Quid privata domus, quid fecerit Eppia, curas?
respice rivales divorum, Claudius audi
quae tulerit. dormire virum cum senserat uxor,
linquebat comite ancilla non amplius una.
sumere nocturnos meretrix Augusta cucullos
ausa Palatino et tegetem praeferre cubili.
sic nigrum flavo crinem abscondente galero
intravit calidum veteri centone lupanar
et cellam vacuam atque suam; tunc nuda papillis
prostitit auratis titulum mentita Lyciscae
ostenditque tuum, generose Britannice, ventrem.
excepit blanda intrantis atque aera poposcit.
mox lenone suas iam dimittente puellas
tristis abit, et quod potuit tamen ultima cellam
clausit, adhuc ardens rigidae tentigine volvae,
et lassata viris necdum satiata recessit,
obscurisque genis turpis fumoque lucernae
foeda lupanaris tulit ad pulvinar odorem.
(Juvenal, Sat. 6.114-132)

Are you concerned about what happened in a private household, what Eppia got up to? Then take a look at the rivals of the gods, listen to what Claudius put up with. When his wife* realised her husband was asleep, she would leave, with no more than a single maid as her escort. Preferring a mat to her bedroom in the Palace, she had the nerve to put on a nighttime hood, the whore-empress. Like that, with a blonde wig hiding her black hair, she went inside a brothel reeking of ancient blankets to an empty cubicle – her very own. Then she stood there, naked and for sale, with her nipples gilded, under the trade name of “She-Wolf,” putting on display the belly you came from, noble-born Brittanicus. She welcomed her customers seductively as they came in and asked for their money. Later, when the pimp was already dismissing his girls, she left reluctantly, waiting till the last possible moment to shut her cubicle, still burning with her clitoris inflamed and stiff. She went away, exhausted by the men but not yet satisfied, and, a disgusting creature, with her cheeks filthy, dirty from the smoke of the lamp, she took back to the emperor’s couch the stench of the brothel.

* Messalina

(tr. Susanna Morton Braund)



Respice nunc alia ac diversa pericula noctis:
quod spatium tectis sublimibus unde cerebrum
testa ferit, quotiens rimosa et curta fenestris
vasa cadant, quanto percussum pondere signent
et laedant silicem. possis ignavus haberi
et subiti casus improvidus, ad cenam si
intestatus eas: adeo tot fata, quot illa
nocte patent vigiles te praetereunte fenestrae.
ergo optes votumque feras miserabile tecum,
ut sint contentae patulas defundere pelves.
(Juvenal, Sat. 3.268-277)

Now consider the various other dangers of the night. What a long way it is from the high roofs for a tile to hit your skull! How often cracked and leaky pots tumble down from the windows! What a smash when they strike the pavement, marking and damaging it! You could be thought careless and unaware of what can suddenly befall if you go out to dinner without having made your will. As you pass by at night, there are precisely as many causes of death as there are open windows watching you. So make a wish and a pathetic prayer as you go that they’ll be content with emptying their shallow basins on you. (tr. Susanna Morton Braund)


Non est grande, mi Domnion, garrire per angulos et medicorum tabernas, ac de mundo ferre sententiam; hic bene dixit, ille male; iste Scripturas novit, ille delirat; iste loquax, ille infantissimus est. ut de omnibus iudicet, cuius hoc iudicio meruit? contra quemlibet passim in triviis strepere, et congerere maledicta, non crimina, scurrarum est, et paratorum semper ad lites. moveat manum, figat stilum, commoveat se, et quidquid postest scriptis ostendat. det nobis occasionem respondendi disertitudini suae. possum remordere, si velim; possum genuinum laesus infigere; et nos didicimus litteras,
“et nos saepe manum ferulae subtraximus” [Juvenal, Sat. 1.15].
(Jerome, Ep. 50.5)

It is no difficult matter, my dear Domnio, to chatter at street corners or in apothecaries’ shops and to pass judgment on the world. “So-and-so has made a good speech, so-and-so a bad one; this man knows the Scriptures, that one is crazy; this man talks glibly, that never says a word at all.” But who considers him worthy thus to judge every one? To make an outcry against a man in every street, and to heap, not definite charges, but vague imputations, on his head, is nothing. Any buffoon or litigiously disposed person can do as much. Let him put forth his hand, put pen to paper, and bestir himself; let him write books and prove in them all he can. Let him give me a chance of replying to his eloquence. I can return bite for bite, if I like; when hurt myself, I can fix my teeth in my opponent. I too have had a liberal education. As Juvenal says, “I also have often withdrawn my hand from the ferule.” (tr. William Henry Fremantle, George Lewis and/or William Gibson Martley)


Nunc si depositum non infitietur amicus,
si reddat veterem cum tota aerugine follem,
prodigiosa fides et Tuscis digna libellis
quaeque coronata lustrari debeat agna.
egregium sanctumque virum si cerno, bimembri
honc monstrum puero et miranti sub aratro
piscibus inventis et fetae comparo mulae,
sollicitus, tamquam lapides effuderit imber
examenque apium longa consederit uva
culmine delubri, tamquam in mare fluxerit amnis
gurgitibus miris et lactis vertice torrens.
(Juvenal, Sat. 13.60-70)

But these days, if a friend does not renege upon your financial arrangement, if he returns to you your ancient purse with all its rust, it’s a stupendous act of loyalty which calls for a consultation of the Etruscan books and atonement with the sacrifice of a garlanded lamb. If I get a glimpse of an outstanding, honest man, I rank this prodigy with a mutant baby, or the discovery of fish beneath a surprised plough, or a pregnant mule. I am as alarmed as if it had rained stones, or a swarm of bees had settled in a long cluster on the roof of a shrine, or as if a river had gushed a flood of milk with amazing eddies into the sea. (tr. Susanna Morton Braund)