lo and behold! a pack of Laconian dogs came careering round and round
the very table. These were soon succeeded by a huge tray, on which lay a wild boar of the largest
size, with a cap on its head, while from the tushes hung two little baskets of woven palm leaves,
one full of Syrian dates, the other of Theban. Round it were little piglets of baked sweetmeat, as
if at suck, to show it was a sow we had before us; and these were gifts to be taken home with
them by the guests.
To carve the dish however, it was not this time our friend Cut who appeared, the same who had
dismembered the capons, but a great bearded fellow, wearing leggings and a shaggy jerkin.
Drawing his hunting knife, he made a furious lunge and gashed open the boar's flank, from which
there flew out a number of fieldfares. Fowlers stood ready with their rods and immediately
caught the birds as they fluttered about the table. Then Trimalchio directed each guest to be
given his bird, and this done, added "Look what elegant acorns this wildwood pig fed on."
Instantly slaves ran to the baskets that were suspended from the animal's tushes and divided the
two kind of dates in equal proportions among the diners.
Meantime, sitting as I did a little apart, I was led into a thousand conjectures to account for the
being brought in with a cap on. So after exhausting all sorts of absurd guesses, I resolved to ask
my former "philosopher and friend" to explain the difficulty that tormented me so. "Why!" said
he, "your own servant could tell you that much. Riddle? it's as plain as daylight. The boar was
presented with his freedom at yesterday's dinner; he appeared at the end of the meal and the
company gave him his conge. Therefore today he comes back to table as a freedman." I cursed
my own stupidity, and asked no more questions, for fear of their thinking I had never dined with
good company before.
We were still conversing, when a pretty boy entered, his head wreathed with vine-leaves and ivy,
announcing himself now as Bromius, anon as Lyaeus and Evous. He proceeded to hand round
grapes in a small basket, and recited in the shrillest of voices some verses of his master's
composition. Trimalchio turned round at the sound, and, "Dionysus," said he, "be free (Liber)!"
The lad snatched the cap from the boar's head and stuck it on his own. Then Trimalchio went on
again, "Well! you'll not deny," he cried, "I have a Father Liber (a freeborn father) of my own."
We praised Trimalchio's joke, and heartily kissed the fortunate lad, as he went round to receive
At the end of this course Trimalchio left the table to relieve himself, and so finding ourselves free
from the constraint of his overbearing presence, we began to indulge in a little friendly
conversation. Accordingly Dama began first, after calling for a cup of wine. "A day! what is a
day?" he exclaimed, "before you can turn round, it's night again! So really you can't do better
than go straight from bed to board. Fine cold weather we've been having; why! even my bath has
hardly warmed me. But truly hot liquor is a good clothier. I've been drinking bumpers, and I'm
downright fuddled. The wine has got into my head."
Seleucus then struck into the talk: "I don't bathe every day," he said; "your systematic bather's a
mere fuller. Water's got teeth, and melts the heart away, a little every day; but there! when I've
fortified my belly with a cup of mulled wine, I say 'Go hang!' to the cold. Indeed I couldn't bathe
today, for I've been to a funeral. A fine fellow he was too, good old Chrysanthus, but he's given
up the ghost now. He was calling me just this
moment, only just this moment; I could fancy myself talking to him now. Alas! alas! what are
we but blown bladders on two legs? We're not worth as much as flies; they are some use, but
we're no better than bubbles. He wasn't careful enough in his diet, you say? I tell you, for five
whole days not one drop of water, or one crumb of bread passed his lips. Nevertheless he has
joined the majority. The doctors killed him,-- or rather his day was come; the very best of
doctors is only a satisfaction to the mind. Anyhow he was handsomely buried, on his own best
bed, with good blankets. The wailing was first class,-- he did a trifle of manumission before he
died; though no doubt his wife's tears were a bit forced. A pity he always treated her so well.
But woman! woman's of the kite kind. No man ought ever to do 'em a good turn; just as well
pitch it in the well at once. Old love's an eating sore!"
He was getting tiresome, and Phileros broke in: "Let's talk of living. He's got his deserts,
whatever they were; he lived well and died well, what has he to complain about? He started with
next to nothing, and was ready to the last to pick a farthing out of a dunghill with his teeth. So he
grew and grew, like a honeycomb. Upon my word I believe he left a round hundred million
behind him, and all in ready money. But I'll tell you the actual facts, for I'm the soul of truth, as
they say. He had a rough tongue, and a ready one, and was
quarrelsomeness personified. Now his brother was a fine fellow and a true friend, with a free
hand and keeping a liberal table. Just at the beginning he had a bad bird to pluck, but the very
first vintage set him on his legs, for he sold his wine at his own price. But the thing that chiefly
made him lift up his head in the world was getting an inheritance, out of which he managed to
prig a good deal more than was really left him. And that log Chrysanthus, falling out with his
brother, has positively left all his property to I don't know what scum of the earth. He goes too
far, say I, who goes outside his own kith and kin. But he had a lot of overwise interfering
servants, who proved his ruin. A man will never do well, who believes all he's told too readily,
especially a man in business. Yet it's fair to say he did well enough all his life, getting what was
never meant for him. Evidently one of Fortune's favorites, in whose hands lead turns to gold.
But that's simple enough, when everything runs on wheels exactly as you want it to. How old,
think you, was he when he died? Seventy and over. But he was as tough as horn; he carried his
age well, and he was still as black as a crow. I knew him when he was a pretty loose fish, and he
was lecherous to the last. Upon my soul I don't believe he left a living thing in his house alone,
down to the dog. A great lover of lads, indeed a man of universal talents and tastes. Not that I
blame him; this was all he got out of life."
So much for Phileros; then Ganymede began: "Yes! you talk away," he said, "about things that
concern neither heaven nor earth, but no one ever thinks of the pinch of famine that's upon us. I
swear I couldn't come across a mouthful of bread this day. And how the drought holds!
Starvation's been the word for a whole twelvemonth now. Bad cess to the Ediles, who are in
collusion with the bakers-- 'you scratch my back, and I'll scratch yours.' And so poor folks
suffer; for your rich fellows' jawbones keep feast-day all the year round. Ah! if only we had
those lion-hearted chaps I found here, when first I came from Asia. That was something like
living. 'Twas like the midlands of Sicily for plenty, and they used to batter those vampires about
so that Jupiter positively hated them.
"Why! I remember Safinius; he used to live at the Old Arch when I was a boy. It was a
peppercorn, I tell you, not a man. Wherever he went, he made the ground smoke under him. An
upright, downright honest man, and a trusty friend, one you might confidently play mora with in
the dark. But in Court, how he pounded 'em down, one and all; he didn't talk in figures of
speech, not he, but straight out. Then when he pleaded in the Forum, his voice would swell out
like a trumpet, though he never sweated or spat. I believe myself he had a smack of Asiatic
blood in him. And how civil he was to return our bows and give each man his name, just as
if he'd been one of ourselves. So in those days provisions were dirt cheap. A halfpenny loaf,--
when you'd bought it, you couldn't have finished it, with another man to help you! Now,-- I've
seen a bullock's eye bigger.
"Alas! alas! Things get worse and worse every day, and this city of ours is growing like a cow's
tail, backwards. Why ever have we an Edile not worth three figs, who thinks more of a
halfpenny than of all our lives? So he sits at home and rubs his hands, making more coin in a
day than another man's whole fortune comes to. I know one transaction brought him in a
thousand gold denars. Why! if we weren't geldings, he wouldn't be so pleased with himself long.
Nowadays the folks are lions at home, and foxes abroad.
"As for me, I've eaten up my duds, and if the scarcity goes on, I shall sell my bits of houses.
What is to become of us, if neither gods nor men take pity on this unhappy city? As I hope for
happiness, I think it's all the gods' doing. For nobody any more believes heaven to be heaven,
nobody keeps fast, nobody cares one straw for Jupiter, but all men shut their eyes and count up
their own belongings. In former days the long-robed matrons went barefoot, with unbound hair
and a pure heart, up the hill to pray Jupiter for rain; and instantly it started raining bucketfuls,--
then or never,-- and they all came back looking like drowned rats. So the gods come
stealthy-footed to our destruction, because we
have no piety or reverence. The fields lie idle, and--"
"I beseech you," cried Echion, the old-clothes-man, at this point, "I beseech you, better words!
Luck's for ever changing, as the chawbacon said, when he lost his brindled hog. If not today,
then tomorrow; that's the way the world wags. My word! you couldn't name a better countryside,
if only the inhabitants were to match. True, we are in low water for the moment, but we're not
the only ones. We must not be so over particular, the same heaven is over us all. If you lived
elsewhere, you'd say pigs ran about here ready roasted.
"And I tell you, we're going to have a grand show in three days from now at the festival-- none of
your common gangs of gladiators, but most of the chaps freedmen. Our good Titus has a heart of
gold and a hot head; 'twill be do or die, and no quarter. I'm in his service, he is no shirker! He'll
have the best of sharp swords and no backing out; bloody butcher's meat in the middle, for the
amphitheater to feast their eyes on. And he's got the wherewithal; he was left thirty million, his
father came to a bad end. Suppose he does spend four hundred thousand or so, his property won't
feel it, and his name will live for ever. He has already got together a lot of ponies and a female
chariot fighter, and Glyco's factor, who was caught diverting his mistress. You'll see what a row
the people will have betwixt the jealous husbands and the happy lovers. Anyhow Glyco, who's
not worth twopence, condemned his factor to the beasts,-- which was simply betraying his own
dishonor. How was the servant to blame, who was forced to do what he did? It was she, the
pisspot, deserved tossing by the bull far more than he. But there, if a man can't get at the
donkey's back, he must thrash the donkey's pack. And how could Glyco ever suppose
Hermogenes' girl should come to any good. He could cut a kite's claws flying; a snake doesn't
father a rope. Glyco! Glyco! you've paid your price; as long as you live, you're a marked man,-- a
brand Hell only can obliterate. A man's mistakes always come home to
"Why! I can nose out now what a feast Mammaea is going to give us, two gold denars each for
me and mine. If he does so, I only hope he'll show no favor whatever to Norbanus. You may rest
assured he will clap on all sail. And in good sooth what has the other ever done for us? He gave
a show of twopenny halfpenny gladiators, such a rickety lot,-- blow on them, they'd have fallen
flat; and I've seen better bestiaries. He killed his mounted men by torchlight, you might have
taken them for dunghill cocks. One was mule-footed, another bandy-legged, while the third, put
up to replace a dead man, was a deadhead himself, for he was hamstrung before beginning. The
only one to show any spunk was a Thracian, and he only fought when we tarred him on. In the
end they all got a sound thrashing;
in fact the crowd had cried 'Trice up!' for every one of them, they were obviously such arrant
runaways. 'Anyhow I gave you a show,' said he. 'And I applauded,' said I; 'reckon it up, and I
gave you more than I got. One good turn deserves another.'
"You look, Agamemnon, as if you were saying to yourself, 'Whatever is that bore driving at?' I
talk, because you fellows who can talk, won't talk. You're not of our stuff and so you laugh at
poor men's conversation. You're a monument of learning, we all know. But there, let me
persuade you one day to come down into the country and see our little place. We'll find
something to eat, a pullet and a few eggs; it will be grand, even though the bad weather this year
has turned everything upside down. Anyway we shall find enough to fill our
"And there's a future pupil growing up for you, my little lad at home. He can repeat four pieces
already; if he lives, you will have a little servant at your beck and call. If he has a spare moment,
he never lifts his head from his slate. He's a bright lad with good stuff in him, though he is so
gone on birds. I've killed three linnets of his, and told him a weasel ate 'em. But he has found
other hobbies, and he's devoted to painting. Why! he is already showing his heels to the Greek,
and beginning to take capitally to his Latin, though his master is too easy-going and too restless;
he knows his work well
enough, but won't take proper pains. Then there's another, not a learned man but a very
ingenious one, who teaches more than he knows. Accordingly he comes to the house on high
days and holidays, and whatever you give him, he looks pleased. So I've just bought the lad
some lawbooks, for I want him to have a smack of law for home use. There's bread and butter in
that. For as to Literature, he has been tarred enough already with that brush. If he kicks, I've
made up my mind to teach him a trade,-- a barber, or an auctioneer, or best of all a lawyer,--
which nothing but Hell can rob him of. So I impress on him every day. 'Believe me, my
first-born, whatever you learn, you learn for your good. Look at Phileros the advocate; if he
hadn't studied, he would be starving today. The other day, just the other day, he was carting
things round on his shoulders, now he is a match for Norbanus himself. Learning's a treasure,
and a trade never starves.'"
Such were the brilliant remarks that were flashing round the board, when Trimalchio re-entered,
and after wiping his brow and scenting his hands, "Pardon me, my friends," he said after a brief
pause, "but for several days I have been costive. My physicians were nonplused. However,
pomegranate rind and an infusion of firwood in vinegar has done me good. And now I trust my
belly will be better behaved. At times I have such a rumbling about my stomach, you'd think
I had a bull bellowing inside me! So if any of you want to relieve yourselves, there's no necessity
to be ashamed about it. None of us is born solid. I don't know any torment so bad as holding it
in. It's the one thing Jove himself cannot stop. What are you laughing at, Fortunata, you who so
often keep me awake o' nights yourself? I never hinder any man at my table from easing himself,
and indeed the doctors forbid our balking nature. Even if something more presses, everything's
ready outside,-- water, close-stools, and the other little matters needful. Take my word for it, the
vapors rise to the brain and may cause a fluxion of the whole constitution. I know many a man
that's died of it, because he was too shy to speak out."
We thank our host for his generous indulgence, taking our wine in little sips the while to keep
down our laughter. But little we thought we had still another hill to climb, as the saying is, and
were only half through the elaborations of the meal. For when the tables had been cleared with a
flourish of music, three white hogs were brought in, hung with little bells and muzzled. One, so
the nomenclator informed us, was a two-year-old, another three, and the third six. For my part, I
thought they were learned pigs, come in to perform some of those marvelous tricks you see in
circuses. But Trimalchio put an end to my surmises by saying, "Which of the three will you have
dressed for supper right away?
Farmyard cocks and pheasants are for country folks; my cooks are used to serving up calves
So saying, he immediately ordered the cook to be summoned, and without waiting for our choice,
directed the six-year-old to be killed. Then speaking loud and clear, he asked the man, "What
decuria do you belong to?"
"To the fortieth," he replied.
"Bought," he went on, "or born in my house?"
"Neither;" returned the cook, "I was left you by Pansa's will."
"Then mind you serve the dish carefully dressed; else I shall order you to be degraded into the
decuria of the outdoor slaves."
And the cook, thus cogently admonished, then withdrew with his charge into the
But Trimalchio, relaxing his stern aspect, now turned to us and said "If you don't like the wine,
I'll have it changed; otherwise please prove its quality by your drinking. Thanks to the gods'
goodness, I never buy it; but now I have everything that smacks good growing on a suburban
estate of mine. I've not seen it yet, but they tell me it's down Terracina and Tarentum way. I am
thinking at the moment of making Sicily one of my little properties, that when I've a mind to visit
Africa, I may sail along my own boundaries to get there.
"But tell me, Agamemnon, what question formed the subject of your declamation today?
Though I don't
plead myself, I've studied letters for domestic use. Don't imagine I have despised scholarship;
why! I have two Libraries, one Greek, the other Latin. If you love me, then, let me know what
your discourse was."
Agamemnon had just begun, "A poor man and a rich were at feud . . ." when Trimalchio struck in
with the question, "What is a poor man!"
"Oh, capital!" cried Agamemnon; and went on to develop some dialectical problem or
Trimalchio summed up without an instant's hesitation as follows, "If this is so, there's no
question about it; if it's not so, why! there's an end of the matter."
Whilst we were still acclaiming these and similar remarks with fulsome praise, he resumed,
"Pray, my dearest Agamemnon, do you recollect by any chance the twelve labors of Hercules, or
the story of Ulysses, how the Cyclops twisted his thumb out of joint, after he was turned into a
pig. I used to read these tales in Homer when I was a lad. Then the Sibyl! I saw her at Cumae
with my own eyes hanging in a jar; and when the boys cried to her, 'Sibyl, what would you?'
she'd answer, 'I would die,'-- both of 'em speaking Greek."
He was still in the middle of this nonsense when a tray supporting an enormous hog was set on
the table. One and all we expressed our admiration at the expedition shown, and swore a mere
ordinary fowl could not have been cooked in the time, the more so as the hog appeared to be a
much larger animal than the wild boar just before. Presently Trimalchio, staring harder and
harder, exclaimed, "What! what! isn't he gutted? No! by heaven! he's not. Call the cook
The cook came and stood by the table, looking sadly crestfallen and saying he had clean
forgotten. "What! forgotten!" cried Trimalchio; "to hear him, you would suppose he'd just
omitted a pinch of pepper or a bit of cumin. Strip him!"
Instantly the cook was stripped, and standing between two tormentors, the picture of misery. But
we all began to intercede for him, saying, "Accidents will happen; do forgive him this once. If
ever he does it again, not one of us will say a word in his favor." For my own part I felt
mercilessly indignant, and could not hold
myself, but bending over to Agamemnon's ear, I whispered, "Evidently he must be a villainous
bad servant. To think of anybody forgetting to bowel a hog; by Gad! I would not let the fellow
off, if he'd shown such carelessness about a fish."
Not so Trimalchio, for with a smile breaking over his face, "Well! well!" said he, "as you have
such a bad memory, bowel him now, where we can all see."
Thereupon the cook resumed his tunic, seized his knife and with a trembling hand slashed open
the animal's belly. In a moment, the apertures widening under the weight behind, out tumbled a
lot of sausages and black-puddings.
At this all the servants applauded like one man, and chorused, "Gaius for ever!" Moreover the
cook was gratified with a goblet of wine and a silver wreath, and received a drinking cup on a
salver of Corinthian metal. This Agamemnon scanned with some attention, and Trimalchio
observed, "I am the only man possessing the genuine Corinthian
I fully expected him to match his usual effrontery by declaring he had himself imported the
articles from Corinth; but he had a better account to give of the matter. "You may wonder
perhaps," he said, "why I alone have the true Corinthian. The fact is, the smith I buy them from
is called Corinth, and what can be more Corinthian than to have Corinth at one's orders? But you
not set me down for a dunce; I know perfectly well how Corinthian plate first originated. On the
capture of Troy, Hannibal, an astute fellow and a consummate knave, collected together all the
statues of bronze and gold and silver into one great heap, and firing the pile, melted down the
different metals into one alloy. This mass of metal the smiths utilized to make into platters and
dishes and statuettes. Such was the origin of Corinthian metal, neither one thing nor the other,
but an amalgam of all.
"But you must allow me to say this, I prefer glass ones myself; they are quite free from smell at
any rate. And if they didn't break, I would rather have them than gold itself; but they've got
cheap and common now. However there was an artificer once who made a glass goblet that
would not break. So he was admitted to Caesar's presence to offer him his invention; then, on
receiving the cup back from Caesar's hands, he dashed it down on the floor. Who so startled as
Caesar? but the man quietly picked up the goblet again, which was dinted as a vessel of bronze
might be. Then taking a little hammer from his pocket, he easily and neatly knocked the goblet
into shape again. This done, the fellow thought he was as good as in heaven already, especially
when Caesar said to him, 'Does anybody else besides yourself understand the manufacture of this
glass?' But lo! on his replying in the negative, Caesar ordered
him to be beheaded, because if once the secret became known, we should think no more of gold
than of so much dirt.
"I'm quite a connoisseur in plate. I've got cups as big as waterpots, a hundred of them more or
less, representing how Cassandra slew her sons, and there lie the lads dead, as natural as life!
I've got a thousand bowls Mummius bequeathed to my patron, on which Daedalus is shown
shutting Niobe up in the Trojan horse. Why! I've got the fights of Hermeros and Petraites on a
series of cups all of massive metal. I wouldn't sell my savvy in these things for any
In the middle of these remarks a slave dropped a cup. Trimalchio looked at him and said, "Go at
once and kill yourself; you are a careless fellow." The slave immediately dropped his lip and
began to beg for mercy. "Why worry me," cried Trimalchio, "as if I were being harsh upon you.
I merely urge you to secure yourself from being so heedless again." At length, on our entreaty, he
pardoned the man. The latter, to celebrate the event, began running round and round the table,
crying, "Out water, in wine!" We were all ready to take the merry rascal's kind suggestion, and
particularly Agamemnon, who knew very well how to earn another invitation. But Trimalchio
under the stimulus of our flattery drank away more gayly than ever, and being close on the verge
of intoxication, "Won't any of you,"
he cried, "ask my wife Fortunata to dance? Believe me, there's no one foots the cancan better."
Then putting up his two hands himself above his brow, he began imitating Syrus the comedian,
the whole household singing out, "Bravo! Oh, bravissimo!" in chorus; and he would have made a
public exhibition of himself, had not Fortunata whispered in his ear and told him, I suppose, that
suchlike buffooneries were beneath his dignity. But nothing could well be more uncertain than
his humor; one moment he would listen respectfully to Fortunata, the next hark back to his
However his dancing fit was cut short by the entrance of the historiographer, who read out
solemnly, as if he were reciting the public records:
"Seventh of Kalends of July (June 25th): On the manor of Cumae, Trimalchio's property, were
born this day thirty boys, forty girls; were carried from threshing-floor to granary 500,000
bushels of wheat; were put to the yoke 500 oxen.
"Same day: Mithridates, a slave, was crucified for blaspheming our master Gaius' tutelary
"Same day: returned to treasury ten million sesterces, no investment being forthcoming for the
"Same day: a fire occurred in Pompey's garden, originating at the house of Nasta, the
"Eh?" interrupted Trimalchio, "when were Pompey's gardens bought for me?"
"Last year," answer the historiographer; "therefore they have not been brought into account
Trimalchio blazed up at this and shouted, "Any estates bought in my name, if I hear nothing of
them within six months, I forbid their being carried to my account at
Next were read his Ediles' edicts and Foresters' wills, in which Trimalchio was excluded from
inheritance, but mentioned with the highest encomiums. Then the names of his Bailiffs were
recited; how the Chief Inspector had repudiated his mistress, a freedwoman, having detected her
in an intrigue with the Bath-Super-intendent; how the Chamberlain had been removed to Baiae:
the Steward convicted of peculation; and a dispute between the Grooms of the Chamber
But now the acrobats entered at last. A most tiresome, dull fellow stood supporting a ladder, up
the rungs of which he ordered a lad to climb and dance and sing on the top, and then leap down
through blazing hoops holding a wine-jar in his teeth. Trimalchio was the only person present
who admired this performance, saying it was a hard life truly. There were but two things, he
went on, in all the world he really enjoyed seeing-- acrobats and horn-blowers; all other shows
were mere trash. "Yes! I bought a company of comedians too," he said, "but I insisted on their
playing Atellanes, and
I ordered my conductor to play Latin airs and Latin airs only."
In the middle of these fine remarks of the great Gaius, the boy suddenly tumbled down on top of
our host. The domestics all raised a shriek, and the guests as well, not for any love they bore the
disgusting creature, whose neck they would have gladly seen broken, but for fear of a bad end to
the feast and the necessity of lamenting the man's death. Trimalchio himself gave a deep groan
and bent over one arm, as if it were injured. His physicians flocked round him, and amongst the
foremost Fortunata with streaming hair and a cup in her hand, asseverating she was a most
miserable, unhappy woman. For his part, the boy who had fallen was already creeping round at
our knees, beseeching us to intercede for him.
I was tormented with the idea that these prayers were only intended to lead up by some ridiculous
turn to another theatrical dénouement. For the cook who had forgotten to bowel
the hog still stuck in my memory. So I began to carry my eyes all about the room, to see if the
wall would not open to admit some stage-machine or other, especially after observing how a
slave was thrashed, who had bandaged his master's bruised arm with white instead of purple
wool. Nor was I far out in my suspicions, for in lieu of punishment being inflicted, Trimalchio
now ruled that the lad must be made free,
that none might be able to say so noble a gentleman had been injured by a slave. We acclaim the
generous act, and indulge in a string of platitudes on the precariousness of human affairs. "Well,
then!" interposed Trimalchio, "an accident like this must not be allowed to pass without an
impromptu," and instantly calling for his tablets, and without much racking of brains, he read out
the following lines:
"When least we think, things go astray,
Dame Fortune o'er our life holds sway;
Then drink, make merry, whilst ye may!"
This epigram led the way to a discussion of poets and poetry, and for some time the palm of song
was awarded to Mopsus the Thracian, until Trimalchio remarked to Agamemnon, "Pray, master,
what do you consider the difference to be between Cicero and Publilius? For my own part, I
consider the former the more eloquent author, the latter the more genteel. What for instance can
be better put than this:
"'Tis arrant luxury undoes the State;
To please your palate pampered peacocks die,
That flaunt their plumed Assyrian gold abroad
For you Numidian fowl and capon fat.
Even the kindly stork is sacrificed,
Our graceful, noisy, long-legged friend,
Fearful of winter's cold and harbinger of Spring,
And finds the cruel cooking-pot its nest.
Why are the Indian pearls so dear to you,--
If not to deck with sea-sought gems the wife
That lifts a wanton leg adulterously?
Why love you so the emerald's greeny gleam,
And flashing fires of Punic carbuncles?
Honor and virtue are the truest gems.
Is't right the bride should wear the woven wind,
And stand exposed in garments thin as air?
"Now what do you hold to be the most difficult calling," he went on, "after Literature? I think
the doctor's and the money-changer's; the doctor, because he's got to know what chaps have in
their insides, and when the fever's coming,-- though truly I hate 'em like fury, for they're for ever
ordering me duck-broth; the money-changer, who detects the bronze underneath the surface
plating of silver.
"Of beasts the most hard-working are oxen and sheep; to the former we owe the bread we eat,
while 'tis the latter make us so fine with their wool. What a brutal shame it is when a man eats
mutton and wears a woolen coat! Now bees,-- I do think they are God's own creatures, for they
vomit honey, though some say they bring it down from Jupiter. And that's why they sting, for
you'll never find sweet without sour."
He was still cutting out the philosophers in this fashion, when lottery tickets were passed round
in a cup, and a slave, whose special duty this was, read out the presents to be distributed in the
"Humbug Silver; a gammon of bacon was shown, with cruets of that metal standing on
A Neck-Pillow; and a neck of mutton was produced.
Forbidden Fruits and Contumely; pommeloes were brought in, and a punt-pole with an
Leeks and Peaches; the drawer received a whip and a knife.
Dress Clothes and Morning Coat; a piece of meat and a memorandum
Canal and Foot Measure; a hare and a slipper.
Lamprey and Letter; a mouse and a frog tied together, and a bundle of beetroot."
We laughed loud and long; and there were a hundred and fifty other conceits of the same sort that
have escaped my memory.
But Ascyltos, lost to all self-control, threw his arms up in the air, and turning the whole
proceedings into ridicule, laughed till the tears ran down his cheeks. At this once of the
freedmen among the guests, the same who occupied the place next above me, lost his temper and
"What are you laughing at, muttonhead? Isn't my master's elegant hospitality to your taste?
You're a mighty fine gentleman, I suppose, and used to better entertainment. So help me the
guardian spirits of this house, but I would have made him baa to some purpose, had I been next
him. A pretty sprig indeed, to laugh at other people! a vagabond from who knows where, a
night-raker, that's not worth his own piddle! Just let me piss round him, and he would not know
how to save his life! By the powers, I'm not as a rule quick to take offense, but there! worms are
bred in soft flesh. He's laughing; what's he got to laugh at? Did his father buy the brat for
money? You're a Roman knight: and I'm a king's son. 'Why did you serve as a slave then?'
because I chose to, and thought it better to be a Roman citizen than a tributary king. And
henceforth I hope to live a life beyond the reach of any one's ridicule. I am a man now among
men; I can walk about with my nose in the air. I owe nobody a brass farthing; I've never made
composition; no one ever stopped me in the forum with a 'Pay me that thou owest!' I've bought
some bits of land, put by a trifle of tin; I keep twenty folks in victuals, to say nothing of the dog;
I've purchased my bedfellow's freedom, that no man should wipe his hands on her bosom; I paid
a thousand denars to redeem her; I was made a sevir, free gratis for nothing; I trust I may die and
have no cause to blush in my grave.
"But you, are you so busy you can't so much as look behind you? You can spy a louse on a
neighbor's back, and never see the great tick on your own. You're the only man to find us
ridiculous; there's your master and your elder, he likes us well enough, I warrant. You! with your
mammy's milk scarce dry on your lips, you can't say boo! to a goose; you crock, you limp scrap
of soaked leather, you may be supple, but you're no good. Are you richer than other folk? then
dine twice over, and sup twice! For myself I value my credit far above millions. Did any man
ever dun me twice? I served forty years, but nobody knows whether I was slave or free. I was a
long-haired lad when first I came to this town; the basilica was not built yet. But I took pains to
my master, a great, grand gentleman and a dignified, whose nail-parings were worth more than
your whole body. And I had enemies in the house, let me tell you, quite ready to trip me up on
occasion; but-- thanks to his kind nature-- I swam the rapids. That's the real struggle; for to be
born a gentleman is as easy as 'Come here.' Whatever are you gaping at now, like a buck-goat in
a field of bitter vetch?"
At this harangue Giton, who was standing at my feet, could no longer contain himself, but burst
into a most indecorous peal of merriment. When Ascyltos' adversary noticed the fact, he turned
his abuse upon the lad, screaming, "You're laughing too, are you, you curled onion? Ho! for the
Saturnalia, is it December, pray? When did you stump up your twentieth? What's he at now, the
crow's meat gallows-bird? I'll take care God's anger falls on you, you and your master who does
not keep you in better order. As I hope to live by bread. I only keep my hands off you out of
respect for my fellow freedmen; else would I have paid you off this instant minute. We're right
enough, but your folks are good for nothing, who don't keep you to heel. Verily, like master like
man. I can scarce hold myself, and I'm not a hot-headed man naturally; but if I once begin, I
don't care twopence for my own mother. All right, I shall come across you yet in the open street,
you rat, you mushroom, you! I'll never stir up nor down, if I don't
drive your master into a wretched hole, and show you what's what, though you call upon
Olympian Jove himself to help you! I'll be the ruin of your rubbishy ringlets and your twopenny
master into the bargain. All right, see if I don't get my teeth into you; either I don't know myself,
or you shall laugh on the wrong side of your face, even if you have a beard of gold. I'll see that
Minerva's down on you, and the man that first trained you to be what you
"I never learned Geometry and Criticism and such like nonsensical screeds, but I do understand
the lapidaries' marks, and I can subdivide to the hundredth part when it comes to questions of
mass, and weight and mintage. Well and good! if you have a mind, we'll have a little wager, you
and I; come now, here I clap down the tin. You'll soon see your father wasted his money on you,
though you do know Rhetoric. Now:
'Which of us?-- I come long, I come
now guess me.'
"I'll tell you which of us runs, yet never stirs from the spot; which of us grows, and gets less all
the while. How you skip and fidget and fuss, like a mouse in a chamber-pot! So either hold your
tongue altogether, or don't attack a better man than yourself, who hardly knows of your
existence,-- unless perhaps you think I'm
troubled by your yellow ringlets, that you stole from your doxy. God helps the man that helps
himself! Let's away to the forum to borrow money; you'll soon see this bit of iron commands
some credit. Aha! a fine sight, a fox in a sweat! As I hope to thrive and make such a good end
the people will all be swearing at my death, hang me if I don't chivy you up hill and down dale
till you drop! A fine sight too, the fellow that taught you so,-- a muff I call him, not a master!
We learned something else in my time; the master used to say, 'Are your things safe? go straight
home; don't stop staring about, and don't be impertinent to your elders.' Now it's all trash; they
turn out nobody worth twopence. That I am what I am, I owe to my own wits, and I thank God
Ascyltos was just beginning to answer his abuse; but Trimalchio, charmed with his
fellow-freedman's eloquence, stopped him, saying, "Come, come! leave your bickerings on one
side. Better be good-natured; and do you Hermeros, spare the young man. His blood is up; so be
reasonable. To yield is always to win in these matters. You were a young cockerel yourself
once, and then coco coco you went, and never a grain of sense in you! So take my advice, let's
start afresh and be jolly, while we enjoy the Homerists."
Immediately there filed in an armed band, and clashed spears on shields. Trimalchio himself sat
in state on his cushion, and when the Homerists began a dialogue in
Greek verse, as is their unmannerly manner, read out a Latin text in a clear, loud voice. Presently
in an interval of silence, "You know," says he, "what the tale is they are giving us? Diomed and
Ganymede were two brothers. Their sister was Helen of Troy. Agamemnon carried her off and
palmed a doe on Diana in her stead. So Homer relates how the Trojans and Parentines fought
each other. He got the best of it, it seems, and gave his daughter Iphigenia in marriage to
Achilles. This drove Ajax mad, who will presently make it all plain to you." No sooner had
Trimalchio finished speaking than the Homerists raised a shout, and with the servants bustling in
all directions, a boiled calf was borne in on a silver dish weighing two hundred pounds, and
actually wearing a helmet. Then came Ajax, and rushing at it like a madman slashed it to bits
with his naked sword, and making passes now up and down, collected the pieces on his point and
so distributed the flesh among the astonished guests.
We had little time however to admire these elegant surprises; for all of a sudden the ceiling began
to rattle and the whole room trembled. I sprang up in consternation, fearing some tumbler was
going to fall through the roof. The other guests were no less astounded, and gazed aloft,
wondering what new prodigy they were to expect now from the skies. Then lo and behold! the
ceiling opened and a huge hoop, evidently stripped from
an enormous cask, was let down, all round which hung suspended golden wreaths and caskets
containing precious ungents. These we were invited to take home with us as
Then looking again at the table, I saw that a tray of cakes had been placed on it, with a figure of
Priapus, the handiwork of the pastry-cook, standing in the middle, represented in the
conventional way as carrying in his capacious bosom grapes and all sorts of fruits. Eagerly we
reached out after these dainties, when instantly a new trick set us laughing afresh. For each cake
and each fruit was full of saffron, which spurted out into our faces at the slightest touch, giving
us an unpleasant drenching. So conceiving there must be something specially holy about this
dish, scented as it was in this ceremonial fashion, we rose to our feet, crying, "All hail, Augustus,
Father of his Country!" But seeing the others still helping themselves to the dessert, even after
this act of piety, we also filled our napkins,-- myself among the foremost, as I thought no gift
good enough to pour into my beloved Giton's bosom. Meantime three slaves entered wearing
short white jackets. Two of them set on the table images of the Lares with amulets round their
necks, while the third carried round a goblet of wine, crying, "The gods be favorable! the gods be
favorable!" Trimalchio told us they were named respectively Cerdo, Felicio and Lucrio. Then
faithful likeness of Trimalchio in marble, and as everybody else kissed it, we were ashamed not
to do likewise.
Then after we had all wished one another good health of mind and body, Trimalchio turned to
Niceros and said, "You used to be better company; what makes you so dull and silent today? I
beg you, if you wish to oblige me, tell us that adventure of yours." Niceros, delighted at his
friend's affability, replied, "May I never make profit more, if I'm not ready to burst with
satisfaction to see you so well disposed, Trimalchio. So ho! for a pleasant hour,-- though I very
much fear these learned chaps will laugh at me. Well! let 'em. I'll say my say for all that! What
does it hurt me, if a man does grin? Better they should laugh with me than at me." "These words
the hero spake," and so began the following strange story:
"When I was still a slave, we lived in a narrow street; the house is Gavilla's now. There, as the
gods would have it, I fell in love with Terentius, the tavern-keeper's wife; you all knew Melissa
from Tarentum, the prettiest of pretty wenches! Not that I courted her carnally or for venery, but
more because she was such a good sort. Nothing I asked did she ever refuse; if she made a
penny, I got a halfpenny; whatever I saved, I put in her purse, and she never choused me. Well!
her husband died when they were at a country house. So I moved heaven and earth to get to her;
true friends, you know, are proved in adversity.
"It so happened my master had gone to Capua, to attend to various trifles of business. So seizing
the opportunity, I persuade our lodger to accompany me as far as the fifth milestone. He was a
soldier, as bold as Hell. We got under way about first cockcrow, with the moon shining as bright
as day. We arrive at the tombs; my man lingers behind among the gravestones, whilst I sit down
singing, and start counting the gravestones. Presently I looked back for my comrade; he had
stripped off all his clothes and laid them down by the wayside. My heart was in my mouth; and
there I stood feeling like a dead man. Then he made water all round the clothes, and in an instant
changed into a wolf. Don't imagine I'm joking; I would not tell a lie for the finest fortune ever
"However, as I was telling you, directly he was turned into a wolf, he set up a howl, and away to
the woods. At first I didn't know where I was, but presently I went forward to gather up his
clothes; but lo and behold! they were turned into stone. If ever a man was like to die of terror, I
was that man! Still I drew my sword and let out at every shadow on the road till I arrived at my
sweetheart's house. I rushed in looking like a ghost, soul and body barely sticking together. The
sweat was pouring down between my legs, my eyes were set, my wits gone almost past recovery.
Melissa was astounded at my plight, wondering why ever I was
abroad so late. 'Had you come a little sooner,' she said, 'you might have given us a hand; a wolf
broke into the farm and has slaughtered all the cattle, just as if a butcher had bled them. Still he
didn't altogether have the laugh on us, though he did escape; for one of the laborers ran him
through the neck with a pike.'
"After hearing this, I could not close an eye, but directly it was broad daylight, I started off for
our good Gaius's house, like a peddler whose pack's been stolen; and coming to the spot where
the clothes had been turned into stone, I found nothing whatever but a pool of blood. When
eventually I got home, there lay my soldier a-bed like a great ox, while a surgeon was dressing
his neck. I saw at once he was a werewolf and I could never afterwards eat bread with him, no!
not if you'd killed me. Other people may think what they please; but as for me, if I'm telling you
a lie, may your guardian spirits confound me!"
We were all struck dumb with amazement, till Trimalchio broke the silence, saying, "Far be it
from me to doubt your story; if you'll believe me, my hair stood on end, for I know Niceros is not
the man to repeat idle fables; he's perfectly trustworthy and anything but a babbler. Now! I'll tell
you a horrible tale myself, as much out of the common as an ass on the
"I was still but a long-haired lad (for I led a Chian life from a boy) when our master's minion
pearl, by heaven! a paragon of perfection at all points. Well! as his poor mother was mourning
him, and several of us besides condoling with her, all of a sudden the witches set up their
hullabaloo, for all the world like a hound in full cry after a hare. At that time we had a
Cappadocian in the household, a tall fellow, and a high-spirited, and strong enough to lift a mad
bull off its feet. This man gallantly drawing his sword, dashed out in front of the house door,
first winding his cloak carefully round his left arm, and lunging out, as it might be there-- no
harm to what I touch-- ran a woman clean through. We heard a groan, but the actual witches (I'm
very particular to tell the exact truth) we did not see. Coming in again, our champion threw
himself down on a bed and his body was black and blue all over, just as if he had been scourged
with whips, for it seems an evil hand had touched him. We barred the door and turned back
afresh to our lamentations, but when his mother threw her arms round her boy and touched his
dead body, she found nothing but a wisp of straw. It had neither heart, nor entrails, nor anything
else; for the witches had whipped away the lad and left a changeling of straw in his place. Now I
ask you, can you help after this believing there are wise women, and hags that fly by night. But
our tall bully, after what happened, never got back his color, in fact a few days afterward he died
We listened with wonder and credulity in equal proportions, and kissing the table, besought the
Night-hags to keep in quarters, while we were returning home.
And indeed by this time the lights seemed to burn double and I thought the whole room looked
changed, when Trimalchio exclaimed, "I call on you, Plocamus; have you nothing to tell us? no
diversion for us? And you used to be such good company, with your amusing dialogues and the
comic songs you interspersed. Heigho! all gone, ye toothsome titbits, all gone?" "Alas! my
racing days are over, since I got the gout," replied the other; "but when I was a young man, I very
nearly sang myself into a consumption. Dancing? dialogues? buffoonery? when did I ever find
my match, eh?-- always excepting Appelles." And clapping his hand to his mouth, he spit out
some horrid stuff that sounded like whistling, and which he told us afterwards was
Moreover Trimalchio himself gave an imitation of a horn-blower, and presently turned to his
minion whom he called Crťsus. This was a lad with sore eyes and filthy teeth: he was playing
with a little black bitch, disgustingly fat, twisting a green scarf round her, putting half a loaf of
bread on the couch, and on the animal's refusing to eat it, being already overfed, cramming it
down her throat. This reminding Trimalchio of a duty omitted, he ordered Scylax to be brought
in, "the guardian of my house and home." Next moment a huge
watchdog was led in on a large chain and took up a position in front of the table. Then
Trimalchio tossed him a lump of white bread, observing, "There's no one in the house loves me
better." The boy was enraged at hearing Scylax so lavishly praised, and setting his bitch down on
the floor, cheered her on to attack the monster. Scylax, as was his nature to, filled the room with
savage barking, and almost tore Crťsus's little "Pearl" into bits. Nor did this fight end the
trouble; but a chandelier was upset over the table, smashing all the crystal, and scalding some of
the guests with oil.
Trimalchio, not to appear disconcerted at the damage done, kissed the lad and told him to get up
on his back. The latter mounted a-cockhorse without a moment's hesitation, and repeatedly
slapping him on the shoulders with his open hand, laughingly shouted, "Buck! buck! how many
fingers do I hold up?" After thus submitting for a while to be made a horse of, Trimalchio
ordered them to prepare a capacious bowl of wine for all the slaves sitting at our feet, but on this
condition, he added, "If any one won't take his whack, souse it over his head! Business in the
daytime, now for jollity!"
After this display of good nature, there followed a course of delicacies,
only to think of which, if you'll believe me, makes me feel ill. For
instead of thrushes, a fatted hen was set before each guest and chaperoned
goose-eggs which Trimalchio urged us most pressingly to partake of,
assuring us the hens were boned.
At this moment a lictor knocked at the folding doors of the dining-hall,
and dressed out in a white robe, a fresh boon-companion now entered, with
a large train in attendance. As for me, I was so much impressed by all
this state and ceremony, I thought it was the Pretor. So I made as if
to rise and set my naked feet to the floor. Agamemnon laughed at my
trepidation. "Sit still, you silly fellow," said he, "it's Habinnas
the Sevir, he's a marble-mason, and it seems makes capital good
monuments." Reassured by what he said, I lay back again in my place,
and watched Habinnas' entry with the greatest admiration. He was
already tipsy, and leant for support on his wife's shoulder; wearing
several heavy wreaths round his brow, which was so reeking with
perfume it kept trickling into his eyes, he took the Pretor's place,
and at once called for wine and hot water.
Delighted at his joviality, Trimalchio himself called for a large goblet, and asked him how he had
been entertained. "We had everything in the world," he replied, "except the pleasure of your
company; for indeed my inclinations were here. But upon my word, it was very fine. Scissa was
giving a very elegant novendial in memory of her poor old slave, whom she had enfranchised
after his death. And I suppose she will have a good round sum to pay to the tax-collectors, for
they do tell me the dead man's fortune came to fifty thousand. I assure you it was all very
pleasant, though we did have to pour half our liquor over his old
"But what did you have for dinner?" Trimalchio asked.
"I'll tell you, if I can," was the answer, "but there, I have such a first-class memory, I often forget
my own name. However, for first course we had a pig topped with a black-pudding and
garnished with fritters and giblets, capitally dressed, and beetroot of course, and whole-meal
brown bread, which I prefer myself to white; it makes muscle, and when I do my does, I don't
have to yell. The next course was cold tarts, and to drink, excellent Spanish wine poured over
warm honey. So I ate a fine helping of tart, and smeared myself well
with the honey. As accessories, were chick-peas and lupines, nuts at discretion, and an apple
apiece. But I took two, and look you! I've got them here tied up in a napkin; for if I don't take
some present back for my little slave lad at home, there'll be a row. Right! my wife reminds me,
we had also, on the sideboard a joint of bear's meat. Scintilla took some inadvertently, and very
nearly threw up her guts. I on the contrary ate nearly a pound of it; indeed it tasted quite like
boar's flesh. And what I say is, if bear eats man, why should not man, with a far better reason,
eat bear? To end up with, we had cream cheese flavored with wine jelly, snails, one apiece,
chitterlings, scalloped liver and chaperoned eggs, turnips, mustard and (by your leave,
Palamedes!) a dish of mixed siftings; pickled olives also were handed round in a bowl, from
which some of the party were mean enough to help themselves to three handfuls each; the ham
we declined altogether.
"But pray, Gaius, why is not Fortunata at table?"
"Don't you know her better than that?" answered Trimalchio. "Not until she has counted the
plate, and divided the leavings among the slaves, will she let so much as a drop of water pass her
"Well!" returned Habinnas, "if she does not join us, I'm off for one," and made as though to get
up, when at a signal from their master the whole houseful of slaves called out, four times over
and more, "Fortunata!
Fortunata!" At this she entered at last, her frock kilted up with a yellow girdle, so as to show a
cherry-colored tunic underneath, and corded anklets and gold-embroidered slippers. Then wiping
her hands on a handkerchief she wore at her neck, she placed herself on the same couch beside
Habinnas' wife, Scintilla, kissing her while the other claps her hands, and exclaiming, "Have I
really the pleasure of seeing you?"
Before long it came to Fortunata's taking off the bracelets from her great fat arms to show them
to her admiring companion. Finally she even undid her anklets and her hairnet, which she
assured Scintilla was of the very finest gold. Trimalchio observing this, ordered all the things to
be brought to him. "You see this woman's fetters," he cried; "that's the way we poor devils are
robbed! Six pound and a half, if it's an ounce; and yet I've got one myself of ten pound weight,
all made out of Mercury's thousandths." Eventually to prove he was not telling a lie, he ordered a
pair of scales to be brought, and had the articles carried round and the weight tested by each in
turn. And Scintilla was just as bad, for she drew from her bosom a little gold casket she called
her Lucky Box. From it she produced a pair of ear-pendants and handed them one after the other
to Fortunata to admire, saying, "Thanks to my husband's goodness, no wife has
"Why truly!" remarked Habinnas, "you gave me no
peace till I bought you the glass bean. I tell you straight, if I had a daughter, I should cut off her
ears. If there were no women in the world, we should have everything in the world dirt cheap; as
it is, we've just got to piss hot and drink cold."
Meanwhile the two women, though a trifle piqued, laughed good-humoredly together and
interchanged some tipsy kisses, the one praising the thrifty management of the lady of the house,
the other enlarging on the minions her husband kept and his unthrifty ways. While they were
thus engaged in close confabulation, Habinnas got up stealthily and catching hold of Fortunata's
legs, upset her on the couch. "Ah! ah!" she screeched, as her tunic slipped up above her knees.
Then falling on Scintilla's bosom, she hid in her handkerchief a face all afire with
After a short interval Trimalchio next ordered the dessert to be served; hereupon the servants
removed all the tables and brought in fresh ones, and strewed the floor with saffron and
vermilion colored sawdust and,-- a refinement I had not seen before,-- with specular stone
reduced to powder. The moment the tables were changed, Trimalchio remarked, "I could really
be quite content with what we have; for you see your 'second tables' before you. However, if
there is anything spicy for dessert, let's have it in."
Meantime an Alexandrian lad, who served round the
hot water, began imitating a nightingale, his master from time to time calling out, "Change!"
Another form of entertainment followed. A slave who was sitting at Habinnas' feet, at his
master's bidding, as I imagine, suddenly sang out in a loud voice:
"Meantime Æneas cuts his watery way. . . ."
Nothing harsher ever shocked my ears, for to say nothing of the false inflections, now high now
low, of his voice and his barbarous pronunciation, he kept sticking in tags from Atellane farces,
so that for the first time in my life I found Virgil intolerable. Yet no sooner did he pause for an
instant than Habinnas loudly applauded the performance, adding, "The man has had no regular
training; I merely sent him to see some mountebanks, and that's how he learned. The result is, he
has not his match, whether it's muleteers or mountebanks he wants to mimic. He's just desperate
clever; he's cobbler, cook, confectioner, a compendium of all the talents. Still he has two faults,
but for which he would be a perfect paragon: he is circumcised and he snores. For his squinting,
I don't mind that; Venus has the same little defect. That's why his tongue is never still, because
one eye is pretty much always on the alert. I gave three hundred denars for
Here Scintilla interrupted the speaker; "You take good care," she said, "not to mention all the
scamp's qualifications. I'm sure he must be an arrant go-between;
but I'll see to it that he has his brand before long."
Trimalchio only laughed and said, "I see he's a true Cappadocian; always looks out for number
one. And, my word! I don't blame him; for indeed, once dead, this is a thing nobody can secure
us. And you, Scintilla, don't be so jealous! Believe me, we understand you women. As I hope to
be safe and sound, I used myself to poke her ladyship, so that even my master got suspicious; and
that's why he sent me off to be factor in the country. But hush! tongue, and I'll give thee a
Taking everything that was said for high praise, the foul slave now drew an earthenware lamp
from his bosom, and for more than half an hour mimicked a trumpeter, while Habinnas
accompanied him, squeezing his lip down with his fingers. Finally he actually stepped out into
the middle of the room, and first imitated a fluteplayer by means of broken reeds; then with
riding-cloak and whip, acted the muleteer, till Habinnas called him to his side and kissed him,
gave him a drink and cried, "Bravo! Massa, bravo! I'll give you a pair of
We should never have seen the end of these tiresome inflictions but for the Extra-Course now
coming in,-- thrushes of pastry, stuffed with raisins and walnuts, followed by quinces stuck over
with thorns, to represent sea-urchins. This would have been intolerable enough, had it not been
for a still more outlandish dish, such a
horrible concoction, we would rather have died than touch it. Directly it was on the table,-- to all
appearance a fatted goose, with fish and fowl of all kinds round it. "Friends," cried Trimalchio,
"every single thing you see on that dish is made out of one substance." With my wonted
perspicacity, I instantly guessed its nature, and said, giving Agamemnon a look, "For my own
part, I shall be greatly surprised, if it is not all made of filth, or at any rate mud. When I was in
Rome at the Saturnalia, I saw some sham eatables of the same sort." I had not done speaking
when Trimalchio explained, "As I hope to grow a bigger man,-- in fortune I mean, not fat,-- I
declare my cook made it every bit out of a pig. Never was a more invaluable fellow! Give the
word, he'll make you a fish of the paunch, a wood-pigeon of the lard, a turtle-dove of the
forehand, and a hen of the hind leg! And that's why I very cleverly gave him such a fine and
fitting name as Dædalus. And because he's such a good servant, I brought him a present
from Rome, a set of knives of Noric steel." These he immediately ordered to be brought, and
examined and admired them, even allowing us to try their edge on our
All of a sudden in rushed two slaves, as if fresh from a quarrel at the fountain; at any rate they
still had their water-pots hanging from the shoulder-yokes. Then when Trimalchio gave
judgment upon their difference, they would neither of them accept his decision, but each
smashed the other's pot with a stick. We were horror-struck at the drunken scoundrels' insolence,
and looking hard at the combatants, we noticed oysters and scallops tumbling out of the broken
pitchers, which another slave gathered up and handed round on a platter. This refinement was
matched by the ingenious cook, who now brought in snails on a little silver gridiron, singing the
while in a quavering, horribly rasping voice.
I am really ashamed to relate what followed, it was so unheard-of a piece of luxury. Long-haired
slave boys brought in an unguent in a silver basin, and anointed our feet with it as we lay at table,
after first wreathing our legs and ankles with garlands. Afterwards a small quantity of the same
perfume was poured into the wine-jars and the lamps.
By this time a strong wish to dance had seized upon Fortunata, while Scintilla's hands were going
quicker in applause even than her tongue in chatter, when Trimalchio said, "I give you my
permission, Philargyrus, and you, Cario, notorious champion though you are of the green, to take
your places at table; also bid Menophila, your bedfellow, to do the same." To make a long story
short, we were all but thrust off our couches, such a throng of domestics now invaded the dinner-
table. I actually noticed occupying a place above my own the cook who had made a goose out of
a pig, reeking as he was with fish-pickle and sauces. Indeed he was not
satisfied with merely being present, but immediately began an imitation of Ephesus the
Tragedian, after which he offered his master a bet that at the next races the green would score
Delighted at the challenge, Trimalchio cried, "Yes! my friends, slaves are human beings too, and
have sucked mother's milk as well as we, though untoward circumstance has borne them down.
Nevertheless, without prejudicing me, they shall some day soon drink the water of the free. In a
word, I enfranchise them all in my will. I bequeath into the bargain a farm and his bedfellow to
Philargyrus, a street block to Cario, besides a twentieth and a bed and bedding. I name Fortunata
my heir, and commend her to all my friends' kindness. And all this I make public, to the end my
whole household may love me now as well as if I were dead
All began to express their gratitude to so kind a master, when Trimalchio, quite dropping his
trifling vein, ordered a copy of his will to be fetched, and read it through from beginning to end
amid the groans of all members of the household. Then turning to Habinnas, he asked him,
"What say you, dear friend? are you building my monument according to my directions? I ask
you particularly that at the feet of my effigy you have my little bitch put, and garlands and
perfume caskets and all Petraites' fights, that by your good help I may live on even after death.
The frontage is to be a hundred feet
long, and it must reach back two hundred. For I wish to have all kinds of fruit trees growing
around my ashes and plenty of vines. Surely it's a great mistake to make houses so fine for the
living, yet to give never a thought to these where we have to dwell far, far longer. And that's why
I especially insist on the notice:
THIS MONUMENT DOES NOT DESCEND
But I shall take good care to provide in my will against my remains being insulted. For I intend
to put one of my freedmen in charge of my burial place, to see that the rabble don't come running
and dirtying up my monument. I beg you to have ships under full sail carved on it, and me sitting
on the tribunal, in my Senator's robes, with five gold rings on my fingers, and showering money
from a bag among the public; for you remember I gave a public banquet once, two denars a head.
Also there should be shown, if you approve, a banqueting-hall, and all the people enjoying
themselves pleasantly. On my right hand put a figure of my wife, Fortunata, holding a dove and
leading a little bitch on a leash, also my little lad, and some good capacious wine-jars, stoppered
so that the wine may not escape. Also you may carve a broken urn, and a boy weeping over it.
Also a horologe in the center, so that anyone looking to see
the time must willy-nilly read my name. As for the lettering, look this over carefully and see if
you think it is good enough:
TO THE HEIR.
When he had finished reading this document, Trimalchio fell to weeping copiously. Fortunata
wept too; so did Habinnas; so did the servants; in fact, the whole household filled the room with
lamentations, for all the world like guests at a funeral. Indeed I was beginning to weep myself,
when Trimalchio resumed. "Well!" said he, "as we know we've got to die, why not make
the most of life? As I should like to see you all happy, let's jump into the bath. I guarantee you'll
be none the worse; it's as hot as an oven."
C. POMPEIUS TRIMALCHIO,
A SECOND MAECENAS.
HE WAS NOMINATED SEVIR
IN HIS ABSENCE.
HE MIGHT HAVE
BEEN A MEMBER
OF EVERY DECURIA IN
PIOUS, BRAVE, HONORABLE,
HE ROSE FROM
WITHOUT LEARNING OR EDUCATION,
HE LEFT A MILLION OF MONEY
GO AND DO THOU
"Right! right!" cried Habinnas, "to make two days out of one; nothing I should like better," and
springing up barefoot as he was, he followed Trimalchio, who led the way, clapping his
For myself I said, turning to Ascyltos, "What think you, Ascyltos? as for me, to look at a bath
now would kill me."
"Let's consent," he replied; "and then, as they are making for the bathroom, escape in the
This being agreed upon, Giton led the way through the colonnade, and we reached the
house-door, where the watchdog greeted us with such furious barking that Ascyltos tumbled into
the tank in sheer terror. I too, tipsy as I was, and having been once already scared at a painted
dog, got dragged in myself in helping him out of the water. However the hall-keeper rescued us,
who interfered and quieted the dog, and pulled us out shivering onto terra firma. Giton had
already discovered an ingenious way of disarming the animal; anything we had given him from
our dinner, he threw to the barking brute, whose temper was appeased and his attention diverted
by the food. But when, cold and wet, we asked the hall-keeper to let us out, "You're much
mistaken," said he, "if you think you can go out the same way you
came in. No guest is ever dismissed by the same door; they enter one, go out by
So what were we poor unfortunates to do now, prisoners in this new kind of labyrinth, and
reduced to choose the bath as the only alternative? We took the bull by the horns therefore, and
asked the hall-keeper to show us the way there; then throwing off our clothes, which Giton
proceeded to dry in the porch, we entered the bath, which we found to be a narrow chamber,
more like a cooling cistern than anything else, with Trimalchio standing upright in it. Not even
under these circumstances could he refrain from his loathsome trick of boasting, declaring there
was nothing more agreeable than to be free of a crowd in bathing, and that his bath-house
occupied the exact site of a former bakery. Presently, feeling tired, he sat down, and tempted by
his resonance of the bathroom, turned up his tipsy face and open mouth to the vault, and began
murdering some of Menecrates' songs, as we were told by those who could make out the
The remainder of the company were running hand in hand round the edge of the bath, laughing
and shouting at the top of their voices. Others with their hands tied behind their backs, were
trying to pick up rings from the pavement in their mouths, or kneeling down, to bend back and
kiss the points of their toes. Whilst the others were engaged in these amusements, we got down
into the bath, that was being heated for Trimalchio.
After dissipating the fumes of wine by these means, we were next conducted to another
dinner-hall, where Fortunata had laid out a dainty banquet of her own. I noticed especially lamps
suspended over the table with miniature figures of fishermen in bronze, tables of soled silver,
cups of gilt pottery ware round the board, and wine pouring from a wine skin before our
Presently Trimalchio said, "You see, friends, a slave of mine has cut his first beard today, a very
careful, thrifty young man, if I may say so without offense. So let's be jovial, and keep it up till
daylight doth appear." Just as he uttered these words, a cock crew. Trimalchio, much disquieted
at the circumstance, ordered wine to be poured under the table, and some even to be sprinkled
over the lamp; moreover he shifted a ring from his left hand to his right, saying, "'Tis not for
nothing chanticleer has sounded his note of warning; a fire is bound to happen, or some one's
going to die in the vicinity. Save us from ill! Anyone bringing me yonder prophet of evil, shall
have a present for his pains." No sooner said than done; a cock was instantly produced from
somewhere near, which Trimalchio ordered to be killed and put in the pot to boil. He was cut up
accordingly by the same clever cordon bleu who a while before had manufactured game
and fish out of a pig, and
thrown into a stew-pan. Then whilst Dædalus kept the pot boiling, Fortunata ground
pepper in a box-wood mill.
These dainties being dispatched, Trimalchio turned to the servants, saying, "What! haven't you
had your dinners yet? be off now, and let the relay take your places." Hereupon a second set of
attendants came in, the outgoing slaves crying, "Farewell, Gaius!" and the incoming, "Hail,
Gaius!" At this point our mirth was disturbed for the first time; for a rather good-looking slave
boy having entered along with the new lot of domestics, Trimalchio laid hold of him and started
kissing him over and over again. At this Fortunata, to assert "her lawful and equitable rights" (as
she put it), began abusing her husband, calling him an abomination and a disgrace, that he could
not restrain his filthy passions, ending up with the epithet "dog!" Trimalchio for his part was so
enraged at her railing that he hurled a wine-cup in his wife's face. Fortunata screamed out, as if
she had lost an eye, and clapped her trembling hands to her countenance. Scintilla was equally
alarmed, and sheltered her shuddering friend in her bosom. At the same time an officious
attendant applied a pitcher of cold water to her cheek, over which the poor lady drooped and fell
a-sighing and a-sobbing.
But Trimalchio went on. "What! what!" he stormed, "has the trollop no memory? didn't I take
her from the
stand in the slave-market, and make her a free woman among her equals? But there, she puffs
herself out, like the frog in the fable; she's too proud to spit in her own bosom, the blockhead. If
you are born in a hovel, you shouldn't dream of a palace. As I hope to prosper, I'll see to it this
Cassandra of the camp is brought to reason. Why! when I was only worth twopence, I might
have married ten millions of money. You know I might. Agatho, perfumer to the lady next door,
drew me aside, and 'I'll give you a hint,' said he; 'don't let your race die out.' But I, with my silly
good nature, and not wanting to seem fickle-minded, I've driven my ax into my own leg. All
right! I'll make you long yet to dig me up again with your fingernails! And to show this minute
the harm you've done yourself, I forbid you, Habinnas, to put her statue on my tomb at all, that I
may not have any scolding when I'm gone. I'll teach her I can do her a mischief; I won't have her
so much as kiss my dead body!"
After this thunderclap, Habinnas began to entreat him to forget and forgive. "Nobody," he urged,
"but goes wrong sometimes; we're men after all, not gods." Scintilla spoke to the same purpose
with tears in her eyes, and besought him in the name of his good Genius and addressing him as
Gaius, to be pacified. Trimalchio could restrain his tears no longer, but cried, "As you hope,
Habinnas, to enjoy your little fortune,-- if I've
done anything wrong, spit in my face. I kissed the good, careful lad, not because he's a pretty
boy, but because he's so thrifty and clever. I tell you he can recite ten pieces, reads his book at
sight, has bought himself a Thracian costume out of his daily rations, besides an armchair and a
pair of cups. Does he not deserve to be the apple of my eye? But Fortunata won't have it. That's
your pleasure, is it, you tipsy wench? I warn you, make the most of what you've got, you
cormorant; and don't make me nasty, sweetheart, else you'll get a taste of my temper. You know
me; once I've made up my mind, I'm just as hard as nails!
"However, not to forget the living, pray, my good friends, enjoy yourselves. I was once what you
are now, but my own merits have made me what you see. It's gumption makes a man, all the
rest's trash. 'Buy cheap, and sell dear,' that's me; one man will tell you one thing, another
another, but I'm just bursting with success. What! crying still, grunty pig? Mark me, I'll give you
something worth crying for. But as I was saying, it was my thriftiness raised me to my present
position. When first I came from Asia, I was no higher than this candle-stick. I tell you, I used
to measure myself by it every day; and the sooner to get a beard under my nose, I would smear
my lips with the lamp oil. But I was my master's joy for fourteen years; there's nothing
disgraceful in doing your master's bidding. And I satisfied
my mistress into the bargain. You know what I mean; I say no more, for I'm none of your
"Eventually, it so pleased the gods, I found myself king of the castle, and behold! I could twist
my master round my finger. To make a long story short, he made me his co-heir with the
Emperor, and I came into a senatorial fortune. Still no one is ever satisfied. I longed to be a
merchant prince. So, not to be tedious, I built five ships, loaded up with wine,-- it was worth its
weight in gold just then,-- and sent them off to Rome. You might have supposed I'd ordered it
so! if you'll believe me, every one of the ships foundered, and that's a fact. In one day Neptune
swallowed me up thirty millions. Do you imagine I gave in? Not I, by my faith! the loss only
whetted my appetite, as if it were a mere nothing. I built more ships, bigger and better found and
luckier, till every one allowed I was a well-plucked one. Nothing venture, nothing win, you
know; and a big ship's a big venture. I loaded up again with wine, bacon, beans, perfumery and
slaves. Fortunata was a real good wife to me that time; she sold all her jewelry and all her
clothes, and laid a hundred gold pieces in my hand; and it proved the leaven of my little property.
A thing's soon done, when the gods will it. One voyage I cleared a round ten millions. Instantly
I bought back all the farms that had been my late master's; I build a house; I buy up cattle to sell
again. Whatever I touched,
grew like a honeycomb. When I discovered I had as large an income as the whole revenue of my
native land amounted to, off hands; I withdrew from commerce, and started lending money
among freedmen. Moreover, just when I'd quite made up my mind to have no more to do with
trade, an astrologer advised me to the same course, a little Greek fellow, that happened to come
to our own town. Serapa he was called, up to all the secrets of the gods. He told me things I had
clean forgotten, explaining it all as pat as needle and thread; he knew my inside, he could all but
tell me what I'd had for dinner the day before. You would have thought he had lived with me all
"Now tell me, Habinnas,-- you were there at the time, I think-- didn't he say: 'You have used your
wealth to set a mistress over you. You are not very lucky in your friends. No one is ever
properly grateful to you. You have enormous estates. You are nourishing a viper beneath your
wing,' and-- why should I not tell you?-- that I have now left me to live thirty years, four months
and two days. Also I am soon to come in for another fortune. This is what my Fate has in store
for me. And if I have the luck to extend my lands to Apulia, I shall have done pretty well in my
day. Meantime by Mercury's good help, I have built this house. You remember it as a cottage;
it's as big as a temple now. It has four dining-rooms, twenty bedrooms, two marble
porticos, a series of storerooms up stairs, the chamber where I sleep myself, this viper's
sitting-room, an excellent porter's lodge; while the guest chambers afford ample
accommodations. In fact, when Scaurus comes this way, there's nowhere he better likes to stop
at, and he has an ancestral mansion of his own by the seaside. Yes! and there are plenty more
fine things I'll show you directly. Take my word for it,-- Have a penny, good for a penny; have
something, and you're thought something. So your humble servant, who was a toad once upon a
time, is a king now.
"Meantime, Stichus, just bring out the graveclothes I propose to be buried in; also the unguent,
and a taste of the wine I wish to have my bones washed with."
Without a moment's delay, Stichus produced a white shroud and a magistrate's gown into the
dining-hall, and asked us to feel if they were made of good wool. Then his master added with a
laugh, "Mind, Stichus, mice and moth don't get at them; else I'll have you burned alive. I wish to
be buried in all my bravery, that the whole people may call down the blessings on my head."
Immediately afterwards he opened a pot of spikenard, and after rubbing us all with the ointment,
"I only hope," said he, "it will give me as much pleasure when I'm dead as it does now when I'm
alive." Further he ordered the wine vessels to be filled up, telling us to "imagine you are invited
guests at my funeral feast."
The thing was getting positively sickening, when Trimalchio, now in a state of disgusting
intoxication, commanded a new diversion, a company of horn-blowers, to be introduced; and
then stretching himself out along the edge of a couch on a pile of pillows, "Make believe I am
dead," he ordered. "Play something fine." Then the horn-blowers struck up a loud funeral dirge.
In particular one of these undertaker's men, the most conscientious of the lot, blew so tremendous
a fanfare he roused the whole neighborhood. Hereupon the watchman in charge of the
surrounding district, thinking Trimalchio's house was on fire, suddenly burst open the door, and
rushing in with water and axes, started the much admired confusion usual under such
circumstances. For our part, we seized the excellent opportunity thus offered, snapped our
fingers in Agamemnon's face, and rushed away helter-skelter just as if we were escaping from a
We had never a torch to guide our wandering steps, while the silent hour of midnight gave small
hope of procuring light from chance wayfarers. Added to this was our own intoxication and
ignorance of the locality, baffling even by daylight. After dragging our bleeding feet for the best
part of an hour over all sorts of stumbling-blocks and fragments of projecting paving-stones, we
were finally saved by Giton's ingenuity. For being afraid even by daylight of missing his way, he
had taken the precaution the day before to make every post and pillar on the road with chalk.
The strokes he had drawn were visible on the darkest night, their conspicuous whiteness showing
wanderers the way. Though truly we were in no less of a fix, even when we did get to our inn.
For the old woman had been swilling so long with her customers, you might have set her afire
without her knowing anything about it. And we might very likely have passed the night on the
doorstep, had not one of Trimalchio's carriers come up, in charge of ten wagons. Accordingly,
without stopping to make any more ado,
he burst in the door, and let us in by the same road.
Going to my chamber, I went to bed with my dear lad, and burning with amorous ardor as I was
after my sumptuous meal, gave myself up heart and soul to all the delights of
Oh! what a night was that! how soft
The couch, ye gods! as many a time and oft
Our lips met burning in o'ermastering bliss,
And interchanged our souls in every kiss.
To mortal cares I bid farewell for aye--
So sweet I find it in thine arms to die!
But my self-congratulations were premature. For no sooner had my enfeebled hands relaxed
their tipsy hold than Ascyltos, that everlasting contriver of mischief, drew the boy away from me
in the dark and carried him off to his own bed; and there rolling about in wanton excess with
another man's minion, the latter either not noticing the fraud or pretending not to, he went off to
sleep, enfolded in an embrace he had no sort of right to, utterly regardless of all human justice.
So when I awoke, and feeling the bed over, found it robbed of delight, I declare, by all that lovers
hold sacred, I had half a mind to run them both through with my sword where they lay, and make
their sleep eternal. But presently adopting safer counsels, I thumped Giton awake, and turning a
stern countenance on Ascyltos, said
severely, "You have broken faith by your dastardly conduct and sinned against our mutual
friendship; remove your things as quick as may be, and go seek another place to be the scene of
He made no objection to this, but after we had divided our loot with scrupulous exactness,
"Come now," said he, "let's divide the boy." I thought this was merely a parting jest. But
murderously drawing a sword, "Never," he cried, "shall you enjoy this prey you gloat over so
selfishly. I've been slighted, and I must have my share, even if I have to cut it off with this
sword." I followed suit on my side, and wrapping my cloak round my arm, took up a fighting
In wretched trepidation at our unhappy fury the boy fell at our knees in tears and begged and
besought us not to repeat in a miserable tavern the tragedy of the two Theban brothers, nor
pollute with each other's blood the sanctity of so noble a friendship. "But if murder must be
done," he declared, "lo! here I lay bare my throat; here strike, here bury your points. 'Tis I should
die, who have violated the sacred bond of friendship."
At these entreaties we put up our swords. Then Ascyltos, taking the initiative, said, "I will end
this difference. Let the lad himself follow whom he will, so that he may be perfectly free to
choose his friend and favorite."
For my part, supposing my long, long intimacy had bound the boy to me in ties as strong as those
of blood, I felt not the slightest fear, but gladly and eagerly accepted the proposal to submit the
question to this arbitrament. Yet the instant the words were out of my mouth, without a
moment's hesitation or one look of uncertainty, he sprang up and declared Ascyltos to be his
Thunderstruck at this decision, I threw myself just as I was and unarmed on my bed, and in my
despair would certainly have laid violent hands on myself, had I not grudged such a victory to my
adversary. Off goes Ascyltos in triumph with his prize, leaving me forlorn in a strange place--
me who so short a while before had been his dearest comrade and the partner in all his
Friendship's a name, expediency's mate,
The shifting symbol of the changing slate.
While Fortune's on our side, our friends stay true;
Let her once change, farewell the recreant crew!
So on the stage, one plays a father's part,
A son's, a rich man's, each with pliant art;
But when the play is ended, grave or gay,
Dropped is the mask, and truth resumes her sway.
However, I had no time to indulge my grief, but dreading lest, to complete my misfortunes,
Menelaus, the under-professor, should find me alone at the inn, I
collected my traps together, and with a sad heart went off to hire a solitary lodging near the
seashore. Shutting myself up for three days there, my loneliness and humiliation for ever
haunting my mind, I spent my time in beating my poor breast, and with many a deep-drawn
groan, crying again and again, "Oh! why has not the earth swallowed me? why has the sea, that
drowns the guiltless mariner, spared me? Have I escaped the law, cheated the gallows, slain my
host, that after so many proofs of spirit, I should be lying here a beggar and a vagabond, alone
and forlorn in the inn of a paltry Greek city? And who is it has brought me to this desolation? A
stripling defiled with every lust, who on his own freedom and enfranchisement by the
prostitution of his body, whose youthful favors were sold to the highest bidder, who was hired
out as a girl, when known to be a boy all the while. And what was the other? One who donned
on the day of puberty the woman's frock in lieu of the manly gown, who was bent from his
mother's womb on changing sex, who was whore to a barrackful of slaves, who after playing me
false and exchanging the instrument of his lust, abandoned his old friend and, oh! the infamy of
it! like a common strumpet sold everything in one night's vile work. Now the lovers lie twined in
each other's arms whole nights together, and it may be, as they rest exhausted after mutual
excesses, make mock of my loneliness. But they
shall not go unpunished. As I am a man, and a Roman citizen, I will avenge the wrong they have
done me in their guilty blood!"
So saying, I gird on a sword, and that bodily weakness might not hinder my warlike intentions,
recruit my strength with a copious meal. Presently I sally forth, and stalk like a madman through
all the public colonnades. As I was prowling thus, with haggard, ferocious looks that threatened
sheer blood and slaughter, ever and anon clapping my hand to the hilt of the weapon I had
devoted to my vengeance, a soldier observed me-- if a simple soldier indeed he was, and not
some nocturnal footpad. "Ho, there! comrade," he cried, "what's your legion, and who's your
Centurion?" I named both legion and Centurion with confident mendacity. "Come, come," he
retorted, "do the men of your division go about the streets in Greek pumps?" Then, my face and
my agitation sufficiently betraying the imposture, he ordered me to drop my weapon and have a
care I did not get into trouble. So despoiled and deprived of my means of vengeance, I retrace
my steps to the inn, and my resolution gradually slipping away, I begin to feel nothing but
gratitude to the footpad for his bold interference. It never does to trust too much to foresight, for
Fortune has her own way of doing things.
Meantime I found it no easy task to overcome my thirst for revenge, and spent half the night in
debate. In hopes, however, of beguiling my melancholy and forgetting my wrongs, I rose at
dawn and visited all the different colonnades, finally entering a picture gallery, containing
admirable paintings in various styles. There I beheld Zeuxis' handiwork, still unimpaired by the
lapse of years, and scanned, not without a certain awe, some sketches of Protogenes', that vied
with Nature herself in their truth of presentment. Then I reverently admired the work of Apelles,
of the kind the Greeks call "monochromatic"; for such was the exquisite delicacy and precision
with which the figures were outlined, you seemed to see the very soul portrayed. Here was the
eagle towering to the sky and bearing Ganymede in its talons. There the fair Hylas, struggling in
the embraces of the amorous Naiad. Another work showed Apollo cursing his murderous hand,
and bedecking his unstrung lyre with blossoms of the new-sprung
Standing surrounded by these painted images of famous lovers, I ejaculated as if in solitary
self-communion, "Love, so it seems, troubles even the gods. Jupiter could discover no fitting
object of his passion in heaven, his own domain; but though condescending to earthly amours,
yet he wronged no trusting heart. Hylas' nymph that ravished him would have checked her ardor,
had she known Hercules would come to chide her passion. Apollo renewed the memory of his
in a flower; and all these fabled lovers had their way without a rival's interference. But I have
taken to my bosom a false-hearted friend more cruel than Lycurgus."
But lo! while I am thus complaining to the winds of heaven, there entered the colonnade an old
white-headed man, with a thought-worn face, that seemed to promise something mysterious and
out of the common. Yet his dress was far from imposing, making it evident he belonged to the
class of men of letters, so ill-looked upon by the rich. This man now came up to me, saying,
"Sir! I am a poet, and I trust of no mean genius, if these crowns mean anything, which I admit
unfair partiality often confers on unworthy recipients. 'Why then,' you will ask, 'are you so
poorly clad?' Just because I am a genius; when did love of art ever make a man
The sea-borne trafficker gains pelf untold;
The hardy soldier wins his spoil of gold;
The sycophant on Tyrian purple lies;
The base adulterer with Crťsus vies.
Learning alone, in shuddering rags arrayed,
Vainly invokes th' indifferent Muses' aid!
"No doubt about it; if any man declare himself the foe of every vice, and start boldly on the path
of rectitude, in the first place the singularity of his principles makes him odious, for who can
approve habits so different from his own? Secondly, men whose one idea is to
pile up the dollars cannot bear that others should have a nobler creed than they live by
themselves. So they spite all lovers of literature in every possible way, to put them into their
proper place-- below the money-bags."
"I cannot understand why poverty is always talent's sister," I said, and heaved a
"You do well," returned the old man, "to deplore the lot of men of
"Nay!" I replied, "that was not why I sighed; I have another and a far heavier reason for my
sorrow!"-- and immediately, following the common propensity of mankind to pour one's private
griefs into another's ear, I told him all my misfortunes, inveighing particularly against Ascyltos'
perfidy, and ejaculating with many a groan, "Would to heaven my enemy, the cause of my
present enforced continence, had any vestige of good feeling left to work upon; but 'tis a
hardened sinner, more cunning and astute than the basest pander."
Pleased by my frankness, the old man tried to comfort me; and in order to divert my melancholy
thoughts, told me of an amorous adventure that had once happened to
"When I went to Asia," he began, "as a paid officer in the Quaestor's suite, I lodged with a family
at Pergamus. I found my quarters very pleasant, first on account of the convenience and elegance
apartments, and still more so because of the beauty of my host's son. I devised the following
method to prevent the master of the house entertaining any suspicions of me as a seducer.
Whenever the conversation at table turned on the abuse of handsome boys, I showed such
extreme indignation and protested with such an air of austerity and offended dignity against the
violence done to my ears by filthy talk of the sort, that I came to be regarded, especially by the
mother, as one of the greatest of moralists and philosophers. Before long I was allowed to take
the lad to the gymnasium; it was I that directed his studies, I that guided his conduct, and guarded
against any possible debaucher of his person being admitted to the
"It happened on one occasion that we were sleeping in the dining-hall, the school having closed
early as it was a holiday, and our amusements having rendered us too lazy to retire to our
sleeping-chambers. Somewhere about midnight I noticed that the lad was awake; so whispering
soft and low, I murmured a timid prayer in these words, 'Lady Venus, if I may kiss this boy, so
that he know it not, tomorrow I will present him with a pair of doves.' Hearing the price offered
for the gratification, the boy set up a snore. So approaching him, where he lay still making
pretense to be asleep, I stole two or three flying kisses. Satisfied with this beginning, I rose
betimes next morning, and discharged my vow by
bringing the eager lad a choice and costly pair of doves.
"The following night, the same opportunity occurring, I changed my petition, 'If I may pass a
naughty hand over this boy, and he not feel it, I will present him for his complaisance with a
brace of the best fighting cocks ever seen.' At this promise the child came nestling up to me of
his own accord and was actually afraid, I think, lest I might drop asleep again. I soon quieted his
uneasiness on this point, and amply satisfied my longings, short of the supreme bliss, on every
part of his beautiful body. Then when daylight came, I made him happy with the gift I had
"As soon as the third night left me free to try again, I rose as before, and creeping up to the
rascal, who was lying awake expecting me, whispered at his ear, 'If only, ye Immortal Gods, I
may win of this sleeping darling full and happy satisfaction of my love, for such bliss I will
tomorrow present the lad with an Asturian of the Macedonian strain, the best to be had for
money, but always on the condition he shall not feel my violence.' Never did the stripling sleep
more sound. So first I handled his plump and snowy bosoms, then kissed him on the mouth, and
finally concentrated all my ardors in one supreme delight. Next morning he sat still in his room,
expecting my present as usual. Well! you know as well as I do, it is a much easier matter to buy
doves and fighting cocks than an Asturian; besides which, I
was afraid so valuable a present might rouse suspicion as to the real motives of my liberality.
After walking about for an hour or so, I returned to the house, and gave the boy a kiss-- and
nothing else. He looked about inquiringly, then threw his arms round my neck, and 'Please, sir!'
he said, 'where is my Asturian?'
"'It is hard,' I replied, 'to get one fine enough. You will have to wait a few days for me to fulfill
"The boy had wits enough to see through my answer, and his resentment was betrayed by the
angry look that crossed his face.
"Although by this breach of faith I had closed against myself the door of access so carefully
contrived, I returned once more to the attack. For, after allowing a few days to elapse, one night
when similar circumstances had created just another opportunity for us as before, I began, the
moment I heard the father snoring, to beg and pray the boy to be friends with me again,-- that is,
to let me give him pleasure for pleasure, adding all the arguments my burning concupiscence
could suggest. But he was positively angry and refused to say one word beyond, 'Go to sleep, or
I will tell my father.' But there is never an obstacle so difficult audacity will not vanquish it. He
was still repeating, 'I will wake my father,' when I slipped into his bed and took my pleasure of
him in spite of his half-hearted resistance. However, he found a certain pleasure in my naughty
for after a long string of complaints about my having cheated and cajoled him and made him the
laughing-stock of his school-fellows, to whom he had boasted of his rich friend, he whispered,
'Still I won't be so unkind as you; if you like, do it again.'
"So forgetting all our differences, I was reconciled to the dear lad once more, and after utilizing
his kind permission, I slipped off to sleep in his arms. But the stripling was not satisfied with
only one repetition, all ripe for love as he was and just at the time of life for passive enjoyment.
So he woke me up from my slumbers, and, 'Anything you'd like, eh?' said he. Nor was I, so far,
indisposed to accept his offer. So working him the best ever I could, to the accompaniment of
much panting and perspiration, I gave him what he wanted, and then dropped asleep again, worn
out with pleasure. Less than an hour had passed before he started pinching me and asking, 'Eh!
why are we not at work?' Hereupon, sick to death of being so often disturbed, I flew into a
regular rage, and retorted his own words upon him; 'Go to sleep,' I cried, 'or I'll tell your
Enlivened by this discourse, I now began to question my companion, who was better informed on
these points than myself, as to the dates of the different pictures and the subjects of some that
baffled me. At the same time I asked him the reason for the supineness of the present day and
the utter decay of the highest branches
of art, and amongst the rest of painting, which now showed not the smallest vestige of its former
"It is greed of money," he replied, "has wrought the change. In early days, when plain worth was
still esteemed, the liberal arts flourished, and the chief object of men's emulation was to ensure
no discovery likely to benefit future ages long remaining undeveloped. To this end Democritus
extracted the juices of every herb, and spent his life in experimenting, that no virtue of mineral or
plant might escape detection. In a similar way Eudoxus grew gray on the summit of a lofty
mountain, observing the motions of the stars and firmament, while Chrysippus thrice purged his
brain with hellebore, to stimulate its capacity and inventiveness. But to consider the sculptors
only,-- Lysippus was so absorbed in the modeling of a single figure that he actually perished from
lack of food, and Myron, who came near embodying the very souls of men and beasts in bronze,
died too poor to find an heir.
"But we, engrossed with wine and women, have not the spirit to appreciate the arts already
discovered; we can only criticize Antiquity, and devote all our energies, in precept and practice,
to the faults of the old masters. What is become of Dialectic? of Astronomy? of Philosophy, that
richly cultivated domain? Who nowadays has ever been known to enter a temple and engage to
pay a vow, if only he may attain unto Eloquence, or
find the fountain of wisdom? Not even do sound intellect and sound health any longer form the
objects of men's prayers, but before ever they set food on the threshold of the Capitol, they
promise lavish offerings, one if he may bury a wealthy relative, another if he may unearth a
treasure, another if only he may live to reach his thirty million. The very Senate, the ensample of
all that is right and good, is in the habit of promising a thousand pounds of gold to Capitoline
Jove, and that no man may be ashamed of the lust of pelf, bribes the very God of Heaven. What
wonder then if Painting is in decay, when all, gods and men alike, find a big lump of gold a fairer
sight than anything those crack-brained Greek fellows, Apelles and Phidias, ever
"But there! I see your attention is riveted on that picture representing the capture of Troy; so I
will endeavor to expound the theme in a copy of
"Still the tenth summer saw the Phrygian host
A prey to doubt and fear, and Calchas' faith
Wavering and weak in spite of oracles,
When at Apollo's word, the wooded heights
Of topmost Ida lent their tallest trees
To shape the framework of a monstrous horse.
Within, a vasty cave and secret halls,
Capacious of an army, hold the flower
Of all the Greeks, by ten years' strife enraged;
Their own thank-offering hides th' avenging crew!
Oh! my unhappy country! now we dreamed
A thousand ships were scattered, and our land
Freed from the foe. So ran the lying words
Writ on the horse's flank, and so the tale
Of Sinon's wheedling tongue and traitor's
Now through the gates, glad to be free at last,
The shouting Trojans hailed the pledge of peace,
While tears relieve the tension of their joy.
But terror checked their triumph; lo! the priest
Of Neptune, wise Laocoön, his locks unbound,
With cries of warning stays the eager crowd!
His brandished spear he hurled, but foiled by fate,
The blow falls harmless, and the sight renews
Their ill-starred confidence in Grecian guile.
Yet once again he summons all his strength,
And drives his ax deep in the monster's side.
Th' imprisoned warriors' groan resounds, and fills
The wooden hull with terror not its own.
In vain! the captives ride to capture Troy,
And end the tedious war by fraud, not
Another marvel! where above the deep
Tower the sheer cliffs of Tenedos, the surge
Is lashed to foam, and a fierce roaring breaks
The silence of the seas, as on a quiet night
The sound of pulsing oars is borne to land,
When fleets are passing on the distant main.
We turn our gaze; and there with rolling coils
Two water-snakes are sweeping toward the shore;
Their flanks, like lofty ships, throw back the foam,
They lash the main, their crests that ride the waves
Gleam fiery like their eyes, whose lightning flash
Kindles the deep, the billows hiss and roar.
All stare aghast. Behold, like priests attired
In Phrygian robes, there stand Laocoön's sons,
Twin pledges of his love, whom in their folds
The fiery snakes entwine. Each lifts his hands,
His childish hands, to guard,-- alas! in vain,--
His brother's head; from love's unselfishness
Remorseless death a sharper anguish wins.
Their sire, too weak to save them, shares their fate.
Gorged with fresh blood, the monsters drag
Weltering in gore at his own altar's side
The priest a victim dies, in agony
Beating the ground. Thus from polluted shrines
The gods of fated Troy were driven
The rising Moon her beam had just displayed,
Kindling her radiant torch amid the stars,
When the impatient Greeks unbar the doors;
And forth on Troy, by sleep and wine betrayed,
The steel-clad warriors rush, as from the yoke
Just loosed, a gallant steed of Thessaly
Darts o'er the course tossing his eager mane.
They draw their flashing blades and wave
And 'havoc!' cry. One stabs the sleeping sot
With wine oppressed, one from the altar flames
Snatches a burning brand and fires the town,--
And Troy's own temples arm her foemen's hands."
Sundry of the public who were strolling in the colonnades now proceeded to pelt the aged reciter
with stones. But Eumolpus, who was familiar with the sort
of applause his talents usually met with, merely covered up his head and bolted from the Temple.
I was afraid he would claim me as a poet. So I started off in pursuit of the fugitive, and came up
with him on the seashore. There we halted, directly we were out of range of the missiles, and I
asked him, "Now what do you mean by this confounded malady of yours? I have not been a
couple of hours in your company, and you've talked oftener like a mad poet than a sensible man.
I don't wonder the populace pelts you. I am going to fill my pockets with stones, and every time I
see your wits going, I shall bleed you in the head."
At this he changed countenance, and "Oh! my young friend," he said, "today is by no means my
first essay; every time I've entered a theater to recite some trifle, the audience invariably
welcomes me with this kind of treat. However as I am far from wishing to quarrel with you, I
undertake a whole day's fast from poetry."
"Very well, then," said I; "if you'll abjure your crankiness for today, we'll dine together." So
saying, I commissioned the housekeeper at my humble rooms to make preparations for our
humble meal, and we went off straight to the Baths.
Arrived at the Baths, I catch sight of Giton laden with towels and scrapers, leaning against a wall
and wearing a look of melancholy embarrassment on his face. You could easily see he was an
unwilling servant; and indeed, to show my eyes had not deceived me, he now turned upon me a
countenance beaming with pleasure, saying, "Oh! have pity on me, brother! there are no weapons
to fear here, so I can speak freely. Save me, save me, from the murderous ruffian; and then lay
upon your judge, now your penitent, any punishment you please, no matter how severe. It will be
comfort enough for me in my misery to have perished by your good
I bad him hush his complaints, that no one might surprise our plans, and leaving Eumolpus to his
own devices,-- he was engaged reciting a poem to his fellow bathers-- I dragged Giton down a
dark and dirty passage, and so hurried him away to my lodging. Then after bolting the door, I
threw my arms round his neck, pressing my lips convulsively to his tear-stained face. It
was long before either of us could find his voice; for my darling's bosom was quivering like my
own with quick-coming sobs. "I am ashamed of my criminal weakness," I cried, "but I love you
still, though you did forsake me, and the wound that pierced my heart has left not a scar behind.
What can you say to excuse your surrender to another? Did I deserve so base a wrong?"
Seeing he was still loved, he put on a less downcast
To chide, to love,-- how make these two agree?
The task beyond e'en Hercules would be.
Let Love appear, all angry passions cease.
"Yet," I could not help adding, "I never meant to refer the choice of whom you should love to any
third person; but there! all is forgiven and forgotten, if only you show yourself sincerely
penitent." My words were interspersed with groans and tears; when I had done, the dear boy
dried my cheeks with his mantle, saying, "I beg you, Encolpius, let me appeal to your own
recollection of the circumstances. Did I desert you, or did you throw me over? I am ready to
confess, and it is my best excuse, when I saw you both sword in hand, I fled for safety to the
stronger fighter." Kissing the bosom so full of wise prudence, I threw my arms round his neck,
and to let him see he was restored to favor once more, and that my affection and confidence
were as strong as ever, I pressed him closely to my heart.
It was quite dark and the woman had completed my orders for dinner when Eumolpus knocked at
the door. I called out "How many of you are there?" and immediately proceeded to spy through a
chink in the door to see whether Ascyltos had not come too. But seeing my guest was alone, I at
once hastened to let him in. He threw himself on my pallet, and directly he observed Giton
moving about in attendance he wagged his head and remarked, "I like your Ganymede; we shall
have a good time today." I was anything but pleased with this indiscreet beginning, and began to
fear I had opened my doors to another Ascyltos. Eumolpus grew more and more pressing, and on
the lad's serving him with wine, "I like you better," he said, "than any of them at the Baths;" and
draining his cup thirstily, added he had never been more vexed in his
"I tell you, at the Bath just now, I came very near getting a beating, merely because I tried to
repeat a copy of verses to the bathers sitting around the basin. It was just like the Theater-- I was
turned out of the place. Then I started to look for you in every corner of the building, shouting
Encolpius! Encolpius! at the top of my voice. Not far off was a naked youth, who had lost his
clothes, and roaring with just the same clamorous indignation after Giton. For me, I was treated
madman by the very slave lads, who mocked and mimicked me most insolently; he on the
contrary was soon surrounded by a thronging multitude, clapping their hands and showing the
most awe-struck admiration. The fact is, he possessed virile parts of such enormous mass and
weight, the man really seemed only an appendage of his own member. Oh! an indefatigable
worker! I warrant, the sort to begin yesterday, and finish tomorrow! Accordingly he soon found
a way out of his difficulties; a bystander, a Roman knight, they said, of notorious character,
wrapped his own cloak round the poor wanderer, and took him home with him, in order, I
imagine, to have the sole enjoyment of so rich a windfall. But I should never have recovered so
much as my own clothes from the Bathkeeper, had I not produced some one to vouch for me. So
much better does it profit a man to train his member than his mind!"
During Eumolpus's narrative I changed countenance repeatedly, now jubilant at my hated rival's
misfortunes, now saddened by his success. I held my tongue, however, pretending to know
nothing of the matter, and set to work arranging the dinner table. I had hardly finished this, when
our humble repast was brought in; the fare was homely, but succulent and substantial, and
Eumolpus, our famished scholar, fell to with a will, extolling the simplicity of the viands in the
All things that may our simple wants assuage
Kind heaven bestows to ease our hunger's rage;
Wild herbs and berries from the woodland spray
Suffice the craving appetite to stay.
What man would thirst beside a stream, or stand
To front the wintry blast with fire at hand?
The law is armed to guard the marriage bed,
The chaste bride blameless yields her maidenhead.
Whate'er is needful, bounteous Nature gives;
Pride only in unbridled riot lives!
After satisfying his appetite, our philosopher began to moralize, indulging in many criticisms of
such as despise familiar things and attach value only to what is rich and rare. To their perverted
taste anything that is allowable is held cheap, while they display a morbid predilection for
Facile success, a rose without a thorn,
An instant victory, are things I scorn.
The Phasian bird from distant Colchis brought
And Afric fowl! are dainties ever sought,
For these are rarities; not so the goose
And bright-plumed duck, fit but for vulgar use.
The costly scar, choice fish from Syrtes' shore,
That cost poor fishers' lives, these all adore;
The mullet's out of date. The modern man
Deserts his wife to woo the courtesan;
The rose yields place to cinnamon. For naught
Is held of worth that is not dearly bought.
"Is this the way," I cried, "you keep your promise
of making no more poetry today? On your conscience, spare us at least, who have never thrown
a stone at you. Once let any one of the company drinking under the same roof with us scent out
your poetship, he will rouse the whole neighborhood and overwhelm us all in the same ruin.
Have some pity on your friends, and remember the picture gallery and the baths." But Giton,
who was all gentleness, remonstrated with me for speaking so, and declared I was doing ill thus
to jeer at my elders. He said I was forgetting my duty as a host, and after inviting a man to my
table out of compassion, was nullifying the obligation by then insulting him. Other remarks
follow, all equally imbued with moderation and good sense, and coming with added grace from
so beautiful a mouth.
"Happy the mother of such a son!" exclaimed Eumolpus. "Go on, good youth, and prosper! Rare
indeed is such a combination of wisdom and beauty. Never think all your words have been
wasted; you have won a lover! I, I will extol your praises in my verse. I will be your preceptor
and your guardian, your companion everywhere, even when unbidden. Nor has Encolpius
anything to complain of, who loves another." The speaker had much to be thankful for to the
soldier who had taken away my sword; otherwise the wrath I had conceived against Ascyltos
would surely have been wreaked on Eumolpus's head. Giton saw what was toward, and slipped
out of the room, as if to fetch water; and his judicious departure abated the extreme heat of my
indignation. My anger cooled a little, and I told Eumolpus, "Sir! I would rather have you talking
poetry than entertaining such hopes as these. I am a passionate man, and you a lecherous; our
characters, look you, can never accord together. Suppose me stark mad; humor my frenzy,-- in
other words, leave the house without a moment's delay."
Confounded at this outburst, Eumolpus never stopped to ask my reasons, but instantly left the
room, drew the door to after him, and locked me in, to my intense surprise. He carried off the
key with him, and hurried away at a run in search of Giton.
Finding myself a prisoner, I resolved to hang myself and so end my miseries. I had already
attached my girdle to the framework of a bed which stood against the wall, and was just fitting
the noose round my neck, when the doors were flung open again, and Eumolpus coming in with
Giton recalled me to the light of life from the fatal bourne I had so nearly passed. Giton
especially, his agony turning to rage and fury, uttered a piercing shriek, and pushing me down
headlong on the bed with both hands, "You deceive yourself, Encolpius," he cried, "if you think
you can contrive to die before me. I was first; I have already been to Ascyltos's lodging to look
for a sword. Had I not found you, I was going to hurl myself over a precipice. Now, to
show you Death is never far from those who seek him, behold in your turn the sight you intended
me to witness."
With these words he snatches a razor from Eumolpus's hired servant, and drawing it once and
again across his throat, tumbles down at our feet. Uttering a cry of horror, I fall on the floor
beside him, and seek to take my own life with the same weapon. But neither did Giton exhibit
the smallest sign of a wound, nor did I myself feel any pain. The fact is, the razor had no edge,
coming from a case of razors purposely blunted, with the object of training barbers' apprentices
to a proper confidence in the exercise of their craft; and that was why the servant from whom he
snatched the instrument had expressed no sort of consternation, nor had Eumolpus made an effort
to hinder the mimic tragedy.
In the midst of this lovers' fooling, the landlord enters with another course of the dinner, and
staring hard at us where we lay sprawling disgracefully on the floor, "Are you all drunk," he
asked, "or runaways, or both? Now who put up that bed against the wall like that? and what do
all these underhanded proceedings mean? By great Hercules, you intended, you scamps, to
levant in the night, and get out of paying the rent for your room. Not so fast, I say. I'll let you
know it's no poor widow woman's the owner of the block, but
Marcus Mannicius." "You threaten, do you," shouts Eumolpus, and fetches the man a good sharp
slap in the face. The latter hurled at his head an earthenware jar, emptied by a succession of
thirsty guests, cut open his noisy adversary's forehead, and darted out of the room. Furious at the
indignity, Eumolpus snatches up a wooden candlestick, pursues the fugitive, and revenges his
injury with a shower of blows. The whole household comes crowding to the scene of action,
together with a mob of drunken customers. Now was my opportunity for retaliation; so I turn the
tables on Eumolpus by shutting the blackguard out, and find myself without a rival and free to do
as I please with my room and my night.
Meanwhile the unfortunate Eumolpus, being locked out, is assaulted by the scullions and
miscellaneous tenants of the block. One threatens his eyes with a spit loaded with hissing-hot
guts; another snatches a flesh-hook from the kitchen hearth and assumes a fighting attitude. First
and foremost, an old hag with sore eyes and a most filthy apron, and mounted on wooden clogs
(an odd pair) hauls in a huge dog on a chain, and sets him at Eumolpus, who however made a
gallant defense against all assailants with his candlestick. All this we saw through a hole in the
door, just made by the wrenching off of the handle of the wicket, and for my own part I wished
him joy of his beating.
Giton on the contrary, with his usual tender-heartedness, was for opening the door and rescuing
him from his perilous position. My resentment being still hot within me, I could not hold my
hand, but favored the poet's sympathizer with a good smart box on the side of the head, at which
he went and sat down crying on the bed. For myself, I put first one eye, then the other, to the
opening, and was regaling myself with the sight of Eumolpus's sorry plight and mentally patting
his assailants on the back, when Bargates, the agent of the block, who had been called away from
his dinner, was borne into the heart of the skirmish by a couple of chairmen, for he was disabled
by the gout. After a long harangue against drunkards and runaways, uttered in a savage tone and
barbarous accent, he said, turning upon Eumolpus, "My prince of poets, you here? and these
ruffianly slaves don't fly at once and stop their brawling!" Then putting his lips to Eumolpus's
ear, "My bedfellow," he went on, in a more subdued tone, "is a scornful jade; so if you love me,
blackguard her in verse, will you, to make her feel ashamed of
Whilst Eumolpus was talking apart with Bargates, a crier attended by a public slave and a small
crowd of curious persons besides, entered the inn, and brandishing a torch that gave more smoke
than light, read out the follow public notice:
"Lost or strayed lately in the Baths, a boy,-- aged
sixteen, curly-headed, a minion by trade, good-looking, Giton by name. Whoever will bring back
the same or give information of his present whereabouts, will receive a thousand sesterces
Not far from the herald stood Ascyltos in a particolored robe, exhibiting description, and voucher
for the sum promised, on a silver platter. I told Giton to dash under the bed and twist his hands
and feet into the cords by which the mattress was supported on the framework, so that stretched
full length underneath, like Ulysses of old clinging under the ram's belly, he might escape any
prying hands. Giton promptly obeyed, and in another instant had cleverly twisted his fingers in
the attachments, and beaten the wily Ulysses at his own game. For my part, so as to leave no
room for suspicion, I heaped the pallet with clothes and shaped an impression amongst them of a
single sleeper, and that a man of my own size.
Meantime Ascyltos, visiting each room in succession with the apparitor, arrived at mine, where
his hopes of success rose the higher on finding the door so carefully barred. But the public slave,
inserting his ax in the crack of the door, broke the hold of the fastenings. Thereupon I threw
myself at Ascyltos' feet and implored him by the memory of our former friendship and our
companionship in misfortune at any rate to let me see Giton. Nay! more, to give color to my
supplication, "I am well aware, Ascyltos," I cried, "that you have come to murder me; why else
have you brought these axes with you? Take your revenge then; see, I offer my neck, so shed my
life's blood, which you are seeking under pretense of searching my
Ascyltos protested indignantly against the imputation, asseverating he was there only to look for
his runaway favorite; he desired, he said, no man's, certainly no suppliant's death, and least of all
that of a man whom, even after our fatal quarrel, he still thought of as his dearest
Nor was the public slave idle meanwhile, but snatching a cane from the innkeeper, he thrusts it
under the bed, and even investigates every cranny in the walls. Giton kept shirking away from
the stick, and holding his breath in abject terror, squeezed closer and closer, till the bugs were
tickling his very nose.
Scarcely had the men left the room when Eumolpus, for the shattered door could keep no one
out, dashes in in great excitement, shouting, "The thousand sesterces are mine; I shall now run
after the officer and denounce you, as you richly deserve, and inform him Giton is in your hands
at the present moment." I embrace the poet's knees but he remains obdurate; I beseech him not to
kill the dying; I tell him, "Your resolution would have some sense in it, if you could produce the
missing boy, but he has disappeared in the crowd, and I cannot
so much as guess where he is gone to. In heaven's name, Eumolpus, bring the lad back and
restore him to his friends,-- to Ascyltos, if it must be so."
He was just beginning to credit my plausible story when Giton, all but smothered and choking for
breath, give three loud sneezes one after the other, so that the bed positively shook. Eumolpus
wheeled round at the commotion, exclaiming, "Giton, God bless you!" Then lifting the mattress
away, he reveals Ulysses in such a plight even a half-starving Cyclops might well have spared
him! Next turning to me, "What is the meaning of all this, you thief?" said he. "What! even
when found out, you had not spirit enough to tell the truth. In fact, if some God that governs
human affairs had not made the boy betray where he hung concealed, I should have been sent
wandering from tavern to tavern on a wild goose chase."
Giton, a far better wheedler than myself, first stanched the wound in the poor man's forehead
with some cobwebs dipped in oil; then exchanged his own little cloak for the other's torn robe,
and seeing him somewhat mollified, kissed his bruises to make them well, crying, "We are in
your keeping, in your hands, dearest father! If you love your Giton, try, oh! try to save him. I
would the consuming fire might scorch me to ashes, the raging waters overwhelm me, and me
alone! For 'tis I am the subject, I the cause, of all these
wicked doings! My death would reconcile two enemies."
Touched by our troubles, and above all stirred by Giton's blandishments, Eumolpus exclaimed,
"Fools, fools; gifted as you are with qualities to ensure your happiness, you persist in leading a
life of wretchedness, and every day by your own acts draw down fresh torments on your heads.
My plan of life has always been, so to spend each day as if it were my last, that is in peace and
quietness; if you would follow my example, dismiss all anxious thoughts from your minds.
Ascyltos persecutes you here; then fly his neighborhood, and come with me on a voyage I am
about to make to foreign parts. I sail as a passenger in a vessel that may very likely weigh this
very night; I am well known on board, and we shall be sure of a hearty
His advice appeared to me sound and good, as it was likely to free me from further annoyance on
the part of Ascyltos, and at the same time gave promise of a happier existence. Overwhelmed by
Eumolpus's generosity, I felt profoundly sorry for the insults I had just been offering him and
very penitent for my jealousy, which had given rise to so many calamities. With floods of tears I
begged and prayed him to include me too in his forgiveness, pointing out that it was beyond the
power of lovers to control their frenzies of jealousy. I pledged myself for the future to do or say
nothing whatever that could give him offense, and urged him to
banish all irritation from his mind, as a learned and educated man should, so that not a trace of
injury should remain. "On rugged and uncultivated ground," I went on, "the snow lies long, but
where the soil has been disciplined and improved by the plow, the light snowfall melts away
before you can say it has fallen. It is the same with resentment in men's hearts; it abides long in
uncultured minds, but melts quickly from the surface of such as have been trained and educated."
"To prove the truth of what you say," returned Eumolpus, "I hereby end my anger with this kiss.
So in luck's name, pack up your traps and follow me, or if you so prefer, lead the way
The words were still on his lips when the door flew open with a crash, and a rough-bearded sailor
appeared on the threshold, who shouted, "You're all behind, Eumolpus; don't you know the Blue
In an instant we were all afoot. Eumolpus wakes his servant, who had long ago dropped asleep,
and orders him off with his baggage. Giton and I pack up all our belongings for the journey, and
after a prayer to the stars, make our way on board.
We chose out a retired spot on the stern-deck, and as it was not even yet daylight, Eumolpus
dozed off; but neither Giton nor myself could get a single wink of sleep. I reflected with anxiety
on the fact that I had made a companion of Eumolpus, a still more redoubtable rival than
Ascyltos, and the thought gave me no peace. But reason presently getting the better of my
chagrin, "It is certainly unfortunate," I said to myself, "that our friend finds the boy so much to
his liking; but then are not all Nature's finest productions common to all mankind? The sun
shines on the just and on the unjust. The moon, with her countless train of attendant stars, lights
the very beasts of the wilderness to their prey. What can be more beautiful than water? Yet it
flows freely for all and sundry. Is Love alone to be furtively snatched and not won in the open
field? Nay! for my own part, I would rather not have any good thing that all the world may not
covet. One rival, and that an old man, will hardly do me much harm; even
should he wish to presume, he will but lose his labor, for want of
Reassured by the unlikelihood of his success, I calmed my anxieties, and wrapping my head in
my cloak, tried to persuade myself I was asleep. But all of a sudden, as if Fortune were resolved
to destroy my composure, a lamentable voice sounded on the poop-deck, crying, "What! has he
fooled me then?" It was a man's voice, and one not unfamiliar to my ears, and my heart began to
beat wildly. Nor was this all; for now a woman, equally indignant, blazed out in an even fiercer
tone, "If only some god would put Giton in my power, what a welcome I would give the
vagabond!" Stunned by the unexpectedness of the words, we both turned pale as death. I was
particularly terrified, and felt as if I were being tortured by a horrible nightmare. When I found
my voice at last, I asked Eumolpus, who was just dropping off to sleep, plucking at the skirt of
his tunic with trembling hands, "By all you deem holy, father, whose ship is this? and who are
aboard her? tell me that."
He was furious at being disturbed. "So this was the reason," he grumbled, "you chose out the
quietest nook on the deck for us to occupy, that you might not allow us one moment's rest? What
the better are you, when I've told you Lichas a Tarentine commands the ship, and that Tryphaena
is his passenger to Tarentum?" I shuddered horror-struck at this thunderclap, and baring
my throat, "Oh! Destiny," I ejaculated, "now truly is your triumph complete!" Giton for his part
fell in a dead faint on my bosom. Presently, when a copious sweat had relieved the tension of
our spirits, I grasped Eumolpus round the knees, and cried, "Have pity on two dying wretches,
and in the name of what we both hold dear, end our life; death draws nigh, and unless you refuse
to deal it, will haply be a boon."
Overwhelmed by my odious suspicion, Eumolpus swore by gods and goddesses he knew nothing
whatever of what had happened, and had never entertained a thought of treachery; but that in
absolute innocence of heart and simple good faith he had led his comrades aboard the ship he had
long ago chosen for his own conveyance overseas. "Come now, what plot is there afoot?" he
demanded; "what Hannibal have we on board with us? Lichas of Tarentum, a most respectable
man, and not merely owner of this vessel, which he commands himself, but of sundry landed
estates besides and a house of commerce, is carrying a cargo to sell in the way of business. So
this is the Cyclops, the pirate king, we owe our passage-money to; then besides him, there is
Tryphaena, the fairest of fair women, who is sailing from port to port on pleasure
"Why! these," retorted Giton, "are the very persons we wish to avoid," and gave the amazed
Eumolpus a short account of the reasons for their hostility and the
extremity of the risk we ran. So confounded was he at the news, he knew not what advice to
offer, but besought each of us to say what he thought. "Imagine us entrapped," he went on, "in
the Cyclops' cave; some means or other of escape must be discovered, unless we prefer a leap
overboard and a sudden end to all our troubles."
"Better," interposed Giton, "persuade the pilot to steer the ship into some harbor, of course
making it worth his while, and tell him your brother is so subject to seasickness he is at death's
door. You can easily color this excuse with woebegone looks and streaming tears, so that the
officer may grant you the favor out of sheer compassion." But Eumolpus at once declared this
scheme to be impracticable; "for big ships," he pointed out, "require to be laboriously warped
into landlocked harbors; besides, how utterly improbable it will sound that the boy should have
come to such a desperate pass so quickly as all this. Another point. Most likely Lichas will want
to visit a sick passenger as a mark of civility. How singularly pleasant for us, look you, to have
the captain, whom we particularly wish to avoid, coming to see us of his own motion! But again,
granted the vessel could be turned from her main course, and that Lichas should never think of
inspecting the sick boy, how are we to get off the ship without every soul on board seeing us?
With faces muffled, or faces bare? If muffled, who
but will spring forward to help the poor patients ashore? If bare, what does this amount to but
simply giving ourselves away?"
"Nay! why not," I interposed, "make a bold stroke, slip down a rope into the ship's boat and
cutting the painter leave the rest to Fortune? Not that I expect Eumolpus to join in the venture;
why should we involve an innocent man in troubles that in no way concern him? Enough for me
if good luck attend us two on our descent into the boat." "Not at all a bad idea," said Eumolpus,
"if only it were feasible; but who could help noticing your attempt,-- first and foremost the pilot,
who is on watch all night, observing every motion of the stars? Possibly you might elude his
vigilance during an instant's sleepiness, if escape were practicable by any other part of the vessel;
but as things are, you are bound to escape by the stern, past the very helm, for that is where the
rope is made fast that secures the boat. Besides, I wonder this never occurred to you, Encolpius,
that one of the crew is on watch in the boat night and day, a sentinel you cannot get rid of, except
by killing the man or pitching him neck and crop overboard. As to the feasibility of this, well!
consult your own courage. About my accompanying you myself, I shirk no danger that gives the
faintest hope of success. But to throw away one's life as a thing of no importance is, I am sure,
what you do not approve of.
"Now consider how you like this plan; I will clap you in a couple of hides, cording you up among
my clothes as part of my luggage, of course leaving sufficient openings for you to breathe and eat
through. Then I will raise an outcry to the effect that my slaves have both jumped overboard,
because they were afraid of a more terrible punishment. So when we get into port, I will convey
you ashore as baggage without exciting any suspicion whatever."
"Oh! you would pack us up in bales, as if we were solid inside, eh?-- and not liable to
evacuations at all? as if we never sneezed or snored? The same sort of trick turned out such a
success once before, didn't it? Granted we could endure the bondage for a day, what if a calm or
a contrary gale prolonged the time further? what would become of us then? Why! even clothes,
if kept too long tightly packed, cut at the folds, and papers grow illegible, when tied up in
bundles. Young and unused to hardship, how shall we endure swathing bands and ligaments,
like graven images? We must find some better way of escape than this. Listen to what I have hit
on. Eumolpus, as a man of letters, of course carries ink about him; let us black ourselves with it
from head to foot. Then as Ethiopian slaves we shall be at your service, light-hearted and free
from fear of consequences, besting our enemies by this change of complexion."
"Why certainly," cried Giton, "circumcise us too, that we may pass for Jews, and bore our ears to
imitate Arabs, and chalk our faces that Gaul may claim us as her sons! As if a change of color
could modify the whole appearance; why! a host of alterations must be united to make the
illusion convincing. Grant our dyed faces would keep their black; suppose no touch of water to
make the color run, no blot of ink to stick to our clothes, an accident that will often happen even
when no mucilage is added; pray, can we give ourselves the hideous swollen lips of the African?
can we transform our hair to wool with curling-tongs? can we scar our brows with rows of ugly
wrinkles? render ourselves bow-legged and flat-footed? give our beards that outlandish look? A
dye may disfigure the person, it cannot change it. Now hear a desperate man's remedy; let us
wind our clothes around our heads, and plunge into the deep."
"Gods and men forbid," cried Eumolpus, "you should end your days in so base a fashion. Better,
far better, do as I advise. My servant, as the razor incident showed you, is a barber; let him
instantly shave you both,-- not heads only but eyebrows as well. I will second his efforts,
marking your foreheads with writing, so cleverly executed you will have all the look of a pair of
branded slaves. My lettering will at one and the same time divert the suspicions of your
pursuers, and under the guise of a degrading punishment, conceal your real features."
This plan was approved, and our metamorphosis effected without delay. We stole to the side of
the ship, and submitted our heads and eyebrows too to the barber's tender mercies. Eumolpus
then proceeded to cover both our foreheads with enormous capital letters, and with a liberal hand
sprawl the well-known sign of runaways all over our faces. It so happened that one of the
passengers, who was leaning over the side unburdening his seasick stomach, privately noted the
barber busied with this unseasonable moonlight work, and with a curse at the sinister omen of an
act so nearly resembling the last despairing vow of shipwrecked mariners, hurried back to his
berth. Feigning indifference to the sufferer's imprecation, we fell into the same melancholy train
of thought as before, and settling down in silence, spent the remaining hours of darkness in an
Next day, directly Eumolpus learned Tryphaena was risen, he entered Lichas's cabin; here, after
some conversation about the prosperous voyage promised by the fine weather, Lichas remarked,
turning towards Tryphaena, "Priapus appeared to me in a dream last night, and said, 'Encolpius,
the man you are in search of, I hereby tell you, has by me been brought on board your ship.'"
Tryphaena started violently; "You might think we had slept together," she exclaimed; "for I too
saw a vision, that image of Neptune I noticed in the Temple Court at Baiae, telling me, 'You
will find Giton on Lichas's ship.'"
"This will show you plainly," interrupted Eumolpus, "that Epicurus was a man inspired, who
most elegantly expresses his opinion of these figments of the
"Dreams that delude our minds with shadows vain
Are not heaven-sent. But each man's proper brain
Forges these nothings; and the mind at play
Doth nightly reënact the deeds of day,
While the tired body sleeps. The conqueror
Who cities shakes, loosing the dogs of War,
Sees brandished spears, and routs, and deaths of
And blood, and all the horrors battle brings.
What sees the lawyer?-- ranged a dreadful show,
The bench, the bar, the judges all a-row!
The miser dreams of gold, lost treasure finds.
In woodland ways his horn the huntsman winds.
The sailor's vision scenes of wreck describes.
The harlot wheedles; the adultress bribes.
The sleeping hound the flying hare pursues;
And each unhappy wretch old griefs renews."
Lichas, however, after duly expiating Tryphaena's dream, said, "Who is to hinder us searching
the ship anyway, that we may not appear to scorn the revelation the gods
The passenger who had so unfortunately surprised our furtive maneuvers during the night, Hesus
he was called, now suddenly broke in with the question, "Who were the fellows then that were
shaved by moonlight
last night, an abominable thing to do, upon my word! For they tell me it's wicked for any man
alive, when aboard ship, to cut either nails or hair, except when the wind is at odds with the
Lichas flew into a passion of anger and consternation at the words, blustering, "Has anyone dared
to cut his hair on my ship, and at dead of night too? Produce the culprits instantly, that I may
know whose head must fall to purify my vessel from the taint."
"It was I," Eumolpus confessed, "ordered it. If I have brought down ill luck, I shall not escape
my share, for am I not to travel in the same ship? But the fact is the offenders had such
monstrously long and shaggy hair I ordered the wretches' unkempt locks to be shorn, that I might
not seem to be turning our good ship into a jail, as also that the letters branded on their brows
might be legible to all men's eyes, being no longer overshadowed and hidden by the hair.
Amongst other knavish tricks, they have been spending my money on a light-o'-love they kept
between them, from whose side I dragged them away only last night reeking with wine and filthy
perfumes. Indeed at this very minute they stink of the relics of their debauch-- and it is all at my
Accordingly, by way of expiation to the tutelary spirit of the ship, it was decreed we should each
of us receive forty stripes. Without further delay the savage
sailors fall upon us, anxious to appease the deity with our wretched blood. For myself, I digested
three lashes with Spartan fortitude; but Giton, at the very first blow, set up such a yell his well
remembered voice penetrated straight to Tryphaena's ears.
Nor was the mistress the only one startled by his cries; all her maids as well, attracted by the
familiar tones, gather round the triangles. Already had his wondrous beauty begun to disarm the
sailors and deprecate their rage with its mute appeal, when Tryphaena's women all chime in with
the cry, "Giton! it's Giton! stay, oh! stay your savage hands. Help, help, mistress! it's Giton!"
Tryphaena turns only too ready an ear to their words, and flies headlong to his side. Lichas, who
knew me perfectly, just as well as if he had heard my voice too, now runs up, and looking neither
at hands nor face, but instantly lowering his eyes to my middle, politely laid his hands on those
parts, and greeted me by my name. Why wonder any longer at Ulysses' nurse, after twenty years,
identifying the scar that proved his birth, when this most observing master mariner, spite of every
lineament of face and form being disguised, yet pounced shrewdly on the sole and only attribute
that betrayed the fugitive. Tryphaena burst into tears, supposing our disfigurement real and that
we had been branded on the brow as slaves and inquired in soft tones of pity, what dungeon we
had fallen into on our
wanderings, or whose hands had been barbarous enough to inflict so terrible a punishment.
Doubtless they had merited some mark of ignominy, the runaways, whom her favors had only
turned into enemies-- but not such a one as this!
Frenzied with indignation, Lichas sprang forward, crying, "Oh! the simplicity of the woman! to
actually believe these scars were made and the letters really imprinted, with the branding-iron! I
only wish the marks they have disfigured their faces with were permanent! This would be some
satisfaction to us at any rate. As a matter of fact, the whole thing's a farce, and the lettering a
delusion and a snare!"
Tryphaena was by way of showing some compassion, inasmuch as all was not lost for her
pleasures; but Lichas, remembering his wife's seduction and the insults he had received in the
portico of the Temple of Hercules, and showing a countenance fiercely contorted with passion,
cries, "This will show you, I imagine, Tryphaena, the immortal gods do govern human lives.
Have they not brought the culprits all unwitting on board our ship, yea! and warned us of the fact
by dreams coinciding in every particular with the truth? Look you now, how can we pardon
offenders whom God himself puts into our hands for chastisement? For my part, I'm not a cruel
man; but I dare not spare them, lest I suffer for it myself."
Impressed by these superstitious arguments, Tryphaena changed her mind, and declared she
would make no further objection to our punishment, but would gladly second so just a piece of
retribution. She had received, she added, as cruel wrong as Lichas himself; for had not her good
name been publicly traduced before a vulgar
'Twas terror first gave origin to gods,
When the forked lightning, flashing from the sky
Would o'erwhelm towns and lofty Athos fire.
Next, rising Sun, and waxing, waning Moon,
Offerings received. So idols filled the world,
And not a month but had its proper god.
Far spread the taint; blind superstition led
The rustic swain to pay his first-fruits' toll
To Ceres, and with grapes Bacchus to crown,
And Pales venerate, the shepherds' god;
So Neptune ruled the waves, Pallas the schools.
Each man of mark, each founder of a State,
New gods invents, his rival to outstrip.
Lichas, seeing Tryphaena eager as himself for revenge, ordered our punishment to be renewed
increased. On hearing this Eumolpus endeavored to mitigate his anger by the following speech:
"The unhappy beings whose destruction your vengeance claims, imploring your compassion,
Lichas, they have chosen me, as one not unknown to you, to the office of mediator, to reconcile
them once more to those they formerly
held so dear. You cannot really suppose the young men fell into this trap by mere chance; for
surely the very first thing an intending passenger asks, is the name of the person he is to intrust
his safety to. Relent then; be satisfied with the penalties already exacted and suffer free men to
proceed to their destination without further injury. The harshest and most unforgiving of masters
stay their cruelty, when slaves return home penitent; and do we not all of us spare enemies who
surrender? What more do you want or desire? Prostrate before you lie these youths, men of birth
and breeding though they be, and what is more than this, friends once bound to you in the ties of
closest intimacy. Had they embezzled your money, had they betrayed your trust, by great
Hercules! even then your resentment might be satisfied with the pains and penalties you behold.
Lo! the marks of servitude upon their brows, and their faces-- free men's faces-- wearing
voluntarily the degrading badge of punishment!"
But Lichas cut short the plea of mercy. "Nay! you confuse the issue," he interrupted; "you
should keep each point separate and distinct. First of all, if they came here of their own free will,
why did they shave their heads? The man who adopts a disguise is after no good, but is trying to
deceive. Secondly, if they were seeking forgiveness and reconciliation through your good
offices, why did you take every possible pains to
keep your clients concealed? It is plain enough the culprits did fall into the trap accidentally, and
that you are merely trying on an artful subterfuge to slip out of reach of our
"Then for your special pleading, your noisy claim about their being men of birth and breeding,
have a care you don't injure your case by over-confidence. Whatever is the injured party to do,
when the guilty run blindly to their own punishment? But, you urge, they were our friends; the
more thoroughly, I say, have they earned their chastisement. The man who wrongs mere
strangers, is called a robber; he who betrays his friends, is little better than a
Eumolpus, to rebut this damaging reasoning, replies, "There is nothing, I gather, tells more
heavily against the unfortunate young men than the fact of their having cut off their hair by night;
this is taken to prove they did not come on board voluntarily, but by mischance. I only trust my
explanation may seem as simple and straightforward as the act itself was simply and innocently
done. They purposed, before ever they embarked, to have eased their heads of an annoying and
needless burden, but the wind springing up sooner than was expected forced them to put off their
visit to the barber; nor did they for an instant imagine it mattered where they carried out the
intention they had formed, knowing nothing of the omen involved or the rules aboard
"What made them take the guise of suppliants and shave their heads," was Lichas's only answer,
"unless possibly because bald heads are more likely to win compassion? But there, what use
trying to get at the truth through an interpreter? What have you to say for yourself, you thief?
What salamander has burnt off your eyebrows? what god have you vowed your locks to?
Answer me, villain." As for me, I stood dumfounded, silenced by my terror of punishment,
unable in my confusion to find a word, so plain was the case against me. Besides, I was so
disfigured, what with my cropped head and my eyebrows as bare as my forehead, I could do
nothing and say nothing becomingly. But when presently my tearful face was wiped with a wet
sponge, and the ink being thus moistened and smeared all over my countenance, my features
were all confounded together in one sooty cloud, his anger turned into disgust. Eumolpus stoutly
declared he would not stand by and see freeborn men degraded against all right and justice, and
protested against our savage foeman's threats not only in word but in act. His protests were
seconded by his hired servant and by one or two passengers very much exhausted by seasickness,
and whose interference was more of an inducement to further violence than an accession of
strength. I asked for no mercy for myself, but shaking my fists in Tryphaena's face, I cried out in
a bold, loud voice, I would use all my strength upon her,
if she laid a finger on Giton, cursed woman that she was, the only person on the ship that really
This insolence made Lichas still more angry, for he was furious at seeing me thus abandon my
own cause to protest on Giton's behalf. Nor was Tryphaena less enraged at the affront, and the
whole ship's company was split into two opposing factions. On the one side the barber servant is
busied distributing his razors amongst us, after first arming himself with one of them, on the
other Tryphaena's slaves are tucking up their sleeves the better to use their fists. Even the maids
did their part, encouraging the combatants with their cries, the pilot alone protesting and
declaring he would leave the helm, if they did not make an end of this frantic uproar all about a
couple of lecherous blackguards.
Even this threat failed to mitigate the fury of the disputants, our adversaries fighting for revenge,
and ourselves for dear life. Numbers fall on either side, though no one is actually killed; still
more retire wounded and bleeding, like soldiers after a pitched battle, without anyone showing
the smallest loss of determination.
At this crisis the gallant Giton suddenly clapped his razor menacingly to his virile parts,
threatening to amputate the cause of so many calamities; but Tryphaena forbade the perpetration
of the horrid deed, readily granting him quarter. I myself repeatedly laid a similar
weapon to my throat, though without any more intention of really killing myself than Giton had
of carrying out his threat. At the same time he was able to enact the comedy with the more
reckless realism, knowing as he did that the razor in his hand was the identical one he had once
already cut his throat with.
Both sides kept the field with equal resolution, till the pilot, seeing it was likely to be no
everyday fight, arranged after no little difficulty that Tryphaena should act as peacemaker and
effect a truce. So after mutual pledges had been exchanged in the time-honored fashion, holding
forth an olive branch she had hastily snatched from the image of the tutelary deity of the vessel,
she advanced boldly to the parley.
"What direful rage," she cries, "turns peace to war?
What crime is ours? No faithless Paris here
Rides in our ship, nor Menelaus' bride,
Nor with a brother's gore Medea dyed.
'Tis slighted love inspires the feud, and craves
For blood and murderous deeds amidst these waves;
Why die before our time? your wrath forbear,
Nor make the harmless sea your passions share!"
This effusion, pronounced by Tryphaena in a broken voice, did something to stop the fray, the
combatants at length turning their thoughts to a peaceful solution and ceasing from active
hostilities. Eumolpus, the leader on our side, at once seized the opportunity for
reconciliation thus offered, and after first indulging in a fierce invective against Lichas and all his
doings, put his seal to a treaty of peace, which ran as follows:
"From the bottom of your heart, you, Tryphaena, do promise and undertake to fore-go all
complaint of the wrong done you by Giton; and never, by reason of any act of his committed
aforetime, to upbraid, or punish, or in any wise molest him. Furthermore, that you will do
nothing to the boy against his free will and pleasure, neither embracing, nor kissing, the said
Giton, nor fornicating with him, except under forfeiture of one hundred denars for such
"Item: from the bottom of your heart, you, Lichas, do promise that you will in no wise annoy
Encolpius with word or look of contumely, nor inquire where he may sleep at night; or if you so
do, that you will incontinently count down two hundred denars for each
A truce being agreed to upon these terms, we laid down our arms, and in order that no vestige of
rancor might be left, once the oath was taken, it was resolved we should kiss away all memory of
past injuries. All being unanimous for peace, our swelling passions soon subside, and a banquet
served with emulous alacrity crowns our reconciliation with the pledge of good-fellowship. The
whole ship resounds with singing, and a sudden calm having arrested her progress, one might be
seen harpooning the fish that leapt above the waves, while another would he hauling in the
struggling prey enticed by his cunningly baited hooks. Sea-birds too came and settled on the
main yard; these a practised sportsman touched with his jointed fowling-rods, and conveyed them
glued to the limed tackle into our very hands. The down flew dancing in the air, while the larger
feathers fell into the sea and tossed lightly to and fro on the foam-capped
Lichas seemed already on the point of making it up with me, and Tryphaena was throwing the
last drops of her wine amorously over Giton, when Eumolpus, who was as drunk as anybody,
took it into his head to start jeering at people who were bald-headed and branded. Eventually
coming to the end of his exceedingly pointless witticisms, he once more dropped into poetry, and
treated us to the following little "Lament for Vanished
Beauty is fallen! thy hair's soft vernal grace
To wintry baldness gives untimely place.
Thy injured temples mourn their ravished shade;
Waste, like a stubble field, thy brow is laid.
Fallacious gods! your treacherous gifts how vain!
You only give us joy, to give us pain.
Unhappy youth! but late thy curling gold
E'en Phoebus self might envy to behold;
But now for smoothness, nor the liquid air,
Nor watered pumpkin can with thee compare.
The laughter-loving maids you fly, and fear;
And death with hasty steps will soon be here.
His fatal night already clouds thy morn,
Beauty is fallen! and thy gay locks are shorn.
He was still longing, I verily believe, to give us more of this stuff or perhaps something worse,
when Tryphaena's maid led Giton away below and dressed the lad up in one of her mistress's
heads of hair. She next produced eyebrows out of a make-up box, and cleverly following the
lines of the lost features, soon restored him to all his pristine comeliness. Tryphaena saw Giton
once more under his true colors, and bursting into tears, gave the boy the first genuine and
heartfelt kiss she had bestowed on him since his misfortunes. Rejoiced as I was to see the lad
restored to his former beauty, I could not help continually hiding my own face, feeling how
extraordinarily I must be disfigured, since Lichas did not deign to give me so much as a word.
However I was rescued before long from these sad thoughts by the kind offices of the same maid
servant, who now called me aside and decked me out with an equally elegant substitute for my
lost ringlets. Indeed my face looked prettier than ever, as it happened to be a flaxen
But Eumolpus, champion of the distressed and author of the existing harmony, fearing that our
cheerfulness should flag for lack of amusing anecdotes, commenced a series of gibes at women's
frailty,-- how lightly they
fell in love, how quickly they forgot even their own sons for a lover's sake, asserting there was
never yet a woman so chaste she might not be wrought to the wildest excesses by a lawless
passion. Without alluding to the old plays and world-renowned examples of women's folly, he
need only instance a case that had occurred, he said, within his own memory, which if we pleased
he would now relate. This offer concentrated the attention of all on the speaker, who began as
"There was once upon a time at Ephesus a lady of so high repute for chastity that women would
actually come to that city from neighboring lands to see and admire. This fair lady, having lost
her husband, was not content with the ordinary signs of mourning, such as walking with hair
disheveled behind the funeral car and beating her naked bosom in presence of the assembled
crowd; she was fain further to accompany her lost one to his final resting-place, watch over his
corpse in the vault where it was laid according to the Greek mode of burial, and weep day and
night beside it. So deep was her affliction, neither family nor friends could dissuade her from
these austerities and the purpose she had formed of perishing of hunger. Even the Magistrates
had to retire worsted after a last but fruitless effort. All mourned as virtually dead already a
woman of such singular determination, who had already passed five days without food.
"A trusty handmaid sat by her mistress's side, mingling her tears with those of the unhappy
woman, and trimming the lamp which stood in the tomb as often as it burned low. Nothing else
was talked of throughout the city but her sublime devotion, and men of every station quoted her
as a shining example of virtue and conjugal affection.
"Meantime, as it fell out, the Governor of the Province ordered certain robbers to be crucified in
close proximity to the vault where the matron sat bewailing the recent loss of her mate. Next
night the soldier who was set to guard the crosses to prevent anyone coming and removing the
robbers' bodies to give them burial, saw a light shining among the tombs and heard the widow's
groans. Yielding to curiosity, a failing common to all mankind, he was eager to discover who it
was, and what was afoot. Accordingly he descended into the tomb, where beholding a lovely
woman, he was at first confounded, thinking he saw a ghost or some supernatural vision. But
presently the spectacle of the husband's dead body lying there, and the woman's tear-stained and
nail-torn face, everything went to show him the reality, how it was a disconsolate widow unable
to resign herself to the death of her helpmate. He proceeded therefore to carry his humble meal
into the tomb, and to urge the fair mourner to cease her indulgence in grief so excessive, and to
leave off torturing her bosom
with unavailing sobs. Death, he declared, was the common end and last home of all men,
enlarging on this and the other commonplaces generally employed to console a wounded spirit.
But the lady, only shocked by this offer of sympathy from a stranger's lips, began to tear her
breast with redoubled vehemence, and dragging out handfuls of her hair, she laid them on her
"The soldier, however, refusing to be rebuffed, renewed his adjuration to the unhappy lady to eat.
Eventually the maid, seduced doubtless by the scent of the wine, found herself unable to resist
any longer, and extended her hand for the refreshment offered; then with energies restored by
food and drink, she set herself to the task of breaking down her mistress's resolution. 'What good
will it do you,' she urged, 'to die of famine, to bury yourself alive in the tomb, to yield your life to
destiny before the Fates demand it?
"'Think you to pleasure thus the dead and gone?
"'Nay! rather return to life, and shaking off this womanly weakness, enjoy the good things of this
world as long as you may. The very corpse that lies here before your eyes should be a warning to
make the most of existence.'
"No one is really loath to consent, when pressed to eat or live. The widow therefore, worn as she
was with several days' fasting, suffered her resolution to be
broken, and took her fill of nourishment with no less avidity than her maid had done, who had
been the first to give way.
"Now you all know what temptations assail poor human nature after a hearty meal. The soldier
resorted to the same cajolements which had already been successful in inducing the lady to eat, in
order to overcome her virtue. The modest widow found the young soldier neither ill-looking nor
wanting in address, while the maid was strong indeed in his favor and kept
"Why thus unmindful of your past delight,
Against a pleasing passion will you fight?"
"But why make a long story? The lady showed herself equally complaisant in this respect also,
and the victorious soldier gained both his ends. So they lay together not only that first night of
their nuptials, but a second likewise, and a third, the door of the vault being of course kept shut,
so that anyone, friend or stranger, that might come to the tomb, should suppose this most chaste
of wives had expired by now on her husband's corpse. Meantime the soldier, entranced with the
woman's beauty and the mystery of the thing, purchased day by day the best his means allowed
him, and as soon as ever night was come, conveyed the provisions to the
"Thus it came about that the relatives of one of the malefactors, observing this relaxation of
removed his body from the cross during the night and gave it proper burial. But what of the
unfortunate soldier, whose self-indulgence had thus been taken advantage of, when next morning
he saw one of the crosses under his charge without its body! Dreading instant punishment, he
acquaints his mistress with what had occurred, assuring her he would not await the judge's
sentence, but with his own sword exact the penalty of his negligence. He must die therefore;
would she give him sepulture, and join the friend to the husband in that fatal
"But the lady was no less tender-hearted than virtuous. 'The Gods forbid,' she cried, 'I should
at one and the same time look on the corpses of two men, both most dear to me. I had rather
hang a dead man on the cross than kill a living.' So said, so done; she orders her husband's body
to be taken from its coffin and fixed upon the vacant cross. The soldier availed himself of the
ready-witted lady's expedient, and next day all men marveled how in the world a dead man had
found his own way to the cross."
This story set the sailors all laughing, while it made Tryphaena blush not a little and lay her face
amorously against Giton's bosom. Lichas on the other hand was far from laughing, and shaking
his head indignantly, "If the Governor of Ephesus had been a just man," he declared, "he should
have returned the good husband's body to the tomb and hung the woman on the cross."
Doubtless he was thinking of the injury done to his own bed, and the pillage of his ship by the
roving band of wantons. But not only did the terms of our treaty forbid his bearing rancor, but
the mirth that filled all hearts left no room for resentment. Meantime Tryphaena, sitting on
Giton's lap, was now covering his breast with kisses, now adjusting his wig so as to set off his
face in spite of the loss of his ringlets.
For myself, so chagrined and impatient was I at this new and unexpected reconciliation I could
neither eat nor drink, but sat looking grimly askance at the pair. Every kiss they exchanged
wounded me, and every artful blandishment the wanton employed. I knew not
whether I was the more incensed with the boy for having robbed me of my mistress, or with my
mistress for debauching the boy. Both sights cut me to the quick, and were far more painful than
my late captivity. To make things worse, Tryphaena never vouchsafed me a word, as she surely
might have to a friend and a once favored lover, nor did Giton deign so much as to do me the
common courtesy of drinking my health, or at the very least speaking to me in the course of
general conversation. I suppose he was afraid, just at the commencement of renewed favors on
the lady's part, of re-opening a scarcely healed wound. Tears of vexation wetted my bosom, and
the groans I stifled under the guise of a sigh all but choked
The vulture grim that, sick hearts
Mangles the inmost vitals day and
Is not the bird complacent poets
But bitter jealousy and sore despite.
Notwithstanding my dismal countenance, my flaxen wig set off my beauty to advantage, and
Lichas, inflamed afresh with amorousness, began to cast sheep's eyes at me and to solicit my
favors, adopting more the tone of a friend than of a supercilious master who commands. Many
were his attempts, but all in vain; at last, his advances meeting with nothing but decided rebuffs,
his love changed to fury, and he endeavored to carry
the place by assault. But Tryphaena, making a sudden inroad, observed his naughtiness,
whereupon he hurriedly adjusts his dress in great confusion, and takes to his
This added fresh fuel to Tryphaena's wantonness, who demanded, "What was Lichas aiming at in
these ardent attempts of his?" She forced me to explain, and fired by my tale, remembering too
our former intimate relations, would fain have had me renew our bygone amours. But I was tired
out with excessive venery, and rejected her advances with scorn. At this, Tryphaena, in a frenzy
of desire, threw her arms wildly around me and hugged me so tight I uttered a sudden cry of pain.
One of the maids rushed in at the sound, and jumping to the conclusion I was extorting from her
mistress the very favor I refused her, sprang at me and tore us apart. Mad with the
disappointment of her lecherous passion, Tryphaena upbraided me violently, and with a thousand
threats hastened away to Lichas, to still further exasperate him against me and to join him in
contriving some means of vengeance.
You must know that at one time I had found much favor in this same waiting-maid's eyes, when I
was on familiar terms with her mistress; so she took it extremely ill when she surprised me with
Tryphaena, and sobbed bitterly. I eagerly inquired the reason of her distress, and after making
some show of reluctance, she burst
out, "If you have one drop of good blood in your veins, you will treat her as no better than a
strumpet; as you are a man, don't go with that female catamite."
This incident perplexed my mind and made me still more anxious; but what I feared more than
anything else was that Eumolpus might get wind of the circumstances, such as they were, and
being a most sarcastic person might compose a versified lampoon to avenge my supposed
wrongs, for in that case his fiery partisanship would undoubtedly have made me ridiculous, a
thing I especially dreaded. I was just debating in my own mind how I could keep Eumolpus from
this knowledge, when behold! the very man in question appeared, perfectly acquainted with what
had occurred; for Tryphaena had retailed the whole circumstances to Giton, trying to indemnify
herself for my rebuff at my little favorite's expense. This had made Eumolpus furiously angry, all
the more as these ebullitions of amorousness were open violations of the treaty signed and sealed
between us. The instant the old fellow set eyes on me, he began bewailing my lot, and begged I
would tell him exactly how it had all happened. So I frankly told him, seeing he was thoroughly
posted already, of Lichas's abominable attempt and Tryphaena's lecherous provocations. After
listening to my tale, Eumolpus swore in good set terms, that he would avenge us, declaring the
Gods were too just to suffer such villainies to go unpunished.
Whilst we were still engaged in talk of this and the like sort, the sea rose and heavy clouds
gathering from all quarters plunged the scene in darkness. The sailors run to their posts in panic
haste, and take in sail to ease the ship. But the wind, continually changing, had raised a
cross-sea, and the helmsman was uncertain what course to steer. At one moment the storm
would be driving us towards Sicily, while at others the North Wind, that tyrant of the Italian
coast, would repeatedly whirl our helpless ship hither and thither at its mercy; and what was
more dangerous than all the squalls, a sudden darkness had fallen, so thick the helmsman could
not see even to the ship's bows. So the tempest being, God knows, utterly overpowering, Lichas
stretches forth his hands towards me in terror and supplication, crying, "Help us, Encolpius, help
us in our peril; restore that sacred robe and the sistrum you robbed the ship of. By all you hold
sacred, have pity, you who are so tender-hearted usually." As he was vociferating thus, the gale
swept him overboard; he rose once and again from the raging whirlpool, then the waters whirled
him round and sucked him under.
Tryphaena on the contrary was saved by the fidelity of her slaves, who seized her, put her in the
ship's boat along with the greater part of her baggage, and so rescued her from certain
Clinging to Giton, I lamented, "Is this all the Gods
give us, to unite us only in death? Nay! cruel Fortune grudges even this. Look! in an instant the
waves will overset the ship; look! the angry sea will in an instant sever the embraces of two
lovers. If ever you truly loved Encolpius, kiss me, while you may, and snatch this last delight
from swift impending doom."
As I said the words, Giton threw off his robe, and creeping inside my tunic, protruded his head to
be kissed. Moreover, that the cruel waves might not tear our embrace asunder, he girt us both
together with a girdle round our waists, crying, "If nothing else, at least we shall thus float longer
united; or if the ocean be so merciful as to cast up our dead bodies on the same shore, either
some passer-by will have the common humanity to heap a cairn over us, or else the unconscious
sand will give us a burial even the angry waves cannot dispute." I submit to this last and final
bond, and calm as if composed on my funeral couch, await a death I no longer
The tempest meantime carries out the decrees of Fate, and beats down the last defenses of the
ship. Mast and rudder are carried away, and not a rope or an oar left; like a mere shapeless mass
of logs she goes drifting with the billows. Some fishermen now put out hastily in their small
craft to loot the vessel; but when they saw men were still on board ready to defend their property,
they changed from wreckers into rescuers. Suddenly we hear
an extraordinary noise, like the howling of a wild beast trying to get out, coming from underneath
the master's cabin. Following up the sound, we discover Eumolpus seated, dashing down verses
on a huge sheet of parchment. Marveling how the man could find leisure in the very face of
death to be writing poetry, we haul him out in spite of his clamorous protests, telling him to have
some common sense for once. But he was furious at the interruption, and shouted, "Let me finish
my phrase; my poem's just in the throes of completion!" I laid violent hands on the maniac,
calling on Giton to help me drag the bellowing poet ashore. After accomplishing our purpose
with much difficulty, we found dismal shelter in a fisherman's hut, where having refreshed
ourselves as best we might with provisions damaged by sea-water, we passed a most wretched
Next day, as we were debating what district we might most safely make for, I suddenly caught
sight of a human body that was driving ashore, tossing lightly up and down on the waves. I stood
sadly waiting, gazing with wet eyes on the work of the faithless element, and thus soliloquized,
"Somewhere or another, mayhap, a wife is looking in blissful security for this poor fellow's
return, or a son perhaps, or a father, all unsuspicious of storm and wreck; be sure, he has left
some one behind, whom he kissed fondly at parting. This then is the end of human projects, this
of men's mighty schemes. Look! how now he rides the waves."
I was still deploring the stranger's fate, as I supposed him to be, when the swell heaved the face,
still quite undisfigured, towards the beach, and I recognized the features of Lichas, my erstwhile
enemy, so formidable and implacable a foe, now cast helpless almost at my feet. I could restrain
my tears no longer, but smiting my breast again and again, "Where is your anger now," I
exclaimed, "and all your domineering ways? There you lie, a prey to the fishes and monsters of
the deep; you who so short a while ago proudly boasted your despotic powers, have never a plank
left of your great ship. Go to, mortals; swell your hearts with high-flown anticipations. Go to, ye
men of craft; arrange the disposal for a thousand years to come of the wealth you have got by
fraud. Why! only yesterday this dead man here cast up the accounts of his fortune, and actually
fixed in his own mind the day, when he should return to his native shore. Ye Gods! how far
away he lies from the point he hoped to reach. Nor is it the sea alone that disappoints men's
hopes like this. The warrior is betrayed by his arms; the householder in the act of paying his
offerings to heaven is overwhelmed in the ruin of his own penates. One is thrown from his car,
and breathes his last hurried breath; the glutton dies of an over-hearty meal, the frugal man of
fasting. Reckon it aright, and there is
shipwreck everywhere. But then a drowned man misses burial, you object. As if it made one
scrap of difference how the perishable body is consumed,-- by fire, by water, or by time. Do
what you will, these all end in the same result. Ah! but wild bests will mangle his corpse. As if
fire would treat it any kindlier; why! fire is the very penalty we deem the most appalling, when
we are savage with our slaves. What folly then to make such ado to ensure that no part of us
remain unburied, when the Fates arrange this matter at their pleasure, whether we will or
After indulging in these grim thoughts, we proceed to perform the last offices to the dead man,
and Lichas, borne by the hands of his ill-wishers to the pile, is consumed to ashes. Eumolpus
meantime is busy composing an epitaph for the departed, and after rolling his eyes about for a
while in search of inspiration, delivers himself of the following
His doom was sealed,
No carven marble marked his
Five feet of common earth received the
His tomb a lowly mound.
This office duly and willingly performed, we pursue our interrupted journey, and in a very brief
space of time arrive sweating at the top of a steep hill, whence we spy at no great distance a city
occupying the summit
of a lofty crag. We did not know its name, being mere wanderers, until a peasant informed us it
was Croton, a very ancient place and once upon a time the first town of all Italy. We next
inquired anxiously what sort were the people inhabiting this famous site, and what commerce
they mostly carried on since the ruin of their former prosperity by constantly recurring
"Good strangers," the fellow replied, "if so be you are merchants, change your trade and seek
some other means of livelihood. But if you are of a more genteel stamp, and can tell lies without
end and stick to them, you're in the straight road to fortune. In this city literature is not
cultivated, nor does eloquence find favor; sobriety and morality meet with neither commendation
nor success; its inhabitants each and all, you must know, belong to one or other of two classes,
viz., legacy hunters and their prey. In this city no man rears children, for whosoever has natural
heirs of his own, is admitted to no entertainment, no public show; excluded from every privilege
of citizenship, he is condemned to a life of furtive obscurity among the lowest of the low. The
unmarried on the contrary and all who have no near kindred, attain the highest honors; they alone
are brave, and capable, and respectable. You will find the town," he concluded, "like a pestfield,
where there are but two thing to be seen-- corpses being torn, and crows tearing them."
Eumolpus, more far-seeing than the rest of us, pondered over these novel arrangements and
admitted the method indicated of making a fortune took his fancy. For my part, I supposed the
old poet was joking in his fantastic way, but he went on quite seriously, "I only wish I had a more
adequate stock in trade, I mean a more fashionable robe and more elegant outfit generally, to
make the imposture more convincing. Great Hercules; I would get done with my wallet for good
and all, and lead you all straight to wealth." On this I promised him whatever he required,
provided the dress we used for our light-fingered work would satisfy him; together with anything
we had appropriated from Lycurgus's place. As for ready money, this we might safely trust the
Mother of Gods to provide.
"What hinders us then," cried Eumolpus, "to arrange our little comedy? Make me master, if you
like my plan." None of us ventured to disapprove a project where we had nothing to lose.
Accordingly, to ensure the deception being faithfully kept up by all concerned, we swore an oath
in terms dictated by Eumolpus, to endure fire, imprisonment, stripes, cold steel, and whatsoever
else he might command us, in his behalf. Like regular gladiators we vowed ourselves most
solemnly to our master, body and soul.
After completing the oath-taking, we salute our master with pretended servility, and are
instructed all to
tell the same tale,-- how Eumolpus had lost a son, a young man of prodigious eloquence and high
promise; how consequently the poor old father had quitted his native city, that the sight of his
boy's clients and companions and the vicinity of his tomb might not be continually renewing his
grief. This sad event, we were to add, had been followed by a recent shipwreck, which had cost
him two million sesterces; that it was not however so much the loss of the money which annoyed
him as the fact that for want of a proper retinue he could not fittingly keep up his rank. Further,
that he had thirty millions in Africa invested in landed estates and securities, and such a host of
slaves scattered over the length and breadth of Numidia that they could storm Carthage at a
In accordance with this scheme, we direct Eumolpus to cough a great deal, to have a weak
digestion at any rate, and in company to grumble at every dish set before him; to be for ever
talking about gold and silver, and unproductive farms, and how terrible barren land always was;
also every day to sit over accounts, and regularly once a month to add new codicils to his will.
And to make the farce quite complete, whenever he wished to call one of us, he was to use the
wrong name, plainly showing the master was thinking of other servants no longer with
Matters being thus arranged, after praying the gods
for "good success and happy issue," as the phrase runs, we set forward. But poor Giton could not
stand his unusual load; while Corax, Eumolpus's hired man, objecting strongly to his job, kept
everlastingly dropping his pack and cursing us for going too fast; he swore he would either throw
away his traps, or else make off with the swag altogether. "Do you take me for a beast of
burden," he grumbled, "or a stone-ship? I contracted for a man's work, not a dray-horse's! I'm as
much a freeman as you are, though my father did leave me a poor man." Not content with bad
language, he kept lifting up his leg again and again, and filling the road with a filthy noise and a
filthy stench. Giton only laughed at his impudence, and after each explosion gave a loud
imitation of the noise with his mouth.
But even this did not hinder the poet from relapsing into his accustomed vein. "Many are the
victims, my young friends," he began, "poetry has seduced! The instant a man has got a verse to
stand on its feet and clothed a tender thought in appropriate language, he thinks he has scaled
Helicon right off. Many others, after long practice of forensic talents, finally retreat to the
tranquil calm of verse-making as to a blessed harbor of refuge, imagining a poem is easier put
together than an argument all embroidered with scintillating conceits. But a mind of nobler
inspiration is revolted by this flippancy; and no intellect that is not flooded with a mighty
tide of learning, can either conceive or bring to birth a worthy poetic child. In diction, anything
approaching commonness, if I may use the word, is to be avoided; a poet must choose words
devoid of base associations, and hold to
I hate and bid avaunt the vulgar herd.
Again, care should be exercised to avoid sentiments that stand out as mere excrescences on the
framework of the main conception; let the fabric be as brilliant as it may, its colors must be
ingrained in the stuff. I may instance Homer, and the Lyric poets, and our Roman Virgil, and
Horace with his happy preciosity. The rest, one and all, were blind to the true path to Parnassus,
or if they did see it, were afraid to tread it.
"Look at that mighty subject, the Civil Wars; anyone attempting it, if not a man of the ripest
scholarship, will sink under the burden. It is no question of a string of facts to be catalogued in
verse, a task the Historian will perform far better; nay! rather must the untrammeled spirit be
hurried along through a series of digressions and divine interventions and all the intricacies of
myth and fable. The inspired frenzy of the bard should be more apparent than the tested pedantry
of scrupulous precision. For example, see how you like this rapid sketch, though indeed it has
not yet received the final touches:
Now haughty Rome reigned mistress of the Globe,
Where'er the Ether shines with heavenly fires,
Or Earth extends, or circling Ocean rolls.
Yet still insatiate, her winged navies plowed
The burdened main, to each unplundered shore;
For to the rich she bore immortal hate,
And her own avarice still prepared her Fall.
E'en former pleasures were beheld with scorn,
As joys grown threadbare by too vulgar use.
The soldier now admired th' Assyrian dye,
And now th' Hesperian charmed his fickle pride.
Numidia here the lofty roof sustained;
There shone the honors of Serean looms;
Arabia of her balmy sweets was spoiled;
Yet still unquenched, the lust of ravage burned.
In Maurian wilds, and Ammon's distant reign,
Monsters were captived for our cruel sports.
The stranger tiger in his golden cage
Now crossed the main to press our friendly shore;
Whilst joyful Rome her monster entertained
With purple streams of her own kindred
I blush to speak, I tremble to recite
Our Persian manners, and our curse of Fate!
From Youth they snatched the Man with cruel art,
Whilst Venus frowned o'er the retreating tide;
As if they thought to favor the deceit,
E'en Age itself would like that tide retire!
Nature was lost, and sought herself in vain.
Hence naught but lewd effeminacies please,
Soft curling hair, and wantonness of dress,
And all that can disgrace man's godlike form.
From Afric slaves and purple carpets come,
With citron tables, rich in golden stains,
Around whose costly, but dishonored pride,
Buried in wine, the giddy drunkards lie.
Nothing escapes our raging lust of taste;
The soldier draws his sword in rapine's cause;
And from Sicilia's distant main the scar
Is brought alive to our luxurious board;
The Lucrine shore is of its oysters spoiled,
And hunger purchased with th' expensive sauce;
Phasis is widowed of its feathered race,
And nothing heard o'er all the desert strand
But trees remurmuring to the passing
Nor less in Mars's Field Corruption swayed,
Where every vote was prostitute to gain;
The People and the Senate both were sold.
E'en Age itself was deaf to Virtue's voice,
And all its court to sordid interest paid,
Beneath whose feet lay trampled Majesty.
E'en Cato's self was by the crowd exiled,
Whilst he who won suffused with blushes stood,
Ashamed to snatch the power from worthier hands.
Oh! shame to Rome and to the Roman name!
'Twas not one man alone whom they exiled,
But banished Virtue, Fame and Freedom too.
Thus wretched Rome her own destruction bought,
Herself the merchant, and herself the ware.
Besides, in debt was the whole Empire bound,
A prey to Usury's insatiate jaws;
Not one could call his house, or self, his own;
But debts on debts like silent fevers wrought,
Till through the members they the vitals
Fierce tumults now they to their succor call,
And War must heal the wounds of Luxury;
For Want may safely dare without a fear.
And sunk in hopeless misery, what could wake
Licentious Rome from her voluptuous trance,
But fire, and sword, and all the din of arms?
Three mighty chiefs kind Fortune had supplied,
Whom cruel Fate in various manner slew.
The Parthian fields were drunk with Crassus' gore;
Great Pompey perished on the Libyan main;
And thankless Rome saw greater Julius bleed.
Thus as one soil too narrow were to hold
Their rival dust, their ashes shared the World.
But their immortal glory never
'Twixt Naples and Dicharchian fields extends
A horrid Gulf, immensely deep and wide,
Through which Cocytus rolls his lazy streams,
And poisons all the air with sulphurous fogs.
No Autumn here e'er clothes himself with green,
Nor joyful Spring the languid herbage cheers;
Nor feathered warblers chant their mirthful strains
In vernal comfort to the rustling boughs;
But Chaos reigns, and ragged rocks around
With naught but baleful cypress are
Amidst these horrors Pluto raised his head,
With mingled flames and ashes sprinkled o'er,
Stopped Fortune in her flight, and thus
Oh! thou controller of both Earth and Heaven,
Who had'st the power which too securely stands,
And only heap'st thy favors to resume;
Dost thou not sink beneath Rome's
Unable to sustain her tottering pride?
E'en Rome herself beneath her burden groans,
And ill sustains Monopoly of Power.
For see elate in Luxury of Spoils,
Her golden domes invade the frighted skies!
Sea's turned to land, and land is turned to sea,
And injured Nature mourns her slighted Laws.
E'en me they threaten, and besiege my Throne;
The Earth is ransacked for her treasured stores,
And in the solid hills such caverns made,
That murmuring ghosts begin to hope for day.
Change, Fortune, ergo change this prideful scene!
Fire every Roman's breast with civil rage,
And give new subjects to my desert reign!
For ne'er have I been joyed with human gore,
Nor my Tisiphone e'er quenched her thirst,
Since Sulla's sword let loose the purple tide,
And reaped the harvest of insatiate
He spoke . . . and lo! the opening Earth disclosed,
And to the Goddess' hand his hand he joined.
Then Fortune, smiling, this reply
Oh! Father who Cocytus' empire sways!
If dangerous truths may safely be revealed,
Enjoy your wish! not less my anger boils,
And in my breast as fierce resentment burns.
I hate the height to which I've lifted Rome,
And my own lavished favors now repent.
But that same God who built her haughty power,
Shall soon rehumble to the dust her pride.
Then I'll with transport light the general flame,
And with the plenteous slaughter feast revenge.
Methinks I see Thessalia's fatal plain
Already heaped with dead, and funeral piles
Innumerous blazing on Iberia's shore!
I see the Libyan sands distained with blood,
And sevenfold Nile groans with prophetic fears!
On every side the clang of arms resounds,
An Actium's flight seems present to my eyes!
Then open all the portals of thy Reign,
And give thy crowding subjects free access!
Old Charon in his boats can ne'er convey
The shoals of ghosts that for their passage wait,
But needs a fleet!-- Tisiphone may then
Quench her dire thirst, and cloy herself with Fate.
The mangled World is hurrying to thy
Scarce ended she her words, when from a cloud
Blue lightnings flashed, and sudden thunders roared.
Affrighted Pluto feared his brother's darts,
And trembling hid his head in shades of
The Gods by dreadful omens straight disclosed
The deathful horrors of approaching Fate.
The Sun in bloody clouds obscured his rays,
As if he mourned the dreadful scene begun;
Whilst trembling Cynthia fled the impious sight,
Quenching her orb, and from the World withdrew.
Mountains by sudden storms were overturned;
And erring rivers left their channels dry.
E'en Heaven itself confesses the alarm,
And fierce battalions skirmish in the clouds;
Etna redoubles all her sulphurous rage,
And darts strange lightnings at th' affrighted sky;
Unburied ghosts too wander round the tombs,
And with impatient threatenings ask repose;
A fiery comet shakes her blazing hair;
And wondering Jove descends in showers of blood.
Nor was it long that Heaven th' event concealed;
For mighty Caesar panting for revenge,
Gave peace to Gaul, and flew to Civil
Upon the towering Alps' remotest height,
Where the cragg'd rocks look down upon the clouds,
A Grecian altar to Alcides smokes.
There everlasting Winter bars access,
And the ambitious summit props the skies;
No Summer ever darts his genials beams,
Nor vernal Zephyrs cheer the joyless air;
But snows on snows accumulated rise,
The icy pillars of the starry Orb.
Here Caesar with his joyful legions climbed;
Here camped; and from the lofty precipice,
Surveying all Hesperia's fertile plains.
With hands uplifted, thus addressed his
Almighty Jove! And thou, Saturnian Earth,
So oft by me with filial triumphs graced!
Witness these arms I with reluctance bear,
Compelled by matchless wrongs to War's redress.
Exiled and interdicted, whilst the Rhine
I swelled beyond its banks with native gore,
And to his Alps confined the haughty Gaul,
Once more to storm your Capitol prepared.
But what reward has all these toils repaid?
Conquest alas! is by herself undone!
Germania vanquished a new crime is deemed,
And sixty Triumphs are with exile crowned.
But what are they my glory thus compels
To count the aid of mercenary arms?
Oh! shame to Rome! My Rome disowns their birth
Nor shall they long her injured honors stain,
Beneath this arm their envious Chief shall fall!
Come fellow-victors, rouse your martial rage,
And with your conquering swords assert my cause!
One is our danger, and our crime the same.
It was not I alone reaped glory's field,
But thanks to you! by you these laurels won;
Then since disgrace and punishment's decreed,
Mutual our trophies and victorious toils,
The die be thrown! and Fortune judge the cast!
Let each brave warrior grasp his shining blade!
For me my rights already crowned appear,
Nor 'midst so many heroes doubt
He spoke. . . . When swift-descending from
The Bird of Jove urged his auspicious flight.
Strange voices in the left-hand woods were heard;
And issuing flames flashed through the sylvan gloom.
Phoebus himself assumed his brightest beams,
And with unusual splendor cheered the
Fired with the omen, dauntless Caesar bids
His engines move; himself the first t' essay
The dangerous path; for yet in frost confined
And peaceful horrors lay the passive
But when with ardent feet th' innumerous train
Of men and horse and icy fetters loosed,
To fierce resistance swelled the melted snows,
And sudden rivers o'er the mountains rolled.
But soon again as if by Fate's command,
The rising waves in icy billows stood;
Whilst in confusion o'er the treacherous path
Horses and men and mingled standards lay.
To aid the horror, sudden winds compel
The gathering clouds, and burst into a storm,
Thick o'er their ringing arms and hail descends,
And from the Ether pours an icy sea;
One common ruin conquers Earth and Sky,
And frighted rivers hurry o'er their banks;
But dauntless Caesar aided by his spear
Still presses forward with unshaken
With such an ardor was Alcides fired,
When down Caucasian steeps he rushed to fame.
And thus descending from Olympus' brow,
Almighty Jove the Giants put to
Meantime on trembling pinions through the Skies
To Mount Palatium frighted Rumor flew.
And to astonished Rome these tidings bore:
A hostile Fleet is riding on the main,
And o'er the Alps, with German conquests flushed,
The vengeful Legions pour on guilty Rome.
Straight Fire and Sword and all the dreadful train
Of civil rage before their eyes appear!
Distracting tumults every bosom swayed,
And Reason 'midst the dubious fears was lost.
This flies by land, and that confides the sea,
As far less dangerous than his native shores!
These run to arms; Fate aids the wild affright,
And each obeys the guidance of his fears.
No certain course the giddy vulgar know,
But through the Gates in thronged confusion crowd,
And rival terror;-- Rome to Rumor yields,
And weeping Romans leave their native seats.
This is his hand his trembling children leads,
And this his gods within his bosom hides,
His long-loved threshold quits with mournful looks.
And wings his curses at the absent foe.
There on the husband's breast the bride complains;
And here his father's age a pious youth
Supports with filial care, nor feels his load,
Nor fears but for his venerable charge.
Whilst these, insensate! to the field convey
Their treasured wealth, and glut the war with
As on the deep when stormy Auster blows,
And mounts the billows with tumultuous rage,
Th' affrighted seamen ply their arts in vain;
The pilots stand aghast; these lash their sails;
Whilst these make land, and those avoid the shores,
And rather Fortune than the rocks
But what can paint the fears that seized all men,
When both the Consuls with great Pompey fled?
Pompey, Hydaspes' and proud Pontus' scourge,
The rock of Pirates, whom with wonder Jove
Had thrice beheld in the triumphal Car!
That mighty Chief who gave the Euxine laws,
And taught th' admiring Bosphorus to obey,
Oh shame! Deserted the Imperial Name,
And meanly left both Rome and Fame behind!
Whilst fickle Fortune gloried in his
The Gods with horror see th' intestine jars,
And even celestial breasts consent to fear.
For see the mild pacific train depart.
Exiled the World by our impiety!
First soft-winged Peace extends her snowy arm,
And pulling o'er her brows her olive wreath,
Seeks the Elysian shades with hasty flight.
On her with downcast eyes meek Faith attends,
And mourning Justice with disheveled hair,
And weeping Concord with her garments
But joyful Hell unbolts the brazen doors,
And all her Furies quit the Stygian Court.
Threatening Bellona with Erinys joins,
And dire Megaera armed with fiery brands.
Pale Death, insidious Fraud, and Massacre,
With Rage, burst forth! Who from his fetters freed,
Lifts high his gory head; a helmet hides
His wounded visage, and his left hand grasps
The shield of Mars horrid with countless darts.
Whilst in his right a flaming torch appears,
To light Destruction, and to fire the
The Gods descending also left the skies,
Whilst wondering Atlas missed his usual load;
And mortal jars even Heaven itself divide.
In Caesar's cause Dione first appeared;
Her Pallas aided, and the God of War.
Whilst in espousal of brave Pompey's part
Cynthia and Phoebus and Cyllene's son
And his own model, great Alcides, joined.
The trumpets sound! When straight fell
Her Stygian head, and shook her matted locks.
With clotted blood her face was covered o'er,
And gummy horrors from her eyes distilled;
Two rows of cankered teeth deformed her mouth,
And from her tongue a stream of poison flowed;
Whilst hissing serpents played around her cheeks;
Her livid skin with rags was scarce concealed,
And in her trembling hand a torch she shook.
Ascending thus from the Tartarean gloom,
She reached the top of lofty Apennine;
Whence viewing all the subject land and sea,
And armies floating on the crowded plains,
This into words her joyful fury
Now, rush ye Nations, rush to mutual arms,
And let Dissension's torch for ever burn!
For flight no longer shall the Coward save,
Nor age, nor sex, nor children's pity move,
But the Earth tremble, and her haughtiest towers
Shake in convulsive ruins to the ground.
Do thou, Marcellus, the Decree uphold;
And Curio, thou excite the madding crowd!
Nor thou, persuasive Lentulus, forbear
To aid the Faction with thy potent tongue!
But why, O Caesar, this delayed Revenge?
Why burst'st thou not the Gates of guilty Rome,
And mak'st her treasured pride thy welcome prey?
And thou, O Pompey, know'st thou not thy power?
If thou fear'st Rome, to Epidamnus haste,
And feast Thessalia's plain with human
Thus Discord spoke. . . . The impious
Eumolpus having declaimed this effusion with prodigious volubility, we eventually entered the
gates of Croton. Here we baited at a small, mean inn, but started out next morning to find a
lodging of greater pretensions. We soon fell in with a mob of legacy hunters, who plied us with
questions as to who we were and where we came from. So we answered both inquiries, in strict
accordance with the plan arranged between us, with an exaggerated glibness, and they believed
every word of it; for they instantly put their fortunes at Eumolpus's disposal, almost fighting
which should be first to do him this service. One and all offer presents, in order to curry favor
with the supposed millionaire.
Things went on thus at Croton for a long time, till Eumolpus, intoxicated with success, so
completely forgot his former lowly condition as to boast to his followers how no one could resist
his influence, and that any misdemeanor they might have committed in the town, they could carry
off with impunity by his friends' good offices. For my part however, though every day I
stuffed my swollen carcass with a greater superfluity of good things and really thought Fortune
had at last ceased watching me with an eye of malevolence, still I often reflected on my present
mode of life and the way it had come about. "What if some astute legacy hunter," I often said to
myself, "sent some one to Africa to make inquiries, and discovered our swindle? What if
Eumolpus's servant, as is just possible, sick of this life of luxury, should give a hint to his cronies
and betray the whole imposture out of malice? Why! we should just have to fly once more,
return to the penury we have at last got the better of, and start begging afresh. Gods and
goddesses of heaven! what a life outlaws lead, forever dreading the penalty of one felony or
Thus communing with myself, I quit the house in a most melancholy mood, hoping to refresh my
spirits with the open air out of doors. I had scarcely entered the public promenade, when a girl of
far from unpleasing exterior met me, and calling "Polyaenos," the name I had adopted by way of
disguise, informed me that her mistress desired permission to speak with
"You have surely made a mistake," I answered in some confusion; "I am but a foreigner and a
slave, and quite undeserving of the honor."
"Nay! my mission was to yourself," she returned; "but I see, because you know your own beauty,
you give yourself airs, and sell your favors, instead of giving
them. What else can those waved and well combed locks mean, and that made-up face, and the
languishing look of your eyes? For what else that studied gait, and mincing steps that never
exceed a measured pace, except to sell your person by the meretricious display of your charms?
Look at me; I am no augur, no student of the planets like the astrologers, yet I can infer a man's
character from his looks, and foretell his intentions the moment I see his way of walking.
Therefore, if you are willing to sell us what I require, there's a customer all ready; or, if you will
give it, like a gentleman, we shall be glad to be under this obligation to you. You tell me you are
a slave and a common varlet; this only the more inflames my mistress's heated imagination.
There are women fancy muck, whose passions are stirred only at the sight of slaves or runner
boys with bare legs. Others are hot after gladiators, or dusty muleteers, or actors swaggering on
the boards. This is the sort my mistress is; she jumps clean over the fourteen rows from orchestra
to gallery, to seek her choice among the rabble of the back benches."
So, charmed with her fascinating chatter, "Tell me, my dear," I said, "is this lady who loves me
The maid laughed heartily at my cool way of putting it, saying, "Pray! pray! don't be so mighty
pleased with yourself. I've never given myself to a slave yet; and God forbid I should waste my
embraces on gallows-birds.
'Tis their own lookout, if ladies go kissing the marks the lash has left; for my part, though I'm
only a servant maid, I never go with anybody below a
"Tastes differ 'tis as chance
Some like thorns, and some like roses."
I was astounded at such abnormal predilections, and thought it monstrous thus to find the maid
with the mistress's fastidiousness, the mistress with the maid's vulgar
Presently, after further pleasantries had passed, I begged the girl to bring her mistress into the
plane tree avenue. She was quite agreeable, and tucking up her skirts dived into a laurel wood
that bordered the promenade. In a very few moments she brought out her mistress from where
she was hiding, and led her up to me, a more perfect being than ever artist fashioned. There are
no words to express her beauty, for anything I can say will fall far short of the reality. Her locks,
which curled naturally, rippled all over her shoulders, her brow was low, the hair being turned
back from it, her brows, extending to the very spring of the cheek, almost met between the eyes,
which shone brighter than stars in a moonless sky, her nose was slightly aquiline, her little mouth
such as Praxiteles gave Diana. Chin, neck, hands, snow-white feet confined in elegant sandals of
gold work, all vied with Parian marble in brilliancy.
For the first time I thought lightly of Doris, whose long-time admirer I
Why tarries Jove, scorning the arts of Love,
Mute and inglorious in the heavens above?
How well the Bull would now the God become,
Or his gray hairs to be transformed to down!
Here's Danae's self,-- a touch from her would fire,
And make the God in liquid joys expire.
Quite delighted, she smiled so sweetly I thought I saw the moon breaking full-faced from a
cloud. Presently, with fingers punctuating her words, she laughed, "If you are not too proud to
enjoy a woman of condition, and one who only within the year has known your sex. I offer you a
'sister,' fair youth. You have a 'brother' already, I know, for I did not disdain to make inquiries,
but what hinders you to adopt a sister too? I claim a like dignity. Only taste and try, when you
will, how you like my kisses."
"Nay!" I replied, "by your own loveliness I adjure you, deign to admit an alien among your
worshipers. You will find him a sincere devotee, if you give him leave to adore you. And that
you may not think I enter this temple of Love giftless, I will sacrifice my 'brother' to
"What!" she cried, "you sacrifice to me the being you cannot live without, on whose kisses your
depends, whom you love as I would have you love me?" As she said these words, they sounded
so sweetly you might have thought it was the Siren's harmonies came floating on the breeze. So,
lost in admiration and dazzled with a wondrous effulgence brighter than the light of heaven, I
was fain to ask my divinity's name.
"Why! did not my maid tell you," she replied, "I was called Circe? I am not indeed the daughter
of the Sun; nor did my mother ever stay at her good pleasure the course of the revolving globe.
Still I have one noble boon to thank heaven for, if the fates unite us two. Yes! some god's
mysterious, silent workings are beneath all this. 'Tis not without a cause Circe loves Polyaenos;
a great torch of sympathy flames between these names. Then take your will of me, beloved one.
For we have no prying interference to dread, and your 'brother' is far
With these words Circe threw her arms, that were softer than down, around my neck, and drew
me down on the flower-bespangled grass:
On Ida's top, when Jove his nymph caressed,
And lawless heat in open view expressed,
His mother Earth in all her charms was seen,
The rose, the violet, the sweet jasmine,
And the fair lily smiling on the green.
Such was the plat whereon my Venus lay;
Our Love was secret, but the charming day
Was bright, like her, and as her temple gay.
Side by side on the grass we lay, dallying with a thousand kisses, the prelude to robuster joys.
But alas! a sudden debility of my nerves quite disappointed Circe, who exclaimed, infuriated at
the affront, "What now? do my kisses revolt you? is my breath offensive with fasting? are my
armpits uncleanly and smelling? If it is nothing of this sort, can it be that you are afraid of
Flushing hotly at her words, I lost any little vigor still left me, and my whole frame feeling
dislocated, I besought my mistress, "Do not, my Queen, aggravate my misery. I am
So trivial an excuse was far from appeasing Circe's indignation. She turned her eyes
contemptuously away from me, and glancing towards her maid, "Tell me, Chrysis," she said,
"and tell me true. Am I repulsive? am I sluttish? is there some natural blemish disfigures my
beauty? Do not deceive your mistress; there must be something strangely amiss about
Then, as Chrysis stood silent, she snatched up a mirror, and after rehearsing all the looks and
smiles lovers are wont to exchange, she shook out her robe that lay crumpled on the ground, and
flounced off into the Temple of Venus. I was left standing like a convicted felon, or a man
horror-struck with some awful vision, asking myself whether the bliss I had been cheated of was
indeed a reality or only a dream.
As when in sleep our wanton Fancy sports,
And our fond eyes with hidden riches courts,
We hug the theft; the smiling treasure fills
Our guilty hands; the conscious sweat distills;
Whilst laboring fear sits heavy on the mind,
Lest the big secret should an utterance find.
But when with night th' illusive joys retreat,
And our eyes open to the gay deceit,
That which we ne'er possessed, as lost, we mourn,
And for imaginary blessings burn.
My calamity really seemed to me a dream, or rather a hallucination; and so long did my
enervation last, I could not so much as get up off the ground. However the mind recovering its
tone by degrees, my strength slowly came back to me, and I made for home, where feigning
indisposition, I threw myself down on my pallet. Before long, Giton, who had heard I was ill,
entered my chamber in much concern. To make his mind easier, I told him I had gone to bed
merely to take a rest, talking a deal of other stuff besides, but not a word about my misadventure,
as I very much dreaded his jealousy. So to avoid all suspicion, drawing him to my side, I tried to
give him a proof of my love, but all my panting and sweating was in vain. He got up full of
indignation, and upbraiding me with debilitated vigor and diminished affection, declared he had
noticed for a long time I must certainly have been expending my strength of mind and body
"No! no! darling," I interrupted, "my affection for you has always been the same; but reason now
prevails over love and lechery."
"Well! thank you, thank you for the Socratic innocency of your passion. Alcibiades was not
more uncontaminated when he lay in his preceptor's bed." "I tell you, little brother," I went on, "I
have lost all knowledge and sense of manhood. Dead and buried is that part of me that once
made me a very Achilles!"
Seeing I was really unnerved, and afraid, if he were caught alone with me, it might give rise to
scandal, he withdrew in haste, retreating to an inner room of the house. He was hardly gone
when Chrysis entered my room and handed me her mistress's tablets, on which was written the
CIRCE TO POLYAENOS-- GREETING.
"If I were a mere wanton, I should complain of my disappointment. Instead I am positively
grateful to your impotence; for so I enjoyed longer dalliance with the semblance of pleasure.
What I ask is, how you do, and whether you got home on your own legs; for doctors say a man
cannot walk without nerves. I will tell you what I think; beware, young Sir, of paralysis. I never
saw a patient in more imminent danger; upon my word and honor, you are as good as dead
already. If a like lethargy attack your knees and hands, I should advise
you to send immediately for the undertaker's men.
"Well! well! dire as is the affront I have received, still I will never grudge a prescription to a man
in your miserable plight. If you would be cured, ask Giton's help. You will recover your nerve, I
assure you, if you sleep three nights running apart from your 'little brother.' For myself, I have no
fear but I can find another admirer to love me a little. My mirror and my reputation both tell me
this is true.
Farewell, (if you can)."
As soon as Chrysis saw I had read this caustic epistle to the end, "These accidents are common
enough," she said, "and particularly in this city, where there are women who can lure down the
moon out of the sky. So never fear, your matter shall be set right; only write back graciously to
my mistress and restore her confidence with a candid and gently-worded reply. For to tell you
the honest truth-- from the hour you wronged her, she has not been her own
I complied very willingly with the girl's suggestion, and wrote the following answer on the
POLYAENOS TO CIRCE-- GREETING.
"I confess, Lady, I have often offended; I am but a man, and a young one still. But never before
this day have I done mortal sin. The criminal admits his crime;
any penalty you inflict, I have richly deserved. I have betrayed a trust, slain a man, violated a
temple; assign due punishment for all these crimes. If you choose to kill me, I hand you my
sword; if you are satisfied with stripes, I haste to throw myself naked at my mistress's feet.
Remember one thing only, 'twas not myself, but my tools that failed me. The soldier was ready
but he had no arms. What so demoralized me, I cannot tell. Perhaps my imagination outran my
lagging powers, perhaps in my all-aspiring eagerness, I lavished by ardor prematurely. I know
not how it was. You bid me beware of paralysis; as if a greater palsy could exist than that which
robbed me of the power to possess you. But this is the sum and substance of my plea: I will
satisfy you yet, if you will grant me leave to repair my fault."
After dismissing Chrysis with fair promises of this sort, I put my body, which had served me so
ill, into special training, and pretermitting the bath together, restricted myself to a moderate use
of unguents. Then adopting a more fortifying diet, that is to say onions and snails' heads without
sauce, I also cut down my wine. Finally composing my nerves by an easy walk before retiring, I
went to bed with no Giton to share my couch. For anxious as I was to make my peace, I was
afraid of even the slightest contact with my favorite.
Next day, having risen sound in mind and body, I
went down to the same plane tree walk, though truly I felt a dread of the ominous locality, and
waited for Chrysis to act as my guide. After strolling to and fro for a while, I had just sat down
in the same spot as the day before, when she came in sight, bringing a little old woman with her.
When she had saluted me, "How now, Sir Squeamsih," she began, "do you feel yourself in better
The old woman meantime drew from her pocket a hank of plaited yarns of different colors, and
tied it round my neck. Then puddling dust and spittle together, she dipped her middle finder in
the mess, and disregarding my repugnance, marked my forehead with
Never despair! Priapus I
To help the parts that make his altars smoke.
The incantation ended, she bade me spit out thrice, and thrice toss pebbles into my bosom, which
she had wrapped up in purple after pronouncing a charm over them. Then putting her hands to
my privates, she began to try my virile condition. Quicker than thought the nerves obeyed her
summons, and filled the old lady's hand with a huge erection. Then jumping for joy, "Look,
Chrysis, look," she cried, "how I've started the hare for other folk to course." This accomplished,
the old woman handed me back to Chrysis, who was
overjoyed at the recovery of her mistress's treasure; with all haste she led me straight to the latter,
whom we found in a most delightful spot, adorned with everything that fairest Nature can show
to charm the eyes.
Where noble Planes cast a refreshing shade,
And well-cared Pines their shaking tops displayed,
And Daphne midst the Cypress crowned her head.
Near-by a circling river gently flows,
And rolls the pebbles as it murmuring goes.
A spot designed for Love; the nightingale
And gentle swallow its delights can tell,
Who on each bush salute the coming day,
And in their orgies sing its hours away.
She lay luxuriously stretched on golden cushions, which supported her marble neck, fanning the
calm air with a branch of flowering myrtle. Directly she saw me, she blushed a little, no doubt
remembering yesterday's affront; presently, when we were quite alone, and at her invitation I had
sat down by her side, she laid the branch over my eyes, and this emboldening her as if a wall had
been raised between us, "How goes it, paralytic?" she laughed, "are you quite recovered, that
you've come back again today?"
"Why ask me," I returned, "instead of making trial?" and throwing myself bodily into her arms, I
took my fill of good, healthy, unbewitched kisses. Her loveliness
drew me irresistibly to her and disposed me to enjoyment. Already had our lips joined in many a
sounding kiss, our fingers interlocked had played all sorts of amorous pranks, our two bodies had
twined in mutual embraces till our very souls seemed fused in one; yet in the very height of these
delicious preliminaries, lo! my nerves once more betrayed me, and I failed utterly to reach the
supreme moment of our bliss.
Lashed to fury by two such dire affronts, the lady ends by seeking vengeance, and summoning
her chamberlains, orders me a sound thumping. Not content with this cruel treatment of me, she
calls together all the spinning wenches and meanest drudges of the house, and bids them spit at
me. Clapping my hands to my eyes, and without one word of expostulation, for I knew I richly
deserved it all, I fled from the house, driven forth under a hurricane of blows and spittle.
Proselenos is kicked out too, and Chrysis beaten. The whole household was in dismay, all
grumbling together and asking who it was had put their mistress in so vile a temper. This was
some compensation and encouragement to me, and I carefully hid the marks of the blows I had
received, not to make Eumolpus merry over my disaster, or Giton sad for the same reason. The
only thing I could do to save my dignity was to pretend to be ill; this I did, and creeping into bed,
turned the whole fire of my wrath against the vile cause of all my calamities:
With dreadful steel the part I would have lopped;
Thrice from my trembling hand the razor dropped.
Now, what I might before, I could not do;
For, cold as ice, the shuddering thing withdrew,
And shrank behind a wrinkled canopy.
Hiding its head from my revenge and me.
Thus by its fear I'm balked of my intent,
And in mere mouthing words my anger vent.
So raising myself on my elbow, I address the recreant in some such terms as these, "What have
you to say for yourself, abomination of gods and men? For indeed your very name must not be
mentioned by self-respecting folks. Did I merit such treatment from you,-- to be dragged down
from heaven's bliss to hell's torments, to have the prime and vigor of my years maligned and to
be reduced to the imbecility of dotage? Give me, I beseech you, give me a proof you are yet
good for something." In words such as these I vented my
But with averted eyes, unmoved he mourned
Nor to my fond reproach one look returned;
Like bended osiers trembling o'er a brook,
Or wounded poppies by no zephyr shook.
Nevertheless, on reaching the end of this undignified expostulation, I beganto be ashamed of
what I had been saying, and to blush furtively at having so far forgotten my self-respect as to
bandy words with a part of my person men of graver sort do not so much as deign to notice.
Presently after rubbing my brow awhile, "After all, what have I done so much amiss," I asked
myself, "in thus relieving my resentment by means of a little natural abuse? Do we not habitually
curse various parts of our bodies, our belly, throat,-- head even, when it aches, as it often does?
Does not Ulysses quarrel with his own heart? and do not our Tragedians rail at their own eyes, as
if they could hear? The gouty abuse their feet, the rheumatic their hands, the sore-eyed their
optics; and does not a man who has damaged his toes, vent all the agony of his pain on his poor
Nothing is falser than mankind's silly prejudices, or sillier than an affectation of peculiar gravity.
My declamation ended, I called Giton to me and asked him, "Tell me, darling, tell me on your
honor; that night Ascyltos stole you from me, did he resort to active violence upon you, or was he
content with a night of self-restraint and continence?" The lad touched his eyes, and swore in the
most solemn terms that Ascyltos had done him no harm.
I queried him no further for the truth is, I was so crushed by my misfortunes I was not master of
myself, and did not rightly know what I was saying. Let bygones be bygones, I murmured to
myself, especially when nothing but pain can come from recalling them. Eventually I directed all
my attention to the task of recovering my lost vigor.
I was determined even to consecrate myself to the gods; accordingly I started out implore the
help of Priapus. To make the best of things, I feigned a cheerful countenance, and dropping on
my knees at the Temple threshold besought the deity's intervention in the following
"Delight of Bacchus, Guardian of the Groves,
The kind Restorer of decaying Loves,
Lesbos and verdant Thasos thee implore,
Whose maids thy power in wanton rites adore;
Joy of the Dryads, with propitious care
Attend my wishes, and indulge my prayer.
My guiltless hands with blood I never stained,
Or sacrilegiously the gods profaned;
Thus low I bow; restoring blessings send,
I did not thee with my whole self offend,
Who sins through weakness is less guilty thought;
Indulge my crime, and spare a venial fault.
When kindly Fate shall genial gifts allow,
I'll, not ungrateful, to thy godhead bow.
A sucking pig I'll offer at thy shrine.
And sacred bowls brimful of generous wine;
A destined goat shall on thy altars lie,
And the horned parent of my flock shall die.
Then thrice thy frantic votaries shall round
Thy temple dance, with smiling garlands crowned,
And most devoutly drunk, thy Orgies sound."
Whilst I was thus engaged, anxiously intent on the part affected, the old woman entered the
shrine with disheveled hair and wearing black garments all in a state of disorder, and laying her
hand on my shoulder led me outside the vestibule.
"What foul witches have devoured your manhood?" she exclaimed; "what refuse or what garbage
have you trod on in the streets at night? You could not so much as do your duty by the boy; but
flabby, faint and weary,
like a cart-horse at a hill, you wasted your labor and your sweat in vain! And now, not content
with your own delinquencies, you have set the gods against me as well-- and I mean to make you
smart for it."
So she led me unresisting back again into the Temple and to the Priestess's chamber, where she
pushed me down on the bed, and snatching up a cane that hung behind the door, she gave me yet
another thrashing. Still I said not a word, and if the cane had not split at the first stroke, and so
lessened the force of her blows, she would likely have broken my arms or my head. I groaned
dismally, particularly at the way she worked my member, and bursting into a torrent of weeping,
hid my face in my hand and cowered down on the pillow. The old woman was also melted to
tears, and sitting down on the other side of the bed, began to complain in quavering tones of the
tediousness of having lived too long.
Presently the Priestess came in, "Why! what has brought you to my chamber," she cried, "and
with these long faces, as if you were come to a funeral? and on a holiday too, when the most
sorrow-laden laugh for once."
"Oh, it's this young man here, înothea," the old woman answered; "for sure, he was born under
an evil star; he cannot sell his goods to boy or girl. You never saw so unfortunate a fellow;
soaked leather, that's what
his tool is! What think you of a man, I ask you that, who left Circe's bed without having tasted
pleasure?" On hearing this, înothea sat down between us, and after shaking her head awhile, "I
am the only woman," she said, "knows how to cure this complaint. And that you may not think
I'm doing at random, I require the young fellow to sleep one night with me, and see if I don't
make it stiff as horn!
"All Nature's works my magic power obey,
The blooming Earth shall wither and decay,
And when I please, be verdant, fresh and gay.
Here flowery vales shall vernal beauties know,
There frozen plains shall hide themselves in snow;
By magic charms I'll make a whirlwind cease,
Contract its breath, and murmur into peace;
Tigers and pards, submissive to my will,
Obey my orders and neglect to kill;
At my commands substantial darkness soon
O'erspreads the skies and hides the silver moon;
Sol's fiery car stops in th' Ethereal plain,
And Thetis long expects her Lord in vain.
The Pontic bulls emitting fire and smoke
The witch Medea to her service broke
And made their swelling chest sustain her yoke.
Refulgent Circe, daughter of the Sun,
Could into swine Ulysses' soldiers turn;
In woods Silenus, Proteus in the seas,
Conceal the God, and take what form they please.
My skill's as great, my power no less extends,
The servile World to my enchantment bends."
I shuddered with terror to hear her promise such miracles, and began to scrutinize the old woman
"Now," ejaculated înothea, "now do as I tell you." And after washing her hands with
scrupulous care, she bent over the couch and kissed me again and
She then placed an old table on the middle of the altar, and filling it with live coals, proceeded to
patch up an ancient bowl, so time-worn it was falling to pieces, with melted pitch. Next she put
back in the smoke-begrimed wall a peg which had come down along with the wooden bowl,
when she unhitched the latter. Presently after donning a square cloak, she set a huge cooking-pot
on the fire, at the same time with a fork reaching down a cloth from the meat-rack, in which was
stored a supply of beans and some exceedingly stale pieces of pig's cheek, slashed with a
thousand cuts. She undid the string, shook out some of the contents on to the table, and bade me
strip them smartly. Obeying her orders, I proceed carefully to separate the beans from the filthy
pods that contained them. But înothea, chiding my slowness, incontinently snatches them from
me, and instantly stripping off the husks with her teeth, spits them out on the ground, where they
looked like dead flies. I could not help admiring the ingenuity of poverty, and the knack there is
in every single thing. Indeed, this virtue of poverty found so ardent a follower
in the Priestess, it was conspicuous in every trifle about her. Her cottage especially was a very
shrine of misery.
No Indian ivories here are set in gold,
No marble covers the deluded mold;
Void of expensive art, the reverent Shrine
With natural modest ornaments doth shine.
Round Ceres' bower the bending osier grows;
Earthen is all the plate the Priestess knows;
The jug is earth which holds the holy wine,
Osier the dish, sacred to Powers divine;
No brazen gauds are here, no purple pride,
Mud and dirt mixed the pious relics hide;
Rushes and reeds the humble roof adorn,
And straw deprived of its Autumnal corn.
On an old shelf a savory ham is found,
And service-berries into garlands bound.
Such a low cottage Hecate confined,
Low was her dwelling, but sublime her mind.
Her bounteous heart a grateful praise shall crown,
And Muses make immortal her renown.
Then, having shelled the beans and eaten a scrap of the meat, she took a fork and went to replace
the pig's cheek, which was as great an antiquity as herself; but the rotten stool, on which she had
mounted so as to reach up to the rack, broke down under the old woman's weight and threw her
on the fire. The lip of the cooking-pot was smashed, and put out the fire, that was just burning
up; the woman's elbow was burnt by a red-hot ember, and her whole face begrimed with the
ashes. I sprang up in dismay, and not without some inward laughter set the old thing on her legs
again; this accomplished, she ran instantly to a neighbor's to replenish the fire, that nothing might
delay the sacrifice.
I was making my way to the door of the cottage, when lo and behold! three sacred geese, which I
suppose the old woman was in habit of feeding at midday, rushed at me and set me all in a
twitter, pressing round me with their disconcerting and almost rabid cackle. One of them tore my
tunic, another undid my shoestrings and dragged at them, the third, leader and director of the
savage assault, actually worried my leg with its serrated beak. So, thinking it no time for
nonsense, I dragged off a leg of the table, and armed with this weapon started belaboring the
warlike creature. Nor was I satisfied with trifling blows, but avenged my hurt by killing the bird
Such were the birds Heruclean art subdued,
And with loud tumults to the skies pursued;
And such the Harpies the winged brothers chased
From trembling Phineus' illusive feast.
The heavens were startled at their clamorous flight,
And backward seemed to roll in wild affright.
I left the creature sprawling, while its companions, after picking up the beans that were scattered
all about the floor, and finding themselves I suppose bereft of
their leader, retreated into the Temple again. Then, proud of my booty and the vengeance I had
exacted, I tossed the dead bird behind the bed, and washed the trifling wound in my leg with
vinegar. Presently, fearing a scolding, I determined to be off, and gathering my belongings
together started to leave the cottage. I had not yet crossed the threshold however when I saw
înothea coming along with an earthen pot full of fire. I drew back again therefore, and
throwing aside my robe, as if I had been waiting for her return, took my stand at the entrance.
She packed her fire on some reeds broken up small, and piling up the top with a number of logs,
began to excuse her delay, saying her friend had refused to let her go till she had drained the three
cups custom required. Then, "What have you been doing," she asked, "in my absence? and
where are the beans?"
I really thought I had done something very praiseworthy and described the whole battle to her in
detail, finally, to end her melancholy, presenting her with the dead goose in compensation for her
loss. Directly the old woman set eyes on the bird, she set up such a terrible outcry you might
have thought the geese had invaded the place again. Confused at this and astounded at the
strange nature of my offense, I repeatedly begged her to tell me why she was so angry, and why
all her pity was for the goose and none at all for me.
But beating her palms together, "How dare you
speak," she screamed, "abandoned wretch! You must know what an atrocity you have
committed; you have killed the delight of Priapus, the goose that was the darling of all the
matrons. You think it's a trifle you've done!-- if the Magistrates get wind of it, you'll be
crucified. You have polluted my home with blood, that was never profaned before; and put it in
the power of any ill-wisher I may have to turn me out of my office."
"Don't shout so, I beseech you," I interposed; "I tell you, I'll give you an ostrich for your goose."
She was still sitting on the pallet and bewailing the goose's untimely death, with me standing in
amazement, when Proselenos arrived with the materials for the sacrifice. Directly she saw the
dead bird, she asked excitedly how the calamity had occurred, and she too began to weep
violently, and make as much ado over me as if I had killed my own father instead of a public
goose. Feeling utterly sick of the tiresome business, "Now tell me," I expostulated, "could not I
purchase expiation for money, if it was you I had assaulted, even though I'd done murder. Look
you, I offer two gold pieces, enough to buy both gods and geese with." As soon as înothea saw
the coins, "Forgive me, young man," she exclaimed; "'tis for your sake I am so anxious, and that
shows affection surely, not malice. (And we'll take care that no one shall know anything about
it.) Only do you pray to the gods to pardon the sacrilege you have done."
Whoe'er has magic gold, secure may sail
Where'er he please, he's lord of Fortune's gale;
May in a Danae's arms make soft abode,--
There's no Acrisius will dispute the God!
He may turn Poet, Orator, what not?
When he harangues, old Cato is forgot!
Or if the noisy bar delights him more,
Behold what mighty Labeo was before!
In short-- when of the money you're possessed,
You need but wish,-- you've Jove within your chest.
Meantime the Priestess, bustling about, placed a bowl of wine under my hands, and making me
spread out my fingers evenly, purified them with leeks and parsley. Then with a muttered charm
she dipped filberts in the wine, and according as they rose to the surface again, or sank, she drew
her prognostications. But I did not fail to observe that the blind nuts, with nothing but air inside
of kernels, naturally floated on the top, while the heavy ones, that were full and sound within,
settled to the bottom. Next turning her attentions to the goose, she opened its breast and drew
out a fine fat liver, and proceeded to predict my future prospects from the indications it afforded.
Nay! that not a trace of my crime might be left, she broke up the whole bird, and sticking the
pieces on spits, prepared a very appetizing dinner for me, whom she so short a time before
condemned to death with her own lips. Meantime bumpers of unmixed wine were circulating
freely, and the old woman merrily
gobbled up the goose they had been mourning over so sadly just before. When it was all gone,
the Priestess, now half drunk, turned to me and said, "We must complete the mysteries, to
recover you of your impotency."
So saying, înothea brought out a leathern godemiche, which she smeared with oil and ground
pepper and pounded nettle seed, and then proceeded to insert it little by little up my back. Next
the cruel old dame anoints my two thighs with the same concoction. Then mixing nasturtium
juice with southern-wood, she bathes my genitals with the stuff, and grasping a bundle of
stinging nettles, begins slowly and methodically to lash my belly with them all over below the
navel. The nettles burn sharply, and I suddenly take to my heels, the old woman after me in hot
haste. Though disordered with wine and lust, they take the right road, and follow me up through
several streets, screaming, "Stop thief!" However, I escaped eventually, after making all my toes
bleed in the course of my headlong gallop.
As soon as ever I could get home, I went to bed, utterly worn out with fatigue; but I was unable
to sleep a wink. My various disasters kept on running through my head, and quite convinced I
was the most unfortunate wretch alive, I ejaculated, "Fortune has ever been my bitterest foe; it
only needed Love's torments as well to make me utterly miserable. Doomed wretch! Fortune
and Love now join their forces to conspire my ruin. Cruel Cupid has never spared me; whether
lover or loved, I am perpetually on the rack! There is Chrysis now! she loves me madly and
never ceases to tease me. Chrysis who looked down on me, when she was acting as her
mistress's go-between, and scorned me as a slave, because I wore slave's clothes; she, I say, that
same Chrysis who once loathed my humble condition, is now bent on following it up even at the
risk of life itself. She swore she would never leave me alone, that time she declared the
vehemence of her passion for me.
"But Circe has my whole heart; all other women I despise. Indeed who so fair as she? What was
beauty, or Leda's, compared to hers? What had Helen of Troy, or Venus herself, to boast against
her? If Paris, umpire of the rival goddesses, had seen her at the trial with her dancing eyes, he
would have given up all to her, Helen and the goddesses three! Could I but kiss that mouth,
could I press that divine, that heavenly bosom, maybe my powers of body would return, and
those parts of me revive that now lie torpid and, I verily believe, bewitched. No insults exhaust
my patience. I have been thrashed,-- 'tis nothing; I have been kicked out,-- 'tis a merry jest; if
only I may be restored to favor."
These and the like thoughts of lovely Circe's charms so roused my fancy that I disordered my bed
with the repeated efforts of a sort of imaginary voluptuousness. But all my struggles remained
unavailing. At last continual disappointment wore my patience out, and I cursed the evil
enchantment that oppressed me. Presently however, recovering my self-control, and drawing
what consolation I might from remembering how many heroes of antiquity had been persecuted
by the anger of the gods, I broke out into these
"Not I alone have Heaven's just anger felt,
The gods with others have severely dealt;
By Juno's rage the heavens Alcides bore,
And lost fair Hylas on the Pontic Shore.
Laomedon did Jove's resentment feel,
And Telephus bled by the fatal steel.
Fate's sure decrees no mortal power can shun,
Nor can the swiftest from Heaven's vengeance run."
Tortured by these anxieties, I tossed about wakefully the whole night long. At peep of day Giton,
informed of the fact of my having slept at home, entered my room, and after chiding me severely
for my licentious way of life, told me the whole household were complaining bitterly of my
goings on, how I paid scarcely any attention to business, and was like a ruin myself over the fatal
intrigue I was now engaged in. I gathered from all this he was well posted in my affairs, and
guessed some one had been to the house to inquire for me. I asked my companion if anyone had
been in quest of me.
"No one today," Giton replied; "but yesterday there was a woman, stylishly dressed enough, came
in, and after a long talk with me and boring me to death with her forced conversation, ended by
saying you deserved the gallows and would surely get a slave's scourging, if the individual you
had wronged persisted in his complaint." This news tormented me extremely, and I launched out
into fresh recriminations against Fortune. My invective was still in full swing when Chrysis
came in, and throwing her arms wildly round my neck, exclaimed, "I have you in my arms, my
heart's desire! My
love, my joy! Never, never will you end this fire of mine, but by quenching it in my
I was not a little disconcerted by this amorous display on her part, and resorted to a string of
flattering speeches to get rid of her, fearing the madwoman's cries might reach Eumolpus's ears,
who in the arrogance of success had now adopted the domineering ways of a real master. So I
used every means to calm her excitement,-- feigning love, whispering soft nothings; in a word, so
cleverly did I play the fond adorer she thought me genuinely smitten with her charms. I
explained what peril we should both be in, if she were caught with me in my bedroom, Eumolpus
being only too ready to punish the smallest indiscretion. Hearing this, she left me hurriedly, all
the more so as she saw Giton coming back, who had quitted the room shortly before she joined
Hardly was she gone before one of the newly engaged servants rushed in to tell me the master
was excessively angry at my two days' neglect of my duties. The best thing I could do, he said,
was to get some plausible excuse ready; for it was hardly possible his angry passions could
subside without somebody getting a thrashing.
Giton seeing me so vexed and disheartened, did not say one word to me about the woman; he
merely spoke of Eumolpus, recommending me to treat the matter jocularly with him, rather than
look gloomy about it. I was glad enough to take his advice, and approached
the old man with so gay an air that, instead of showing severity, he received me banteringly,
rallying me about my success in love and complimenting me on my grace and elegance, which
made me such a favorite with all the ladies. "It is no news to me," he went on, "that a most
beautiful woman is dying of love for you; now this may very likely be useful to us on occasion,
Encolpius. Well then! play the fond lover, you; I will keep up the same rôle I have been
acting all along."
He was still speaking when a matron entered, a lady of the highest distinction, Philomela by
name, who in earlier days had won many a fat legacy by the charms of her youth; but who being
old now and past her prime, used to put her son and daughter in the way of childless old men,
and so continued to extend her old trade by the efforts of these successors. Well! this woman
came to Eumolpus and proceeded to commend her children to his judicious guardianship, and
confide herself and her hopes to his kindly good nature, asseverating he was the only man in all
the world to train young people by the daily inculcation of healthy precepts; in fine, that she was
leaving her children under Eumolpus's roof, that they might hear his words of wisdom, the only
heritage worth having that could be bestowed on youth. And she was as good as her word; for
leaving behind her a very attractive looking girl along with her brother, a stripling, in the old
chamber, she left the house under pretext of visiting the Temple to say her
Eumolpus, who was so careful a soul he was ready to take even me at my age for a minion, was
not long in inviting the girl to sacrifice to the rearward Venus. But then he had informed
everybody he was gouty and crippled in the loins, and if he failed to keep up the pretense, he ran
considerable risk of spoiling the whole play. So, to maintain the imposture intact, he begged the
girl to take a seat on that kindly good nature her mother had appealed to, ordering Corax at the
same time to slip under the bed he lay on himself, and resting his hands on the floor, to hoist him
up and down with his back. The servant obeyed, and gently seconded the child's artful
movements with a corresponding, rhythmical seesaw. Then when the crisis was coming,
Eumolpus shouted out loud and clear to Corax to work faster. Thus the old fellow, suspended
between his servant and his mistress, enjoyed himself as if in a swing. This exercise he repeated
more than once, to the accompaniment of peals of laughter, in which he himself joined. Nor was
I idle; but fearing my hand might get out of practise from disuse, I assailed the brother, where he
stood admiring his sister's gymnastics through the keyhole, to see if he were amenable to outrage.
He made no bones about accepting my caresses; but once more, alas! I found the god
unpropitious to my efforts.
However I was not so much cast down by failure this time as I had been on previous occasions;
for very soon afterwards my vigor came back to me, and suddenly feeling myself in better
condition, I exclaimed, "The great gods of higher heaven it is have made me a man again!
Mercury, who conveys and reconveys the souls of men, has of his loving kindness given me back
what an unfriendly hand had docked me of, to show you I am really more graciously endowed
than ever was Protesilaus or any of the mighty men of yore." So saying, I lifted my tunic, and
offered Eumolpus a view of all my glories. For an instant he stood panic-stricken; then, to make
assurance doubly sure, he put out both hands and felt the good gift the gods had given
This great boon restoring our cheerfulness, we made merry over Philomela's artfulness and her
children's proficiency, little likely to profit them much with us however; for it was solely and
entirely in hopes of a legacy she had abandoned the boy and girl to our tender mercies. So
reflecting on this sordid fashion of getting round childless old men, I was led on to think of the
present state of our own fortunes, and took occasion to warn Eumolpus that this game of biting
might easily end in biters being bit.
"Our every act," I added, "should be governed by caution. Socrates, wisest of mankind as both
men and gods allow, was wont to boast he had never so much as
glanced into a tavern, nor trusted his eyes to look at any crowded and disorderly assemblage.
Nothing in the world is more advisable than always to speak within the bounds of
"All this is true," I insisted, "and no class of men is more liable to come to mischance than those
who covet other folks' goods. How should mountebanks, and swindlers, live, unless they were
now and again to toss a little purse or a jingling bag of money as baits to the crowd? Just as
dumb beasts are enticed by food, so men are to be caught only with something solid in the way of
expectations to bite at. The ship from Africa with your money and your slaves has not arrived, as
you promised. Our fortune-hunters are tired out, and already stint their generosity. Either I am
much mistaken, or the jade Fortune has begun to repent of her favors to
"I have thought out a scheme," Eumolpus replied, "that will mightily embarrass our
fortune-hunting friends," and drawing his tablets from his wallet, he read out his last wishes as
"All who shall receives legacies under my will, my own freedmen excepted, will inherit the said
bequests subject to this condition, to wit that they do cut up my body into pieces and eat the same
before the eyes of the public there present.
"They need not be over and above shocked, I tell
them; for we know that to this day some nations observe the custom by which the dead are eaten
by their relatives-- so much so indeed that sick folk amongst them are often reproached for
spoiling their flesh by being so long ill. I remind my friends of these facts, that they may not
refuse to follow my directions, but rather consume my dead body with the same heartiness with
which they prayed the living breath might leave it."
Just as he was reading the initial clauses, several of Eumolpus's most intimate friends came into
his room, and seeing the document in his hand, begged him eagerly to let them hear its contents.
He consented instantly, and read it out from beginning to end. On hearing the extraordinary
stipulation about being obliged to eat his corpse, they were very much cast down. But the
glamour of his wealth so dazzled the wretched creatures and stifled their consciences, making
mere cringing cowards of them in his presence, that they durst enter no protest against the
enormity. One of them, however Gorgias, was ready to comply, provided he had not too long to
At this Eumolpus continued, turning to Gorgias, "I have no apprehensions of your stomach's
turning rebellious; it will obey orders, once you promise it, in return for one hour's nausea, a
plethora of good things. Just shut your eyes, and pretend it's not human flesh you've bolted, but a
cool ten million. Besides, we'll find some
condiments, never fear, to disguise the flavor. Indeed, no meat really tastes good by itself, but is
always masked in some artful way, and the recalcitrant stomach reconciled to it. Why! if you
want examples to fortify your resolutions-- the Saguntines, when hard pressed by Hannibal, ate
human flesh; and they had no legacy to expect. The men of Perusia did the same thing in the
extremity of famine, looking for no other benefit from the horrid diet but just to escape
starvation. When Numantia was taken by Scipio, mothers were found grasping their children's
half-eaten bodies to their bosoms. In fine, seeing it is merely the idea of cannibalism that can
cause disgust, you must fight with all your heart to banish this repugnance from your minds, to
the end you may receive the enormous legacies I put you down for."
These insolent extravagances Eumolpus reeled off with such reckless inconsequence as made the
fortune hunters begin to distrust his promises. Instantly they began to scrutinize more closely our
words and actions, and everything they saw only increasing their suspicions, they soon set us
down for a gang of common cheats and swindlers. Hereupon such as had gone to more than
ordinary expense for our entertainment, resolved to have at us and take their just
But now Chrysis, who was in all their secrets, warned me of what the Crotonians' intentions
towards us were. This news scared me so terribly I fled instantly with Giton, leaving Eumolpus
to his fate; and a few days later I learned that the Crotonians, furious at the old fox having lived
sumptuously at their expense for so long, had massacred him in the Massilian fashion. To show
you what this means, I must tell you that whenever the Massilians were visited by the Plague, one
of the poorer inhabitants would volunteer himself as an expiatory victim, on condition of being
maintained a full year at the public cost and fed on choice food. Later on, the unhappy man,
bedecked with festal wreaths and sacred robes, was carried in procession through the whole city,
and made the butt of general execration, to the end that all the calamities of all the State might be
concentrated on his devoted head. This done, he was hurled headlong from a rock.