Giovanni Battista Pittoni de Jongere, Il sacrificio di Polissena sulla tomba di Achille, ca. 1735 (2)
Giovanni Battista Pittoni, Il sacrificio di Polissena sulla tomba di Achille (ca. 1735)


PYR. Est regis alti spiritum regi dare.
AGA. cur dextra regi spiritum eripuit tua?
PYR. mortem misericors saepe pro vita dabit.
AGA. et nunc misericors virginem busto petis?
PYR. iamne immolari virgines credis nefas?
AGA. praeferre patriam liberis regem decet.
PYR. lex nulla capto parcit aut poenam impedit.
AGA. quod non vetat lex, hoc vetat fieri pudor.
PYR. quodcumque libuit facere victori licet.
AGA. minimum decet libere cui multum licet.
(Seneca Minor, Troi. 327-336)


PYR. It is the act of a great king to grant life to a king.
AGA. Why then did your hand deprive the king of life?
PYR. Often a compassionate man will grant death rather than life.
AGA. And now as a compassionate man you seek a virgin for the tomb?
PYR. So nowadays you consider sacrifice of virgins a crime?
AGA. To put fatherland before children befits a king.
PYR. No law spares a prisoner, or forbids reprisal.
AGA. What law does not forbid, a sense of restraint forbids.
PYR. The victor has a right to do whatever he pleases.
AGA. He who has much right should please himself least.
(tr. John G. Fitch)


Rome, Arch of Constantine. Sacrifice to Apollo. Relief on the Ar
Sacrifice to Apollo on the Arch of Constantine

Quod quidem nobis sempter optandum est ut prosperos habeas etiam ultra tua vota successus, qui omnem spem in gremio maiestatis tuae ponimus et tuam ubique praesentiam, quasi dari possit, expetimus. ecce enim, dum a limite paulisper abscesseras, quibus se terroribus barbarorum perfidia iactaverat, scilicet dum sibi illa proponunt: quando perveniet? quando vincet? quando fessum reducet exercitum? cum repente audito reditu tuo velut attoniti conciderunt, ne tuum pro re publica votum aplius quam unius noctis cura tetigisset. postridie enim quam accepto illo nuntio geminatum itineris laborem susceperas, omnes fluctus resedisse, omnem quam relinqueras tranquillitatem redisse didicisti, ipsa hoc sic ordinante Fortuna ut te ibi rerum tuarum felicitas admoneret dis immortalibus ferre quae voveras, ubi deflexisses ad templum toto orbe pulcherrimum, immo ad praesentem, ut vidisti, deum. vidisti enim, credo, Constantine, Apollinem tuum comitante Victoria coronas tibi laureas offerentem, quae tricenum singulae ferunt omen annorum. hic est enim humanarum numerus aetatum quae tibi utique debentur ultra Pyliam senectutem. et—immo quid dico ‘credo’?—vidisti teque in illius specie recognovisti, cui totius mundi regna deberi vatum carmina divina cecinerunt. quod ego nunc demum arbitror contigisse, cum tu sis, ut ille, iuvenis et laetus et salutifer et pulcherrimus, imperator. merito igitur augustissima illa delubra tantis donariis honestasti, ut iam vetera non quaerant. iam omnia te vocare ad se templa videantur praecipueque Apollo noster, cuius ferventibus aquis periuria puniantur, quae te maxime oportet odisse.
(XII Panegyrici Latini, 6.21)

What we must always hope for, indeed, is that you prosper and succeed even beyond your prayers, we who put all our hopes in the lap of your majesty, and wish for your presence everywhere, as if that boon were feasible. Take for instance the short time you were way from the frontier. In what terrifying fashion did barbarian perfidy vaunt itself! Of course all the while they asked themselves: “When will he reach here? When will he conquer? When will he lead back his exhausted army?” when all of a sudden upon the news of your return they were prostrated, as if thunderstruck, so that no more than one night’s anxiety should lay its claim on your pledge to save the commonwealth. For on the day after that news had been received and you had undertaken the labor of double stages on your journey, you learnt that all the waves had subsided, and that the all-pervading calm which you had left behind had been restored. Fortune herself so ordered this matter that the happy outcome of your affairs prompted you to convey to the immortal gods what you had vowed at the very spot where you had turned aside toward the most beautiful temple in the whole world, or rather, to the deity made manifest, as you saw. For you saw, I believe, O Constantine, your Apollo, accompanied by Victory, offering you laurel wreaths, each one of which carries a portent of thirty years. For this is the number of human ages which are owed to you without fail—beyond the old age of a Nestor. And—now why do I say “I believe”?—you saw, and recognized yourself in the likeness of him to whom the divine songs of the bards had prophesied that rule over the whole world was due. And this I think has now happened since you are, O Emperor, like he, youthful, joyful, a bringer of health and very handsome. Rightly, therefore, have you honored those most venerable shrines with such great treasures that they do not miss their old ones, any longer. Now may all the temples be seen to beckon you to them, and particularly our Apollo, whose boiling waters punish perjuries—which ought to be especially hateful to you. (tr. Charles E.V. Nixon and Barbara Saylor Rodgers)



Divus Marcus et Commodus Scapulae Tertullo rescripserunt in haec verba: ‘si tibi liquido compertum est Aelium Priscum in eo furore esse, ut continua mentis alienatione omni intellectu careat, nec subest ulla suspicio matrem ab eo simulatione dementiae occisam: potes de modo poenae eius dissimulare, cum satis furore ipso puniatur. et tamen diligentius custodiendus erit ac, si putabis, etiam vinculo coërcendus, quoniam tam ad poenam quam ad tutelam eius et securitatem proximorum pertinebit. si vero, ut plerumque adsolet, intervallis quibusdam sensu saniore, non forte eo momento scelus admiserit nec morbo eius danda est venia, diligenter explorabis et si quid tale compereris, consules nos, ut aestimemus, an per immanitatem facinoris, si, cum posset videri sentire, commiserit, supplicio adficiendus sit. cum autem ex litteris tuis cognoverimus tali eum loco atque ordine esse, ut a suis vel etiam in propria villa custodiatur: recte facturus nobis videris, si eos, a quibus illo tempore observatus esset, vocaveris et causam tantae neglegentiae excusseris et in unumquemque eorum, prout tibi levari vel onerari culpa eius videbitur, constitueris. nam custodes furiosis non ad hoc solum adhibentur, ne quid perniciosius ipsi in se moliantur, sed ne aliis quoque exitio sint: quod si committatur, non immerito culpae eorum adscribendum est, qui neglegentiores in officio suo fuerint.’
(Macer, Digesta Iustiniani 1.18.14)

The deified Marcus and Commodus issued a rescript to Scapula Tertullus in the following terms: “If you have clearly ascertained that Aelius Priscus is in such a state of insanity that he lacks all understanding through the continuous alienation of his mental faculties, and if there remains no suspicion that his mother was murdered by him under pretence of madness; then you can abandon consideration of the measure of his punishment, since he is being punished enough by his very madness. And yet it will be necessary for him to be all too closely guarded, and, if you think it advisable, even bound in chains, this being a matter of not so much punishing as protecting him and of the safety of his neighbors. If, however, as very often happens, he has intermittent periods of relative sanity, you shall diligently explore the question whether in one such moment he committed the crime, and whether no indulgence is due to his illness. If you ascertain any such thing, you shall consult us, that we may consider whether the enormity of his crime (in the event of his having committed it when he could be held to have been fully aware) merits the infliction of extreme punishment. But since we have learned from your letter that his position and rank are such that he is in the custody of his own people or even in his own house, it seems to us that you will act rightly if you summon those by whom at the material time he was being looked after, and if you make inquiry into the cause of so neglectful an act, and if you make a decision against each one of them according as you find his culpability lesser or greater. For those who have custody of the insane are not responsible only for seeing that they do not do themselves too much harm but also for seeing that they do not bring destruction on others. But if that should happen, it may deservedly be imputed to the fault of those who were too neglectful in performing their duties.” (tr. Alan Watson)



female body

This is part 3 of 3. Part 1 is here. Part 2 is here.

Veniamus ad indicia corporis feminini. caput breve, capillus niger vel a rubeo fuscior, quem Graeci φαιὰν τρίχα, rario, idem flexibilior ac mollior, cervix exilior eademque longior, color candidus vel cum pallore nigrior, quem Graeci μελάγχλωρον vocant, pupillae, quas Graeci κόρας dicunt, subnigrae vel evidenter nigrae, vultus omnis lenis, inoffensus ac mollis, serenus, affabilis, labia compressa tamquam sint incisa, iuguli cohaerentes atque constricti, ab humeris usque ad umbilicum corpus angustius et brevius, ab umbilico usque ad genua prolixius ac plenius, a genibus usque ad pedum ima deductius, imae manus ac pedes subtiles et eleganter circumscripti, planta concava et a reliquo vestigio elatior, vox tenuis, moderata, acceptissima auribus, sermo volubilis ac facilis, incessus decens, brevibus passis et acceleratis.
(Anonymous, De Physiognomonia 6)

Let us come to the signs of the feminine body. The head is small, the hair black or darker than red, which the Greeks call φαιὰ θρίξ (‘grey hair’), rather thin, at the same time somewhat flexible and soft, the neck is rather slender and also long, the colour is white or rather black with paleness, which the Greeks call μελάγχλωρος, the pupils, which the Greeks call κόραι, are somewhat black or obviously black, the whole face is smooth, placid and soft, calm and affable, the lips are compressed as if incised, the collar-bones are bound and stuck together, the body is narrower and smaller from the shoulders to the navel, from the navel to the knees it is more extended and thicker and from the knees to the ends of the feet it is more drawn in, the ends of the hands and feet are slender and elegantly delineated, the soles are hollow and higher than the rest of the step, the voice is thin, moderate, very pleasing to the ears, the speech is fluent and easy, and the gait is comely, with short and quick steps. (tr. Ian Repath)


male body

This is part 2 of 3. Part 1 is here. Part 3 is here.

Veniamus ad indicia corpora masculini. caput grande, capillus crassior, rubeus vel niger cum rubore, stabilis, modice inflexus, color rubeus non clari ruboris vel niger, suffusus tamen rubore, oculi paulo impressiores, minaces, subnigri, quos Graeci χαροποὺς vocant, vel glauci. cervix esse debet moderatae plenitudinis, aliquanto prolixior, vertex capitis subrectior, scapulae ingentes, humeri et superioris corporis partes usque ad umbilicum latiores, inferiores deductae paulatim plenitudine desinente, lacertosus, ossibus magnis, nodis et articulis summorum pedum et summarum manuum firmis, non tamen rigidis, sed absolutis, prope imum seiunctis atque discretis, pectore alto et prominente, iugulis absolutis, ventre lato compresso paululum intrinsecus, pectus non nimia carne contectum, solido et spisso corpore, ossibus quae sunt sub ilibus, quae a Graecis ἰσχία dicuntur, siccioribus et solidis. item masculinum corpus forte et tolerans laborum est, vocis solidae, aliquanto raucioris, interdum gravis tamquam ex abdito et concavo resonantis, ut est leonum, spiritus densior, multum aëris concipiens ac referens, passibus longis, motus corporis, cum tranquillus est animus, tardior est, cuius minor sit pars inferior ab umbilico quam est a summo capite ad umbilicum.
(Anonymous, De Physiognomonia 5)

Let us come to the signs of the masculine body. The head is large, the hair rather thick, red or black with red, straight, moderately wavy, the colour is red, but not bright red, or black, although suffused with red, the eyes are a little sunken, threatening, somewhat black, which the Greeks call χαροποί (‘dark blue’), or light blue. The neck should be of moderate thickness, somewhat extended, the top of the head rather upright, the shoulder-blades huge, the shoulders and upper parts of the body to the navel rather broad, the lower parts rather drawn in with decreasing width. He should be muscular, with big bones, the knuckles and joints at the ends of the feet and hands solid, yet not stiff, but just right, apart and separate near the end, with a high and prominent chest, detached collar-bones, a broad stomach pressed slightly inwards, a chest not excessively covered in flesh, a hard and compact body, with the bones which are below the loins, which are called ἰσχία (‘hips’) by the Greeks, rather dry and hard. Also the masculine body is strong and tolerant of hard work, has a strong voice which is rather hoarse and occasionally deep as if echoing from somewhere hidden and hollow, like that of lions, rather frequent breath which draws in and expels much air, and long steps; the movement of the body, when the mind is peaceful, is rather slow, and the part below the navel is smaller than that from the top of the head to the navel. (tr. Ian Repath)



This is part 1 of 3. Part 2 is here. Part 3 is here.

Masculinus animus est vehemens, ad impetum facilis, odii immemor, liberalis, apertus, qui hebetari et circumveniri ingenio atque arte non possit, vincendi per virtutem studiosus, magnanimus. feminus animus est sollers, ad iracundiam pronus, tenax odii, idem immisericors atque invidus, laboris impatiens, docilis, subdolus, amarus, praeceps, timidus.
(Anonymous, De Physiognomonia 4)

The masculine character is forceful, impetuous, forgetful of hatred, generous, open, unable to be blunted and outmanoeuvred by guile or artifice, preferring to overcome through manliness, and is magnanimous. The feminine character is clever, prone to anger, clings to hatred, also pitiless and envious, not enduring hard work, teachable, deceitful, bitter, rash and timid. (tr. Ian Repath)


Terentius, Heautontimoroumenos


MEN. Chreme, tantumne ab re tuast oti tibi
aliena ut cures ea quae nil ad te attinent?
CHR. homo sum: humani nil a me alienum puto.
vel me monere hoc vel percontari puta:
rectumst ego ut faciam; non est te ut deterream.
MEN. mihi sic est usus; tibi ut opus factost face.
CHR. an quoiquamst usus homini se ut cruciet?
MEN. mihi.
CHR. si quid laborist nollem. sed quid istuc malist?
quaeso, quid de te tantum meruisti?
MEN. eheu!
CHR. ne lacruma atque istuc, quidquid est, fac me ut sciam:
ne retice, ne verere, crede inquam mihi:
aut consolando aut consilio aut re iuvero.
MEN. scire hoc vis?
CHR. hac quidem causa qua dixi tibi.
MEN. dicetur.
CHR. at istos rastros interea tamen
adpone, ne labora.
MEN. minime.
CHR. quam rem agis?
MEN. sine me vocivom tempus nequod dem mihi
CHR. non sinam, inquam.
MEN. ah! non aequom facis.
CHR. hui! tam gravis hos, quaeso?
MEN. sic meritumst meum.
CHR. nunc loquere.
MEN. filium unicum adulescentulum
habeo. ah! quid dixi? habere me? immo habui, Chremes;
nunc habeam necne incertumst.
CHR. quid ita istuc?
MEN. scies.
(Terence, Heaut. 76-96)


MEN. Chremes, have you got so much time to spare from your own work that you interest yourself in other people’s affairs when they don’t concern you at all?
CHR. I’m a man; I don’t regard any man’s affairs as not concerning me. You should regard me either as offering advice or as seeking enlightenment: if it’s right, I want to do it myself; if it isn’t, I want to discourage you.
MEN. This is how I have to behave; you can behave as you need to.
CHR. Does anyone have to torment himself?
MEN. I do.
CHR. If there’s some trouble, I’m sorry. But what’s the matter with you? Tell me, what have you done to earn so much punishment at your own hands?
MEN. (bursting into tears) Oh dear!
CHR. Stop crying! Tell me about it, whatever it is. Don’t keep it to yourself! Don’t feel ashamed; trust me, I tell you. I’ll help you, whether with consolation or advice or money.
MEN. Do you want to know about it?
CHR. Yes, for the reason I’ve given you.
MEN. (finally agreeing) I’ll tell you.
CHR. But meanwhile put your mattock down; you don’t have to tire yourself out. (Moves to take it from him)
MEN. (backing away) Certainly not!
CHR. What are you playing at?
MEN. Let me be! I don’t want to give myself a moment’s rest from hardship!
CHR. (taking the mattock from him) I won’t let you, I tell you!
MEN. Hey, that’s not fair!
CHR. (surprised at its weight) What! Such a heavy one?
MEN. That’s what I deserve.
CHR. (after putting it down on the ground) Now speak.
MEN. (starting on his story) I have one son, a young lad.— But why did I say I have a son? I had one, Chremes; now I don’t know whether I have one or not!
CHR. What do you mean by that?
MEN. I’ll tell you.
(tr. Peter Brown)