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

‘Tu autem tam laboriosus es, ut post te non respicias! in alio peduclum vides, in te ricinum non vides. tibi soli ridiclei videmur; ecce magister tuus, homo maior natus: placemus illi. tu lacticulosus, nec “mu” nec “ma” argutas, vasus fictilis, immo lorus in aqua: lentior, non melior. tu beatior es: bis prande, bis cena. ego fidem meam malo quam thesauros. ad summam, quisquam me bis poposcit? annis quadraginta servivi; nemo tamen scit utrum servus essem an liber. et puer capillatus in hanc coloniam veni; adhuc basilica non erat facta. dedi tamen operam ut domino satis facerem, homini maiesto et dignitosso, cuius pluris erat unguis quam tu totus es. et habebam in domo qui mihi pedem opponerent hac illac; tamen — genio illius gratias! — enatavi. haec sunt vera athla; nam in ingenuum nasci tam facile est quam “accede istoc”. quid nunc stupes tamquam hircus in ervilia?’
(Petronius, Sat. 57.8-10)

‘But you now, you’re such a busybody you don’t look behind you. You see a louse on somebody else, but not the fleas on your own back. You’re the only one who finds us funny. Look at the professor now – he’s an older man than you and we get along with him. But you’re still wet from your mother’s milk and not up to your ABC yet. Just a crackpot – you’re like a piece of wash-leather in soak, softer but no better! You’re grander than us – well, have two dinners and two suppers! I’d rather have my good name than any amount of money. When all’s said and done, who’s ever asked me for money twice? For forty years I slaved but nobody ever knew if I was a slave or a free man. I came to this colony when I was a lad with long hair – the town hall hadn’t been built then. But I worked hard to please my master – there was a real gentleman, with more in his little finger-nail than there is in your whole body. And I had people in the house who tried to trip me up one way or another, but still – thanks be to his guardian spirit! – I kept my head above water. These are the prizes in life: being born free is as easy as all get-out. Now what are you gawping at, like a goat in a vetch-field?’ (tr. John Patrick Sullivan)




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

‘Ridet! quid habet quod rideat? numquid pater fetum emit lamna? eques Romanus es? et ego regis filius. “quare ergo servivisti?” quia ipse me dedi in servitutem et malui civis Romanus esse quam tributarius. et nunc spero me sic vivere, ut nemini iocus sim. homo inter homines sum, capite aperto ambulo; assem aerarium nemini debeo; constitutum habui nunquam; nemo mihi in foro dixit: “redde quod debes”. glebulas emi, lamellulas paravi; viginti ventres pasco et canem; contubernalem meam redemi, ne qui in capillis illius manus tergeret; mille denarios pro capite solvi; sevir gratis factus sum; spero, sic moriar, ut mortuus non erubescam.’
(Petronius, Sat. 57.4-7)

‘Look at him laughing! What’s he got to laugh at? Did his father pay cash for him? You’re a Roman knight, are you? Well, my father was a king. “Why are you only a freedman?” did you say? Because I put myself into slavery. I wanted to be a Roman citizen, not a subject with taxes to pay. And today, I hope no one can laugh at the way I live. I’m a man among men, and I walk with my head up. I don’t owe anybody a penny – there’s never been a court-order out for me. No one’s said “Pay up” to me in the street. I’ve bought a bit of land and some tiny pieces of plate. I’ve twenty bellies to feed, as well as a dog. I bought my old woman’s freedom so nobody could wipe his dirty hands on her hair. Four thousand I paid for myself. I was elected to the Augustan College and it cost me nothing. I hope when I die I won’t have to blush in my coffin.’ (tr. John Patrick Sullivan)



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

Ceterum Ascyltos, intemperantis licentiae, cum omnia sublatis manibus eluderet et usque ad lacrimas rideret, unus ex conlibertis Trimalchionis excanduit, is ipse qui supra me discumbebat, et: ‘quid rides,’ inquit, ‘berbex? an tibi non placent lautitiae domini mei? tu enim beatior es et convivare melius soles. ita tutelam huius loci habeam propitiam, ut ego si secundum illum discumberem, iam illi balatum clusissem. bellum pomum, qui rideatur alios; larifuga nescio quis, nocturnus, qui non valet lotium suum. ad summam, si circumminxero illum, nesciet qua fugiat. non mehercules soleo cito fervere, sed in molle carne vermes nascuntur.’
(Petronius, Sat. 57.1-3)

Ascyltus, with his usual lack of restraint, found everything extremely funny, lifting up his hands and laughing till the tears came. Eventually one of Trimalchio’s freedman friends flared up at him. ‘You with the sheep’s eyes,’ he said, ‘what’s so funny? Isn’t our host elegant enough for you? You’re better off, I suppose, and used to a bigger dinner. Holy guardian here preserve me! If I was sitting by him, I’d stop his bleating! A fine pippin he is to be laughing at other people! Some fly-by-night from god knows where – not worth his own piss. In fact, if I pissed round him, he wouldn’t know where to turn. By god, it takes a lot to make me boil, but if you’re too soft, worms like this only come to the top.’ (tr. John Patrick Sullivan)


Et quis hanc mihi solitudinem imposuit? adulescens omni libidine impurus et sua quoque confessione dignus exilio, stupro liber, stupro ingenuus, cuius anni ad tesseram venierunt, quem tamquam puellam conduxit etiam etiam qui virum putavit. quid ille alter? qui die togae virilis stolam sumpsit, qui ne vir esset a matre persuasus est, qui opus muliebre in ergastulo fecit, qui postquam conturbavit et libidinis suae solum vertit, reliquit veteris amicitiae nomen et, pro pudor, tamquam mulier secutuleia unius noctis tactu omnia vendidit. iacent nunc amatores adligati noctibus totis, et forsitan mutuis libidinibus attriti derident solitudinem meam.
(Petronius, Sat. 81.3-6)

And who put this loneliness on me? A guy who’s filthy with every form of lust, who’s worthy of exile by his own confession; free by means of sex crime, freeborn by means of sex crime; whose youth was sold by a roll of the dice; people rented him as a girl even when they knew he was a man. And what about the other one? On the day he was supposed to put on the man’s toga, he put on a woman’s dress; he was talked out of becoming a man by his own mother; he did woman’s work in the slave prison; and after he went broke and lit out for a new territory of lust, he abandoned the name of his old friendship and, for shame, sold everything for the touch of a single night, like some groupie. And now they lie, the lovers, entwined all night, and maybe when they’re worn out by their mutual lusts they laugh at my loneliness. (tr. Amy Richlin)



Tam magnus ex Asia veni, quam hic candelabrus est. ad summam, quotidie me solebam ad illum metiri, et ut celerius rostrum barbatum haberem, labra de lucerna ungebam. tamen ad delicias ipsimi annos quattuordecim fui. nec turpe est quod dominus iubet. ego tamen et ipsimae satis faciebam. scitis, quid dicam.
(Petronius, Sat. 75.10-11)

When I came from Asia I was the size of this here lampstand. In fact, every day I used to measure myself next to it, and so I’d get a beard on my beak faster, I smeared my lips with lamp oil. Still I was the toyboy of the Mister for 14 years. It’s not disgusting, what your owner orders. But me, I was satisfying the Mrs, too. You all know what I mean. (tr. Amy Richlin)