Skip to main content
Humanities LibreTexts

The Reconstructed Text- Part Six

  • Page ID
    126825
  • \( \newcommand{\vecs}[1]{\overset { \scriptstyle \rightharpoonup} {\mathbf{#1}} } \)

    \( \newcommand{\vecd}[1]{\overset{-\!-\!\rightharpoonup}{\vphantom{a}\smash {#1}}} \)

    \( \newcommand{\id}{\mathrm{id}}\) \( \newcommand{\Span}{\mathrm{span}}\)

    ( \newcommand{\kernel}{\mathrm{null}\,}\) \( \newcommand{\range}{\mathrm{range}\,}\)

    \( \newcommand{\RealPart}{\mathrm{Re}}\) \( \newcommand{\ImaginaryPart}{\mathrm{Im}}\)

    \( \newcommand{\Argument}{\mathrm{Arg}}\) \( \newcommand{\norm}[1]{\| #1 \|}\)

    \( \newcommand{\inner}[2]{\langle #1, #2 \rangle}\)

    \( \newcommand{\Span}{\mathrm{span}}\)

    \( \newcommand{\id}{\mathrm{id}}\)

    \( \newcommand{\Span}{\mathrm{span}}\)

    \( \newcommand{\kernel}{\mathrm{null}\,}\)

    \( \newcommand{\range}{\mathrm{range}\,}\)

    \( \newcommand{\RealPart}{\mathrm{Re}}\)

    \( \newcommand{\ImaginaryPart}{\mathrm{Im}}\)

    \( \newcommand{\Argument}{\mathrm{Arg}}\)

    \( \newcommand{\norm}[1]{\| #1 \|}\)

    \( \newcommand{\inner}[2]{\langle #1, #2 \rangle}\)

    \( \newcommand{\Span}{\mathrm{span}}\) \( \newcommand{\AA}{\unicode[.8,0]{x212B}}\)

    \( \newcommand{\vectorA}[1]{\vec{#1}}      % arrow\)

    \( \newcommand{\vectorAt}[1]{\vec{\text{#1}}}      % arrow\)

    \( \newcommand{\vectorB}[1]{\overset { \scriptstyle \rightharpoonup} {\mathbf{#1}} } \)

    \( \newcommand{\vectorC}[1]{\textbf{#1}} \)

    \( \newcommand{\vectorD}[1]{\overrightarrow{#1}} \)

    \( \newcommand{\vectorDt}[1]{\overrightarrow{\text{#1}}} \)

    \( \newcommand{\vectE}[1]{\overset{-\!-\!\rightharpoonup}{\vphantom{a}\smash{\mathbf {#1}}}} \)

    \( \newcommand{\vecs}[1]{\overset { \scriptstyle \rightharpoonup} {\mathbf{#1}} } \)

    \( \newcommand{\vecd}[1]{\overset{-\!-\!\rightharpoonup}{\vphantom{a}\smash {#1}}} \)

    The City of Croton:

    The survivors wash up near the Italian city of Croton, where marrying for money is the primary occupation. Eumolpus enters the city, with Encolpius and Giton claiming to be his slaves.

    [ch. 115] Suddenly we hear an extraordinary noise, like the howling of a wild beast trying to get out, coming from underneath the master’s cabin. Following up the sound, we discover Eumolpus seated, dashing down verses on a huge sheet of parchment. Marveling how the man could find leisure in the very face of death to be writing poetry, we haul him out in spite of his clamorous protests, telling him to have some common sense for once. But he was furious at the interruption, and shouted, “Let me finish my phrase; my poem’s just in the throes of completion!” I laid violent hands on the maniac, calling on Giton to help me drag the bellowing poet ashore [...]

    After accomplishing our purpose with much difficulty, we found dismal shelter in a fisherman’s hut, where having refreshed ourselves as best we might with provisions damaged by sea-water, we passed a most wretched night.

    Next day, as we were debating what district we might most safely make for, I suddenly caught sight of a human body that was driving ashore, tossing lightly up and down on the waves. I stood sadly waiting, gazing with wet eyes on the work of the faithless element, and thus soliloquized, “Somewhere or another, mayhap, a wife is looking in blissful security for this poor fellow’s return, or a son perhaps, or a father, all unsuspicious of storm and wreck; be sure, he has left someone behind, whom he kissed fondly at parting. This then is the end of human projects, this the accomplishment of men’s mighty schemes. Look! How now he rides the waves.”

    I was still deploring the stranger’s fate, as I supposed him to be, when the swell heaved the face, still quite undisfigured, towards the beach, and I recognized the features of Lichas, my erstwhile enemy, so formidable and implacable a foe, now cast helpless almost at my feet. I could restrain my tears no longer, but smiting my breast again and again, “Where is your anger now,” I exclaimed, “and all your domineering ways? There you lie, a prey to the fishes and monsters of the deep; you who so short a while ago proudly boasted your despotic powers, have never a plank left of your great ship. Go to, mortals; swell your hearts with high-flown anticipations. Go to, you men of craft; arrange the disposal for a thousand years to come of the wealth you have got by fraud. Why, only yesterday this dead man here cast up the accounts of his fortune, and actually fixed in his own mind the day, when he should return to his native shore. Ye Gods! How far away he lies from the point he hoped to reach. Nor is it the sea alone that disappoints men’s hopes like this. The warrior is betrayed by his arms; the householder in the act of paying his offerings to heaven is overwhelmed in the ruin of his own penates. [193] One is thrown from his car, and breathes his last hurried breath; the glutton dies of an over-hearty meal, the frugal man of fasting. Reckon it rightly, and there is shipwreck everywhere. But then a drowned man misses burial, you object. As if it made one scrap of difference how the perishable body is consumed,—by fire, by water, or by time. Do what you will, these all end in the same result. Ah! but wild beasts will mangle his corpse. As if fire would treat it any kindlier; why fire is the very penalty we deem the most appalling, when we are savage with our slaves. What folly then to make such effort to ensure that no part of us remains unburied, when the Fates arrange this matter at their pleasure, whether we wish it or not.” […][194]

    Lichas, borne by the hands of his ill-wishers to the pile, is consumed to ashes. Eumolpus meantime is busy composing an epitaph for the departed, after rolling his eyes about for a while, in search of inspiration [.…]

    [ch. 116] This office duly and willingly performed, we pursue our interrupted journey, and in a very brief space of time arrive sweating at the top of a steep hill, whence we spy at no great distance a city occupying the summit of a lofty crag. We did not know its name, being mere wanderers, until a peasant informed us it was Croton, a very ancient place and once upon a time the first town of all Italy. We next inquired anxiously what sort were the people inhabiting this famous site, and what commerce they mostly carried on since the ruin of their former prosperity by constantly recurring wars.

    “Good strangers,” the fellow replied, “if you happen to be merchants, change your trade and seek some other means of livelihood. But if you are of a more genteel stamp, and can tell lies without end and stick to them, you’re in the straight road to fortune. In this city literature is not cultivated, nor does eloquence find favor; sobriety and morality meet with neither commendation nor success; its inhabitants each and all, you must know, belong to one or other of two classes, that is, legacy hunters and their prey. In this city no man rears children, for whoever has natural heirs of his own, is admitted to no entertainment, no public show; excluded from every privilege of citizenship, he is condemned to a life of furtive obscurity among the lowest of the low. The unmarried on the contrary and all who have no near kindred, attain the highest honors; they alone are brave, and capable, and respectable. You will find the town,” he concluded, “like a pestfield, where there are but two things to be seen—corpses being torn, and crows tearing them.” […]

    [ch. 117] Eumolpus, more far-seeing than the rest of us, pondered over these novel arrangements and admitted he was attracted to the method indicated of making a fortune. For my part, I supposed the old poet was joking in his fantastic way, but he went on quite seriously, “I only wish I had a more adequate stock in trade, I mean a more fashionable robe and more elegant outfit generally, to make the imposture more convincing. Great Hercules; I would get done with my wallet for good and all, and lead you all straight to wealth." […]

    On this I promised him whatever he required, provided the dress we used for our light-fingered work would satisfy him; together with anything we had appropriated from Lycurgus’s place. As for ready money, this we might safely trust the mother of gods [195] to provide […]

    “What hinders us then,” cried Eumolpus, “to arrange our little comedy? Make me master, if you like my plan.” None of us ventured to disapprove of a project where we had nothing to lose. Accordingly, to ensure the deception being faithfully kept up by all concerned, we swore an oath in terms dictated by Eumolpus, to endure fire, imprisonment, stripes, cold steel, and whatsoever else he might command us, in his behalf. Like regular gladiators we vowed ourselves most solemnly to our master, body and soul.

    After completing the oath-taking, we salute our master with pretended servility, and are instructed all to tell the same tale,—how Eumolpus had lost a son, a young man of prodigious eloquence and high promise; how consequently the poor old father had quitted his native city, that the sight of his boy’s clients and companions and the vicinity of his tomb might not be continually renewing his grief. This sad event, we were to add, had been followed by a recent shipwreck, which had cost him two million sesterces; that it was not however so much the loss of the money which annoyed him as the fact that for want of a proper retinue he could not fittingly keep up his rank. Further, that he had thirty millions in Africa invested in landed estates and securities, and such a host of slaves scattered over the length and breadth of Numidia that they could storm Carthage at a pinch. [196]

    In accordance with this scheme, we direct Eumolpus to cough a great deal, to have a weak digestion at any rate, and in company to grumble at every dish set before him; to be for ever talking about gold and silver, and unproductive farms, and how terrible barren land always was; also every day to sit over accounts, and regularly once a month to add new codicils to his will. And to make the farce quite complete, whenever he wished to call one of us, he was to use the wrong name, plainly showing the master was thinking of other servants no longer with him.

    Matters being thus arranged, after praying to the gods for “good success and happy issue,” as the phrase runs, we set forward. But poor Giton could not stand his unusual load; while Corax, Eumolpus’s hired man, objecting strongly to his job, kept everlastingly dropping his pack and cursing us for going too fast; he swore he would either throw away his traps, or else make off with the swag altogether. “Do you take me for a beast of burden,” he grumbled, “or a stone-ship? I contracted for a man’s work, not a dray- horse’s! I’m as much a freeman as you are, though my father did leave me a poor man.” Not content with bad language, he kept lifting up his leg again and again, and filling the road with a filthy noise and a filthy stench. Giton only laughed at his impudence, and after each explosion gave a loud imitation of the noise with his mouth […]

    [118] “Many are the victims, my young friends,” Eumolpus began, “poetry has seduced! The instant a man has got a verse to stand on its feet and clothed a tender thought in appropriate language, he thinks he has scaled Helicon [197] right off. Many others, after long practice of forensic talents, finally retreat to the tranquil calm of verse-making as to a blessed harbor of refuge, imagining a poem is easier put together than an argument all embroidered with scintillating conceits. But a mind of nobler inspiration is revolted by this flippancy; and no intellect that is not flooded with a mighty tide of learning, can either conceive or bring to birth a worthy poetic child. In diction, anything approaching commonness, if I may use the word, is to be avoided; a poet must choose words devoid of base associations, and hold to Horace’s, "I hate and bid avaunt the vulgar herd." [198]

    "Again, care should be exercised to avoid sentiments that stand out as mere excrescences on the framework of the main conception; let the fabric be as brilliant as it may, its colors must be ingrained in the stuff. I may instance Homer, and the Lyric poets, and our Roman Virgil, and Horace with his happy preciosity. The rest, one and all, were blind to the true path to Parnassus, or if they did see it, were afraid to tread it. Look at that mighty subject, the Civil Wars; [199] anyone attempting it, if not a man of the ripest scholarship, will sink under the burden. It is no question of a string of facts to be cataloged in verse, a task the historian will perform far better; nay! rather must the untrammeled spirit be hurried along through a series of digressions and divine interventions and all the intricacies of myth and fable. The inspired frenzy of the bard should be more apparent than the tested pedantry of scrupulous precision. For example, see how you like this rapid sketch, though indeed it has not yet received the final touches:

    [chs. 119-124 follow in the form of an epic poem fragment]

    Now haughty Rome reigned mistress of the Globe,

    Wherever the Ether shines with heavenly fires,

    Or Earth extends, or circling Ocean rolls.

    Yet still insatiate, her winged navies plowed

    The burdened main, to each unplundered shore;

    For to the rich she bore immortal hate,

    And her own avarice still prepared her fall.

    Even former pleasures were beheld with scorn,

    As joys grown threadbare by too vulgar use.

    The soldier now admired the Assyrian dye,

    And now the western charmed his fickle pride.

    Numidia here the lofty roof sustained;

    There shone the honors of Chinese looms; [200]

    Arabia of her balmy sweets was spoiled;

    Yet still unquenched, the lust of ravage burned.

    In Maurian wilds, and Ammon’s distant reign, [201]

    Monsters were captured for our cruel sports.

    The stranger tiger in his golden cage

    Now crossed the main to press our friendly shore;

    Whilst joyful Rome her monster entertained

    With purple streams of her own kindred blood.

    I blush to speak, I tremble to recite

    Our Persian manners, [202] and our curse of Fate!

    From youth they snatched the man with cruel art,

    Whilst Venus [203] frowned over the retreating tide;

    As if they thought to favor the deceit,

    Even age itself would, like that tide, retire!

    Nature was lost, and sought herself in vain.

    Hence naught but lewd effeminacies please,

    Soft curling hair, and wantonness of dress,

    And all that can disgrace man’s godlike form.

    From Africa slaves and purple carpets come,

    With citron tables, rich in golden stains,

    Around whose costly, but dishonored pride,

    Buried in wine, the giddy drunkards lie.

    Nothing escapes our raging lust of taste;

    The soldier draws his sword in rapine’s cause;

    And from Sicilia’s distant main the scar

    Is brought alive to our luxurious board;

    The Lucrine shore is of its oysters spoiled, [204]

    And hunger purchased with the expensive sauce;

    Phasis [205] is widowed of its feathered race,

    And nothing heard over all the desert strand

    But trees remurmuring to the passing gales.

    Nor less in Mars’s Field [206] corruption swayed,

    Where every vote was prostitute to gain;

    The people and the Senate both were sold. [207]

    Even age itself was deaf to virtue’s voice,

    And all its court to sordid interest paid,

    Beneath whose feet lay trampled majesty.

    Even Cato’s self [208] was by the crowd exiled,

    Whilst he who won suffused with blushes stood,

    Ashamed to snatch the power from worthier hands.

    Oh! Shame to Rome and to the Roman name!

    It was not one man alone whom they exiled,

    But banished virtue, fame and freedom too.

    Thus wretched Rome her own destruction bought,

    Herself the merchant, and herself the ware.

    Besides, in debt was the whole empire bound,

    A prey to usury’s insatiate jaws;

    Not one could call his house, or self, his own;

    But debts on debts like silent fevers wrought,

    Till through the members they the vitals seized.

    Fierce tumults now they to their succor call,

    And war must heal the wounds of luxury;

    For want may safely dare without a fear.

    And sunk in hopeless misery, what could wake

    Licentious Rome from her voluptuous trance,

    But fire, and sword, and all the din of arms?

    Three mighty chiefs kind fortune had supplied,

    Whom cruel Fate in various manners slew.

    The Parthian fields were drunk with Crassus’ gore; [209]

    Great Pompey perished on the Libyan main; [210]

    And thankless Rome saw greater Julius bleed. [211]

    Thus as one soil too narrow were to hold

    Their rival dust, their ashes shared the World.

    But their immortal glory never dies.

    Between Naples and Dicharchian fields extends

    A horrid gulf, immensely deep and wide,

    Through which Cocytus [212] rolls his lazy streams,

    And poisons all the air with sulphurous fogs.

    No autumn here ever clothes himself with green,

    Nor joyful spring the languid herbage cheers;

    Nor feathered warblers chant their mirthful strains

    In vernal comfort to the rustling boughs;

    But Chaos reigns, and ragged rocks around

    With naught but baleful cypress are adorned.

    Amidst these horrors Pluto [213] raised his head,

    With mingled flames and ashes sprinkled,

    Stopped Fortune [214] in her flight, and thus addressed:

    Oh! You controller of both Earth and Heaven,

    Who had the power which too securely stands,

    And only heap thy favors to resume;

    Do you not sink beneath Rome’s ponderous weight,

    Unable to sustain her tottering pride?

    Even Rome herself beneath her burden groans,

    And ill sustains monopoly of power.

    For see elate in luxury of spoils,

    Her golden domes invade the frighted skies!

    Sea is turned to land, and land is turned to sea,

    And injured nature mourns her slighted laws.

    Even me they threaten, and besiege my throne;

    The Earth is ransacked for her treasured stores,

    And in the solid hills such caverns made,

    That murmuring ghosts begin to hope for day.

    Change, Fortune, therefore change this prideful scene!

    Fire every Roman’s breast with civil rage,

    And give new subjects to my desert reign!

    For never have I been joyed with human gore,

    Nor my Tisiphone [215] ever quenched her thirst,

    Since Sulla’s sword let loose the purple tide, [216]

    And reaped the harvest of insatiate death.

    He spoke . . . and behold! The opening Earth disclosed,

    And to the Goddess’ hand his hand he joined.

    Then Fortune, smiling, this reply addressed:

    Oh! Father who Cocytus’ empire sways!

    If dangerous truths may safely be revealed,

    Enjoy your wish! not less my anger boils,

    And in my breast as fierce resentment burns.

    I hate the height to which I’ve lifted Rome,

    And my own lavished favors now repent.

    But that same God who built her haughty power,

    Shall soon re-humble to the dust her pride.

    Then I’ll with transport light the general flame,

    And with the plenteous slaughter feast revenge.

    Methinks I see Thessalia’s fatal plain

    Already heaped with dead, and funeral piles

    Innumerous blazing on Iberia’s shore!

    I see the Libyan sands stained with blood,

    And sevenfold Nile groans with prophetic fears!

    On every side the clang of arms resounds,

    An Actium’s flight seems present to my eyes! [217]

    Then open all the portals of thy Reign,

    And give thy crowding subjects free access!

    Old Charon in his boats can ne’er convey [218]

    The shoals of ghosts that for their passage wait,

    But needs a fleet!—Tisiphone may then

    Quench her dire thirst, and cloy herself with Fate.

    The mangled World is hurrying to thy Reign.

    Scarce ended she her words, when from a cloud

    Blue lightnings flashed, and sudden thunders roared.

    Affrighted Pluto feared his brother’s darts,

    And trembling hid his head in shades of night.

    The gods by dreadful omens straight disclosed

    The deathful horrors of approaching Fate.

    The Sun in bloody clouds obscured his rays,

    As if he mourned the dreadful scene begun;

    Whilst trembling Cynthia [219] fled the impious sight,

    Quenching her orb, and from the World withdrew.

    Mountains by sudden storms were overturned;

    And erring rivers left their channels dry.

    Even Heaven itself confesses the alarm,

    And fierce battalions skirmish in the clouds;

    Etna [220] redoubles all her sulphurous rage,

    And darts strange lightnings at the affrighted sky;

    Unburied ghosts too wander round the tombs,

    And with impatient threatenings ask repose;

    A fiery comet shakes her blazing hair;

    And wondering Jove descends in showers of blood.

    Nor was it long that Heaven the event concealed;

    For mighty Caesar panting for revenge,

    Gave peace to Gaul, and flew to civil arms. [221]

    Upon the towering Alps’ remotest height,

    Where the cragged rocks look down upon the clouds,

    A Grecian altar to Alcides smokes.

    There everlasting Winter bars access,

    And the ambitious summit props the skies;

    No Summer ever darts his genial beams,

    Nor vernal Zephyrs cheer the joyless air;

    But snows on snows accumulated rise,

    The icy pillars of the starry orb.

    Here Caesar with his joyful legions climbed;

    Here camped; and from the lofty precipice,

    Surveying all Hesperia’s fertile plains. [222]

    With hands uplifted, thus addressed his prayer:

    Almighty Jove! And thou, Saturnian Earth,

    So often by me with filial triumphs graced!

    Witness these arms I with reluctance bear,

    Compelled by matchless wrongs to war’s redress.

    Exiled and interdicted, whilst the Rhine

    Is swelled beyond its banks with native gore,

    And to his Alps confined the haughty Gaul,

    Once more to storm your Capitol prepared.

    But what reward has all these toils repaid?

    Conquest alas! is by herself undone!

    Germania vanquished a new crime is deemed,

    And sixty triumphs are with exile crowned.

    But what are they my glory thus compels

    To count the aid of mercenary arms?

    Oh! Shame to Rome! My Rome disowns their birth

    Nor shall they long her injured honors stain,

    Beneath this arm their envious Chief shall fall!

    Come fellow victors, rouse your martial rage,

    And with your conquering swords assert my cause!

    One is our danger, and our crime the same.

    It was not I alone reaped glory’s field,

    But thanks to you! by you these laurels won;

    Then since disgrace and punishment’s decreed,

    Mutual our trophies and victorious toils,

    The die will be thrown! and Fortune judge the cast!

    Let each brave warrior grasp his shining blade!

    For me my rights already crowned appear,

    Nor amidst so many heroes doubt success.

    He spoke. . . . When swift-descending from the Sky,

    The bird of Jove urged his auspicious flight.

    Strange voices in the left-hand woods were heard;

    And issuing flames flashed through the sylvan gloom.

    Phoebus [Apollo] himself assumed his brightest beams,

    And with unusual splendor cheered the day.

    Fired with the omen, dauntless Caesar bids

    His engines move; himself the first to essay

    The dangerous path; for yet in frost confined

    And peaceful horrors lay the passive ground.

    But when with ardent feet the innumerous train

    Of men and horse and icy fetters loosed,

    To fierce resistance swelled the melted snows,

    And sudden rivers over the mountains rolled.

    But soon again as if by Fate’s command,

    The rising waves in icy billows stood;

    Whilst in confusion over the treacherous path

    Horses and men and mingled standards lay.

    To aid the horror, sudden winds compel

    The gathering clouds, and burst into a storm,

    Thick over their ringing arms and hail descends,

    And from the Ether pours an icy sea;

    One common ruin conquers Earth and Sky,

    And frighted rivers hurry over their banks;

    But dauntless Caesar aided by his spear

    Still presses forward with unshaken soul.

    With such an ardor was Alcides fired, [223]

    When down Caucasian steeps he rushed to fame.

    And thus descending from Olympus’ brow,

    Almighty Jove the giants put to flight.

    Meantime on trembling pinions through the Skies

    To Mount Palatium frighted Rumor flew. [224]

    And to astonished Rome these tidings bore:

    A hostile Fleet is riding on the main,

    And over the Alps, with German conquests flushed,

    The vengeful Legions pour on guilty Rome.

    Straight Fire and Sword and all the dreadful train

    Of civil rage before their eyes appear!

    Distracting tumults every bosom swayed,

    And Reason amidst the dubious fears was lost.

    This flies by land, and that confides the sea,

    As far less dangerous than his native shores!

    These run to arms; Fate aids the wild affright,

    And each obeys the guidance of his fears.

    No certain course the giddy vulgar know,

    But through the Gates in thronged confusion crowd,

    And rival terror;—Rome to Rumor yields,

    And weeping Romans leave their native seats.

    This is his hand his trembling children leads,

    And this his gods within his bosom hides,

    His long-loved threshold quits with mournful looks.

    And wings his curses at the absent foe.

    There on the husband’s breast the bride complains;

    And here his father’s age a pious youth

    Supports with filial care, nor feels his load,

    Nor fears but for his venerable charge.

    Whilst these, insensate! to the field convey

    Their treasured wealth, and glut the war with spoils.

    As on the deep when stormy Auster blows, [225]

    And mounts the billows with tumultuous rage,

    The affrighted seamen ply their arts in vain;

    The pilots stand aghast; these lash their sails;

    Whilst these make land, and those avoid the shores,

    And rather Fortune than the rocks confide.

    But what can paint the fears that seized all men,

    When both the Consuls [226] with great Pompey [227] fled?

    Pompey, Hydaspes’ and proud Pontus’ scourge,

    The rock of Pirates, whom with wonder Jove

    Had thrice beheld in the triumphal car!

    That mighty Chief who gave the Euxine laws, [228]

    And taught the admiring Bosphorus to obey,

    Oh shame! Deserted the Imperial name,

    And meanly left both Rome and Fame behind!

    Whilst fickle Fortune gloried in his flight.

    The Gods with horror see the intestine jars,

    And even celestial breasts consent to fear.

    For see the mild pacific train depart.

    Exiled the World by our impiety!

    First soft-winged Peace extends her snowy arm,

    And pulling over her brows her olive wreath,

    Seeks the Elysian shades with hasty flight.

    On her with downcast eyes meek Faith attends,

    And mourning Justice with disheveled hair,

    And weeping Concord with her garments rent.

    But joyful Hell unbolts the brazen doors,

    And all her Furies quit the Stygian Court.

    Threatening Bellona [229] with Erinys joins,

    And dire Megaera armed with fiery brands. [230]

    Pale Death, insidious Fraud, and Massacre,

    With Rage, burst forth! Who from his fetters freed,

    Lifts high his gory head; a helmet hides

    His wounded visage, and his left hand grasps

    The shield of Mars horrid with countless darts. [231]

    Whilst in his right a flaming torch appears,

    To light destruction, and to fire the world.

    The Gods descending also left the skies,

    Whilst wondering Atlas missed his usual load; [232]

    And mortal jars even Heaven itself divide.

    In Caesar’s cause Dione first appeared; [233]

    Her Pallas [234] aided, and the God of War [235].

    Whilst in espousal of brave Pompey’s part

    Cynthia and Phoebus [236] and Cyllene’s son [237]

    And his own model, great Alcides, [238] joined.

    The trumpets sound! When straight fell Discord [239] raised

    Her Stygian head, and shook her matted locks.

    With clotted blood her face was covered over,

    And gummy horrors from her eyes distilled;

    Two rows of cankered teeth deformed her mouth,

    And from her tongue a stream of poison flowed;

    While hissing serpents played around her cheeks;

    Her livid skin with rags was scarce concealed,

    And in her trembling hand a torch she shook.

    Ascending thus from the Tartarean gloom,

    She reached the top of lofty Apennine;

    Whence viewing all the subject land and sea,

    And armies floating on the crowded plains,

    This into words her joyful fury broke:

    Now, rush you Nations, rush to mutual arms,

    And let Dissension’s torch forever burn!

    For flight no longer will the Coward save,

    Nor age, nor sex, nor children’s pity move,

    But the Earth tremble, and her haughtiest towers

    Shake in convulsive ruins to the ground.

    Do you, Marcellus, the decree uphold;

    And Curio, you excite the madding crowd!

    Nor you, persuasive Lentulus, forbear [240]

    To aid the faction with your potent tongue!

    But why, O Caesar, this delayed revenge?

    Why burst you not the gates of guilty Rome,

    And make her treasured pride your welcome prey?

    And you, O Pompey, know you not your power?

    If you should fear Rome, to Epidamnus haste, [241]

    And feast Thessalia’s plain with human gore!

    So Discord spoke. . . . The impious Earth obeyed.

    Eumolpus having declaimed this effusion with prodigious volubility, we eventually entered the gates of Croton. Here we stayed at a small, mean inn, but started out next morning to find a lodging of greater pretensions. We soon fell in with a mob of legacy hunters, [242] who plied us with questions as to who we were and where we came from. So we answered both inquiries, in strict accordance with the plan arranged between us, with an exaggerated glibness, and they believed every word of it; for they instantly put their fortunes at Eumolpus’s disposal, almost fighting which should be first to do him this service. One and all offer presents, in order to curry favor with the supposed millionaire.

    [ch. 125] Things went on thus at Croton for a long time, till Eumolpus, intoxicated with success, so completely forgot his former lowly condition as to boast to his followers how no one could resist his influence, and that any misdemeanor they might have committed in the town, they could carry off with impunity by his friends’ good offices. For my part however, though every day I stuffed my swollen carcass with a greater superfluity of good things and really thought Fortune had at last ceased watching me with an eye of malevolence, still I often reflected on my present mode of life and the way it had come about. “What if some astute legacy hunter,” I often said to myself, “sent someone to Africa to make inquiries, and discovered our swindle? What if Eumolpus’s servant, as is just possible, sick of this life of luxury, should give a hint to his cronies and betray the whole imposture out of malice? Why! we should just have to fly once more, return to the penury we have at last got the better of, and start begging afresh. Gods and goddesses of heaven! what a life outlaws lead, forever dreading the penalty of one felony or another!” [.…]

    While staying in Croton, Encolpius becomes entangled with a prosperous woman named Circe (an allusion to the sorceress of the same name from The Odyssey and probably used as a fake name). Encolpius, likewise, calls himself Polyaenos, one of Odysseus’ epithets. In the following speech, Circe’s maid Chrysis addresses Polyaenos.

    [ch. 126] “But I see, because you know your own beauty, you give yourself airs, and sell your favors, instead of giving them. What else can those waved and well combed locks mean, and that made-up face, and the languishing look of your eyes? For what else that studied gait, and mincing steps that never exceed a measured pace, except to sell your person by the meretricious display of your charms? Look at me; I am no augur, no student of the planets like the astrologers, yet I can infer a man’s character from his looks, and foretell his intentions the moment I see his way of walking. Therefore, if you are willing to sell us what I require, there’s a customer all ready; or, if you will give it, like a gentleman, we shall be glad to be under this obligation to you. You tell me you are a slave and a common varlet; this only the more inflames my mistress’s heated imagination. There are women who fancy muck, whose passions are stirred only at the sight of slaves or runner boys with bare legs. Others are hot after gladiators, or dusty muleteers, or actors swaggering on the boards. This is the sort my mistress is; she jumps clean over the fourteen rows from orchestra to gallery, to seek her choice among the rabble of the back benches.” [243]

    So, charmed with her fascinating chatter, “Tell me, my dear,” I said, “is this lady who loves me yourself?”The maid laughed heartily at my cool way of putting it, saying, “Please! Please! don’t be so mighty pleased with yourself. I’ve never given myself to a slave yet; and God forbid I should waste my embraces on gallows-birds. ‘It is their own lookout, if ladies go kissing the marks the lash has left; for my part, though I’m only a servant maid, I never go with anybody below an equestrian.” [244] I was astounded at such abnormal predilections, and thought it monstrous thus to find the maid with the mistress’s fastidiousness, the mistress with the maid’s vulgar tastes.

    Presently, after further pleasantries had passed, I begged the girl to bring her mistress into the plane tree avenue. She was quite agreeable, and tucking up her skirts dived into a laurel wood that bordered the promenade. In a very few moments she brought out her mistress from where she was hiding, and led her up to me, a more perfect being than ever artist fashioned. There are no words to express her beauty, for anything I can say will fall far short of the reality. Her locks, which curled naturally, rippled all over her shoulders, her brow was low, the hair being turned back from it, her brows, extending to the very spring of the cheek, almost met between the eyes, which shone brighter than stars in a moonless sky, her nose was slightly aquiline, her little mouth such as Praxiteles gave Diana. [245] Chin, neck, hands, snow-white feet confined in elegant sandals of gold work, all vied with Parian marble in brilliancy. For the first time I thought lightly of Doris, whose long-time admirer I was.

    Why tarries Jove, scorning the arts of Love,

    Mute and inglorious in the heavens above?

    How well the bull would now the god become,

    Or his gray hairs to be transformed to down!

    Here’s Danae’s self,—a touch from her would fire,

    And make the God in liquid joys expire. [246]

    [127] Quite delighted, she smiled so sweetly I thought I saw the moon breaking full-faced from a cloud. Presently, with fingers punctuating her words, she laughed, “If you are not too proud to enjoy a woman of condition, and one who only within the year has known your sex. I offer you a ‘sister,’ fair youth. You have a ‘brother’ already, I know, for I did not disdain to make inquiries, but what hinders you to adopt a sister too? I claim a similar dignity. Only taste and try, when you will, how you like my kisses.”

    “Nay!” I replied, “by your own loveliness I adjure you, deign to admit an alien among your worshipers. You will find him a sincere devotee, if you give him leave to adore you. And that you may not think I enter this temple of Love giftless, I will sacrifice my ‘brother’ to you.”

    “What!” she cried, “you sacrifice to me the being you cannot live without, on whose kisses your happiness depends, whom you love as I would have you love me?” As she said these words, they sounded so sweetly you might have thought it was the Sirens’ harmonies floating on the breeze. [247] So, lost in admiration and dazzled with a wondrous effulgence brighter than the light of heaven, I was inclined to ask my divinity’s name.

    “Why! did not my maid tell you,” she replied, “I was called Circe? I am not indeed the daughter of the Sun; nor did my mother ever stay at her good pleasure the course of the revolving globe. Still I have one noble boon to thank heaven for, if the fates unite us two. Yes! Some god’s mysterious, silent workings are beneath all this. ‘It is not without a cause Circe loves Polyaenos; a great torch of sympathy flames between these names. Then take your will of me, beloved one. For we have no prying interference to dread, and your ‘brother’ is far away.” [248]

    With these words Circe threw her arms, that were softer than down, around my neck, and drew me down on the flower-bespangled grass:

    On Ida’s top, when Jove his nymph caressed,

    And lawless heat in open view expressed,

    His mother Earth in all her charms was seen,

    The rose, the violet, the sweet jasmine,

    And the fair lily smiling on the green.

    Such was the plat whereon my Venus lay;

    Our Love was secret, but the charming day

    Was bright, like her, and as her temple gay.

    Side by side on the grass we lay, dallying with a thousand kisses, the prelude to robuster joys […]

    [ch. 128] [Circe to “Polyaenos”] “What now? do my kisses revolt you? is my breath offensive with fasting? are my armpits uncleanly and smelling? If it is nothing of this sort, can it be that you are afraid of Giton?” Flushing hotly at her words, I lost any little vigor still left me, and my whole frame feeling dislocated, I besought my mistress, “Do not, my Queen, aggravate my misery. I am bewitched.” […]

    [Circe to her maid] “Tell me, Chrysis,” she said, “and tell me true. Am I repulsive? Am I sluttish? Is there some natural blemish that disfigures my beauty? Do not deceive your mistress; there must be something strangely amiss about us.” Then, as Chrysis stood silent, she snatched up a mirror, and after rehearsing all the looks and smiles lovers are wont to exchange, she shook out her robe that lay crumpled on the ground, and flounced off into the temple of Venus. [249] I was left standing like a convicted felon, or a man horror-struck with some awful vision, asking myself whether the bliss I had been cheated of was indeed a reality or only a dream.

    As when in sleep our wanton fancy sports,

    And our fond eyes with hidden riches courts,

    We hug the theft; the smiling treasure fills

    Our guilty hands; the conscious sweat distills;

    Whilst laboring fear sits heavy on the mind,

    Lest the big secret should an utterance find.

    But when with night the illusive joys retreat,

    And our eyes open to the gay deceit,

    That which we never possessed, as lost, we mourn,

    And for imaginary blessings burn […]

    [Giton to Encolpius] “Well! Thank you, thank you for the Socratic innocency of your passion. Alcibiades was not more uncontaminated when he lay in his preceptor’s bed.” […] [250]

    [ch. 129] [Encolpius to Giton] “I tell you, little brother,” I went on, “I have lost all knowledge and sense of manhood. Dead and buried is that part of me that once made me a very Achilles!” […] [251]

    Seeing I was really unnerved, and afraid, if he were caught alone with me, it might give rise to scandal, he withdrew in haste, retreating to an inner room of the house […]

    He was hardly gone when Chrysis entered my room and handed me her mistress’s tablets, [252] on which was written the following letter:

    “CIRCE TO POLYAENOS—GREETING. If I were a mere wanton, I should complain of my disappointment. Instead I am positively grateful to your impotence; for so I enjoyed longer dalliance with the semblance of pleasure. What I ask is, how you do, and whether you got home on your own legs; for doctors say a man cannot walk without nerves. I will tell you what I think; beware, young Sir, of paralysis. I never saw a patient in more imminent danger; upon my word and honor, you are as good as dead already. If a similar lethargy strikes your knees and hands, I would advise you to send immediately for the undertaker’s men. Well! well! dire as is the affront I have received, still I will never grudge a prescription to a man in your miserable plight. If you would be cured, ask Giton’s help. You will recover your nerve, I assure you, if you sleep three nights running apart from your ‘little brother.’ For myself, I have no fear but I can find another admirer to love me a little. My mirror and my reputation both tell me this is true. Farewell, (if you can).”

    As soon as Chrysis saw I had read this caustic epistle to the end, “These accidents are common enough,” she said, “and particularly in this city, where there are women who can lure down the moon out of the sky. So never fear, your matter shall be set right; only write back graciously to my mistress and restore her confidence with a candid and gently-worded reply. For to tell you the honest truth—from the hour you wronged her, she has not been her own woman.”

    I complied very willingly with the girl’s suggestion, and wrote the following answer on the tablets:

    [ch. 130] “POLYAENOS TO CIRCE—GREETING. I confess, Lady, I have often offended; I am but a man, and a young one still. But never before this day have I done mortal sin. The criminal admits his crime; any penalty you inflict, I have richly deserved. I have betrayed a trust, slain a man, violated a temple; assign due punishment for all these crimes. If you choose to kill me, I hand you my sword; if you are satisfied with stripes, I haste to throw myself naked at my mistress’s feet. Remember one thing only, it was not myself, but my tools that failed me. The soldier was ready but he had no arms. What so demoralized me, I cannot tell. Perhaps my imagination outran my lagging powers, perhaps in my all-aspiring eagerness, I lavished by ardor prematurely. I know not how it was. You bid me beware of paralysis; as if a greater palsy could exist than that which robbed me of the power to possess you. But this is the sum and substance of my plea: I will satisfy you yet, if you will grant me leave to repair my fault.”

    After dismissing Chrysis with fair promises of this sort, I put my body, which had served me so ill, into special training, and omitted the bath together, restricted myself to a moderate use of unguents. Then adopting a more fortifying diet, that is to say onions and snails’ heads without sauce, I also cut down my wine. Finally composing my nerves by an easy walk before retiring, I went to bed with no Giton to share my couch. For, anxious as I was to make my peace, I was afraid of even the slightest contact with my favorite.

    [ch. 131] Next day, having risen sound in mind and body, I went down to the same plane tree walk, though truly I felt a dread of the ominous locality, and waited for Chrysis to act as my guide. After strolling to and fro for a while, I had just sat down in the same spot as the day before, when she came in sight, bringing a little old woman with her. When she had saluted me, “How now, Sir Squeamish,” she began, “do you feel yourself in better fettle?”

    The old woman meantime drew from her pocket a hank of plaited yarns of different colors, and tied it round my neck. Then puddling dust and spittle together, she dipped her middle finger in the mess, and disregarding my repugnance, marked my forehead with it [….]

    The incantation ended, she bade me spit out thrice, and thrice toss pebbles into my bosom, which she had wrapped up in purple after pronouncing a charm over them. Then putting her hands to my privates, she began to try my virile condition. Quicker than thought the nerves obeyed her summons, and filled the old lady’s hand with a huge erection. Then jumping for joy, “Look, Chrysis, look,” she cried, “how I’ve started the hare for other folk to course.” [….]

    Where noble Planes cast a refreshing shade,

    And well-cared Pines their shaking tops displayed,

    And Daphne [253] amidst the Cypress crowned her head.

    Near-by a circling river gently flows,

    And rolls the pebbles as it murmuring goes.

    A spot designed for Love; the nightingale

    And gentle swallow its delights can tell,

    Who on each bush salute the coming day,

    And in their orgies sing its hours away [.…]

    She lay luxuriously stretched on golden cushions, which supported her marble neck, fanning the calm air with a branch of flowering myrtle. [254] Directly she saw me, she blushed a little, no doubt remembering yesterday’s affront; presently, when we were quite alone, and at her invitation I had sat down by her side, she laid the branch over my eyes, and this emboldening her as if a wall had been raised between us, “How goes it, paralytic?” she laughed, “are you quite recovered, that you’ve come back again today?” “Why ask me,” I returned, “instead of testing things?” and throwing myself bodily into her arms, I took my fill of good, healthy, unbewitched kisses.

    [ch. 132] Her loveliness drew me irresistibly to her and disposed me to enjoyment. Already had our lips joined in many a sounding kiss, our fingers interlocked had played all sorts of amorous pranks, our two bodies had twined in mutual embraces till our very souls seemed fused in one [.…]

    Lashed to fury by two such dire affronts, the lady ends by seeking vengeance, and summoning her chamberlains, orders me a sound thumping. Not content with this cruel treatment of me, she calls together all the spinning wenches and meanest drudges of the house, and bids them spit at me. Clapping my hands to my eyes, and without one word of expostulation, for I knew I richly deserved it all, I fled from the house, driven forth under a hurricane of blows and spittle. Proselenos [255] is kicked out too, and Chrysis beaten. The whole household was in dismay, all grumbling together and asking who it was had put their mistress in so vile a temper [….]

    This was some compensation and encouragement to me, and I carefully hid the marks of the blows I had received, not to make Eumolpus merry over my disaster, or Giton sad for the same reason. The only thing I could do to save my dignity was to pretend to be ill; this I did, and creeping into bed, turned the whole fire of my wrath against the vile cause of all my calamities:

    With dreadful steel the part I would have lopped;

    Thrice from my trembling hand the razor dropped.

    Now, what I might before, I could not do;

    For, cold as ice, the shuddering thing withdrew,

    And shrank behind a wrinkled canopy.

    Hiding its head from my revenge and me.

    Thus by its fear I’m balked of my intent,

    And in mere mouthing words my anger vent.

    So raising myself on my elbow, I address the recreant [256] in some such terms as these, “What have you to say for yourself, abomination of gods and men? For indeed your very name must not be mentioned by self-respecting folks. Did I merit such treatment from you,—to be dragged down from heaven’s bliss to hell’s torments, to have the prime and vigor of my years maligned and to be reduced to the imbecility of dotage? Give me, I beseech you, give me a proof you are yet good for something.” In words such as these I vented my irritation.

    But with averted eyes, unmoved he mourned

    Nor to my fond reproach one look returned;

    Like bended osiers trembling o’er a brook,

    Or wounded poppies by no zephyr shook.

    Nevertheless, on reaching the end of this undignified expostulation, I began to be ashamed of what I had been saying, and to blush furtively at having so far forgotten my self-respect as to bandy words with a part of my person men of graver sort do not so much as deign to notice. Presently after rubbing my brow awhile, “After all, what have I done so much amiss,” I asked myself, “in thus relieving my resentment by means of a little natural abuse? Do we not habitually curse various parts of our bodies, our belly, throat,—head even, when it aches, as it often does? Does not Ulysses quarrel with his own heart? And do not our tragedians rail at their own eyes, as if they could hear? The gouty abuse their feet, the rheumatic their hands, the sore-eyed their optics; and does not a man who has damaged his toes, vent all the agony of his pain on his poor feet?”

    Why do you look at me, Cato, with furrowed brow,

    and why do you condemn a work of novel simplicity?

    The easy grace of refined speech smiles,

    and whatever people do an honest tongue recounts.

    Who does not know about sex, the pleasures of Venus?

    Who avoids heating their limbs on a warm couch?

    Epicurus himself, father of truth, skilled in art,

    recommends it, and said that this is living!

    Nothing is falser than mankind’s silly prejudices,

    or sillier than an affectation of peculiar gravity [.…][257]

    [ch. 133] My declamation ended, I called Giton to me and asked him, “Tell me, darling, tell me on your honor; that night Ascyltos stole you from me, did he resort to active violence upon you, or was he content with a night of self-restraint and continence?” The lad touched his eyes, and swore in the most solemn terms that Ascyltos had done him no harm [....]

    Dropping on my knees at the temple threshold I besought the deity’s [258] intervention in the following lines:

    Delight of Bacchus, guardian of the groves,

    The kind restorer of decaying loves,

    Lesbos and verdant Thasos thee implore, [259]

    Whose maids thy power in wanton rites adore;

    Joy of the dryads, with propitious care [260]

    Attend my wishes, and indulge my prayer.

    My guiltless hands with blood I never stained,

    Or sacrilegiously the gods profaned;

    Thus low I bow; restoring blessings send,

    I did not thee with my whole self offend,

    Who sins through weakness is less guilty thought;

    Indulge my crime, and spare a venial fault.

    When kindly Fate shall genial gifts allow,

    I’ll, not ungrateful, to thy godhead bow.

    A sucking pig I’ll offer at thy shrine.

    And sacred bowls brimful of generous wine;

    A destined goat shall on thy altars lie,

    And the horned parent of my flock shall die.

    Then thrice thy frantic votaries shall round

    Thy temple dance, with smiling garlands crowned,

    And most devoutly drunk, thy orgies sound.

    Whilst I was thus engaged, anxiously intent on the part affected, the old woman entered the shrine with disheveled hair and wearing black garments all in a state of disorder, and laying her hand on my shoulder led me outside the vestibule […]

    [ch. 134] [Proselenos to Encolpius] “What foul witches have devoured your manhood?” she exclaimed; “What refuse or what garbage have you trod on in the streets at night? You could not so much as do your duty by the boy; but flabby, faint and weary, like a cart-horse at a hill, you wasted your labor and your sweat in vain! And now, not content with your own delinquencies, you have set the gods against me as well!” [.…]

    So she led me unresisting back again into the temple and to the priestess’s chamber, where she pushed me down on the bed, and snatching up a cane that hung behind the door, she gave me yet another thrashing. Still I said not a word, and if the cane had not split at the first stroke, and so lessened the force of her blows, she would likely have broken my arms or my head. I groaned dismally, particularly at the way she worked my member, and bursting into a torrent of weeping, hid my face in my hand and cowered down on the pillow. The old woman was also melted to tears, and sitting down on the other side of the bed, began to complain in quavering tones of the tediousness of having lived too long.

    Presently the priestess came in, “Why! what has brought you to my chamber,” she cried, “and with these long faces, as if you have come to a funeral? And on a holiday too, when the most sorrow-laden laugh for once.”

    “Oh, it’s this young man here, Oenothea,” [261] the old woman answered; “for sure, he was born under an evil star; he cannot sell his goods to boy or girl. You never saw so unfortunate a fellow; soaked leather, that’s what his tool is! What do you think of a man, I ask you that, who left Circe’s bed without having tasted pleasure?” On hearing this, Oenothea sat down between us, and after shaking her head awhile, “I am the only woman,” she said, “who knows how to cure this complaint. And so that you may not think I’m doing this at random, I require the young fellow to sleep one night with me, and see if I don’t make it stiff as horn!

    Everything you see obeys me, flowery Earth

    grows dry and weary when I want,

    and when I want she flourishes, while the peaks and harsh rocks.

    send forth waters like the Nile. For me the sea

    calms its swell, and the west wind places its force;

    at my feet. Rivers obey me;

    tigers and snakes stop at my command.

    Why do I mention these trivial things? The image of the moon

    descends, charmed by my spells, the fearful god of the sun

    is compelled to turn back his horses, his path reversed.

    So powerful are my spells. Sacred Medea restrained

    the fire-breathing bulls. Circe, daughter of the Sun,

    transformed Ulysses’ companions with spells;

    Proteus can take what form he pleases. I will skillfully

    plant mountain plants in the sea

    and make streams flow back to mountain tops. [262]

    [ch. 135] I shuddered with terror to hear her promise such miracles, and began to scrutinize the old woman more carefully [.…]

    “Now,” exclaimed Oenothea, “now do as I tell you.” And after washing her hands with scrupulous care, she bent over the couch and kissed me again and again [.…]

    She then placed an old table on the middle of the altar, and filling it with live coals, proceeded to patch up an ancient bowl, so time-worn it was falling to pieces, with melted pitch. Next she put back in the smoke-begrimed wall a peg which had come down along with the wooden bowl, when she unhitched the latter. Presently after donning a square cloak, she set a huge cooking-pot on the fire, at the same time with a fork reaching down a cloth from the meat-rack, in which was stored a supply of beans and some exceedingly stale pieces of pig’s cheek, slashed with a thousand cuts. She undid the string, shook out some of the contents on to the table, and bade me strip them smartly. Obeying her orders, I proceed carefully to separate the beans from the filthy pods that contained them. But Oenothea, chiding my slowness, incontinently snatches them from me, and instantly stripping off the husks with her teeth, spits them out on the ground, where they looked just like dead flies [.…]

    I could not help admiring the ingenuity of poverty, and the knack there is in every single thing.

    No Indian ivories here are set in gold,

    No marble covers the deluded mold;

    Void of expensive art, the reverent shrine

    With natural modest ornaments doth shine.

    Round Ceres’ bower the bending osier grows; [263]

    Earthen is all the plate the priestess knows;

    The jug is earth which holds the holy wine,

    Osier the dish, sacred to Powers divine;

    No brazen baubles are here, no purple pride,

    Mud and dirt mixed the pious relics hide;

    Rushes and reeds the humble roof adorn,

    And straw deprived of its autumnal corn.

    On an old shelf a savory ham is found,

    And service-berries into garlands bound.

    Such a low cottage Hecale confined, [264]

    Low was her dwelling, but sublime her mind.

    Her bounteous heart a grateful praise shall crown,

    And Muses make immortal her renown.

    [ch. 136] Then, having shelled the beans and eaten a scrap of the meat, she took a fork and went to replace the pig’s cheek, which was as old as she was; but the rotten stool, on which she had climbed so as to reach up to the rack, broke under the old woman’s weight and threw her on the fire. The lip of the cooking-pot was smashed, and put out the fire that was just burning up; the woman’s elbow was burnt by a red-hot ember, and her whole face begrimed with the flying ashes. I sprang up in dismay, and not without some inward laughter, set the old thing on her legs again; this accomplished, she ran instantly to a neighbor’s to replenish the fire, that nothing might delay the sacrifice [….]

    I was making my way to the door of the cottage, [when][.…]

    Lo and behold! Three sacred geese, [265] which I suppose the old woman was in habit of feeding at midday, rushed at me and set me all in a twitter, pressing round me with their disconcerting and almost rabid cackle. One of them tore my tunic, another undid my shoestrings and dragged at them, the third, leader and director of the savage assault, actually worried my leg with its serrated beak. So, thinking it no time for nonsense, I dragged off a leg of the table, and armed with this weapon started belaboring the warlike creature. Nor was I satisfied with trifling blows, but avenged my hurt by killing the bird outright:

    Such were the birds Herculean art subdued, [266]

    And with loud tumults to the skies pursued;

    And such the Harpies the winged brothers chased

    From trembling Phineus’ illusive feast. [267]

    The heavens were startled at their clamorous flight,

    And backward seemed to roll in wild affright [.…]

    I left the creature sprawling, while its companions, after gobbling up the beans that were scattered all about the floor, and finding themselves I suppose bereft of their leader, retreated into the temple again. Then, proud of my booty and the vengeance I had exacted, I tossed the dead bird behind the bed, and washed the trifling wound in my leg with vinegar. Presently, fearing a scolding, I determined to be off, and gathering my belongings together started to leave the cottage. I had not yet crossed the threshold however when I saw Oenothea coming along with an earthen pot full of fire. I drew back again therefore, and throwing aside my robe, as if I had been waiting for her return, took my stand at the entrance. She built her fire on some reeds broken up small, and piling up the top with a number of logs, began to excuse her delay, saying her friend had refused to let her go till she had drained the three cups custom required. Then, “What have you been doing,” she asked, “in my absence? and where are the beans?”

    I really thought I had done something very praiseworthy and described the whole battle to her in detail, finally, to end her melancholy, presenting her with the dead goose in compensation for her loss. Directly the old woman set eyes on the bird, she set up such a terrible outcry you might have thought the geese had invaded the place again. Confused at this and astounded at the strange nature of my offense, I repeatedly begged her to tell me why she was so angry, and why all her pity was for the goose and none at all for me.

    [ch. 137] But beating her palms together, “How dare you speak,” she screamed, “abandoned wretch! You must know what an atrocity you have committed; you have killed the delight of Priapus, the goose that was the darling of all the matrons. You think it’s a trifle you’ve done!—if the Magistrates get wind of it, you’ll be crucified. You have polluted my home with blood, that was never profaned before; and put it in the power of any ill-wisher I may have to turn me out of my office.” [.…]

    “Don’t shout so, I beseech you,” I interposed; “I tell you, I’ll give you an ostrich for your goose.” [….]

    She was still sitting on the pallet and bewailing the goose’s untimely death, with me standing in amazement, when Proselenos arrived with the materials for the sacrifice. Directly she saw the dead bird, she asked excitedly how the calamity had occurred, and she too began to weep violently, and make as much ado over me as if I had killed my own father instead of a public goose. Feeling utterly sick of the tiresome business, “Now tell me,” I expostulated, “could not I purchase expiation for money, if it was you I had assaulted, even though I’d done murder. Look here, I offer two gold pieces, enough to buy both gods and geese with.” As soon as Oenothea saw the coins, “Forgive me, young man,” she exclaimed; “it is for your sake I am so anxious, and that shows affection surely, not malice. (And we’ll take care that no one shall know anything about it.) Only do you pray to the gods to pardon the sacrilege you have done.”

    Whoever has magic gold, secure may sail

    Wherever he please, he’s lord of Fortune’s gale;

    May in a Danae’s arms make soft abode,—

    There’s no Acrisius will dispute the God! [268]

    He may turn poet, orator, what not?

    When he harangues, old Cato is forgot!

    Or if the noisy bar delights him more,

    Behold what mighty Labeo was before! [269]

    In short—when of the money you’re possessed,

    You need but wish,—you’ve Jove within your chest.

    Meantime the priestess, bustling about, placed a bowl of wine under my hands, and making me spread out my fingers evenly, purified them with leeks and parsley. Then with a muttered charm she dipped filberts [270] in the wine, and according as they rose to the surface again, or sank, she drew her prognostications. But I did not fail to observe that the blind nuts, with nothing but air inside of kernels, naturally floated on the top, while the heavy ones, that were full and sound within, settled to the bottom [….]

    Next turning her attention to the goose, she opened its breast and drew out a fine fat liver, and proceeded to predict my future prospects from the indications it afforded. Nay! that not a trace of my crime might be left, she broke up the whole bird, and sticking the pieces on spits, prepared a very appetizing dinner for me, whom she so short a time before condemned to death with her own lips [….]

    Meantime brimming cups of unmixed wine were circulating freely [.…]

    [ch. 138] Oenothea brought out a leather dildo, which she smeared with oil and ground pepper and pounded nettle seed, and then proceeded to insert it little by little up my backside [….]

    Next the cruel old crone anoints my two thighs with the same concoction [.…]

    Then mixing nasturtium juice with southern-wood, she bathes my genitals with the stuff, and grasping a bundle of stinging nettles, begins slowly and methodically to lash my belly with them all over below the navel [….]

    Though disordered with wine and lust, they take the right road, and follow me up through several streets, screaming, “Stop thief!” However, I escaped eventually, after making all my toes bleed in the course of my headlong gallop [….]

    “Chrysis who once despised my humble condition, is now bent on following it up even at the risk of life itself.” [….]

    “What was Ariadne’s beauty, or Leda’s, compared to hers? What had Helen of Troy, or Venus herself, to boast against her? [271] If Paris, umpire of the rival goddesses, had seen her at the trial with her dancing eyes, he would have given up all to her, Helen and the goddesses three! [272] Could I but kiss that mouth, could I press that divine, that heavenly bosom, maybe my powers of body would return, and those parts of me revive that now lie torpid and, I verily believe, bewitched. No insults exhaust my patience. I have been thrashed,—’tis nothing; I have been kicked out,—’tis a merry jest; if only I may be restored to favor.” [.…]

    [ch. 139] I wore out the bed with tossing and turning, as though I saw the image of my beloved. [.…]

    “Not I alone have Heaven’s just anger felt,

    The gods with others have severely dealt;

    By Juno’s rage the heavens Alcides bore,

    And lost fair Hylas on the Pontic Shore. [273]

    Laomedon did Jove’s resentment feel, [274]

    And Telephus bled by the fatal steel. [275]

    Fate’s sure decrees no mortal power can shun,

    Nor can the swiftest from Heaven’s vengeance run” [.…]

    I asked my companion if anyone had been looking for me. “No one today,” Giton replied; “but yesterday there was a woman, stylishly dressed enough, who came in. After a long talk with me and nearly boring me to death with her forced conversation, she ended by saying you deserved the gallows and would surely get a slave’s scourging, if the individual you had wronged persisted in his complaint.” [.…]

    My invective was still in full swing when Chrysis came in, and throwing her arms wildly round my neck, exclaimed, “I have you in my arms, my heart’s desire! My love, my joy! Never, never will you end this fire of mine, but by quenching it in my blood.” [….]

    One of the newly engaged servants rushed in to tell me the master was excessively angry at my two days’ neglect of my duties. The best thing I could do, he said, was to get some plausible excuse ready; for it was hardly possible his angry passions could subside without somebody getting a thrashing. [….]

    The final two fragments of the novel relate Eumolpus’ escapades among the Crotonians.

    [ch. 140] A matron entered, a lady of the highest distinction, Philomela [276] by name, who in earlier days had won many a fat legacy by the charms of her youth; but who being old now and past her prime, used to put her son and daughter in the way of childless old men, and so continued to extend her old trade by the efforts of these successors. Well! this woman came to Eumolpus and proceeded to commend her children to his judicious guardianship, and confide herself and her hopes to his kindly good nature, asseverating he was the only man in all the world to train young people by the daily inculcation of healthy precepts; in fine, that she was leaving her children under Eumolpus’s roof, that they might hear his words of wisdom, the only heritage worth having that could be bestowed on youth. And she was as good as her word; for leaving behind her a very attractive looking girl along with her brother, a stripling, in the old man’s chamber, she left the house under pretext of visiting the temple to say her prayers.

    Eumolpus, who was so careful a soul he was ready to take even me at my age for a minion, was not long in inviting the girl to sacrifice to the rearward Venus. But then he had informed everybody he was gouty and crippled in the loins, and if he failed to keep up the pretense, he ran considerable risk of spoiling the whole play. So, to maintain the imposture intact, he begged the girl to take a seat on that kindly good nature her mother had appealed to, ordering Corax [277] at the same time to slip under the bed he lay on himself, and resting his hands on the floor, to hoist him up and down with his back. The servant obeyed, and gently seconded the child’s artful movements with a corresponding, rhythmical seesaw. Then when the crisis was coming, Eumolpus shouted out loud and clear to Corax to work faster. Thus the old fellow, suspended between his servant and his mistress, enjoyed himself as if in a swing. This exercise he repeated more than once, to the accompaniment of peals of laughter, in which he himself joined. Nor was I idle; but fearing my hand might get out of practice from disuse, I assailed the brother, where he stood admiring his sister’s gymnastics through the keyhole, to see if he were amenable to outrage. He made no bones about accepting my caresses; but once more, alas! I found the god unpropitious to my efforts. [.…]

    “It is the great gods of higher heaven who have made me a man again! Mercury, who conveys and reconveys the souls of men, has of his loving kindness given me back what an unfriendly hand had docked me of, to show you I am really more graciously endowed than ever was Protesilaus [278] or any of the mighty men of yore.” So saying, I lifted my tunic, and offered Eumolpus a view of all my glories. For an instant he stood panic-stricken; then, to make assurance doubly sure, he put out both hands and felt the good gift the gods had given me [.…]

    “Socrates, [279] wisest of mankind as both men and gods allow, was in the habit of boasting that he had never so much as glanced into a tavern, nor trusted his eyes to look at any crowded and disorderly assemblage. Nothing in the world is more advisable than always to speak within the bounds of prudence.” [.…]

    “All this is true,” I insisted, “and no class of men is more liable to come to mischance than those who covet other folks’ goods. How could mountebanks, and swindlers, live, unless they were now and again to toss a little purse or a jingling bag of money as bait to the crowd? Just as dumb beasts are enticed by food, so men may be caught only with something solid in the way of expectations to bite at.” [.…]

    [ch. 141] “The ship from Africa with your money and your slaves has not arrived, as you promised. Our fortune-hunters are tired out, and already stint their generosity. Either I am much mistaken, or the jade Fortune has begun to repent of her favors to you.” [.…]

    “All who shall receive legacies under my will, my own freedmen excepted, will inherit the said bequests subject to this condition, that is, that they must cut up my body into pieces and eat the same before the eyes of the public there present. They need not be over and above shocked, I tell them; for we know that to this day some nations observe the custom by which the dead are eaten by their relatives—so much so indeed that sick folk amongst them are often reproached for spoiling their flesh by being so long ill. I remind my friends of these facts, that they may not refuse to follow my directions, but rather consume my dead body with the same heartiness with which they prayed the living breath might leave it.” [.…]

    But the glamour of his wealth so dazzled the wretched creatures and stifled their consciences. One of them, however Gorgias, was ready to comply, provided he had not too long to wait. [.…]

    “I have no worries that your stomach will rebel; it will obey orders, once you promise it, in return for one hour’s nausea, a plethora of good things. Just shut your eyes, and pretend it’s not human flesh you’ve bolted, but a cool ten million. Besides, we’ll find some condiments, never fear, to disguise the flavor. Indeed, no meat really tastes good by itself, but is always masked in some artful way, and the recalcitrant stomach reconciled to it. Why! if you want examples to fortify your resolutions—the Saguntines, when hard pressed by Hannibal, ate human flesh; [280] and they had no legacy to expect. The men of Petelia did the same thing in the extremity of famine, looking for no other benefit from their horrid diet but simply to escape starvation. [281] When Numantia was taken by Scipio, [282] mothers were found grasping their children’s half-eaten bodies to their bosoms.” [....]

    The surviving fragments of the novel end here. Who knows what further adventures were originally described but now lost?

    Footnotes:

    [193] The penates were household gods.

    [194] Epicurus and his followers argued against the necessity of a proper burial for entrance into the afterlife.

    [195] This may be Cybele, a mother goddess popular in the Middle East and Asia Minor.

    [196] Carthage was the former stronghold of Rome’s rivals, the Carthaginians. Various Mediterranean powers struggled to control North Africa (Libya to the Greeks) because of its rich resources. There are beautiful Roman ruins in modern day Libya and Tunisia.

    [197] A mountain in Greece thought to inspire poets.

    [198] Horace was a famous Roman poet. Eumolpus quotes one of Horace’s odes.

    [199] Homer was the most famous Greek epic poet; Virgil was the equivalent for Latin epic poetry. Mount Parnassus was another mountain in Greece associated with poetic inspiration. Eumolpus’ poem is a parody of Lucan’s Civil War, an epic poem describing the civil war between Julius Caesar and Pompey the Great. Lucan was Petronius’ contemporary.

    [200] The Romans utilized several Silk Roads to obtain this prized commodity through trade.

    [201] Maurian refers to the Roman province of Mauretania in North Africa. Ammon was an Egyptian god, here standing for Egypt..

    [202] Similar to the Greeks, the Romans characterized what some decried as effeminate luxury as “Persian” or “exotic”.

    [203] Venus was goddess of sensual love, here depicted as heterosexual and offended by devotees engaging in non-heterosexual relationships.

    [204] The Romans loved oysters and seafood; overfishing was a problem then as now.

    [205] The Phasis was a river near the Black Sea, famed for its flocks of migratory birds.

    [206] During the Republic, voting was held at the Campus Martius in Rome.

    [207] SPQR, or the “Senate and the people of Rome” indicated the two main voting assemblies and the Roman state.

    [208] Marcus Porcius Cato was a famed orator and politician who tried to protect the traditional aristocratic government of the Republic against popular influence and tyranny.

    [209] As Persia was to Greece, so Parthia was to Rome -- an eastern empire whose expansion threatened Roman’s own imperial pretensions. Crassus was a wealthy Roman general who died campaigning against the Parthians.

    [210] Pompey the Great was Julius Caesar’s ally, then rival during the civil war.

    [211] This refers to Julius Caesar’s assassination in Rome by champions of the Republic.

    [212] One of the rivers of the Underworld of the dead.

    [213] Pluto was the Roman equivalent of Hades, god of the dead.

    [214] Fortuna was worshipped as a goddess in Rome.

    [215] One of the Furies, deities of vengeance.

    [216] When Lucius Cornelius Sulla became dictator, he had many senators put to death. Senators wore togas with purple stripes.

    [217] The poem lists various regions of the Roman empire embroiled in the civil war and alludes to the battle of Actium, where Mark Anthony and Cleopatra were defeated by Octavian’s fleet. Octavian later became Caesar Augustus.

    [218] Charon ferried souls over the River Styx into Hades.

    [219] The goddess Diana, associated with the moon.

    [220] An active volcano in Sicily.

    [221] Julius Caesar had campaigned in the province of “Gaul” for a decade before returning to Italy with his legions, sparking a civil war.

    [222] Given the context, this would seem to refer to Italy, although this term was sometimes used for the Iberian peninsula.

    [223] The poet is here comparing Julius Caesar to the famous mythological hero Hercules (Heracles) or Alcides.

    [224] The Palatine Hill in Rome. Rumor was often depicted as a goddess.

    [225] The North Wind.

    [226] Rome’s top elected executive leaders were two consuls, who served for one year.

    [227] Pompey the Great was Julius Caesar’s ally and rival. He had been awarded multiple triumphal processions in Rome for the success of his campaigns against Mediterranean pirates and Mithradates VI, ruler of Pontus. Pompey was married to Caesar’s daughter, Julia.

    [228] Euxine refers to the Black Sea region.

    [229] Goddess of war.

    [230] These two were Furies, deities of the Underworld who issued forth to wreak vengeance on those who broke essential laws or taboos.

    [231] Mars was god of war.

    [232] Atlas was a Titan condemned to bear the earth oh his shoulders.

    [233] Dione was one of Venus' names. Julius Caesar claimed to be descended from her.

    [234] Minerva or Pallas Athena, Ulysses/Odysseus' patroness.

    [235] Supposedly Mars, but Sarah Ruden has "Mars' son," Romulus, who was one of Rome's mythical founders (Satyricon, 107, n263).

    [236] Apollo and Diana.

    [237] Mercury.

    [238] Hercules again.

    [239] Discord is depicted here as a goddess.

    [240] Marcellus and Lentulus were two consuls and political opponents of Julius Caesar. Curio served as tribune and as such, was meant to represent the populates, who supported Julius Caesar.

    [241] Epidamnus was a city on the west coast of Greece, where Pompey was mustering his army.

    [242] Legacy hunters seek to obtain legacies or inheritances by marrying or becoming designated heirs of a wealthy individual. In other words, gold-diggers.

    [243] Freeborn Romans were not meant to become actors or charioteers because of the "shame" associated with these professions. Sections of seats at theaters and amphitheaters were reserved for particular social groups and Circe is interested in lovers below her social ranking.

    [244] That is, a member of the equestrian class, which was just below the rank of the senatorial class. Hanging from a cross refers to the fact that only those with the least legal rights faced crucifixion.

    [245] Praxiteles was a famous Greek sculptor, Diana goddess of the hunt noted for her beauty.

    [246] Encolpius recounts Jupiter's pursuit of Europa as a bull, Leda as a swan, and Danae as a shower of golden coins.

    [247] The Sirens were mythical creatures who lured sailors to their deaths with their enchanting songs. Ulysses famously had his sailors lash him to the mast and stuff their ears with wax so that they could pass unharmed and he could hear the Sirens' singing.

    [248] These two are assuming fake lovers' names. The woman takes the name of Circe, daughter of Helios, with whom Ulysses tarried for a year. Encolpius assumes a nickname of Ulysses, Polyaenos.

    [249] Venus was goddess of erotic love.

    [250] In Plato's Symposium, Alcibiades does all he can to persuade Socrates to sleep with him, with no success. Encolpius is temporarily impotent.

    [251] Achilles was one of the Greeks' greatest warriors before Troy.

    [252] The Greeks and Romans used wooden or ivory tablets coated with wax to write letters and notes. The wax had the advantage of being easily erasable.

    [253] Pursued by Apollo, Daphne turned into a tree to avoid being raped.

    [254] Myrtle was associated with Venus, goddess of erotic love.

    [255] The old woman mentioned above, who had attempted to cure Encolpius' impotence.

    [256] Encolpius is addressing his impotent penis.

    [257] Another mockery of the war between philosophical schools, including Stoics such as Cato and Epicureans. Cato was a famous political opponent of Julius Caesar who died by suicide. Known as incorruptible, he decried the excesses of his times. The philosophical opposite of Cato (who was a Stoic), Epicurus advocated for moderated pleasure as the highest good in life. The simple work may be the Satyricon itself.

    [258] Probably Bacchus, god of revelry.

    [259] Lesbos and Thassos were famous for their wine; Bacchus was god of wine and revelry.

    [260] The maids may be Bacchus' female followers; dryads were wood nymphs.

    [261] Her name means "goddess of the wine."

    [262] More mythological allusions. Circe transformed Odysseus’ men into pigs. Medea gave Jason a magical ointment to protect him from the fire-breathing bulls. Proteus was a famous shape-shifter.

    [263] Ceres was goddess of agriculture. If she can make plants grow, perhaps she can help Encolpius.

    [264] Hecale famously gave hospitality to the hero Theseus despite her poverty.

    [265] More joking allusions to The Odyssey. Remember Penelope's dream with the geese and the eagle.

    [266] Hercules famously defeated the human-devouring Stymphalian birds as one of his labors.

    [267] Harpies were hideous winged monsters sent by Jove to punish Phineus, king of Thrace.

    [268] King of Argos, and Danae’s father, Acrisius feared Danae’s son Perseus (because of a prophecy). He locked both into a wooden trunk and had them thrown into the sea.

    [269] Both Cato and Labeo were famous orators and advocates for their clients in court.

    [270] Hazelnuts.

    [271] Leda was Helen’s mother, Ariadne assisted Theseus in slaying the Minotaur. Here, with Venus, they are being referred to as examples of famously beautiful women.

    [272] The episode that started the Trojan War. Paris was asked to choose who was the most beautiful goddess: Hera/Juno, Venus/Aphrodite or Athena/Minerva. He chose Venus, who granted him Helen as a reward.

    [273] Juno targeted Hercules because he was the offspring of Juno’s husband, Jupiter, and a mortal. She caused the death of Hylas, Hercules’ lover.

    [274] Mythological king of Troy who persuaded Apollo and Neptune to build his city’s walls, then refused to reward them and was punished.

    [275] A mythical king punished by Dionysios/Bacchus.

    [276] This name is meant to be deeply ironic. We’ve met the harrowing tale of Philomena and her sister Procne in Ovid’s Metamorphoses. There, the two women take their revenge by killing Procne’s child, born of a deeply violent rape. Here, Philomena is essentially pimping out her own children.

    [277] Corax means “battering ram."

    [278] The first hero to die in the Trojan War, he was returned to life to briefly visit his grieving wife. He was then required to return to the Underworld.

    [279] Um, we’ve just met Socrates at a drinking party in Plato’s Symposium.

    [280] A town on the Iberian peninsula besieged and taken by the Carthaginian general Hannibal during the Second Punic War.

    [281] Another town taken by Hannibal.

    [282] A town on the Iberian peninsula besieged and taken by the Roman general Scipio.


    The Reconstructed Text- Part Six is shared under a CC BY-NC-SA 3.0 license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by LibreTexts.

    • Was this article helpful?