“Mens bona, fama, fides,” haec clare et ut audiat hospes;
illa sibi introrsum et sub lingua murmurat: “o si
ebulliat patruus, praeclarum funus!” et “o si
sub rastro crepet argenti mihi seria dextro
Hercule! pupillumve utinam, quem proximus heres
impello, expungam! nam et est scabiosus et acri
bile tumet. Nerio iam tertia conditur uxor.”
haec sancte ut poscas, Tiberino in gurgite mergis
mane caput bis terque et noctem flumine purgas.
heus age, responde (minimum est quod scire laboro)
de Iove quid sentis?
(Persius, Sat. 2.8-17)

“Good sense, reputation, credit” – that’s what he says out loud, even for strangers to hear, but this is what he mutters to himself under his tongue: “Oh, if only uncle would pop off, I’d give him a splendid funeral!” and “If only Hercules would favour me and make a pot of silver chink beneath my hoe!”* Or “I wish I could wipe out my ward – I’m right behind him, the next to inherit. After all, he suffers from eczema and is swollen with jaundice. Nerius is already burying his third wife.” To make these requests piously, you plunge your head twice and three times in the morning in Tiber’s flow and clean away the night’s thoughts in river water. Hey then, tell me (it’s a tiny thing I strive to know), what is your view of God?”

* Hercules was the god associated with hidden treasure.

(tr. Susanna Morton Braund, with her note)



“‘Inspice, nescio quid trepidat mihi pectus et aegris
faucibus exsuperat gravis halitus, inspice sodes’
qui dicit medico, iussus requiescere, postquam
tertia compositas vidit nox currere venas,
de maiore domo modice sitiente lagoena
lenia loturo sibi Surrentina rogabit.
‘heus bone, tu palles.’ ‘nihil est.’ ‘videas tamen istuc,
quidquid id est. surgit tacite tibi lutea pellis.’
‘at tu deterius palles, ne sis mihi tutor.
iam pridem hunc sepeli; tu restas.’ ‘perge, tacebo.’
turgidus hic epulis atque albo ventre lavatur,
gutture sulpureas lente exhalante mefites.
sed tremor inter vina subit calidumque trientem
excutit e manibus, dentes crepuere retecti,
uncta cadunt laxis tunc pulmentaria labris.
hinc tuba, candelae, tandemque beatulus alto
compositus lecto crassisque lutatus amomis
in portam rigidas calces extendit. at illum
hesterni capite induto subiere Quirites.”
(Persius, Sat. 3.88-106)

“‘Examine me. I’ve got strange palpitations in my chest, a sore throat, and my breathing comes hard. Please examine me.’ That’s what he says to his doctor. He’s ordered to take it easy, but when the third night sees his veins running steady, he’ll be round at a rich friend’s house with a pretty thirsty flagon, asking for mild Sorrentine1 to drink at the baths. ‘Hey, you’re looking pale, my friend.’ ‘It’s nothing.’ ‘Well, you should see to it, whatever it is. Your hide’s going puffy and yellow on you.’ ‘Well, ‘I’m not as pale as you. Don’t play the guardian. I buried mine a long time ago, but you’re still here.’ ‘OK, carry on, I’ll shut up.’ Stuffed from his feast this one goes to bathe, his belly white, his throat emitting long sulphurous stenches. But as he drinks, a fit of shivers comes over him and knocks the hot glass out of his hands, his bared teeth chatter, then the lavish flavourings slide from his slack lips. Then come the trumpet and candles, and finally the dear deceased, laid out on a high bier and plastered thick with perfumed balm, sticks out his stiff heels towards the door. And it’s yesterday’s new citizens2 wearing their new hats that carry him out.”

1 A light wine from Sorrento, recommended for invalids.
2 I.e. the slaves given their freedom and citizenship in the dead man’s will. They wear the cap of liberty (pilleum), cf. 5.82

(tr. Susanna Morton Braund, with her notes)