Part 2 of 3. Part 1 is here. Part 3 is here.
‘Ridet! quid habet quod rideat? numquid pater fetum emit lamna? eques Romanus es? et ego regis filius. “quare ergo servivisti?” quia ipse me dedi in servitutem et malui civis Romanus esse quam tributarius. et nunc spero me sic vivere, ut nemini iocus sim. homo inter homines sum, capite aperto ambulo; assem aerarium nemini debeo; constitutum habui nunquam; nemo mihi in foro dixit: “redde quod debes”. glebulas emi, lamellulas paravi; viginti ventres pasco et canem; contubernalem meam redemi, ne qui in capillis illius manus tergeret; mille denarios pro capite solvi; sevir gratis factus sum; spero, sic moriar, ut mortuus non erubescam.’
(Petronius, Sat. 57.4-7)
‘Look at him laughing! What’s he got to laugh at? Did his father pay cash for him? You’re a Roman knight, are you? Well, my father was a king. “Why are you only a freedman?” did you say? Because I put myself into slavery. I wanted to be a Roman citizen, not a subject with taxes to pay. And today, I hope no one can laugh at the way I live. I’m a man among men, and I walk with my head up. I don’t owe anybody a penny – there’s never been a court-order out for me. No one’s said “Pay up” to me in the street. I’ve bought a bit of land and some tiny pieces of plate. I’ve twenty bellies to feed, as well as a dog. I bought my old woman’s freedom so nobody could wipe his dirty hands on her hair. Four thousand I paid for myself. I was elected to the Augustan College and it cost me nothing. I hope when I die I won’t have to blush in my coffin.’ (tr. John Patrick Sullivan)
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