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The Reconstructed Text- Part Four

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    Eumolpus' Tale:

    [ch. 79] We had never a torch to guide our wandering steps, while the silent hour of midnight gave small hope of procuring light from chance wayfarers. Added to this was our own intoxication and ignorance of the locality, baffling even by daylight. After dragging our bleeding feet for the best part of an hour over all sorts of stumbling-blocks and fragments of projecting paving-stones, we were finally saved by Giton's ingenuity. For being afraid even by daylight of missing his way, he had taken the precaution the day before to make every post and pillar on the road with chalk. The strokes he had drawn were visible on the darkest night, their conspicuous whiteness showing wanderers the way. Though truly we were in no less of a fix, even when we did get to our inn. For the old woman had been swilling so long with her customers, you might have set her afire without her knowing anything about it. And we might very likely have passed the night on the doorstep, had not one of Trimalchio's carriers come up, in charge of ten wagons. Accordingly, without stopping to make any more ado, he burst in the door, and let us in by the same road.

    Going to my chamber, I went to bed with my dear lad, and burning with amorous ardor as I was after my sumptuous meal, gave myself up heart and soul to all the delights of love.

    Oh! what a night was that! how soft

    The couch, ye gods! as many a time and oft

    Our lips met burning in overmastering bliss,

    And interchanged our souls in every kiss.

    To mortal cares I bid farewell for aye--

    So sweet I find it in thine arms to die!

    But my self-congratulations were premature. For no sooner had my enfeebled hands relaxed their tipsy hold than Ascyltos, that everlasting contriver of mischief, drew the boy away from me in the dark and carried him off to his own bed; and there rolling about in wanton excess with another man's minion, the latter either not noticing the fraud or pretending not to, he went off to sleep, enfolded in an embrace he had no sort of right to, utterly regardless of all human justice. So when I awoke, and feeling the bed over, found it robbed of delight, I declare, by all that lovers hold sacred, I had half a mind to run them both through with my sword where they lay, and make their sleep eternal. But presently adopting safer counsels, I thumped Giton awake, and turning a stern countenance on Ascyltos, said severely, "You have broken faith by your dastardly conduct and sinned against our mutual friendship; remove your things as quick as may be, and go seek another place to be the scene of your abominations." He made no objection to this, but after we had divided our loot with scrupulous exactness, "Come now," said he, "let's divide the boy."

    [ch. 80] I thought this was merely a parting jest. But murderously drawing a sword, "Never," he cried, "shall you enjoy this prey you gloat over so selfishly. I've been slighted, and I must have my share, even if I have to cut it off with this sword." I followed suit on my side, and wrapping my cloak round my arm, took up a fighting posture.

    In wretched trepidation at our unhappy fury the boy fell at our knees in tears and begged and besought us not to repeat in a miserable tavern the tragedy of the two Theban brothers, [127] nor pollute with each other's blood the sanctity of so noble a friendship. "But if murder must be done," he declared, "look! Here I lay bare my throat; here strike, here bury your points. 'It is I should die; I have violated the sacred bond of friendship."

    At these entreaties we put up our swords. Then Ascyltos, taking the initiative, said, "I will end this difference. Let the lad himself follow whom he will, so that he may be perfectly free to choose his friend and favorite."

    For my part, supposing my long, long intimacy had bound the boy to me in ties as strong as those of blood, I felt not the slightest fear, but gladly and eagerly accepted the proposal to submit the question to this arbitration. Yet the instant the words were out of my mouth, without a moment's hesitation or one look of uncertainty, he sprang up and declared Ascyltos to be his choice.

    Thunderstruck at this decision, I threw myself just as I was and unarmed on my bed, and in my despair would certainly have laid violent hands on myself, had I not grudged such a victory to my adversary. Off goes Ascyltos in triumph with his prize, leaving me forlorn in a strange place-- me who so short a while before had been his dearest comrade and the partner in all his escapades.

    Friendship's a name, expediency's mate,

    The shifting symbol of the changing slate.

    While Fortune's on our side, our friends stay true;

    Let her once change, farewell the recreant crew!

    So on the stage, one plays a father's part,

    A son's, a rich man's, each with pliant art;

    But when the play is ended, grave or gay,

    Dropped is the mask, and truth resumes her sway.

    [ch. 81] However, I had no time to indulge my grief, but dreading lest, to complete my misfortunes, Menelaus, the under-professor, [128] should find me alone at the inn, I collected my traps together, and with a sad heart went off to hire a solitary lodging near the seashore. Shutting myself up for three days there, my loneliness and humiliation forever haunting my mind, I spent my time in beating my poor breast, and with many a deep-drawn groan, crying again and again, "Oh why has not the earth swallowed me? Why has the sea, that drowns the guiltless mariner, spared me? Have I escaped the law, cheated the gallows, slain my host, that after so many proofs of spirit, I should be lying here a beggar and a vagabond, alone and forlorn in the inn of a paltry Greek city? [129] And who is it that has brought me to this desolation? A stripling defiled with every lust, who on his own freedom and enfranchisement by the prostitution of his body, whose youthful favors were sold to the highest bidder, who was hired out as a girl, when known to be a boy all the while. And what was the other? One who donned on the day of puberty the woman's frock in lieu of the manly gown, who was bent from his mother's womb on changing sex, who was whore to a barracks-full of slaves, who after playing me false and exchanging the instrument of his lust, abandoned his old friend and, oh! the infamy of it! like a common strumpet sold everything in one night's vile work. Now the lovers lie twined in each other's arms whole nights together, and it may be, as they rest exhausted after mutual excesses, mock my loneliness. But they shall not go unpunished. As I am a man, and a Roman citizen, I will avenge the wrong they have done me in their guilty blood!"

    [ch. 82] So saying, I gird on a sword, and that bodily weakness might not hinder my warlike intentions, recruit my strength with a copious meal. Presently I sally forth, and stalk like a madman through all the public colonnades. As I was prowling thus, with haggard, ferocious looks that threatened sheer blood and slaughter, now and then clapping my hand to the hilt of the weapon I had devoted to my vengeance, a soldier observed me-- if a simple soldier indeed he was, and not some nocturnal footpad. "Ho, there! comrade," he cried, "what's your legion, and who's your centurion?" [130] I named both legion and centurion with confident mendacity. "Come, come," he retorted, "do the men of your division go about the streets in Greek pumps?" Then, my face and my agitation sufficiently betraying the imposture, he ordered me to drop my weapon and have a care I did not get into trouble. So despoiled and deprived of my means of vengeance, I retrace my steps to the inn, and my resolution gradually slipping away, I begin to feel nothing but gratitude to the footpad for his bold interference.

    Wretched Tantalus [131] may not eat nor drink

    Despite the rippling spring where fruit hangs low.

    Like a wealthy man, he is tormented by longing,

    A banquet surrounds him yet he remains parched and starving [....]

    It never does to trust too much to foresight, for Fortune has her own way of doing things.

    [ch. 83] In hopes, however, of beguiling my melancholy and forgetting my wrongs, I rose at dawn and visited all the different colonnades, finally entering a picture gallery, containing admirable paintings in various styles. There I beheld Zeuxis' handiwork, still unimpaired by the lapse of years, and scanned, not without a certain awe, some sketches of Protogenes', that vied with Nature herself in their truth of presentment. Then I reverently admired the work of Apelles, of the kind the Greeks call "monochromatic"; for such was the exquisite delicacy and precision with which the figures were outlined, you seemed to see the very soul portrayed. [132] Here was the eagle towering to the sky and bearing Ganymede in its talons. [133] There the fair Hylas, struggling in the embraces of the amorous Naiad. [134] Another work showed Apollo cursing his murderous hand, and bedecking his unstrung lyre with blossoms of the new-sprung hyacinth. [135]


    Ad Meskens, photograph, of a mosaic of Ganymede abducted by Zeus, disguised as an eagle, mid 2nd century CE, Archaeological Museum of Sousse, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

    Standing surrounded by these painted images of famous lovers, I exclaimed as if in solitary self-communion, "Love, so it seems, troubles even the gods. Jupiter could discover no fitting object of his passion in heaven, his own domain; but though condescending to earthly amours, yet he wronged no trusting heart. Hylas' nymph that ravished him would have checked her ardor, had she known Hercules would come to chide her passion. Apollo renewed the memory of his favorite in a flower; and all these fabled lovers had their way without a rival's interference. But I have taken to my bosom a false-hearted friend more cruel than Lycurgus.” [136]

    But look! While I am complaining in this way to the winds of heaven, there entered the colonnade an old white-headed man, with a thought-worn face, that seemed to promise something mysterious and out of the common. Yet his dress was far from imposing, making it evident he belonged to the class of men of letters, so ill-looked upon by the rich. This man now came up to me, saying, "Sir! I am a poet, and I trust, of no small genius, if these crowns mean anything, which I admit unfair partiality often confers on unworthy recipients. 'Why then,' you will ask, 'are you so poorly dressed?' Just because I am a genius; when did love of art ever make a man wealthy?

    The sea-borne trafficker gains cash untold;

    The hardy soldier wins his spoil of gold;

    The sycophant on Tyrian purple lies;

    The base adulterer with Croesus vies. [137]

    Learning alone, in shuddering rags arrayed,

    Vainly invokes the indifferent Muses' aid!

    [ch. 84] "No doubt about it; if any man declares himself the foe of every vice, and starts boldly on the path of rectitude, in the first place the singularity of his principles makes him odious, for who can approve habits so different from his own? Secondly, men whose one idea is to pile up the dollars cannot bear that others should have a nobler creed than they live by themselves. So they spite all lovers of literature in every possible way, to put them into their proper place-- below the money-bags."

    "I cannot understand why poverty is always talent's sister," I said, and heaved a sigh.

    "You do well," returned the old man, "to deplore the lot of men of letters."

    "Nay!" I replied, "that was not why I sighed; I have another and a far heavier reason for my sorrow!"-- and immediately, following the common propensity of mankind to pour one's private griefs into another's ear, I told him all my misfortunes, inveighing particularly against Ascyltos' perfidy, and exclaiming with many a groan, "Would to heaven my enemy, the cause of my present enforced continence, had any vestige of good feeling left to work upon; but 'tis a hardened sinner, more cunning and astute than the basest pander." [....]

    [ch. 85] "When I went to Asia," he began, "as a paid officer in the quaestor's staff, [138] I lodged with a family at Pergamus. [139] I found my quarters very pleasant, first on account of the convenience and elegance of the apartments, and still more so because of the beauty of my host's son. I devised the following method to prevent the master of the house entertaining any suspicions of me as a seducer. Whenever the conversation at table turned on the abuse of handsome boys, I showed such extreme indignation and protested with such an air of austerity and offended dignity against the violence done to my ears by filthy talk of the sort, that I came to be regarded, especially by the mother, as one of the greatest of moralists and philosophers. Before long I was allowed to take the lad to the gymnasium; it was I that directed his studies, I that guided his conduct, and guarded against any possible debaucher of his person being admitted to the house. [140]

    "It happened on one occasion that we were sleeping in the dining-hall, the school having closed early as it was a holiday, and our amusements having rendered us too lazy to retire to our sleeping-chambers. Somewhere about midnight I noticed that the lad was awake; so whispering soft and low, I murmured a timid prayer in these words, 'Lady Venus, if I may kiss this boy, so that he know it not, tomorrow I will present him with a pair of doves.' [141] Hearing the price offered for the gratification, the boy set up a snore. So approaching him, where he lay still making pretense to be asleep, I stole two or three flying kisses. Satisfied with this beginning, I rose betimes next morning, and discharged my vow by bringing the eager lad a choice and costly pair of doves.

    [ch. 86] "The following night, the same opportunity occurring, I changed my petition, 'If I may pass a naughty hand over this boy, and he not feel it, I will present him for his complaisance with a brace of the best fighting roosters ever seen.' At this promise the child came nestling up to me of his own accord and was actually afraid, I think, lest I might drop asleep again. I soon quieted his uneasiness on this point, and amply satisfied my longings, short of the supreme bliss, on every part of his beautiful body. Then when daylight came, I made him happy with the gift I had promised him.

    "As soon as the third night left me free to try again, I rose as before, and creeping up to the rascal, who was lying awake expecting me, whispered at his ear, 'Oh, if only, you immortal gods, I may win of this sleeping darling full and happy satisfaction of my love, for such bliss I will tomorrow present the lad with an Asturian horse of the Macedonian strain, [142] the best to be had for money, but always on the condition he shall not feel my violence.' Never did the stripling sleep more sound. So first I handled his plump and snowy bosoms, then kissed him on the mouth, and finally concentrated all my ardors in one supreme delight. Next morning he sat still in his room, expecting my present as usual. Well! you know as well as I do, it is a much easier matter to buy doves and fighting roosters than an Asturian; besides which, I was afraid so valuable a present might rouse suspicion as to the real motives of my generosity. After walking about for an hour or so, I returned to the house, and gave the boy a kiss-- and nothing else. He looked about inquiringly, then threw his arms round my neck, and 'Please, sir!' he said, 'where is my Asturian?'

    "'It is hard,' I replied, 'to get one fine enough. You will have to wait a few days for me to fulfill my vow.' The boy had wits enough to see through my answer, and his resentment was betrayed by the angry look that crossed his face."

    [ch. 87] "Although by this breach of faith I had closed against myself the door of access so carefully contrived, I returned once more to the attack. For, after allowing a few days to elapse, one night when similar circumstances had created just another opportunity for us as before, I began, the moment I heard the father snoring, to beg and pray the boy to be friends with me again,-- that is, to let me give him pleasure for pleasure, adding all the arguments my burning desire could suggest. But he was positively angry and refused to say one word beyond, 'Go to sleep, or I will tell my father.' But there is never an obstacle so difficult audacity will not vanquish it. He was still repeating, 'I will wake my father,' when I slipped into his bed and took my pleasure of him in spite of his half-hearted resistance. However, he found a certain pleasure in my naughty ways, for after a long string of complaints about my having cheated and cajoled him and made him the laughing-stock of his school-fellows, to whom he had boasted of his rich friend, he whispered, 'Still I won't be so unkind as you; if you like, do it again.'

    "So forgetting all our differences, I was reconciled to the dear lad once more, and after utilizing his kind permission, I slipped off to sleep in his arms. But the stripling was not satisfied with only one repetition, all ripe for love as he was and just at the time of life for passive enjoyment. So he woke me up from my slumbers, and, 'Anything you'd like, eh?' said he. Nor was I, so far, indisposed to accept his offer. So working him the best ever I could, to the accompaniment of much panting and perspiration, I gave him what he wanted, and then dropped asleep again, worn out with pleasure. Less than an hour had passed before he started pinching me and asking, 'Eh! why are we not at work?' Hereupon, sick to death of being so often disturbed, I flew into a regular rage, and retorted his own words upon him; 'Go to sleep,' I cried, 'or I'll tell your father!'" [....]

    [ch. 88] Enlivened by this discourse, I now began to question my companion, who was better informed on these points than myself, as to the dates of the different pictures and the subjects of some that baffled me. At the same time I asked him the reason for the supineness of the present day and the utter decay of the highest branches of art, and amongst the rest of painting, which now showed not the smallest vestige of its former excellence.

    "It is greed of money," he replied, "has wrought the change. In early days, when plain worth was still esteemed, the liberal arts flourished, and the chief object of men's emulation was to ensure no discovery likely to benefit future ages long remaining undeveloped. To this end Democritus extracted the juices of every herb, and spent his life in experimenting, that no virtue of mineral or plant might escape detection. In a similar way Eudoxus grew gray on the summit of a lofty mountain, observing the motions of the stars and firmament, while three times Chrysippus purged his brain with hellebore, to stimulate its capacity and inventiveness. But to consider the sculptors only,-- Lysippus was so absorbed in the modeling of a single figure that he actually perished from lack of food, and Myron, who came near embodying the very souls of men and beasts in bronze, died too poor to find an heir. [143]

    "But we, engrossed with wine and women, have not the spirit to appreciate the arts already discovered; we can only criticize antiquity, and devote all our energies, in precept and practice, to the faults of the old masters. What has become of dialectic? of astronomy? of philosophy, that richly cultivated domain? Who nowadays has ever been known to enter a temple and engage to pay a vow, if only he may attain unto eloquence, or find the fountain of wisdom? Not even do sound intellect and sound health any longer form the objects of men's prayers, but before ever they set food on the threshold of the Capitoline hill [in Rome], they promise lavish offerings, one if he may bury a wealthy relative, another if he may unearth a treasure, another if only he may live to reach his thirty million. The very Senate, the example of all that is right and good, is in the habit of promising a thousand pounds of gold to Capitoline Jove, [144] and that no man may be ashamed of the lust of ill-gotten profit, bribes the very god of heaven. What wonder then if painting is in decay, when all, gods and men alike, find a big lump of gold a fairer sight than anything those crack-brained Greek fellows, Apelles and Phidias, ever wrought. [145]

    [ch 89] “But there! I see your attention is riveted on that picture representing the capture of Troy; so I will endeavor to expound the theme in a copy of verses: [146]

    Still the tenth summer saw the Phrygian host [147]

    A prey to doubt and fear, and Calchas’ faith [148]

    Wavering and weak in spite of oracles,

    When at Apollo’s word, [149] the wooded heights

    Of topmost Ida lent their tallest trees

    To shape the framework of a monstrous horse. [150]

    Within, a vasty cave and secret halls,

    Capacious of an army, hold the flower

    Of all the Greeks, by ten years’ strife enraged;

    Their own thank-offering hides the avenging crew!

    Oh! my unhappy country! now we dreamed

    A thousand ships were scattered, and our land

    Freed from the foe. So ran the lying words

    Writ on the horse’s flank, and so the tale

    Of Sinon’s wheedling tongue and traitor’s heart. [151]

    Now through the gates, glad to be free at last,

    The shouting Trojans hailed the pledge of peace,

    While tears relieve the tension of their joy.

    But terror checked their triumph; Behold! The priest

    Of Neptune, wise Laocoon, his locks unbound, [152]

    With cries of warning stays the eager crowd!

    His brandished spear he hurled, but foiled by fate,

    The blow falls harmless, and the sight renews

    Their ill-starred confidence in Grecian guile.

    Yet once again he summons all his strength,

    And drives his ax deep in the monster’s side.

    The imprisoned warriors’ groan resounds, and fills

    The wooden hull with terror not its own.

    In vain! The captives ride to capture Troy,

    And end the tedious war by fraud, not force.

    Another marvel! where above the deep

    Tower the sheer cliffs of Tenedos, the surge [153]

    Is lashed to foam, and a fierce roaring breaks

    The silence of the seas, as on a quiet night

    The sound of pulsing oars is borne to land,

    When fleets are passing on the distant main.

    We turn our gaze; and there with rolling coils

    Two water-snakes are sweeping toward the shore;

    Their flanks, like lofty ships, throw back the foam,

    They lash the main, their crests that ride the waves

    Gleam fiery like their eyes, whose lightning flash

    Kindles the deep, the billows hiss and roar.

    All stare aghast. Behold, like priests attired

    In Phrygian robes, there stand Laocoon’s sons,

    Twin pledges of his love, whom in their folds

    The fiery snakes entwine. Each lifts his hands,

    His childish hands, to guard,—alas! in vain,—

    His brother’s head; from love’s unselfishness

    Remorseless death a sharper anguish wins.

    Their sire, too weak to save them, shares their fate.

    Gorged with fresh blood, monsters drag him down;

    Weltering in gore at his own altar’s side

    The priest a victim dies, in agony

    Beating the ground. Thus from polluted shrines

    The gods of fated Troy were driven away.

    The rising Moon her beam had just displayed,

    Kindling her radiant torch amid the stars,

    When the impatient Greeks unbar the doors;

    And forth on Troy, by sleep and wine betrayed,

    The steel-clad warriors rush, as from the yoke

    Just loosed, a gallant steed of Thessaly

    Darts over the course tossing his eager mane.

    They draw their flashing blades and wave shields

    And ‘havoc!’ cry. One stabs the sleeping sot

    With wine oppressed, one from the altar flames

    Snatches a burning brand and fires the town,—

    And Troy’s own temples arm her enemies’ hands.


    Livio Andronico, photograph of Laocoön and his sons, also known as the Laocoön Group. Marble copy (early first century BCE) of an Hellenistic original attributed to Hagesandros, Athenedoros, and Polydoros, from ca. 200 BC. Found in the Baths of Trajan, 1506, on display at the Vatican Museum.

    [ch. 90] Sundry of the public who were strolling in the colonnades now proceeded to pelt the aged poet with stones. But Eumolpus, [154] who was familiar with the sort of applause his talents usually met with, merely covered up his head and bolted from the temple. I was afraid he would claim me as a poet. So I started off in pursuit of the fugitive, and came up with him on the seashore. There we halted, directly we were out of range of the missiles, and I asked him, “Now what do you mean by this confounded malady of yours? I have not been a couple of hours in your company, and you've often talked more like a mad poet than a sensible man. I am not surprised that the populace pelts you. I am going to fill my pockets with rocks, and every time I see your wits going, I will bleed you in the head.”

    At this he changed his expression, and “Oh! my young friend,” he said, “today is by no means my first attempt; every time I’ve entered a theater to recite some trifle, the audience invariably welcomes me with this kind of treat. However as I am far from wishing to quarrel with you, I undertake a whole day’s fast from poetry.”

    “Very well, then,” said I; “if you’ll swear off your crankiness for today, we’ll dine together.” [...]

    So saying, I commissioned the housekeeper at my humble rooms to make preparations for our humble meal [....]

    [ch. 91] I catch sight of Giton laden with towels and scrapers, [155] leaning against a wall and wearing a look of melancholy embarrassment on his face. You could easily see he was an unwilling servant; and indeed, to show my eyes had not deceived me, he now turned upon me a countenance beaming with pleasure, saying, “Oh! have pity on me, brother! there are no weapons to fear here, so I can speak freely. Save me, save me, from the murderous ruffian; and then lay upon your judge, now your penitent, any punishment you please, no matter how severe. It will be comfort enough for me, in my misery, to have perished by your good pleasure.”

    I bad him hush his complaints, so that no one might surprise our plans, and leaving Eumolpus to his own devices,—he was engaged reciting a poem to his fellow bathers—I dragged Giton down a dark and dirty passage, and so hurried him away to my lodging. Then after bolting the door, I threw my arms around his neck, pressing my lips convulsively to his tear-stained face. It was long before either of us could find his voice; for my darling’s bosom was quivering like my own with quick-coming sobs. “I am ashamed of my criminal weakness,” I cried, “but I love you still, though you did forsake me, and the wound that pierced my heart has left not a scar behind. What can you say to excuse your surrender to another? Did I deserve so base a wrong?” Seeing he was still loved, he put on a less downcast look:

    “Yet,” I could not help adding, “I never meant to refer the choice of whom you should love to any third person; but there! all is forgiven and forgotten, if only you show yourself sincerely penitent.” My words were interspersed with groans and tears; when I had done, the dear boy dried my cheeks with his mantle, saying, “I beg you, Encolpius, let me appeal to your own recollection of the circumstances. Did I desert you, or did you throw me over? I am ready to confess, and it is my best excuse, when I saw you both with sword in hand, I fled for safety to the stronger fighter.” Kissing the bosom so full of wise prudence, I threw my arms around his neck, and to let him see he was restored to favor once more, and that my affection and confidence were as strong as ever, I pressed him closely to my heart.

    [ch. 92] It was quite dark and the woman had completed my orders for dinner when Eumolpus knocked at the door. I called out “How many of you are there?” and immediately proceeded to spy through a chink in the door to see whether Ascyltos had not come too. But seeing my guest was alone, I at once hastened to let him in. He threw himself on my pallet, and directly he observed Giton moving about in attendance he wagged his head and remarked, “I like your Ganymede; [156] we shall have a good time today.” I was anything but pleased with this indiscreet beginning, and began to fear I had opened my doors to another Ascyltos. Eumolpus grew more and more pressing, and on the lad’s serving him with wine, “I like you better,” he said, “than any of them at the baths;” and draining his cup thirstily, added he had never been more vexed in his life.

    “I tell you, at the baths just now, I came very near getting a beating, merely because I tried to repeat a copy of verses to the bathers sitting around the basin. It was just like the Theater—I was turned out of the place. Then I started to look for you in every corner of the building, shouting Encolpius! Encolpius! at the top of my voice. Not far off was a naked youth, who had lost his clothes, and roaring with just the same clamorous indignation after Giton. For me, I was treated like a madman by the very slave lads, who mocked and mimicked me most insolently; he on the contrary was soon surrounded by a thronging multitude, clapping their hands and showing the most awe-struck admiration. The fact is, he possessed virile parts of such enormous mass and weight, the man really seemed only an appendage of his own member. Oh! an indefatigable worker! I warrant, he’s the sort to begin yesterday, and finish tomorrow! Accordingly he soon found a way out of his difficulties; a bystander, a Roman equestrian, [157] they said, of notorious character, wrapped his own cloak round the poor wanderer, and took him home with him, in order, I imagine, to have the sole enjoyment of so rich a windfall. But I should never have recovered so much as my own clothes from the bath-keeper, [158] had I not produced someone to vouch for me. So much better does it profit a man to train his member than his mind!”

    During Eumolpus’s narrative I changed countenance repeatedly, now jubilant at my hated rival’s misfortunes, now saddened by his success. I held my tongue, however, pretending to know nothing of the matter, and set to work arranging the dinner table [...]

    [ch. 93] To their perverted taste anything that is allowable is held cheap, while they display a morbid predilection for forbidden luxuries.

    Facile success, a rose without a thorn,

    An instant victory, are things I scorn.

    The Phasian bird from distant Colchis brought [159]

    And African fowl! are dainties ever sought,

    For these are rarities; not so the goose

    And bright-plumed duck, fit but for vulgar use.

    The costly scar, choice fish from Syrtes’ shore, [160]

    That cost poor fishers’ lives, these all adore;

    The mullet’s out of date. The modern man

    Deserts his wife to woo the courtesan;

    The rose yields place to cinnamon. For naught

    Is held of worth that is not dearly bought.

    “Is this the way,” I cried, “you keep your promise of making no more poetry today? On your conscience, spare us at least, who have never thrown a stone at you. Once let any one of the company drinking under the same roof with us scent out your poetness, he will rouse the whole neighborhood and overwhelm us all in the same ruin. Have some pity on your friends, and remember the picture gallery and the baths.” But Giton, who was all gentleness, remonstrated with me for speaking so, and declared I was doing ill thus to jeer at my elders. He said I was forgetting my duty as a host, and after inviting a man to my table out of compassion, was nullifying the obligation by then insulting him. Other remarks follow, all equally imbued with moderation and good sense, and coming with added grace from so beautiful a mouth.

    [ch. 94] “Happy the mother of such a son!” exclaimed Eumolpus. “Go on, good youth, and prosper! Rare indeed is such a combination of wisdom and beauty. Never think all your words have been wasted; you have won a lover! I, I will extol your praises in my verse. I will be your preceptor and your guardian, your companion everywhere, even when unbidden. Nor has Encolpius anything to complain of, who loves another.” The speaker had much to be thankful for to the soldier who had taken away my sword; otherwise the wrath I had conceived against Ascyltos would surely have been taken out on Eumolpus’s head. Giton saw what was about to happen, and slipped out of the room, as if to fetch water; and his judicious departure abated the extreme heat of my indignation. My anger cooled a little, and I told Eumolpus, “Sir! I would rather have you talking poetry than entertaining such hopes as these. I am a passionate man, and you a lecherous one; our characters, look you, can never be compatible. Suppose me stark mad; humor my frenzy,—in other words, leave the house without a moment’s delay.”

    Confounded at this outburst, Eumolpus never stopped to ask my reasons, but instantly left the room, closed the door shut after him, and locked me in, to my intense surprise. He carried off the key with him, and hurried away at a run in search of Giton.

    Finding myself a prisoner, I resolved to hang myself and so end my miseries. I had already attached my belt to the framework of a bed which stood against the wall, and was just fitting the noose around my neck, when the doors were flung open again, and Eumolpus coming in with Giton recalled me to the light of life from the fatal course I had so nearly passed. Giton especially, his agony turning to rage and fury, uttered a piercing shriek, and pushing me down headlong on the bed with both hands, “You deceive yourself, Encolpius,” he cried, “if you think you can contrive to die before me. I was first; I have already been to Ascyltos’s lodging to look for a sword. Had I not found you, I was going to hurl myself over a precipice. Now, to show you Death is never far from those who seek him, behold in your turn the sight you intended me to witness.”

    With these words he snatches a razor [161] from Eumolpus’s hired servant, and drawing it once and again across his throat, tumbles down at our feet. Uttering a cry of horror, I fall on the floor beside him, and seek to take my own life with the same weapon. But neither did Giton exhibit the smallest sign of a wound, nor did I myself feel any pain. The fact is, the razor had no edge, coming from a case of razors purposely blunted, with the object of training barbers’ apprentices to a proper confidence in the exercise of their craft; and that was why the servant from whom he snatched the instrument had expressed no sort of consternation, nor had Eumolpus made an effort to hinder the mimic tragedy.

    [ch. 95] In the midst of this lovers’ fooling, the landlord enters with another course of the dinner, and staring hard at us where we lay sprawling disgracefully on the floor, “Are you all drunk,” he asked, “or runaways, or both? Now who put up that bed against the wall like that? And what do all these underhanded proceedings mean? By great Hercules, you intended, you scamps, to take flight in the night, and get out of paying the rent for your room. Not so fast, I say. I’ll let you know it’s no poor widow woman’s the owner of the block, but Marcus Mannicius.” “You threaten, do you,” shouts Eumolpus, and fetches the man a good sharp slap in the face. The latter hurled at his head an earthenware jar, emptied by a succession of thirsty guests, cut open his noisy adversary’s forehead, and darted out of the room. Furious at the indignity, Eumolpus snatches up a wooden candlestick, pursues the fugitive, and revenges his injury with a shower of blows. The whole household comes crowding to the scene of action, together with a mob of drunken customers. Now was my opportunity for retaliation; so I turn the tables on Eumolpus by shutting the blackguard out, and find myself without a rival and free to do as I please with my room and my night.

    Meanwhile the unfortunate Eumolpus, being locked out, is assaulted by the scullions and miscellaneous tenants of the block. [162] One threatens his eyes with a spit loaded with hissing-hot guts; another snatches a flesh-hook from the kitchen hearth and assumes a fighting attitude. First and foremost, an old hag with sore eyes and a most filthy apron, and mounted on wooden clogs (an odd pair) hauls in a huge dog on a chain, and sets him at Eumolpus, who however made a gallant defense against all assailants with his candlestick.

    [ch. 96] All this we saw through a hole in the door, just made by the wrenching off of the handle of the wicket, and for my own part I wished him joy of his beating.

    Giton on the contrary, with his usual tender-heartedness, was for opening the door and rescuing him from his perilous position. My resentment being still hot within me, I could not hold my hand, but favored the poet’s sympathizer with a good smart box on the side of the head, at which he went and sat down crying on the bed. For myself, I put first one eye, then the other, to the opening, and was regaling myself with the sight of Eumolpus’s sorry plight and mentally patting his assailants on the back, when Bargates, the agent of the block, who had been called away from his dinner, was borne into the heart of the skirmish by a couple of chairmen, for he was disabled by the gout. After a long harangue against drunkards and runaways, uttered in a savage tone and barbarous accent, he said, turning upon Eumolpus, “My prince of poets, you here? And these ruffian slaves don’t fly at once and stop their brawling!” Then putting his lips to Eumolpus’s ear, “My bedfellow,” he went on, in a more subdued tone, “is a scornful jade; so if you love me, blackguard her in verse, will you, to make her feel ashamed of herself.”

    [ch. 97] Whilst Eumolpus was talking apart with Bargates, a crier attended by a public slave and a small crowd of curious persons besides, entered the inn, and brandishing a torch that gave more smoke than light, read out the follow public notice:

    “Lost or strayed lately in the public baths, a boy,—aged sixteen, curly-headed, a minion by trade, good-looking, Giton by name. Whoever will bring back the same or give information of his present whereabouts, will receive a thousand sesterces reward.” [163]

    Not far from the herald stood Ascyltos in a particolored robe, exhibiting description, and voucher for the sum promised, on a silver platter. I told Giton to dash under the bed and twist his hands and feet into the cords by which the mattress was supported on the framework, so that stretched full length underneath, like Ulysses of old clinging under the ram’s belly, [164] he might escape any prying hands. Giton promptly obeyed, and in another instant had cleverly twisted his fingers in the attachments, and beaten the wily Ulysses at his own game. For my part, so as to leave no room for suspicion, I heaped the pallet with clothes and shaped an impression amongst them of a single sleeper, and that a man of my own size.


    Photograph by Zde of Odysseus under the belly of a ram, small bronze apliqué, 550-500 BCE, Archaeological Museum of Delphi, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

    Meantime Ascyltos, visiting each room in succession with the court-officer, arrived at mine, where his hopes of success rose the higher on finding the door so carefully barred. But the public slave, inserting his ax in the crack of the door, broke the hold of the fastenings. Thereupon I threw myself at Ascyltos’ feet and implored him by the memory of our former friendship and our companionship in misfortune at any rate to let me see Giton. And, in addition, to give color to my pretended supplication, “I am well aware, Ascyltos,” I cried, “that you have come to murder me; why else have you brought these axes with you? Take your revenge then; see, I offer my neck, so shed my life’s blood, which you are seeking under pretense of searching my room.”

    Ascyltos protested indignantly against the imputation, swearing he was there only to look for his runaway favorite; he desired, he said, no man’s, certainly no suppliant’s death, and least of all that of a man whom, even after our fatal quarrel, he still thought of as his dearest friend.

    [ch. 98] Nor was the public slave idle meanwhile, but snatching a cane from the innkeeper, he thrusts it under the bed, and even investigates every cranny in the walls. Giton kept shrinking away from the stick, and holding his breath in abject terror, squeezed closer and closer, till the bugs were tickling his very nose.

    Scarcely had the men left the room when Eumolpus, for the shattered door could keep no one out, dashes in in great excitement, shouting, “The thousand sesterces are mine; I shall now run after the officer and denounce you, as you richly deserve, and inform him Giton is in your hands at the present moment.” I embrace the poet’s knees but he remains obdurate; I beseech him not to kill the dying; I tell him, “Your resolution would have some sense in it, if you could produce the missing boy, but he has disappeared in the crowd, and I cannot so much as guess where he is gone to. In heaven’s name, Eumolpus, bring the lad back and restore him to his friends,—to Ascyltos, if it must be so.”

    He was just beginning to credit my plausible story when Giton, all but smothered and choking for breath, gave three loud sneezes one after the other, so that the bed positively shook. Eumolpus wheeled round at the commotion, exclaiming, “Giton, a god bless you!” Then lifting the mattress away, he reveals Ulysses in such a plight even a half-starving cyclops might well have spared him! Next turning to me, “What is the meaning of all this, you thief?” he said. “What! even when found out, you had not spirit enough to tell the truth. In fact, if some god that governs human affairs had not made the boy betray where he hung concealed, I should have been sent wandering from tavern to tavern on a wild goose chase.”

    Giton, a far better wheedler than myself, first stanched the wound in the poor man’s forehead with some cobwebs dipped in oil; [165] then exchanged his own little cloak for the other’s torn robe, and seeing him somewhat mollified, kissed his bruises to make them well, crying, “We are in your keeping, in your hands, dearest father! If you love your Giton, try, oh! try to save him. I would the consuming fire might scorch me to ashes, the raging waters overwhelm me, and me alone! For it is I who am the subject, I the cause, of all these wicked doings! My death would reconcile two enemies.” [...]

    [ch. 99] Eumolpus exclaimed, “My plan of life has always been, so to spend each day as if it were my last, that is in peace and quietness.” [...]

    With floods of tears I begged and prayed him to include me too in his forgiveness, pointing out that it was beyond the power of lovers to control their frenzies of jealousy. I pledged myself for the future to do or say nothing whatever that could give him offense, and urged him to banish all irritation from his mind, as a learned and educated man should, so that not a trace of injury should remain. “On rugged and uncultivated ground,” I went on, “the snow lies long, but where the soil has been disciplined and improved by the plow, the light snowfall melts away before you can say it has fallen. It is the same with resentment in men’s hearts; it abides long in uncultured minds, but melts quickly from the surface of those who have been trained and educated.” “To prove the truth of what you say,” returned Eumolpus, “I hereby end my anger with this kiss. So in luck’s name, pack up your traps and follow me, or if you so prefer, lead the way yourselves.”

    The words were still on his lips when the door flew open with a crash, and a rough-bearded sailor appeared on the threshold, who shouted, “You’re all behind, Eumolpus; don’t you know we have to hurry?”

    In an instant we were all afoot. Eumolpus wakes his servant, who had long ago dropped asleep, and orders him off with his baggage. Giton and I pack up all our belongings for the journey, and after a prayer to the stars, make our way on board.


    [127] In the myth of the Seven Against Thebes, Eteocles and Polynices, Oedipus’ two sons, kill each other.

    [128] Menelaus appears earlier in the section on Trimalchio's banquet.

    [129] The Greeks had colonies in southern Italy and elsewhere long before the Romans colonized that and other regions.

    [130] A centurion was the commander of one hundred men in the army. Asking what legion and centurion Encolpius was in was like asking what company and battalion he belonged to.

    [131] Tantalus was punished for the crime of cannibalism by being tormented by hunger and thirst in Hades.

    [132] These men are all famous Greek artists. The Romans collected and were inspired by the art of Greek and other cultures.

    [133] Zeus/Jupiter/Jove sent an eagle to carry Ganymede off to Olympus to serve as Jove’s lover and cupbearer to the gods.

    [134] Hylas was Hercules' younger companion and lover until he was pulled underwater and drowned by some water nymphs or Naiads who were smitten by his good looks.

    [135] Apollo accidentally killed his human lover, Hyacinth, with an ill-aimed discus throw. A flower, the hyacinth, sprang up from Hyacinth's blood.

    [136] Lycurgus was Spartan king known for his strict laws and harsh treatment of the helots, slaves bound to the land.

    [137] Croesus was a fabulously rich king.

    [138] A quaestor was a Roman official largely responsible for taxes and the local treasury.

    [139] Also known as Pergamon, a wealthy town in Asia minor.

    [140] The poet appears to be fulfilling the function of a paedagogus, a slave or freedman who taught Greek to the sons of wealthy Romans and served as a combination of chaperone, moral guide, and teacher. Needless to say, Eumolpus betrayed his employers and his student.

    [141] Doves were considered the sacred bird of Venus, goddess of sensual love.

    [142] A type of very expensive horse. Eumolpus posits a transactional view of sex, a bit like promising one's lover a Mercedes.

    [143] The men named were all famous Greek philosophers, scientists, and artists.

    [144] The Roman senate's function was to legislate or propose laws. The temple of Capitoline Jove or "Temple of Jupiter Best and Greatest on the Capitoline" was central to state worship of the Jupiter in Rome.

    [145] Apelles and Phidias were famous Greek artists.

    [146] Eumolpus gives here a rather turgid and stiff declamation of a story in the Aeneid (bk. 2).

    [147] The Phyrigians were the Trojans.

    [148] A seer who foretold the fall of Troy.

    [149] Apollo was god of prophecy.

    [150] This refers to the famous Trojan horse, a hollow horse constructed of wood left by the Greeks before the gates of Troy. After the Greeks pretended to retreat, the Trojans dragged the horse into their city. Hardened Greek warriors emerged from the horse at night and the city of Troy fell to the Greeks.

    [151] Sinon betrayed Troy to the Greeks.

    [152] Laocoon tried to warn the Trojans; he and his sons were devoured by a sea serpent.

    [153] Tenedos was an island near the city of Troy.

    [154] Eumolpus' name means "trained singer."

    [155] This scene appears to take place in the public baths. Romans soaped up with olive oil, then scraped the dirt and excess oil off their skin with a scraper.

    [156] Ganymede was a beautiful youth who became Jove’s lover and was taken up to Olympus and made immortal. He served as cupbearer to the gods.

    [157] That is, a member of the equestrian class. The equites came in second place in the property-based class system of ancient Rome, ranking below the senatorial class. Many were involved in business.

    [158] This worked a bit like a coat-check in a restaurant. You checked in your clothes when entering the baths (where everyone was naked, like a locker-room), and got them back to get dressed before leaving.

    [159] A region near the Black Sea, said to be Medea’s home.

    [160] Syrtes was on the coast of North Africa. The complaint is similar to that made against the consumption of exotic or out-of-season foods as a marker of status rather than eating what was locally available.

    [161] Romans used straight-edged razors like this one.

    [162] Roman apartment blocks or insulae could be well-managed or could bear remarkable similarities to tenement housing in their lack of sanitation and overcrowding.

    [163] This was common procedure for attempting to recover runaway slaves.

    [164] In a famous episode from The Odyssey, Odysseus escapes the cyclops’ cave by hanging on to the under-fleece of a ram.

    [165] Cobwebs were often used as bandages in many cultures.

    The Reconstructed Text- Part Four is shared under a not declared license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by LibreTexts.

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