The Satyricon, Complete
Petronius Arbiter

Part 2 out of 6


"What do you think of the fellow in the freedman's place? He has a good
front, too, hasn't he? And he has a right to. He saw his fortune
multiplied tenfold, but he lost heavily through speculation at the last.
I don't think he can call his very hair his own, and it is no fault of
his either, by Hercules, it isn't. There's no better fellow anywhere his
rascally freedmen cheated him out of everything. You know very well how
it is; everybody's business is nobody's business, and once let business
affairs start to go wrong, your friends will stand from under! Look at
the fix he's in, and think what a fine trade he had! He used to be an
undertaker. He dined like a king, boars roasted whole in their shaggy
Bides, bakers' pastries, birds, cooks and bakers! More wine was spilled
under his table than another has in his wine cellar. His life was like a
pipe dream, not like an ordinary mortal's. When his affairs commenced to
go wrong, and he was afraid his creditors would guess that he was
bankrupt, he advertised an auction and this was his placard:



Trimalchio broke in upon this entertaining gossip, for the course had
been removed and the guests, happy with wine, had started a general
conversation: lying back upon his couch, "You ought to make this wine go
down pleasantly," he said, "the fish must have something to swim in. But
I say, you didn't think I'd be satisfied with any such dinner as you saw
on the top of that tray? 'Is Ulysses no better known?' Well, well, we
shouldn't forget our culture, even at dinner. May the bones of my patron
rest in peace, he wanted me to become a man among men. No one can show
me anything new, and that little tray has proved it. This heaven where
the gods live, turns into as many different signs, and sometimes into the
Ram: therefore, whoever is born under that sign will own many flocks and
much wool, a hard head, a shameless brow, and a sharp horn. A great many
school-teachers and rambunctious butters-in are born under that sign."
We applauded the wonderful penetration of our astrologer and he ran on,
"Then the whole heaven turns into a bull-calf and the kickers and
herdsmen and those who see to it that their own bellies are full, come
into the world. Teams of horses and oxen are born under the Twins, and
well-hung wenchers and those who bedung both sides of the wall. I was
born under the Crab and therefore stand on many legs and own much
property on land and sea, for the crab is as much at home on one as he is
in the other. For that reason, I put nothing on that sign for fear of
weighing down my own destiny. Bulldozers and gluttons are born under the
Lion, and women and fugitives and chain-gangs are born under the Virgin.
Butchers and perfumers are born under the Balance, and all who think that
it is their business to straighten things out. Poisoners and assassins
are born under the Scorpion. Cross-eyed people who look at the
vegetables and sneak away with the bacon, are born under the Archer.
Horny-handed sons of toil are born under Capricorn. Bartenders and
pumpkin-heads are born under the Water-Carrier. Caterers and
rhetoricians are born under the Fishes: and so the world turns round,
just like a mill, and something bad always comes to the top, and men are
either being born or else they're dying. As to the sod and the honeycomb
in the middle, for I never do anything without a reason, Mother Earth is
in the centre, round as an egg, and all that is good is found in her,
just like it is in a honeycomb."


"Bravo!" we yelled, and, with hands uplifted to the ceiling, we swore
that such fellows as Hipparchus and Aratus were not to be compared with
him. At length some slaves came in who spread upon the couches some
coverlets upon which were embroidered nets and hunters stalking their
game with boar-spears, and all the paraphernalia of the chase. We knew
not what to look for next, until a hideous uproar commenced, just outside
the dining-room door, and some Spartan hounds commenced to run around the
table all of a sudden. A tray followed them, upon which was served a
wild boar of immense size, wearing a liberty cap upon its head, and from
its tusks hung two little baskets of woven palm fibre, one of which
contained Syrian dates, the other, Theban. Around it hung little
suckling pigs made from pastry, signifying that this was a brood-sow with
her pigs at suck. It turned out that these were souvenirs intended to be
taken home. When it came to carving the boar, our old friend Carver, who
had carved the capons, did not appear, but in his place a great bearded
giant, with bands around his legs, and wearing a short hunting cape in
which a design was woven. Drawing his hunting-knife, lie plunged it
fiercely into the boar's side, and some thrushes flew out of the gash.
fowlers, ready with their rods, caught them in a moment, as they
fluttered around the room and Trimalchio ordered one to each guest,
remarking, "Notice what fine acorns this forest-bred boar fed on," and as
he spoke, some slaves removed the little baskets from the tusks and
divided the Syrian and Theban dates equally among the diners.


Getting a moment to myself, in the meantime, I began to speculate as to
why the boar had come with a liberty cap upon his head. After exhausting
my invention with a thousand foolish guesses, I made bold to put the
riddle which teased me to my old informant. "Why, sure," he replied,
"even your slave could explain that; there's no riddle, everything's as
plain as day! This boar made his first bow as the last course of
yesterday's dinner and was dismissed by the guests, so today he comes
back as a freedman!" I damned my stupidity and refrained from asking any
more questions for fear I might leave the impression that I had never
dined among decent people before. While we were speaking, a handsome
boy, crowned with vine leaves and ivy, passed grapes around, in a little
basket, and impersonated Bacchus-happy, Bacchus-drunk, and
Bacchus-dreaming, reciting, in the meantime, his master's verses, in a
shrill voice. Trimalchio turned to him and said, "Dionisus, be thou
Liber," whereupon the boy immediately snatched the cap from the boar's
head, and put it upon his own. At that Trimalchio added, "You can't
deny that my father's middle name was Liber!" We applauded Trimalchio's
conceit heartily, and kissed the boy as he went around. Trimalchio
retired to the close-stool, after this course, and we, having freedom of
action with the tyrant away, began to draw the other guests out. After
calling for a bowl of wine, Dama spoke up, "A day's nothing at all: it's
night before you can turn around, so you can't do better than to go
right to the dining-room from your bed. It's been so cold that I can
hardly get warm in a bath, but a hot drink's as good as an overcoat:
I've had some long pegs, and between you and me, I'm a bit groggy; the
booze has gone to my head."


Here Seleucus took up the tale. "I don't bathe every day," he confided,
"a bath uses you up like a fuller: water's got teeth and your strength
wastes away a little every day; but when I've downed a pot of mead, I
tell the cold to suck my cock! I couldn't bathe today anyway, because I
was at a funeral; dandy fellow, he was too, good old Chrysanthus slipped
his wind! Why, only the other day he said good morning' to me, and I
almost think I'm talking to him now! Gawd's truth, we're only blown-up
bladders strutting around, we're less than flies, for they have some good
in them, but we're only bubbles. And supposing he had not kept to such a
low diet! Why, not a drop of water or a crumb of bread so much as passed
his lips for five days; and yet he joined the majority! Too many doctors
did away with him, or rather, his time had come, for a doctor's not good
for anything except for a consolation to your mind! He was well carried
out, anyhow, in the very bed he slept in during his lifetime. And he was
covered with a splendid pall: the mourning was tastefully managed; he had
freed some slaves; even though his wife was sparing with her tears: and
what if he hadn't treated her so well! But when you come to women, women
all belong to the kite species: no one ought to waste a good turn upon
one of them; it's just like throwing it down a well! An old love's like
a cancer!"


He was becoming very tiresome, and Phileros cried out, "Let's think about
the living! He has what was coming to him, he lived respectably, and
respectably he died. What's he got to kick about'? He made his pile
from an as, and would pick a quadrans out of a dunghill with his teeth,
any old time. And he grew richer and richer, of course: just like a
honeycomb. I expect that he left all of a hundred thousand, by Hercules,
I do! All in cold cash, too; but I've eaten dog's tongue and must speak
the truth: he was foul-mouthed, had a ready tongue, he was a trouble
maker and no man. Now his brother was a good fellow, a friend to his
friend, free-handed, and he kept a liberal table. He picked a loser at
the start, but his first vintage set him upon his legs, for he sold his
wine at the figure he demanded, and, what made him hold his head higher
still, he came into a legacy from which he stole more than had been left
to him. Then that fool friend of yours, in a fit of anger at his
brother, willed his property away to some son-of-a-bitch or other, who
he was, I don't know, but when a man runs away from his own kin, he has
a long way to go! And what's more, he had some slaves who were
ear-specialists at the keyhole, and they did him a lot of harm, for a man
won't prosper when he believes, on the spot, every tale that he hears; a
man in business, especially. Still, he had a good time as long as he
lived: for happy's the fellow who gets the gift, not the one it was meant
for. He sure was Fortune's son! Lead turned to gold in his hands. It's
easy enough when everything squares up and runs on schedule. How old
would you think he was? Seventy and over, but he was as tough as horn,
carried his age well, and was as black as a crow. I knew the fellow for
years and years, and he was a lecher to the very last. I don't believe
that even the dog in his house escaped his attentions, by Hercules, I
don't; and what a boy-lover he was! Saw a virgin in every one he met!
Not that I blame him though, for it's all he could take with him."


Phileros had his say and Ganymedes exclaimed, "You gabble away about
things that don't concern heaven or earth: and none of you cares how the
price of grain pinches. I couldn't even get a mouthful of bread today,
by Hercules, I couldn't. How the drought does hang on! We've had famine
for a year. If the damned AEdiles would only get what's coming to them.
They graft with the bakers, scratch-my-arse-and-I'll-scratch-yours!
That's the way it always is, the poor devils are out of luck, but the
jaws of the capitalists are always keeping the Saturnalia. If only we
had such lion-hearted sports as we had when I first came from Asia! That
was the life! If the flour was not the very best, they would beat up
those belly-robbing grafters till they looked like Jupiter had been at
them. How well I remember Safinius; he lived near the old arch, when I
was a boy. For a man, he was one hot proposition! Wherever he went, the
ground smoked! But he was square, dependable, a friend to a friend, you
could safely play mora with him, in the dark. But how he did peel them
in the town hall: he spoke no parables, not he! He did everything
straight from the shoulder and his voice roared like a trumpet in the
forum. He never sweat nor spat. I don't know, but I think he had a
strain of the Asiatic in him. And how civil and friendly-like he was,
in returning everyone's greeting; called us all by name, just like he was
one of us! And so provisions were cheap as dirt in those days. The loaf
you got for an as, you couldn't eat, not even if someone helped you, but
you see them no bigger than a bull's eye now, and the hell of it is that
things are getting worse every day; this colony grows backwards like a
calf's tall! Why do we have to put up with an AEdile here, who's not
worth three Caunian figs and who thinks more of an as than of our lives?
He has a good time at home, and his daily income's more than another
man's fortune. I happen to know where he got a thousand gold pieces.
If we had any nuts, he'd not be so damned well pleased with himself!
Nowadays, men are lions at home and foxes abroad. What gets me is, that
I've already eaten my old clothes, and if this high cost of living keeps
on, I'll have to sell my cottages! What's going to happen to this town,
if neither gods nor men take pity on it? May I never have any luck if I
don't believe all this comes from the gods! For no one believes that
heaven is heaven, no one keeps a fast, no one cares a hang about Jupiter:
they all shut their eyes and count up their own profits. In the old
days, the married women, in their stolas, climbed the hill in their bare
feet, pure in heart, and with their hair unbound, and prayed to Jupiter
for rain! And it would pour down in bucketfuls then or never, and they'd
all come home, wet as drowned rats. But the gods all have the gout now,
because we are not religious; and so our fields are burning up!"


"Don't be so down in the mouth," chimed in Echion, the ragman; "if it
wasn't that it'd be something else, as the farmer said, when he lost his
spotted pig. If a thing don't happen today, it may tomorrow. That's the
way life jogs along. You couldn't name a better country, by Hercules,
you couldn't, if only the men had any brains. She's in hot water right
now, but she ain't the only one. We oughtn't to be so particular;
heaven's as far away everywhere else. If you were somewhere else, you'd
swear that pigs walked around here already roasted. Think of what's
coming! We'll soon have a fine gladiator show to last for three days, no
training-school pupils; most of them will be freedmen. Our Titus has a
hot head and plenty of guts and it will go to a finish. I'm well
acquainted with him, and he'll not stand for any frame-ups. It will be
cold steel in the best style, no running away, the shambles will be in
the middle of the amphitheatre where all the crowd can see. And what's
more, he has the coin, for he came into thirty million when his father
had the bad luck to die. He could blow in four hundred thousand and his
fortune never feel it, but his name would live forever. He has some
dwarfs already, and a woman to fight from a chariot. Then, there's
Glyco's steward; he was caught screwing Glyco's wife. You'll see some
battle between jealous husbands and favored lovers. Anyhow, that cheap
screw of a Glyco condemned his steward to the beasts and only published
his own shame. How could the slave go wrong when he only obeyed orders?
It would have been better if that she-piss-pot, for that's all she's fit
for, had been tossed by the bull, but a fellow has to beat the saddle
when he can't beat the jackass. How could Glyco ever imagine that a
sprig of Hermogenes' planting could turn out well? Why, Hermogenes could
trim the claws of a flying hawk, and no snake ever hatched out a rope
yet! And look at Glyco! He's smoked himself out in fine shape, and as
long as he lives, he'll carry that stain! No one but the devil himself
can wipe that out, but chickens always come home to roost. My nose tells
me that Mammaea will set out a spread: two bits apiece for me and mine!
And he'll nick Norbanus out of his political pull if he does; you all
know that it's to his interest to hump himself to get the best of him.
And honestly, what did that fellow ever do for us? He exhibited some two
cent gladiators that were so near dead they'd have fallen flat if you
blew your breath at them. I've seen better thugs sent against wild
beasts! And the cavalry he killed looked about as much like the real
thing as the horsemen on the lamps; you would have taken them for
dunghill cocks! One plug had about as much action as a jackass with a
pack-saddle; another was club-footed; and a third who had to take the
place of one that was killed, was as good as dead, and hamstrung into the
bargain. There was only one that had any pep, and he was a Thracian, but
he only fought when we egged him on. The whole crowd was flogged
afterwards. How the mob did yell 'Lay it on!' They were nothing but
runaways. And at that he had the nerve to say, 'I've given you a show.'
'And I've applauded,' I answered; 'count it up and you'll find that I
gave more than I got! One hand washes the other.'"


"Agamemnon, your looks seem to say, What's this boresome nut trying to
hand us?' Well, I'm talking because you, who can talk book-foolishness,
won't. You don't belong to our bunch, so you laugh in your sleeve at the
way us poor people talk, but we know that you're only a fool with a lot
of learning. Well, what of it? Some day I'll get you to come to my
country place and take a look at my little estate. We'll have fresh eggs
and spring chicken to chew on when we get there; it will be all right
even if the weather has kept things back this year. We'll find enough to
satisfy us, and my kid will soon grow up to be a pupil of yours; he can
divide up to four, now, and you'll have a little servant at your side, if
he lives. When he has a minute to himself, he never takes his eyes from
his tablets; he's smart too, and has the right kind of stuff in him, even
if he is crazy about birds. I've had to kill three of his linnets
already. I told him that a weasel had gotten them, but he's found
another hobby, now he paints all the time. He's left the marks of his
heels on his Greek already, and is doing pretty well with his Latin,
although his master's too easy with him; won't make him stick to one
thing. He comes to me to get me to give him something to write when his
master don't want to work. Then there's another tutor, too, no scholar,
but very painstaking, though; he can teach you more than he knows
himself. He comes to the house on holidays and is always satisfied with
whatever you pay him. Some little time ago, I bought the kid some law
books; I want him to have a smattering of the law for home use. There's
bread in that! As for literature, he's got enough of that in him
already; if he begins to kick, I've concluded that I'll make him learn
some trade; the barber's, say, or the auctioneer's, or even the lawyer's.
That's one thing no one but the devil can do him out of! 'Believe what
your daddy says, Primigenius,' I din into his ears every day, 'whenever
you learn a thing, it's yours. Look at Phileros the attorney; he'd not
be keeping the wolf from the door now if he hadn't studied. It's not
long since he had to carry his wares on his back and peddle them, but he
can put up a front with Norbanus himself now! Learning's a fine thing,
and a trade won't starve.'"


Twaddle of this sort was being bandied about when Trimalchio came in;
mopping his forehead and washing his hands in perfume, he said, after a
short pause, "Pardon me, gentlemen, but my stomach's been on strike for
the past few days and the doctors disagreed about the cause. But
pomegranate rind and pitch steeped in vinegar have helped me, and I hope
that my belly will get on its good behavior, for sometimes there's such a
rumbling in my guts that you'd think a bellowing bull was in there. So
if anyone wants to do his business, there's no call to be bashful about
it. None of us was born solid! I don't know of any worse torment than
having to hold it in, it's the one thing Jupiter himself can't hold in.
So you're laughing, are you, Fortunata? Why, you're always keeping me
awake at night yourself. I never objected yet to anyone in my
dining-room relieving himself when he wanted to, and the doctors forbid
our holding it in. Everything's ready outside, if the call's more
serious, water, close-stool, and anything else you'll need. Believe me,
when this rising vapor gets to the brain, it puts the whole body on the
burn. Many a one I've known to kick in just because he wouldn't own up
to the truth." We thanked him for his kindness and consideration, and
hid our laughter by drinking more and oftener. We had not realized that,
as yet, we were only in the middle of the entertainment, with a hill
still ahead, as the saying goes. The tables were cleared off to the beat
of music, and three white hogs, muzzled, and wearing bells, were brought
into the dining-room. The announcer informed us that one was a
two-year-old, another three, and the third just turned six. I had an
idea that some rope-dancers had come in and that the hogs would perform
tricks, just as they do for the crowd on the streets, but Trimalchio
dispelled this illusion by asking, "Which one will you have served up
immediately, for dinner? Any country cook can manage a dunghill cock, a
pentheus hash, or little things like that, but my cooks are well used to
serving up calves boiled whole, in their cauldrons!" Then he ordered a
cook to be called in at once, and without awaiting our pleasure, he
directed that the oldest be butchered, and demanded in a loud voice,
"What division do you belong too?" When the fellow made answer that he
was from the fortieth, "Were you bought, or born upon my estates?"
Trimalchio continued. "Neither," replied the cook, "I was left to you by
Pansa's will." "See to it that this is properly done," Trimalchio
warned, "or I'll have you transferred to the division of messengers!"
and the cook, bearing his master's warning in mind, departed for the
kitchen with the next course in tow.


Trimalchio's threatening face relaxed and he turned to us, "If the wine
don't please you," he said, "I'll change it; you ought to do justice to
it by drinking it. I don't have to buy it, thanks to the gods.
Everything here that makes your mouths water, was produced on one of my
country places which I've never yet seen, but they tell me it's down
Terracina and Tarentum way. I've got a notion to add Sicily to my other
little holdings, so in case I want to go to Africa, I'll be able to sail
along my own coasts. But tell me the subject of your speech today,
Agamemnon, for, though I don't plead cases myself, I studied literature
for home use, and for fear you should think I don't care about learning,
let me inform you that I have three libraries, one Greek and the others
Latin. Give me the outline of your speech if you like me."

"A poor man and a rich man were enemies," Agamemmon began, when: "What's
a poor man?" Trimalchio broke in. "Well put," Agamemnon conceded and
went into details upon some problem or other, what it was I do not know.
Trimalchio instantly rendered the following verdict, "If that's the case,
there's nothing to dispute about; if it's not the case, it don't amount
to anything anyhow." These flashes of wit, and others equally
scintillating, we loudly applauded, and he went on: "Tell me, my dearest
Agamemnon, do you remember the twelve labors of Hercules or the story of
Ulysses, how the Cyclops threw his thumb out of joint with a pig-headed
crowbar? When I was a boy, I used to read those stories in Homer. And
then, there's the Sibyl: with my own eyes I saw her, at Cumae, hanging up
in a jar; and whenever the boys would say to her 'Sibyl, Sibyl, what
would you?' she would answer, 'I would die.'"


Before he had run out of wind, a tray upon which was an enormous hog was
placed upon the table, almost filling it up. We began to wonder at the
dispatch with which it had been prepared and swore that no cock could
have been served up in so short a time; moreover, this hog seemed to us
far bigger than the boar had been. Trimalchio scrutinized it closely and
"What the hell," he suddenly bawled out, "this hog hain't been gutted,
has it? No, it hain't, by Hercules, it hain't! Call that cook! Call
that cook in here immediately!" When the crestfallen cook stood at the
table and owned up that he had forgotten to bowel him, "So you forgot,
did you?" Trimalchio shouted, "You'd think he'd only left out a bit of
pepper and cummin, wouldn't you? Off with his clothes!" The cook was
stripped without delay, and stood with hanging head, between two
torturers. We all began to make excuses for him at this, saying, "Little
things like that are bound to happen once in a while, let us prevail upon
you to let him off; if he ever does such a thing again, not a one of us
will have a word to say in his behalf." But for my part, I was
mercilessly angry and could not help leaning over towards Agamemnon and
whispering in his ear, "It is easily seen that this fellow is criminally
careless, is it not? How could anyone forget to draw a hog? If he had
served me a fish in that fashion I wouldn't overlook it, by Hercules, I
wouldn't." But that was not Trimalchio's way: his face relaxed into good
humor and he said, "Since your memory's so short, you can gut him right
here before our eyes!" The cook put on his tunic, snatched up a carving
knife, with a trembling hand, and slashed the hog's belly in several
places. Sausages and meat-puddings, widening the apertures, by their
own weight, immediately tumbled out.


The whole household burst into unanimous applause at this; "Hurrah for
Gaius," they shouted. As for the cook, he was given a drink and a silver
crown and a cup on a salver of Corinthian bronze. Seeing that Agamemnon
was eyeing the platter closely, Trimalchio remarked, "I'm the only one
that can show the real Corinthian!" I thought that, in his usual
purse-proud manner, he was going to boast that his bronzes were all
imported from Corinth, but he did even better by saying, "Wouldn't you
like to know how it is that I'm the only one that can show the real
Corinthian? Well, it's because the bronze worker I patronize is named
Corinthus, and what's Corinthian unless it's what a Corinthus makes?
And, so you won't think I'm a blockhead, I'm going to show you that I'm
well acquainted with how Corinthian first came into the world. When Troy
was taken, Hannibal, who was a very foxy fellow and a great rascal into
the bargain, piled all the gold and silver and bronze statues in one pile
and set 'em afire, melting these different metals into one: then the
metal workers took their pick and made bowls and dessert dishes and
statuettes as well. That's how Corinthian was born; neither one nor the
other, but an amalgam of all. But I prefer glass, if you don't mind my
saying so; it don't stink, and if it didn't break, I'd rather have it
than gold, but it's cheap and common now."


"But there was an artisan, once upon a time, who made a glass vial that
couldn't be broken. On that account he was admitted to Caesar with his
gift; then he dashed it upon the floor, when Caesar handed it back to
him. The Emperor was greatly startled, but the artisan picked the vial
up off the pavement, and it was dented, just like a brass bowl would have
been! He took a little hammer out of his tunic and beat out the dent
without any trouble. When he had done that, he thought he would soon be
in Jupiter's heaven, and more especially when Caesar said to him, 'Is
there anyone else who knows how to make this malleable glass? Think
now!' And when he denied that anyone else knew the secret, Caesar
ordered his head chopped off, because if this should get out, we would
think no more of gold than we would of dirt."


"And when it comes to silver, I'm a connoisseur; I have goblets as big as
wine-jars, a hundred of 'em more or less, with engraving that shows how
Cassandra killed her sons, and the dead boys are lying so naturally that
you'd think 'em alive. I own a thousand bowls which Mummius left to my
patron, where Daedalus is shown shutting Niobe up in the Trojan horse,
and I also have cups engraved with the gladiatorial contests of Hermeros
and Petraites: they're all heavy, too. I wouldn't sell my taste in these
matters for any money!" A slave dropped a cup while he was running on in
this fashion. Glaring at him, Trimalchio said, "Go hang yourself, since
you're so careless." The boy's lip quivered and he immediately commenced
to beg for mercy. "Why do you pray to me?" Trimalchio demanded, at
this: "I don't intend to be harsh with you, I'm only warning you against
being so awkward." Finally, however, we got him to give the boy a pardon
and no sooner had this been done than the slave started running around
the room crying, "Out with the water and in with the wine!" We all paid
tribute to this joke, but Agamemnon in particular, for he well knew what
strings to pull in order to secure another invitation to dinner. Tickled
by our flattery, and mellowed by the wine, Trimalchio was just about
drunk. "Why hasn't one of you asked my Fortunata to dance?" he
demanded, "There's no one can do a better cancan, believe me," and he
himself raised his arms above his head and favored us with an
impersonation of Syrus the actor; the whole household chanting:

Oh bravo
Oh bravissimo

in chorus, and he would have danced out into the middle of the room
before us all, had not Fortunata whispered in his ear, telling him,
I suppose, that such low buffoonery was not in keeping with his dignity.
But nothing could be so changeable as his humor, for one minute he stood
in awe of Fortunata, but his natural propensities would break out the


But his passion for dancing was interrupted at this stage by a
stenographer who read aloud, as if he were reading the public records,
"On the seventh of the Kalends of July, on Trimalchio's estates near
Cumae, were born thirty boys and forty girls: five hundred pecks of wheat
were taken from the threshing floors and stored in the granaries: five
hundred oxen were put to yoke: the slave Mithridates was crucified on the
same date for cursing the genius of our master, Gaius: on said date ten
million sesterces were returned to the vaults as no sound investment
could be found: on said date, a fire broke out in the gardens at Pompeii,
said fire originating in the house of Nasta, the bailiff." "What's
that?" demanded Trimalchio. "When were the gardens at Pompeii bought for
me?" "Why, last year," answered the stenographer, "for that reason the
item has not appeared in the accounts." Trimalchio flew into a rage at
this. "If I'm not told within six months of any real estate that's
bought for me," he shouted, "I forbid it's being carried to my account at
all!" Next, the edicts of his aediles were read aloud, and the wills of
some of his foresters in which Trimalchio was disinherited by a codicil,
then the names of his bailiffs, and that of a freedwoman who had been
repudiated by a night watchman, after she had been caught in bed with a
bath attendant, that of a porter banished to Baioe, a steward who was
standing trial, and lastly the report of a decision rendered in the
matter of a lawsuit, between some valets. When this was over with, some
rope dancers came in and a very boresome fool stood holding a ladder,
ordering his boy to dance from rung to rung, and finally at the top, all
this to the music of popular airs; then the boy was compelled to jump
through blazing hoops while grasping a huge wine jar with his teeth.
Trimalchio was the only one who was much impressed by these tricks,
remarking that it was a thankless calling and adding that in all the
world there were just two things which could give him acute pleasure,
rope-dancers and horn blowers; all other entertainments were nothing
but nonsense. "I bought a company of comedians," he went on, "but I
preferred for them to put on Atellane farces, and I ordered my
flute-player to play Latin airs only."


While our noble Gaius was still talking away, the boy slipped and fell,
alighting upon Trimalchio's arm. The whole household cried out, as did
also the guests, not that they bore such a coarse fellow any good will,
as they would gladly have seen his neck broken, but because such an
unlucky ending to the dinner might make it necessary for them to go into
mourning over a total stranger. As for Trimalchio, he groaned heavily
and bent over his arm as though it had been injured: doctors flocked
around him, and Fortunata was among the very first, her hair was
streaming and she held a cup in her hand and screamed out her grief and
unhappiness. As for the boy who had fallen, he was crawling at our feet,
imploring pardon. I was uneasy for fear his prayers would lead up to
some ridiculous theatrical climax, for I had not yet been able to forget
that cook who had forgotten to bowel that hog, and so, for this reason, I
began to scan the whole dining-room very closely, to see if an automaton
would come out through the wall; and all the more so as a slave was
beaten for having bound up his master's bruised arm in white wool instead
of purple. Nor was my suspicion unjustified, for in place of punishment,
Trimalchio ordered that the boy be freed, so that no one could say that
so exalted a personage had been injured by a slave.


We applauded his action and engaged in a discussion upon the instability
of human affairs, which many took sides. "A good reason," declared
Trimalchio, "why such an occasion shouldn't slip by without an epigram."
He called for his tablets at once, and after racking his brains for a
little while, he got off the following:

The unexpected will turn up;
Our whole lives Fortune bungles up.
Falernian, boy, hand round the cup.

This epigram led up to a discussion of the poets, and for a long time,
the greatest praise was bestowed upon Mopsus the Thracian, until
Trimalchio broke in with: "Professor, I wish you'd tell me how you'd
compare Cicero and Publilius. I'm of the opinion that the first was the
more eloquent, but that the last moralizes more beautifully, for what can
excel these lines?

Insatiable luxury crumbles the walls of war;
To satiate gluttony, peacocks in coops are brought
Arrayed in gold plumage like Babylon tapestry rich.
Numidian guinea-fowls, capons, all perish for thee:
And even the wandering stork, welcome guest that he is,
The emblem of sacred maternity, slender of leg
And gloctoring exile from winter, herald of spring,
Still, finds his last nest in the--cauldron of gluttony base.
India surrenders her pearls; and what mean they to thee?
That thy wife decked with sea-spoils adorning her breast
and her head
On the couch of a stranger lies lifting adulterous legs?
The emerald green, the glass bauble, what mean they to thee?
Or the fire of the ruby? Except that pure chastity shine
From the depth of the jewels: in garments of woven wind clad
Our brides might as well take their stand, their game
naked to stalk,
As seek it in gossamer tissue transparent as air."


"What should we say was the hardest calling, after literature?" he asked.
"That of the doctor or that of the money-changer, I would say: the
doctor, because he has to know what poor devils have got in their
insides, and when the fever's due: but I hate them like the devil, for my
part, because they're always ordering me on a diet of duck soup: and the
money-changer's, because he's got to be able to see the silver through
the copper plating. When we come to the dumb beasts, the oxen and sheep
are the hardest worked, the oxen, thanks to whose labor we have bread to
chew on, the sheep, because their wool tricks us out so fine. It's the
greatest outrage under the sun for people to eat mutton and then wear a
tunic. Then there's the bee: in my opinion, they're divine insects
because they puke honey, though there are folks that claim that they
bring it from Jupiter, and that's the reason they sting, too, for
wherever you find a sweet, you'll find a bitter too." He was just putting
the philosophers out of business when lottery tickets were passed around
in a cup. A slave boy assigned to that duty read aloud the names of the
souvenirs: "Silver s--ham," a ham was brought in with some silver vinegar
cruets on top of it; "cervical"--something soft for the neck--a piece of
the cervix--neck--of a sheep was brought in; "serisapia"--after wit--"and
contumelia"--insult--we were given must wafers and an apple-melon--and a
phallus--contus--; "porri"--leeks--"and persica," he picked up a whip and
a knife; "passeres"--sparrows" and a fly--trap," the answer was
raisins--uva passa--and Attic honey; "cenatoria"--a dinner toga--"and
forensia"--business dress--he handed out a piece of meat--suggestive of
dinner--and a note-book--suggestive of business--; "canale"--chased by a
dog--"and pedale"--pertaining to the foot--, a hare and a slipper were
brought out; "lamphrey"--murena--"and a letter," he held up a
mouse--mus--and a frog--rana--tied together, and a bundle of
beet--beta--the Greek letter beta--. We laughed long and loud, there
were a thousand of these jokes, more or less, which have now escaped my


But Ascyltos threw off all restraint and ridiculed everything; throwing
up his hands, he laughed until the tears ran down his cheeks. At last,
one of Trimalchio's fellow-freedmen, the one who had the place next to
me, flew into a rage, "What's the joke, sheep's-head," he bawled, "Don't
our host's swell entertainment suit you? You're richer than he is, I
suppose, and used to dining better! As I hope the guardian spirit of
this house will be on my side, I'd have stopped his bleating long ago if
I'd been sitting next to him. He's a peach, he is, laughing at others;
some vagabond or other from who-knows-where, some night-pad who's not
worth his own piss: just let me piss a ring around him and he wouldn't
know where to run to! I ain't easy riled, no, by Hercules, I ain't, but
worms breed in tender flesh. Look at him laugh! What the hell's he got
to laugh at? Is his family so damned fine-haired? So you're a Roman
knight! Well, I'm a king's son! How's it come that you've been a slave,
you'll ask because I put myself into service because I'd rather be a
Roman citizen than a tax-paying provincial. And now I hope that my life
will be such that no one can jeer at me. I'm a man among men! I take my
stroll bareheaded and owe no man a copper cent. I never had a summons in
my life and no one ever said to me, in the forum, pay me what you owe me.
I've bought a few acres and saved up a few dollars and I feed twenty
bellies and a dog. I ransomed my bedfellow so no one could wipe his
hands on her bosom; a thousand dinars it cost me, too. I was chosen
priest of Augustus without paying the fee, and I hope that I won't need
to blush in my grave after I'm dead. But you're so busy that you can't
look behind you; you can spot a louse on someone else, all right, but you
can't see the tick on yourself. You're the only one that thinks we're so
funny; look at your professor, he's older than you are, and we're good
enough for him, but you're only a brat with the milk still in your nose
and all you can prattle is 'ma' or 'mu,' you're only a clay pot, a piece
of leather soaked in water, softer and slipperier, but none the better
for that. You've got more coin than we have, have you? Then eat two
breakfasts and two dinners a day. I'd rather have my reputation than
riches, for my part, and before I make an end of this--who ever dunned me
twice? In all the forty years I was in service, no one could tell
whether I was free or a slave. I was only a long-haired boy when I came
to this colony and the town house was not built then. I did my best to
please my master and he was a digniferous and majestical gentleman whose
nail-parings were worth more than your whole carcass. I had enemies in
his house, too, who would have been glad to trip me up, but I swam the
flood, thanks to his kindness. Those are the things that try your
mettle, for it's as easy to be born a gentleman as to say, 'Come here.'
Well, what are you gaping at now, like a billy-goat in a vetch-field?"


Giton, who had been standing at my feet, and who had for some time been
holding in his laughter, burst into an uproarious guffaw, at this last
figure of speech, and when Ascyltos' adversary heard it, he turned his
abuse upon the boy. "What's so funny, you curly-headed onion," he
bellowed, "are the Saturnalia here, I'd like to know? Is it December

"When did you pay your twentieth? What's this to you, you gallows-bird,
you crow's meat? I'll call the anger of Jupiter down on you and that
master of yours, who don't keep you in better order. If I didn't respect
my fellow-freedmen, I'd give you what is coming to you right here on the
spot, as I hope to get my belly full of bread, I would. We'll get along
well enough, but those that can't control you are fools; like master like
man's a true saying. I can hardly hold myself in and I'm not hot-headed
by nature, but once let me get a start and I don't care two cents for my
own mother. All right, I'll catch you in the street, you rat, you
toadstool. May I never grow an inch up or down if I don't push your
master into a dunghill, and I'll give you the same medicine, I will, by
Hercules, I will, no matter if you call down Olympian Jupiter himself!
I'll take care of your eight inch ringlets and your two cent master into
the bargain. I'll have my teeth into you, either you'll cut out the
laughing, or I don't know myself. Yes, even if you had a golden beard.
I'll bring the wrath of Minerva down on you and on the fellow that first
made a come-here out of you. No, I never learned geometry or criticism
or other foolishness like that, but I know my capital letters and I can
divide any figure by a hundred, be it in asses, pounds or sesterces.
Let's have a show-down, you and I will make a little bet, here's my coin;
you'll soon find out that your father's money was wasted on your
education, even if you do know a little rhetoric. How's this--what part
of us am I? I come far, I come wide, now guess me! I'll give you
another. What part of us runs but never moves from its place? What part
of us grows but always grows less? But you scurry around and are as
flustered and fidgeted as a mouse in a piss-pot. Shut up and don't annoy
your betters, who don't even know that you've been born. Don't think
that I'm impressed by those boxwood armlets that you did your mistress
out of. Occupo will back me! Let's go into the forum and borrow money,
then you'll see whether this iron ring means credit! Bah! A draggled
fox is a fine sight, ain't it'? I hope I never get rich and die decently
so that the people will swear by my death, if I don't hound you
everywhere with my toga turned inside out. And the fellow that taught
you such manners did a good job too, a chattering ape, all right, no
schoolmaster. We were better taught. 'Is everything in its place?' the
master would ask; go straight home and don't stop and stare at everything
and don't be impudent to your elders. Don't loiter along looking in at
the shops. No second raters came out of that school. I'm what you see
me and I thank the gods it's all due to my own cleverness."


Ascyltos was just starting in to answer this indictment when Trimalchio,
who was delighted with his fellow-freedman's tirade, broke in, "Cut out
the bickering and let's have things pleasant here. Let up on the young
fellow, Hermeros, he's hot-blooded, so you ought to be more reasonable.
The loser's always the winner in arguments of this kind. And as for you,
even when you were a young punk you used to go 'Co-co co-co,' like a hen
after a rooster, but you had no pep. Let's get to better business and
start the fun all over again and watch the Homerists." A troupe filed
in, immediately, and clashed spears against shields. Trimalchio sat
himself up on his cushion and intoned in Latin, from a book, while the
actors, in accordance with their conceited custom, recited their parts in
the Greek language. There came a pause, presently, and "You don't any of
you know the plot of the skit they're putting on, do you?" he asked,
"Diomedes and Ganymede were two brothers, and Helen was their sister;
Agamemnon ran away with her and palmed off a doe on Diana, in her place,
so Homer tells how the Trojans and Parentines fought among themselves.
Of course Agamemnon was victorious, and gave his daughter Iphigenia, to
Achilles, for a wife: This caused Ajax to go mad, and he'll soon make the
whole thing plain to you." The Homerists raised a shout, as soon as
Trimalchio had done speaking, and, as the whole familia stepped back, a
boiled calf with a helmet on its head was brought in on an enormous
platter. Ajax followed and rushed upon it with drawn sword, as if he
were insane, he made passes with the flat, and again with the edge, and
then, collecting the slices, he skewered them, and, much to our
astonishment, presented them to us on the point of his sword.


But we were not given long in which to admire the elegance of such
service, for all of a sudden the ceiling commenced to creak and then the
whole dining-room shook. I leaped to my feet in consternation, for fear
some rope-walker would fall down, and the rest of the company raised
their faces, wondering as much as I what new prodigy was to be announced
from on high. Then lo and behold! the ceiling panels parted and an
enormous hoop, which appeared to have been knocked off a huge cask, was
lowered from the dome above; its perimeter was hung with golden chaplets
and jars of alabaster filled with perfume. We were asked to accept these
articles as souvenirs. When my glance returned to the table, I noticed
that a dish containing cakes had been placed upon it, and in the middle
an image of Priapus, made by the baker, and he held apples of all
varieties and bunches of grapes against his breast, in the conventional
manner. We applied ourselves wholeheartedly to this dessert and our
joviality was suddenly revived by a fresh diversion, for, at the
slightest pressure, all the cakes and fruits would squirt a saffron sauce
upon us, and even spurted unpleasantly into our faces. Being convinced
that these perfumed dainties had some religious significance, we arose in
a body and shouted, "Hurrah for the Emperor, the father of his country!"
However, as we perceived that even after this act of veneration, the
others continued helping themselves, we filled our napkins with the
apples. I was especially keen on this, for I thought I could never put
enough good things into Giton's lap. Three slaves entered, in the
meantime, dressed in white tunics well tucked up, and two of them placed
Lares with amulets hanging from their necks, upon the table, while the
third carried round a bowl of wine and cried, "May the gods be
propitious!" One was called Cerdo--business--, Trimalchio informed us,
the other Lucrio--luck--and the third Felicio--profit--and, when all the
rest had kissed a true likeness of Trimalchio, we were ashamed to pass it


After they had all wished each other sound minds and good health,
"Trimalchio turned to Niceros. "You used to be better company at
dinner," he remarked, "and I don't know why you should be dumb today,
with never a word to say. If you wish to make me happy, tell about that
experience you had, I beg of you." Delighted at the affability of his
friend, "I hope I lose all my luck if I'm not tickled to death at the
humor I see you in," Niceros replied. "All right, let's go the limit for
a good time, though I'm afraid these scholars'll laugh at me, but I'll
tell my tale and they can go as far as they like. What t'hell do I care
who laughs? It's better to be laughed at than laughed down." These
words spake the hero, and began the following tale: "We lived in a narrow
street in the house Gavilla now owns, when I was a slave. There, by the
will of the gods, I fell in love with the wife of Terentius, the
innkeeper; you knew Melissa of Tarentum, that pretty round-checked little
wench. It was no carnal passion, so hear me, Hercules, it wasn't; I was
not in love with her physical charms. No, it was because she was such a
good sport. I never asked her for a thing and had her deny me; if she
had an as, I had half. I trusted her with everything I had and never was
done out of anything. Her husband up and died on the place, one day, so
I tried every way I could to get to her, for you know friends ought to
show up when anyone's in a pinch.


"It so happened that our master had gone to Capua to attend to some odds
and ends of business and I seized the opportunity, and persuaded a guest
of the house to accompany me as far as the fifth mile-stone. He was a
soldier, and as brave as the very devil. We set out about cock-crow, the
moon was shining as bright as midday, and came to where the tombstones
are. My man stepped aside amongst them, but I sat down, singing, and
commenced to count them up. When I looked around for my companion, he
had stripped himself and piled his clothes by the side of the road. My
heart was in my mouth, and I sat there while he pissed a ring around them
and was suddenly turned into a wolf! Now don't think I'm joking, I
wouldn't lie for any amount of money, but as I was saying, he commenced
to howl after he was turned into a wolf, and ran away into the forest.
I didn't know where I was for a minute or two, then I went to his
clothes, to pick them up, and damned if they hadn't turned to stone! Was
ever anyone nearer dead from fright than me? Then I whipped out my sword
and cut every shadow along the road to bits, till I came to the house of
my mistress. I looked like a ghost when I went in, and I nearly slipped
my wind. The sweat was pouring down my crotch, my eyes were staring, and
I could hardly be brought around. My Melissa wondered why I was out so
late. "Oh, if you'd only come sooner," she said, "you could have helped
us: a wolf broke into the folds and attacked the sheep, bleeding them
like a butcher. But he didn't get the laugh on me, even if he did get
away, for one of the slaves ran his neck through with a spear!" I
couldn't keep my eyes shut any longer when I heard that, and as soon as
it grew light, I rushed back to our Gaius' house like an innkeeper beaten
out of his bill, and when I came to the place where the clothes had been
turned into stone, there was nothing but a pool of blood! And moreover,
when I got home, my soldier was lying in bed, like an ox, and a doctor
was dressing his neck! I knew then that he was a werewolf, and after
that, I couldn't have eaten a crumb of bread with him, no, not if you had
killed me. Others can think what they please about this, but as for me,
I hope your geniuses will all get after me if I lie."


We were all dumb with astonishment, when "I take your story for granted,"
said Trimalchio, "and if you'll believe me, my hair stood on end, and
all the more, because I know that Niceros never talks nonsense: he's
always level-headed, not a bit gossipy. And now I'll tell you a
hair-raiser myself, though I'm like a jackass on a slippery pavement
compared to him. When I was a long-haired boy, for I lived a Chian life
from my youth up, my master's minion died. He was a jewel, so hear me
Hercules, he was, perfect in every facet. While his sorrow-stricken
mother was bewailing his loss, and the rest of us were lamenting with
her, the witches suddenly commenced to screech so loud that you would
have thought a hare was being run down by the hounds! At that time, we
had a Cappadocian slave, tall, very bold, and he had muscle too; he
could hold a mad bull in the air! He wrapped a mantle around his left
arm, boldly rushed out of doors with drawn sword, and ran a woman
through the middle about here, no harm to what I touch. We heard a
scream, but as a matter of fact, for I won't lie to you, we didn't catch
sight of the witches themselves. Our simpleton came back presently, and
threw himself upon the bed. His whole body was black and blue, as if he
had been flogged with whips, and of course the reason of that was she
had touched him with her evil hand! We shut the door and returned to
our business, but when the mother put her arms around the body of her
son, it turned out that it was only a straw bolster, no heart, no guts,
nothing! Of course the witches had swooped down upon the lad and put
the straw changeling in his place! Believe me or not, suit yourselves,
but I say that there are women that know too much, and night-hags, too,
and they turn everything upside down! And as for the long-haired booby,
he never got back his own natural color and he died, raving mad, a few
days later."


Though we wondered greatly, we believed none the less implicitly and,
kissing the table, we besought the night-hags to attend to their own
affairs while we were returning home from dinner. As far as I was
concerned, the lamps already seemed to burn double and the whole
dining-room was going round, when "See here, Plocamus," Trimalchio spoke
up, "haven't you anything to tell us? You haven't entertained us at all,
have you? And you used to be fine company, always ready to oblige with a
recitation or a song. The gods bless us, how the green figs have
fallen!" "True for you," the fellow answered, "since I've got the gout
my sporting days are over; but in the good old times when I was a young
spark, I nearly sang myself into a consumption. How I used to dance!
And take my part in a farce, or hold up my end in the barber shops! Who
could hold a candle to me except, of course, the one and only Apelles?"
He then put his hand to his mouth and hissed out some foul gibberish or
other, and said afterwards that it was Greek. Trimalchio himself then
favored us with an impersonation of a man blowing a trumpet, and when he
had finished, he looked around for his minion, whom he called Croesus, a
blear-eyed slave whose teeth were very disagreeably discolored. He was
playing with a little black bitch, disgustingly fat, wrapping her up in a
leek-green scarf and teasing her with a half-loaf of bread which he had
put on the couch; and when from sheer nausea, she refused it, he crammed
it down her throat. This sight put Trimalchio in mind of his own dog and
he ordered Scylax, "the guardian of his house and home," to be brought
in. An enormous dog was immediately led in upon a chain and, obeying a
kick from the porter, it lay down beside the table. Thereupon Trimalchio
remarked, as he threw it a piece of white bread, "No one in all my house
loves me better than Scylax." Enraged at Trimalchio's praising Scylax so
warmly, the slave put the bitch down upon the floor and sicked her on to
fight. Scylax, as might have been expected from such a dog, made the
whole room ring with his hideous barking and nearly shook the life out of
the little bitch which the slave called Pearl. Nor did the uproar end in
a dog fight, a candelabrum was upset upon the table, breaking the glasses
and spattering some of the guests with hot oil. As Trimalchio did not
wish to seem concerned at the loss, he kissed the boy and ordered him to
climb upon his own back. The slave did not hesitate but, mounting his
rocking-horse, he beat Trimalchio's shoulders with his open palms,
yelling with laughter, "Buck! Buck! How many fingers do I hold up!"
When Trimalchio had, in a measure, regained his composure, which took but
a little while, he ordered that a huge vessel be filled with mixed wine,
and that drinks be served to all the slaves sitting around our feet,
adding as an afterthought, "If anyone refuses to drink, pour it on his
head: business is business, but now's the time for fun."


The dainties that followed this display of affability were of such a
nature that, if any reliance is to be placed in my word, the very mention
of them makes me sick at the stomach. Instead of thrushes, fattened
chickens were served, one to each of us, and goose eggs with pastry caps
on them, which same Trimalchio earnestly entreated us to eat, informing
us that the chickens had all been boned. Just at that instant, however,
a lictor knocked at the dining-room door, and a reveler, clad in white
vestments, entered, followed by a large retinue. Startled at such pomp,
I thought that the Praetor had arrived, so I put my bare feet upon the
floor and started to get up, but Agamemnon laughed at my anxiety and
said, "Keep your seat, you idiot, it's only Habinnas the sevir; he's a
stone mason, and if report speaks true, he makes the finest tombstones
imaginable." Reassured by this information, I lay back upon my couch and
watched Habinnas' entrance with great curiosity. Already drunk and
wearing several wreaths, his forehead smeared with perfume which ran down
into his eyes, he advanced with his hands upon his wife's shoulders, and,
seating himself in the Praetor's place, he called for wine and hot water.
Delighted with his good humor, Trimalchio called for a larger goblet for
himself, and asked him, at the same time, how he had been entertained.
"We had everything except yourself, for my heart and soul were here, but
it was fine, it was, by Hercules. Scissa was giving a Novendial feast
for her slave, whom she freed on his death-bed, and it's my opinion
she'll have a large sum to split with the tax gatherers, for the dead man
was rated at 50,000, but everything went off well, even if we did have to
pour half our wine on the bones of the late lamented."


"But," demanded Trimalchio, "what did you have for dinner'?" "I'll tell
you if I can," answered he, "for my memory's so good that I often forget
my own name. Let's see, for the first course, we had a hog, crowned with
a wine cup and garnished with cheese cakes and chicken livers cooked well
done, beets, of course, and whole-wheat bread, which I'd rather have
than white, because it puts strength into you, and when I take a crap
afterwards, I don't have to yell. Following this, came a course of
tarts, served cold, with excellent Spanish wine poured over warm honey;
I ate several of the tarts and got the honey all over myself. Then there
were chick-peas and lupines, all the smooth-shelled nuts you wanted, and
an apple apiece, but I got away with two, and here they are, tied up in
my napkin; for I'll have a row on my hands if I don't bring some kind of
a present home to my favorite slave. Oh yes, my wife has just reminded
me, there was a haunch of bear-meat as a side dish, Scintilla ate some of
it without knowing what it was, and she nearly puked up her guts when she
found out. But as for me, I ate more than a pound of it, for it tasted
exactly like wild boar and, says I, if a bear eats a man, shouldn't that
be all the more reason for a man to eat a bear? The last course was soft
cheese, new wine boiled thick, a snail apiece, a helping of tripe, liver
pate, capped eggs, turnips and mustard. But that's enough. Pickled
olives were handed around in a wooden bowl, and some of the party
greedily snatched three handfuls, we had ham, too, but we sent it back."


"But why isn't Fortunata at the table, Gaius? Tell me." "What's that,"
Trimalchio replied; "don't you know her better than that? She wouldn't
touch even a drop of water till after the silver was put away and the
leftovers divided among the slaves." "I'm going to beat it if she don't
take her place," Habinnas threatened, and started to get up; and then,
at a signal, the slaves all called out together "Fortunata," four times
or more.

She appeared, girded round with a sash of greenish yellow, below which a
cherry-colored tunic could be seen, and she had on twisted anklets and
sandals worked in gold. Then, wiping her hands upon a handkerchief which
she wore around her neck, she seated herself upon the couch, beside
Scintilla, Habinnas' wife, and clapping her hands and kissing her, "My
dear," she gushed, "is it really you?" Fortunata then removed the
bracelets from her pudgy arms and held them out to the admiring
Scintilla, and by and by she took off her anklets and even her yellow
hair-net, which was twenty-four carats fine, she would have us know!
Trimalchio, who was on the watch, ordered every trinket to be brought to
him. "You see these things, don't you?" he demanded; "they're what
women fetter us with. That's the way us poor suckers are done! These
ought to weigh six pounds and a half. I have an arm-band myself, that
don't weigh a grain under ten pounds; I bought it out of Mercury's
thousandths, too." Finally, for fear he would seem to be lying, he
ordered the scales to be brought in and carried around to prove the
weights. And Scintilla was no better. She took off a small golden
vanity case which she wore around her neck, and which she called her
Lucky Box, and took from it two eardrops, which, in her turn, she handed
to Fortunata to be inspected. "Thanks to the generosity of my husband,"
she smirked, "no woman has better." "What's that?" Habinnas demanded.
"You kept on my trail to buy that glass bean for you; if I had a
daughter, I'll be damned if I wouldn't cut off her little ears. We'd
have everything as cheap as dirt if there were no women, but we have to
piss hot and drink cold, the way things are now." The women, angry
though they were, were laughing together, in the meantime, and exchanging
drunken kisses, the one running on about her diligence as a housekeeper,
and the other about the infidelities and neglect of her husband.
Habinnas got up stealthily, while they were clinging together in this
fashion and, seizing Fortunata by the feet, he tipped her over backwards
upon the couch. "Let go!" she screeched, as her tunic slipped above her
knees; then, after pulling down her clothing, she threw herself into
Scintilla's lap, and hid, with her handkerchief, a face which was none
the more beautiful for its blushes.


After a short interval, Trimalchio gave orders for the dessert to be
served, whereupon the slaves took away all the tables and brought in
others, and sprinkled the floor with sawdust mixed with saffron and
vermilion, and also with powdered mica, a thing I had never seen done
before. When all this was done Trimalchio remarked, "I could rest
content with this course, for you have your second tables, but, if you've
something especially nice, why bring it on." Meanwhile an Alexandrian
slave boy, who had been serving hot water, commenced to imitate a
nightingale, and when Trimalchio presently called out, "Change your
tune," we had another surprise, for a slave, sitting at Habinnas' feet,
egged on, I have no doubt, by his own master, bawled suddenly in a
singsong voice, "Meanwhile AEneas and all of his fleet held his course on
the billowy deep"; never before had my ears been assailed by a sound so
discordant, for in addition to his barbarous pronunciation, and the
raising and lowering of his voice, he interpolated Atellane verses, and,
for the first time in my life, Virgil grated on my nerves. When he had
to quit, finally, from sheer want of breath, "Did he ever have any
training," Habinnas exclaimed, "no, not he! I educated him by sending
him among the grafters at the fair, so when it comes to taking off a
barker or a mule driver, there's not his equal, and the rogue's clever,
too, he's a shoemaker, or a cook, or a baker a regular jack of all
trades. But he has two faults, and if he didn't have them, he'd be
beyond all price: he snores and he's been circumcised. And that's the
reason he never can keep his mouth shut and always has an eye open. I
paid three hundred dinars for him."


"Yes," Scintilla broke in, "and you've not mentioned all of his
accomplishments either; he's a pimp too, and I'm going to see that he's
branded," she snapped. Trimalchio laughed. "There's where the
Cappadocian comes out," he said; "never cheats himself out of anything
and I admire him for it, so help me Hercules, I do. No one can show a
dead man a good time. Don't be jealous, Scintilla; we're next to you
women, too, believe me. As sure as you see me here safe and sound, I
used to play at thrust and parry with Mamma, my mistress, and finally
even my master got suspicious and sent me back to a stewardship; but keep
quiet, tongue, and I'll give you a cake." Taking all this as praise, the
wretched slave pulled a small earthen lamp from a fold in his garment,
and impersonated a trumpeter for half an hour or more, while Habinnas
hummed with him, holding his finger pressed to his lips. Finally, the
slave stepped out into the middle of the floor and waved his pipes in
imitation of a flute-player; then, with a whip and a smock, he enacted
the part of a mule-driver. At last Habinnas called him over and kissed
him and said, as he poured a drink for him, "You get better all the time,
Massa. I'm going to give you a pair of shoes." Had not the dessert been
brought in, we would never have gotten to the end of these stupidities.
Thrushes made of pastry and stuffed with nuts and raisins, quinces with
spines sticking out so that they looked like sea-urchins. All this would
have been endurable enough had it not been for the last dish that was
served; so revolting was this, that we would rather have died of
starvation than to have even touched it. We thought that a fat goose,
flanked with fish and all kinds of birds, had been served, until
Trimalchio spoke up. "Everything you see here, my friends," said he,
"was made from the same stuff." With my usual keen insight, I jumped to
the conclusion that I knew what that stuff was and, turning to Agamemnon,
I said, "I shall be greatly surprised, if all those things are not made
out of excrement, or out of mud, at the very least: I saw a like artifice
practiced at Rome during the Saturnalia."


I had not done speaking, when Trimalchio chimed in, "As I hope to grow
fatter in fortune but not in figure, my cook has made all this out of a
hog! It would be simply impossible to meet up with a more valuable
fellow: he'd make you a fish out of a sow's coynte, if that's what you
wanted, a pigeon out of her lard, a turtle-dove out of her ham, and a hen
out of a knuckle of pork: that's why I named him Daedalus, in a happy
moment. I brought him a present of knives, from Rome, because he's so
smart; they're made of Noric steel, too." He ordered them brought in
immediately, and looked them over, with admiration, even giving us the
chance to try their edges upon our cheeks. Then all of a sudden two
slaves came in, carrying on as if they had been fighting at the fountain,
at least; each one had a water-jar hanging from a yoke around his neck.
Trimalchio arbitrated their difference, but neither would abide by his
decision, and each one smashed the other's jar with a club. Perturbed at
the insolence of these drunken ruffians, we watched both of them
narrowly, while they were fighting, and then, what should come pouring
out of the broken jars but oysters and scallops, which a slave picked up
and passed around in a dish. The resourceful cook would not permit
himself to be outdone by such refinements, but served us with snails on a
silver gridiron, and sang continually in a tremulous and very discordant
voice. I am ashamed to have to relate what followed, for, contrary to
all convention, some long-haired boys brought in unguents in a silver
basin and anointed the feet of the reclining guests; but before doing
this, however, they bound our thighs and ankles with garlands of flowers.
They then perfumed the wine-mixing vessel with the same unguent and
poured some of the melted liquid into the lamps. Fortunata had, by this
time, taken a notion that she wanted to dance, and Scintilla was doing
more hand-clapping than talking, when Trimalchio called out,
"Philargyrus, and you too, Carrio, you can both come to the table;
even if you are green faction fans, and tell your bedfellow, Menophila,
to come too." What would you think happened then? We were nearly
crowded off the couches by the mob of slaves that crowded into the
dining-room and almost filled it full. As a matter of fact, I noticed
that our friend the cook, who had made a goose out of a hog, was placed
next to me, and he stunk from sauces and pickle. Not satisfied with a
place at the table, he immediately staged an impersonation of Ephesus the
tragedian, and then he suddenly offered to bet his master that the greens
would take first place in the next circus games.


Trimalchio was hugely tickled at this challenge. "Slaves are men, my
friends," he observed, "but that's not all, they sucked the same milk
that we did, even if hard luck has kept them down; and they'll drink the
water of freedom if I live: to make a long story short, I'm freeing all
of them in my will. To Philargyrus, I'm leaving a farm, and his
bedfellow, too. Carrio will get a tenement house and his twentieth,
and a bed and bedclothes to boot. I'm making Fortunata my heir and I
commend her to all my friends. I announce all this in public so that my
household will love me as well now as they will when I'm dead." They all
commenced to pay tribute to the generosity of their master, when he,
putting aside his trifling, ordered a copy of his will brought in, which
same he read aloud from beginning to end, to the groaning accompaniment
of the whole household. Then, looking at Habinnas, "What say you, my
dearest friend," he entreated; "you'll construct my monument in keeping
with the plans I've given you, won't you? I earnestly beg that you carve
a little bitch at the feet of my statue, some wreaths and some jars of
perfume, and all of the fights of Petraites. Then I'll be able to live
even after I'm dead, thanks to your kindness. See to it that it has a
frontage of one hundred feet and a depth of two hundred. I want fruit
trees of every kind planted around my ashes; and plenty of vines, too,
for it's all wrong for a man to deck out his house when he's alive, and
then have no pains taken with the one he must stay in for a longer time,
and that's the reason I particularly desire that this notice be added:


"In any case, I'll see to it through a clause in my will, that I'm not
insulted when I'm dead. And for fear the rabble comes running up into my
monument, to crap, I'll appoint one of my freedmen custodian of my tomb.
I want you to carve ships under full sail on my monument, and me, in my
robes of office, sitting on my tribunal, five gold rings on my fingers,
pouring out coin from a sack for the people, for I gave a dinner and two
dinars for each guest, as you know. Show a banquet-hall, too, if you
can, and the people in it having a good time. On my right, you can place
a statue of Fortunata holding a dove and leading a little bitch on a
leash, and my favorite boy, and large jars sealed with gypsum, so the
wine won't run out; show one broken and a boy crying over it. Put a
sun-dial in the middle, so that whoever looks to see what time it is must
read my name whether he wants to or not. As for the inscription, think
this over carefully, and see if you think it's appropriate:



When he had repeated these words, Trimalchio began to weep copiously,
Fortunata was crying already, and so was Habinnas, and at last, the whole
household filled the dining-room with their lamentations, just as if they
were taking part in a funeral. Even I was beginning to sniffle, when
Trimalchio said, "Let's live while we can, since we know we've all got to
die. I'd rather see you all happy, anyhow, so let's take a plunge in the
bath. You'll never regret it. I'll bet my life on that, it's as hot as
a furnace!" "Fine business," seconded Habinnas, "there's nothing suits
me better than making two days out of one," and he got up in his bare
feet to follow Trimalchio, who was clapping his hands. I looked at
Ascyltos. "What do you think about this?" I asked. "The very sight of a
bath will be the death of me." "Let's fall in with his suggestion," he
replied, "and while they are hunting for the bath we will escape in the
crowd." Giton led us out through the porch, when we had reached this
understanding, and we came to a door, where a dog on a chain startled us
so with his barking that Ascyltos immediately fell into the fish-pond.
As for myself, I was tipsy and had been badly frightened by a dog that
was only a painting, and when I tried to haul the swimmer out, I was
dragged into the pool myself. The porter finally came to our rescue,
quieted the dog by his appearance, and pulled us, shivering, to dry land.
Giton had ransomed himself by a very cunning scheme, for what we had
saved for him, from dinner, he threw to the barking brute, which then
calmed its fury and became engrossed with the food. But when, with
chattering teeth, we besought the porter to let us out at the door, "If
you think you can leave by the same door you came in at," he replied,
"you're mistaken: no guest is ever allowed to go out through the same
door he came in at; some are for entrance, others for exit."


What were we miserable wretches to do, shut up in this newfangled
labyrinth. The idea of taking a hot bath had commenced to grow in favor,
so we finally asked the porter to lead us to the place and, throwing off
our clothing, which Giton spread out in the hall to dry, we went in.
It was very small, like a cold water cistern; Trimalchio was standing
upright in it, and one could not escape his disgusting bragging even
here. He declared that there was nothing nicer than bathing without a
mob around, and that a bakery had formerly occupied this very spot.
Tired out at last, he sat down, but when the echoes of the place tempted
him, he lifted his drunken mouth to the ceiling, and commenced murdering
the songs of Menacrates, at least that is what we were told by those who
understood his language. Some of the guests joined hands and ran around
the edge of the pool, making the place ring with their boisterous peals
of laughter; others tried to pick rings up from the floor, with their
hands tied behind them, or else, going down upon their knees, tried to
touch the ends of their toes by bending backwards. We went down into the
pool while the rest were taking part in such amusements. It was being
heated for Trimalchio. When the fumes of the wine had been dissipated,
we were conducted into another dining-room where Fortunata had laid out
her own treasures; I noticed, for instance, that there were little bronze
fishermen upon the lamps, the tables were of solid silver, the cups were
porcelain inlaid with gold; before our eyes wine was being strained
through a straining cloth. "One of my slaves shaves his first beard
today," Trimalchio remarked, at length, "a promising, honest, thrifty
lad; may he have no bad luck, so let's get our skins full and stick
around till morning."


He had not ceased speaking when a cock crowed! Alarmed at this omen,
Trimalchio ordered wine thrown under the table and told them to sprinkle
the lamps with it; and he even went so far as to change his ring from his
left hand to his right. "That trumpeter did not sound off without a
reason," he remarked; "there's either a fire in the neighborhood, or else
someone's going to give up the ghost. I hope it's none of us! Whoever
brings that Jonah in shall have a present." He had no sooner made this
promise, than a cock was brought in from somewhere in the neighborhood
and Trimalchio ordered the cook to prepare it for the pot. That same
versatile genius who had but a short time before made birds and fish out
of a hog, cut it up; it was then consigned to the kettle, and while
Daedalus was taking a long hot drink, Fortunata ground pepper in a
boxwood mill. When these delicacies had been consumed, Trimalchio looked
the slaves over. "You haven't had anything to eat yet, have you?" he
asked. "Get out and let another relay come on duty." Thereupon a second
relay came in. "Farewell, Gaius," cried those going off duty, and "Hail,
Gaius," cried those coming on. Our hilarity was somewhat dampened soon
after, for a boy, who was by no means bad looking, came in among the
fresh slaves. Trimalchio seized him and kissed him lingeringly,
whereupon Fortunata, asserting her rights in the house, began to rail at
Trimalchio, styling him an abomination who set no limits to his lechery,
finally ending by calling him a dog. Trimalchio flew into a rage at her
abuse and threw a wine cup at her head, whereupon she screeched, as if
she had had an eye knocked out and covered her face with her trembling
hands. Scintilla was frightened, too, and shielded the shuddering woman
with her garment. An officious slave presently held a cold water pitcher
to her cheek and Fortunata bent over it, sobbing and moaning. But as for
Trimalchio, "What the hell's next?" he gritted out, "this Syrian
dancing-whore don't remember anything! I took her off the auction block
and made her a woman among her equals, didn't I? And here she puffs
herself up like a frog and pukes in her own nest; she's a blockhead, all
right, not a woman. But that's the way it is, if you're born in an attic
you can't sleep in a palace I'll see that this booted Cassandra's tamed,
so help me my Genius, I will! And I could have married ten million, even
if I did only have two cents: you know I'm not lying! 'Let me give you a
tip,' said Agatho, the perfumer to the lady next door, when he pulled me
aside: 'don't let your line die out!' And here I've stuck the ax into my
own leg because I was a damned fool and didn't want to seem fickle. I'll
see to it that you're more careful how you claw me up, sure as you're
born, I will! That you may realize how seriously I take what you've done
to me--Habinnas, I don't want you to put her statue on my tomb for fear
I'll be nagged even after I'm dead! And furthermore, that she may know I
can repay a bad turn, I won't have her kissing me when I'm laid out!"


When Trimalchio had launched this thunderbolt, Habinnas commenced to
beg him to control his anger. "There's not one of us but goes wrong
sometimes," argued he; "we're not gods, we're men." Scintilla also cried
out through her tears, calling him "Gaius," and entreating him by his
guardian angel to be mollified. Trimalchio could restrain the tears no
longer. "Habinnas," he blubbered, "as you hope to enjoy your money, spit
in my face if I've done anything wrong. I kissed him because he's very
thrifty, not because he's a pretty boy. He can recite his division table
and read a book at sight: he bought himself a Thracian uniform from his
savings from his rations, and a stool and two dippers, with his own
money, too. He's worth my attention, ain't he? But Fortunata won't see
it! Ain't that the truth, you high-stepping hussy'? Let me beg you to
make the best of what you've got, you shekite, and don't make me show my
teeth, my little darling, or you'll find out what my temper's like!
Believe me, when once I've made up my mind, I'm as fixed as a spike in a
beam! But let's think of the living. I hope you'll all make yourselves
at home, gentlemen: I was in your fix myself once; but rose to what I am
now by my own merit. It's the brains that makes the man, all the rest's
bunk. I buy well, I sell well, someone else will tell you a different
story, but as for myself, I'm fairly busting with prosperity. What,
grunting-sow, still bawling? I'll see to it that you've something to
bawl for, but as I started to say, it was my thrift that brought me to
my fortune. I was just as tall as that candlestick when I came over from
Asia; every day I used to measure myself by it, and I would smear my lips
with oil so my beard would sprout all the sooner. I was my master's
'mistress' for fourteen years, for there's nothing wrong in doing what
your master orders, and I satisfied my mistress, too, during that time,
you know what I mean, but I'll say no more, for I'm not one of your


"At last it came about by the will of the gods that I was master in the
house, and I had the real master under my thumb then. What is there
left to tell? I was made co-heir with Caesar and came into a Senator's
fortune. But nobody's ever satisfied with what he's got, so I embarked
in business. I won't keep you long in suspense; I built five ships and
loaded them with wine--worth its weight in gold, it was then--and sent
them to Rome. You'd think I'd ordered it so, for every last one of them
foundered; it's a fact, no fairy tale about it, and Neptune swallowed
thirty million sesterces in one day! You don't think I lost my pep, do
you? By Hercules, no! That was only an appetizer for me, just as if
nothing at all had happened. I built other and bigger ships, better
found, too, so no one could say I wasn't game. A big ship's a big
venture, you know. I loaded them up with wine again, bacon, beans,
Capuan perfumes, and slaves: Fortunata did the right thing in this
affair, too, for she sold every piece of jewelry and all her clothes into
the bargain, and put a hundred gold pieces in my hand. They were the
nest-egg of my fortune. A thing's soon done when the gods will it;
I cleared ten million sesterces by that voyage, all velvet, and bought
in all the estates that had belonged to my patron, right away. I built
myself a house and bought cattle to resell, and whatever I touched grew
just like a honeycomb. I chucked the game when I got to have an income
greater than all the revenues of my own country, retired from business,
and commenced to back freedmen. I never liked business anyhow, as far as
that goes, and was just about ready to quit when an astrologer, a Greek
fellow he was, and his name was Serapa, happened to light in our colony,
and he slipped me some information and advised me to quit. He was hep to
all the secrets of the gods: told me things about myself that I'd
forgotten, and explained everything to me from needle and thread up; knew
me inside out, he did, and only stopped short of telling me what I'd had
for dinner the day before. You'd have thought he'd lived with me


"Habinnas, you were there, I think, I'll leave it to you; didn't he say--
'You took your wife out of a whore-house'? you're as lucky in your
friends, too, no one ever repays your favor with another, you own broad
estates, you nourish a viper under your wing, and--why shouldn't I tell
it--I still have thirty years, four months, and two days to live! I'll
also come into another bequest shortly. That's what my horoscope tells
me. If I can extend my boundaries so as to join Apulia, I'll think I've
amounted to something in this life! I built this house with Mercury on
the job, anyhow; it was a hovel, as you know, it's a palace now! Four
dining-rooms, twenty bed-rooms, two marble colonnades, a store-room
upstairs, a bed-room where I sleep myself, a sitting-room for this viper,
a very good room for the porter, a guest-chamber for visitors. As a
matter of fact, Scaurus, when he was here, would stay nowhere else,
although he has a family place on the seashore. I'll show you many other
things, too, in a jiffy; believe me, if you have an as, you'll be rated
at what you have. So your humble servant, who was a frog, is now a king.
Stychus, bring out my funereal vestments while we wait, the ones I'll be
carried out in, some perfume, too, and a draught of the wine in that jar,
I mean the kind I intend to have my bones washed in."


It was not long before Stychus brought a white shroud and a
purple-bordered toga into the dining-room, and Trimalchio requested us
to feel them and see if they were pure wool. Then, with a smile, "Take
care, Stychus, that the mice don't get at these things and gnaw them, or
the moths either. I'll burn you alive if they do. I want to be carried
out in all my glory so all the people will wish me well." Then, opening
a jar of nard, he had us all anointed. "I hope I'll enjoy this as well
when I'm dead," he remarked, "as I do while I'm alive." He then ordered
wine to be poured into the punch-bowl. "Pretend," said he, "that you're
invited to my funeral feast." The thing had grown positively
nauseating, when Trimalchio, beastly drunk by now, bethought himself of
a new and singular diversion and ordered some horn-blowers brought into
the dining-room. Then, propped up by many cushions, he stretched
himself out upon the couch. "Let on that I'm dead," said he, "and say
something nice about me." The horn-blowers sounded off a loud funeral
march together, and one in particular, a slave belonging to an
undertaker, made such a fanfare that he roused the whole neighborhood,
and the watch, which was patrolling the vicinity, thinking Trimalchio's
house was afire, suddenly smashed in the door and rushed in with their
water and axes, as is their right, raising a rumpus all their own. We
availed ourselves of this happy circumstance and, leaving Agamemnon in
the lurch, we took to our heels, as though we were running away from a
real conflagration.


Affairs start to go wrong, your friends will stand from under
Doctor's not good for anything except for a consolation
Everybody's business is nobody's business
He can teach you more than he knows himself
Learning's a fine thing, and a trade won't starve
Men are lions at home and foxes abroad
No one can show a dead man a good time
The loser's always the winner in arguments
Too many doctors did away with him
We know that you're only a fool with a lot of learning
Whenever you learn a thing, it's yours
Believes, on the spot, every tale
You can spot a louse on someone else


Complete and unexpurgated translation by W. C. Firebaugh,
in which are incorporated the forgeries of Nodot and Marchena,
and the readings introduced into the text by De Salas.

(Forgeries of Nodot)
[Forgeries of Marchena]
{Additions of De Salas}



There was no torch to light the way for us, as we wandered around, nor
did the silence of midnight give promise of our meeting any wayfarer with
a light; in addition to this, we were drunk and unfamiliar with the
district, which would confuse one, even in daylight, so for the best part
of a mortal hour we dragged our bleeding feet over all the flints and
pieces of broken tile, till we were extricated, at last, by Giton's
cleverness. This prudent youngster had been afraid of going astray on
the day before, so he had taken care to mark all the pillars and columns
with chalk. These marks stood out distinctly, even through the pitchy
night, and by their brilliant whiteness pointed out the way for us as we
wandered about. Nevertheless, we had no less cause for being in a sweat
even when we came to our lodging, for the old woman herself had been
sitting and swilling so long with her guests that even if one had set her
afire, she would not have known it. We would have spent the night on the
door-sill had not Trimalchio's courier come up in state, with ten wagons;
he hammered on the door for a short time, and then smashed it in, giving
us an entrance through the same breach. (Hastening to the
sleeping-chamber, I went to bed with my "brother" and, burning with
passion as I was, after such a magnificent dinner, I surrendered myself
wholly to sexual gratification.)

Oh Goddesses and Gods, that purple night
How soft the couch! And we, embracing tight;
With every wandering kiss our souls would meet!
Farewell all mortal woes, to die were sweet

But my self-congratulation was premature, for I was overcome with wine,
and when my unsteady hands relaxed their hold, Ascyltos, that never-
failing well-spring of iniquity, stole the boy away from me in the night
and carried him to his own bed, where he wallowed around without
restraint with a "brother" not his own, while the latter, not noticing
the fraud, or pretending not to notice it, went to sleep in a stranger's
arms, in defiance of all human rights. Awaking at last, I felt the bed
over and found that it had been despoiled of its treasure: then, by all
that lovers hold dear, I swear I was on the verge of transfixing them
both with my sword and uniting their sleep with death. At last, however,
I adopted a more rational plan; I spanked Giton into wakefulness, and,
glaring at Ascyltos, "Since you have broken faith by this outrage," I
gritted out, with a savage frown, "and severed our friendship, you had
better get your things together at once, and pick up some other bottom
for your abominations!" He raised no objection to this, but after we had
divided everything with scrupulous exactitude, "Come on now," he
demanded, "and we'll divide the boy!"


I thought this was a parting joke till he whipped out his sword, with a
murderous hand. "You'll not have this prize you're brooding over, all to
yourself! Since I've been rejected, I'll have to cut off my share with
this sword." I followed suit, on my side, and, wrapping a mantle around
my left arm, I put myself on guard for the duel. The unhappy boy,
rendered desperate by our unreasoning fury, hugged each of us tightly by
the knee, and in tears he humbly begged that this wretched lodging-house
should not witness a Theban duel, and that we would not pollute--with
mutual bloodshed the sacred rites of a friendship that was, as yet,
unstained. "If a crime must be committed," he wailed, "here is my naked
throat, turn your swords this way and press home the points. I ought to
be the one to die, I broke the sacred pledge of friendship." We lowered
our points at these entreaties. "I'll settle this dispute," Ascyltos
spoke up, "let the boy follow whomsoever he himself wishes to follow.
In that way, he, at least, will have perfect freedom in choosing a
'brother'." Imagining that a relationship of such long standing had
passed into a tie of blood, I was not at all uneasy, so I snatched at
this proposition with precipitate eagerness, and submitted the dispute to
the judge. He did not deliberate long enough to seem even to hesitate,
for he got up and chose Ascyltos for a "brother," as soon as the last
syllable had passed my lips! At this decision I was thunder-struck,
and threw myself upon the bed, unarmed and just as I stood. Had I not
begrudged my enemy such a triumph, I would have laid violent hands upon
myself. Flushed with success, Ascyltos marched out with his prize, and
abandoned, in a strange town, a comrade in the depths of despair; one
whom, but a little while before, he had loved most unselfishly, one whose
destiny was so like his own.

As long as is expedient, the name of friendship lives,
Just as in dicing, Fortune smiles or lowers;
When good luck beckons, then your friend his gleeful service gives
But basely flies when ruin o'er you towers.
The strollers act their farces upon the stage, each one his part,

The father, son, the rich man, all are here,
But soon the page is turned upon the comic actor's art,
The masque is dropped, the make-ups disappear!


Nevertheless, I did not indulge myself very long in tears, being afraid
that Menelaus, the tutor, might drop in upon me all alone in the
lodging-house, and catch me in the midst of my troubles, so I collected my
baggage and, with a heavy heart, sneaked off to an obscure quarter near
the seashore. There, I kept to my room for three days. My mind was
continually haunted by my loneliness and desertion, and I beat my breast,
already sore from blows. "Why could not the earth have opened and
swallowed me," I wailed aloud, between the many deep-drawn groans, "or
the sea, which rages even against the guiltless? Did I flee from
justice, murder my ghost, and cheat the arena, in order that, after so
many proofs of courage, I might be left lying here deserted, a beggar and
an exile, in a lodging-house in a Greek town? And who condemned me to
this desolation? A boy stained by every form of vice, who, by his own
confession, ought to be exiled: free, through vice, expert in vice, whose
favors came through a throw of the dice, who hired himself out as a girl
to those who knew him to be a boy! And as to the other, what about him?
In place of the manly toga, he donned the woman's stola when he reached
the age of puberty: he resolved, even from his mother's womb, never to
become a man; in the slave's prison he took the woman's part in the
sexual act, he changed the instrument of his lechery when he
double-crossed me, abandoned the ties of a long-standing friendship,
and, shame upon him, sold everything for a single night's dalliance,
like any other street-walker! Now the lovers lie whole nights, locked
in each other's arms, and I suppose they make a mockery of my desolation
when they are resting up from the exhaustion caused by their mutual
excesses. But not with impunity! If I don't avenge the wrong they have
done me, in their guilty blood, I'm no free man!"


I girded on my sword, when I had said these words, and, fortifying my
strength with a heavy meal, so that weakness would not cause me to lose
the battle, I presently sallied forth into the public streets and rushed
through all the arcades, like a maniac. But while, with my face savagely
convulsed in a frown, I was meditating nothing but bloodshed and
slaughter, and was continually clapping my hand to the hilt of my sword,
which I had consecrated to this, I was observed by a soldier, that is, he
either was a real soldier, or else he was some night-prowling thug, who
challenged me. "Halt! Who goes there? What legion are you from? Who's
your centurion?" "Since when have men in your outfit gone on pass in
white shoes?" he retorted, when I had lied stoutly about both centurion
and legion. Both my face and my confusion proved that I had been caught
in a lie, so he ordered me to surrender my arms and to take care that I
did not get into trouble. I was held up, as a matter of course, and, my
revenge balked, I returned to my lodging-house and, recovering by degrees
from my fright, I began to be grateful to the boldness of the footpad.
It is not wise to place much reliance upon any scheme, because Fortune
has a method of her own.


(Nevertheless, I found it very difficult to stifle my longing for
revenge, and after tossing half the night in anxiety, I arose at dawn
and, in the hope of mitigating my mental sufferings and of forgetting my
wrongs, I took a walk through all the public arcades and) entered a
picture-gallery, which contained a wonderful collection of pictures in
various styles. I beheld works from the hand of Zeuxis, still undimmed
by the passage of the years, and contemplated, not without a certain awe,
the crude drawings of Protogenes, which equalled the reality of nature
herself; but when I stood before the work of Apelles, the kind which the
Greeks call "Monochromatic," verily, I almost worshipped, for the
outlines of the figures were drawn with such subtlety of touch, and were
so life-like in their precision, that you would have thought their very
souls were depicted. Here, an eagle was soaring into the sky bearing the
shepherd of Mount Ida to heaven; there, the comely Hylas was struggling
to escape from the embrace of the lascivious Naiad. Here, too, was
Apollo, cursing his murderous hand and adorning his unstrung lyre with
the flower just created. Standing among these lovers, which were only
painted, "It seems that even the gods are wracked by love," I cried
aloud, as if I were in a wilderness. "Jupiter could find none to his
taste, even in his own heaven, so he had to sin on earth, but no one was
betrayed by him! The nymph who ravished Hylas would have controlled her
passion had she thought Hercules was coming to forbid it. Apollo
recalled the spirit of a boy in the form of a flower, and all the lovers
of Fable enjoyed Love's embraces without a rival, but I took as a comrade
a friend more cruel than Lycurgus!" But at that very instant, as I was
telling my troubles to the winds, a white-haired old man entered the
picture-gallery; his face was care-worn, and he seemed, I know not why,
to give promise of something great, although he bestowed so little care
upon his dress that it was easily apparent that he belonged to that class
of literati which the wealthy hold in contempt. "I am a poet," he
remarked, when he had approached me and stood at my side, "and one of no
mean ability, I hope, that is, if anything is to be inferred from the
crowns which gratitude can place even upon the heads of the unworthy!
Then why, you demand, are you dressed so shabbily? For that very reason;
love or art never yet made anyone rich."

The trader trusts his fortune to the sea and takes his gains,
The warrior, for his deeds, is girt with gold;
The wily sycophant lies drunk on purple counterpanes,
Young wives must pay debauchees or they're cold.
But solitary, shivering, in tatters Genius stands
Invoking a neglected art, for succor at its hands.


"It is certainly true that a man is hated when he declares himself an
enemy to all vice, and begins to follow the right road in life, because,
in the first place, his habits are different from those of other people;
for who ever approved of anything to which he took exceptions? Then,
they whose only ambition is to pile up riches, don't want to believe that
men can possess anything better than that which they have themselves;
therefore, they use every means in their power to so buffet the lovers
of literature that they will seem in their proper place--below the
moneybags." "I know not why it should be so," (I said with a sigh), "but
Poverty is the sister of Genius." ("You have good reason," the old man
replied, "to deplore the status of men of letters." "No," I answered,
"that was not the reason for my sigh, there is another and far weightier
cause for my grief." Then, in accordance with the human propensity of
pouring one's personal troubles into another's ears, I explained my
misfortune to him, and dwelt particularly upon Ascyltos' perfidy.) "Oh
how I wish that this enemy who is the cause of my enforced continence
could be mollified," (I cried, with many a groan,) "but he is an old hand
at robbery, and more cunning than the pimps themselves!" (My frankness
pleased the old man, who attempted to comfort me and, to beguile my
sorrow, he related the particulars of an amorous intrigue in which he
himself had played a part.)


"When I was attached to the Quaestor's staff, in Asia, I was quartered
with a family at Pergamus. I found things very much to my liking there,
not only on account of the refined comfort of my apartments, but also
because of the extreme beauty of my host's son. For the latter reason,
I had recourse to strategy, in order that the father should never suspect
me of being a seducer. So hotly would I flare up, whenever the abuse
of handsome boys was even mentioned at the table, and with such
uncompromising sternness would I protest against having my ears insulted
by such filthy talk, that I came to be looked upon, especially by the
mother, as one of the philosophers. I was conducting the lad to the
gymnasium before very long, and superintending his conduct, taking
especial care, all the while, that no one who could debauch him should
ever enter the house. Then there came a holiday, the school was closed,
and our festivities had rendered us too lazy to retire properly, so we
lay down in the dining-room. It was just about midnight, and I knew he
was awake, so I murmured this vow, in a very low voice, 'Oh Lady Venus,
could I but kiss this lad, and he not know it, I would give him a pair of
turtle-doves tomorrow!' On hearing the price offered for this favor, the
boy commenced to snore! Then, bending over the pretending sleeper, I
snatched a fleeting kiss or two. Satisfied with this beginning, I arose
early in the morning, brought a fine pair of turtle-doves to the eager
lad, and absolved myself from my vow."


"Next night, when the same opportunity presented itself, I changed my
petition, 'If I can feel him all over with a wanton hand,' I vowed, 'and
he not know it, I will give him two of the gamest fighting-cocks, for his
silence.' The lad nestled closer to me of his own accord, on hearing this
offer, and I truly believe that he was afraid that I was asleep. I made
short work of his apprehensions on that score, however, by stroking and
fondling his whole body. I worked myself into a passionate fervor that
was just short of supreme gratification. Then, when day dawned, I made
him happy with what I had promised him. When the third night gave me
my chance, I bent close to the ear of the rascal, who pretended to be
asleep. 'Immortal gods,' I whispered, 'if I can take full and complete
satisfaction of my love, from this sleeping beauty, I will tomorrow
present him with the best Macedonian pacer in the market, in return for
this bliss, provided that he does not know it.' Never had the lad slept
so soundly! First I filled my hands with his snowy breasts, then I
pressed a clinging kiss upon his mouth, but I finally focused all my
energies upon one supreme delight! Early in the morning, he sat up in
bed, awaiting my usual gift. It is much easier to buy doves and
game-cocks than it is to buy a pacer, as you know, and aside from that,
I was also afraid that so valuable a present might render my motive
subject to suspicion, so, after strolling around for some hours, I
returned to the house, and gave the lad nothing at all except a kiss.
He looked all around, threw his arms about my neck. 'Tell me, master,'
he cried, 'where's the pacer?' ('The difficulty of getting one fine
enough has compelled me to defer the fulfillment of my promise,' I
replied, 'but I will make it good in a few days.' The lad easily
understood the true meaning of my answer, and his countenance betrayed
his secret resentment.)"


"(In the meantime,) by breaking this vow, I had cut myself off from the
avenue of access which I had contrived, but I returned to the attack, all
the same, when the opportunity came. In a few days, a similar occasion
brought about the very same conditions as before, and the instant I heard
his father snoring, I began pleading with the lad to receive me again
into his good graces, that is to say, that he ought to suffer me to
satisfy myself with him, and he in turn could do whatever his own
distended member desired. He was very angry, however, and would say
nothing at all except, 'Either you go to sleep, or I'll call father!'
But no obstacle is so difficult that depravity cannot twist around it and
even while he threatened 'I'll call father,' I slipped into his bed and
took my pleasure in spite of his half-hearted resistance. Nor was he
displeased with my improper conduct for, although he complained for a
while, that he had been cheated and made a laughing-stock, and that his
companions, to whom he had bragged of his wealthy friend, had made sport
of him. 'But you'll see that I'll not be like you,' he whispered; 'do it
again, if you want to!' All misunderstandings were forgotten and I was
readmitted into the lad's good graces. Then I slipped off to sleep,
after profiting by his complaisance. But the youth, in the very flower
of maturity, and just at the best age for passive pleasure, was by no
means satisfied with only one repetition, so he roused me out of a heavy
sleep. 'Isn't there something you'd like to do?' he whispered! The
pastime had not begun to cloy, as yet, and, somehow or other, what with
panting and sweating and wriggling, he got what he wanted and, worn out
with pleasure, I dropped off to sleep again. Less than an hour had passed
when he began to punch me with his hand. 'Why are we not busy,' he
whispered! I flew into a violent rage at being disturbed so many times,
and threatened him in his own words, 'Either you go to sleep, or I'll
call father!'"


Heartened up by this story, I began to draw upon his more comprehensive
knowledge as to the ages of the pictures and as to certain of the stories
connected with them, upon which I was not clear; and I likewise inquired
into the causes of the decadence of the present age, in which the most
refined arts had perished, and among them painting, which had not left
even the faintest trace of itself behind. "Greed of money," he replied,
"has brought about these unaccountable changes. In the good old times,
when virtue was her own reward, the fine arts flourished, and there was
the keenest rivalry among men for fear that anything which could be of
benefit to future generations should remain long undiscovered. Then it
was that Democritus expressed the juices of all plants and spent his
whole life in experiments, in order that no curative property should lurk
unknown in stone or shrub. That he might understand the movements of
heaven and the stars, Eudoxus grew old upon the summit of a lofty
mountain: three times did Chrysippus purge his brain with hellebore,
that his faculties might be equal to invention. Turn to the sculptors if
you will; Lysippus perished from hunger while in profound meditation upon
the lines of a single statue, and Myron, who almost embodied the souls of
men and beasts in bronze, could not find an heir. And we, sodden with
wine and women, cannot even appreciate the arts already practiced, we
only criticise the past! We learn only vice, and teach it, too. What has
become of logic? of astronomy? Where is the exquisite road to wisdom?
Who even goes into a temple to make a vow, that he may achieve eloquence
or bathe in the fountain of wisdom? And they do not pray for good health
and a sound mind; before they even set foot upon the threshold of the
temple, one promises a gift if only he may bury a rich relative; another,
if he can but dig up a treasure, and still another, if he is permitted to
amass thirty millions of sesterces in safety! The Senate itself, the
exponent of all that should be right and just, is in the habit of
promising a thousand pounds of gold to the capitol, and that no one may
question the propriety of praying for money, it even decorates Jupiter
himself with spoils'. Do not hesitate, therefore, at expressing your
surprise at the deterioration of painting, since, by all the gods and men
alike, a lump of gold is held to be more beautiful than anything ever
created by those crazy little Greek fellows, Apelles and Phydias!"


"But I see that your whole attention is held by that picture which
portrays the destruction of Troy, so I will attempt to unfold the story
in verse:

And now the tenth harvest beheld the beleaguered of Troia

Worn out with anxiety, fearing the honor of Calchas

The prophet, hung wavering deep in the blackest despair.

Apollo commanded! The forested peaks of Mount Ida

Were felled and dragged down; the hewn timbers were fitted to fashion

A war-horse. Unfilled is a cavity left, and this cavern,

Roofed over, capacious enough for a camp. Here lie hidden

The raging impetuous valor of ten years of warfare.

Malignant Greek troops pack the recess, lurk in their own offering.

Alas my poor country! We thought that their thousand grim war-ships

Were beaten and scattered, our arable lands freed from warfare!

Th' inscription cut into the horse, and the crafty behavior

Of Sinon, his mind ever powerful for evil, affirmed it.

Delivered from war, now the crowd, carefree, hastens to worship

And pours from the portals. Their cheeks wet with weeping, the joy

Of their tremulous souls brings to eyes tears which terror

Had banished. Laocoon, priest unto Neptune, with hair loosed,

An outcry evoked from the mob: he drew back his javelin

And launched it! The belly of wood was his target. The weapon

Recoiled, for the fates stayed his hand, and this artifice won us.

His feeble hand nerved he anew, and the lofty sides sounded,

His two-edged ax tried them severely. The young troops in ambush

Gasped. And as long as the reverberations re-echoed

The wooden mass breathed out a fear that was not of its own.

Imprisoned, the warriors advance to take Troia a captive

And finish the struggle by strategem new and unheard of.

Behold! Other portents: Where Tenedos steep breaks the ocean

Where great surging billows dash high; to be broken, and leap back

To form a deep hollow of calm, and resemble the plashing

Of oars, carried far through the silence of night, as when ships pass

And drive through the calm as it smashes against their fir bows.

Then backward we look towards the rocks the tide carries two serpents

That coil and uncoil as they come, and their breasts, which are swollen

Aside dash the foam, as the bows of tall ships; and the ocean

Is lashed by their tails, their manes, free on the water, as savage

As even their eyes: now a blinding beam kindles the billows,

The sea with their hissing is sibilant! All stare in terror!

Laocoon's twin sons in Phrygian raiment are standing

With priests wreathed for sacrifice. Them did the glistening serpents

Enfold in their coils! With their little hands shielding their faces,

The boys, neither thinking of self, but each one of his brother!

Fraternal love's sacrifice! Death himself slew those poor children

By means of their unselfish fear for each other! The father,

A helper too feeble, now throws himself prone on their bodies:

The serpents, now glutted with death, coil around him and drag him

To earth! And the priest, at his altar a victim, lies beating

The ground. Thus the city of Troy, doomed to sack and destruction,

First lost her own gods by profaning their shrines and their worship.

The full moon now lifted her luminous beam and the small stars

Led forth, with her torch all ablaze; when the Greeks drew the bolts


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