Satyricon, by Petronius






(It has been so long; since I promised you the story of my adventures, that I have decided to make good my word today; and, seeing that we have thus fortunately met, not to discuss scientific matters alone, but also to enliven our jolly conversation with witty stories. Fabricius Veiento has already spoken very cleverly on the errors committed in the name of religion, and shown how priests, animated by an hypocritical mania for prophecy, boldly expound mysteries which are too often such to themselves. But) are our rhetoricians tormented by another species of Furies when they cry, "I received these wounds while fighting for the public liberty; I lost this eye in your defense: give me a guide who will lead me to my children, my limbs are hamstrung and will not hold me up!" Even these heroics could be endured if they made easier the road to eloquence; but as it is, their sole gain from this ferment of matter and empty discord of words is, that when they step into the Forum, they think they have been carried into another world. And it is my conviction that the schools are responsible for the gross foolishness of our young men, because, in them, they see or hear nothing at all of the affairs of every-day life, but only pirates standing in chains upon the shore, tyrants scribbling edicts in which sons are ordered to behead their own fathers; responses from oracles, delivered in time of pestilence, ordering the immolation of three or more virgins; every word a honied drop, every period sprinkled with poppy-seed and sesame.


Those who are brought up on such a diet can no more attain to wisdom than a kitchen scullion can attain to a keen sense of smell or avoid stinking of the grease. With your indulgence, I will speak out: you--teachers--are chiefly responsible for the decay of oratory. With your well modulated and empty tones you have so labored for rhetorical effect that the body of your speech has lost its vigor and died. Young men did not learn set speeches in the days when Sophocles and Euripides were searching for words in which to express themselves. In the days when Pindar and the nine lyric poets feared to attempt Homeric verse there was no private tutor to stifle budding genius. I need not cite the poets for evidence, for I do not find that either Plato or Demosthenes was given to this kind of exercise. A dignified and, if I may say it, a chaste, style, is neither elaborate nor loaded with ornament; it rises supreme by its own natural purity. This windy and high-sounding bombast, a recent immigrant to Athens, from Asia, touched with its breath the aspiring minds of youth, with the effect of some pestilential planet, and as soon as the tradition of the past was broken, eloquence halted and was stricken dumb. Since that, who has attained to the sublimity of Thucydides, who rivalled the fame of Hyperides? Not a single poem has glowed with a healthy color, but all of them, as though nourished on the same diet, lacked the strength to live to old age. Painting also suffered the same fate when the presumption of the Egyptians "commercialized" that incomparable art. (I was holding forth along these lines one day, when Agamemnon came up to us and scanned with a curious eye a person to whom the audience was listening so closely.)


He would not permit me to declaim longer in the portico than he himself had sweat in the school, but exclaimed, "Your sentiments do not reflect the public taste, young man, and you are a lover of common sense, which is still more unusual. For that reason, I will not deceive you as to the secrets of my profession. The teachers, who must gibber with lunatics, are by no means to blame for these exercises. Unless they spoke in accordance with the dictates of their young pupils, they would, as Cicero remarks, be left alone in the schools! And, as designing parasites, when they seek invitations to the tables of the rich, have in mind nothing except what will, in their opinion, be most acceptable to their audience --for in no other way can they secure their ends, save by setting snares for the ears--so it is with the teachers of rhetoric, they might be compared with the fisherman, who, unless he baits his hook with what he knows is most appetizing to the little fish, may wait all day upon some rock, without the hope of a catch."


What, then, is there to do? The parents who are unwilling to permit their children to undergo a course of training under strict discipline, are the ones who deserve the reproof. In the first place, everything they possess, including the children, is devoted to ambition. Then, that their wishes may the more quickly be realized, they drive these unripe scholars into the forum, and the profession of eloquence, than which none is considered nobler, devolves upon boys who are still in the act of being born! If, however, they would permit a graded course of study to be prescribed, in order that studious boys might ripen their minds by diligent reading; balance their judgment by precepts of wisdom, correct their compositions with an unsparing pen, hear at length what they ought to imitate, and be convinced that nothing can be sublime when it is designed to catch the fancy of boys, then the grand style of oratory would immediately recover the weight and splendor of its majesty. Now the boys play in the schools, the young men are laughed at in the forum, and, a worse symptom than either, no one, in his old age, will confess the errors he was taught in his school days. But that you may not imagine that I disapprove of a jingle in the Lucilian manner, I will deliver my opinions in verse,--


"The man who emerges with fame, from the school of stern art,

Whose mind gropes for lofty ideals, to bring them to light,

Must first, under rigid frugality, study his part;

Nor yearn for the courts of proud princes who frown in their might:

Nor scheme with the riff-raf, a client in order to dine,

Nor can he with evil companions his wit drown in wine

Nor sit, as a hireling, applauding an actor's grimace.

But, whether the fortress of arms-bearing Tritonis smile

Upon him, or land which the Spartan colonials grace,

Or home of the sirens, with poetry let him beguile

The years of young manhood, and at the Maeonian spring

His fortunate soul drink its fill: Then, when later, the lore

Of Socrates' school he has mastered, the reins let him fling,

And brandish the weapons that mighty Demosthenes bore.

Then, steeped in the culture and music of Greece, let his taste

Be ripened and mellowed by all the great writers of Rome.

At first, let him haunt not the courts; let his pages be graced

By ringing and rhythmic effusions composed in his home

Next, banquets and wars be his theme, sung in soul-stirring chant,

In eloquent words such as undaunted Cicero chose.

Come! Gird up thy soul! Inspiration will then force a vent

And rush in a flood from a heart that is loved by the muse!"


I was listening so attentively to this speech that I did not notice the flight of Ascyltos, and while I was pacing the gardens, engulfed in this flood-tide of rhetoric, a large crowd of students came out upon the portico, having, it would seem, just listened to an extemporaneous declamation, of I know not whom, the speaker of which had taken exceptions to the speech of Agamemnon. While, therefore, the young men were making fun of the sentiments of this last speaker, and criticizing the arrangement of the whole speech, I seized the opportunity and went after Ascyltos, on the run; but, as I neither held strictly to the road, nor knew where the inn was located, wherever I went, I kept coming back to the same place, until, worn out with running, and long since dripping with sweat, I approached a certain little old woman who sold country vegetables.


"Please, mother," I wheedled, "you don't know where I lodge, do you?" Delighted with such humorous affability, "What's the reason I don't" she replied, and getting upon her feet, she commenced to walk ahead of me. I took her for a prophetess until, when presently we came to a more obscure quarter, the affable old lady pushed aside a crazy-quilt and remarked, "Here's where you ought to live," and when I denied that I recognized the house, I saw some men prowling stealthily between the rows of name-boards and naked prostitutes. Too late I realized that I had been led into a brothel. After cursing the wiles of the little old hag, I covered my head and commenced to run through the middle of the night-house to the exit opposite, when, lo and behold! whom should I meet on the very threshold but Ascyltos himself, as tired as I was, and almost dead; you would have thought that he had been brought by the self-same little old hag! I smiled at that, greeted him cordially, and asked him what he was doing in such a scandalous place.


Wiping away the sweat with his hands, he replied, "If you only knew what I have gone through!" "What was it?" I demanded. "A most respectable looking person came up to me," he made reply, "while I was wandering all over the town and could not find where I had left my inn, and very graciously offered to guide me. He led me through some very dark and crooked alleys, to this place, pulled out his tool, and commenced to beg me to comply with his appetite. A whore had already vacated her cell for an as, and he had laid hands upon me, and, but for the fact that I was the stronger, I would have been compelled to take my medicine." (While Ascyltos was telling me of his bad luck, who should come up again but this same very respectable looking person, in company with a woman not at all bad looking, and, looking at Ascyltos, he requested him to enter the house, assuring him that there was nothing to fear, and, since he was unwilling to take the passive part, he should have the active. The woman, on her part, urged me very persistently to accompany her, so we followed the couple, at last, and were conducted between the rows of name-boards, where we saw, in cells, many persons of each sex amusing themselves in such a manner) that it seemed to me that every one of them must have been drinking satyrion. (On catching sight of us, they attempted to seduce us with paederastic wantonness, and one wretch, with his clothes girded up, assaulted Ascyltos, and, having thrown him down upon a couch, attempted to gore him from above. I succored the sufferer immediately, however,) and having joined forces, we defied the troublesome wretch. (Ascyltos ran out of the house and took to his heels, leaving me as the object of their lewd attacks, but the crowd, finding me the stronger in body and purpose, let me go unharmed.)


(After having tramped nearly all over the city,) I caught sight of Giton, as though through a fog, standing at the end of the street, (on the very threshold of the inn,) and I hastened to the same place. When I inquired whether my "brother" had prepared anything for breakfast, the boy sat down upon the bed and wiped away the trickling tears with his thumb. I was greatly disturbed by such conduct on the part of my "brother," and demanded to be told what had happened. After I had mingled threats with entreaties, he answered slowly and against his will, "That brother or comrade of yours rushed into the room a little while ago and commenced to attempt my virtue by force. When I screamed, he pulled out his tool and gritted out--If you're a Lucretia, you've found your Tarquin!" When I heard this, I shook my fists in Ascyltos' face, "What have you to say for yourself," I snarled, "you rutting pathic harlot, whose very breath is infected?" Ascyltos pretended to bristle up and, shaking his fists more boldly still, he roared: "Won't you keep quiet, you filthy gladiator, you who escaped from the criminal's cage in the amphitheatre to which you were condemned (for the murder of your host?) Won't you hold your tongue, you nocturnal assassin, who, even when you swived it bravely, never entered the lists with a decent woman in your life? Was I not a 'brother' to you in the pleasure-garden, in the same sense as that in which this boy now is in this lodging-house?" "You sneaked away from the master's lecture," I objected.


"What should I have done, you triple fool, when I was dying of hunger? I suppose I should have listened to opinions as much to the purpose as the tinkle of broken glass or the interpretation of dreams. By Hercules, you are much more deserving of censure than I, you who will flatter a poet so as to get an invitation to dinner!" Then we laughed ourselves out of a most disgraceful quarrel, and approached more peaceably whatever remained to be done. But the remembrance of that injury recurred to my mind and, "Ascyltos," I said, "I know we shall not be able to agree, so let us divide our little packs of common stock and try to defeat our poverty by our individual efforts. Both you and I know letters, but that I may not stand in the way of any undertaking of yours, I will take up some other profession. Otherwise, a thousand trifles will bring us into daily collision and furnish cause for gossip through the whole town." Ascyltos made no objection to this, but merely remarked, "As we, in our capacity of scholars, have accepted an invitation to dinner, for this date, let us not lose our night. Since it seems to be the graceful thing to do, I will look out for another lodging and another 'brother,' tomorrow." "Deferred pleasures are a long time coming," I sighed. It was lust that made this separation so hasty, for I had, for a long time, wished to be rid of a troublesome chaperon, so that I could resume my old relations with my Giton. (Bearing this affront with difficulty, Ascyltos rushed from the room, without uttering a word. Such a headlong outburst augured badly, for I well knew his ungovernable temper and his unbridled passion. On this account, I followed him out, desirous of fathoming his designs and of preventing their consequences, but he hid himself skillfully from my eyes, and all in vain, I searched for him for a long time.)


After having had the whole town under my eyes, I returned to the little room and, having claimed the kisses which were mine in good faith, I encircled the boy in the closest of embraces and enjoyed the effect of our happy vows to a point that might be envied. Nor had all the ceremonies been completed, when Ascyltos stole stealthily up to the outside of the door and, violently wrenching off the bars, burst in upon me, toying with my "brother." He filled the little room with his laughter and hand-clapping, pulled away the cloak which covered us, "What are you up to now, most sanctimonious 'brother'?" he jeered. "What's going on here, a blanket-wedding?" Nor did he confine himself to words, but, pulling the strap off his bag, he began to lash me very thoroughly, interjecting sarcasms the while, "This is the way you would share with your comrade, is it!" (The unexpectedness of the thing compelled me to endure the blows in silence and to put up with the abuse, so I smiled at my calamity, and very prudently, too, as otherwise I should have been put to the necessity of fighting with a rival. My pretended good humor soothed his anger, and at last, Ascyltos smiled as well. "See here, Encolpius," he said, "are you so engrossed with your debaucheries that you do not realize that our money is gone, and that what we have left is of no value? In the summer, times are bad in the city. The country is luckier, let's go and visit our friends." Necessity compelled the approval of this plan, and the repression of any sense of injury as well, so, loading Giton with our packs, we left the city and hastened to the country-seat of Lycurgus, a Roman knight. Inasmuch as Ascyltos has formerly served him in the capacity of "brother," he received us royally, and the company there assembled, rendered our stay still more delightful. In the first place, there was Tryphaena, a most beautiful woman, who had come in company with Lycas, the master of a vessel and owner of estates near the seashore. Although Lycurgus kept a frugal table, the pleasures we enjoyed in this most enchanting spot cannot be described in words. Of course you know that Venus joined us all up, as quickly as possible.

The lovely Tryphaena pleased my taste, and listened willingly to my vows, but hardly had I had time to enjoy her favors when Lycas, in a towering rage because his preserves had been secretly invaded, demanded that I indemnify him in her stead. She was an old flame of his, so he broached the subject of a mutual exchange of favors. Burning with lust, he pressed his suit, but Tryphaena possessed my heart, and I said Lycas nay. By refusal, however, he was only made more ardent, followed me everywhere, entered my room at night, and, after his entreaties had met with contempt, he had recourse to violence against me, at which I yelled so lustily that I aroused the entire household, and, by the help of Lycurgus, I was delivered from the troublesome assault and escaped. At last, perceiving that the house of Lycurgus was not suitable to the prosecution of his design, he attempted to persuade me to seek his hospitality, and when his suggestion was refused, he made use of Tryphaena's influence over me. She besought me to comply with Lycas' desires, and she did this all the more readily as by that she hoped to gain more liberty of action. With affairs in this posture, I follow my love, but Lycurgus, who had renewed his old relations with Ascyltos, would not permit him to leave, so it was decided that he should remain with Lycurgus, but that we would accompany Lycas. Nevertheless, we had it understood among ourselves that whenever the opportunity presented itself, we would each pilfer whatever we could lay hands upon, for the betterment of the common stock. Lycas was highly delighted with my acceptance of his invitation and hastened our departure, so, bidding our friends good-bye, we arrived at his place on the very same day. Lycas had so arranged matters that, on the journey, he sat beside me, while Tryphaena was next to Giton, the reason for this being his knowledge of the woman's notorious inconstancy; nor was he deceived, for she immediately fell in love with the boy, and I easily perceived it. In addition, Lycas took the trouble of calling my attention to the situation, and laid stress upon the truth of what we saw. On this account, I received his advances more graciously, at which he was overjoyed. He was certain that contempt would be engendered from the inconstancy of my "sister," with the result that, being piqued at Tryphaena, I would all the more freely receive his advances. Now this was the state of affairs at the house of Lycas, Tryphaena was desperately in love with Giton, Giton's whole soul was aflame for her, neither of them was a pleasing sight to my eyes, and Lycas, studying to please me, arranged novel entertainments each day, which Doris, his lovely wife, seconded to the best of her ability, and so gracefully that she soon expelled Tryphaena from my heart. A wink of the eye acquainted Doris of my passion, a coquettish glance informed me of the state of her heart, and this silent language, anticipating the office of the tongue, secretly expressed that longing of our souls which we had both experienced at the same instant. The jealousy of Lycas, already well known to me, was the cause of my silence, but love itself revealed to the wife the designs which Lycas had upon me. At our first opportunity of exchanging confidences, she revealed to me what she had discovered and I candidly confessed, telling her of the coldness with which I had always met his advances. The far-sighted woman remarked that it would be necessary for us to use our wits. It turned out that her advice was sound, for I soon found out that complacency to the one meant possession of the other. Giton, in the meantime, was recruiting his exhausted strength, and Tryphaena turned her attention to me, but, meeting with a repulse, she flounced out in a rage. The next thing this burning harlot did was to discover my commerce with both husband and wife. As for his wantonness with me, she flung that aside, as by it she lost nothing, but she fell upon the secret gratifications of Doris and made them known to Lycas, who, his jealousy proving stronger than his lust, took steps to get revenge. Doris, however, forewarned by Tryphaena's maid, looked out for squalls and held aloof from any secret assignations. When I became aware of all this, I heartily cursed the perfidy of Tryphaena and the ungrateful soul of Lycas, and made up my mind to be gone. Fortune favored me, as it turned out, for a vessel sacred to Isis and laden with prize-money had, only the day before, run upon the rocks in the vicinity. After holding a consultation with Giton, at which he gladly gave consent to my plan, as Tryphaena visibly neglected him after having sapped his virility, we hastened to the sea-shore early on the following morning, and boarded the wreck, a thing easy of accomplishment as the watchmen, who were in the pay of Lycas, knew us well. But they were so attentive to us that there was no opportunity of stealing a thing until, having left Giton with them, I craftily slipped out of sight and sneaked aft where the statue of Isis stood, and despoiled it of a valuable mantle and a silver sistrum. From the master's cabin, I also pilfered other valuable trifles and, stealthily sliding down a rope, went ashore. Giton was the only one who saw me and he evaded the watchmen and slipped away after me. I showed him the plunder, when he joined me, and we decided to post with all speed to Ascyltos, but we did not arrive at the home of Lycurgus until the following day. In a few words I told Ascyltos of the robbery, when he joined us, and of our unfortunate love-affairs as well. He was for prepossessing the mind of Lycurgus in our favor, naming the increasing wantonness of Lycas as the cause of our secret and sudden change of habitation. When Lycurgus had heard everything, he swore that he would always be a tower of strength between us and our enemies. Until Tryphaena and Doris were awake and out of bed, our flight remained undiscovered, for we paid them the homage of a daily attendance at the morning toilette. When our unwonted absence was noted, Lycas sent out runners to comb the sea-shore, for he suspected that we had been to the wreck, but he was still unaware of the robbery, which was yet unknown because the stern of the wreck was lying away from the beach, and the master had not, as yet, gone back aboard. Lycas flew into a towering rage when our flight was established for certain, and railed bitterly at Doris, whom he considered as the moving factor in it. Of the hard words and the beating he gave her I will say nothing, for the particulars are not known to me, but I will affirm that Tryphaena, who was the sole cause of the unpleasantness, persuaded Lycas to hunt for his fugitives in the house of Lycurgus, which was our most probable sanctuary. She volunteered to accompany him in person, so that she could load us with the abuse which we deserved at her hands. They set out on the following day and arrived at the estate of Lycurgus, but we were not there, for he had taken us to a neighboring town to attend the feast of Hercules, which was there being celebrated. As soon as they found out about this, they hastened to take to the road and ran right into us in the portico of the temple. At sight of them, we were greatly put out, and Lycas held forth violently to Lycurgus, upon the subject of our flight, but he was met with raised eyebrows and such a scowling forehead that I plucked up courage and, in a loud voice, passed judgment upon his lewd and base attempts and assaults upon me, not in the house of Lycurgus alone, but even under his own roof: and as for the meddling Tryphaena, she received her just deserts, for, at great length, I described her moral turpitude to the crowd, our altercation had caused a mob to collect, and, to give weight to my argument, I pointed to limber-hamed Giton, drained dry, as it were, and to myself, reduced almost to skin and bones by the raging lust of that nymphomaniac harlot. So humiliated were our enemies by the guffaws of the mob, that in gloomy ill-humor they beat a retreat to plot revenge. As they perceived that we had prepossessed the mind of Lycurgus in our favor, they decided to await his return, at his estate, in order that they might wean him away from his misapprehension. As the solemnities did not draw to a close until late at night, we could not reach Lycurgus' country place, so he conducted us to a villa of his, situated near the halfway point of the journey, and, leaving us to sleep there until the next day, he set off for his estate for the purpose of transacting some business. Upon his arrival, he found Lycas and Tryphaena awaiting him, and they stated their case so diplomatically that they prevailed upon him to deliver us into their hands. Lycurgus, cruel by nature and incapable of keeping his word, was by this time striving to hit upon the best method of betraying us, and to that end, he persuaded Lycas to go for help, while he himself returned to the villa and had us put under guard. To the villa he came, and greeted us with a scowl as black as any Lycas himself had ever achieved, clenching his fists again and again, he charged us with having lied about Lycas, and, turning Ascyltos out, he gave orders that we were to be kept confined to the room in which we had retired to rest. Nor would he hear a word in our defense, from Ascyltos, but, taking the latter with him, he returned to his estate, reiterating his orders relative to our confinement, which was to last until his return. On the way back, Ascyltos vainly essayed to break down Lycurgus' determination, but neither prayers nor caresses, nor even tears could move him. Thereupon my "brother" conceived the design of freeing us from our chains, and, antagonized by the stubbornness of Lycurgus, he positively refused to sleep with him, and through this he was in a better position to carry out the plan which he had thought out. When the entire household was buried in its first sleep, Ascyltos loaded our little packs upon his back and slipped out through a breach in the wall, which he had previously noted, arriving at the villa with the dawn. He gained entrance without opposition and found his way to our room, which the guards had taken the precaution to bar. It was easy to force an entrance, as the fastening was made of wood, which same he pried off with a piece of iron. The fall of the lock roused us, for we were snoring away, in spite of our unfortunate situation. On account of the long vigil, the guard was in such a deep sleep that we alone were wakened by the crashing fall of the lock, and Ascyltos, coming in, told us in a few words what he had done for us; but as far as that goes, not many were necessary. We were hurriedly dressing, when I was seized with the notion of killing the guard and stripping the place. This plan I confided to Ascyltos, who approved of the looting, but pointed out a more desirable solution without bloodshed: knowing all the crooks and turns, as he did, he led us to a store-room which he opened. We gathered up all that was of value and sallied forth while it was yet early in the morning. Shunning the public roads; we could not rest until we believed ourselves safe from pursuit. Ascyltos, when he had caught his breath, gloatingly exulted of the pleasure which the looting of a villa belonging to Lycurgus, a superlatively avaricious man, afforded him: he complained, with justice of his parsimony, affirming that he himself had received no reward for his k-nightly services, that he had been kept at a dry table and on a skimpy ration of food. This Lycurgus was so stingy that he denied himself even the necessities of life, his immense wealth to the contrary notwithstanding.)

The tortured Tantalus still stands, to parch in his shifting pool,

And starve, when fruit sways just beyond his grasp:

The image of the miser rich, when his avaricious soul

Robs him of food and drink, in Plenty's clasp.

(Ascyltos was for going to Naples that same day, but I protested the imprudence of going to any place where they would be on the lookout for us. "Let's absent ourselves, for a while, and travel in the country. We are well supplied with means." This advice took his fancy and we set out for a part of the country noted for the beauty of its estates, and where not a few of our acquaintances were enjoying the sports of the season. Scarcely had we covered half the distance, however, before it began to pour down rain by the bucketful, compelling us to run for the nearest village. Upon entering the inn, we noticed many other wayfarers, who had put up there to escape the storm. The jam prevented our being watched, and at the same time made it easier for us to pry about with curious eyes, on the alert for something to appropriate. Ascyltos, unseen by anyone, picked up off the ground a little pouch in which he found some gold pieces. We were overjoyed with this auspicious beginning, but, fearing that some one would miss the gold, we stealthily slipped out by the back door. A slave, who was saddling a horse in the courtyard, suddenly left his work and went into the house, as if he had forgotten something, and while he was gone I appropriated a superb mantle which was tied fast to the saddle, by untying the thongs, then, utilizing a row of outbuildings for cover, we made off into the nearest wood. When we had reached the depths of the grove, where we were in safety, we thoroughly discussed the surest method of secreting our gold, so that we would neither be accused of robbery nor robbed ourselves, and we finally decided to sew it into the hem of a ragged tunic, which I threw over my shoulders, after having turned the mantle over to Ascyltos for safekeeping; we then made ready to start for the city via the unfrequented roads. We were just about to emerge from the shelter of the wood when we heard, from somewhere on our left, "They can't get away, they came into this wood; let's spread out and beat, and they will easily be caught!" On hearing this, we were thrown into such a terrible fright that Ascyltos and Giton dashed away city-ward, through the underbrush, and I retreated in such a hurry that the precious tunic slipped off my shoulders without my knowing it. At last, completely fagged out, and unable to take another step, I lay down under a tree, and there I first became aware of the loss of the tunic. Chagrin restored my strength and I leaped to my feet to look for the treasure, and for a long time I beat around in vain. Worn out with work and vexation, I forced my way into the thickest part of the grove and remained there for four mortal hours, but at last, bored to extinction by the horrible solitude, I sought a way out. As I went ahead, I caught sight of a peasant; then I had need of all my nerve, and it did not fail me. Marching boldly up to him, I asked my way to the city, complaining that I had been lost in the wood for several hours. Seeing my condition, he took pity upon me, for I was covered with mud and paler than death, and asked me whether I had seen anyone in the place. "Not a soul," I replied, whereupon he kindly conducted me to the high road, where he met two of his companions, who informed him that they had beaten along every path in the forest without having found anything except a tunic, which they showed him. As may be readily supposed, I did not have the audacity to claim it, though well aware of its value, and my chagrin became almost insupportable as I vented many a groaning curse over my lost treasure. The peasants paid no attention to me, and I was gradually left behind, as my weakness increased my pace decreased. For this reason, it was late when I reached the city, and, entering the inn, beheld Ascyltos, stretched out, half dead, upon a cot. Too far gone to utter a single syllable, I threw myself upon another. Ascyltos became greatly excited at not seeing the tunic which he had entrusted to me, demanding it insistently, but I was so weak that my voice refused its office and I permitted the apathy of my eyes to answer his demand, then, by and by, regaining my strength little by little, I related the whole affair to Ascyltos, in every detail. He thought that I was joking, and although my testimony was fortified by a copious flood of tears, it could easily be seen that he remained unconvinced, believing that I wanted to cheat him out of the gold. Giton, who was standing by during all this, was as downcast as myself, and the suffering of the lad only served to increase my own vexation, but the thing which bothered me most of all, was the painstaking search which was being made for us; I told Ascyltos of this, but he only laughed it off, as he had so happily extricated himself from the scrape. He was convinced that, as we were unknown and as no one had seen us, we were perfectly safe. We decided, nevertheless, to feign sickness, and to keep to our room as long as possible; but, before we knew it, our money ran out, and spurred by necessity we were forced to go abroad and sell some of our plunder.)


Twilight was falling, as we entered the market-place, in which we noticed a quantity of things for sale, not any of much value, it is true, but such as could be disposed of to the best advantage when the semi-darkness would serve to hide their doubtful origin. As we had brought our stolen mantle, we proceeded to make use of so favorable an opportunity, and, in a secluded spot, displayed a corner of it, hoping the splendid garment would attract some purchaser. Nor was it long before a certain peasant, whose face was familiar to my eyes, came up, accompanied by a young woman, and began to examine the garment very closely. Ascyltos, in turn, cast a glance at the shoulders of our rustic customer, and was instantly struck dumb with astonishment. Nor could I myself look upon this man without some emotion, for he seemed to be the identical person who had picked up the ragged tunic in the lonely wood, and, as a matter of fact, he was! Ascyltos, afraid to believe the evidence of his own eyes for fear of doing something rash, approached the man, as a prospective buyer, took the hem of the tunic from the rustic's shoulders, and felt it thoroughly.


Oh wonderful stroke of Fortune! The peasant had not yet laid his meddling hands upon the seams, but was scornfully offering the thing for sale, as though it had been the leavings of some beggar. When Ascyltos had assured himself that the hoard was intact, and had taken note of the social status of the seller, he led me a little aside from the crowd and said, "Do you know, 'brother,' that the treasure about which I was so worked up has come back to us? That is the little tunic, and it seems that the gold pieces are still untouched. What ought we to do, and how shall we make good our claim?" I was overjoyed, not so much at seeing our booty, as I was for the reason that Fortune had released me from a very ugly suspicion. I was opposed to doing anything by devious methods, thinking that should he prove unwilling to restore to the proper owner an article not his own, it ought to come to a civil action and a judgment secured.


Not so Ascyltos, who was afraid of the law, and demurred, "Who knows us here? Who will place any credence in anything we say? It seems to me that it would be better to buy, ours though it is, and we know it, and recover the treasure at small cost, rather than to engage in a doubtful lawsuit."

Of what avail are any laws, where money rules alone,

Where Poverty can never win its cases?

Detractors of the times, who bear the Cynic's scrip, are known

To often sell the truth, and keep their faces!

So Justice is at public auction bought,

The knight gives judgement as Gold says he ought.

But, with the exception of a two-as piece with which we had intended purchasing peas and lupines, there was nothing to hand; so, for fear our loot should escape us in the interim, we resolved to appraise the mantle at less, and, through a small sacrifice, secure a greater profit. Accordingly, we spread it out, and the young woman of the covered head, who was standing by the peasant's side, narrowly inspected the markings, seized the hem with both hands, and screamed "Thieves!" at the top of her voice. We were greatly disconcerted at this and, for fear that inactivity on our part should seem to lend color to her charges, we laid hold of the dirty ragged tunic, in our turn, and shouted with equal spite, that this was our property which they had in their possession; but our cases were by no means on an equality, and the hucksters who had crowded around us at the uproar, laughed at our spiteful claim, and very naturally, too, since one side laid claim to a very valuable mantle, while the other demanded a rag which was not worth a good patch.


Ascyltos, when he had secured silence, adroitly put a stop to their laughter by exclaiming, "We can see that each puts the greater value upon his own property. Let them return our tunic to us, and take back their mantle!" This exchange was satisfactory enough to the peasant and the young woman, but some night-prowling shyster lawyers, who wished to get possession of the mantle for their own profit, demanded that both articles be deposited with them, and the judge could look into the case on the morrow, for it would appear that the ownership of the articles was not so much to the point as was the suspicion of robbery that attached to both sides. The question of sequestration arose, and one of the hucksters, I do not remember which, but he was bald, and his forehead was covered with sebaceous wens, and he sometimes did odd jobs for the lawyers, seized the mantle and vowed that HE would see to it that it was produced at the proper time and place, but it was easily apparent that he desired nothing but that the garment should be deposited with thieves, and vanish; thinking that we would be afraid to appear as claimants for fear of being charged with crime. As far as we were concerned, we were as willing as he, and Fortune aided the cause of each of us, for the peasant, infuriated at our demand that his rags be shown in public, threw the tunic in Ascyltos' face, released us from responsibility, and demanded that the mantle, which was the only object of litigation, be sequestered. As we thought we had recovered our treasure, we returned hurriedly to the inn, and fastening the door, we had a good laugh at the shrewdness of the hucksters, and not less so at that of our enemies, for by it they had returned our money to us. (While we were unstitching the tunic to get at the gold pieces, we overheard some one quizzing the innkeeper as to what kind of people those were, who had just entered his house. Alarmed at this inquiry, I went down, when the questioner had gone, to find out what was the matter, and learned that the praetor's lictor, whose duty it was to see that the names of strangers were entered in his rolls, had seen two people come into the inn, whose names were not yet entered, and that was the reason he had made inquiry as to their names and means of support. Mine host furnished this information in such an offhand manner that I became suspicious as to our entire safety in his house; so, in order to avoid arrest, we decided to go out, and not to return home until after dark, and we sallied forth, leaving the management of dinner to Giton. As it suited our purpose to avoid the public streets, we strolled through the more unfrequented parts of the city, and just at dusk we met two women in stolas, in a lonely spot, and they were by no means homely. Walking softly, we followed them to a temple which they entered, and from which we could hear a curious humming, which resembled the sound of voices issuing from the depths of a cavern. Curiosity impelled us also to enter the temple. There we caught sight of many women, who resembled Bacchantes, each of whom brandished in her right hand an emblem of Priapus. We were not permitted to see more, for as their eyes fell upon us, they raised such a hubbub that the vault of the temple trembled. They attempted to lay hands upon us, but we ran back to our inn as fast as we could go.)


We had just disposed of the supper prepared by Giton, when there came a timid rapping at the door. We turned pale. "Who is there?" we asked. "Open and you will find out," came the answer. While we were speaking, the bar fell down of its own accord, the doors flew open and admitted our visitor. She was the selfsame young lady of the covered head who had but a little while before stood by the peasant's side. "So you thought," said she, "that you could make a fool of me, did you? I am Quartilla's handmaid: Quartilla, whose rites you interrupted in the shrine. She has come to the inn, in person, and begs permission to speak with you. Don't be alarmed! She neither blames your mistake nor does she demand punishment; on the contrary, she wonders what god has brought such well-bred young gentlemen into her neighborhood!"


We were still holding our tongues and refraining from any expression of opinion, when the lady herself entered the room, attended by a little girl. Seating herself upon the bed, she wept for a long time. Not even then did we interject a single word, but waited, all attention, for what was to follow these well ordered tears and this show of grief. When the diplomatic thunderstorm had passed over, she withdrew her haughty head from her mantle and, ringing her hands until the joints cracked, "What is the meaning of such audacity?" she demanded; "where did you learn such tricks? They are worthy of putting to shame the assurance of all the robbers of the past! I pity you, so help me the God of Truth, I do; for no one can look with impunity upon that which it is unlawful for him to see. In our neighborhood, there are so many gods that it is easier to meet one than it is to find a man! But do not think that I was actuated by any desire for revenge when I came here: I am more moved by your age than I am by my own injury, for it is my belief that youthful imprudence led you into committing a sacrilegious crime. That very night, I tossed so violently in the throes of a dangerous chill that I was afraid I had contracted a tertian ague, and in my dreams I prayed for a medicine. I was ordered to seek you out, and to arrest the progress of the disease by means of an expedient to be suggested by your wonderful penetration! The cure does not matter so much, however, for a deeper grief gnaws at my vitals and drags me down, almost to the very doors of death itself. I am afraid that, with the careless impulsiveness of youth, you may divulge, to the common herd, what you witnessed in the shrine of Priapus, and reveal the rites of the gods to the rabble. On this account, I stretch out my suppliant hands to your knees, and beg and pray that you do not make a mockery and a joke of our nocturnal rites, nor lay bare the secrets of so many years, into which scarcely a thousand persons are initiated."


The tears poured forth again, after this appeal, and, shaken by deep sobs, she buried her whole face and breast in my bed; and I, moved by pity and by apprehension, begged her to be of good cheer and to make herself perfectly easy as to both of those issues, for not only would we not betray any secrets to the rabble, but we would also second divine providence, at any peril to ourselves, if any god had indicated to her any cure for her tertian ague. The woman cheered up at this promise, and smothered me with kisses; from tears she passed to laughter, and fell to running her fingers through the long hair that hung down about my ears. "I will declare a truce with you," she said, "and withdraw my complaint. But had you been unwilling to administer the medicine which I seek, I had a troop in readiness for the morrow, which would have exacted satisfaction for my injury and reparation for my dignity!

To be flouted is disgraceful, but to dictate terms, sublime

Pleased am I to choose what course I will,

Even sages will retort an insult at the proper tune.

Victor most is he who does not kill."

Then she suddenly clapped her hands, and broke into such a peal of laughter that we were alarmed. The maid, who had been the first to arrive, did likewise, on one side of us, as also did the little girl who had entered with the madame herself.


The whole place was filled with mocking laughter, and we, who could see no reason for such a change of front, stared blankly at each other and then at the women. (Then Quartilla spoke up, finally,) "I gave orders that no mortal man should be admitted into this inn, this day, so that I could receive the treatment for my ague without interruption!" Ascyltos was, for the moment, struck dumb by this admission of Quartilla's, and I turned colder than a Gallic winter, and could not utter a word; but the personnel of the company relieved me from the fear that the worst might be yet to come, for they were only three young women, too weak to attempt any violence against us, who were of the male sex, at least, even if we had nothing else of the man about us, and this was an asset. Then, too, we were girded higher, and I had so arranged matters that if it came to a fight, I would engage Quartilla myself, Ascyltos the maid, and Giton the girl. (While I was turning over this plan in my mind, Quartilla came to close quarters, to receive the treatment for her ague, but having her hopes disappointed, she flounced out in a rage and, returning in a little while, she had us overpowered by some unknown vagabonds, and gave orders for us to be carried away to a splendid palace.) Then our determination gave place to astonishment, and death, sure and certain, began to obscure the eyes of suffering.


"Pray; madame," I groaned, "if you have anything worse in store, bring it on quickly for we have not committed a crime so heinous as to merit death by torture." The maid, whose name was Psyche, quickly spread a blanket upon the floor (and) sought to secure an erection by fondling my member, which was already a thousand times colder than death. Ascyltos, well aware by now of the danger of dipping into the secrets of others, covered his head with his mantle. (In the meantime,) the maid took two ribbons from her bosom and bound our feet with one and our hands with the other. (Finding myself trussed up in this fashion, I remarked, "You will not be able to cure your mistress' ague in this manner!" "Granted," the maid replied, "but I have other and surer remedies at hand," she brought me a vessel full of satyrion, as she said this, and so cheerfully did she gossip about its virtues that I drank down nearly all of the liquor, and because Ascyltos had but a moment before rejected her advances, she sprinkled the dregs upon his back, without his knowing it.) When this repartee had drawn to a close, Ascyltos exclaimed, "Don't I deserve a drink?" Given away by my laughter, the maid clapped her hands and cried, "I put one by you, young man; did you drink so much all by yourself?" "What's that you say?", Quartilla chimed in. "Did Encolpius drink all the satyrion there was in the house?" And she laughed delightfully until her sides shook. Finally not even Giton himself could resist a smile, especially when the little girl caught him around the neck and showered innumerable kisses upon him, and he not at all averse to it.


We would have cried aloud in our misery but there was no one to give us any help, and whenever I attempted to shout, "Help! all honest citizens," Psyche would prick my cheeks with her hairpin, and the little girl would intimidate Ascyltos with a brush dipped in satyrion. Then a catamite appeared, clad in a myrtle-colored frieze robe, and girded round with a belt. One minute he nearly gored us to death with his writhing buttocks, and the next, he befouled us so with his stinking kisses that Quartilla, with her robe tucked high, held up her whalebone wand and ordered him to give the unhappy wretches quarter. Both of us then took a most solemn oath that so dread a secret should perish with us. Several wrestling instructors appeared and refreshed us, worn out as we were, by a massage with pure oil, and when our fatigue had abated, we again donned our dining clothes and were escorted to the next room, in which were placed three couches, and where all the essentials necessary to a splendid banquet were laid out in all their richness. We took our places, as requested, and began with a wonderful first course. We were all but submerged in Falernian wine. When several other courses had followed, and we were endeavoring to keep awake Quartilla exclaimed, "How dare you think of going to sleep when you know that the vigil of Priapus is to be kept?"


Worn out by all his troubles, Ascyltos commenced to nod, and the maid, whom he had slighted, and of course insulted, smeared lampblack all over his face, and painted his lips and shoulders with vermillion, while he drowsed. Completely exhausted by so many untoward adventures, I, too, was enjoying the shortest of naps, the whole household, within and without, was doing the same, some were lying here and there asleep at our feet, others leaned against the walls, and some even slept head to head upon the threshold itself; the lamps, failing because of a lack of oil, shed a feeble and flickering light, when two Syrians, bent upon stealing an amphora of wine, entered the dining-room. While they were greedily pawing among the silver, they pulled the amphora in two, upsetting the table with all the silver plate, and a cup, which had flown pretty high, cut the head of the maid, who was drowsing upon a couch. She screamed at that, thereby betraying the thieves and wakening some of the drunkards. The Syrians, who had come for plunder, seeing that they were about to be detected, were so quick to throw themselves down besides a couch and commence to snore as if they had been asleep for a long time, that you would have thought they belonged there. The butler had gotten up and poured oil in the flickering lamps by this time, and the boys, having rubbed their eyes open, had returned to their duty, when in came a female cymbal player and the crashing brass awoke everybody.


The banquet began all over again, and Quartilla challenged us to a drinking-bout, the crash of the cymbals lending ardor to her revel. A catamite appeared, the stalest of all mankind, well worthy of that house. Heaving a sigh, he wrung his hands until the joints cracked, and spouted out the following verses,

"Hither, hither quickly gather, pathic companions boon;

Artfully stretch forth your limbs and on with the dance and play!

Twinkling feet and supple thighs and agile buttocks in tune,

Hands well skilled in raising passions, Delian eunuchs gay!"

When he had finished his poetry, he slobbered a most evil-smelling kiss upon me, and then, climbing upon my couch, he proceeded with all his might and main to pull all of my clothing off. I resisted to the limit of my strength. He manipulated my member for a long time, but all in vain. Gummy streams poured down his sweating forehead, and there was so much chalk in the wrinkles of his cheeks that you might have mistaken his face for a roofless wall, from which the plaster was crumbling in a rain.


Driven to the last extremity, I could no longer keep back the tears. "Madame," I burst out, "is this the night-cap which you ordered served to me?" Clapping her hands softly she cried out, "Oh you witty rogue, you are a fountain of repartee, but you never knew before that a catamite was called a k-night-cap, now did you?" Then, fearing my companion would come off better than I, "Madame," I said, "I leave it to your sense of fairness: is Ascyltos to be the only one in this dining-room who keeps holiday?" "Fair enough," conceded Quartilla, "let Ascyltos have his k-night-cap too!" On hearing that, the catamite changed mounts, and, having bestridden my comrade, nearly drove him to distraction with his buttocks and his kisses. Giton was standing between us and splitting his sides with laughter when Quartilla noticed him, and actuated by the liveliest curiosity, she asked whose boy he was, and upon my answering that he was my "brother," "Why has he not kissed me then?" she demanded. Calling him to her, she pressed a kiss upon his mouth, then putting her hand beneath his robe, she took hold of his little member, as yet so undeveloped. "This," she remarked, "shall serve me very well tomorrow, as a whet to my appetite, but today I'll take no common fare after choice fish!"


She was still talking when Psyche, who was giggling, came to her side and whispered something in her ear. What it was, I did not catch. "By all means," ejaculated Quartilla, "a brilliant idea! Why shouldn't our pretty little Pannychis lose her maidenhead when the opportunity is so favorable?" A little girl, pretty enough, too, was led in at once; she looked to be not over seven years of age, and she was the same one who had before accompanied Quartilla to our room. Amidst universal applause, and in response to the demands of all, they made ready to perform the nuptial rites. I was completely out of countenance, and insisted that such a modest boy as Giton was entirely unfitted for such a wanton part, and moreover, that the child was not of an age at which she could receive that which a woman must take. "Is that so," Quartilla scoffed, "is she any younger than I was, when I submitted to my first man? Juno, my patroness, curse me if I can remember the time when I ever was a virgin, for I diverted myself with others of my own age, as a child then as the years passed, I played with bigger boys, until at last I reached my present age. I suppose that this explains the origin of the proverb, 'Who carried the calf may carry the bull,' as they say." As I feared that Giton might run greater risk if I were absent, I got up to take part in the ceremony.


Psyche had already enveloped the child's head in the bridal-veil, the catamite, holding a torch, led the long procession of drunken women which followed; they were clapping their hands, having previously decked out the bridal-bed with a suggestive drapery. Quartilla, spurred on by the wantonness of the others, seized hold of Giton and drew him into the bridal-chamber. There was no doubt of the boy's perfect willingness to go, nor was the girl at all alarmed at the name of marriage. When they were finally in bed, and the door shut, we seated ourselves outside the door of the bridal-chamber, and Quartilla applied a curious eye to a chink, purposely made, watching their childish dalliance with lascivious attention. She then drew me gently over to her side that I might share the spectacle with her, and when we both attempted to peep our faces were pressed against each other; whenever she was not engrossed in the performance, she screwed up her lips to meet mine, and pecked at me continually with furtive kisses. [A thunderous hammering was heard at the door, while all this was going on, and everyone wondered what this unexpected interruption could mean, when we saw a soldier, one of the night-watch, enter with a drawn sword in his hand, and surrounded by a crowd of young rowdies. He glared about him with savage eyes and blustering mien, and, catching sight of Quartilla, presently, "What's up now, you shameless woman," he bawled; "what do you mean by making game of me with lying promises, and cheating me out of the night you promised me? But you won't get off unpunished You and that lover of yours are going to find out that I'm a man!" At the soldier's orders, his companion bound Quartilla and myself together, mouth to mouth, breast to breast, and thigh to thigh; and not without a great deal of laughter. Then the catamite, also at the soldier's order, began to beslaver me all over with the fetid kisses of his stinking mouth, a treatment I could neither fly from, nor in any other way avoid. Finally, he ravished me, and worked his entire pleasure upon me. In the meantime, the satyrion which I had drunk only a little while before spurred every nerve to lust and I began to gore Quartilla impetuously, and she, burning with the same passion, reciprocated in the game. The rowdies laughed themselves sick, so moved were they by that ludicrous scene, for here was I, mounted by the stalest of catamites, involuntarily and almost unconsciously responding with as rapid a cadence to him as Quartilla did in her wriggling under me. While this was going on, Pannychis, unaccustomed at her tender years to the pastime of Venus, raised an outcry and attracted the attention of the soldier, by this unexpected howl of consternation, for this slip of a girl was being ravished, and Giton the victor, had won a not bloodless victory. Aroused by what he saw, the soldier rushed upon them, seizing Pannychis, then Giton, then both of them together, in a crushing embrace. The virgin burst into tears and plead with him to remember her age, but her prayers availed her nothing, the soldier only being fired the more by her childish charms.

Pannychis covered her head at last, resolved to endure whatever the Fates had in store for her. At this instant, an old woman, the very same who had tricked me on that day when I was hunting for our lodging, came to the aid of Pannychis, as though she had dropped from the clouds. With loud cries, she rushed into the house, swearing that a gang of footpads was prowling about the neighborhood and the people invoked the help of "All honest men," in vain, for the members of the night-watch were either asleep or intent upon some carouse, as they were nowhere to be found. Greatly terrified at this, the soldier rushed headlong from Quartilla's house. His companions followed after him, freeing Pannychis from impending danger and relieving the rest of us from our fear.] (I was so weary of Quartilla's lechery that I began to meditate means of escape. I made my intentions known to Ascyltos, who, as he wished to rid himself of the importunities of Psyche, was delighted; had not Giton been shut up in the bridal-chamber, the plan would have presented no difficulties, but we wished to take him with us, and out of the way of the viciousness of these prostitutes. We were anxiously engaged in debating this very point, when Pannychis fell out of bed, and dragged Giton after her, by her own weight. He was not hurt, but the girl gave her head a slight bump, and raised such a clamor that Quartilla, in a terrible fright, rushed headlong into the room, giving us the opportunity of making off. We did not tarry, but flew back to our inn where,) throwing ourselves upon the bed, we passed the remainder of the night without fear. (Sallying forth next day, we came upon two of our kidnappers, one of whom Ascyltos savagely attacked the moment he set eyes upon him, and, after having thrashed and seriously wounded him, he ran to my aid against the other. He defended himself so stoutly, however, that he wounded us both, slightly, and escaped unscathed.) The third day had now dawned, the date set for the free dinner (at Trimalchio's,) but battered as we were, flight seemed more to our taste than quiet, so (we hastened to our inn and, as our wounds turned out to be trifling, we dressed them with vinegar and oil, and went to bed. The ruffian whom we had done for, was still lying upon the ground and we feared detection.) Affairs were at this pass, and we were framing melancholy excuses with which to evade the coming revel, when a slave of Agamemnon's burst in upon our trembling conclave and said, "Don't you know with whom your engagement is today? The exquisite Trimalchio, who keeps a clock and a liveried bugler in his dining-room, so that he can tell, instantly, how much of his life has run out!" Forgetting all our troubles at that, we dressed hurriedly and ordered Giton, who had very willingly performed his servile office, to follow us to the bath.

Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 11:59