Syphax, king of the Masaesyli of western Numidia

Verum ubi mox iuncto sociarant aggere vires
Massylus Tyriusque duces, accitaque regno
lenierat pubes infaustae vulnera noctis,
ira pudorque dabant et coniunx, tertius ignis,
immanes animos; afflataque barbarus ora
castrorum flammis et se velamine nullo
vix inter trepidas ereptum ex hoste catervas
frendebat minitans; sed enim non luce Syphacem
nec claro potuisse die nec sole tuente
a quoquam vinci. iactarat talia vecors,
sed iam claudebat flatus nec plura sinebat
Atropos et tumidae properabat stamina linguae.
(Silius Italicus, Punica 17.109-120)

But presently, when the Massylian and Carthaginian generals had united their forces behind a common rampart, and fresh troops summoned from all the kingdom had mitigated the disaster of the night, anger and shame and love for his bride – a third incentive – filled the king’s heart with inordinate passion: he breathed out savage threats and ground his teeth, to think that his face had been scorched by the fire in the camp, and that he had with difficulty been rescued from the foe, a naked man in the midst of his discomfited soldiers. No man on earth, he declared, could ever have conquered Syphax in bright daylight or in the face of the sun. Such was his mad boasting; but Atropos was already putting an end to his insolence and suffered him to say no more; and the thread of that proud talker was nearly spun. (tr. James Duff Duff)



Fabula Domini Francisci Philelphi

Erat sermo inter socios, quae poena esset statuenda in uxores impudicas. Bonifacius Salutatus eam, qua Tolentinas amicus suus minatus est se uxorem suam affecturum, existimabat. sciscitantibus nobis poenam: “Franciscus Philelphus” inquit “vir haud magno aestimandus, habet uxorem satis liberalem, et mihi quandoque obsequentem. cum accessissem domum aliquando noctu, foris stans, audivi eos acriter collitigantes: increpabat enim vir uxorem, accusans impudicitiam eius. illa, ut moris est talium, negando se tuebatur. tum vir inter clamandum: ‘Iohanna, Iohanna’ ait ‘ego te neque verberabo, neque percutiam, sed in tantum te futuam, quoad plenam domum filiis reddam, atque ita solam te cum natis relinquam postmodum, et abibo.'” risimus omnes genus supplicii adeo exquisitum, quo stultus ille ulturum se uxoris flagitia putavit.
(Poggio Bracciolini, Confabulationes 49)

The Story of Francesco Filelfo

We were among friends, and it came up for discussion what punishment should be inflicted upon unfaithful wives. Boniface Salutati said the best punishment of all, according to him, was that with which a friend of his from Tolentino had once threatened his wife. And when we asked him what this might be, he said: “Franciscus Philelphus, not a very honorable man, has a wife of a generous nature, and she was even once or twice very forthcoming to me. One night I came to his house, when, listening outside, I heard the two of them engaged in a terrible quarrel. The husband was insulting his wife, accusing her of infidelity, while the woman defended herself, as women usually do on these occasions, by denying everything. Then, between shouts, the husband cried out ‘Giovanna! Giovanna*! I shall not beat you, I shall not strike you, but I shall fuck you so much that the house will be filled with children. Then I will leave you alone with them, and go away.'” We all laughed at this wonderful kind of punishment by means of which the stupid fellow thought to avenge himself for his wife’s infidelities. (tr. based on Edward Storer’s, adapted and debowdlerized by David Bauwens)

* Note: the real Francesco Filelfo (1398-1481), one of the preeminent humanists of his time, was widowed twice and married three times, but never to a Giovanna.


Et quamquam ut bestiarii obiceremur intractabilibus feris, perpendentes tamen hoc bonum habere tristia accidentia, quod in locum suum secunda substituunt, mirabamur illam sententiam Tullianam, ex internis veritatis ipsius promulgatam, quae est talis: “et quamquam optatissimum est perpetuo fortunam quam florentissimam permanere, illa tamen aequalitas vitae non tantum habet sensum, quantum cum ex miseria et perditis rebus ad meliorem statum fortuna revocatur.”
(Ammianus Marcellinus, Res Gestae 15.5.23)

But although we were, like gladiators, cast before ravening wild beasts, yet reflecting that melancholy events after all have this good sequel, that they give way to good fortune, we admired that saying of Tully’s*, delivered even from the inmost depths of truth itself, which runs as follows: “And although it is most desirable that our fortune always remain wholly favourable, yet that evenness of life does not give so great a sense of satisfaction as when, after wretchedness and disaster, fortune is recalled to a better estate.”

* i.e. Cicero’s

(tr. John C. Rolfe)


Ἄστηθι, δούλη Ψύλλα· μέχρι τέο κείσῃ
ρέγχουσα; τὴν δὲ χοῖρον αὐονὴ δρύπτει·
ἢ προσμένεις σὺ μέχρις εὖ ἤλιος θάλψῃ
τὸ]ν̣ κ̣ῦσον ἐσδύς; κῶς δ’, ἄτρυτε, κοὐ κάμνεις
τὰ πλ]ευρὰ κνώσσουσ’; αἰ δὲ νύκτες ἐννέωροι.
ἄστη]θ̣ι, φημί, καὶ ἄψον, εἰ θέλεις, λύχνον,
καὶ τ]ὴν ἄναυλον χοῖρον ἐς νομὴν πέμψ[ο]ν̣.
τ]ό̣ν̣θρυζε καὶ κνῶ, μέχρις εὖ παραστά[ς σοι
τὸ] βρέγμα τῷ σκίπωνι μαλθακὸν θῶμα[ι.
(Herodas, Mim. 8.1-9)

Get up, slave Psylla: how long are you going to lie snoring? Drought is rending the sow. Or are you waiting till the sun crawls into [your] bum and warms it? Unwearied one, how have you avoided tiring [your] ribs with sleeping? The night is nine hours gone. [Get up], I say, and light the lamp, please, [and] send the unmelodious sow to the pasture. Mutter and scratch yourself until I stand beside [you] and make [your] head soft with my stick. (tr. I.C. Cunningham)


barney gumble naked

De patre filium ebrium redarguente

Pater, cum filii ebrietatem saepius nequicquam redarguisset, conspecto semel in via ebrio, retectis verendis turpiter iacente, pueris quoque, qui multi circumstabant, ridentibus atque illudentibus, filium ad tam verecundum spectaculum vocavit, existimans hoc exemplo ab ebrietate deterreri eum posse. ille autem, viso ebrio: “Roga, pater,” inquit, “ubi est id vinum, quo iste ebrius factus est, ut et ego etiam eius vini dulcedinem degustem!”, non ebrii turpitudine absterritus, sed vini cupiditate commotus.
(Poggio Bracciolini, Confabulationes 73)

On a father who reproached his drunken son

A father who had often reproached his son for drunkenness, but to no avail, seeing one day a drunkard lying in the road with his private parts exposed and in a disgusting condition, with a crowd of little boys around him laughing and jeering at him, asked his son to look upon the sad spectacle, hoping that this example of the vice of drunkenness would serve to scare him off his intemperance. But the young man, seeing the drunkard, said: “Father, ask that man where the wine is that he got drunk on, so that I might taste its sweetness myself!” And he showed himself moved, not by the ugly sight of the drunkard, but by the desire for wine. (tr. based on Edward Storer’s, adapted and debowdlerized by David Bauwens)



Θεὸν ὁμολογοῦσιν εἰδέναι, τοῖς δὲ ἔργοις ἀρνοῦνται, βδελυκτοὶ ὄντες καὶ ἀπειθεῖς καὶ πρὸς πᾶν ἔργον ἀγαθὸν ἀδόκιμοι.
(Paul, Titus 1:16)

They profess that they know God; but in works they deny him, being abominable, and disobedient, and unto every good work reprobate. (King James translation)



Gallorum eadem atque Belgarum oppugnatio est haec. ubi circumiecta multitudine hominum totis moenibus undique in murum lapides iaci coepti sunt murusque defensoribus nudatus est, testudine facta portas succedunt murumque subruunt. quod tum facile fiebat. nam cum tanta multitudo lapides ac tela conicerent, in muro consistendi potestas erat nulli.
(Caesar, De Bello Gallico 2.6.2-3)

The Gauls and the Belgae use one method of attack. A host of men is set all round the ramparts, and when a rain of stones from all sides upon the wall has begun, and the wall is stripped of defenders, the attackers form a “tortoise”, move up to the gates, and undercut the wall. This was easily done on the present occasion; for when so vast a host hurled stones and darts, no man might stand firm on the wall.
(tr. H.J. Edwards)