Quid, Catilina, tuis natalibus atque Cethegi
inveniet quisquam sublimius? arma tamen vos
nocturna et flammas domibus templisque paratis,
ut bracatorum pueri Senonumque minores,
ausi quod liceat tunica punire molesta.
sed vigilat consul vexillaque vestra coërcet.
hic novus Arpinas, ignobilis et modo Romae
municipalis eques, galeatum ponit ubique
praesidium attonitis et in omni monte laborat.
tantum igitur muros intra toga contulit illi
nominis ac tituli, quantum sibi Leucade, quantum
Thessaliae campis Octavius abstulit udo
caedibus assiduis gladio; sed Roma parentem,
Roma patrem patriae Ciceronem libera dixit.
(Juvenal, Sat. 8.231-244)

What ancestry more exalted than yours, Catiline, or that of Cethegus can be found? Yet you plotted to attack homes and temples at night and set them on fire, like the sons of trousered Gauls and descendants of the Senones, committing an outrage which could lawfully be punished by the “uncomfortable shirt”. But the consul is alert: he halts your banners. He—a “new man” from Arpinum, of humble origin, a municipal knight new to Rome—posts helmeted troops all around to protect the terrified people and is busy on every hill. So without stepping outside the walls, his peacetime toga brought him as much titled distinction as Octavius grabbed for himself at Leucas and on the fields of Thessaly with his sword wet from nonstop slaughter. The difference is that Rome was still free when she called Cicero the Parent and Father of his Native Land. (tr. Susanna Morton Braund)



Semper ego auditor tantum? numquamne reponam
vexatus totiens rauci Theseide Cordi?
impune ergo mihi recitaverit ille togatas,
hic elegos? impune diem consumpserit ingens
Telephus aut summi plena iam margine libri
scriptus et in tergo necdum finitus Orestes?
nota magis nulli domus est sua quam mihi lucus
Martis et Aeoliis vicinum rupibus antrum
Vulcani; quid agant venti, quas torqueat umbras
Aeacus, unde alius furtivae devehat aurum
pelliculae, quantas iaculetur Monychus ornos,
Frontonis platani convulsaque marmora clamant
semper et assiduo ruptae lectore columnae.
expectes eadem a summo minimoque poëta.
et nos ergo manum ferulae subduximus, et nos
consilium dedimus Sullae, privatus ut altum
dormiret. stulta est clementia, cum tot ubique
vatibus occurras, periturae parcere chartae.
(Juvenal, Sat. 1.1-18)

Shall I always be stuck in the audience? Never retaliate for being tortured so often by hoarse Cordus’ Song of Theseus? Let them get away with it, then?—this one reciting to me his Roman comedies and that one his love elegies? Let them get away with wasting my whole day on an enormous Telephus, or an Orestes written on the back when the margin at the end of the book is already full—and still not finished? No one knows his own house better than I know the grove of Mars and the cave of Vulcan near the Aeolian cliffs. What the winds are up to, which ghosts Aeacus is torturing, the origin of the other guy waltzing off with that filched golden mini-fleece, the size of the ash trees hurled by Monychus—this is the continual shriek from Fronto’s plane trees and his tormented marble and the columns shattered by the non-stop reciter. This is exactly what you can expect from the greatest and the least of poets. Well, I too have snatched my hand from under the cane. I too have given Sulla advice, to retire and enjoy a deep sleep. It’s a stupid act of mercy, when you run into so many bards everywhere, to spare paper that’s bound to be wasted anyway. (tr. Susanna Morton Braund)



zwaard aambeeld

Sed iam serpentum maior concordia. parcit
cognatis maculis similis fera. quando leoni
fortior eripuit vitam leo? quo nemore umquam
expiravit aper maioris dentibus apri?
Indica tigris agit rabida cum tigride pacem
perpetuam, saevis inter se convenit ursis.
ast homini ferrum letale incude nefanda
produxisse parum est, cum rastra et sarcula tantum
assueti coquere et marris ac vomere lassi
nescierint primi gladios extendere fabri.
aspicimus populos quorum non sufficit irae
occidisse aliquem, sed pectora, bracchia, vultum
crediderint genus esse cibi. quid diceret ergo
vel quo non fugeret, si nunc haec monstra videret
Pythagoras, cunctis animalibus abstinuit qui
tamquam homine et ventri indulsit non omne legumen?
(Juvenal, Sat. 15.159-174)

But these days, there is more harmony among snakes. The wild beast with similar spots spares its relatives. Have you ever heard of a stronger lion robbing another lion of life? Or of a forest where a boar breathed its last under the tusks of a greater boar? The Indian tigress lives with frenzied tigress in everlasting peace. Savage bears agree among themselves. But for human beings it is not enough to have beaten out lethal steel on the wicked anvil, although the first blacksmiths spent their time and effort on forging rakes and hoes and mattocks and ploughshares only. They didn’t know how to produce swords. We are looking at people whose anger is not satisfied by killing someone but who think his torso, arms, and face are a kind of food. What, then, would Pythagoras say? Wouldn’t he run off, anywhere, if he now saw these horrors? Pythagoras was the one who abstained from eating all living things as if they were human and who didn’t treat his belly to every kind of bean. (tr. Susanna Morton Braund)



Quae nunc divitibus gens acceptissima nostris
et quos praecipue fugiam, properabo fateri,
nec pudor obstabit. non possum ferre, Quirites,
Graecam urbem. quamvis quota portio faecis Achaei?
iam pridem Syrus in Tiberim defluxit Orontes
et linguam et mores et cum tibicine chordas
obliquas nec non gentilia tympana secum
vexit et ad circum iussas prostare puellas.
ite, quibus grata est picta lupa barbara mitra.
rusticus ille tuus sumit trechedipna, Quirine,
et ceromatico fert niceteria collo.
hic alta Sicyone, ast hic Amydone relicta,
hic Andro, ille Samo, hic Trallibus aut Alabandis,
Esquilias dictumque petunt a vimine collem,
viscera magnarum domuum dominique futuri.
ingenium velox, audacia perdita, sermo
promptus et Isaeo torrentior: ede quid illum
esse velis. quemvis hominem secum attulit ad nos:
grammaticus, rhetor, geometres, pictor, aliptes,
augur, schoenobates, medicus, magus, omnia novit
Graeculus esuriens: in caelum iusseris ibit.
in summa non Maurus erat neque Sarmata nec Thrax
qui sumpsit pinnas, mediis sed natus Athenis.
(Juvenal, Sat. 3.58-80)

The race that’s now most popular with wealthy Romans—the people I want especially to get away from—I’ll name them right away, without any embarrassment. My fellow- citizens, I cannot stand a Greekified Rome. Yet how few of our dregs are Achaeans? The Syrian Orontes has for a long time now been polluting the Tiber, bringing with it its language and customs, its slanting strings along with pipers, its native tom-toms too, and the girls who are told to offer themselves for sale at the Circus. Off you go, if your taste is a foreign whore in her bright headdress. Ah, Quirinus, that supposed rustic of yours is putting on his chaussures grecques and wearing his médaillons grecs on his neck parfumé a la grecque. They come—this one leaving the heights of Sicyon, this other from Amydon, this one from Andros, that one from Samos, this one from Tralles or Alabanda—heading for the Esquiline and the hill named from the willow, to become the innards and the masters of our great houses. They have quicksilver wit, shameless presumption, words at the ready, more gushing than Isaeus. Say what you want him to be. In his own person he has brought anyone you like: school teacher, rhetorician, geometrician, painter, masseur, prophet, funambulist, physician, magician—your hungry Greekling has every talent. Tell him to go to heaven and he will. In short, it wasn’t a Moroccan or a Sarmatian or a Thracian who sprouted wings, but a man born in the centre of Athens. (tr. Susanna Morton Braund)



Ebrius ac petulans, qui nullum forte cecidit,
dat poenas, noctem patitur lugentis amicum
Pelidae, cubat in faciem, mox deinde supinus:
[ergo non aliter poterit dormire; quibusdam]
somnum rixa facit. sed quamvis improbus annis
atque mero fervens cavet hunc quem coccina laena
vitari iubet et comitum longissimus ordo,
multum praeterea flammarum et aënea lampas.
me, quem luna solet deducere vel breve lumen
candelae, cuius dispenso et tempero filum,
contemnit. miserae cognosce prohoemia rixae,
si rixa est, ubi tu pulsas, ego vapulo tantum.
stat contra starique iubet. parere necesse est;
nam quid agas, cum te furiosus cogat et idem
fortior? “unde venis?” exclamat, “cuius aceto,
cuius conche tumes? quis tecum sectile porrum
sutor et elixi vervecis labra comedit?
nil mihi respondes? aut dic aut accipe calcem.
ede ubi consistas: in qua te quaero proseucha?”
dicere si temptes aliquid tacitusve recedas,
tantumdem est: feriunt pariter, vadimonia deinde
irati faciunt. libertas pauperis haec est:
pulsatus rogat et pugnis concisus adorat
ut liceat paucis cum dentibus inde reverti.
(Juvenal, Sat. 6.278-301)

The drunken thug is in agony from failing, by some chance, to attack anyone. He’s going through a night like Pelides had when he was grieving for his friend, lying on his face and now on his back again. It takes a brawl to make him sleep. But however insolent he is, seething with youth and unmixed wine, he keeps clear of the man with the warning signs of scarlet cloak and long retinue of attendants plus plenty of torches and bronze lamps. But me he despises, as I go home escorted usually by the moon or by the short-lived light of a candle—its wick I regulate and tend. Here are the preliminaries to the pathetic brawl, if a brawl it is when you do the beating and I just take it. He stands facing me and tells me to stop. I’ve no choice but to obey. After all, what can you do when a lunatic forces you, and he’s stronger as well? ‘Where have you just been?’ he yells. ‘Whose sour wine and beans have blown you out? Which shoemaker has been eating spring onions and boiled sheep’s head with you? Nothing to say? Tell me or you’ll get a kicking! Say, where’s your pitch? Which synagogue shall I look for you in?’ Whether you try to say something or silently retreat, it’s all the same. They beat you up just the same and then, still angry, they sue for assault. This is a poor man’s freedom: when he’s been beaten and treated like a punchbag, he can beg and plead to be allowed to go home with a few teeth left. (tr. Susanna Morton Braund)



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)